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vibrato violin

Vibrato Violin Tutorial for Beginners [Video]

vibrato violin

Have you always wanted to learn the vibrato violin? Below, violin teacher Naomi Cherie S.  provides a detailed tutorial on how to do vibrato on the violin…

Playing vibrato on the violin can greatly enhance your sound by infusing your notes with emotion, beauty, and intensity. It’s the icing on the cake that really makes your playing shine!

The standard for an advanced player or professional, vibrato violin comes from moving the arm and/or wrist back slightly toward the scroll, and then back up toward the bridge.

While you might be eager to learn vibrato violin, it’s a very complex skill to master. Below is a tutorial on how to play vibrato on the violin as well as some tips to help determine if you’re ready.

Am I Ready for Vibrato Violin? 

You may have heard famous violin players using violin vibrato in movies, at the symphony, or at live concerts, and thought to yourself, “Hey! I’m ready to add vibrato to my playing!”

Prior to embarking on this new journey, however, please note that it is incredibly important to make sure you have a very strong foundation so you don’t become overwhelmed and frustrated.

Before learning vibrato violin, ask yourself these questions:

  • Do I have good form, proper left hand technique, and a strong bow hold?
  • Can I play through songs and read music fluidly with very little mistakes?
  • Do I have a decent amount of hand strength built up and can I get through songs without my hand and arm muscles becoming easily fatigued?
  • Have I developed a good ear for intonation and enough muscle memory in my fingers to get the notes in tune most of the time?

If you confidently answered “yes” to all of these questions, congratulations! You’re ready to move to the next level and start adding vibrato violin to your skill set.

While professionals make vibrato look easy and effortless, it can actually take some time to master– anywhere from a couple months to a couple years depending on the player.

So the main thing to remember is to be patient and not give up.

How to Set Up Your Left Hand For Vibrato Violin Exercise

Having correct left hand technique is imperative to making the vibrato mechanism physically possible. Below are various steps to ensure your left hand it properly set up.

Step One:

Looking at your left hand while in playing position, the thumb should rest against the side of the neck in a straight or slightly bent pose, as if you were giving a thumbs up sign.

Your fingers should be curved and hovering over the fingerboard. Think of the fingers as arches or “little rainbows” sitting on top of the fingerboard.

A common issue for students is that they allow the palm of their hand to rest on the violin neck. The only parts of your hand that should really touch the violin are the fingertips, the thumb, and a bit of the side of your first finger.

Step Two:

If you find the palm of your hand touching the neck, straighten your wrist and remember that your wrist position should remain in a neutral straight pose most of the time.

When you place your fingers on the string, they should be standing up nice and tall so that only a small point on your fingertips make contact with the string (not the entire pad of your finger.)

Step Three:

If you find that you cannot easily get your fingers to stand up on the fingertips, it may be necessary to permanently adjust your overall left arm/hand form.

You may need to bring your elbow in toward your chest and let your thumb slide from the side of the neck more toward the underside of the neck to allow yourself to hoist your fingers up and get off of the finger pads and onto the fingertips.

Special Vibrato Violin Exercise For Beginners

Once your left hand technique is in order, you’re ready to start your daily vibrato exercise!

Keep in mind that it is important to do this exercise every day so that you can build momentum and develop the hand strength and muscle memory that you will need.

At first your hand may feel weak and tired, but with time it will become easier. Make sure you only do this exercise for 5-10 minutes in one sitting, so that you don’t overdo it and strain your hand.

Let’s get started…

Start with your left hand in normal playing position– good form, fingers hovering over the fingerboard and your first finger (index finger) standing tall on the fingertip.

Place your first finger on the D string where you’d normally place your first finger in first position.

With your bow, play this note for four counts. Then pivot on the ball of your finger and go into the “back” position with your finger and entire hand making a shift toward the scroll.

Although the motion is driven by your wrist, you should feel your whole hand putting momentum into the movement. Play for four counts.

Then begin alternating and counting like an aerobics instructor would in whole notes; for example, up 2, 3, 4 — back 2, 3, 4…

You should hear a shift in tone with each movement from “up” to “back.” That’s because your finger is changing what part of the string it is placed on  to create the vibrato violin effect.

  • Next go to half notes: up 2– back 2…
  • Then quarter notes: up, back, up, back…
  • Then eight notes: up, back, up, back (double time!)

And finally, double that last speed and go into sixteenth notes: at this point you’re just switching back and forth as fast as physically possible.

Your hand should look like it is waving at yourself. If you’re able to do this then you’re officially playing vibrato violin.

Most likely it will take a few weeks or months to work up to doing this successfully, but with lots of patience your fingers will build up the muscle memory and flexibility.

After a while, give your hand a rest and shake it out and let your fingers stretch. Then go to the second finger and do it all over again on each finger.

Most people find the second finger the easiest finger, while the pinkie finger is more challenging since it is weaker and shorter than all the other fingers.

Give lots of extra time for your little finger to adjust. Once you’ve completed the violin vibrato exercise, move on to the next string and go through the whole thing on all four fingers on all four strings.

Remember…

The big key here is to start off slow. While you’re learning, always start with whole notes and work your way up to sixteenth note speed.

That will give your hand some time to get warmed up and get used to the motions gradually.

Once you’ve become comfortable with your basic wrist vibrato, you can explore other violin vibrato styles; for example, arm vibrato which is the same, but with more momentum driven from the entire arm to give you really wide slow poignant vibrato.

Eventually you can develop a hand vibrato too, which focuses on a more delicate and controlled approach.

You can also experiment with the speed of your vibrato, such as fast intense motions for an upbeat, energetic song or strong slow weepy vibrato for a sad, slow or emotional song.

It all just depends on what type of mood you’re trying to convey and what sort of personal preferences you develop over your years of practice.

Photo by _dChris

Post Author: Naomi Cherie S.
Naomi teaches violin in Austin, TX. She is a classically trained violinist with over 20 years of experience and a diverse musical background. Learn more about Naomi Cherie S. here.

