If you’ve decided to play the violin, you have made an excellent choice. Playing the violin is a hobby with many mental, physical and social benefits.
After you choose a violin, it is time to start learning. As Aristotle said: “For the things we have to learn before we can do them, we learn by doing them.”
The only way to learn the violin is to play it. Learning proper violin techniques will make your experience more enjoyable.
If you are a beginner, you may also want to learn how to properly hold the violin! Here’s how:
10 Must-Know Violin Techniques
You have probably heard that the best way to eat an elephant is one bite at a time. By no means should you pressure yourself to learn all techniques at once.
As eager as you are to jump right in, it is important to master basic principles first. You can eventually add fancier violin techniques to your repertoire.
First things first.
You can hold the violin in a variety of ways. There are a few basics to keep in mind, however.
Whether standing or sitting, your feet should be about shoulder-width apart. Your spine should be straight, whether sitting or standing.
If you are seated, sit at the edge of your chair. Your shoulders should be level and relaxed.
Hold the violin without raising your left shoulder. You may need a shoulder rest.
The combined height of your violin and chin rest (and shoulder rest, if needed) should be equal to the distance between your collar bone and your chin.
Use the weight of your head to hold the violin in place. It is important that you don’t strain your neck muscles by squeezing or turning them.
It is important to cultivate awareness of where your shoulders are during your practice. Otherwise, raising either shoulder above a relaxed position can become an unconscious habit that will hurt you and your playing.
Holding the Bow
Only practice, practice and more practice will make you skilled at using a bow. To start with, using the right bow is very important.
Proper bow technique is the foundation of all sound that comes out of your instrument. You should spend time practicing your bow grip before moving on to anything else.
The right grip will give your right arm and hand power, control and flexibility. Just as you want to focus on keeping tension out of your shoulders, you will want to keep tension out of your arm.
There are various ways to correctly hold a bow. Find one that is widely accepted and that works for you.
Practice picking up and holding the violin and bow until it becomes second nature.
Here are some playing techniques that you will want to practice.
Practice moving the bow vertically between the strings and horizontally across the strings. These movements must be continually practiced to achieve the beautiful sound that made you want to take up the violin.
Start by practicing vertical movement of the bow between the strings, focusing on moving from the shoulder.
Horizontal movement across the strings takes much more practice to master, as more of the arm is involved.
Practice makes perfect. Scales are a good way to have a perfect practice.
Scales are a fundamental exercise for beginning students. Scales give you a way to practice holding your violin and using the bow.
Practicing scales will help you memorize the positions of the various notes. It will also help you become comfortable with your finger placement.
The C Major scale is the best one to begin with. All of the other scales will come easily once you have mastered this one.
Playing scales is also a good way to make sure your violin is tuned.
You can also use scales to practice specific techniques.
While the bow hand is the workhorse in terms of producing the sound from your violin, the left hand performs important functions such as providing pitch.
A relaxed left hand is the starting point for this violin technique. It is more important to cultivate speed than strength. Tension is the enemy of speed.
Practice articulating with every finger.
The violin blow slur is a way to make your notes sound connected together. This is the violin music you hear that sounds calm, soothing and relaxing.
This style is also known as “legato.”
Changing notes with your left hand while keeping your right hand from changing direction takes practice but this technique is well worth the effort.
On the violin, you can play two notes at once. A double stop happens when you bow or pluck two separate strings at the same time.
As with the other techniques mentioned below, the double stop will require you to build muscle memory. The only way to master violin techniques is through repetition, i.e. consistent practice.
Click here to hear this beautiful violin technique in action. Centuries ago, the trill was known as a “shake.” The trill involves the rapid going back-and-forth between two adjacent notes.
The trill is one of many techniques called a “musical ornament.” Start slowly and gradually build your speed as you go from note to note.
Another good example of a musical ornament is the vibrato. This technique will make you sound more artistic.
There is an arm vibrato, a wrist vibrato, and a finger vibrato. Start by mastering the arm vibrato (which will give you the most stamina).
As with practicing Trills, start slowly and gradually build your speed.
This technique requires striking the string with the stick of the bow, rather than drawing the hair of the bow across the strings.
Some violin players use a less expensive bow for this technique due to the risk of breaking the bow. Still, others use a pencil rather than a bow stick to achieve a similar effect.
Be consistent and be patient with yourself as you learn and master these violin techniques. Have fun and don’t be afraid to break a few strings.