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5 Violin Tips for Beginners

The violin is a beautiful instrument with the ability to express an incredibly wide spectrum of emotion, but it can take a while to mold the sounds in the ways that you want.

Today we’re talking about violin for beginners — how to build your technique and have fun in the process.

How to Hold the Violin

The first task at hand is how to hold the violin. This can feel a bit awkward at first, but the trick is simply to relax, noticing the muscles of the neck, shoulders, and arms. Lift the violin, externally rotating your arm (hitchhiker’s thumb), and place the chin rest under the left corner of your chin with the shoulder rest against the left shoulder.

If you’re using a violin without a chin rest and shoulder rest, your left arm will be externally rotated slightly more (as in a bicep curl), but the contact points for the chin and the shoulder will be the same.

How to Hold the Bow

When you’ve found a balanced, effortless position for your violin, you’re ready to address the bow grip. There are several techniques, but the main idea is to establish balance in such a way that the hand and arm are supple but able to apply additional force as it is required.

Place the tip of the thumb just inside the top edge of the U-shaped bend on the frog of the violin bow. The frog is the black piece at the bottom end of the bow. This thumb contact point is your base of support, and the weight of the bow will be balanced with the help of the remaining fingers.

The 4th finger contacts the bow at the screw at the end of the bow, curving slightly inward with the natural bend of the finger. The screw is what adjusts the tension of the bow hair, which affects the sound produced and the pressure required from the bow hand.

The remaining three fingers curve gently back towards the 4th finger at the screw. Please note that you should be able to balance the bow in front of you primarily using the thumb and 4th finger.

The index, middle and ring fingers provide support and control in the form of counterbalance and downward pressure on the strings, but are not the main stabilizers. The middle and ring fingers will form a loop with the thumb, on opposite sides of the bow.

Bowing Technique

Now that you’ve got the bow hold down, you’re ready to start playing open strings. This process can be slow at first, but just know that focusing on quality form in the beginning will pay huge dividends down the road.

The biggest problem for beginning violinists is allowing the tip of the bow to drift sideways during the bow stroke, creating an angular friction point and “screeching.” Therefore, you’ll need to make sure that your bow is always vibrating the string you’re playing by crossing it at a perpendicular angle.

The tricky part about keeping the bow perpendicular to the strings is that your eyes will produce a sort of optical illusion due to the difference between the closeness of the eyes to the contact point and the distance of the right hand. Here’s where the bowing motion comes into play:

The elbow is the main point of flexion for the bow stroke. As the elbow lifts the arm on the upstroke, the wrist bends towards the little finger (ulnar flexion). As the elbow lowers the arm on the downstroke, the wrists bends toward the thumb (radial flexion).

Because it’s crucial to develop proper bow technique, you may want to consider violin lessons here, so you can record yourself and get some much-needed feedback to get you started right.

Adding Left-Hand Notes

Left-hand notes begin in first position, which is the space on the fingerboard that can be naturally reached by the first four fingers without moving the hand. Play the open 1st string, then place the tip of the 1st finger about inch up the fingerboard, just past the nut. This is the note F#.

Move ⅛ inch higher (approximately — you’ll hear the difference if it’s out of tune) using your 2nd finger this time. That’s G#. Then place the 3rd finger right next to your 2nd finger. That’s A. Finally, rotate your wrist slightly toward the pinky, dropping it another ⅛ inch or so higher. That’s B.You now have the first five notes of the E Major Scale, which includes all left-hand fingers. We’ll discuss how to work with this scale below.

Putting it All Together

Practice alternating the notes mentioned in the previous section, listening for intonation. If you’re flat, move the index finger closer to the body of the violin. If you’re sharp, move it closer to the scroll.

Also, the previous suggestions to slide the finger ⅛ inch are only approximations. In fact, as you move up the fingerboard (higher in pitch), the scale becomes increasingly smaller, which is the case for all fretless and fretted instruments.

Start practicing with a metronome at a slow tempo, first with downstrokes on each scale note, the upstrokes, then alternating. After you’ve mastered one bow stroke per beat, you can experiment with eighth notes, although it is always recommended that you practice new subdivisions on open strings first.

That’s all for today on violin for beginners!

If you found this post helpful and want to learn more about violin technique, please check ArtistWorks’ violin lessons for support!

Good luck!

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