By Katharine Rapoport

When it comes to the violin, you need to have certain accessories, while other accoutrements aren’t necessary but may be really cool to own. How do you separate what you need from what you want?

Necessities

A whole lot of accessories are available on the market to keep your violin healthy and to make your practice time easier and more fun. Here are the must‐haves for your playing enjoyment:

  • Music stand: A collapsible stand is useful for taking to rehearsals; a sturdier, adjustable stand such as a Manhasset is useful at home.

  • Rosin: It’s that sticky cake that you don’t eat — essential for keeping the horsehair in close contact with the string.

  • Hypoallergenic rosin is available for violinists who are sensitive to traditional rosin.

  • Shoulder rest: Shoulder rests help hold the violin comfortably between your jaw and your collarbone and shoulder area.

  • Silk covering cloth or bag for your violin (it can also be homemade): A cover protects your violin from changes in temperature and humidity.

Extras

After you establish which accessories you need, you can look into some of these neat little gadgets.

  • Mute: A mute reduces the bridge’s vibrations, resulting in a less brilliant and projecting tone. If a composer asks for this special tonal effect, you see the words con sordino on the score. Mutes exist in two basic ­varieties: detachable mutes and mutes that slide onto the bridge from the tailpiece end of the string.

    Mutes that remain on the strings and slide on when required are very convenient for orchestral situations, when the music may allow little time to get the mute in place. Most of these mutes are rubber, or they’re made of a combination of rubber and wire.

  • Practice mute: A practice mute follows the same principles as does a detachable mute, but it muffles as much sound as possible so that you can practice at 3 a.m. in a hotel room, for example. Practice mutes are considerably chunkier than regular mutes so that their mass can inhibit more vibrations from the bridge.

    Strange mutations. [Credit: Photograph by Nathan Saliwonchyk]

    Credit: Photograph by Nathan Saliwonchyk
    Strange mutations.
  • Case strap: Most cases have metal loops for straps to clip on so that you can sling the strap over your shoulder and keep your hands free.

  • Spare bow: Keeping a second bow is not a necessity, but if you upgrade your bow, consider keeping your original basic bow as a spare. Occasionally, the eyelet becomes worn on a bow, and if the hair won’t tighten, a spare bow saves the day.

  • Case bags: If you live in a country where winters are cold and you’re frequently going outside with your violin, consider getting a case bag for extra insulation against cold, snow, or rain. Cushioned, waterproof case bags often feature backpack‐type straps and a convenient external ­document pocket for keeping important papers at hand.

  • Humidifier: Not all violin aficionados believe that a humidifier is necessary. But most violinists do like to protect their instruments the best they can, and so they opt to have a humidifier available in their violin cases — just “in case.” Most important, you need to protect your violin from sudden changes in humidity, such as when the central heating goes on in the fall, when the summer is very dry, or when traveling to a different climate.

    Humidifiers are available in two basic styles: snakelike tubes to put inside the violin via the f‐holes, and small cylinders that live inside the case to humidify the violin’s environment. Most players use the tube kind because they’re easy and convenient.

  • Cleaner, polish, and cloth: Keep these cleaning supplies at home, on a shelf with your music and other violin‐related gear.

  • Pencil shelf: This device slips over a music stand’s shelf and provides a place to put pencils, erasers, mutes, or other small items.

  • Stand light: A sturdy stand (not the wire, foldable kind) can support a stand light, which casts light directly onto your sheet music. Lights are useful for older eyes, for not‐so‐good eyes, and for playing in dark rooms and in the orchestra pit.

  • Music stand extenders: Extenders are useful when playing longer musical pieces, when you may want to see three or four pages of music side by side.

  • Bow case: You can buy a special case just for carrying your bow. This isn’t an essential piece of equipment unless you’re going to be carrying bows around a whole lot, or if you want the convenience of being able to carry your bows to be rehaired without schlepping the whole violin case along too.

    You can carry your bow safely in an excellent homemade case made of black plastic plumbing tubing: Just wrap foam around the bow itself, slide it into the tubing, and then put a cap (or good ol’ duct tape) on each end of the tube.

  • Electronic humidity and temperature sensor: Violins don’t thrive in dry air, especially in winter when the heating is on, so you need to keep an eye on the humidity in your violin case. The ideal temperature and humidity for violins is about 65 degrees Fahrenheit and about 50 percent, respectively. If the sensor registers outside the safe range for your violin, you need to set up a humidifier in your music room, or the room where you’re storing your violin.

  • Violin/viola amplifier: Amps give your violin a great big sound.

  • Plastic rib protector: Over time, the varnish and ribs of your violin can become eroded if you don’t protect them. If your hands sweat a fair bit, and if the sweat is acidic, you can ask a violin shop to install a plastic film that protects the ribs of your violin, just where your left hand touches the ribs when you shift. The plastic film won’t damage your violin at all — though if you want it to come off, have a professional remove it.