Posts

violin techniques

5 Violin Techniques Every Beginner Should Master

violin techniques

Are you new to playing the violin? As a beginner, it’s important to create a strong foundation of which you can work off. Below, violin teacher Montserrat P. shares five violin basics every beginner should master…

Congratulations! You’ve been introduced to the wonderful art of music through one of the most beautiful instruments, the violin. As you continue to discover this wonderful instrument, it’s important to slowly build your skill set.

After all, learning to play the violin can be intimidating at first, and you don’t want to get overwhelmed by learning too much too fast. Below are five basic violin techniques every beginner should master before moving onto more complex techniques.

Double Stops

The string family can do something that not many other instruments can: play two notes at the same time. Composers take advantage of this special quality very often, which is why it’s so important that you work on it from the early stages of your musical development. To master the double stop technique, start by playing only the lower pitch. This will help your left-hand muscles memorize exactly where the note is, giving you the basics to build the rest of the chord.

Once you’ve settle your lower note, repeat the process with the upper pitch. When your left-hand has learned all of the notes, start playing them together. At this stage, pay special attention to the bow. Is the hair touching both strings? Can you hear both notes with the same level of clarity? One last piece of advice: be patient. Double stops are a major part of violin playing, and they require continual practice and hard work.

Left-Hand Articulation

Articulation is the clarity of sound with which you define each note. While a lot of it is generated using your right hand (i.e. bow hand), your left hand also plays an important role. Left-hand articulation will be particularly useful at moments when you’re playing several notes under a single stroke, like runs or grace notes. Here, you can’t use your bow to clarify the beginning of every note; therefore you use your left hand to make sure each one is clear and defined.

To develop this skill, you need to get into percussionist mode. Your fingertips will become your sticks, and the fingerboard will become your drum. Start with your index finger by moving it from the base, rather than from the tip. Make sure you can hear a percussive sound when your finger hits the wood. When you’re done with your first finger, move on to the next one, and repeat the process until you have practiced articulating with every finger.

Be careful. If you overdo this, you’ll not only diminish the quality of your sound, you’ll also jeopardize your muscles. An injured musician is an unhappy musician; so take care of yourself!

Trills

If you haven’t listened to Kreutzer’s Etude No. 19, you should do it before you read this. All my advice on this technique will be more useful if you’re familiar with trills beforehand. Trills are ornaments to a note that consist of playing the pitch above the base by moving your finger up and down as quickly and precisely as you can. What’s complicated about trills is getting a full, in-tune sound in such little time.

So, how do you do this? Let me introduce you to the metronome. Start by turning it to a slow tempo (60 bpm is a good starting point). Begin by playing two notes per beat, making sure you’re moving your finger from its base, just like you did when practicing left-hand articulation. Once you have mastered two notes per beat, move to three, then four, and so on, until your rhythm becomes an ornament.

You don’t have to go through all of these steps in one practice session. Perhaps one week you do only two notes per beat; then the next week you move up to three and four. The most important thing with trills is to take it at a pace that will allow you to be consistent.

Vibrato

Vibrato and trills are cousins, the only difference being that vibrato uses one finger and plays with a little more speed. When you vibrate, you’re letting the one finger you’re playing with move back and forth from what we will call the base contact point ( i.e. the place in the fingerboard where you place your finger to play a specific note).

The trick to getting a nice vibrato is to control the speed in which you vibrate. To do this, first identify where your vibrato is coming from. Is it the elbow, the wrist, or the knuckle? Once you have figured that out, you will then turn to your metronome. Just like you did with trills, start by slowly playing two notes per beat, then three, then four, and so on and so forth, making sure that you’re playing your base note and the note below it.

Also, practice vibrato at different speeds. During your musical development, you will come across many different pieces that will require you to vibrate slower or faster to achieve the character and texture the composer wants. Don’t focus on only one speed vibrato; rather, train your hand to vibrate at any pace, so that you’re ready when a song requires a slow, fast, or middle-speed vibrato.

Spiccato

Even though this is a slightly more advanced technique that you probably won’t use for a while, if you master it now, you will be way ahead of the game when it comes to standard repertoire.

When you do a spiccato stroke, your bow should be jumping from the strings pushed by your right-hand articulation. By pressing down with your right index finger, your bow will then go up and off the string, then come back down and repeat the process. The two most important things about your spiccato are your right-hand fingers and the direction of your bow.

When practicing this stroke, make sure to start by getting your bow-hand knuckles loose. Moving the smaller parts of the fingers will allow you to have a better control over your bow once it starts jumping off the strings. Also, be very aware of the direction of your bow. The hair is supposed to be moving parallel to the bridge, rather than back and forth between your face and your left hand.

One extra bit of advice…

Violin requires a lot of effort and time; that little piece of wood is going to be one of your worst enemies at times. All those hours you spend in the practice room fighting with your instrument over one passage will be worth it when you get on stage and perform for your audience, whether it is a 200-person theater or your seven-year-old cousin.

Just remember what made you want to start taking violin lessons in first place; think about where you want to go, and relish the precious moments music will give you. Now go get your music, your metronome, and your violin, and start practicing!

