Violin Practice

Are You Making the Most of Your Violin Practice?

Are You Making the Most of Your Violin Practice?Gifted musicians don’t appear from nowhere fully-formed and ready to take to the concert platform.  For every 45-minute concerto or 90-minute recital you hear, hours of hard work have gone into every note, every phrase, and even how the music is approached, learned, and memorized!

It may seem strange to say that proper practice is the most nerve-wracking element of mastering your violin, but if you don’t know how to structure the session, how can you ever be sure that you’re working on the right things – and not just the right things, but in the right way?  No single method will work for everyone, but taking what works for you from the following tips may help:

Take the First Steps

According to British flutist, teacher, and author Trevor Wye, effective study is a question of time, patience, and intelligent work.  So what does that mean?

  • Time: The biggest mistake you can make with your violin practice is to set aside a chunk of time to work that is far longer than you can actually stay focused.  For some students, it may be better to find a spare ten minutes – perhaps before going to school or work – two or three times a day to practice.

  • Patience: You won’t become Paganini overnight, so don’t get discouraged.  Be patient with yourself, and end the session on a positive note.

  • Intelligent work: You may know of other students that claim to practice for hours on end.  However, if you know what you need to fix each session – and stay focused on that – you will be working far smarter than they are.  If a tricky position shift is causing you trouble, spend your entire ten-minute practice session on this and this alone.  You’ll be surprised how much of the rest of your repertoire, not to mention your scales and other exercises, this transfers itself into.

Don’t Ignore Scales

However much you may hate practicing violin scales (and believe me, we’ve all been there), they are at the heart of everything you will ever play. Without realizing it, you’re learning the shifts and intervals that will take you through increasingly complex pieces as you progress, and you’re learning key relationships that will make seemingly impossible passages easier to comprehend and work through.  To get the most of your violin practice, start (and end) every session with a few scales.  Tracking your practice on a spreadsheet can help you work through the scales at a sensible pace, and make sure that you don’t just stick to the easy ones.

Sight Read at Least Every Other Day

You may not think that reading through new music makes for effective violin practice, but not only are you finding out whether new repertoire is of interest to you, you’re gaining essential musicianship skills; sight reading will not only make the learning process quicker for you in future, but will help you learn about efficient bowing and finger position for a variety of styles and melodies.  It will also make you a valuable member of any ensembles you choose to join, whether you’re playing through pieces with a pianist, in a string quartet, or a symphony orchestra.

Learn to Practice Without Your Violin

There may be times when you have the urge to dive into your violin practice, and it’s just not practical to do so.  Luckily, there are several violin exercises you can try that don’t actually require your violin. Even simply reading through your sheet music, or listening to a recording of the song you’re working on, can help you internalize the music.

Find the Right Environment

Think about your learning style, and the environment you typically work best in. Are you the kind of student that must have a quiet environment to concentrate, or do you thrive with ambient noise playing in the background? You will probably find that you’re exactly the same when it comes to your violin practice (although music on the stereo will not help you check your tuning!).  Turn off the TV, eliminate any distractions, and make sure the area is clean and organized for the most efficient practice.

Ask Your Teacher to Guide You

You may feel you can work perfectly well on your own, but if you don’t have a second set of ears to tell you you’re on the right track, it can be hard to tell if you’re progressing in the right way.  A good violin teacher will not only be able to supervise your posture, but they will be able to give you advice on better bow hold, tuning, and your overall musicianship skills.

Your violin practice will count for nothing unless you have goals to work toward; even if your ultimate aim is just to be able to play well enough to satisfy your own desire to play a musical instrument, you will find you’re much more motivated if you have an experienced and competent teacher to guide you.  A good teacher will inspire you to explore what works for you in terms of practicing, and how to structure the time available to you in the most effective way.  After all, proper practice is essential to your progression as an individual player. Good luck, and have fun!

 

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Benefit Violin

18 Benefits of Playing Violin You Might Be Surprised to Hear

18 Benefits of Playing Violin You Might Be Surprised to HearThe violin is one of the most widely recognized musical instruments among children and adults of all ages. It’s a beautiful instrument, both to look at and to listen to. If you’re thinking about taking violin lessons, be prepared to find benefits in several surprising ways! The benefits of playing violin go far beyond just gaining the ability to play beautiful music on a new instrument. Take a look at what else the violin can do for you:

Physical Benefits

  • Increased arm strength: You may find yourself tiring quickly after playing the violin when you first start out. This is completely normal. As your arm muscles and upper body become stronger, this problem soon dissipates. The result? Stronger arms without making a single trip to the gym. Sign us up!

  • Improved finger dexterity: As you learn more difficult songs on the violin, you’ll feel the fingers on your left hand strain to reach certain strings. The fingers on your right hand must learn to control the bow, which takes precision as well. Over time, the strain disappears as your fingers become more flexible. This makes it possible to play exciting new techniques later down the road.

  • Improved posture: Another one of the benefits of playing violin is that it requires you to sit up straight and tall. Before you know it, you’ll find your back and shoulders becoming stronger and able to support your upper body with better posture.

  • Better coordination and motor skills: When you’re playing the violin, you need to coordinate both your fingers and your arms simultaneously. Pressing a string with your left hand must match up with the movement of the bow in your right in order to play correctly. In this way, learning the violin increases your coordination and motor skills.

