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How to Set Up a Violin Bridge | Violin Tips

How To Set Up A Violin Properly There’s one important – and slightly intimidating – hurdle that all violin students have in common. Whether you’re a complete beginner looking to make a cheap, factory-made instrument more grateful to play, or a more advanced student wanting to customize your “forever” instrument to suit you and you alone, the basic knowledge of how to set up a violin is worth grasping even if your interest doesn’t extend much beyond curiosity and a love of tinkering with things.

As you’re probably aware, the bridge is a major factor in determining the sound of your instrument, and learning how to set up a violin bridge is a worthwhile nugget of knowledge to acquire, as they have a habit of collapsing at inopportune moments — like just before an exam or recital, when you don’t have a chance of getting to the repair shop.

How does the bridge affect my violin’s sound?

Assuming the sound post is properly in place, your bridge will allow the strings to resonate properly, but only if it’s the correct height. Many factory-supplied bridges are not entirely fit for purpose, and either sit too high, or aren’t curved to fit comfortably to the body of your violin. If the bridge is too high, it will require additional pressure on the strings to make a sound, and if you’re younger or less strong, this can be extremely frustrating. The bridge should be safely held in place by the pressure of the string — never resort to glue, no matter how tempting. The excellent YouTube tutorial below, from Karacha.com, will give you a step-by-step guide for setting up your bridge on a new instrument that has been shipped “bridge down”, i.e. without the bridge in place, to keep the instrument safe during transit.

Can I really do this on my own, or should I get my teacher to do it?

If you’re not confident, or you suspect that adjustments are needed that are beyond your capabilities — such as the height of the bridge needing adjustment, or there being inadequate curvature to make it secure — seek your teacher’s advice, or go to a good violin maker or repairer for assistance. However, if everything is otherwise as it should be, it’s a worthwhile skill to acquire yourself. Bridges have a habit of falling over when you least expect — particularly when you are changing strings or re-tuning. This YouTube tutorial on how to set up a violin bridge after it has collapsed is handy to bookmark for reassurance when you hear that alarming “snap” when tuning — it really isn’t the end of the world!

Is that it? Is there anything else I need to do?

Like all instruments, your violin will serve you well if you look after it. Most important in terms of maintenance is keeping your violin at a constant humidity to prevent cracks and other deterioration. An in-case humidifier is a smart purchase as it will prevent the need for expensive repairs.

It’s easy to become quite the repair geek as you find out more and more about your instrument and how it works, and it’s great fun too — talk to your teacher about violin repair and maintenance, and you’ll find yourself acquiring skills and knowledge beyond scales and double-stopping!

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Violin Guy

Violin Playing Tips: Surviving Your First Audition

Violin Audition TipsLearning to play in front of an audience can be tough, but playing for an audition can be one of the most nerve-wracking experiences, especially your first time around. There are many violin playing tips to help you learn how to play, and how to listen to others in the orchestra, but many of those tips do not apply to an audition. No matter how good you are, nerves can be a huge factor.

Unlike a concert where the audience is inclined to praise you because they are there to enjoy the music, an audition involves a panel that is there specifically to judge your skills. Figuring out how to play under these circumstances is an individual experience, but there are a few universal violin playing tips that can lessen the apprehension and tension of an audition.

Early Preparation

First, take the time to determine exactly what is required of you. You may be asked to demonstrate specific techniques, or play a particular piece. If you know that you want to get into a certain school or class level, take the initiative now to go over this information.

As you practice leading up to the audition, make sure to spend some time actually visualizing your performance. Of course, the actual experience will be different, but placing yourself in that frame of mind will help you when the time comes. Once you have set up the scenario in your mind, start playing.

Setting Up

Some auditions require you memorize your music, others allow you to use a music stand, and you may be asked to play standing up or sitting down. Before you play, make sure you’re both physically and mentally prepared.

Make sure you’re in a comfortable position, especially if you have to stand. Take several deep breaths, fully inhaling and exhaling the air. You can do this with your eyes open or closed, but either way make sure you are focused only on your breathing. This sets up your mind, forcing you to pay attention to your body.

