Have you ever listened to a fantastic violin piece by Paganini, Beethoven, or Mozart and wondered how the violinists got so good that they were able to perform these pieces flawlessly?
Well, I can guarantee you that every member of the world’s greatest orchestras has spent thousands of hours taking lessons and practicing their craft. With bands today like Coldplay, Lana Del Rey, and Adele using more and more string arrangements in their music, the violin has become a very popular instrument to learn.
So regardless of what style of music you’re interested in playing, all good violinists need to learn the basics like holding the bow and correct posture.
These are great beginning points to get you moving onto more advanced techniques like vibrato, double stops, and playing in different positions. There are five positions total, with the fifth position being the highest on the fingerboard.
But the question stands – what is the best way to become a great violin player? How difficult is the violin to learn to play, and how can you ensure that you take the proper steps to obtain progress and master this complicated instrument?
This article provides a breakdown of understanding the violin and working on learning to play as a beginner. However, no matter your age, your desire to learn to play the violin can lead you to master this amazing instrument.
IS IT EASY TO PLAY THE VIOLIN?
Playing the violin does require more time and effort to play than, say, a piano. Learning how a violin works will help you understand how to play to a greater degree. Violinists have to make their fingers do many movements and be nimble, and it can feel unnatural if you are not used to it.
There are many technical aspects that need to be mastered in order to play, such as finger positions, bowing techniques, and the fundamentals – scales, arpeggios, reading music, and understanding rhythm.
So – just how hard is it to play the violin?
Well to begin, there is no fret or keyboard to help you learn the notes on a violin, which can feel hindering. Your finger positioning is the most crucial part of learning, as well as how to hold the violin properly with your right hand or left hand, depending on which one isn’t the dominant hand, and using your dominant as your bow hand.
The positioning of the fingers changes as well. If you play closer to the scroll the tones are further apart and putting your fingers closer to the bridge the tones are closer together.
On the highest pitches and notes, your fingers have to replace one another, the difference between tones is exceptionally tiny, so your fingers are practically on top of each other.
Executing proper bow strokes with precision is the other part when learning to play. It can be challenging to do this since you have to control both the angle of the bow and the pressure that is applied.
If you put too much pressure on the hairs, you hear a scratching sound, and too little pressure makes squeaky noises. So there needs to be a balance at all times.
What should you know before playing the violin?
First, understand that it takes a lot of patience, effort, and time to master how to play the violin properly. It also can take years to feel comfortable with playing.
Another aspect of the violin to understand is that it is impossible to learn to play the violin unless you own one, so you should be serious about your craft before you take it on.
It is necessary to learn while you play to sync up to the more minor, subtle nuances in the instrument and understand how to make all of the proper adjustments.
To play your first notes on the violin, it is a good idea to watch online videos and see how a master violinist or expert moves their hands and holds their instrument. YouTube is a great place where there are a plethora of videos to watch. Then, you can practice holding for a while until it feels comfortable enough that you can start playing.
Probably the best way to help you learn properly to ensure that you are executing proper stance, positioning, and hold is by working with a private teacher and taking violin lessons, either in-person or online. There are violin teachers for both adults and children, so don’t fret if you are an older learner.
A professional instructor will be your best tool to help you learn to hold and play the violin like an expert. A good teacher also knows how to work with your body, get you in the proper stance, and focus on the little things before you play.
A teacher can also help you not to acquire bad habits that sometimes come from those trying to learn on their own, and can give you helpful hacks and tips to ensure your progress in creating a beautiful sound.
They will start you off with the first position, how to hold and play scales, how to stand correctly and not strain your neck or shoulder, and eventually work up to learning time signatures, music theory, and then playing simple, easy songs on sheet music to get you acquainted so that you can grow and master the instrument.
The goal is to get to the point in your playing where you can feel relaxed with both your left and right hands. Though, to be honest, most violinists don’t feel completely relaxed when paying attention to all of the minor aspects of playing properly. Learning the various techniques can feel overwhelming and challenging when you are just starting, so it is better to start small.