Mental Benefits

  • Expanded reading skills: A 2011 study at the Institute for Music and the Mind at McMaster University found a correlation between a child’s musical training and their word decoding skills, a fundamental part of learning to pronounce specific words. According to the study, this occurs because music lessons train the auditory abilities necessary for correct word pronunciation.

  • Improved concentration: It takes effort to learn how to read violin music and translate the notes on a piece of paper into beautiful sounds. You must remain focused while practicing the violin to benefit from it, so playing the instrument inherently improves your concentration and attention span.

  • Greater perseverance: Expect to complete long practice hours in order to improve. This expectation is actually one of the major benefits of playing violin, because it helps you learn perseverance! After all those hours of practice, you get to enjoy the fruits of your labor in the form of beautiful music that you create yourself. Little else in life is as rewarding as that!

  • Sharpened memory: Your muscle memory will improve as you become more proficient at playing violin. It also gives you the opportunity to memorize songs and play without sheet music, which sharpens your memory even more.

  • Enhanced self-discipline: The only way you can expect to improve is by practicing. It’s not a task you can hand off to someone else. This knowledge makes you more dedicated to learning the violin, since it’s your responsibility alone. It’s also your job to tune, clean, and replace the strings on your violin so your instrument lasts for many years.

  • Lower stress levels: On a stressful day, playing the violin is a healthy way to let off some steam. The sound of the music itself can be calming, and playing a song you know well can provide relaxation through the familiarity of the piece. After practicing, you may feel as though you just finished an effective therapy session!

  • Boosted academic skills: According to a study review presented by the Willson Center for Humanities and Arts, school-age children who play the violin often see a boost in academic achievement compared to their non-musical peers. Various studies cited in the review explain that there’s a commonality of skills associated with playing the violin and excelling in school. These skills include focused attention, critical thinking, problem solving, and familiarity with teacher-student mentorship.

  • Stronger verbal ability and visual pattern completion: These skills are not normally associated with music lessons, but a Harvard-based study published in 2008 found that children who take three years or more of violin lessons outperform their non-musical peers on vocabulary IQ tests and Raven’s Progressive Matrices.

Social Benefits

  • Opportunities to invite others to events: Whether you play in an orchestra or you take one-on-one lessons, you’re bound to have concerts and recitals you can invite your friends and family to. This may even open the door to other social and musical opportunities, like finding other musicians to “jam” with.

  • Greater confidence: Playing in front of a group of people at a concert or recital is nerve-wracking. However, putting yourself out there and trying something outside your comfort zone can give you better self-confidence in other areas of your life, such as giving speeches in class.

  • Stronger collaboration skills: This is another one of the benefits of playing violin if you’re an orchestra member. Since each person needs to plays their individual parts just right, you learn to hold up your end by practicing and mastering even the trickiest spots in the song.

  • Higher standards for yourself: When you get up in front of people to play your instrument, you undoubtedly want to execute the piece perfectly. This high self-standard can translate to other areas of your life and make you a better person in a way you never would you have expected.

  • Greater sense of community: Playing the violin automatically gives you something to talk about with others who also play the instrument or are simply musically inclined. You’ll feel part of something important, which can bring great fulfillment to your life.

  • Increased feelings of accomplishment: When you dedicate yourself to learning the violin, it can feel like an awesome accomplishment. You may realize you can do difficult things and achieve the goals you set for yourself. It’s OK to feel proud for doing well at a performance or triumphing over a particularly difficult piece. In fact, it’s this feeling of accomplishment that may help you stick with it!

Music is a universal language. Try playing a recognizable violin piece with someone else who speaks a different language and you’ll be stunned to discover you just had a deep conversation. It’s an amazing feeling – and one that you won’t want to miss out on!

 

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Little Girl Violin

Budgeting for Violin Lessons: How Much Do Violins Cost for Kids?

How Much Do Violins Cost for Kids? The Definitive GuideIf your child is excited to learn the violin, you might be trying to figure out exactly how much to set aside in your budget to support their interest. Violins have a range of price as wide as their range in sound, and can average from relatively inexpensive to more than some people make in a year! Continue reading as we answer the commonly-asked question, “How much do violins cost?”

How Much Do Violins Cost?

For young children, beginner’s violin prices can range from as low as $50 to as high as $500. The majority of the instruments in this range will include a bow and a protective carrying case, or other violin accessories. Violins designed for older, more skilled students can cost between $600 and $1,500, and advanced instruments, designed for serious, professional musicians, typically cost between $1,500 to $3,500.

How Much Should You Pay?

It’s important not to invest too much money into your child’s first violin, because as their foundation of music knowledge grows, they’ll be putting a lot of hard use on their instrument. They may also outgrow it relatively quickly in both size and skill! It’ll make more sense to invest in a high-end violin after your child’s ability (and size) have increased. Proper sizing depends upon your child’s height, arm length, and hand size; a full sizing chart can be found here.

Keep in mind that when you buy a violin, you’ll want to make sure it’s from a reputable dealer. Music stores are good bets for this and buying a used violin is perfectly acceptable so long as you trust the seller. Don’t buy it if you have any doubts!

