Guide to Playing the Violin: Where Should I Start?

Guide to Playing Violins: Where Should I Start?Playing an instrument is something many people long to be able to do well. Music sooths the soul, and there is just something inspiring about being able to play songs on your own! If you’re ready to get started, then here are some tips for playing the violin:

 Getting a Violin

First things first: you’ll need an instrument! Think about whether renting or buying a violin is a better option for you, as well as if you’ll need a professional or student violin.

If you’re in it for the long haul, then you may want to look into purchasing a violin rather than renting one. However, you’ll want to be careful not to spend money on a cheap violin that will only disappoint you. Size, quality, maker, and seller can all affect the cost of a violin, so do some research before setting your budget aside.

It’s best to go to a local music shop to purchase your first violin, as you can try out different styles and sizes. If possible, bring an experienced violinist or your violin teacher with you to help! Buying a violin online is also an option, but be cautious and make sure to look at their return policies before purchasing.

Selecting a Bow

Most violin dealers (luthiers) sell the bow separate from the violin. You will need to test out the bow as well as the violin to see how they feel in your hands and what they will cost you. The bow will need to be stable, flexible and balanced. This might be difficult for a beginner to measure, since you have not spent time with any bows in the past. The hairs should be new, evenly colored and bright. You will not want to touch the bow hairs with your fingers, since the oils from your hands will disrupt the ability of the bow to get the best sound from your instrument. Again, taking along a violin expert would be very helpful in the purchasing process!

 Your Equipment

Once you rent or buy your violin, you might also consider these additional violin accessories:

  • Shoulder rest

  • Chin guard

  • Rosin (for your bow)

  • Protective carrying case

  • Electric tuner

Setting Goals

Next, you’ll want to set up goals for yourself to ensure progress. Try listening to solo violin music to get used to the sound, and pick out your favorite songs so that you have a direction to go with your teacher and motivation to get to that level. You will also need to set aside scheduled, uninterrupted time in each day to practice your violin.  Your teacher will likely give you specific exercises to practice between each lesson, but don’t be afraid to speak up if you want to play other things or aim for different goals! Your teacher is there to help – and you should be having fun along the way, too!

 Finding a Teacher

While websites and YouTube videos can be a great resources for finding violin tutorials, it’s always best to work with a private instructor for one-on-one violin lessons. A teacher can make sure you’re working at the right pace, give you valuable feedback, and answer your questions in real-time – an invaluable resource that websites simply can’t offer! Playing the violin doesn’t have to be challenging, as long as you have the right kind of support and guidance – and a private violin teacher can give you that.

 Beginner Basics

So, what exactly will you learn when start playing the violin? No matter what style or songs you enjoy, there are some beginner basics that every violinist must learn. First you’ll learn how to tighten you bow, apply rosin, and properly hold the instrument. To do this, the fingers of your right hand lightly, but firmly, grip the bow and your left hand cradles the neck of the violin, while the base rests under your jaw. You’ll also need to learn how to tune your violin and general instrument maintenance.

Next, you’ll master determining how much pressure to put on the strings and where the bow is placed for specific notes. Practicing long-tones, playing only one string at a time, will help with this. Your violin teacher will guide you through these exercises and can offer feedback and tips.

 Remember, the best violin players didn’t get there overnight, so don’t get frustrated by these simple lessons when you’re first starting out! Practicing scales and long-tones may not be the most fun exercises, but they are imperative to improving your sound, tone, and technique. Getting through the first part of playing the violin is the only way to move on to the more exciting music that you are itching to play. Enjoy!


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Photo by by Pete + Lynne

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