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Before you begin, take a short pause and congratulate yourself.
Playing the violin is a very rewarding experience and like many violinists say, you could not have chosen a more expressive, sublime, and fun instrument to play other than the violin.
Or maybe, you played the violin before and is returning now to continue violin playing.
Either way, this article can help you learn and remember how to play the violin and how to stay motivated.
We have also listed some of the common benefits in playing a splendid instrument called – the violin.
Learn How To Play The Violin: The First Steps
1. Breathe In, Breath Out
How to play a violin for the first time?
Relax! This may sound simple, but this is the most important step in playing properly and enjoying.
Why? Relaxing means reducing the tension. You won’t be able to play well if your body feels so tight.
Also, keep in mind that the key to creating a good music and producing a good sound is playing with relaxed muscles.
Staying relaxed while playing can help you practice for longer periods and can help you move your hands easily.
To keep your muscles relax, do some exercises.
If you are feeling tense after few minutes of playing, put your violin down and shake your muscles.
If your muscles feel tired or strained, massaging your muscles might do the trick!
2. Position That Violin
Bring your violin up, place it over your shoulder, and keep it parallel to the floor.
The contact point of your violin to you is your chin and jaw, which is just below your jaw line.
Many violinists suggest that the violin should be about halfway between your chin and your ear.
However, it still depends on how comfortable you are of positioning your violin.
Here are some quick tips on how to position the violin:
Stand up straight and in a neutral position (this means that the neck and head are aligned and facing forward).
Try looking to your left side and go back to the neutral position.
Pick up your violin by its body and not by its neck using your left hand. Hold it out to your left side.
Now place your violin over your shoulder. Try to keep your violin in place by your chin and your shoulder.
Don’t raise your shoulder or put too much pressure from your chin towards the violin.
Remember the first step we discussed – relax and breathe properly. We don’t want you to play with too much tension.
Now from neutral head position, look to your left side again, the way like you did on step B. Place your jaw and chin over the violin’s chin rest.
Rest your head’s weight on the violin by keeping your jaw on the chin rest.
Also, be mindful of your posture and avoid playing in a slumped over position.
The most common mistake that most beginner violinists make is playing with poor posture.
Positioning the violin over your shoulder while standing straight or with good posture, produces a good playing tone.
If your posture is correct and the violin is in the proper position, it is easier to play in tune because the gravity does the work with your bow hand.
It also aids in reducing tension and creates a fuller sound.
One way to make sure that your violin is in correct position, the scroll should point straight out or parallel to the ground.
3. Hold Your Bow And Moving It Properly
Holding The Bow
Your violin bow is not a conducting stick, not a baton and neither is a baseball bat.
Funny but some beginners tend to treat the violin bow as either one or two of those.
Some hold the bow with the thumb and pointing finger only as support and others grab the bow by making a fist with the right hand grabbing the bow.
A proper bow hold is not too tight nor too loose. It should be between these two extremes.
The bow should be held in a way that it delivers power and sensitivity, allowing finger flexibility, agility, and weight control.
To accomplish proper bow hold, follow these simple steps:
- Place your two middle fingers on one side of the frog.
- Tuck your thumb on the curved portion of the frog, between the stick and the hair.
- Gently bend your index finger and place it over the bow pad.
- Bend your pinky and gently place it on top of the bow stick just next to the nut. It should stay bent to control the weight of the bow.
- Keep your knuckles flat and level. They may flex and point up sometimes during bow stroke.
Things to watch out for when holding the bow:
- Pinky starts to lock and straightens while playing.
- Thumb pressing inward.
- Middle finger sliding downwards or upwards.
- Index finger touching the bow stick at first digit which should touch second digit instead.
- Knuckles becoming stiff in a pointed position.
- Fingers or wrist becoming stiff.
When any of the symptoms listed above starts happening, stop playing and rest your hand by taking it off the bow for a few minutes.
Try the bow hold again once rested and if the hand doesn’t feel stiff.
Remember, relaxation is the key to playing properly.
Moving The Bow
During the first few days (to weeks) of playing, do expect to hear a lot of scratching and squeaking noise.
It’s normal. Don’t feel bad because every violinist started as a novice player.
However, this kind of playing doesn’t have to be that way and should not remain that way if proper bowing is learned during the early stages of playing.
So, how to move the bow properly?
The secret is not to work too hard. The trick to mastering proper bow movements is to let the earth’s gravity do the work.
What I mean with this is to stop forcing or pressing the bow and just let the gravity and your bow’s weight to move across the strings.
If you press too much, you’ll hear a scratching sound. If you force the bow towards the strings, you’ll hear it squeak.
To avoid these sounds, just feel the relaxed weight of your arm and the bow and place it over the strings.
