Beginner’s Guide: How to Play Violin

Learning to play an instrument is a fun activity that stimulates your brain in the process [1]. While all instruments can be beneficial to the way your brain works, the violin is perhaps a step above the rest.

The violin is a classic and beautiful instrument that has been beloved for hundreds of years. One moment it’s producing long sorrowful tones, and the next it’s skipping along cheerfully in a bright and chipper song.

If you want to learn how to play violin, it will take some dedication and a lot of practice to truly master the skill. Not only does learning the violin give you a lot of benefits, it can also be relaxing to lose yourself to the motions and the music.

Are you just beginning your journey with the violin? We’re here to help you. Continue reading to learn more!

Beginner’s Equipment

It doesn’t take much to begin learning how to play violin. In fact, a lot of companies sell beginner packages, like the Cremona SV-75 Premier, for example, that will include most things you’ll need.

Here’s a list of the things you’ll want to acquire to before you begin:

  • A violin
  • A bow
  • Rosin
  • Beginner’s sheet music
  • Music stand
  • Shoulder rest
  • A sturdy violin case

Don’t worry about getting the most high-end items you can find. You’re just starting out and you’ll make mistakes along the way. It’s better to purchase things on the cheaper-but-still-good side so that you’re not afraid to let those natural mistaken happen.

Correct Posture and Handling

The way you stand and handle the instrument is an incredibly important part of learning how to play violin. Your posture can have an effect on the sound you produce and can completely change the way a song feels.

Plus, if you have poor posture, you will quickly develop strain in your muscles which will only dampen your experience.

The best thing to do is to get your posture down correctly from the start so that you don’t accidentally develop any bad habits. Those habits can be very difficult to break in the future.

When learning a new instrument, things will feel uncomfortable at first. That’s okay. Practice makes perfect, right?

  1. Take a deep breath, and release your death-grip from the instrument. Keep relaxed and hold the bow and violin loosely. Too tight, and the sound you produce will be scratchy and unpleasant.
  2. Don’t lock your joints, and this includes your knees. Keeping those joints loose allows for the rest of your muscles to remain relaxed throughout the session.
  3. Use your core torso muscles to strengthen your body and keep your back straight.

Practice this for a few minutes before every musical session and you’ll naturally develop a good posture.

Reading Musical Scores

Learning how to play violin isn’t just about the instrument alone. You’ll also need to learn how to read and understand sheet music. Without this skill, you won’t be able to play any music besides the songs you make up yourself. And even then, wouldn’t it be nice to write down those songs before you forget them?

Music class attempts to drill this information into its students. But for those of us learning the love of music later in life, or those of us who didn’t quite pay enough attention, here’s a quick rundown [2]

Sheet music is made up of sets of 5 lines, which is called the staff. These are cut up into small sections which are called measures. Within these measures are the notes you’ll be playing.

Each note has its own letter and place upon the staff. Upon the lines are the notes: E G B D F. And in the spaces between those lines are the notes: F A C E.

A well-beloved mnemonic device for remembering these is the saying: Every Good Boy Deserves Fudge. For the four remaining notes, just look at the word they spell out: “face”.

Learning to quickly identify these notes is what reading music is all about. We suggest learning these notes and their corresponding finger positions as part of your regular practice. It’s as important to learning how to play violin as the instrument!

Preparing to Play

Once you’ve got your equipment together and you’ve practiced a little with your posture and music reading skills, it’s time to get your violin ready to play.

  1. Take out your violin and bow, as well as your music stand and any music you wish to play.
  2. Tighten the hairs of the bow by twisting the screw located at the end. You want the hairs to be about a 1/2 inch away from the wood.
  3. Place your shoulder pad onto the violin.
  4. Rosin your bow. If this is your first time using the bow, you’ll want to rub the rosin on for about a minute. If you’ve used the bow before, just a quick few seconds should do the trick. (Don’t forget to clean the bow after you’re done to keep the rosin from collecting on the hairs.)

Playing Your First Notes

Now it’s time for the most exciting part. To put all of this together and finally make some music.

  1. Remember your posture should be loose and fluid.
  2. Place the violin upon your shoulder, using your chin and shoulder to hold it in place, with your left hand holding the violin near the strings. The strings are how you change the notes.
  3. Hold the bow gently, with your thumb resting upon the bottom and your index finger extend a little forward. Your pink will rest just lightly onto the bow, while your remaining middle and ring fingers will hug the bow to keep it in place.
  4. When it is time to begin a note, you’ll want to glide your bow across the strings. Don’t think of it as pressing through those strings. Instead, think of it almost like stones skipping over water. Firm but gentle!
  5. As you glide the bow across the strings, change the positioning of your other hand to change the notes. Congratulations, you’re making music!

It can feel foreign at first, and it may take many tries before you feel completely comfortable. But don’t let go of that excitement that made you pick up the violin in the first place. If you persevere and continue practicing, you’ll be playing beautiful songs in no time!

Learning How to Play Violin is Just the First Step

Once you have the basics down, the sky is the limit. With determined practice, you can perform countless classic pieces, or you can even create your own. The act of learning a new instrument is something we all can become passionate about.

With these basics in place, you have everything you need in order to dive right into the world of beautiful violin music.

Have you only just begun your own violin journey? Let us know all about it in a comment down below!

Stephanie Su

Started learning music when she was four years old, Stephanie is a music teacher and a music therapist who is highly proficient in Piano, Violin, Guitar, and Ukulele. She likes to learn, teach, and share her music playing experiences.

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