Pay attention to your shoulders, also. If you feel them getting tense, take a couple of extra breaths and relax. The more relaxed you are, the less nervous you will be. This is particularly important for your bow arm, because if it is tense, you can lose mobility and range of volume. Just like one of the first violin playing tips you learn, your bow hand should be remain relaxed.

During the Audition

As you begin your audition, return to what you visualized during your practice sessions. Of course, most of the room and people will look different than you had visualized, but you are turning to your mind’s eye. By focusing on something that is familiar, your body will react instinctively, and you’ll be more likely to play like you did while practicing.

Keep your posture as steady as possible so that your arms are able to move as needed. You left hand needs to be able to move freely, which it cannot do if you start to slump in the middle of the song. Shifting your right leg can interfere with your bow hand. Of course, you don’t want to be completely stiff, as that will cause discomfort, but do be aware of what your arms and back need.

Again, keep your shoulders relaxed. During a long rest or break, take the time to make sure your shoulders are not tensing up. The more relaxed your shoulders, the better your bowing and fingering will be.

Every audition is different, and it can be difficult to fully prepare for playing the violin knowing that you are being assessed. No one set of violin playing tips will work for everyone, particularly when you are trying to get into the best class or school. The most important thing is not to let the final results discourage you too much. Even if you don’t do as well as you wanted, learning from the experience will improve your performances in the future. Regardless of the result, treat every audition as a way to improve. Good luck!

 

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Sad Violin

Sad Violin Music That Will Bring You to Tears

Violin Music That Will Evoke Emotions An effective practice routine incorporates a variety of things, including scales, long tones, technical exercises, sight reading, and repertoire work. However, there is one other very important habit that musicians should incorporate into their regular practice routine, no matter what their age or skill level: listening to other performers.

Why is listening to other performers such an integral part of musicianship? For one, it exposes you to a wide array of timbres, techniques, and musical ideas and interpretations. By getting familiar with the bar set by leading performers on your instrument, you’ll begin to recognize examples of widely admired and renowned standards of tone quality, technical virtuosity, and musical expression. Listening to a variety of other performances of that piece by other musicians can also give you ideas in terms of interpretation, which you can then either choose to emulate or use as a foundation for creating your own new and unique interpretation of the piece.

If you are a violinist, you have a lot of particularly emotional and sad violin music to select from. This type of powerful music can transport any listener into a different world, which, as a performer, is something you should strive to do! The connection you can make with your audience is an amazing feeling. Here are five songs to add to your iPod:

1. “Theme from Schindler’s List” – John Williams

“Schindler’s List” is a 1993 film directed by Steven Spielberg. It tells the story of Oskar Schindler, a German businessman who was responsible for saving over 1,000 Polish Jewish people during the Holocaust. It is a deeply moving story and the film touched hearts throughout the world. The music for the film was equally moving, in large part to the emotional music score written by John Williams. One of the most famous musical pieces in the film was the main theme, a piece for solo violin, which was performed by renowned violinist Itzhak Perlman. The sad violin music performed is melancholy, haunting, and extremely evocative.

2. “Adagio for Strings” – Samuel Barber

Though not just for solo violin, Barber’s “Adagio for Strings” is universally acknowledged as being one of the most moving pieces of music ever composed. It was written in 1936 and is an arrangement of the slow movement from his second string quartet. It has been featured in a number of television shows, commercials, and movies, most notably in the film “Apocalypse Now”. The Adagio is written for a string orchestra, but features the violin in more exposed sections. The music starts softly and builds very gradually – almost agonizingly – into huge sweeping climactic sections that can overwhelm the listener with emotion.

3. “Concerto, 2nd movement” – Pyotr Tchaikovsky

Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto is one of the most beloved pieces of music ever written for the instrument. This concerto is one of the greatest musical masterpieces from the Romantic Era and is at times celebratory, vibrant, and exhilarating, and other times moving and introspective. The second movement is beautifully expressive, featuring long, lyrical melodies that sound as though the sad violin music is singing a wordless lament.

