Although most of the team do play instruments themselves, none are professional musicians, so this is not really our area of expertise, but one of the team has in fact played the violin from an early age, so we can offer a little advise on the subject.
Learning any instrument is obviously a long process that requires lots of dedication with many hours of practice, and that is especially true when it comes to learning the violin, which takes several years of studying before making a sound you’d be proud of from it. Although what you hear in ‘A Scandal in Belgravia’ and ‘The Reichenbach Fall’ is not Benedict playing the violin but Eos Chater who taught him, he did exceptionally well to learn the basics and how to master tunes such as ‘God Save the Queen’ and ‘Auld Lang Syne’ among others. Michael Price did confirm to us on Friday at MGEITF however, that he did not play ‘Irene’s Theme’ or recite Bach’s ‘Sonata No. 1 in G Minor’ as they were just too advanced for a beginner, even one who picked it up as quickly as Benedict. He clearly mastered the technique of vibrato (well for first finger anyway), which is quite advanced and that would normally only be expected of a violin student to achieve from Grade 5 and higher. In fact Russell Crowe learnt to play the violin for his role in ‘Master and Commander’ and referred to it as "the hardest thing [he’d] ever done for a film!"
Just like Benedict, the best way to learn is for a person to receive tuition from a teacher, especially for instruments such as the violin, but lessons can be costly and to progress you will need them regularly. If you were on a budget however and wanted to play folk fiddle for example (instead of classical violin like Sherlock), much can be learned from folk sessions where an enthusiastic group of musicians would be happy to give tips and pointers. You would have to be pretty brave to walk into a folk session as a beginner not able to play anything at all, but if the person had a couple of folk tunes up their sleeve, a big friendly smile and genuine interest, it might well be enough.
We would certainly recommend exploring this option if lessons were not financially possible. Sessions normally happen in pubs and many towns have regular ones that are advertised in local papers, music shops or online. This obviously applies to the UK and Ireland, but other countries may vary, depending on how popular folk music is.
YouTube has many videos on how to play the violin, from the very basics of how to hold your instrument and bow, all the way to advanced techniques. As for ‘teach yourself violin’ books alone however, we would personally steer clear of this route as it could do more harm than good. Practice is essential after all, but not if you are practicing how to do it incorrectly over and over again. There are many of these types of books available though on Amazon, which come with CDs to play along to, but if you have no other choice than to go down this route, then we would recommend you visit your local music shop and ask advise from them for the best one to go for. Violins themselves can be purchased fairly cheaply, but again visit a music shop rather than buy online, so you can make sure you choose a violin that you are comfortable with and is suited to you as well as your budget.
Hope this helps a little and if you do choose to begin learning the violin, we would like to wish you the best of luck. It is a really beautiful instrument and if it’s good enough for Sherlock Holmes, then there can be no better recommendation than his!
N.B. If anyone who plays the violin is reading this and has some good tips to share, please do contact us and we’ll include them.
UPDATE: ‘I happened to know a website that allows beginners, as well as experts, to improve and learn violin skills. The website is called fiddlerman.com. It’s easy, free and has been very useful to me.’ - label22.tumblr.com