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violin sheet music

How to Read Violin Notes: A Beginner’s Guide

violin sheet music

Learning how to read violin notes is a difficult, albeit, important task. Below, violin teacher Naomi Cherie S. shows you how to read violin notes in an easy and fun way…

One of the best ways to build a strong foundation as a well-rounded musician is to learn how to read violin notes.

Playing by ear is a wonderful and valuable skill and should not be discredited in the least, as it can come in handy in many situations.

However, learning how to read violin sheet music can open you up to a whole other world of possibilities and will be necessary if you aspire to perform with an orchestra, quartet, or even some bands.

Think of it as the equivalent to learning how to read as a child and imagine how many possibilities that opened up!

Once you have learned how to read violin notes, with enough time and practice, you will be able to play pretty much any piece of music your set your mind to.

Below, I will walk you through how to read violin notes and test your knowledge with a quick quiz.

How to Read Violin Notes

The Staff

Let’s start with the staff. The staff is the set of five horizontal lines on which notes are placed in standard violin sheet music.

There are seven notes of which all music is based; A, B, C, D, E, F and G. Once you get to G, you would start back over with A and the cycle would repeat again, getting higher in pitch as you go up the staff.

There are also multiple pitches that correspond with the same letter in music. For instance, there are several different A’s on the violin. They are just in varying forms of higher or lower pitches.

 

how to read violin notesThe Notes on the Lines

The easiest way to learn violin music notes is to divide the staff up into lines and spaces.

These are the notes that fall on the lines of the staff, meaning the notes directly on top of the lines with the lines intersecting them.

how to read violin notes

Starting from the bottom line, begin to memorize each note going up the top line. One popular mnemonic device you may have heard is “Every Good Boy Does Fine.” Another is “Elivs’ Guitar Broke Down Friday.”

These devices can be really handy to help memorize the notes! You can start with a beginner violin book, such as Essential Elements for Strings Volume I, which will give you some great exercises to help you memorize and learn these notes.

The Notes on the Spaces

Next, there are the violin music notes that fall in between the lines– on the spaces:

how to read violin notes

Another great mnemonic device applies here. If you look at the notes starting from the bottom note up to the top note, you will see that the letters spell F-A-C-E. And that of course rhymes with space. It’s quite catchy and memorable: “Face is in the space!”

Whenever you’re practicing or working from an exercise book make sure to keep these mnemonic devices in mind. If you forget the name of a note, first determine whether the note falls on a space or a line.

Then take your finger or a pencil and point to each note from the bottom on up, while saying aloud the corresponding mnemonic device to refresh your memory.

Ledger Lines

In the G scale chart above, you’ll notice that there are other notes that fall below the staff (lower in pitch) or above the staff (higher in pitch.)

In order to place these violin music notes, we use small lines or dashes called ledger lines. The notes can fall on the lines or in the spaces between them just like the five lines of the staff.

To read these notes you can use the ones on the staff that you already know as a reference point to figure them out.

Important Symbols on the Staff

Now that you’ve learned the basic notes, look over some violin sheet music or an exercise book and you’ll notice some symbols at the beginning of each staff line.
how to read violin notes

The Treble Clef

Notice the fancy swirly symbol you see on your violin beginner book or sheet music. Clef symbols are reference points that name a specific note on the staff from which the names of all the other notes are based.

Lower pitched instruments use other clefs with different reference points, such as bass or alto clef. But in violin (as well as higher pitched instruments such as flute, trumpet and the right hand on piano) we use the treble clef.

The main thing a beginner should take from this is that if you’re looking at sheet music with a treble clef on it, it signifies that the music is most likely suitable to be played on the violin.

Key Signature

Next, you’ll see the key signature, which is very important to pay attention to because it will tell you whether or not you have any flat or sharp notes in the song.

A flat note (i.e. B flat) is a half-step lower in pitch than the base note (B) and is signified by this symbol: ♭

A sharp note (i.e. C sharp) is a half-step higher in pitch than the base note (C) and is signified by this symbol: #

how to read violin notes

If you see a flat symbol in the key signature, look at the line or space that is striking through the center of the symbol and determine which note corresponds to the line or the space.

Now throughout the duration of the piece (whether it’s a higher or lower version of that note) you will be playing the flat version of that note.

The same goes for when you see a sharp symbol in the key signature. Take a close look at the sharp symbol and notice that there is a little skewed square right in the middle of the symbol.

Whichever note corresponds to the line or space that the square forms around will be the note that will become sharp throughout the piece.

Sometimes there will be multiple sharps or a combination of sharps and flats. If you don’t see any sharps or flats in your key signature, you can just assume that all of the notes in the piece are going to be your normal or “natural” notes.

Any notes that are not mentioned in the key signature are assumed to be natural notes as well.

Time Signature

Next in line is the time signature. The time signature lets you know how to count a piece or how many beats are in each measure.

The staff is divided by vertical lines into segments called measures, which will contain a certain amount of beats depending on what your time signature says.

The top number in the time signature tells you how many beats are in each measure. Once the allotted amount of beats have been counted out it’s time to move on to the next measure and start the counting over again.

The bottom number describes the length of the beat. Since a beat is a loose term it could really mean anything but if you have a 4 on the bottom (most common) that would signify that you are basing your beat off of the length of a quarter note.

These are the numbers you’ll be seeing on the bottom of the time signature and which note lengths they correspond to:

  • 2 = half note
  • 4 = quarter note
  • 8 = eighth note
  • 16 = sixteenth note

These are the most common time signatures you will see:

how to read violin notes

The 4/4 time signature is so common that it is referred to as “common time” and often, you will see a C on the music where the time signature would normally be which means to play the piece in 4/4 time.

Test Yourself on How to Read Violin Notes

Now that you understand all of the symbols and signatures at the beginning of the song, you’re ready to start reading violin notes.

Remembering your mnemonic devices can help you read the notes on the staff, but will you be able to identify the notes that fall off of the staff and outside of the range of the mnemonic device?