4. “Aase’s Death” – Edvard Grieg

The music for “Peer Gynt”, a five-act play by the famous Norwegian dramatist Henrik Ibsen, is one of Grieg’s most famous works. The play follows the various exploits of the main character Peer Gynt, a hunter and roustabout with a penchant for telling tall tales and getting into trouble. The piece “Aase’s Death” is written for string orchestra and is a lament for Peer Gynt’s mother after her death in the third act.

5. “Ashokan Farewell” – Jay Ungar

Not all sad violin music is classical. One of the most hauntingly moving pieces for the violin is the Appalachian waltz “Ashokan Farewell”. It was composed in 1982 by Jay Ungar and is in the style of a folk ballad or Scottish lament. Though simple and sweet, staying true to the character of American folk music, the piece evokes deep emotions of saying farewell to loved ones. This sad violin music was later used in the 1990 PBS televised mini-series “The Civil War”.

Practicing your instrument and working to become a more advanced musician is a multi-faceted endeavor. Working on technique and tone are important, as are studying various aspects of music in general. Of course, listening to key pieces and performers for your instrument is invaluable as well. Combine this with a qualified teacher and regularly scheduled private lessons, and you’ll be on the fast-track for developing your skills as a violinist!

 

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How to Find the Best Local Violin Teachers

How To Find Great Local Violin TeachersHave you always been envious of people who know how to play the violin and wished you were one of them? Are you looking to start learning and wonder where you could find great local violin teachers to guide you through this musical journey? Each violin teacher is different, and some teacher-student relationships work well, while others may not. The ideal teacher should have the right credentials, experience, and teaching techniques to be able to inspire you, encourage you, and make you love playing the violin as much as they do! Here’s what to focus on when you’re trying to find the best local violin teachers:

1. Reputation

To find the best teachers in your area, reputation is everything! Ideally, you should read feedback or reviews from current or previous students, to help you narrow down your selection. Were past students happy with their lessons? How long have current students been taking lessons with this particular teacher? The more information you have, the better. TakeLessons.com is a great resource for this, as students and colleagues are encouraged to leave a star rating and specific feedback, which is then easily accessible on the teacher’s profile.

2. Knowledge and Experience

You’ll also want to take a look at each teacher’s specific knowledge and experience. If you’re a total beginner, you may not need anything particularly special – just someone who can teach you the basics of violin, such as how to hold your bow, proper posture, and so on. If you’ve taken lessons in the past and are interested in a particular technique or genre, however, you’ll want to make sure your teacher is equipped to teach it. Review the information and specialties listed on their profile, and watch any videos or audio clips they’ve uploaded to get a feel for their performance or teaching style.

3. Enthusiasm and Encouragement

The best teachers know how to inspire! Music is all about enjoyment and the learning process greatly depends on having a good time. Look for someone who is enthusiastic about music, the violin, and teaching in general. Find the one person who is eager to show you what he or she loves so much about this instrument, but who is also patient and encouraging enough as to allow you your time while learning. This is particularly important for young children and complete beginners, since getting your footing can sometimes take a while!

4. Attention to Detail

The best violin teachers should also strive to teach you good technique from the start. This is especially important for violinists, since bad habits like poor posture can be hard to break later on. Look for a professional who pays attention to detail and wants you to start your musical journey by establishing a solid relationship with the instrument. A great teacher will not only correct you until you get it perfectly, but he or she will also teach you how to practice in between the lessons, and provide helpful feedback along the way.

Ultimately, finding the best violin teacher for you often comes down to personal preferences. From the moment you start learning, consider each class to be a follow-up to your initial screening, so to speak. After a few lessons, you should have a good idea if it’s a good teacher match. Not really feeling it? As a TakeLessons student, you’re welcome to switch teachers at any point. Your experience should be a positive and fun one – and your teacher plays a large role in that!

 

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Violin Basics

Basics of Violin: How to Set (and Reach) Your Goals

Violin Bascis  When the violin is played properly, it can move listeners to cry, dance, laugh, and experience a wide range of emotions. Violins are played in all types of music, from classical to hard rock to pop. And while it may initially seem challenging to learn to play this popular instrument, mastering the basics of violin yields beautiful and inspiring results.

