Violin is a beautiful instrument. The serenity as well as the power of its sound is unparalleled in the music world. Even with a relatively small range, we are immediately mesmerized by the intensity with which the violin evokes emotions.
Learning it, however, isn’t that easy. Like all good things in the world, the violin’s unique ability isn’t spoon-fed. Years of practice and refining goes into producing the effect that the instrument has. Violin is my personal favorite instrument, and in this article, we will discuss how you can start learning the violin and maybe even master it one day.
1. The basics of learning any instrument
This section isn’t specific to the violin and will apply to any instrument in general. There are certain things you need to keep in mind in the beginning stages so that you are successful in your instrument-learning journey.
- Don’t delve too much into the theory, unless you specifically want to learn theory.
- All instruments have a basic skill level that is easily attainable, aim for that rather than mastery in the beginning.
- It is absolutely essential that you practice every day or at least 6 times a week without fail. This is even more relevant in the beginning stages.
- With string instruments, it is completely normal to have pain in your fingers. Do not be demotivated by this, it will get better with time.
- Frustrations are a very big problem while learning an instrument. You should find ways to calm yourself and not give up. Maybe take up meditation!
2. Checklist of supplements you need to buy
Playing the violin is a very uncomfortable business. If you don’t follow strict guidelines, not only will playing be difficult, you will also experience pain in your shoulders, hands, and body. Hence, only buying the violin is not enough. There is a list of other things that you need to conveniently play the violin.
- Music Stand: You can generally find this in any music store. Refer to our list of stores in Nepal
- Rosin: This usually comes with your violin, but the quality of default rosin is meh, to put it mildly. You can buy branded rosins in music stores that will result in a better sound.
- Shoulder Rest: This isn’t a necessity per se, but if you are practicing long hours, you will need this for comfort and to avoid shoulder and neck pain.
- Armless chair: Standing up and playing can be very tiring. A good solution is an armless chair without wheels. This will ensure enough space for bowing while keeping your body rested.
Bowing more effectively
The violin’s bow is very intricate and can be very difficult to manipulate effectively. Most beginners get frustrated by this, and without proper guidance, e develop poor bowing habits that will haunt them for a long time. To avoid this, here are some steps you can follow to use the bow more effectively.
3. Taking care of your bow
- Apply rosin before each, or at least every other session. With time you will be able to figure out when your bow desires rosin, but as a beginner once every practice session is a good amount.
- Tighten you bow time and again. The bow usually gets loose after playing, you should hence check it every now and then to see if it’s tight enough.
- Re-hair your bow every year. While higher quality bows may need re-hearing every two years, most bows found in Nepal wear out after a year, especially if you are a heavy player.
4. Bowing techniques
- Your elbow should be at right angles. You can use a mirror to check that your upper arm, lower arm, and the bow form a square.
- Bow from the middle of your bow hair. Controlling the top and bottom are often difficult and placing it in the middle gives you the maximum flexibility
- For beginners, it is best to keep your bow flat on the strings. Don’t try to tilt your bow until you are relatively comfortable doing so.
5. Tuning your violin
Violin uses two types of tuning, the traditional string tuning and fine-tuning. Ideally, you will want to avoid the latter as much as possible. However, you should be careful not to turn the knob too much.
Violin stings are very sensitive, especially the first string, and they break easily. It is alright to fine tune comfortably as a beginner, though you will want to learn to avoid it later on. Turn the tuning knob very slowly and steadily until you feel like you can’t reasonably tune it without the fine tuner. Then move on with the fine tuner and tune your violin.
Fingerings are important
Beginners tend to focus on notes, especially when reading sheet music, and ignoring the fingerings. In reality, though, it is much easier if you focus on fingerings and developing your fingers itself.
6. Focusing on fingers
Violin doesn’t have clear note markings and you will often find yourself playing the wrong pitch. That is completely okay, just try to get a feel of how and when to quickly move fingers on and between strings. You can always figure out the notes later on. Besides, unless you are a prodigy, you aren’t expected to play the right notes until at least 3-4 months of learning the violin. Don’t sweat it too much, just try to get the correct fingerings.
7. Placing note markings
Since the violin doesn’t provide any guide for notes whatsoever, beginners find it frustrating to not be able to play correct notes. This can be simplified with note markings. Here is an article that will help you find this. After you have correctly put down the markings, you will have a much easier time navigating through notes and can hence focus more on fingerings.
This is a temporary solution though and is meant to give you an idea of where notes are placed. BE mindful of where your fingers are in the entire fretboard and try to memorize those positions. Ideally, the marking should be off after 6 months.
8. Other things to focus on
- Unlike the guitar, the violin repertoire is much easier to learn if you have a knowledge of sheet music. You should aim to learn both sides by side so that you won’t run into problems later.
- I’ve said this before, but notes shouldn’t be your focus in the beginning stages. Don’t be discouraged if you repeatedly hit wrong notes.
- The sound of the violin often takes years to develop properly. IT will definitely sound like dying cat noises, and it’s completely normal.
- Try not to change violin strings yourself. Since they are so sensitive, more often than not, you will break them. Consult a professional instead.
9. Why most people fail to learn an instrument
This section is common for all instruments, so the same applies to guitar too. If you are interested in that, check out our guide on learning guitar. These reasons are common, and this section is meant to help you avoid them.
Here, I have listed some points you need to be aware of so that you can avoid these in practice.
- Lack of structure and schedule is the main reason people lose motivation and discontinue learning.
- The need to master something is also a barrier to learning. You should focus on reaching a level of basic ability in the beginning phases.
- The clear structure of what and when you are going to learn an instrument is also necessary to keep you on track.
- Lack of proper materials for learning.
Some solutions for the problems that may arise are laid out below
- Create a clear 45-minute schedule each day for instrument practice alone.
- Never skip a day, no matter what, you will feel even more unmotivated the next day and the cycle goes on.
- Necessary materials have been provided in this article for comfortable playing.
- It is important not to be frustrated and stay calm. The process is at fault, not you.
These strategies will certainly help you play and learn the violin more conveniently. Especially if you are learning on your own through the internet, you will need to keep these in mind. Without the guidance of a teacher, bad habits develop easily, and these strategies will help you avoid that. Finally, remember that the violin is a very difficult instrument to learn and it is important that you don’t become discouraged when you don’t see instant results. Happy learning!