Spring Sale through May 31 | Strings, Sheet Music, Books, Cases & More!

Violin Basics


So, you (or someone in your family) has finally signed up for those lessons you've been wanting for ages. What to do about an instrument?

We at JSI firmly believe that for beginners, rental is the best option for the first few months (at the very least). Purchasing an instrument is a very personal thing which requires the development of the musical "ear", or the ability to distinguish the qualities of one instrument from another.

Line drawing of a violin and bow with components labeled

It takes time to reach this point. From our perspective, it makes sense to wait until one has sufficient experience before making a major investment in an instrument.

There are other advantages to renting. Once the rental/insurance fee has been paid, a Johnson's renter never has to worry about additional costs. Broken strings are replaced for free. All maintenance work (such as bow rehairing) is done free of charge.

Size exchanges can be made at any time. The insurance coverage for theft or damage assures peace of mind, which is particularly important when it is a child who is handling the instrument.

Considering all of these benefits, making rental payments for a time can constitute money well spent. And, if one decides to purchase an instrument later on, a percentage of what has been spent in rental fees can be applied towards this purchase.

Tips on care and maintenance:

  • Never do home repairs: one false move can destroy the value of your instrument. We strongly recommend that all repairs be done by a professional.
  • Keep the instrument away from radiators. It's best to keep it in a humidified environment in the winter, as dryness can cause cracks. As an alternative to expensive room humidifiers, try using a "Dampit" These small accessories are extremely affordable and fit right in your case.
  • Never leave the instrument in the trunk of your car. Summer heat can actually cause varnish to bubble or melt off. Glue also dissolves in heat, leaving the instrument vulnerable to open seams. It goes without saying that you should never (ever!) expose an instrument to direct sunlight.
  • Never leave the instrument unattended in your car. This can be an invitation for a thief, and is not covered by your JSI renter's insurance.
  • Do not put scotch tape, masking tape, or lick-on stickers on your instrument, bow, or case. (If you must, use adhesive tape or peel-off stickers ONLY, and only on the fingerboard.)
  • Always loosen the bow after playing.
  • Use a natural fiber or other lint-free cloth to wipe rosin off the instrument whenever you've ceased playing for the day. Too much leftover rosin is bad for the sound, as well as for the varnish.
  • Periodically check your bridge for straightness (or have your teacher check it). A warped bridge will eventually fall over and/or crack.
  • Occasionally check any fine tuners to make sure they are not wound too tight. If they are, loosen them and re-tune with the pegs. It is possible for tuners to get stuck; in some cases the tension can cause a string to break.
  • When you need to change an entire set of strings, do not remove all of the old ones at once. You will lose the proper placement of the bridge, and the lack of tension may cause the soundpost to fall down. Here are Instructions on the correct way to replace strings.
  • Be careful not to tap the tip of your bow against anything solid (even gently). This very delicate part of the bow breaks easily and is very difficult to repair. If any parts of the bow should fall off (such as the ivory button or slide), hang on to them and take the bow in for immediate repair: these are very expensive to replace.
  • If you use a shoulder rest, be sure to remove it before closing the case over your instrument. Forcing the case closed could crack the top of your violin or viola.
  • Always check to see that the case is fully latched and zippered before you pick it up.
  • Cellos should be carried in an upright position against the body - not down like a suitcase.
  • In crowd situations, put your instrument in an out-of-the-way place so that no one will sit on it, step on it, or trip over it. Cellos in soft cases are particularly vulnerable.
  • Label the instrument case with your name, address and phone number, just in case.

Additional Resources

Carriage House Violins

Located in Newton, Massachusetts, Carriage House Violins is the instrument sales division of Johnson String Instrument.

Learn More


Whether searching for a job, learning about the "Mozart Effect," looking for a summer music camp, or choosing the right instrument string, you need look no further.

Learn More

Johnson String Project

A charitable foundation whose goal is to provide high-quality instruments to children who live in under-served communities and who are participating in El-Sistema-inspired programs in Massachusetts.

Learn More

JSI Blog

Information and helpful articles about the music and instruments we love.

Learn More


Helpful "how to" videos and useful information about JSI and the products and services we offer.

Learn More