The Importance of Goals

When you are first beginning to explore your interest in violin, it can be helpful to sit down and set a few goals by asking yourself some basic questions. What type of music are you interested in? What kinds of songs would you like to be able to play?  After all, it is much easier to stay motivated when you’re planning on playing the type of music that you like.

Take out a pen and paper and write out the things that you would like to accomplish on the violin. You may also want to consider a few other things, such as whether you are planning on playing just as a hobby or if you one day hope to play professionally. Understanding your motivations can help you better plan for your future as a violinist.

The Role of Your Violin Teacher

After you have compiled your list, place it in a visible spot so you will always be reminded of your goals. Also, be sure to sit down with your violin teacher to discuss your plans. Your teacher can help you evaluate your goals and determine the best ways to accomplish them. He or she can also suggest practice tips, including which specific exercises to incorporate into your routine.

Mastering the Basics

Your teacher will start with the basics of violin because — as with most other things in life — the fundamentals establish a critical foundation for success. In fact, the basics will continue to be an integral part of your training: ultimately, the better your foundation is, the stronger you will be as a violinist.

While learning how to properly pull the bow across the string may not sound like fun, your violin will never sound good if you don’t learn how to play with the proper technique. Keeping your goals in mind will help you during times when you might otherwise get bored with practicing the basics over and over again.

Furthermore, the basics become infinitely more interesting when you realize their potential applications: for instance, learning and conquering your shifting techniques will become much more satisfying when you realize that they are an important part of playing your favorite songs!

Consistency is Key

Another important factor in improving as a violinist is consistency.  Practicing 30 minutes every day is much more effective than a sporadic schedule in which you might practice for hours at a time here and there with long stretches of no practice in between. Again, your violin teacher will play a vital role in encouraging consistency by helping you set realistic goals. He or she can also assess your progress and acknowledge key milestones along the way.

Many accomplished violinists, as well as their teachers, agree that staying motivated throughout the learning process is essential. Once your motivation has been established, improving as a violin player becomes a simple matter of daily practice. As you progress and your skills improve, your violin teacher will continue to play a critical role during your journey toward violin mastery.

 

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V1

Beginner Violin Tips: 5 Warm Up Exercises to Practice

Tips For Beginner ViolinistsAs much as every budding violinist would love to pick up their instrument and begin playing beautiful music, the work required to get there is much more mundane – every breathtaking performance requires strategic and focused warm up exercises beforehand. These routines help you develop and maintain your basic violin skills as well as gear up for more advanced techniques, too.

For beginners, it may be difficult to know even where to start; after all, everything seems to need work. However, using the beginning of each practice session for a warm up will optimize each day’s result and pave the way for strong playing for months and years to come.

Although warm up exercises will vary from person to person based on the advice of your violin teacher, there are certain exercises that can benefit everyone. Here are five beginner violin tips that will help you grasp the fundamentals:

  1. Long open strings. Playing long open strings does several things: it lets you practice consistent intonation with each stroke, it allows you to become familiar with your bow’s weight and speed across the strings, and lastly, it helps ensure that your bow remains in the proper location on the strings in relation to the bridge. Look into a mirror and place the bow on the string in the proper point and pull the bow across the string, listening for a clear, clean, and consistent note. As you play, continually check in the mirror for your bow’s contact point. Repeat at least five up and down bows before moving on to the next string.

  2. Finger placement. Correct finger placement is essential for playing the right notes on the violin, and to learn this correctly, you must practice! One of the tried and true beginner violin tips is to play simple scales in first position. This trains your fingers to understand where they belong on the fingerboard in relation to the other fingers, and it trains your ear to hear each note as it should be played. To practice, pick any scale, and play each note slowly, separately, and precisely. Always play with a tuner so that you can tweak your finger placement for proper intonation.

