It’s not difficult to be inspired by an instrument as beautiful and interesting as the violin.
Whether it’s the perfectly coordinated bowing of the string section in a philharmonic symphony orchestra or a particular piece which showcases the violin (such as Vivaldi’s Spring from The Four Seasons), the violin is truly mesmerising.
Are you thinking about learning to play the violin? Learning how to play the violin from scratch can be daunting.
So, what do you need to bear in mind as a beginner violinist? Are there any top tips on violin for beginners to help you along the way?
If you or your child wants to start taking music classes but you’re in-the-dark about what to expect, Superprof is here to help!
How do you take care of a violin? What will I learn in my violin lessons? Can you gain qualifications in a musical instrument?
This guide to learning the violin will answer all of these questions and more!
First Impressions: Get to Know Your Instrument
Going to a specialist music or violin shop to get your very first violin can be quite daunting if you’re not already familiar with the instrument.
The first thing any new violinist should know is that violins come in a range of sizes. Why? Because the size of a violin affects a musician’s ability to play it properly and comfortably.
Violins usually come in six different sizes for beginners, which are denoted by fractions ranging from 1/16 size to 4/4 size (or full size).
Your violin will be matched to you based on the length of your arm: with a violin of the correct size, you should be able to comfortably hold the scroll of the violin in the palm of the left hand.
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So, once you’ve brought your instrument home, what should you do next?
When you open up your violin case, you’ll find your violin as well as your bow.
The first thing you should do is look closely at the way in which the violin is fitted into its case. The padding in musical instrument is shaped to keep instruments cushioned yet secure – so it’s important that you know how to properly put your violin away after your practice sessions.
Another top tip is to avoid touching the hair of the violin bow with your hands! The horsehair that violin bows are made from is very absorbent, so dirtying it with oil from your hands will affect the quality of the sound it produces.
Musical instruments, and string instruments in particular are fragile, so knowing how properly take care of it as well as learning how to set up your violin is essential (the experts in music shops can help you with this).
You will learn about maintaining your violin at an early stage in your musical instruction. The first thing you will be taught is tightening and loosening your bow before and after playing the violin.
Tighten the screw at the end of the bow until you feel some resistance but the horsehair is not taut. Next, apply rosin to the bow. Rosin helps the bow grip to the violin strings to produce a sound, rather than simply gliding over them. It comes in block and powder form and can be bought in most musical instrument shops.
Once you can have finished playing your violin, loosen the horsehair before putting the bow back in the violin case.
It is also a good idea to wipe down your violin with a dry cloth. This will help prevent the build-up of dust which can affect the instrument’s performance.
Your violin teacher will be the best person to advise you on getting to know the smallest member of the family of stringed instruments, whether it’s making practices more comfortable with a sturdy chair or finding a good shoulder rest to fit to your instrument, or any other violin equipment you might need.
Violin Lessons for Beginners: What Can You Expect?
If you’re a complete newbie to the world of violin music lessons, it may seem mysterious at first, but never fear! Superprof is here to tell you what to expect in your violin lessons.
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So, what usually happens in music lessons?
Each violin lesson will usually be divided into three main sections:
- Warm up
Just as you would do before playing a sport, you need to warm up and check your tuning before you attempt to play pieces on your violin.
Warming up is about getting your brain in music mode and making sure that you’re in the right frame of mind to practice and learn.
For violinists, warming up usually consists of quickly running through scales and experimenting with the bowing to create a legato or staccato sound, or even putting down the bow and plucking the strings with your fingers, which is called pizzicato.
Quickly running through your violin scales will warm up your fingers and jog your memory as you recall the key signature and notes for each scale.
If you’re a complete beginner, some of this musical jargon may seem like a foreign language – but don’t worry! Your violin teacher will quickly be able to teach you about what these words mean.
Technical exercises usually follow warm ups. Exercises are all about getting you used to handling your instrument and developing muscle memory for tricky combinations of notes which are common in solo and orchestral pieces (such as chromatic scales and arpeggios).
Once you have properly warmed up and your brain is in gear, you’ll be ready to start working on your pieces!
Your violin tutor will set you several pieces to work on over the course of a few weeks. The objective of working on pieces is to develop your sense of rhythm, musicality and performance skills.
As a complete beginner, the pieces you are assigned will only be short at first, but you can expect to be working on about three pieces of music at any one time. For example, after your first few lessons you might be given Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, Au Clair de la Lune and Ode to Joy to work on at home.
The pieces you are given are to be practiced at home. Practicing the violin on a regular basis is essential if you’re serious about making progress.
Once your teacher feels that you are on the right track, they will suggest that you prepare to take exams in the violin.
Musical examinations are not compulsory for those who are learning for enjoyment, however, preparing for them is a great way to ensure that you are constantly advancing in your learning.
ABRSM music exams are rated in difficulty with a system of grades ranging from Grade 1 to Grade 8.
Every year, new pieces and requirements are assigned to each grade in the music syllabus you’re your teacher will have plenty of previous examination material to help you practice before you delve into your own pieces.
In order to fulfil the requirements of the syllabus, you will need to select three pieces to play by choosing one piece from each of the three lists in the ABRSM syllabus. Usually, two of the pieces will have a piano accompaniment, and the final piece will be a study or etude (performed without any additional accompaniment).
Don’t be put off by the idea of searching for violin lessons near me because of music exams. Remember: they’re not obligatory and they’re not as scary as you think!
What Will You Learn in Beginner Violin Lessons?
Before you become a violin virtuoso who can sight-read any solo by Vivaldi or Paganini, you’ll need to master the basics of playing the violin.
Playing the violin is about far more than producing a good sound and being able to play your scales incredibly quickly.
Regardless of your objectives when it comes to playing the violin, if you’re going to get anywhere in your musical career, you need to lay the groundwork.
Thankfully, by taking violin lessons, you’ll be introduced to and immersed in the world of music from day one.
The first thing you learn is likely to involve learning how to hold the violin and bow properly.
Your violin teacher will show you the correct position for holding the violin’s bow as well as where you should position your hand on the neck of the violin to be able to reach the fingerboard.
Getting into good habits at an early stage in your learning will help you avoid problems with your posture, intonation, fingering, vibrato and placement later on in your progress.
One of the most important things you will learn in your music lessons is how to read music.
If you don’t already know how to read musical notation, you’re probably aware of how it looks – and learning what the blobs and sticks mean will help you make sense of it!
The musical notation on violin sheet music may look complex at first, but your violin teacher will help you learn to play it one note at a time.
In addition to the notes on the stave, you’ll also need to be able to understand musical directions in pieces, which take the form of symbols and words.
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It may surprise you to find out that the worded directions are usually in Italian. This means that you’ll have to learn to understand a few words of Italian such as crescendo and andante to be able to fully understand how you should be performing the music.
If you decide you want to learn violin, you'll find that's it's a challenge, but it is incredibly rewarding. So, regardless of your age, experience and confidence, if you dream of taking up the violin, what’s stopping you?