As discussed earlier, there are many notes that will fall above the staff and a couple that fall below it.

You won’t need to know these right away, but once you get the notes on the staff memorized, you’ll definitely want to start tackling these.

Just remember that if you know the notes on the staff, you can count up or down using the alphabet to figure out any note you may come across.

Test yourself with the chart below.

Starting with the top line, which you know is an F count up alphabetically to figure out what note this is. Make sure you count each space and line.

how to read violin notes

…If you guessed D, you’re right!

Now that you’ve gotten the basics on reading violin sheet music, you’re ready to start putting it all together.

This is a lot of information that we just went over, so be sure to take some time and go over, reinforce, and really let it sink in.

Once you feel comfortable, you can start to learn about how these notes on the written sheet music correspond to the notes on your violin, which is discussed thoroughly in this article.

Eventually, you’ll want to add rhythms to your note sequences and learn about the different types of notes and their varying lengths–but that’s a whole other lesson.

For now, have fun getting familiar with everything discussed above and get excited about the potentials of this handy new skill!

Post Author: Naomi Cherie S.
Naomi teaches violin in Austin, TX. She is a classically trained violinist with over 20 years of experience and a diverse musical background. Learn more about Naomi Cherie S. here.

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Top 10 Violin Tuner Apps Reviewed

violin tuner app

Have you ever showed up to violin lesson or a performance and realized that you completely forgot your violin tuner?

If you answered “yes,” then you’re probably familiar with the feeling of having your stomach drop and your cheeks turn red.

Keeping your violin in tune is extremely important. Not only does it ensure you get the best sound, but it also helps train your ear. 

There are tons of ways in which you can tune a violin. However, many of them require a certain skill set or an actual device.

Thanks to technology, there are dozens of easy-to-use violin tuner apps that can replace your old device that you always seem to forget or that’s taking up unnecessary room in your violin case.

Choosing the best violin tuner app can be difficult when there are so many to choose from. To make things easier for you, we’ve rounded up the best violin tuners apps.

But first, let’s explore the benefits of using a violin tuner app as well as how they actually work.

How a Violin Tuner App Works

Every violin tuner app works a little differently, but they are all usually pretty easy to work with after a little getting used to.

Generally, there will be a display that tells you what note you’re playing and a needle hovering over a dial in the middle that will show you how in tune your string is.

Ideally, you want the needle to be as close to the center point as possible. Most violin tuners light up green when the string is in tune.

If the needle is hovering over to the right of the dial your string is “sharp,” which means it’s too high or tight. If it’s hovering over to the left of the dial your string is “flat,” which means it’s too low or loose.

Benefits of Using a Violin Tuner App

So what are the benefits of using a violin tuner app? Below are just a few of the benefits you’ll experience when you use a violin tuner app.

  • Convenient: With a violin tuner app, you don’t have to worry about whether or not you remembered to pack your electronic tuner. Because if you’re anything like most people, chances are you’re glued to your smartphone and rarely forget it. Also, a violin tuner app is perfect for those impromptu violin jam sessions.
  • Cost-effective: An electronic tuner or tuning fork can cost you around $30 to $40 dollars. Many violin tuner apps, however, are free or cost a little as $3. You can’t get much better than that!
  • Easy-to-use: Tuning a violin using a different instrument or harmonics can be difficult for beginner violin students. Most violin tuner apps are very straightforward and easy to use. A violin tuning app works very similarly to the electronic tuner in that it can sense and tell exact pitch.

Top 10 Violin Tuner Apps

Now that you’ve reviewed all of the benefits of violin tuning apps, let’s take a look at the best apps available.

Untitled design1. ClearTune-Chromatic Tuner

Talk about star power. This violin tuning app is used by some of today’s biggest musical acts, including The Black Keys and The Killers. The chromatic instrument tuner and pitch pipe allows users to accurately tune their violin using the built-in mic in their smartphone. The app includes features such as selectable notations, support for transposing instruments, and automatic or manual note section. Cost: $3.99 Learn more about the app here.

 

 

tuner lite2. Tuner Lite

Another chromatic instrument tuner and pitch pipe, this free tuner app is perfect for beginner violin players. With glowing customer reviews, Tuner Lite by plusadd has an LED display that’s easy to understand and features an automatic reference note calibration. Users describe the app as being reliable, easy-to-use, and helpful. Cost: Free Learn more about the app here.

 

 

3. Tuner-gStrings

Haven’t mastered tuning your violin by ear yet? No problem. The Tuner-gStrings app is perfect for those who need an extra hand in tuning their violin. The free tuner app is a chromatic tuner application measuring sound pitch and intensity. Features include orchestra tuning, various temperaments, and a variable range nonlinear scale. Cost: Free. Learn more about the app here.

 

 

4. Pano Tuner – Chromatic Tuner

With Pano Tuner you can tune your violin in seconds! The violin tuning app listens to the sound you make and shows you the pitch. All you have to do is look at the offset from the pitch that you want to tune to. The app also has a feature that allows you to adjust the concert-A frequency to make your violin in harmony with others. Cost: Free. Learn more about the app here.

 

 

5. Violin Multi-Tuner

This violin tuner app was made specifically for violinists so you know you’ll experience fast and accurate pitch detection. Violin Multi-Tuner has an abundance of really great features, including a metronome, playable fingerboard, ear and sight reading exercises, and more. Cost: $0.99 Learn more about the app here.

 

 

 

bop 6. Violin Tools Free

This violin tuning app is perfect for beginners. Not only can you use this app to help you fine tune your violin with a high precision and efficient pitch detection algorithm , but you can also use it while you practice to see if you’re playing the right notes. Using a color scale, the Violin Tools Free app will tell you which direction you need to adjust your finger positions. Cost: Free Learn more about the app here.