  3. Fourth finger practice. Placing your fourth finger on a string creates the same note as the subsequent higher open string. Some beginner violinists use the open string to play the note because it is much easier and you know that the note will be correct. However, as you advance, there will be times where you cannot access the open string to play the note, or it is much less efficient to do so. Therefore, you need to strengthen your pinky finger! Start by playing the open string, then mimic that note using your pinky on the lower string about five times for each string. Listen carefully – does the fourth finger note match that of the open string? Don’t get discouraged if it’s difficult to even stretch your pinky at first – it will take time for it to gain strength and flexibility.

  4. Slurs. A slur allows you to play two or more notes in a single bow stroke. To do this, start by placing the end of your bow close to the frog on the string. As you slowly but steadily bring your bow across the strings, place and then remove your first finger in the proper place while keeping your bow straight. Also make sure that you place your finger on and off the strings at regular intervals – using a metronome will help you. Start with two notes per bow stroke.

  5. String crossing. The final of the beginner violin tips is the ability to make a clean change from string to string while playing. Keep your elbow at a right angle to form a square  - include the bow and trace an imaginary line from your shoulder to where the bow hair touches the string. Rock the bow to each string while practicing your long bow strokes. Make sure that your arm and bow remain in the same plane, and use the natural weight of your arm on each string.

Because these warm up exercises set the tone, so to speak, for your practice session and for your learning overall, always perform them with focus and intent. They don’t need to take long – a dedicated five or 10 minutes should suffice. If you are unsure of what to practice or exactly how to practice, ask your instructor about beginner violin tips – they have the knowledge and experience to guide you in the right direction.

 

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Violin Size

Why Are There Different Violin Sizes, and Why Does it Matter?

Guide To The Differences In Violin SizesOne of the main concerns that violin students and their parents typically have is purchasing the right-sized violin. Obviously you can’t give a five-year-old a full-size violin and expect him or her to be able to handle the instrument. And once kids are in their teenage years, trying to keep up with growth spurts can be extremely difficult, especially considering how much violins cost. Even adults can run into problems when selecting the right size. Fortunately, after a little research, selecting the right violin and knowing when it is time for a new one is not as difficult as it sounds.

Why Are There Different Violin Sizes?

Many parents are eager to get their children into music lessons, and the violin is a very common instrument to start with – especially through methods of teaching such as the Suzuki Method, which encourages musical exposure early on in a child’s life. For these younger children, starting with a smaller violin is crucial.

To play the violin, students need to be able to comfortably move their hands and fingers along the entire neck of the violin. And to fully maneuver between all four strings, the student’s left arm must be mobile. If your child is unable to bend the left arm at the elbow and hold the instrument properly, he or she won’t be able to play the notes correctly.

It’s also just as important to have a bow that is an appropriate size for his or her right arm. If the bow is too big, your child may be tempted to to bow incorrectly or play with poor posture, which can even lead to injuries. These habits learned the wrong way can take a long time to unlearn!

With all of this in mind, getting the correct violin size for the individual student is incredibly important. Here’s a rough guide to finding the right size:

  • The 1/16 violin is typically the starting point for very young children (3-5 years old)
  • The 1/2 violin is typical for students in early elementary school (7-9 years old)
  • The 3/4 is common for students toward the end of elementary or first year of middle school (9-12 years old)
  • The 7/8 violin is just shy of a full-length violin and is used by teens as well as some adults
  • Most students will eventually require a full-sized violin

Keep in mind, however, that this is just a rough guide; if you or your child are larger- or smaller-framed, you may need to try out different violin sizes.

Finding the Right Fit

Understanding violin sizes and determining which is right for you or your child means paying attention to the student’s arms, both for the violin and the bow. Selecting your size based solely on age won’t work, so make sure you visit a music shop to try out several sizes and get fitted by a professional.

To find the right size, the student should place their chin on the chin rest and stretch out their left arm. The left hand should comfortably wrap around the scroll. If the student is unable to reach the scroll or their elbow is locked, the violin is too big. If the student can easily wrap their hand around the scroll and their elbow is bent 90 degrees or less, the violin is too small.

Start Shopping

For a child who is still growing, it might be best to look into renting an instrument. Take your child’s commitment level into account, as well; if you worry that he or she might lose interest after a while, renting the violin may be the smarter option. Learn more about buying a violin here.