Let’s go through this step by step:
Keep your shoulder in its natural position and keep it relaxed.
Take a deep breath. Exhale and imagine a waterfall pouring down from the top of your shoulder through your arm and towards the arms and into your hand to the tips of your fingers. Imagine it flowing to the bow as well.
Bend your elbow and wrist. Let them work like a door hinge.
Good contact between the bow hair and the string depends on moving your bow mainly from this hinge.
If your elbow becomes stiff or tight and does not open or close, the bow will travel along the fingerboard and outside the correct contact space.
Contact space. The region between the bridge and the fingerboard is the correct contact space of the bow.
When moving the bow, it should remain parallel to the bridge as much as possible.
Play using the middle of the bow.
For the beginners and returning violinist, playing on either of the two ends of the bow is challenging.
These extremes are difficult to control until after some training.
To acquire balance and good bowing skills, divide the bow into three parts.
Use a sticky tab or tape to mark the middle part of the violin bow and make it your playground for the first couple of weeks to months of training.
Also, try to play open strings in that section until you feel comfortable before leaving the middle area.
Remember, proper bowing is a lifelong process. It takes a lot of proper practice and tons of patience to master the skill of bowing.
4. Mind Your Left Hand And Fingers
One of the challenges in playing the violin that many beginners are afraid to face is that the violin doesn’t have a fret.
Violinists only rely on muscle memory and they try to program the invisible frets into their minds.
For novice players and returning students, it is advisable to start playing the violin with tape markings on the fingerboard.
The tapes are used as temporary frets to help program the mind of the correct position of the fingers.
These tapes can guide where to land the fingers and also, they can help tuning and intonation.
If you would like to put tape markings on your violin, let your violin teacher help you place it or buy a ready-made finger position indicator such as Don’t Fret. They are inexpensive and accurate.
It is a self-adhering vinyl with color indicator for the fingering positions. It can also be applied easily and can help you effectively.
5. Practice Smarter And Not Harder!
According to Trevor Wye, a teacher, flutist, and an author, effective practice involves patience, time, and intelligent work.
Yes, he didn’t say practicing hard. So what does this mean?
Let’s break it down one by one:
Patience – nobody can become a Niccolo Paganini or Itzhak Perlman overnight, so don’t be sad and discouraged on your first few weeks to months of training.
Practice with patience and always cheer up.
Time – One of the biggest mistakes that some beginners make during violin practice is setting a practice time longer than they can ever focus.
Remember, it is better to practice frequently than play for long periods without taking a break.
So, practice but take time to relax.
Intelligent practice – Well, you may know some violinists who practice hours and hours until midnight or dawn.
However, if you keep on practicing without getting sure that the finger is on correct position or your bowing is proper, you are wasting your practice time.
Every beginner violinist should pay attention to the first year of training and focus on the violin basics and practice smarter because it is in the first years that muscle memory is developed.
How to become a better violinist? – Practice Smart!
If your kid has a group or solo violin recital coming up and you need some checklist to help improve your kid’s performance, you can check this infographic by TakeLessons.
How To Motivate Yourself (Or Your Child): 4 Tips
We all know that practicing is sometimes boring. And for parents with kids who are enrolled in violin lessons, we know that it can be really challenging to encourage them to practice.
Of course, any child would love to play outdoors or use a tablet or play Xbox than to practice.
If you are looking for some motivation, here are some tips that can help you get yourself (or your kids) excited about practicing the violin:
Who doesn’t love rewards? Well not many, if, there are some who don’t. But for parents, rewards can be a good idea.
You can reward them with a new violin case of their own choice or color if they are doing good with practice.
Also, you can reward yourself with something you like if you were able to meet your practicing goals!
2. Set Practice Goals
Parents and of course, beginner violinists can set daily musical goals with the violin.
This can give some sense of achievement and make yourself (or your child) feel good about practice time.
This can also lead to a more motivated practicing and can also monitor progress as well.
3. Stay Positive
Bad days happen, and when they do, just smile and think about positive thoughts.
There may be bad practice days, but there also will be good ones.
Remember that you can always practice again and go back to what you are trying to learn today and work on it the next day.
There may be tantrum today, but tomorrow, you might probably see them enjoy!
Oh, and keep in mind that best way to learn violin, is to stay positive!
4. Encourage Yourself (Or Your Child)
You can read about some inspirational story online about violin practice.
Also, go search about stories of some successful musicians.
Make music the topic of your day.
Go watch concerts of your city orchestra so you (or your child) can see a professional violinist play.
You can also put posters in your child’s room and play some classical music at home.
If you get excited and used to hearing how beautiful the violin sounds, chances are your child will be too!
The Benefits Of Playing The Violin
Like other instruments, playing the violin can be very beneficial.
