How to Read Violin String Notes

Reading any kind of music can be difficult if you lack formal training. Click here to start learning how to read violin string notes.

Keyword(s): violin string notes

The ability to read violin string notes is often what separates wanna be violin players and those who play the violin and play it well.

Playing the violin is considered to be a musical achievement. It’s one of the most beautiful instruments and recognizable.

If you imagine yourself playing moving and recognizable pieces like Vivaldi’s Four Seasons, you have to start by learning how to read violin string notes [1].

This is a basic guide that explains what those lines and notes mean, and how you can apply them to playing the violin.

Let’s get started!

Start With The Basics

Before we get into the notes, we have to start with basic symbols of sheet music. When referring to sheet music, it’s musical notation that shows you where to place your fingers on the violin, how long to hold the note.

Staff: The first thing that you’ll notice on the sheet music are the five lines that run horizontally. That’s called a staff. They’re numbered from the bottom up, so the bottom line is the first line, the top line is the fifth line.

A geeky side-note – the plural of staff is staves. You may occasionally two staves together, which is called a Grand Staff.

Clef: The funny looking symbol on the right of the staff is called a clef. This will tell you what notes to use on the staff. In violin, you’ll be working with the treble clef, which looks like the letter G.

In other types of tabs, you’ll notice the bass clef, which somewhat resembles the letter F. That’s very common in piano.

Key Signature: Right next to the treble clef, is the key signature. This will tell you which notes on the staff are played as normal, flat, or sharp. You can tell if a note is sharp, by the hashtag symbol and the flat symbol looks like a stylized b.

Time Signature: In order to play the music the way it’s meant to be played, you have to be able to keep a standard rhythm. You might see 3/4 or 4/4. This indicates the number of beats per measure and which note is for one beat.

Think of the rhythm of the Blue Danube Waltz [2]. That time signature is 3/4, which means there are 3 beats per bar and the quarter note is one beat.

Here’s a video on How to Read Violin Strings for Beginner:

How to Read the Violin String Notes and Scale

Now that know the basic symbols of a tab, it’s time to learn how the notes are placed on the tab.

Each line and the space between the line represents a note. We’re going to start from the bottom line and move up since that’s how violin string notes are read.

E – at the bottom line

F – the first space from the bottom

G – second line from the bottom

A – second space from the bottom

B – third line from the bottom

C – third space from the bottom

D – fourth line from the bottom

E – fourth space from the bottom

F – fifth line

If you play these notes in order, that’s called a scale. Playing the notes from the bottom up is an ascending scale, from the bottom down is a descending scale.

How Do You Know How Long to Hold a Violin String Note?

Notes are also coded by how long they are played. It doesn’t matter if you’re playing with the best electric violin or bow, these symbols apply.

  • Whole note: This looks like the letter o. It’s held for four beats.
  • Half note: This is a whole note with a line sticking up and held for two beats.
  • Quarter note: Looks similar to a half note, but it’s filled in. It’s held for one beat.
  • Eighth Note: Looks similar to a quarter note, but with a tail. It’s held for half a beat or one-eighth of a whole note.

At some point, you’ll see a string of eighth notes held together by a bar. These are to be played in quick succession together. You’ll see eighth notes with the top facing up or down.

  • Sixteenth Note: Has two tails instead of the single tail of the eighth note. This is held for a quarter of a beat.

In music, not only are you told when you play, but when you pause or rest. Rest periods have their own symbols, too.

  • Whole rest: A small bar facing up and held for four beats.
  • Half rest: A small bar facing down and held for two beats.
  • Quarter rest: This symbol may remind you of the zig zag on Charlie Brown’s shirt. It’s held for one beat.
  • Eighth rest: This symbol looks like a number seven. It’s held for a half beat.
  • Sixteenth rest: Similar to the eighth rest, this symbol looks like two sevens and held for a quarter of a beat.

In reading the notes and rests, you may have noticed a pattern. As you move from whole notes and rests to sixteenth notes and rests, the symbol looks similar to the one before it, with one minor change.

What’s Special About Violin String Notes

Now that you’re familiar with the basics of reading notes and tablature, there are a few things to learn about violin string notes.

Violin tablature has symbols that tell you where to move your hands up and down along the neck and if your bow is moving up or down.

The up bow motion is shown as a symbol like the letter V, while a down bow motion is like a flat table.

Violin strings are denoted by Roman numerals, starting from the highest pitch string to the lowest.

  • I – E
  • II – A
  • III – D
  • IV – G

There’s also the vibrato symbol, which tells you to hold a note and move your hand, creating a vibration effect.

Before You Start Playing…

Now that you know how to read violin string notes, you’re going to want to be sure that your violin is properly tuned.

Before you pick up the violin and start to play, Make sure you’re playing an instrument that sounds great but also fits your style and needs.

Read our in-depth reviews of violins, cases, and bows today.

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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