Montserrat P.

Montserrat P. teaches violin and music theory lessons with TakeLessons. Originally from Costa Rica, she is now completing her studies at Interlochen Arts Academy in Michigan. She is bilingual in English and Spanish, and has been teaching music lessons since 2012. Learn more about Montserrat here!

 

 

Interested in Private Lessons?

Search thousands of teachers for local and live, online lessons. Sign up for convenient, affordable private lessons today!

Newsletter Sign UpPhoto by Philadelphia Youth Orchestra

 

violin techniques

Violin Techniques: How to Get a Stronger Bow Arm

violin techniques

Do you want to improve your violin skills? Bow arm movement and direction are important violin techniques every beginner should master. Below, violin teacher Julie P. shares some tips on how to get a stronger bow arm… 

In violin playing, the bow is what creates the sound. The bow arm has two basic movements: moving the bow vertically between strings, and moving the bow horizontally across strings. In order to achieve a beautiful tone, these movements must be understood and continually practiced. Below are some tips and tricks to help you develop a stronger bow arm.

Vertical Movement Between Strings

Due to the curved shape of the bridge, the four strings on the violin are in the shape of an arc with G at one end and E at the other. In order to get the bow to come in contact with all four strings, the bow arm moves higher and lower, with the movement originating from the shoulder. The arm is held highest when playing on the G string, and lowest when playing on the E string.

Even though this motion comes from the shoulder, it’s important that the wrist and elbow follow along and remain in the same plane as the shoulder. For example, if a board was placed on top of your bow arm, all three joints should touch the board.

Practice Exercise:

Place your bow on the G string with your bow arm held high. Make sure your elbow is not drooping. Rock the bow downward to the D string, making sure the whole bow arm moves as one unit. Continue to A and E. Then, rock back in the other direction to A, D, and G, making sure the elbow rises along with the wrist and shoulder. You can use a mirror to make sure the different parts of your arm are moving together.

Horizontal Movement Across Strings

Horizontal movement across strings takes much more practice to master. This is because bowing parallel to the bridge requires movement from the shoulder (upper half of the bow), elbow (lower half of the bow), and flexibility in the wrist. The goal when bowing is to keep the bow parallel to the bridge, which provides the best tone quality and most control over the bow.

Practice Exercise:

Long tones are great for developing your ability to hear the nuances in your tone. Without using a mirror, play long notes of at least four slow counts, using the full length of your bow. Aim for an even sound from frog to tip. You’ll find that the pressure and arm weight needed to maintain a steady tone will change depending on which section of the bow you’re using.

This may seem like a boring exercise, but if you do it for two to three minutes a day over the course of a few weeks, you’ll notice a big improvement in your sound, as well as in your ability to hear different elements in your sound.

More Tips

Once you have the basic bowing motions down and you’re able to keep the bow parallel to the bridge, you can start to work on different violin techniques that will increase the control and sensitivity in your bow arm. Here are some additional tips to getting a stronger bow arm:

  • Slurs: Slurring requires even pressure and movement from your bow arm while you’re moving the fingers on your other hand to change notes. Use a scale you’re comfortable with, and slur two notes at a time. Listen to see if both notes have the same tone quality to them, and whether your bow changes are smooth between slurs.
  • Tenuto slurs: Again, using a scale you’re comfortable with, bow four notes at a time in the same direction with slight pauses between each note. This tests your ability to start and stop the bow cleanly.

Practicing the various exercises above are beneficial to players of all skill levels. By breaking down the bowing motion into individual elements, you can focus on perfecting specific movements. Although these exercises are effective, the best way to get a stronger bow arm is to work with an experienced teacher who can identify the unique ways your bow arm can improve.

JuliePJulie 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 Master’s in Music Performance from New Jersey City University. Learn more about Julie here!

 

 

Interested in Private Lessons?

Search thousands of teachers for local and live, online lessons. Sign up for convenient, affordable private lessons today!

Newsletter Sign UpPhoto by Hen3k Hen3k

violin techniques

5 Violin Techniques You Didn’t Know Existed

violin techniques

Do you want to liven up your practice routine and add new sounds to your existing repertoire? Violin teacher Julie P. shares some new violin techniques that will take your playing to the next level…

As a beginner or intermediate violinist, you’re probably familiar with the basic bowed sound of a violin. However, there are a number of other techniques you may not have heard of yet. Today’s more modern composers are continuing to come up with new bowing techniques to create new and exciting sounds. Below are five violin techniques you should consider trying during your next violin lesson or practice session.

1. Sul ponticello

In normal violin playing, the bow is placed halfway between the bridge and the fingerboard. When a passage is marked sul ponticello, the bow is moved closer to the bridge, or sometimes even right on top of the bridge. This changes the way the bow causes the string to vibrate. So, instead of getting a full tone, the higher harmonics come out. The resulting tone is raspy with an eerie element. Violinists can control which harmonics come to the front of the sound by altering the bow pressure on the string. Listen to a demonstration of sul ponticello in the video below.

