Make sure it is not a VSO (violin-shaped object). A violin shop or teacher can help you make that determination. Most people are not willing to spend enough out of pocket to get a violin that is actually suitable for learning to play, so they buy a cheap violin that isn't really a violin at all. They are more like plastic or particle board boxes that look like violins but don't function like violins and therefore really should be marketed as violins. They would make better toys or decorations than musical instruments. Treble Strings actually doesn't recommend buying violins as gifts for this reason, but we understand that people do so with good intentions. Some VSOs are redeemable by swapping out certain parts, but even if you can do that, the result is usually a lower-quality instrument than something you could have had for original cost of the instrument plus the upgrades if you had spent the total amount initially. If you can return a VSO for a refund and put the money toward lessons or a better instrument, you will probably be happier with the results than if you try to make the VSO do what a violin is supposed to do.
Find a violin instructor. Maybe this was actually Step One if you needed someone to help you determine if your violin was a VSO. Treble Strings offers many options for lessons, and we would love to help you find an arrangement that fits your schedule and budget. You can contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (816) 945-2114 if you are interested. If you don't take lessons with us, it would be in your best interest to take lessons somewhere. There are lots of books and videos and websites out there that claim to be an alternative to lessons, but they are not likely to produce similar results. You need feedback and two-way communication with another violinist in order to meet your goals without developing bad habits or hurting yourself. Injuries that can temporarily or permanently prevent you from playing the violin and possibly doing other tasks are common among violinists who do not take lessons or try to work ahead of what they are learning in lessons.
Leave the violin in the case until your first lesson. We sometimes see broken violins at first lessons because it's really easy for inexperienced hands to have accidents when attempting to play or tune a violin. Let your teacher show you how to handle and care for your instrument.
Get a notebook or plan to take a device with you to lessons that will allow you to take notes. You will get a lot of information at once, too much to remember. Violin lessons try to cram into one short session everything you will need to know over an entire week of practice. Also, leave space in your notebook to record when and what you practice and any questions you might have for your next lesson.
Take a careful look at your schedule and decide on a good time for practice each day of the week. You will need about ten or fifteen minutes a day at first, slowly increasing to 30-60 minutes a day at the end of your first year. If your teacher has a different opinion on how often you should practice, follow your instructor's advise instead of the above because it probably fits better with the practice routine your instructor will help you develop.
Trust your instructor to be your guide. There is a lot of confusing and misleading information out there aimed at beginning violinists, and being bombarded with that won't help your confidence or your progress toward your goals. Practice what you are assigned in lessons, and if you feel like you could make more progress if you had more to practice, tell your instructor that. If you go looking for other things to supplement your lessons because you are bored, you might end up attempting something you are not ready to do and developing bad habits or hurting yourself as a result.
Find motivation to continue practicing, apart from actually practicing. Listen to music and find yourself a professional violinist or two to use as role models (get some advise from your teacher to make sure you have chosen a good role model). Reward yourself and celebrate small accomplishments. Perhaps make friends with other musicians so you have support from a community that understands what you are doing. The first year or so of learning to play the violin often involves slow progress and comes with a lot of frustration. If you don't find a way through that, you might give up before you even get to experience the real joy of playing the instrument. It is totally worth it, but you won't get to see that if you don't make it through those early struggles. So give yourself the best possible chance.