The violin is one of the most beautiful (and one of the most difficult to learn) classical instruments. After all, it’s the instrument that most media uses to indicate how smart someone is. “Oh, they’re in AP classes AND play the violin? That’s Harvard material,” you most certainly hear someone saying somewhere. But what if I told you that learning how to play violin isn’t as impossible as it seems?
Well, I’ve got great news: It isn’t as impossible as it seems!
Anyone can learn to play violin. All you need is patience, passion, and most importantly, pragmatism.
That last part is extra important, because you need to be real with yourself on how much work you’re willing to put in. Learning to play any instrument takes time and dedication no matter what you’re trying to learn, but with this guide, I hope to make the process a bit easier and more accessible for beginning string players everywhere!
Violin Basics for Beginners
Picking the Right Violin
Let’s start with the foundation: The violin.
The Mendini Full Size Solid Wood Violin Kit is really the place to start, because it has everything you need to get going - a tuner, a beginner lesson book, rosin polish, extra strings in case you get a little too crazy, a shoulder rest, a bow, AND a case with a satin finish. It also comes in different colors, which I found to be a perk I didn’t know I absolutely needed until I saw it. (A purple violin for beginners? Sign me up, baby!)
Now that we’ve got our violin, let’s get familiar with it! It’s important to understand the basic parts before we learn how to play violin.
Let’s start at the top - the scroll is the decorative top piece of the violin. Following that are the tuning pegs, which are vital to the overall sound. They rest on the peg box, which is attached to the neck, fingerboard, and upper bout. It then thins out at the waist, which brings us down to the F holes and bridge. The lower bout holds the fine tuners, tailpiece, and chin rest. The four strings (tuned in 5ths: G3, D4, A4, E5) are attached at the end near the fine tuners.
Fun Fact: Violin strings used to be made out of sheep gut, which is completely insane.
Starting to Play
Time to rock n’ roll, my friend. We’re almost ready! Make sure you have all of your equipment ready! Again, the Mendini Violin set for beginners should have everything you need.
- Tighten your bow by turning the end screw clockwise until the space between the hair and the stick is big enough to pass a pencil through cleanly, from tip to tip.
- Rosin the bow by gently but vigorously rubbing it up and down the length of the bow 3 or 4 times.
- Tune the violin using your tuner. The strings, in order from lowest to highest, should be tuned to G, D, A, and E. If the tones still seem off, you can use the fine tuners at the bottom as well.
- Grip the bow by using the balance point and even out the weight. Lay the middle part of your index finger on the grip, and place your pinky on the flat part of the stick close to the base (keeping it slightly curved). The ring of your middle fingers should rest in line with the tip of your pinky, and their tops on the side of the black piece that connects the tightening knob to the hair. Rest your thumb underneath the stick or near the hair.
- Hold the violin by standing or sitting with a straight back. Bring the butt of the instrument up to your neck, rest your chin on the chin rest, and hold it in place with your jaw.
- Position your hands by holding the neck steady with your thumb. Allow your four fingers to arch over the fingerboard.
- Play the strings by placing the flat side of the bow hair about half way between the bridge and the fingerboard. Pull the bow along the string as straight as possible, parallel to the bridge, and apply a small amount of pressure. It should make a sound!
You’ve done it! You’ve learned the beginning steps on how to play violin! Was it super easy? No. Did it sound great? Maybe not. But you’re LEARNING, and that’s the most important thing. Now let’s get into some more complicated stuff.
Violin for Beginners: Dos & Don’ts
Here are some excellent tips on what to do and what not to do with your new musical companion.
- Set up a regular schedule to practice. While playing the violin isn’t as impossible as it seems, it will be impossible if you don’t practice it regularly.
- Develop good practicing methods and techniques, which you can find here.
- Take the time to relax your fingers and stretch, otherwise you might hurt yourself.
- De-tense your muscles, and make sure you’re not gripping the instrument with any tension. Maybe relax by getting a glass of water or listening to some Enya.
- Forget to perform your finger exercises! Your digits need some love too.
- Ignore your form (drooping your back or shoulders, slackening your hold, etc).
- Expect mastery overnight. I mentioned at the beginning that pragmatism here is important - you can do this, but it will take time.
- Forget to tune your violin!
- Stop exploring new sounds and ways to learn to play violin. One of the most fun parts of learning something new is exploring it on your own.
Common Questions for Beginner Violinists
Well, we’ve mastered the basics of violin for beginners, but you still might have a few personal questions or you’re still a little nervous. I was prepared for that, and have listed some commonly asked questions that will hopefully ease your frayed violin playing nerves.
Can I Learn Violin at 30?
Ab-so-lutely. You can learn the violin at any age, whether you pick up the bow at 30, 50, or beyond (100 might be pushing it, but I can’t say it’s not possible). That being said, time management may be an issue for you as a working adult. However, the key to this is to make shorter practice sessions count. Get a private instructor and record private lessons and play them back in your car or during a workout to remember what your instructor told you!
Can I Teach Myself to Play Violin?
Yes! “But I can’t afford a private instructor, Ms. Blog Writer!” you’re saying to me in your head. Well stop that, because it’s okay if you don’t have the time or money for an instructor. You absolutely can teach yourself by using online violin apps and instruction blogs (like the very one you’re reading, right now!). YouTube is also an incredible resource to learn to play violin for beginners of all ages.
How Many Hours a Day Should I Practice Violin?
10 to 20 minutes daily is great for younger learners to learn violin at a steady pace, but works for adults as well. That being said, it depends on how quickly you want to progress!
Practicing at all is helpful, but the more you practice, the better you’ll get. After you feel comfortable, try doing 10 to 20 minutes twice a day. 20 to 40 minutes is even better for younger and beginning learners.
For fast and steady progress, 1 to 2 hours a day is recommended. You can do scales, exercises and etudes, and work on any beginner songs in this time.
Now that you have your equipment, basics, and answered questions, you’re ready to go. Stay confident and keep practicing!
Contributing Writer: Aurora Detor