how to hold a violin

How to Hold a Violin Properly: 7 Expert Tips and Tricks [Infographic]

How you hold your violin makes a huge difference in the way you sound. Below, violin teacher Julie P. shares some helpful tips on how to hold a violin properly…

As a beginner violin student, you know that posture is very important when playing the violin. Since there aren’t any keys to push, every sound is created by forming precise angles with the violin and bow. Below are some tips on how to hold a violin properly and how to find the best posture to support your playing.

how to hold a violin

1. Sit or Stand Up Straight

Why it’s important: Maintaining an upright playing posture is not only good for your body, it also helps create enough space between the violin and your body to allow for excellent bow and arm movements.

Slouching will make it more difficult to play and can even lead to long-term injuries.

2. Hold Violin Between Chin and Left Shoulder

Why it’s important: The left hand needs a lot of flexibility. Not only do the fingers need to be able to move quickly, when you get into more advanced music, the left hand will have to shift up the fingerboard to higher positions.

Even if you’re just a beginner and are not yet shifting to new positions, it’s best to adopt this good habit from the very start.

3. Keep Left Shoulder Relaxed

Why it’s important: The left arm is supported by the left side of the torso. If the left shoulder is tense, the left arm loses support from the torso. Not only that, tension from the shoulder will creep down the arm and cause other problems.

If you feel your left shoulder tensing up, your shoulder rest may not be placed high enough. Look for a shoulder rest that can be adjusted higher, so that it spans the distance between your chin and your shoulder.

4. Relax Left Arm Away From Body

Why it’s important: The left arm needs space to move, as well as flexibility. Holding the arm in against the body, or out in a “winged” position, adds tension to the posture and reduces flexibility. Therefore, make sure you’re relaxing your left arm away from your body.

5. Keep a Straight Line From Left Elbow Through Left Wrist

Why it’s important: It’s common for beginners to hold the palm up against the neck of the violin to support it. This puts a lot of strain on the wrist, in addition to reducing the movement range of the left hand.

Maintaining a naturally straight extension from your arm through your wrist helps to eliminate tension and reduce strain on your inner wrist.

6. Put Your Left Thumb in the Same Spot Every Time You Play

Why it’s important: Playing in tune on the violin requires exact finger placement for each note. Even more, that exact placement needs to be replicated consistently over and over again as you play through music.

The left hand is anchored by the left thumb, so find the best place for your thumb, and practice putting it there every time you play. Usually it’s on the side of the neck, near the nut.

7. Pretend to be the Best Violinist in the World

Why it’s important: You probably already have a picture in your mind of what it looks like to play the violin. Chances are, that picture is the result of seeing professional violinists in action.

These players all hold the violin properly, and if you imitate them, you’ll automatically sit up straighter, relax your arms wider, and play with less tension. Plus, pretending you are the best violinist in the world is fun!

As you can see, there are some common themes when it comes to how to hold a violin – eliminating tension and creating flexibility being key. Following the tips above will make a positive impact on your playing and reduce your chances of having an injury.

Your violin teacher can also give you individualized attention to help you improve your posture.

JuliePJulie P. teaches flute, clarinet, music theory, and saxophone lessons in Brooklyn, NY. She received her Bachelor’s degree in Music Education from Ithaca College and her Masters in Music Performance from New Jersey City University. Learn more about Julie here!

 

 

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famous violin players

10 Inspirational Quotes from Famous Violin Players

Do you need a little inspiration to get you through your violin lessons? When learning a new instrument, especially one as complex as the violin, it’s normal to feel frustrated or defeated. Even the most famous violin players have felt insecure about their playing at one point or another during their career.

Instead of admitting defeat and giving up, it’s important that you overcome these feelings of frustration and remember the many reasons why you first started playing the violin. Below are 10 inspirational quotes from current and past famous violin players to help you stay motivated and keep positive.

1. “The discipline of practice every day is essential. When I skip a day, I notice a difference in my playing. After two days, the critics notice, and after three days, so does the audience.”