As you’re shopping for your violin – whether you’re planning on purchasing or renting – just make sure that the student has a chance to try it out before any money changes hands, and take additional precautions if you’re buying a violin online.

Knowing When It’s Time for a Bigger Violin

Playing a violin that is the wrong size can result in bad habits and overall frustration, especially for younger children learning to play. Your violin teacher should be periodically checking the student’s posture and positioning, to make sure they’re working with the correct size.

Violin sizes may seem intimidating at first because of the cost and time investments. Ensuring you or your student has the best fit will mean the focus can be on learning how to play instead of compensating for the wrong size. Good luck!

 

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Fauré Requiem score on the iPad

Top 10 Apps for Violinists

Fauré Requiem score on the iPad

Everything is getting more high tech these days, even the centuries old violin! If you haven’t yet started to incorporate iPhone or iPad apps into your violin practice, this list is the best place to get started.

From basic tools every musician needs, including learning aids and sheet music to apps that are just plain fun, these apps for violin are essentials for the 21st century string player:

Learn Violin This educational app includes instructional videos as well as text, making it a great supplement for those times in-between lessons when you need a little extra guidance.

Violin Multi-Tuner You might not always have your tuner on hand, but you probably always know where your phone is! Download this or other helpful tuning apps and never be without a tuner again.

forScore Many musicians love forScore for the way it helps to organize and consolidate sheet music on the iPad, eliminating the need to carry large binders or dig around piles of papers for the right song. There are also foot pedals available for purchase which can be attached to your iPad, allowing you to easily “turn the page” while you are playing.

Tunepal This great app for fiddlers helps you to identify and play traditional songs. Just record a sample of the song you’re hearing, and Tunepal will search their archive and provide you with the sheet music.

Tenuto On the look out for customizable exercises that improve your ear for intervals and more? Then Tenuto is just the app for you! There are 15 different exercises that challenge and test your musical ability, allowing you to sharpen your skills away from your instrument.

String Trio Just for fun, String Trio is an iPad app that simulates the actual experience of playing violin. You can also adjust the settings to play viola or cello.

Metronome Use this mobile app to keep time wherever you practice. Practicing with a steady beat makes a big difference in your success!

Cleartune – Chromatic Tuner This chromatic tuner is a great app for multi-instrumentalists or players interested in alternate tunings.

Classical Music I: Master’s Collection Access hundreds of pieces of beautiful classical music with this app! This is a great reference for students and teachers, as it puts many of the worlds’ most loved pieces of music at your fingertips.

Right Note – Ear Trainer Ear training is absolutely essential for violinists! Continue working on training your ear with Right Note, and test  yourself on pitches, intervals, melodies, and more.

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Violin Finger Placement

Introduction to Reading Violin Tabs

Introduction to Reading Violin TabsTablature is a form of musical notation that was invented to make reading music easier for fretted and string instruments like guitar, bass, and violin. The premise is operationally-based, meaning that rather than showing rhythm, duration, and pitch, violin tabs will show the player where and when to place their fingers on the instrument.

For an improvising musician, violin tabs allow you to improvise while staying within the chord structure of a song. Tablature-style notation is most commonly used when notating pop music, and is often seen in folk and bluegrass, as well. For the beginning violinist, violin tabs can help you learn positions and individual notes quickly and  efficiently, but ultimately, it’s important to learn to read standard musical notation as well.

Let’s look at the origin of violin tabs, how violin tabs work, the advantages and disadvantages of using violin tabs, and how to read them.

Origin of Violin Tabs

Violin tabs directly descended from lute tablature. During the Renaissance and Baroque period, tablature was common. There were three main varieties: French, Italian/Spanish, and German tablature. The French variety was the most popular, and modern-day violin tabs evolved out of this variety.

Tablature was also often used for other instruments during this period. Keyboard tablature was widely used in Germany from the mid-15th century until the mid-18th century. Most music for the lute and other plucked string instruments were originally written in tablature. Many modern players of these baroque instruments still prefer tablature over standard musical notation and often use copies of the original manuscripts, handwritten copies, or modern computer-generated versions of tablature.