Renting a Violin

If you don’t want to commit to purchasing a violin, either because your child is just beginning, or growing quickly, renting one is a great alternative. Rental costs differ between providers, but a good rule of thumb is expect to pay between $15 and $50 per month. This can vary depending on the brand of the violin as well as the provider.

Other Costs to Consider

When you purchase a violin, there’s not only the cost of the instrument itself, but also its maintenance. Strings need to be replaced regularly; depending upon their quality and what they’re made from, can cost as little as $0.70 cents each, to more than $5 apiece!Other violin accessories, such as shoulder rests, range from inexpensive foam pieces to pricier wooden ones. There are a number of accessories you should budget for that your child will need as they grow in skill, as well as the standard tools like rosin and restringing kits.

Private Lessons

If you’re wondering “how much do violins cost,” it’s also important to consider budgeting for private violin lessons. The one-on-one time with a private teacher will help your child improve much faster than practicing alone can! Prices for violin lessons can vary depending on your location, your teacher, and your experience level.

If your child is interested in starting lessons, It’s important to consider the factors that affect the price of the instrument. But ultimately, how much your child’s violin will cost isn’t just about the instrument itself, but how much they will gain from learning a new skill. Are you ready to make the investment?

 

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Violin Purchase

Beginner Basics: How to Buy a Violin Online

Where and How to Buy a Violin OnlineIf you don’t have a musical instrument shop near you, or their selection of violins is limited, you may look into the option to buy a violin online. While it’s always better to be able to play an instrument you’re looking to buy first, buying a violin online can often yield satisfactory results.

Advantages of Buying a Violin Online

Outside of big cities, you might have only a few musical instrument shops within easy driving distance. No shop can carry every violin you might want to try, but they will likely stock a few of the popular models. There’s nothing wrong with this, as popular makers and styles are usually so for good reasons. But if you need a slightly larger or smaller model, or you like a less popular maker, you might need to buy your violin online. Many online music instrument retailers also offer violins with novelty finishes, which might appeal to younger players.

One of the great benefits of shopping online in general is the opportunity to compare prices. Physical stores often have higher overhead costs than online retailers, so shopping online often yields cheaper prices. Even when you shop at musical instrument stores that do business online and in person, normal price variations can help you save.

Disadvantages of Buying Online

Online shopping is not perfect, of course, and there are some aspects that make it especially challenging for buying musical instruments. For one, you can’t interact with seller in person. While this isn’t essential for buying a violin, when you go to a physical musical instrument shop, you’re able to ask questions about instruments other customers either bring in or are considering, or the seller can direct you to a maker or model that you haven’t considered, but that might be right for you. Of course, if you are sure of the maker and model you want, then buying a violin online can help you get what you need at the right price.

Also keep in mind that not all violins are created equal, and while they last a long time, violins do show signs of wear after a while. When you buy a violin online, you won’t get to inspect the instrument before buying. That “new” instrument might be a shopworn floor model. What the seller considers “excellent” condition may vary from your own definition a great deal. With online purchases, it’s easier for sellers to misrepresent instruments or service. A violin that looks great from one angle under certain lighting might be a mess of damage and neglect when you see it in person.

Choosing a Good Online Retailer

When you’re thinking of buying a violin online, pick an online retailer that solely specializes in selling musical instruments. Avoid general re-sellers, who may buy a variety of items based on their resale value, as they are unlikely to be able to answer your questions about the instrument.

Some online retailers have guides for those buying a musical instrument. Consult these, and know that they are a sign of a knowledgeable retailer. Make sure to also check the return policy. Since your first time holding the instrument will be after your purchase, it’s important that you be able to return an instrument if it doesn’t meet your needs.

Trying Out Your Violin

Once your violin arrives, keep the packaging, and have it inspected by your instructor. Your violin teacher can also help you set up the bridge. However, if you have purchased a violin that was listed as new but shows clear signs of wear, that is a strong sign that you should return the instrument immediately, as any other claims about the instrument might be equally false. A few practice sessions should tell you whether or not this is the violin for you. If you find a small flaw or need for repair, your violin instructor should be able to determine whether the issue is serious enough for an exchange, or if the problem can be fixed by you or a local repair shop.

Buying a violin, whether online or in person, is a learning experience. You’ll have the opportunity to learn about the different violin makers, and what styles seem to work best for you. As you become a more experienced violin player, your personal favorites will emerge, and they might even be the result of online purchases. Good luck!

 

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Lindsey Stirling

How to Play the Violin Like Lindsey Stirling

How to Play the Violin Like Lindsey StirlingThe inimitable Lindsey Stirling has shaken the world’s concept of classical music. From sold-out shows around the globe to her top-ranked YouTube video for “Crystallize,” she’s come a long way since being eliminated in the quarter-finals of “America’s Got Talent” in 2010. While Lindsey has experienced a meteoric rise in the music world, her success is rooted in the same principles that have guided countless artists to virtuoso status: training with a classical instructor merged with contemporary innovation. If you hope to play the violin like Lindsey Stirling, these same attributes will help you on your way.

Training Matters

While Lindsey may be known for her edgy integration of everything from animation to big beats, it’s clear that her classical training plays a part in her professional accomplishments. Lindsey reportedly started violin lessons at the age of five, and took them for the next 12 years. Today, she credits her ability to incorporate movement into her performances to muscle memory developed during these years of practice.