 

 

7. nTune: Violin Free

If you’re searching for an accurate app to tune your violin, then look no further than NTune: Violin Free. The app uses actual recorded violin notes rather than generated sound effects. What’s more, the violin tuner app contains the basic tuning of G, D, A and E and includes playback options of Arco (bowing) or Pizzicato (plucking). Cost: Free Learn more about the app here.

 

 

8. PitchPerfect

Are you sick of playing out of tune? PitchPerfect is the easy-to-use tuning app that you’ve been looking for. All you have to do is play a string to see if you are sharp, flat, or in perfect pitch. Then use the app’s preset tunings to tune the note you want. Cost: Free Learn more about the app here.

 

 

 

mgee9. Tune-O-Rama

This foolproof tuning app features a chromatic tuner that you can access at the touch of a button. Tune-O-Rama uses an impressive 4-tier detection algorithm for near 100% accuracy and sensitivity. Featuring a detection range of 1200+ Hz, Tune-O-Rama is suitable for many instruments, including the violin Cost: $2.99 Learn more about the app here.

 

 

 

10. Tuna Pitch

If you’re a more advanced player that knows how to tune by ear then you might want to consider downloading the Tuna Pitch. This tuning app has a built-in pitch pipe lets you play a reference tone for tuning by ear. Tuna Pitch automatically finds the pitch using the microphone and shows note name, octave, frequency. Cost: $2.99 Learn more about the app here.

 

 

Each one of these apps offers something a little different. If you’re still not quite sure which violin tuner app to choose, consult your violin teacher. He or she might suggest an app that they currently use or have used in the past.

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10 Different Ways to Tune a Violin

tune a violin

Are you unsure of how to tune a violin? Below, violin teacher Carol Beth L. shares 10 different ways students can tune a violin…

Whenever you take out your violin–or any instrument for that matter– to practice, tuning should be the first thing you do. Learning how to properly tune a violin is important for many reasons.

Not only does it ensure you get the best sound, but it also helps train your earEven as a beginner level student, it’s important that you learn how to tune a violin so that you will be able to adjust it when your violin teacher is not there.

While some violin brands hold their pitch relatively well; others do not. Violins with recently replaced strings, for example, may hold their pitch less easily as the strings stretch to accommodate the new pressure placed upon them.

While every violinist has his or her own process for tuning their instrument, there’s no one right way to do it. In fact, there are several different ways in which you can tune a violin. Below are 10 different ways you can tune a violin as well as some helpful tips to guide you.

Tips on How to Tune a Violin

Learning how to tune a violin is a skill one should acquire early on. Ideally, your violin teacher will review this process. In the meantime, here are some helpful tips to keep in mind, as noted in a previous TakeLessons blog.

New strings: Ask 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. Therefore, don’t get discouraged if you sound a little off after putting on new strings.

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. 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 be careful when you’re learning to tune a violin for yourself.  If your string is only slightly out of tune, use the fine tuners instead, turning them clockwise to raise the pitch, and counter-clockwise to lower it.

Points of Reference: Unless you have perfect pitch, you will need a reference note to help you out.  Try any one of the 10 options below as a point of reference.

1. Electronic Tuner

Try using an electronic tuner that can sense and tell exact pitch. The machine is calibrated to have “perfect pitch” (so to speak), and can tell what note you are playing, whether it is sharp or flat.

For beginner violin students who aren’t sure of themselves when it comes to tuning their D, G, and E strings based on a tuned A string, this electronic tuner provides one method to double check and properly tune them.

Such tuners will typically base their pitches off of the standard 440 A, but can often provide tuning feedback for a non-standard A.

2. Steady Pitch From an Electronic Tuner

Using steady pitch from an electronic tuner is a great opportunity to train your ear. Good musicians should be able to hear and match any given pitch.

Tuning the violin’s A string to the A given by the electronic tuner is one way to do this. The D, G, and E strings will also need to be tuned to the A string – preferably in fifths (see “tuning in fifths” and “tuning in harmonics” below).

3. Online Violin Tuner

If you have an Internet connection with audio input, then try using an online violin tuner. An online violin tuner works very similarly to the electronic tuner in that it can sense and tell exact pitch.

If you’re looking for a great online violin tuner, check out get-tuned.com. The website has an online violin tuner that allows you to change the pitch for each string.

4. YouTube

This option for how to tun a violin works similarly to the steady pitch from the electronic tuner, but can be found easily on YouTube. All you have to do is search for “440 A” on Youtube and match the pitch. Here’s an example below:

5. Violin Tuner App

If you’re always on the go, using a violin tuner app on your smartphone is a great option. Violin tuner apps typically work like an electronic tuner.

Since iPhones are super handy, using a violin tuner app saves you from carrying around an extra device in your case or bag. It also has audio input that is usually set up and working.

6. Nearby Violin

Use another violin to provide an A. This is a great method for when you are playing with your violin teacher or with a fellow student.

Ideally, one of you will already be tuned to a reliable A. If you are not, use a tuner, app, or tuning fork to tune one violin before tuning the other.

7. Another Instrument

Oftentimes, a violin may be tuned to a pitch provided by an different instrument. In symphony orchestras, for example, the principal oboe typically provides an A. If a piano or keyboard instrument is available, this instrument should be used to provide the base pitch.

A typical pianist cannot and does not tune his or her instrument as regularly as a violinist. Instead, specialists are typically called in every so often to tune the piano. Therefore, it’s a reliable way to tune an instrument.

8. Tuning Fork

Using a tuning fork is simple. First hit it on a table or another hard surface to help it start vibrating. Then touch the round ball at its base to the body of your violin. The resulting pitch is the A to which you should tune. Placing the vibrating tuning fork close to the bridge will generally help obtain a louder pitch, since that’s where the sound post is inside the violin.

Unlike an electronic tuner or violin tuner app, a tuning fork can only stay at the standard (or non-standard) A to which it was originally tuned, and cannot alternate between them. However, like the previous two methods, tuning forks don’t require batteries.