How Violin Tabs Work

Standard musical notation shows the rhythm, pitch, and duration of each note. It may also include dynamics and articulation markings, up- and down-bow markings, and style notations.

Violin tabs, on the other hand, show where and when a finger should be placed to start a note, rather than explicitly showing the note on a staff.  Rhythmically, tablature shows when to start a note, but there is often no notation showing where to stop the sound. As a result, the note duration is often left to the performer.

Also, violin tablature depicts the four strings rather than actual notes. The tablature is laid out from the lowest open note or string on the bottom (the open G) to the highest on the top line (the open E). Numbers are placed on these lines to represent the left-hand fingers on the strings, making it easy for someone who can’t read standard notation to play.

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Setting Up the Instrument – Position Markers

In order to use violin tabs, most players like to make “fret” marks on the neck of your instrument with liquid paper or small pieces of tape. These marks indicate where to put your fingers to play specific notes.

On a full-sized violin, the markers should be placed as follows:

        • 1st marker – 1 and 7/16 inches from the nut

        • 2nd marker – 2 and 21/32 inches from the nut

        • 3rd marker – 3 and 1/4 inches from the nut

        • 4th marker – 4 and 1/4 inches from the nut

When you’ve finished, your violin will have 4 “frets” as shown in the following illustration.

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Each fret corresponds with a finger on your left hand.  The finger numbers are 1 for the index finger, 2 for the middle finger, 3 for the ring finger, and 4 for the pinky.  Once you’ve set up your instrument, you’re ready to get started!

Violin Tabs

Violin tabs make playing the violin much easier. Each song consists of a staff, showing the notes of the song, over a violin tab, showing the finger placement for each note. Here’s an example using the first four measures of “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star”:

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The “0” denotes an open string. The 1 on the E string means that you place your first finger on the first fret on the E string, and so on. As you can see from the example, violin tab eliminates the need to read music, and allows you to pick up and play the instrument almost immediately. Learning to read tablature is a good skill to develop if you are interested in playing the instrument quickly. Violin tabs are great for learning certain genres of music like folk, bluegrass, and pop.

There are hundreds of websites online where you can find free violin tabs for a variety of music. If your goal is to learn how to play the violin, tablature is a great way to get started. With some practice you will eventually make the connection between the notes on the staff and the tablature representation.

As you progress in your studies, however, it’s important to learn to read standard musical notation. Tablature can teach you melodies and songs, but to truly get the full range out of any piece of music, you’ll need to learn and understand dynamics, articulation, and stylistic techniques such as vibrato and pizzicato. The best approach is to study with a qualified violin teacher and learn how to truly play the instrument. A good teacher can act as a guide on your musical journey and will work with you to develop your skills – which will truly open you up to the beauty of music!

 

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Beginner Basics Violin

Beginner Basics: How to Read Violin Sheet Music

Beginner Basics: How to Read Violin Sheet MusicThe most valuable skill you can develop as a musician is learning to read music. While it’s possible to learn to play “by ear,” reading music opens up the world to you as an artist!

There are many different ways to write music. Guitarists often read off of charts outlining the chord progressions for the song. Drummers have a rhythm chart showing them what to play. As a violinist, however, you’ll most likely be reading off of violin sheet music.
Standard sheet music is filled with directions for the performer, including:

1. Pitch
2. Rhythm – notes, rests, dots, accents etc.
3. Time signature
4. Key signature – sharps, flats, and natural notes
5. Dynamics
6. Tempo
7. Style markings
8. A clef
9. Navigation markings like repeats, 1st and 2nd endings, etc.

Sheet music will also often include items specific to the particular instrument. For example, violin sheet music may include numbers to signify position on the neck, bow direction markings, and specific markings for vibrato and pizzicato, techniques specific to the violin.

First, let’s look at the basic elements you’ll see on sheet music and then address some of the specific markings you’ll find on violin sheet music.

