Most guitarists are immediately intimidated by the absence of frets on the violin, but learning to play is easier than you might think. It’s fun and will help make you a better guitarist. I will improve your overall musicianship alongside the pleasure of playing a very lovely and expressive instrument.
Any competent guitarist should find the act of bowing a pleasure and easy to get to grips with, though if you are one of those whose guitar technique involves habitually resting the heel of your palm on the bridge or your fingers on the soundboard, then you may find the loose wrist required for smooth bowing more of a challenge. However frankly if you do fit into this category I think you should consider developing your guitar technique before tackling another instrument.
As a competent musician you already understand music and so such issues as rhythm, tempo, accent and pitch, which cause great problems for beginners, will not trouble you. As a guitarist, unless you have been well trained in either the classical or jazz tradition, your music reading is probably a little shaky but again, you probably understand the rudiments, such as note values and the names of the notes on the staff. If not any first violin tutor will quickly sort these out for you. Remember that for the first few years you won’t be tackling double-stops or microtonal music, so the reading you’ll have to do is not so difficult anyway.
Before you can play anything you will have to tune the fiddle. Normally, the tuning is in fifths, GDAE. You can remember this with the mnemonic Good Dogs Always Eat. Use a tuner at first but try to get used to the pure ‘chime’ of notes in fifths. This is quite different from the somewhat more atonal fourths you are used to. Traditionally, violins only have a fine tuner on the E string but it will be easier to tune if you fit them on all the strings. These are small machines fitted to the tailpiece. You may have to ease open the jaws with the blade of a screwdriver to get them to accept the thicker strings; do this before fitting.
Tune the fiddle. Use the pegs first and finish with the fine tuners. The pegs should not slip but you should gently but firmly push them in while turning. Support the other side of the peghead when doing this and don’t push too hard—it is possible to split the wood. If the strings are new they will take the same kind of stretching in that nylon guitar strings take, which is lot more than steel; but they will settle after about a week and the fiddle should stay in tune from from day to day.
Tensioning the bow
With the fiddle tuned, now tension the bow using the screw at the end. The hair should be tight enough that the bow bounces if you let it fall on the back of your left hand at about the middle, while holding at the frog. The hair should be around 3/8 of an inch or 1cm from the stick; if you need more tension than this either the stick is no good or the hair has been wrongly fitted.