9. Tune in 5ths

Violin strings are tuned in perfect fifths. That is, the distance between two strings is five notes (or eight half-notes), including the first and last note. This interval (or distance between two notes) is harmonically important, and when two adjacent strings are played together, a good violinist will be able to hear the more perfect resonance of the two notes when they “click” in tune.

Thus, you will often hear violinists playing their strings two at a time as they tune them up. Once the A string is in tune, this is a good way to tune your other strings to that A. If you cannot do it at first, gradually train your ear to hear the interval correctly. You might try playing them together first, trying to tell which way to tune your next string, then separately, then together again.

Finally, verify and correct the pitch as necessary by comparing it to the correct pitch from another instrument, or by using an electronic tuner or violin tuner app. Then play them both separately and together again. By doing this repeatedly, your ear will gradually learn to recognize the correct interval and tell you when and by how much your strings are out of tune.

10. Harmonics

This violin tuning method can also help you tune your E, D, and G strings to an A that has already been tuned. It is not usually used by experienced violinists, however, it can help you tune acceptably well for many situations.

For this method, you will use two harmonics on each string. Harmonics are created by touching the string lightly in exactly the right place, and result in both halves of the string vibrating. When a player divides the string exactly in half, the resulting note is exactly one octave above the open string. When the player places the division 2/3 of the way up toward the bridge, the resulting note is a fifth higher than the first harmonic.

To tune each string, use the lower harmonic on the higher string, and the higher harmonic on the lower string. To tune the E string, for example, use the first harmonic (one octave above open E) on the E string, and the second harmonic (one octave plus a fifth above open A) on the A string. If your strings are in tune, the two notes should be the same.

Between an electronic tuner and harmonics, there are many options for tuning a violin. Different options are more suitable to different situations and people, but there are appropriate options to cover almost any situation. So don’t trap yourself in a situation where you cannot tune your violin!

Photo by Loreen72

CarolPost Author: Carol Beth L.
Carol Beth L. teaches viola and violin in San Francisco, CA. She currently plays viola in the San Francisco Civic Orchestra and has been teaching students since 2012. Learn more about Carol Beth here!

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5 Tips for Pulling Off a Showstopping Violin Performance

violin performance

Stage presence is an important skill for all musicians to master. Below, violin teacher Ha-eun R. shares several tips on how to confidently pull off a showstopping violin performance…

Have you ever attended a concert in which the artist sounded better if you closed your eyes? A performer’s stage presence is more important than one might think, as a recent study has shown.

According to research, published in the PNAS journal, participants who were shown silent videos of piano competitions were able to pick out the winners more often than those who could hear the music

What this study proves is that nailing a great violin performance isn’t just about your ability to play the violin. It’s also about how you present yourself on stage.

If your stage presence is struggling, here are some helpful tips on how to nail your next violin performance.

1. Watch Where You Stand

You’re the star, not an extra! Be mindful of where you stand on stage, as your placement affects your sound projection. The violin’s F-hole should be facing the audience to facilitate sound projection.

What’s more, if you’re playing with music, try to keep the stand from obscuring your face. Otherwise it may look like you’re performing for your music stand.

If possible, book some time to play in the venue with your violin teacher present so you can determine where onstage is best for you to stand.

2. Avoid Distracting Behaviors

You don’t want to divert the audience away from your violin performance with distracting behaviors, such as foot-tapping, bobble-heading, breathing loudly, or gazing somewhere conspicuous like a high window or ceiling.

Another big issue is excessive body movement. Movement should only ever serve to match the music. If you feel yourself moving too much, try practicing in front of a mirror.

This will have the added bonus of giving you more stability, especially with shifting and bow technique. You’d be surprised how many people do this. With enough mindfulness, you can even choose to choreograph!

3. Be Cognizant of Your Audience

Always play for the people at the very back of the hall. Things that sound somewhat scratchy or harsh in the practice room can end up sounding passionate and energetic to the audience.

On the other hand, a practice room pianissimo will often not translate well in a hall. It’s not about sounding pianissimo, it’s about feeling pianissimo. Always ask your violin teacher for their opinion.

4. Display Confidence Onstage

Enter the limelight with confidence and bravado no matter how nervous you are. In other words, fake it ’til you make it!

If a violin string breaks or you play out of tune, brush it off. If you carry yourself well in the midst of adversity, the audience will admire you all the more for it.

5. Be Gracious

Finally, after you’re done with your violin performance and people are congratulating you, be gracious and thankful. Even if you think you played badly, you should act as if it went well.

This is not the time to nitpick about the mistakes you made. If you complain, people may end up having second thoughts about their good opinion of your violin performance.

Violin performances can be intimidating. If you can, play for experienced musicians as often as possible, such as your violin teacher. Their views can offer great insight on “stage hygiene” and professional protocol.

Remember that no musician is perfect and every violin performance adds to your musicianship as long as you learn from it!

Untitled design (26)Post Author: Ha-eun R.
Ha-eun R. teaches violin lessons and audition prep in Brookline, MA. She received her Masters in Violin Performance from Boston Conservatory. Learn more about Ha-eun here!

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Expert Tips: How to Play the Violin with Accompaniment

play the violin

Playing the violin with accompaniment can be difficult, as it requires different skills. Below, violin teacher Julie P. shares some expert tips on how to play the violin with accompaniment…

If you want to play the violin with an accompaniment, you might find that there are a few new skills you need to develop.

When you play the violin by yourself there’s no one you need to coordinate with for tempo, dynamics, and rhythm. But as soon as you add someone else to the mix, things can start to get complicated.

Not only do you have to listen to what you’re playing, but you also have to be cognizant of what your partner is playing. Sometimes it’s tricky to line up both parts and make it sound like one cohesive song.

Below are eight songs that demonstrate the different styles and skills used in playing the violin with accompaniment.

1. Setting the Tempo

I’m Yours — Jason Mraz

The first thing you need to determine with your partner is tempo. Oftentimes, the accompanist will begin the song alone with a short intro.

However, if you’re planning to start the song together, you must communicate your tempo beforehand.

