In this beginner violin lesson, I’m going to summarize playing the violin in a nutshell. This is a challenge since there are so many things to say, but you’ll understand the important things you need to learn in the first five weeks of playing. Here goes!
Find your Instrument
I’ve seen all the mindsets when it comes to obtaining an instrument. Most want to take the conservative route of “the cheaper the better” until they prove to themselves they deserve more. One thing I’ll tell you is that the cheaper the violin you get, the more likely you are to quit. That is a bold statement, but trust me, it is an accurate one. 9/10 of my students that purchased a nice violin are still with me after 3 years. Only 2/10 of the students that purchased a violin for under $200 are still around.
Let’s Establish Posture
Now that you have your violin, it’s time to learn how to hold it properly. With a proper shoulder rest, you should be able to hold the violin nicely without relying on your hands. Keeping the violin level to the ground is one thing that will take practice. Use a music stand, and point the end of the violin to the left side of the music stand. Now you are ready for success!
Thumb placement is really important on the violin. You should be about one inch away from the end of the fingerboard, right where your first finger lines up. Next, make sure your hand is high enough in relation to the fingerboard. Position the neck in your left hand so it’s resting at the level of the large crease in your palm (near the base of your fingers). The crease where your index finger meets your palm should be just above the fingerboard. When resting on the strings, your first three fingers should form little mountains rising above the fingerboard—the middle bone of these fingers shouldn’t make a flat plain.
One of the most important parts of learning to play the violin is understanding right-hand technique. Make sure you keep your hand as relaxed as possible, and never tense up your muscles to move the bow. The goal would be to use the front of the hand (index finger), to guide the bow. If you use other muscles, you’ll struggle to get a clean sound out of the violin. In fact, using the index finger properly is probably the most important skill to learn as a violinist. It prevents those terrible squeaks from happening, and instead allows the violin player to create a more beautiful sound. This whole process is similar to brushing a feather across the strings. Be very delicate to move the index properly to guide the “feather” across the strings.
Learning how to read music is one of the most useful skills you can develop as a beginner. Without the skill of reading music, you’ll be as lost as a kid who wants to get a good grade in school but doesn’t know how to read/write. It really isn’t as difficult as you might think, and understanding how music notes relate is really the key to success. If you go up one spot from where the music dot is, that means you need to add a musical pitch raise on the violin (go from 1st to 2nd finger). If you think of this way, you will find yourself thinking of how music notes relate to each other, instead of feeling like you have to memorize every single musical letter. Knowing the letters is good too, so working with flash cards is key.
Putting it All Together
If I asked you to tap your head, rub your stomach, and juggle, you would have a hard time right? There are so many things to learn on the violin that the fact of the matter is, even if you know how to play other musical instruments, you are going to struggle. So, the key to this beginner violin lesson, is separating everything into practice segments. Practice the left-hand for about 5-10 minutes (with some drills that I’ll teach you on the site), and then work on right hand drills/technique for the next 5-10 minutes. Then think less about all those technical aspects of playing, and try envision playing on clouds. What I mean by that is don’t think about technique for the last 5-10 minutes, and just think about creating a beautiful sound with whatever your current skill-set is. If you always focus on the technical aspects of playing, you will find that you will become a robot type player, and never become a creative musician.