- Jascha Heifetz, renowned violinist who is synonymous with technique and musicianship

famous violin players

2. “The only reason I am successful is because I have stayed true to myself.”

-Lindsey Stirling, an American violinist and 2015 winner of the Billboard Music Award for Top Dance/Electronic Album

famous violin players

3. “The stage is the best experience in the world. It’s a great compliment to be able to share the music…”

-Vanessa Mae, British classical and electronic violinist with an estimated 10 million CD copies sold

famous violin players

4. “To send light into the darkness of men’s hearts—such is the duty of the artist.”

-Robert Schumann, German composer in the Romantic era

famous violin players

5. “I know that the most joy in my life has come to me from my violin.”

-Albert Einstein, physicist and amateur violin player

famous violin players

6. “When you play a violin piece, you are a storyteller, and you’re telling a story.”

-Joshua Bell, celebrated violinist who has recorded more than 40 CDs throughout his career

famous violin players

7. “What does it mean to be a ‘successful’ musician? You can play a hundred or a thousand concerts, as long as there are two or three occasions that you remember yourself.”

-Ivry Gitlis, renowned Israeli violinist who has performed with the world’s top orchestras

famous violin players

8. “The aim was for perfection, but perfection can be like a computer programme. Of course, I’m not saying you should play out of tune or be messy, but there has to be a balance.”

-Viktoria Mullova, highly-decorated and Grammy nominated Russian violinist

famous violin players

9. “Art is not in some far-off place. A work of Art is the expression of a man’s whole personality, sensibility and ability.”

-Shinichi Suzuki, violinist and creator of the Suzuki method of music education

famous violin players

10. “Music is about devotion, and knowing when to be free.”

-Leonidas Kavakos, Greek violinist and conductor who has won several international competitions

famous violin players
Mastering different violin techniques can be difficult. It’s important, however, that you don’t give up. Whether you’re having a hard time mastering a particular technique or need some motivation for an upcoming audition, use these quotes from famous violin players to help inspire you!

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suzuki violin method

Is the Suzuki Violin Method Right for Your Child?

suzuki violin method

Are you thinking about having your child start violin lessons? There are several different musical teaching methods you can consider. Below, violin teacher Julie P. shares some of the benefits of the Suzuki violin method…

Since it’s inception over 50 years ago, thousands of people have learned to play the violin using the Suzuki method, many of whom have gone on to become renowned professional musicians.

Created by Japanese violinist Shin’ichi Suzuki, the method is based on the notion that all children can learn to play a musical instrument the same way they learn to speak their native language.

History of the Suzuki Violin Method

Shin’ichi Suzuki was born on October 17, 1898, in Nagoya, Japan. While Suzuki’s father owned a violin factory, it wasn’t until he was 17 years old that Suzuki became interested in playing the violin.

After taking lessons from a teacher in Tokyo, Suzuki traveled to Germany to study with famous violin teacher Karl Klingler. Shortly after meeting his wife, Suzuki moved back to Japan where he started to teach violin and later create the Suzuki violin method.

Also known as the Mother Tongue Method, the Suzuki approach was created on the notion that the same principals children use to learn their “mother tongue” can be also be applied to learning the violin.

The teaching philosophy has enabled thousands of children to play various instruments and has become one of the most popular methods today’s music teachers use. To learn more about the history of Shin’ichi Suzuki, click here.

7 Principals of the Suzuki Violin Method

The Suzuki method is a great way to for children to learn the violin. Students of all ages stand to benefit from its structure, group learning environment, and focus on discipline.

If you’re wondering whether the Suzuki violin method is right for your child, check out the seven main principals of the teaching method below.

1. Structure

The Suzuki method is a very structured approach to learning. Programs are typically made up of a combination of private lessons, group lessons, and theory classes. Children are expected to attend all classes, as well as practice every day at home.