The musicians playing this fun Jason Mraz cover demonstrate one straight-forward way of counting off a tune.

Some people count off quietly, while others are so used to playing with each other that a simple breath before the downbeat is enough.

2. Playing to Strummed Chords

Shake It Off — Taylor Swift

One of the most difficult things to learn how to do is play along with the rhythm of strummed chords. Guitarists have different strumming patterns that create different rhythms.

Each song gets its own strumming pattern, which helps create the atmosphere for the music. It can be difficult to know where your violin fits within the strumming rhythm.

To practice this, have your accompanist play his or her part along with a recording of the actual song. This way, you can hear how it fits with your melody line.

You can also ask your accompanist to make a recording of his or her part so that you can practice with it and get used to hearing the two parts meshed together.

3. Using Guitar as a Percussion Instrument

Royals — Lorde

Guitarists can create rhythmic accompaniment by using their instrument as a drum.

In this cover of Lorde’s song Royals, the guitarist uses the heel of his hand to hit his guitar as part of his strumming pattern, which creates a different texture from the times when he’s just strumming.

As a violinist, make sure you lock into the rhythm of this percussive strumming pattern. If you’re having trouble with this kind of pattern, ask your accompanist to make a recording of it for you so you can listen to it and get it in your head.

4. Strumming Without a Chord

Happy — Pharrell Williams

Guitarists can also create rhythmic interest by strumming without fingering any specific chord.

They simply rest the fingers of their left hand on the strings without pushing the strings down. This keeps the strings from vibrating, giving them a metallic sound when strummed.

The guitarist in this video uses a few different patterns with this kind of playing. As a violinist you may feel that there is less harmonic support for your playing when a guitarist isn’t playing a chord, so make sure you’re confident on your part.

5. Broken Chords

Dust In the Wind — Kansas

Sometimes your accompanist will not play strummed chords, but will break up the chords into individual notes plucked one at a time.

There is less rhythmic intensity with this kind of playing, which is perfect for the above cover of Dust in the Wind.

6. Trading the Melody

Stay With Me — Sam Smith

When playing with an accompanist, it’s often effective to step out for a while and let the accompanist take the melody.

For example, pianists can easily play melody in one hand and accompaniment with the other.

A talented guitarist can also do this effectively. The above video shows the pianist taking a turn at the melody in the middle of the song.

7. Creating an Interesting Arrangement

Game of Thrones Theme Song

If you’re covering a recording made by a large group, you won’t be able to recreate all of the musical colors and textures with just two instruments.

However, there are a number of things you can do to make your arrangement interesting and true to the spirit of the original.

The two sisters in the video above do a great job of this. The violinist plays the initial melody first in her low octave, and then on the repeat she plays it up an octave.

In the middle section, the guitarist changes to a broken chord accompaniment pattern to lessen the rhythmic drive, which also brings down the dynamic level. Later on in the song, the violinist uses double stops to create more interest and a thicker texture.

8. End Together

Yellow — Coldplay

There’s nothing worse than hearing a great duo give a fantastic performance and then watching them fall apart at the end because they never decided on an ending!

How you end the song is just as important as how you begin. Oftentimes, a simple ritard at the end of the song is all you need, as shown in the video above.

If you want to get creative, write your own ending or have your accompanist finish with a vamp of the strumming pattern.

Now that you’ve seen what’s possible, go find an accompanist and try one of the above songs. If there’s some other songs that you’ve had on repeat for a while, try your hand at making your own arrangement.

Photo by Ctd 2005

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

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5 Violin Exercises to Help Build Finger Strength

violin exercises

Just like athletes, musicians must build certain muscles to help them better perform. Below, violin teacher Julie P. shares some fun violin exercises that help build finger strength…

Finger strength is very important for violinists. The fingers in the left hand control the pitches on the violin, while the fingers on the right hand control the bow.

For this article, we’ll focus on violin exercises that will help build your left hand finger strength so that you can play in tune as well as any tempo.

Students who haven’t developed finger strength in their left hand often struggle with pushing the string down all the way to the finger board.

When a string isn’t pushed fully down, the tone quality of the note suffers and it can sound scratchy.

This especially becomes a problem when students start using the fourth finger (pinky) as it is one of the weakest fingers.

Finger strength is also important for playing fast. So much is demanded of the left hand for fast passages of music that sometimes violinists will find that their left hand hurts after playing.

It’s important, therefore, to build up the proper finger strength so that you don’t fatigue your left hand to the point of injury.

Below are five violin exercises you can practice outside of your violin lessons to help build finger strength.

1. Four Little Monkeys

For young violin players, the nursery rhyme “4 Little Monkeys” is a great way to develop coordination and initial finger strength.

First, the student holds the violin in proper playing position and taps one of his or her fingers on a string to the beat of the chant.

The number of monkeys determines which finger gets tapped. As the song counts down from four to one, each finger on the left hand gets a turn.

If you’re not sure how the song goes, here’s a reminder:

Four little monkeys jumping on the bed
One fell down and bumped his head
Mamma called the doctor and the doctor said,
No more monkeys jumping on the bed!”

“Three little monkeys jumping on the bed…”

2. Left Hand Pizzicato

A great way to strengthen the third and fourth fingers on the left hand is to play pizzicato with the left hand.

This is usually done with just the third and fourth fingers, and requires a lot of control in those fingers to pluck only one string.

Make up plucking patterns on open strings, or play simple songs and insert left hand pizzicato notes whenever open strings come up in the music.

3. Harmonics

Harmonics are high notes that are created by dividing a string in a certain spot. The way you do this is by lightly resting a finger (usually the fourth finger) in a specific spot on the string without pushing it down.

Practicing harmonics will help you develop finger strength because it requires you to move out of first position, as well as use your fourth finger.

Here’s a quick tutorial on how to play harmonics:

4. Finger Tapping on a Table

Here’s a violin exercise you can do without even using your violin! Try tapping different finger patterns on a table or hard surface, as if you were playing the piano.