Aside from the fact that learning how to play is fulfilling, a violin is such a special instrument that is linked to a romantic aura of mystique, class, and enjoyment.
If you were to ask random individuals of what instrument they could pick and instantly master, chances are that violin would be the top choice.
Why? It is a well-known and much beloved instrument.
If you aren’t convinced of that yet, you may be surprised to discover that there are too many benefits that violin playing can offer, some are lifelong, and some are simply because of the joy that comes from creating music through a powerful excellent instrument called – the violin.
Here are some of the reasons to play the violin:
4 Benefits Of Playing The Violin For Kids
Young children sometimes become curious with learning to play the violin, and in case they do, you should encourage them.
The overall physical, mental, emotional, and social benefits of playing any musical instrument is obvious, and the violin offers even more rather surprising additions.
1. Better Overall Mental Function and Health
Experts on mental health and function agree that musical training improves some of the most important aspects of the human mind.
This includes how the brain works, as well as language or speech processing, reading skills, and a variety of other brain functions.
Dr. James Hudziak, a well-known neuropsychologist and brain expert, found out that playing a violin can help children overcome psychological disorders.
He also discovered that violin playing can enhance certain brain functions.
2. Improved Attention Span
Research have proven the many benefits of playing the violin. Researchers from McMaster University’s Institute for Music and the Mind found out that musical training and practice, even one year’s worth, positively affects the attention span.
3. Social Skills
There are also social benefits from playing the violin.
Not only does it serve as a conversational point, but kids can gain communication skills during lessons and recitals.
In music studios, they can meet new friends, practice music with some beginners, and play on an ensemble.
Learning to play violin can build self-esteem, self-awareness, and how they relate with others – qualities which will improve their interpersonal skills and relationships with others.
4. Sensory Development
Many studies suggest that long-term musical training such as violin playing has a broader impact than previously thought.
On a recent study, experts found out that musicians usually develop an enhanced ability to integrate sensory skills such as hearing, touch, and sight to higher brain functions.
5 Benefits Of Playing The Violin For Adolescents And Young Adults
Even if you did not start playing the violin at an early age like other violin virtuosos, anyone can still learn how to play the violin, no matter what age or gender.
In fact, many young adults decide to study violin to broaden their skills or talents and enhance their post-secondary school applications with a variety of skills or extra-curricular activities.
1. Serves As An Emotional Outlet
Playing the violin offers an opportunity to relieve pressure from academic studies and release bad feelings, something that can sometimes be very difficult to dealt with in a constructive manner.
2. Improves Posture
Better posture are engendered through practice. This is true because to be able to execute proper bowing and playing, one must try to play while maintaining proper body alignment.
3. Provides A Sense Of Belonging
Many teens benefit from violin playing because of the sense of belonging it provides.
Usually, teens who are having lessons come across opportunities such as playing in an ensemble or an orchestra.
These kinds of activities promote unity within the group as they practice together, wear group shirts or uniforms, and play together.
Groups including orchestras can be a vast relief from the daily pressures in school, at home, or from the angst of being a teenager.
4. Other Physical Benefits
With violin playing, you can expect to have stronger upper body strength, and improved motor skills.
These are achieved through repetitive playing and proper body placement.
5. More Career Opportunities
Proficiency in music education like mastery in the violin, can often provide that extra-curricular activity or hobby that college some college admissions boards look for.
3 Benefits Of Playing The Violin For Adults
It is never too late to play the violin or any instrument.
If you are not in your teenage years and got interested in playing the violin, you can still learn and play!
Why? Because, in addition to all of the physical, emotional, social, and mental benefits that you can get from playing the violin, adults can also:
1. Reduce Stress With Playing The Violin
Many researches all over the world has proven that playing the violin can help avoid depression, decrease anxiety, and other stress related health concerns.
Adult violinists say that the violin is an excellent stress reliever and a great way to find enjoyment.
2. Improve Posture And Promote Circulation
We all know about what aging does to our bodies.
Aside from other cardiovascular, or other medical disorders, aging do affect our bones and eventually affects the posture.
This process, of moving onto adulthood leaves many of the population unhealthy with spines that misaligns or bones that break easily.
With violin playing, exercise is promoted and therefore, circulation is enhanced as well.
Good circulation, exercise, and correct body alignment or positioning while playing the violin can greatly improve posture in the long run and possibly prevent other bone disorders from daily practice or exercise.
3. Burn Calories From Playing The Violin
Recent study showed that on average, playing the violin for one hour can help burn approximately 175 calories – the equivalent of 2 glasses of wine or half of the regular snickers bar!
The physical, social, mental, and emotional benefits of playing the violin are definitely worth your time, patience, and effort that it takes to learn this well-loved instrument.
And with the right attitude, equipment, and motivation, you can start experiencing these benefits even faster that it can possibly offer.