2. Sul tasto

In playing sul tasto, the bow is moved in the opposite direction of sul ponticello so that it’s over the end of the fingerboard. This creates a softer, more ethereal sound that can be used for delicate sections of music. This placement of the bow cuts out some of the high harmonics to emphasize the low harmonics. Listen to a demonstration of sul tasto in the video below.

3. Col legno

Col legno – which is translated to “with the wood” – calls for the bow to be turned upside down so that the wood of the bow (not the hair) comes into contact with the strings. If the composer is calling for long bowed notes with the wood of the bow, it’s called tratto. If a more percussive sound is desired, the violinist would strike the string with the bow, also known as battuto. The battuto version can be heard around the 9:16 mark of Hector Berlioz’s Symphonie Fantastique in the video below:



4. Spiccato

In the spiccato stroke, the bow actually comes off the string between bow strokes. This is often referred to as “bouncing the bow,” even though the player’s bow movement is horizontal rather than vertical. Spiccato is usually performed in the middle of the bow where there is even weight on both sides of the contact point, allowing the greatest control over the bow. The tension on the bow hair causes the bounce. Many beginner violinists find that the bow naturally bounces on the strings, until they learn how to control the bow enough to keep it from bouncing. Listen to a demonstration of spiccato in the video below.

5. Ricochet

This technique – which is also referred to as jete – means to bounce the bow rapidly while moving the bow in one direction. Ricochet bowing can be performed at different speeds, determined by the part of the bow that is played. If you “throw” the bow near the middle balance point, it will bounce slower than if you use the upper half of the bow. This technique is used for staccato notes that are all to be played in the same bow direction. Listen to a demonstration of ricochet in the video below.

 

These five violin techniques are only a few of the unique methods violinists use to make different sounds on their instruments. There are even more ways to play with the bow and make use of the space behind the bridge, the fingerboard, and even the back of the violin. Using the bow in different ways adds a fun element to playing the violin. If you’d like to learn some of these violin techniques, you might want to consider taking violin lessons with an expert teacher.

JuliePJulie 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!

 

 

Interested in Private Lessons?

Search thousands of teachers for local and live, online lessons. Sign up for convenient, affordable private lessons today!

Newsletter Sign Up

Photo by Flood G.

Best Places to Find Easy Violin Sheet Music Online

Top 5 Websites for Easy Violin Sheet Music

Top 5 Websites for Easy Violin Sheet Music

 

After weeks of practice, chances are you’ve nearly perfected the beginner songs recommended or required by your teacher and you’re looking for something a bit more challenging. Or perhaps you want to try something different other than a nursery song or scales. If you’ve reached the point where you want something new to supplement your regular lessons, there are several helpful websites that offer a wide range of easy violin sheet music.

Whether you want something contemporary,  classic, or just a slight change from the usual, spend some time combing through the following five websites. Note: If you’re at an intermediate level, the last three websites will give you the challenge you need to keep your interest in violin piqued.

Violinsheetmusic.org

Violinsheetmusic.org is at the top of the list not necessarily because it is the best, but because it has nearly 90 songs that are basic and very recognizable. From Christmas to American patriotic songs, the easy violin sheet music selection will help reinforce the early techniques of fingering and bowing. Because the songs are extremely familiar, you’ll be able to tell when you’re hitting the right notes and when you need to work on your fingering a little more.

Fretless Finger Guides

Another site for beginners, Fretless Finger Guides gives you more than just easy violin sheet music. The website provides additional instructions for each of the songs presented. While it has a very limited selection, the songs give you much easier versions of much more difficult songs, such as Fur Elise and Scarborough Fair. Ultimately, it can be a much more rewarding experience as you work toward transitioning beyond basic songs.

8notes.com

8notes.com offers different levels of violin sheet music, according to both skill and genre. If you choose to select music based on skill level, you’ll get a long list of songs within various ranges, including beginner, easy violin, intermediate, and advanced. If you don’t want to comb through a long list of mixed music genres, you can either select a type of music from one of the tabs at the top of the level page or you can choose from the main page. The various genres listed include wedding music, Christmas, world, and film.

Musicnotes.com

All of the sheet music on musicnotes.com will cost you between $2 and $5, depending on the song’s popularity. For example, Let It Go is available for download at $4.25 because it’s currently the No. 1 downloaded song  on the website. Musicnotes.com is wonderful if you know what song you want to practice. All you have to do is simply enter the information in the search and adjust the skill level of the sheet music, located on the right column.

Virtualsheetmusic.com

Another site that requires payments per downloaded song, virtualsheetmusic.com makes it easy to look up songs based on either your skill level or the song you want to download. Like musicnotes.com, it offers a much wider range of songs than the free sites previously mentioned. So, if you’re willing to pay a small fee, you can find the right song for your current mood or desired level.

Let’s face it, repeatedly playing the same kinds of violin songs and scales can turn practice into a chore. By leveraging the aforementioned websites, however, you can find easy violin sheet music to make practicing more interesting and fun.

View all Takelessons.com Free Sheet Music Resources.

Interested in Private Lessons?

Search thousands of teachers for local and live, online lessons. Sign up for convenient, affordable private lessons today!

Free TakeLessons Resource

Photo by jrossol