The classical training Lindsey received is also the foundation for many students learning to play the violin today. Here are a few of the things you will learn in beginner violin lessons:

From playing scales to learning to sight read, the more you practice, the better you will play.  But a critical part of your early success lies in finding the right violin teacher. Regular private lessons with a violin teacher are crucial in developing the correct playing practices and ultimately reaching your full potential. Keep in mind that the best violin teachers don’t just teach; they also motivate and inspire!

Your Own Spin

Those interested in emulating Lindsey should seek out contemporary sheet music from sites like Virtual Sheet Music and Violin Sheet Music, both of which offer a variety of pieces across all genres.

But getting your hands on sheet music isn’t enough; it’s also critical that you learn all of the techniques and best practices that go along with being a world-class violinist. While practicing scales and learning music theory may seem rudimentary now, these early fundamentals lay the groundwork for future success.

A good violin teacher can help you learn to read and transcribe music as you learn the contemporary songs that have characterized Lindsey Stirling’s career. Another tip is to practice in front of family members and friends; after all, Lindsey’s magnetic performing ability just may have started right in her living room.

In the end, you can learn to play the violin and cultivate a similar path through a committed mixture of classical training from a private teacher, sheer dedication, and the desire to innovate. While there may only be one Lindsey Stirling, there are infinite possibilities for you to make your mark.

 

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Fundemetal Violin

9 Fundamental Tips That Will Change the Way You Play the Violin

9 Fundamental Tips That Will Change the Way You Play the Violin The violin can be an incredibly rewarding instruments to play. For beginners, the road to success is riddled with lessons in patience and discipline, but when met with enthusiasm and the right guidance, the journey is certainly worthwhile! Many say that practice makes perfect, and while of course regular practice is a must, it does not guarantee perfection – in fact, improper practice can yield consistently poor results. So what are the fundamental hallmarks of proper violin practice, and how can you use your practice time productively? In this article we’d like to shed some light in this area and take you through a few tips that are important for beginners to understand for improvement.

1. Private Violin Lessons

When learning to play the violin, the best place to start is by signing up for one-on-one violin lessons. Choosing a teacher is no easy task, but a few things to consider are the teacher’s:

  • Understanding of the violin’s mechanics

  • Knowledge of universal music and repertoire

  • Personal playing skills

  • Communication strength

Above all these characteristics, the most important thing to consider is the teacher’s understanding of the learning process – it must correlate with where you are as a student and your ability to learn. Naturally, private lessons are valued for their personal developmental qualities and progress, especially when it comes to younger students.

2. When and Where you Practice

Ideally, practicing the violin should be done in your personal “prime time,” when you feel most fresh and focused. For some this might be first thing in the morning; for others maybe it’s in the evening, right after school or work. Try following a routine that accommodates your natural energy peaks or dips. If, for example, you feel drained during a long practice session, try splitting your practicing into two shorter sessions. Whatever the case, make sure that you’re practicing consistently. Also, keep your environment – where you’re playing – in mind, as well. Make sure you’re in a quiet space that allows for minimal interruptions.

3. Practice Accessories

Take a few moments to gather all the materials you may need before starting your practice session. This doesn’t just mean your music and violin – you may also want to set up your stand according to your preferred position (sitting vs. standing), as well as sharp pencil to mark tricky passages and fingerings. If you prefer to play the violin while seated, use a chair with sufficient support to assist your posture - slouching only leads to poor violin tone!

4. Practice Length

When it comes to your violin practice sessions, it’s less about how long you’re practicing for and more about what you’re achieving in each session. Sure, repetition of exercises can be helpful, but be careful that it doesn’t become mindless! Mindless practice can lead to the reinforcement of mistakes. Keep your practice sessions at a length that you can maintain concentration at – this way, quality will trump quantity, and that’s what your aim should be.

5. Get Limber

Improved violin playing, solid practice sessions, and core disciplines all work together. While warming up with exercises or scales and trills can begin to feel like a chore after a while, they’re crucial to strengthening your fingers before any proper playing can begin. Practice holding your bow before even picking up your violin – and when you do start practicing, ensure that you relax your bow hand in between exercises by vigorously shaking out tension without the bow in your hand.

6. Practice More Scales

You have two options when learning a new scale: academic or physical. The academic approach relies on you being comfortable with looking at the music, learning the signature key, and then figuring out the relative minor and major keys. The physical approach can be a little more exciting – it relates to feeling the occurring tones and semitones by observing the spaces between fingers. Either way, you should practice all scales slowly and in detail until there is no clumsiness.

Many people tend to rush through areas of difficulty; instead, learn how to play a challenging scale or piece slowly until you get it right, and then speed it up. Another tip is to try practicing scales in front of a mirror – this will help you simultaneously develop a few other techniques, like the correct arm positioning during shifts or wrist flexibility.

7. Games for Beginners

There are many bow exercises you can start doing to improve how you play the violin in terms of grip and posture, and many of them can be done without the use of a violin at all! This is one of our favorites:

Step 1: Hold the bow out horizontally in front of your body.

Step 2: Assume the proper bow hold.

