Learning to play a musical instrument – and finally being able to play all of your favorite songs for violin – is an amazing feeling! However, it can be easy to get caught up in the enthusiasm of learning to play violin songs quickly, and to overlook the important basic step of developing your sound from the very beginning. Nothing will help build these skills more quickly than concentrated exercises; just a few short bursts each day to concentrate on each area will hone the skills you need to play the violin well.
When determining the best violin exercises for your goals, it’s important to be honest with yourself, and identify your weak areas. For example, if you already play another instrument, then exercises designed to improve theoretical musicianship may not be necessary. However, for the beginner violinist, a combination of theory and practical exercises will pay off.
Don’t Neglect Musicianship
If you can’t read music, this is the best place to start. You might think that those marks on the page are unintelligible, and that you’ll never be able to work them out, but it’s just like learning a new language – it takes time! The best violin exercises to try will incorporate reading music, such as identifying time signatures and keys. Your violin teacher can help guide you and show you which exercises to try.
There’s considerable common ground between basic theoretical musicianship and developing a good sense of rhythm. However, unlike learning about keys and notation, your rhythm exercises can be practiced both with and without your violin, and even with and without your bow. Try some of the following:
One of the best violin exercises doesn’t even require your instrument: Take out the music you are practicing, and read through the notation, paying special attention to any difficult areas. Identify whether the notes fall on the beat, on off-beats, or if they are syncopated or otherwise complex rhythms. Take a pencil and mark where the beats are directly on your music.
With your violin (but without your bow), practice both your pizzicato technique and your rhythmic skills by plucking the strings as you read through your music. If you don’t have the best internal clock for keeping a rhythmic beat, invest in a good quality metronome, or download a metronome app for your smartphone.
Finally, add your bow into your rhythm work. Make sure that your bow speed is even, as inconsistent bow speed can affect your tone and the rhythmic pulse of the music.
Put Down Your Bow
Another one of the best violin exercises you can do for finger strength in both hands is to practice your rhythm exercises pizzicato. Scales will train fingers and ears simultaneously – practice changing strings, and also changing positions on the same string. Pay careful attention to your hand position; singers will usually practice in front of a mirror to make sure they aren’t doing anything to cause tension or upset their technique, and this is a good habit for you as a violinist to adopt, too. Flat fingers will not only lead to messy string changes, but will make it harder for you to depress the string enough to get a crisp sound. Keep your nails short, and make sure to use the tips of your fingers.
Pick Up Your Bow
Still looking in the mirror, take a good look at your bow hold – is there enough flexibility in your grip to enable you to play freely? Once you’re sure that you’re holding your bow properly, the best violin exercises for tone involve an even mix of scales and long notes. Try these two:
Using the scales from your pizzicato exercise, first practice by using a single long bow on each note. Start with a down bow, and aim for as even a sound as possible for each note. Repeat the exercise with two notes to a bow (known as “slurring”), then four up and four down (ending with a down-bow), then a single bow for the whole scale, up and down. Make sure your left-hand fingers aren’t sliding between notes (unless that’s your intention!), and that the tone quality is consistent.
Practice long tones – usually the preserve of woodwind and brass players, they can also pay dividends for string players. The best violin exercise is to play a whole note on an open string. The open string will be more responsive to any changes in your bow speed, and you’ll hear inconsistencies quickly. Practice this exercise on first position notes as well, and with equal attention to up-bows as well as down.
All this aside, it doesn’t matter if you’re practicing best violin exercises in the world – if you don’t have a trusted pair of ears to help you, such as a qualified and experienced violin teacher, there will come a point beyond which you cannot progress on your own. A qualified teacher will not only be able to supervise and correct your exercises, but will be able to suggest others that will take you further. It’s important to have a pair of eyes that know what they’re doing as well as a pair of ears – poor bow hold or posture even lead to injuries if not corrected by a professional. Even if you have no intention of taking your playing further than for your own pleasure, or perhaps the local amateur orchestra, it can be frustrating to hit hurdles that you cannot immediately overcome yourself.
Photo by FaceMePLS