It is believed that repetitive practice of songs and exercises over weeks and months leads to a mastery of the skills being taught.

2. Listening

In the Suzuki philosophy, it’s believed that listening to music every day is important for the musical development of the student. Children are encouraged to listen to music daily, especially recordings of the songs they are learning in their lessons.

If your child loves to listen to music, the Suzuki method is a great fit. They will find great enjoyment in listening to the Suzuki repertoire as well as learning how to play along.

3. Group Lessons

The group lessons are beneficial for many children. Groups are determined by ability as opposed to age. While this might be intimidating for some young children, it might motivate others who look up to older children within their group.

Playing and practicing with other children is fun for students, and many of them will go on to build lasting friendships through their Suzuki program. Students also find motivation from group lessons, as they are challenged to keep up with the class.

4. Performances

Recitals play an important role in the Suzuki learning process, as they give all students a chance to showcase what they’ve learned and practice in front of a crowd. Group performances create a safe environment for children who might be nervous about performing in front of others.

Younger students are often inspired when they hear the performances of more advanced students, and look forward to someday performing those pieces themselves.

5. Rote Learning

Beginner Suzuki students learn all songs and exercises by memory. This allows them to focus on the skills necessary for playing the violin, without having to worry about trying to read music.

Students learn to read music after their skills have advanced to a point where their playing is more fluid. This approach is great for young children, as well as those who struggle with reading or other visual tasks.

6. Commitment

Students in a Suzuki program usually have to two to three classes/lessons per week, which is a significant commitment. Additionally, the daily practice expectation is taken very seriously.

If your child is already in a number of activities that demand much of his or her time, Suzuki may not be a good fit. However, students in the Suzuki program benefit greatly from the high frequency of classes, as skills are repeatedly reinforced.

7. Parental Involvement

One last thing to consider when deciding if the Suzuki violin method is right for your child is the required commitment from parents. Parents are expected to learn the violin alongside their child, attending all lessons and classes, and directing practice sessions at home.

Sometimes there are even group lessons just for parents, as well as separate private lessons if parents need more help with learning the violin.

The Suzuki method has been an effective way to learn the violin for decades. While the commitment is significant, Suzuki programs can be a great bonding experience for parents and children.

Finally, practicing the Suzuki violin method can also be a great family social activity, as Suzuki programs tend to create strong communities among the participating families.

JuliePJulie P. teaches flute, clarinet, music theory, and saxophone lessons in Brooklyn, NY. She received her Bachelor’s degree in Music Education from Ithaca College and her Masters in Music Performance from New Jersey City University. Learn more about Julie here!

 

 

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used violins

Is Buying a Used Violin a Good or Bad Idea?

used violins

Deciding whether to buy a new or used violin can be difficult. You want a quality instrument that’s going to last, but you don’t want to spend a fortune. So what do you do? Below, violin teacher Julie P. gives her two cents on what to consider when purchasing a used violin…

If you’re in the market for a violin, you may be wondering whether buying a used one is a good or bad idea. This is not an easy question to answer, as there are a lot of things to consider.

On the one hand, you can get more for your money when buying used violins. However, there is a real risk, as you could purchase an instrument that needs more repairs than you originally thought. Before you decide to purchase a used violin, ask yourself the following four questions.

1. Is it in Good Working Condition?

Assessing the condition of used violins is the toughest part. Beginner violins need less attention than intermediate or advanced instruments, but they still need to be in excellent working order. When learning violin, the last thing you need is to be fighting an instrument in poor condition.

Most used violins sold at music stores have been professionally checked and set up by a repair technician. Nonetheless, you want to make sure to ask the store manager before purchasing.

An ideal beginner or intermediate violin will have a bridge and strings that are no more than a year or two old. What’s more, the instrument should have sealed seams, pegs that don’t slip or get stuck, and no cracks. If an instrument needs repairs for any of these items, the purchase price should reflect that.

