The violin is often considered by musicians to be one of the most challenging instruments to learn. Its roots trace back many centuries and it was clearly a definitive instrument in shaping classical music all over the world. One of the reasons it is considered a difficult instrument to learn is that it’s a fretless string instrument, making violin music notes appear to be inexact, yet fingering must still be done with precision. The reward for learning this sweet-sounding elegant instrument, however, is that it is associated with advanced musicianship and intellect. Here are some things to keep in mind as you learn how to play…
Holding the Bow
While you can learn to play notes on a piano very quickly, violin music notes take more practice, since the sound of the violin depends on how the bow interacts with the strings, whereas a piano is built to naturally sound nice as long as you play the right notes. If you do not hold the bow correctly and apply smooth strokes to the strings, you may hear an undesirable squeaky noise. Once you learn the art of proper strokes, however, you’ll learn how to produce a pleasant melodic sound. Your violin teacher can show you how to hold your bow correctly, which is part of this process.
You should always make sure your violin is in tune before you begin playing! The A string is usually tuned first as a fixed reference, and you can use another instrument, a pitch pipe, or an electronic tuner to do this.
Once you’ve tuned your violin, you can begin learning the notes by using the open strings. The lowest sounding string is G, which is also called the fourth string. The third string is D, the second string is A, and the first or highest string is E. Memorize the pattern G-D-A-E, so that you have a base for learning other notes.
How to Find Notes
Memorizing the location of all the violin music notes is the fastest way to understanding the nature of playing songs. To do this, start by studying diagrams of where notes appear on the fingerboard. A creative way to memorize the notes is to draw your own diagram and keep it with you as a reference. You may even want to create a big chart on a poster board and hang it on your wall.
It’s really not hard to remember violin music notes because it’s just like learning the alphabet, except that there are a few extra sharps and flats to learn. Starting with the open G string, the first fingered note is G sharp, commonly displayed as G#, followed by A, A#, B, C, C#, and D. On the open D string the first position is D#, followed by E, F, F#, G, G#, and A. On the open A string the pattern is A#, B, C, C#, D, D#, and E. On the open E string the pattern is F, F#, G, G#, A, A#, then B.
Melodies are often based on variations of basic note progressions called scales. These scales may seem complex at first, but they are no more difficult than learning the “Do-Re-Mi” song. There are different types of scales for different styles of music, but the famous one from the movie “Sound of Music” is known as a major scale, characterized by a bright, happy sound. A minor scale has a more melancholy sound. Learning scales will help you understand music theory.
Fitting Notes Into Chords
The combination of three or more notes played at once in harmony is called a chord. To memorize these, try studying chord charts to learn which notes belong to simple chords. Every note from A to G# is the root of the chord of the same name. Think of chords as fuller sounding versions of notes that have the same name.
How to Practice
It’s not a secret that the more you practice violin, the better you’ll get! Some great things to practice if you want to accelerate your progress are 1) simple melodies, 2) scales, and 3) sight reading.
- Practicing simple melodies and songs at a slow tempo is the best way to understand and develop rhythm in your bow hand.
- Practicing scales is almost the same concept as learning simple melodies, except that scales are even easier to remember. All scales follow a logical progression of notes that are not far from each other. Try drawing diagrams of various scales on a poster board, as it may help you visualize the scales better.
- Sight reading involves learning how to read sheet music, which includes understanding music theory. This can be extremely helpful and can open your mind to many additional dimensions of music. Sight reading will also improve your ability to learn how to play new songs quickly.
Guidance From a Private Teacher
If you’re serious about learning the violin, the best advice is to work with an experienced teacher; he or she can answer any questions you have about roadblocks in your learning, and show you which specific exercises to practice. It’s easy to get confused when there is so much to learn! Why do it alone? The feedback and encouragement you receive from a teacher can be a huge help.
Once you’ve mastered learning the violin notes, the musical world is your oyster! Good luck, and have fun learning!
Photo by Jorge Franganillo