Step 3: Start to alternatively push your first finger down, dipping the bow down a tad to the left.

Step 4: Now push your little finger down, dipping the bow down to the right.

Step 5: Try keeping your fingers bent while repeating this movement several times.

That’s it! Upon repetition you’ll start to experience the benefits of your newly-found finger strength, flexibility, and bow balance!

8. Listen to Yourself

It’s a good idea to record yourself while you practice playing the violin. Take time to consider areas that you are doing well in and areas that sound like they need improvement – for example, are you missing tones, or not quite getting the rhythm right? Recording your practice sessions also helps you document your development and gets you more comfortable with the idea of performance.

9. Listen to Others

To help you stay in tune, it’s important that you improve your ear by listening to the pieces you’re learning daily. You’ll need to hear how an accomplished violinist handles things like style, pitch, rhythm, and tone. By listening to these pieces daily, you will be developing your own ear. Worried you don’t have time? Simply make it a part of your daily routine – try listening to great violin music while you work out, cook, or during your commute.

As you do this, try to get in a variety of both passive and active listening. Passive listening includes the above, as well as going to inspirational concerts and live performances. Active listening, on the other hand, consists of listening to these pieces with your violin and bow in hand. While actively listening, you can work through details relative to tune. It’s important that you listen intently, to a point that you can hum, sing, or whistle the tunes precisely, identifying downbeats and timing with accuracy.

If you’re a beginner, we strongly recommend giving some of these tips a try for progress in the way you play the violin. Perfection won’t happen overnight, but productive practice will surely improve your skill over time.

 

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Tuning A Violin

How to Tune Your Violin: Online Violin Tuners & Resources

How to Tune Your Violin: Online Violin Tuners & ResourcesAs most violin teachers and prestigious musicians would agree, maintaining your musical instrument should have as much attention directed toward it as caring for the family pet.  Although your dog or cat doesn’t need regular tuning, your violin certainly does – or your playing skills won’t be popular with family or neighbors!

If this is your first experience with playing music seriously, tuning your instrument may not even have occurred to you.  Nor will you notice, necessarily, slight changes in pitch as your violin slips out of tune.  However, playing on an out-of-tune instrument will affect your ability to hear pitch changes clearly, and may hamper your progress in learning how to play the violin.

The Basics – Tuning Your Violin

When you first start playing, tuning your violin is something that you might leave to your teacher for fear of broken strings and collapsing bridges.  However, it’s a skill that you should really acquire for yourself as early on in your playing career as you can – equate it to taking the training wheels off your first bicycle! Here are some things to keep in mind:

  • New strings – Ask an experienced violinist (or your teacher) to show you how to put new strings on your violin, and even do it for you the first few times.  New violin strings need a couple of weeks to settle in and need frequent tuning adjustment, so don’t get discouraged.

  • Know Your Violin – Familiarize yourself with which peg relates to which string.  It’s easier to navigate the fine tuners, as they’re directly related to the string in question.  You can pull up an online violin tuner resource to help you tell the pegs apart, or follow the line of the string up to the peg.  To adjust the pitch with the peg, turn it away from you in normal playing position to raise it, and in the opposite direction to lower it.  Pegs can stick; if this happens, pull it out slightly, and scribble around it with a graphite pencil to make it easier to move.

  • Careful Does It – Tightening a string too far or too fast will cause it to snap, so bear this in mind when you’re learning to tune your violin for yourself.  If your string is only marginally out of tune, use the fine tuners instead, turning them clockwise to raise the pitch, and anti-clockwise to lower it.

  • Points of Reference – Unless you have perfect pitch, which is incredibly rare, you will need a reference note to help you out.  Tuning forks are a good investment, and there are smartphone apps available to help you, too (more on this later!).

Tuning Your Violin – How Often?

If you’ve been to symphony orchestra concerts, you may have noticed that the violins make constant adjustments between movements with their fine tuners.  If you’re playing for more than a few minutes, the pitch can easily slip and need your attention.  Slight knocks and changes in the weather, as well as central heating or air conditioning, can also affect your violin’s sound.  A good rule of thumb is to assume your violin is out of tune, especially if you’re playing with others!

Tuning to Others – Piano Accompaniment and Ensembles

As you improve and start to play with others – either with a pianist, a string quartet, or even in an orchestra – you will learn that “in tune” is sometimes relative, adjusting to the equal tuning of the keyboard, or even the key of the music you are playing.  A little research on equal temperament and key relationships will help to explain this to you.

Be prepared to make slight adjustments, and learn to listen carefully.  You might be in tune in relation to the melody line you’re playing, but are you in tune in relation to the chord that your fellow musicians have?  In performances, tuning adjustments will be made by finger position, but listen in to your ensemble colleagues when you’re tuning between movements.

Improving Your Ear – Simple Exercises to Help You Improve Pitch Perception

A “tin ear” can be trained, and although perfect pitch is the preserve of a chosen few, something called “relative pitch” can be acquired with patience and regular practice.

  • Find a Friend – If your ear is very untrained, start by learning to sing back pitches that are played to you.  Enlisting a fairly musical friend is essential, as you may not yet be in a position where you know if you’re singing the right notes back when they are played to you. A piano is best, but downloadable keyboard apps are also useful to train yourself on the go.