If you’re buying an instrument from a private party (for example, eBay or Craigslist), there is much more risk involved. Besides playing the instrument to see if you like the way it sounds, here are a number of other things to look for.

  • Is the bridge standing straight up, or is it warped?
  • Does it have a full set of strings?
  • Does the body have any cracks?
  • Are the seams fully sealed, or are they opening up?
  • Do the pegs move easily?
  • Is the fingerboard straight or warped?

2. What’s the History?

When considering buying a used violin, its helpful to ask about the instrument’s history. Has it been played recently, or was it sitting in a closet for five years prior to being put on sale? Oftentimes, instruments that have been collecting dust for some time will require more attention and repairs, which means more money out of your pocket. Ask the store manager or independent seller the history of the instrument, including any past troubles he or she might have had with certain parts.

3. Does it Come with Accessories?

Chances are if you’re looking to purchase a violin, you’re also looking to buy accessories to go along with it such as a case, bow, rosin, and shoulder rest. Advanced instruments are commonly sold without any or just a few of these accessories. However, beginner and intermediate instruments should come with at least a bow and a case.

4. Am I Getting the Best Value?

Do some research to find out how much it costs to buy a new instrument at the same approximate craftsmanship level. Sites like Shar Music and Southwest Strings are good online resources for comparing prices. Another way you can check the going market price for used violins is by looking at instruments for sale on sites like Craigslist and eBay.

While there is no way to accurately compare new and used instruments directly, in most cases, you should pay less for a used violin than for a new one at the same level.

Buying a used violin can be a great idea if you’re already familiar with violins and can give an accurate assessment of an instrument. If you’re not comfortable assessing an instrument, but still want to buy used, find a reputable music store that sets up its used instruments ahead of time, or have your violin teacher check out the instrument to give you a second opinion.

JuliePJulie P. teaches flute, clarinet, music theory, and saxophone lessons in Brooklyn, NY. She received her Bachelor’s degree in Music Education from Ithaca College and her Masters in Music Performance from New Jersey City University. Learn more about Julie here!

 

 

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What Are the Different Parts of a Violin? [Infographic]

What Are the Different Parts of a Violin? [Infographic]

Are you a beginner violinist? While you might be eager to start playing immediately, it’s important to learn the basic functions and parts of a violin. Otherwise, you’ll have a difficult time understanding what your violin instructor is saying when he or she asks you to “keep your bow parallel to the bridge.” Check out the graphic below to learn the basic parts and functions of a violin:

01

There you have it; those are the various different parts of a violin and their functions. Once you’ve familiarized yourself with these parts, you’re ready to start the fun stuff—playing the violin!

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violin techniques

5 Violin Techniques Every Beginner Should Master

violin techniques

Are you new to playing the violin? As a beginner, it’s important to create a strong foundation of which you can work off. Below, violin teacher Montserrat P. shares five basic violin techniques every beginner should master…

Congratulations! You’ve been introduced to the wonderful art of music through one of the most beautiful instruments, the violin. As you continue to discover this wonderful instrument, it’s important to slowly build your skill set.

After all, learning to play the violin can be intimidating at first, and you don’t want to get overwhelmed by learning too much too fast. Below are five basic violin techniques every beginner should master before moving onto more complex techniques.

Double Stops

The string family can do something that not many other instruments can: play two notes at the same time. Composers take advantage of this special quality very often, which is why it’s so important that you work on it from the early stages of your musical development. To master the double stop technique, start by playing only the lower pitch. This will help your left-hand muscles memorize exactly where the note is, giving you the basics to build the rest of the chord.

Once you’ve settle your lower note, repeat the process with the upper pitch. When your left-hand has learned all of the notes, start playing them together. At this stage, pay special attention to the bow. Is the hair touching both strings? Can you hear both notes with the same level of clarity? One last piece of advice: be patient. Double stops are a major part of violin playing, and they require continual practice and hard work.