Challenge yourself by writing out patterns to tap slow, and then fast. Or, try “playing” some of your music this way.

Try these patterns to start (index finger is 1 and pinky finger is 4):
1 1 2 2 3 3 4 4
1 3 2 4 3 1 4 2
1 4 2 3 4 1 3 2

5. Trills

Trills are a great violin exercise to develop finger strength. To play a trill, you’ll play one note and then quickly alternate it with the note above.

The fast movement of the trilling note will challenge your finger strength. Here’s a quick tutorial on how to play trills:

The violin exercises above will help you build your left hand finger strength so that you can play the violin even better.

If you’re looking for more help with building your left hand finger strength, try asking your violin teacher for some more violin exercises and specific advice.

Photo by Changjin Lee

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

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5 Exercises to Help Reduce Tension While Playing the Violin

playing the violin

Reducing tension while playing the violin is extremely important. After all, relaxing your muscles is one of the keys to producing a smooth sound. Below, violin teacher Carol Beth L. shares five exercises for helping reduce tension while playing the violin. 

Are you having a difficult time perfecting your violin playing? Very often, violin students have trouble producing a good sound when they aren’t properly relaxed.

High-level players learn, among other things, to eliminate tension in the areas required to produce a beautiful sound, such as their bow-arm and bow-hand.

Some, however, may still put themselves at risk for stress-related injuries if they aren’t careful. For violin students, staying relaxed will help them play more beautifully and for a longer period of time.

Below are a few exercises you can do if you feel yourself becoming tense while playing the violin:

1. Shake your muscles out

If you’re feeling tense, put down your violin and shake away the tension. While this exercise seems pretty simple, it gives your muscles a fresh and relaxed start.

Oftentimes, you don’t even realize that you’re tensing up while playing the violin. Making a conscious effort to stop and shake out your muscles will often do the trick.

However, if you’re still feeling strained, try massaging muscles that don’t want to relax.

2. Take it slowly

It’s easy to give into the temptation to rush. Rushing, however, adds unnecessary stress and takes away precious time needed for the fingers, hand, and arm to understand and respond to messages from the brain.

It’s usually only when you are fairly confident that you should speed up. Don’t take this to the extreme either, though. Some types of perfectionists advance more slowly because they don’t realize how much they can do.

3. Position yourself correctly

When a student holds the violin or the bow incorrectly or they have incorrect posture, muscles tend to tighten. Sometimes, this occurs without the student even realizing it.

If you’re having trouble positioning correctly, stop playing the violin and start over, making sure that your bow-arm is in the right position and your standing tall. Standing while practicing rather than sitting can also encourage correct posture.

4. Let gravity do its job

Some beginner violin players will push the bow down on the strings to make a sound. However, it’s more useful to guide the bow onto the strings, allowing gravity to actually do the work.

If that’s difficult to imagine, try thinking about air-bowing in a “u” shape–almost as if the bow is on a swing moving down onto the imaginary string and then back up again.

In doing this exercise, you’re letting yourself follow the arc naturally dictated by the pull of gravity combined with the forward and backward motion of the swing. Once you can do this with your bow in the air, put your violin back up and let the bow catch the string as it moves.

5. Try the ‘baroque’ bowhold

During the baroque era, the bow looked a lot more like a bow with which you might shoot an arrow. It was difficult to hold it close to the frog, so people held it a quarter to a third of the way up. Of course, modern bows are no longer shaped this way, but we can still learn from the basic idea.

First, find the balance point of your bow–that is, the point at which you can hold the bow by the stick with just a finger and thumb and allow the bow to hang horizontally. Visually, it will look like an imbalanced set of scales; both sides will weigh the same, but the side with the frog is heavier and therefore shorter.

Now hold the bow as closely as possible to your regular bowhold and try playing the violin. Chances are it will feel unnaturally light. Once you have played a little bit and moved back to the frog, you may notice that your sound is more open. If you do, it’s probably because your bowhold has become lighter and more relaxed.

If you’re currently taking violin lessons, try out these exercises and see if they help your playing. Some of these exercises I have done on my own for many years; others, I observed through teachers in recent years and then tried out myself.

All of them, however, can help violin students to improve their playing and, very often, can either directly or indirectly help to reduce tension.

Photo by Scott Schram

CarolPost Author: Carol Beth L.
Carol Beth L. teaches viola and violin in San Francisco, CA. She currently plays viola in the San Francisco Civic Orchestra and has been teaching students since 2012. Learn more about Carol Beth here!

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Best Violin Songs and Tips for Wedding Performances

best violin songs

Violinists get ready because it’s wedding season! Below, violin teacher Julie P. shares the best violin songs for weddings as well as some helpful tips and tricks for preparing and performing…

Wedding season is both an exciting and stressful time for violinists. For much of the summer and fall, violinists are in high demand, as the violin is one of the most popular instruments requested for weddings.

If you’ve been asked to play solo or in a larger mixed-instrument ensemble, you might be feeling a bit stressed. After all, you want to make sure the bride and groom’s day goes off without a hitch.

To help you prepare, review this quick guide to playing the violin at weddings and list of the best violin songs.

Initial Meeting With The Couple

Typically, you’ll be asked to play the violin during the ceremony and/or the cocktail hour. Different kinds of music are appropriate for these events, and sometimes clients will even have specific requests.

When discussing the best violin songs to choose ahead of time, try to be as detailed as possible so you can get an accurate picture of what the couple wants.

It’s very helpful to have demo tracks of your violin playing to give to prospective clients. If you don’t have demo tracks, you can use YouTube clips to make sure you’re clear on the style of the music the client wants.

For example,”Signed, Sealed Delivered” by Stevie Wonder is typically played pretty funky, but maybe the client wants a version arranged for string quartet as seen in this video.

Preparation

Some couples will have no idea what violin songs they want played or when they should even be played. In this case, it is very helpful for everyone involved if you have a standard list prepared that you can show them.

