I have taught for over 30 years. I have a Master’s of Music in Education, emphasis on violin. Many of my students have gone on to be professionals, teachers and performers, and to major in music in college. All that to say, I can give you my opinion on the matter. An important aspect of violin playing is tone production. Things that effect tone are bow grip, how you use your bow, what the beginning and the end of your bow stroke sounds like (articulation), the weight you put into the bow for full tone, speed of the bow, where the bow contacts the string, dynamics. None of this matters on a silent violin. In fact even if it matters to you, it can’t be properly developed on a silent violin because it can’t produce tonal variation.
My recommendation is that all violin study should occur on an acoustic violin, so you can master the actual techniques required of the bow arm and hand and learn how what you do with the bow effects the sound. Silent violins are ok for occasional practice with focus on left hand – intonation, shifts, vibrato, sight reading – and only when you’re limited to keeping quiet for the benefit of sleeping roommates or children. You should also practice on a silent (or Im assuming, electric) violin if you’re in a band and will use that instrument in a performance. In that case, you should practice amplified so you know what the audience is going to hear.
With violin, it’s all about sound. Violins all have different sounds, strings effect sound, bow and how you use it effects sound, rosin type effects sound, the player’s skill effects sound. The sound is the part of playing violin that is totally you, totally unique. If you’re not developing sound, YOUR sound, you’re missing an important aspect of studying the violin. On a grander scheme, your leave out the part of the study or performance that is your expressive ‘essence’.
The last thing is respect for the music. As musician’s playing music by composers from the 16th, 17th, 18th century; or from a rich historic culture like Jewish, or Arabic, or Eastern, or Scottish or old time Appalachian American… All this music was composed for acoustic instruments. It all requires attention to sound in it’s interpretation. The style of bowing, on or off the string, legato or staccato, loud or soft, soulful or intense vibrato. The composer’s intent, the editor’s suggestions regarding bowings and fingerings, combined with your unique sound, brings forth the full measure of potential in violin performance. When we study violin without this richness in musical spectrum, we starve.
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