How to Make Box Violin - for Beginning Students

September 16, 2020, 9:28 PM · Note: This story is part of our Guide to Online Learning," to help students and teachers make online music lessons and classes work as effectively as possible.

When famous violinists talk about their earliest music lessons, they often remember fondly, "I started out on a box violin..."

What exactly do they mean? Many very young students begin their lessons on a "box violin" - a cardboard violin. The box violin allows teachers to show students the basics of how to hold, handle and care for a violin, before they actually start working with such a delicate instrument. You can buy a box violin, but it's much more fun for students to make their own, and it's also very easy. It also makes for a fun music-related craft project, whether you ever intend to play the violin or not! Here's how to do it, with written instructions below:

You'll need:

How to Make the Box Violin:

First, create the "box" part of the violin. I'd recommend having the teacher or parent prepare this in advance, depending on the student's level of patience with crafting.
Using the packing tape, tape shut the empty macaroni box (presumably it was opened to empty it out). This helps keep the structural integrity of the box, so it doesn't collapse.
Cut a piece of paper from the grocery bag or wrapping paper and wrap the macaroni box. This is optional, but it helps create the illusion that this is a violin, if you can't see the macaroni box.
Using packing tape, tape the ruler to the box, leaving seven inches of the ruler sticking out. Wrap the tape around the box and ruler several times, until it is very secure.

At this point, you can bring in your student! I recommend turning on some music and taking time to enjoy coloring the violin. Allow your student to use their creativity and color the violin however he or she wishes to do so.

cardboard box violins

You'll get a lot of variation here - some may want to color it brown and make it look as much as possible like "the real thing." Others will find the opportunity to have a purple violin, or a violin decorated with rainbows, flowers and unicorns. Or, they might decorate it with swords, dragons and fire flames. This is all acceptable and part of the creative process!

Once the violin is colored, cut it out. Then apply glue (like Elmer's) to the back of the paper violin, and affix it to the box.

Now you have a box violin! Here are a number of beginner practice videos that can be done with a box violin; specifically look at the Rest Position Song, This is the Scroll and the Numbers Game.

Note: When I was teaching a beginning violin class at McKinley School in Pasadena, I went to the office supply store and printed out a big stack of the Violin Cutouts on oversized cardstock. This stash has lasted me for years.

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September 17, 2020 at 04:48 AM · Very fun, Laurie! And take that all you high falutin cream-ona violin loo-thee-ers. You know who you are. Bunch of arteests.

September 17, 2020 at 10:15 AM · Welcome to the world of violin making, Laurie. :-)

September 17, 2020 at 04:08 PM · Very humbling indeed - thank you, Mark and David! This is likely all the farther I’ll get, when it comes to the art of making violins! I’d be quite thrilled, though, if a youngster making a box violin became interested in the real craft of lutherie! (Or an oldster, for that matter!)

September 18, 2020 at 02:54 AM · The making does seem like fun but I'm not a fan of this approach for training. Kids can start violin very young if its approached patiently. Very little one's can't put it all together for quite some time but why lose the full experience of a real instrument that at least they can pluck from day 1?

September 20, 2020 at 03:21 AM · As someone who has taught very young children (i.e. as young as three) for about 25 years, as well as several classrooms of first graders, I find it to be a helpful activity. Indeed, small children will want to pluck a violin -- and much more -- on the first day. And if you hope to get them playing with a good position, it's not going to happen automatically. A little groundwork is in order, and this is a great way to do it.

Also, usually it actually takes parents and schools time to procure the right-size violin. For private students, I like to measure them for the violin and also talk to the parent about where to do to get a good violin (as in not a $29 cheapie on the Internet.) Schools generally also have to do inventory at the beginning of the school year, so most kids can't have the instrument on the very first day of class. So in the mean time, this activity allows them to start learning the parts of the violin, learning to stand in rest position, clapping rhythms and also doing some large-muscle activities, learning to get into playing position. That way, when they get the "real" violin, there is already a foundation for how to handle the instrument.

September 20, 2020 at 03:43 PM · I agree that giving a student an opportunity to fashion their own "violin", could be a huge incentive toward continuing interest.

Hardly anyone gets the opportunity to take a project from start-to-finish any more.

September 21, 2020 at 02:32 AM · Thanks for the explanation Laurie.

David you're right, I made a violin body once but didn't get to the neck or finishing it.

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