Left-Hand Articulation

Articulation is the clarity of sound with which you define each note. While a lot of it is generated using your right hand (i.e. bow hand), your left hand also plays an important role. Left-hand articulation will be particularly useful at moments when you’re playing several notes under a single stroke, like runs or grace notes. Here, you can’t use your bow to clarify the beginning of every note; therefore you use your left hand to make sure each one is clear and defined.

To develop this skill, you need to get into percussionist mode. Your fingertips will become your sticks, and the fingerboard will become your drum. Start with your index finger by moving it from the base, rather than from the tip. Make sure you can hear a percussive sound when your finger hits the wood. When you’re done with your first finger, move on to the next one, and repeat the process until you have practiced articulating with every finger.

Be careful. If you overdo this, you’ll not only diminish the quality of your sound, you’ll also jeopardize your muscles. An injured musician is an unhappy musician; so take care of yourself!

Trills

If you haven’t listened to Kreutzer’s Etude No. 19, you should do it before you read this. All my advice on this technique will be more useful if you’re familiar with trills beforehand. Trills are ornaments to a note that consist of playing the pitch above the base by moving your finger up and down as quickly and precisely as you can. What’s complicated about trills is getting a full, in-tune sound in such little time.

So, how do you do this? Let me introduce you to the metronome. Start by turning it to a slow tempo (60 bpm is a good starting point). Begin by playing two notes per beat, making sure you’re moving your finger from its base, just like you did when practicing left-hand articulation. Once you have mastered two notes per beat, move to three, then four, and so on, until your rhythm becomes an ornament.

You don’t have to go through all of these steps in one practice session. Perhaps one week you do only two notes per beat; then the next week you move up to three and four. The most important thing with trills is to take it at a pace that will allow you to be consistent.

Vibrato

Vibrato and trills are cousins, the only difference being that vibrato uses one finger and plays with a little more speed. When you vibrate, you’re letting the one finger you’re playing with move back and forth from what we will call the base contact point ( i.e. the place in the fingerboard where you place your finger to play a specific note).

The trick to getting a nice vibrato is to control the speed in which you vibrate. To do this, first identify where your vibrato is coming from. Is it the elbow, the wrist, or the knuckle? Once you have figured that out, you will then turn to your metronome. Just like you did with trills, start by slowly playing two notes per beat, then three, then four, and so on and so forth, making sure that you’re playing your base note and the note below it.

Also, practice vibrato at different speeds. During your musical development, you will come across many different pieces that will require you to vibrate slower or faster to achieve the character and texture the composer wants. Don’t focus on only one speed vibrato; rather, train your hand to vibrate at any pace, so that you’re ready when a song requires a slow, fast, or middle-speed vibrato.

Spiccato

Even though this is a slightly more advanced technique that you probably won’t use for a while, if you master it now, you will be way ahead of the game when it comes to standard repertoire.

When you do a spiccato stroke, your bow should be jumping from the strings pushed by your right-hand articulation. By pressing down with your right index finger, your bow will then go up and off the string, then come back down and repeat the process. The two most important things about your spiccato are your right-hand fingers and the direction of your bow.

When practicing this stroke, make sure to start by getting your bow-hand knuckles loose. Moving the smaller parts of the fingers will allow you to have a better control over your bow once it starts jumping off the strings. Also, be very aware of the direction of your bow. The hair is supposed to be moving parallel to the bridge, rather than back and forth between your face and your left hand.

One extra bit of advice…

Violin requires a lot of effort and time; that little piece of wood is going to be one of your worst enemies at times. All those hours you spend in the practice room fighting with your instrument over one passage will be worth it when you get on stage and perform for your audience, whether it is a 200-person theater or your seven-year-old cousin.

Just remember what made you want to start taking violin lessons in first place; think about where you want to go, and relish the precious moments music will give you. Now go get your music, your metronome, and your violin, and start practicing!

Montserrat P.

Montserrat P. teaches violin and music theory lessons with TakeLessons. Originally from Costa Rica, she is now completing her studies at Interlochen Arts Academy in Michigan. She is bilingual in English and Spanish, and has been teaching music lessons since 2012. Learn more about Montserrat here!