The Basics: The Staff, Clef, Key Signature, and Time Signature

Music is written on a type of grid that consists of five lines and four spaces, called a staff. Each of these lines and spaces signifies a specific note or pitch.  Music is always read from left to right, and on the left hand side is a symbol called a clef.

Staff

The clef will clue you in on the names of the notes on that staff, as it’s different for bass and treble clef. The illustration above shows a grand staff that is used in piano music. The top staff shows a G, or treble clef. It’s called the G clef because it somewhat resembles the letter G and the bottom circle surrounds the second line, which is the note G in treble clef.

The bottom staff shows a bass, or F clef. It is known as an F clef not only because it resembles the letter F, but also because the two dots surround the second line from the top, which is the note F in the bass clef.

As a violinist, you will only be dealing with treble clef, so we will look specifically at the notes in that clef.

Key Signature

The key signature is marked directly next to the clef. The key signature consists of markings called sharps and flats, showing which notes are altered in that particular piece of music. A key signature is a universal marking, meaning that if it shows a Bb, then all of the “B” notes in that piece of music should be played as a B flat. This is a form of musical shorthand that is used to make reading music easier.

Time Signature

The time signature is a symbol that defines the number of beats per measure, and what type of note gets a beat.  Here are some examples:

time_signatures15627

The top number in the time signature signifies how many beats are in each measure. The bottom number shows what type of note receives a beat.  For example, in 4/4 time there are four beats per measure and a 1/4 (quarter) note gets one beat. 4/4 is also known as common time and may be represented by the letter “C”.

Now that we’ve explored the basics of the staff, let’s look at musical notation.

Pitch, Ledger Lines, and Duration

Violin sheet music uses the treble clef, so let’s look at the basic note names in the treble clef. The musical alphabet consists of only seven notes: A, B, C, D, E, F, and G. Along with sharps and flats, these seven note names make up the entire musical alphabet.

notes2047

There is an easy way to remember the note names on the staff using one word and a simple sentence. From the bottom line to the top line, the lined notes are: E, G, B, D, and F.  Remember the sentence “Every Good Boy Deserves Fudge,” and you’ll never forget the note names on the lines! The spaces spell out the word FACE – F, A, C, and E.

Ledger Lines

Because music has more than nine notes, ledger lines are used to extend the range of the staff. They can appear both above and below the lines of the staff.

leger-lines1509

The note names continue using the musical alphabet. The top line of the staff is F, and the note sitting on the top line is G. Add a ledger line above the staff for the note A, and the note on top of that ledger line is B. The note pictured above is C and so on.

Note Durations

Musical symbols are used to denote the duration, or how many beats to hold each note. The following chart shows the most common note durations in 4/4 time.

note_durations15658

Once you master these basics, you’ll be able to read and play everything from Mozart to Metallica! There are other symbols that you will learn as you study reading music, including volume markings, articulation markings, and tempo markings. But understanding these basic concepts are the first steps to achieving mastery in reading music.

Specific Markings on Violin Sheet Music

Because of the nature of the instrument, violinists will see some additional markings on violin sheet music that are specific to the instrument. Often, violin sheet music will include position markings. These signify when you move your hand up and down the neck of the violin to play different notes. They are usually shown as a Roman numeral beneath the note; for example, first position is I, second position is II, and so on.

Violin is an expressive instrument and often composers will incorporate this in their music. You may see the symbol “Vibr” under the notes of a section. This is shorthand for vibrato, which is a technique of moving your finger to get a pulsing sound when playing a note.

Because violin is played using a bow, there are specific symbols used in violin sheet music to signify if a note or series of notes should be played by bowing the instrument in an upward direction, or with a downward motion. Up-bows are marked using this symbol: >. A down-bow is shown as a partial rectangle open at the bottom.

The best way to learn how to read music, of course, is to study with a qualified violin teacher. While the basic concepts shown in this article can be learned independently, a teacher will help you refine and master the fine points of reading music. Learning to read music well will make your study much more rewarding and enjoyable. While it can be challenging, knowing how to reading music opens the entire world to you as a performer. Take the time to study and work with a good teacher and enjoy your exciting musical journey!

 

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