  • Listen and Learn – Work on picking out notes from the middle of a chord, or from the tonic, and learn to sing back different intervals. Again, you may wish to have someone to help you with this.

  • Acquiring “Relative Pitch” – You may find that after playing for some time, you can easily sing back various notes with no immediate point of reference.  This is called “pitch memory,” and if developed properly, can turn into relative pitch.

Online Violin Tuners – A Guide

If you have a smartphone, there are several online violin tuner apps, for both iOS and Android systems, which can be an incredibly useful resource.  Here are some to check out::

  • YouTube Tutorials – Particularly useful for the complete beginner, a simple search on YouTube can help you find online violin tuner tutorials to help you out.

  • If you find it hard to hear pitches played on the piano in relation to your violin, the online violin tuner here may help you with an electronic simulation of the G-D-A-E string pitches.

  • Smartphone apps – These can be a minefield when searching for an online violin tuner; several reviewers note that the developers don’t know how to tune a violin!  However, it’s worth testing these for yourself, as you may find one that works for your needs.  We recommend the Android app gStrings Free, but still be aware that some reviewers with keen ears consider the pitches to be as much as a quarter tone wide of the mark!

A combination of a well-trained ear and online violin tuner will aid you in becoming competent and confident in tuning your own violin. Good luck!

 

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Teaching Yourself Violin

Teach Yourself Violin in 8 Easy Steps

Teach Yourself Violin in 9 Easy StepsIt takes years of determination, focus, and practice to master the violin. Many people start their musical education using a qualified instructor, but maybe you want to try to teach yourself violin. This is a huge undertaking with great potential for learning the wrong way of holding the violin, standing incorrectly, or practicing imperfect fingerings. However, if you want to understand the basics of learning your instrument before taking violin lessons with a teacher, here are a few introductory steps when starting to teach yourself violin.

Find the Right Spot

Where is the best place in your home to practice violin? You need to find out where that location is. It should be quiet and without distractions, have sufficient light, and have adequate space for your music stand. You also might want room to store your violin and violin accessories when you’re not playing.

Clear some space and try out several rooms before finally deciding. It will make practicing a lot easier when you and everyone else in your household know where your “official” practice area is!

Tighten the Bow

There are several actions you need to do before actually playing, and one of them is tightening your bow. Slowly turn the end screw of your bow clockwise until the space between the hair and your bow stick is approximately large enough so that a pen can pass through easily from tip to tip. A qualified instructor can help you judge the correct tension. Make sure that your fingers do not touch the bow hair; the oil from your fingers can negatively affect the sound and the hair.

After you’re done playing, always loosen the bow hair; leaving your bow tightened can damage the bow and hair, which can result in costly repairs or even a replacement bow.

Rosin the Bow

Rosin is a block of pine resin that you need to rub on your bow before playing so that you can create the friction needed to make sound.

To rosin your bow, hold the rosin by the papered or cardboard sides, and firmly rub it up and down the length of the bow hair about three or four times. This will transfer some of the rosin “dust” onto the hair, making it somewhat sticky. New bows will often need more rosin. If you have trouble making a clear sound, rosin your bow with a few more strokes.

Don’t apply too much rosin; too much will create a scratchy sound. A teacher can show you what optimal levels are when first using your bow, and after you have used it for several weeks.

Tune Your Violin

Your violin needs to be tuned to ensure that you are playing the proper notes. The strings, from lowest to highest, are G, D, A, and E.

One method to tune your violin is to pluck the string while looking at an electronic tuner. Gently adjust either the pegs at the top of the violin, or the fine tuners (if you have them) at the bottom of your instrument, and then repeat the process on each of your strings.

Grip the Bow

Gently place the middle part of your index finger on the slightly padded area of your bow, generally several inches above the tightening knob. Put the tip of your pinky on the flat part of the stick. Your ring and middle fingers should rest with the middle section aligned with the tip of your pinky, and their tips should be on the side of the frog, which connects the tightening knob to your bow hair. Your thumb should stay underneath the stick, at the front of the frog, near the bow hair. Keep your hand relaxed and somewhat curved. Your palm should not rest on the bow.

Hold the Violin

Stand or sit with your back straight yet relaxed. Place the thicker end of the violin to your neck. Rest the lower back of the instrument on your collarbone and hold it in place with your jaw. In time, you should be able to support your violin solely with your jaw and not with your right hand. Make sure to consult your violin teacher as you’re learning this, to make sure you don’t pick up any bad habits in form or posture that may affect your playing.

Bow Pressure and Position

You can’t simply plop the bow on the strings and start sawing back and forth. To begin, place the flat part of the bow hair about halfway between the fingerboard and the thin piece of wood called the bridge, and angle the bow hair toward the bridge at a 45-degree angle. When you are ready, pull the bow straight along each string, keeping it parallel to the bridge, while applying a small amount of pressure.

Play Open Strings

Open strings are simply strings that you play without using your fingers – it’s a simple bow stroke across one string at a time. Playing open strings will help you develop control of both your violin and bow.

To play an open string, rest – but do not hold – the neck of the violin in between your left thumb and first finger. Hold the bow with your wrist, elbow, and shoulder within a single plane on each string, then draw the bow across the string.