For a wedding ceremony, you’re list should include the following:

  • Prelude music
  • Entrance music for the mother-of-the-bride and groom
  • Entrance music for the bridesmaids
  • Entrance music for the bride
  • Special music for the middle of the ceremony (might be hymns that are sung, music played during a unity ceremony, or during communion)
  • Recessional music for the bridal party
  • Exit music for the guests

For a cocktail hour, you are much freer to choose whatever music you like playing. Just be sure to find out what style of music the couple wants you to play. Cocktail hours can run the gamut from classical to jazz to bluegrass to pop.

Contracts

Once you’ve ironed out some of the details, it is always a good idea to prepare a contract that you can present to the couple.

Not only will having a contract make you look more professional, but it’s a great way to protect your time and make sure all parties are on the same page regarding the details of the gig.

If you’re not sure where to start in creating a contract, here’s an excellent example from Shaw Strings.

Presentation

The way you and your ensemble dress is very important. Make sure you ask about the dress code, as every wedding is different. You want to fit in and not distract from the ceremony itself.

It’s also important to have promotional materials that reflect the level of professionalism of you or your group, as well as the range of styles and settings you can play.

These materials will often be the first contact prospective clients have with you, so you want to make sure that your pictures and recordings are as appealing as possible.

Playing Outside vs. Inside

If you’re playing outdoors, heavy music stands and music fasteners are crucial. Almost every violinist has played at a wedding in which their music blew away or their stand toppled over in the wind.

Sometimes such a music fail is inevitable, but be prepared as best you can. Sometimes photocopying the music to put in a binder is best, and clips like these can be lifesavers. Since your instrument is valuable, ensure that you will not have to play in rain or direct sunlight.

Building a Repertoire List

These days, wedding music can range from traditional classical music and hymns, to pop and rock songs. For whatever instrumentation you’re playing with, it’s good to have a wide variety of repertoire prepared.

The more diverse your repertoire list, the wider the range of customers you will attract. If you’re looking to build a great repertoire list, here are 10 of the best violin songs to play.

Classical

Pachelbel’s Canon

Ave Maria, Schubert

Bridal March, Wagner

Air on the G string, Bach

Jesu Joy of Man’s Desiring, Bach

Pop

All You Need is Love, Beatles

At Last, Etta James

Can’t Help Falling in Love, Elvis Presley

What a Wonderful World, Louis Armstrong

I’m Yours, Jason Mraz

Use these tips and the list of the best violin songs to help you prepare for your first wedding gig. Remember, weddings are joyous events so sit back and enjoy your time there!

Looking for even more songs to play? Check out this list of 50 easy violin songs!

Photo by Pbkwee

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

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10 More Helpful Apps for Violinists

apps for violinists

There are mobile apps for just about everything these days–even playing the violin. Below, violin teacher Julie P. shares 10 helpful apps for violinists…

The world of music apps is ever expanding. More and more apps are available to help musicians with everything from music theory to sight reading to organizing practice time.

Specifically, there are many helpful apps for violinists. Whether you’re a seasoned violin players or you’re just starting to take violin lessons, there are tons of apps that can help take your skills to the next level.

Lucky for you, we’ve rounded up some of the best apps for violinists below.

1. Violin Notes Flash Cards

Price: $0.99

The Violin Notes Flash Cards app features flash cards to help users memorize notes and beef up their reading skills.

One side of the card displays the note on the music staff, while the other side depicts what note it is and where to play it on the fingerboard.

2. Fiddle Companion

Price: Free

The perfect app for both fiddlers and violin players, the Fiddle Companion provides users with a wealth of chord charts and scale fingering.

What’s more, it comes with a variety of helpful tools, such as a metronome and a tuner.

3. iReal Pro

Price: $12.99

Don’t have a band to practice with? No problem. The iReal Pro app is like having a band with you at all times.

Download chord charts for thousands of songs or create your own chord chart for a song. Then use the playback feature to pick the style you want your “virtual” band to play and you’ll be off!

4. Voice Recorder

Price: Free

Don’t be fooled by the word “voice” in this app’s title. The Voice Recorder app is great for recording your practice sessions, violin lessons, or even performances.

Use the sophisticated folder system to keep your recordings organized, and access them anytime you want.

5. Baxters Database of Violin Makers

Price: $16.99

If you need to reference a particular violin or it’s maker, then look no further than the Baxters Database of Violin Makers app.

The app is a huge database that includes more than 21,500 violin makers with basic information about each, text from over 2,700 violin labels, and more than 865 pictures of violins.

6. Sight Reader

Price: Free

Are you having trouble learning how to read music? The Sight Reader app, which includes a specialized study course for the violin, boasts several exercises to help you learn how to read music.

Violin students can strengthen your music reading through lessons, flashcards, songs, intervals, rhythms, scales and more.

7. Rhythm Sight Reading Trainer

Price: $2.99

Practice and/or test your rhythm accuracy with real time feedback using the Rhythm Sight Reading Trainer app.

The app has basic to advanced rhythms, a tempo slider, and a learning mode in which you can practice new rhythms by playing right along.

8. Music Journal

Price: Free

Whether you’re practicing with your violin teacher or on your own, the Musical Journal app is a wonderful tool to track your practice sessions and measure your results.

This app has a great folder system for organizing the songs and exercises you practice, and also keeps track of metronome tempos and other notes about your practice sessions.

9. Tempo

Price: $2.99

Tempo, featured in the App Store as a “Staff Favorite,” is a powerful app that has just about every option you could want from a metronome app

Users can create and share set lists with specific tempos for each song, and choose from over 14 sound sets.

10. PlayAlong Violin

Price: Free

The perfect app for violinists, PlayAlong Violin listens to users play and knows whether or not they’re playing the right notes. The music only advances if users play the correct notes and rhythms.

What’s more, learning features, such as fingering charts and note names, help beginners learn new songs.

These are just some of the apps for violinists available. There are a ton more apps that you can leverage to help you practice, learn, and master new violin skills.

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

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