 

 

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Where Can You Find Violin News - Top 3 Online Resources for Violinists

Where Can You Find Violin News? Top 4 Online Resources for Violinists

Where Can You Find Violin News - Top 4 Online Resources for Violinists

Are you new to the violin world? There are dozens of online resources that you can read to stay up on the latest news, learn expert tips and tricks, and connect with other violinists. Immersing yourself in the violin culture will not only help improve your skills, but it will also make your learning experience much more enjoyable. Below, we’ve rounded up the top three online resources for violinists.

The Strad

You might have seen a copy of The Strad lying on your violin teacher’s coffee table, but did you know that the magazine also has an equally-impressive website? The Strad is a great resource for violinists of all ages and skill levels. The website offers up everything from exclusive interviews with renowned musicians to tips on how to improve your violin techniques. The website even has a section that covers topics about the health and psychological issues facing string players. Here’s a post we thought was pretty cool (and cute): “Study Finds Classical Music Has a Calming Effect on Cats.”

The Violin Channel

Since 2009, The Violin Channel has been providing violin enthusiasts with top-notch content and news. In addition to their news section, the website has a remarkable collection of interviews with well-established and up-and-coming musicians. Looking for open auditions? The website also has an audition section, which frequently posts details about open auditions all across the world. If that wasn’t enough, The Violin Channel also boasts an archive of buzz-worthy videos. We’re especially fond of the “Throwback Thursday” and “Flashback Friday” videos. Check out this Throwback Thursday video of Daniel Lozakovitj performing at Sweden’s Got Talent.

Violinist.com

With more than 25,000 members, Violinist.com is the destination for all things violin. Whether you’re a teacher, student or simply a fan, the website has something for everyone. The teacher tab features useful tips, such as how to encourage students and helpful teaching techniques, from actual teachers. What’s most unique about the website is its discussion board, where people can post questions about all sorts of things related to violin techniques and receive expert advice from the website’s members. Check this discussion about left hand positioning and technique.

CMUSE

CMUSE proves that classical music doesn’t have to be stuffy. The music news and entertainment website is filled with crave-worthy content including interviews, videos, quizzes, and a lot more fun. While the website covers a wide range of musical genres, it does have quite a bit of violin-specific posts. The website’s laid back vibe and sense of humor brings a new life into classical music. Check out this fun video of the world’s first flying violin!

These are just a few of the resources you can use to stay up to date on the happenings of the violin world. In addition to taking violin lessons, frequently visiting these websites is a good way to improve your skills and stay motivated. Do you have a favorite online violin resource?

 

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Care and Maintenance Tips for Violin Bows

5 Maintenance Tips for Violin Bows

5 Maintenance Tips for Violin Bows

All musical instruments require attention and maintenance. When it comes to the violin, however, it is easy to forget that the bow needs as much care as the instrument itself. After all, the way you treat your violin bows will affect the way the violin sounds. If too much resin builds up on the hairs, for example, the sound will come out wrong.

While it may not be as costly to repair or replace violin bows, why waste money when it’s easy to keep your violin bows in good working condition? Below are several tips on how to properly care for your violin bow.

1. Cleaning Your Bow

Chances are you’re already aware that you should regularly clean the area under where you bow because resin can build up. However, it’s just as equally important to clean the bow because of resin build up as well. To properly clean your bow, wipe it down with a dry cloth after every practice session.

2. Tightening and Loosening Your Bow

Once you’ve finished wiping the non-hair parts of the bow, make sure to loosen the hair. You should never put the bow into the case with the hair still taut because you can create unnecessary tension against the bow, which can lead to problems like warping. However, be careful not to make the bow so loose that the hairs snag on the case. When you take the bow out to use it, tighten the hairs again, making sure not to over-tighten it.