Begin with short strokes of about six inches in the middle of the bow until you feel comfortable. Change strings by raising or lowering your elbow only – not your arm – to bring the bow to the correct height.

 

Conclusion

If the violin were an easy instrument, then everyone would be playing it. But it isn’t, and you shouldn’t underestimate how difficult it is to learn at first. Get yourself started with the steps above, and once you feel comfortable enough, find a qualified violin teacher – working one-on-one with an instructor will make the single biggest difference in how quickly and how well you learn to play. Your instructor can get you to where you want to go much faster than if you were to continue to teach yourself violin. Stay committed, and have fun playing this beautiful instrument!

 

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Violin

What Kind of Violin Accessories Will I Need?

What Kind of Violin Accessories Will I Need?So you’ve decided to take violin lessons, and you couldn’t be any more excited! You have decided on the violin and bow that you want to purchase, and will be taking violin lessons with a private teacher; you’re well on your way. But aren’t there other things that you need too? Here are some violin accessories that will help both your playing and enjoyment of the violin:

  • Case:  Every violin needs a durable case to prevent dents and dings no matter where you go. You can purchase softer cases for easier travel, or hard cases for extra protection. A good case will also keep your violin’s humidity level constant when you’re not playing. This is important because the wood in your violin may expand and contract with changes in humidity, causing it to go out of tune. Most cases have pockets for holding one or two bows, as well as smaller accessories. Straps are available for carrying your violin over your shoulder, or you can use the handle if you prefer to carry it like a briefcase. Average prices range between $50-$80.
  • Shoulder rest: A shoulder rest props up your violin so that it rests at a comfortable location on your shoulder, and it keeps your instrument from slipping. Your shoulder rest needs to be adjustable for height, so that you can determine your most comfortable position, and also width so it accommodates your violin regardless of size. Average price for beginners is usually less than $25.
  • Chin rest: A chin rest is a specially shaped piece of wood or plastic that attaches to the body of your violin to help position your jaw or chin comfortably on the instrument. Most violins will come set up with a chin rest, but you may find that you prefer a different one. The average price of these violin accessories is $15.
  • Music stand: Instead of propping up your music on a chair or laying it flat on a table, the best place for your music is on a music stand. This way, your music is always conveniently available for you when you’re ready to play! Many stands are metal, although some are made of wood. Often, violinists have two: a smaller, collapsible one for taking to music lessons and recitals, and a sturdier one for home. Both types are adjustable for height and can swivel as needed. Collapsible stands typically are $20, while sturdier models can cost around $50.
  • Tuner: How do you know if your violin is in tune? With a tuner, of course! One of the most indispensable violin accessories, most electronic tuners have lights that indicate green when each note, or string, is in tune, and likewise, turn red when it is not. More complex tuners may also have a metronome. Tuner prices can be very expensive to downright cheap, but a quality yet affordable tuner typically costs about $30. You can also find various tuner apps to download on your smartphone.]
  • Sheet music or violin books: It’s one thing to play open strings, but it’s much more fun to play actual music! Therefore, purchasing sheet music or technique books will open up a whole new world to budding violinists. Your violin teacher can help you select several books that are at the appropriate level for you. Some books include a CD that plays the melody so that you can play along, or just the accompaniment so that you can play the melody yourself.
  • Rosin: Often included with your violin, rosin is one of the most essential violin accessories. It helps create the friction needed for your bow to grip the strings and create sound. Keep in mind that not all rosin is created equal – the quality of the rosin, the amount that you apply to your bow, and how often you apply it will affect your playing. Budget about $12 for this purchase.
  • Soft cloth: While you need rosin to make sounds with your violin, too much rosin can be a bad thing. It can build up, causing residue to cake your strings and produce a “screechy” sound. Purchasing a specially designed cloth to wipe away excess rosin will keep your violin strings in excellent playing condition. Expect to spend about $5.00.
  • Dampit: Humidity and violins do not mix. Extreme dryness can cause your violin to crack, while excessive humidity can stretch your strings so that they are constantly out of tune. To combat humidity issues, you should always store your violin in its case after playing. If you live in a dry climate, consider getting a dampit, often called a “worm.” It’s a long tube that you fill with water and then place in one of your violin’s F scrolls to add moisture to your violin. A dampit costs about $15.
  • Extra strings: Your violin is set up with four strings – but what happens if one of those strings breaks or wears out? You definitely need to replace it. Make sure you have spare strings on hand. You can buy each one individually, which is useful if you tend to wear out a specific string, or you can buy a package of four – one of each string type. Buying a package tends to be a more economical choice. While these violin accessories can run the price gamut, allocate about $20.00 for individual strings and $60.00 for a package of four.
  • Peg compound: Every violin has four pegs that keep the strings in place and tightened appropriately. However, depending on your violin’s construction and your home’s humidity levels, pegs can be extremely difficult to turn, or become too loose. The solution: peg compound. Also referred to as peg dope, use it to coat your tuning pegs to prevent them from sticking or slipping. Peg compound is inexpensive, at about $10.00.
  • Other maintenance costs: When you first start learning how to play violin, you may be hesitant to do any routine maintenance. So if you have problems with your pegs, need to replace your D string, or want to add a new chin rest, your best violin accessory could be the contact information of a reputable violin maker, also called a luthier. They will know how to maintain your violin, recommend parts, and suggest changes that will help you play your instrument better.