To get you started more in-depth, we had one of our expert teachers and NYC Ballet Orchestra violinist Laura Oatts give her top 5 tips for becoming a great violinist.
1) a little goes a long way
Every student should feel that it’s ok to practice only for a few minutes if that’s what gets them to take out their instrument every day. If you’re terribly busy, several minutes every day will keep building your muscles and help you build up stamina for longer practice sessions.
Just playing the open strings or playing a very in-tune scale is excellent practice for beginners and will help them progress in the future.
It can help if you actively set aside just ten to fifteen minutes each day in your schedule. When you do this, you can develop a new routine for practicing. You can even work to set up your own practice area within your home or space.
Since learning the violin will take a lot of practice, setting aside some time per day will help you monitor your progress. You will also learn discipline in making sure that you are practicing consistently.
2) love what you’re doing
Love your violin – it’s a beautiful instrument and an amazing work of art to look at and admire. Also, students should constantly listen to music they love and learn how to play the music they enjoy. Violinists can play both classical and pop melodies, so changing up styles is an excellent way to keep things interesting.
The violin is a magnificent yet complicated instrument, so it is easy to become frustrated with slow progress and learning. However, when you feel yourself starting to feel upset or bored with lessons or learning, change your mindset.
Watch a video of a violinist you admire or a symphonic concert to help spark that love for your instrument again. Seeing the violin in action will help inspire you to continue.
Another thing that helps is setting small, attainable goals for yourself, going slowly, and reaching milestones with your violin. Set your schedule intentionally and create pans with a smaller goal to start, such as mastering a scale in two months, learning a whole song by six months, etc. These smaller targets will help keep you focused and interested in your journey.
3) bowing technique
Long and full bows on the open strings for 5 or 10 minutes every time you practice. This exercise is for beginner and advanced students and works wonders for both.
Always keep your eye on the bow and make sure that it stays straight. Keep the bow moving slow and steady the entire time. This can be done on one or two strings. Try to enjoy the vibration of the wood and the ringing of the strings.
Having an instructor taking violin lessons will be a great help here – they can record your bowing technique and advise you on how to improve. There are so many parts to this musical instrument. It helps to break down each piece before you put it all together.
Watch our violin instructor, Maya, teach you how to do vibrato:
4) practice your pizz
The next step to learning your violin would be to see if you can play your scales or whatever piece you are working on using pizzicato the entire time.
By dropping the bow every once in a while, playing pizzicato will help you focus on intonation and other aspects of the music, like dynamics and rhythm. Typical pizzicato will be done with the index finger, but you might do this plucking with any finger depending on your comfort level.
Working on the fingerboard with pizzicato can be done with or without holding the bow, so make sure you ask your violin teacher on specifics such as your positioning while playing so that your focus isn’t always on the bow.
You can give your left shoulder a break (or your right, if you’re left-handed) and take time to break down the separate pieces of learning to play.
5) play with a buddy
There’s a new invention called a Bow Buddy, available on Amazon and several other music stores. It comes in two pieces, but I prefer the pinky piece. It’s the smaller of the two pieces and goes on the end of the bow.
It helps students learn to hold the bow correctly while building the needed hand muscles. It’s a fabulous tool and helps people know so much quicker in the beginning if they have a “Bow Buddy.”
Music has the power to help you improve your social skills and provides many other benefits. The violin, while a complicated and time-consuming instrument, is a beautiful instrument to learn.
The learning process is intense and takes time, but the outcome is worth the effort and hard work you put in. Soon you will be able to grip your bow, pluck violin strings to perfection and emanate gorgeous classical music and other tones from your instrument.
Hopefully, you enjoyed these great tips for beginner students. Keep a lookout for further violin tips on our blog!
For lessons, visit our Violin Lessons Page