3. Broken Bow Hairs

If you notice that a few hairs are broken, don’t get overly concerned. Simply use scissors to cut the broken hairs near the frog. Do not pull on the hairs to remove them. If there are more than just a few hairs that are loose or broken, you may need to take the bow in to a technician to be re-haired.

4. Rosining Your Bow

Typically, violin players rosin their bows as soon as they finish tightening the hairs. Remember, the hairs have to be stiff when applying the rosin. Most players begin at the frog using fast strokes and work their way up the bow. Once they have reached the opposite end, they use several long strokes to evenly distribute the resin along the length of the bow. Make sure to store the rosin in its case or a cloth when you’re done.

5. Handling the Bow

Avoid treating the bow like a tool. The best rule to follow is this: if you wouldn’t use your violin to do something, then don’t use the bow either. You wouldn’t use your violin to turn a light on or off. Nor would you pretend to sword fight with the actual violin. Bows are fragile, and should be treated with as much caution as the violin itself.

Proper bow handling and maintenance will ensure that you can have the best sound possible. Your violin teacher can offer you other tips on how to manage your violin bows if you aren’t sure that you’re doing it correctly.

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violin techniques

Violin Techniques: How to Get a Stronger Bow Arm

violin techniques

Do you want to improve your violin skills? Bow arm movement and direction are important violin techniques every beginner should master. Below, violin teacher Julie P. shares some tips on how to get a stronger bow arm… 

In violin playing, the bow is what creates the sound. The bow arm has two basic movements: moving the bow vertically between strings, and moving the bow horizontally across strings. In order to achieve a beautiful tone, these movements must be understood and continually practiced. Below are some tips and tricks to help you develop a stronger bow arm.

Vertical Movement Between Strings

Due to the curved shape of the bridge, the four strings on the violin are in the shape of an arc with G at one end and E at the other. In order to get the bow to come in contact with all four strings, the bow arm moves higher and lower, with the movement originating from the shoulder. The arm is held highest when playing on the G string, and lowest when playing on the E string.

Even though this motion comes from the shoulder, it’s important that the wrist and elbow follow along and remain in the same plane as the shoulder. For example, if a board was placed on top of your bow arm, all three joints should touch the board.

Practice Exercise:

Place your bow on the G string with your bow arm held high. Make sure your elbow is not drooping. Rock the bow downward to the D string, making sure the whole bow arm moves as one unit. Continue to A and E. Then, rock back in the other direction to A, D, and G, making sure the elbow rises along with the wrist and shoulder. You can use a mirror to make sure the different parts of your arm are moving together.

Horizontal Movement Across Strings

Horizontal movement across strings takes much more practice to master. This is because bowing parallel to the bridge requires movement from the shoulder (upper half of the bow), elbow (lower half of the bow), and flexibility in the wrist. The goal when bowing is to keep the bow parallel to the bridge, which provides the best tone quality and most control over the bow.

Practice Exercise:

Long tones are great for developing your ability to hear the nuances in your tone. Without using a mirror, play long notes of at least four slow counts, using the full length of your bow. Aim for an even sound from frog to tip. You’ll find that the pressure and arm weight needed to maintain a steady tone will change depending on which section of the bow you’re using.

This may seem like a boring exercise, but if you do it for two to three minutes a day over the course of a few weeks, you’ll notice a big improvement in your sound, as well as in your ability to hear different elements in your sound.

More Tips

Once you have the basic bowing motions down and you’re able to keep the bow parallel to the bridge, you can start to work on different violin techniques that will increase the control and sensitivity in your bow arm. Here are some additional tips to getting a stronger bow arm:

  • Slurs: Slurring requires even pressure and movement from your bow arm while you’re moving the fingers on your other hand to change notes. Use a scale you’re comfortable with, and slur two notes at a time. Listen to see if both notes have the same tone quality to them, and whether your bow changes are smooth between slurs.
  • Tenuto slurs: Again, using a scale you’re comfortable with, bow four notes at a time in the same direction with slight pauses between each note. This tests your ability to start and stop the bow cleanly.