While a violin and bow are the basics needed to play the instrument, investing in these violin accessories will certainly help you as you progress. Combine them with a qualified and enthusiastic teacher, and playing the violin will quickly become one of your favorite hobbies.

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Easy Violin

Easy Violin Music for Beginners and Beyond

Easy Violin Music for Beginners and BeyondPlaying some familiar tunes is one of the first things you may pursue when learning a new instrument. You might start the violin thinking it will be years before you can play the music you want, but you’ll be pleasantly surprised to learn that many familiar favorites are available as easy violin music.

Simplified sheet music makes it easier than ever to move from bland scales and exercises to pieces you actually recognize. Add these pieces to your repertoire early on and you’ll return to them again and again as you continue to improve.

German Dance” by Karl Ditters von Dittersdorf

Karl Ditters was an Austrian composer who lived from 1739 to 1799. During that time, he wrote more than 120 symphonies, 45 operas, and many other works. The violin was Ditters’ instrument of choice and the one that made him most famous in his day. “German Dance” is perhaps his best-known work. Even the full orchestral piece is not lengthy or pretentious, proving that music doesn’t require these qualities in order to earn longevity.

Humoresque” by Antonín Dvorák

The Humoresques were written by Czech composer Antonín Dvorák in 1894. The most famous of these is “Humoresque #7″. Though originally written for piano, the piece clearly shines when played on the violin as well. Dvorák, an accomplished violinist and violist, lived in America from 1892 to 1895, during which time he collected many interesting and new themes in his notebooks. He used these ideas to compose the Humoresques.

Gymnopédies #1” by Erik Satie

Erik Satie, a French composer who lived from 1866 to 1925, wrote three Gymnopédies, collectively regarded as a major precursor to modern ambient music. The pieces are gentle yet somewhat eccentric. Each one is written in 3/4 time and shares a common theme and structure.

When Satie composed the three Gymnopédies, they defied tradition at that time. Deliberate, mild dissonances produce a melancholy effect throughout each piece. If you look closely at the sheet music, it may tell you to play Gymnopédies “sadly” or “gravely.” The song was originally written for piano, but it translates well to violin.

Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring” by Johann Sebastian Bach

Johann Sebastian Bach wrote this well-known Baroque piece between 1716 and 1723. You might recognize it from a recent wedding you went to or from modern covers by well-known singers such as Josh Groban and Sarah Brightman. You can hear “Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring” played instrumentally or with lyrics written by Robert Bridges, which are the most commonly words used when the song is sung in English.

Mastering this Bach piece for violin creates an excellent opportunity to be accompanied by a piano. Together, the two instruments really flesh out the piece.

Pomp and Circumstance” by Sir Edward Elgar

The complete set of marches written by Sir Edward Elgar are called the “Pomp and Circumstance Military Marches, Op. 39″. These were written over a three-decade period spanning 1901 to 1930. The song linked here, which you probably recognize from graduation processionals, is simply called Pomp and Circumstance, or March No. 1 in D. The name comes from Act III, Scene 3 of “Othello” by Shakespeare, where he writes, “Pride, pomp, and circumstance of glorious war!”

This piece is traditionally played by a full orchestra, though the melody can be carried by violin alone. It’s excellent easy violin music to learn as a beginning violinist.

Hungarian Dance No. 5” by Johannes Brahms

Johannes Brahms wrote 21 lively dance tunes, the most famous of which is “Hungarian Dance No. 5″. Almost all of these dances are based on Hungarian themes and range in length from one to four minutes. The well-known “Hungarian Dance No. 5″ was based on the csárdás by Béla Kéler titled “Bártfai emlék.” Brahms mistook it for a traditional folksong.

Regardless of its origins, “Hungarian Dance No. 5″ has remained popular since it was composed in 1869. The link here showcases a more advanced recording of the piece, though versions arranged for easy violin music are also available.

Air on the G-String” by Johann Sebastian Bach, arranged by August Wilhelmj

This piece is a specific arrangement of “Orchestral Suite No. 3 in D major” by Johann Sebastian Bach. He originally wrote the suite between 1717 and 1723. In 1871, German violinist August Wilhelmj arranged the second movement of the orchestral suite for violin and piano. The name comes from the fact that, when Wilhelmj changed the key to C major and transposed the melody down an octave, he could play the entire piece on just the G string of his violin.

Eine Kleine Nachtmusik, First Movement” by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart composed this well-known chamber ensemble piece in 1787. In English, the German title literally means “a little night music,” but a more accurate translation is “a little serenade.” Rather than actually giving the composition this endearing name, it’s most likely that Mozart was simply making a note in his records that he had completed his little serenade. After all, the work was not published until 1827, long after Mozart’s death in 1791, and that was the only name the publishers had to go by.

When you listen to the performance in the link provided, you may notice the piece is a little more complex than the other easy violin music selections listed here. Once you’ve mastered these other pieces, though, you’re ready to give this one a try, especially if you slow down the tempo when first learning it.

With so much easy violin music to draw from, it’s time to select a few favorites and start learning. Good luck!

Photo by leora.page

 

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