Practicing the various exercises above are beneficial to players of all skill levels. By breaking down the bowing motion into individual elements, you can focus on perfecting specific movements. Although these exercises are effective, the best way to get a stronger bow arm is to work with an experienced teacher who can identify the unique ways your bow arm can improve.

JuliePJulie P. teaches flute, clarinet, music theory, and saxophone lessons in Brooklyn, NY. She received her Bachelor’s degree in Music Education from Ithaca College and her Master’s in Music Performance from New Jersey City University. Learn more about Julie here!

 

 

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violin techniques

5 Violin Techniques You Didn’t Know Existed

violin techniques

Do you want to liven up your practice routine and add new sounds to your existing repertoire? Violin teacher Julie P. shares some new violin techniques that will take your playing to the next level…

As a beginner or intermediate violinist, you’re probably familiar with the basic bowed sound of a violin. However, there are a number of other techniques you may not have heard of yet. Today’s more modern composers are continuing to come up with new bowing techniques to create new and exciting sounds. Below are five violin techniques you should consider trying during your next violin lesson or practice session.

1. Sul ponticello

In normal violin playing, the bow is placed halfway between the bridge and the fingerboard. When a passage is marked sul ponticello, the bow is moved closer to the bridge, or sometimes even right on top of the bridge. This changes the way the bow causes the string to vibrate. So, instead of getting a full tone, the higher harmonics come out. The resulting tone is raspy with an eerie element. Violinists can control which harmonics come to the front of the sound by altering the bow pressure on the string. Listen to a demonstration of sul ponticello in the video below.

2. Sul tasto

In playing sul tasto, the bow is moved in the opposite direction of sul ponticello so that it’s over the end of the fingerboard. This creates a softer, more ethereal sound that can be used for delicate sections of music. This placement of the bow cuts out some of the high harmonics to emphasize the low harmonics. Listen to a demonstration of sul tasto in the video below.

3. Col legno

Col legno - which is translated to “with the wood” – calls for the bow to be turned upside down so that the wood of the bow (not the hair) comes into contact with the strings. If the composer is calling for long bowed notes with the wood of the bow, it’s called tratto. If a more percussive sound is desired, the violinist would strike the string with the bow, also known as battuto. The battuto version can be heard around the 9:16 mark of Hector Berlioz’s Symphonie Fantastique in the video below:



4. Spiccato

In the spiccato stroke, the bow actually comes off the string between bow strokes. This is often referred to as “bouncing the bow,” even though the player’s bow movement is horizontal rather than vertical. Spiccato is usually performed in the middle of the bow where there is even weight on both sides of the contact point, allowing the greatest control over the bow. The tension on the bow hair causes the bounce. Many beginner violinists find that the bow naturally bounces on the strings, until they learn how to control the bow enough to keep it from bouncing. Listen to a demonstration of spiccato in the video below.

5. Ricochet

This technique – which is also referred to as jete - means to bounce the bow rapidly while moving the bow in one direction. Ricochet bowing can be performed at different speeds, determined by the part of the bow that is played. If you “throw” the bow near the middle balance point, it will bounce slower than if you use the upper half of the bow. This technique is used for staccato notes that are all to be played in the same bow direction. Listen to a demonstration of ricochet in the video below.

 

These five violin techniques are only a few of the unique methods violinists use to make different sounds on their instruments. There are even more ways to play with the bow and make use of the space behind the bridge, the fingerboard, and even the back of the violin. Using the bow in different ways adds a fun element to playing the violin. If you’d like to learn some of these violin techniques, you might want to consider taking violin lessons with an expert teacher.

JuliePJulie P. teaches flute, clarinet, music theory, and saxophone lessons in Brooklyn, NY. She received her Bachelor’s degree in Music Education from Ithaca College and her Masters in Music Performance from New Jersey City University. Learn more about Julie here!

 

 

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Photo by Flood G.