Learning to play the violin: everything you need to know!

Aesthetic violin

You would like to learn an instrument and are thinking about starting to play it? Then you are right here! We present you the most important facts, advantages and accessories of the violin and give you some practical tips along the way.

Why learn to play the violin?

The violin is a great and versatile instrument! But why exactly should you start playing the violin??
The main reason to start playing should of course always be the fun and love of music. But in addition to that, there are even more reasons to play the violin.

A big advantage is, for example, that the violin sounds good as a solo instrument, but also in groups. So you can make music alone just as well as with others.
It is also very practical that the violin is so small. Unlike, for example, the piano, the violin does not take up much space in a room and you can transport it quite easily.
It has also been proven that playing the violin can increase fine motor skills and coordination, especially in children.

The violin has a reputation among many for being very difficult to learn to play. It’s probably because hitting the right notes is actually a matter of millimeters. But once you get to grips with it, the whole thing will eventually work itself out. So here the motto is: "Practice makes perfect".

There are of course many other individual reasons to start playing the violin. For example, I wanted to start because my favorite character in a book also played the violin.

The violin – brief historical overview

The violin as we know it today was invented around the 16th century. Developed in the twentieth century.
Of course there were similar predecessor models in the past. The aim of the further development was to make the violin sound louder so that it could be used in an orchestra.

Famous violin makers, such as Stradivarius, actively influenced the construction of the violin at that time.
Until today the basic structure of the violin has remained almost the same.

Violin structure

A classical violin is usually made mostly of wood. To give you a rough idea of how a violin is built, let’s just start at the top:

Violin neck

The complete upper part of the violin is called the neck. This can be divided again into several parts.

Violin construction

The structure of a violin

At the top is the scroll. This is what the decorative twisted element at the top of the violin is called. It dates back to the baroque era.
Underneath are then the pegs in the pegbox.

The strings of the violin are attached to the pegs. There are four strings with the fundamental notes G, D, A and E. You can tighten the sides by turning the pegs. The more tense the side is, the higher the tone will be then. So the pegs are important for tuning.

Underneath is the fingerboard. This is the part of the violin on which the fingers are later placed.

Body

The body of the violin is the soundbox. The vibrations of the strings are amplified by it, which makes the great sound of the violin.

The slots to the right and left of the strings are called f-holes. This improves the sound quality of the violin, because the air inside can circulate better.

The strings are guided over the wooden bridge in the lower part of the violin. This has small notches so that each string stays in place and the proper spacing is maintained.

There are four fine tuners on the so-called tailpiece, the black part of the violin where the strings end. These can also influence the tuning of the strings, but are, as the name suggests, even more delicate than the pegs.

Finally, below is the chinrest on the violin. This is where you rest your chin when playing. Chin rests come in different varieties so that everyone can find the chin rest that best holds the violin for them.

When to start?

To start with: you can start playing the violin at any age!
Depending on the music school, children can start playing the violin from approx. 4 years old start learning the instrument of their choice. But it is also possible to join later without any problems!

Personally, I started playing the violin at the age of six. Before that, I spent a year at the "early musical education", where you had the opportunity to try out different instruments.

"If you didn’t learn to play an instrument as a child, you can’t make up for it in adulthood"… Unfortunately, many adults think like this, which prevents them from finding a new hobby. But that is not true at all! Even adults without any previous experience can learn to know and love the violin from scratch.

The music lessons are of course adapted to the age of the child, so you don’t have to be afraid that you will suddenly be treated like a five year old again.

Close up of a violin

The violin is a beautiful instrument that can be learned at any age

The different types of lessons

In what form is it best to take violin lessons??

Group lessons

Especially for children, many music schools offer group lessons with other children in the beginning. The groups usually consist of 2-4 children. This has the advantage that the children can motivate each other, make music together and have fun. For the music teachers it also has the advantage that they can teach several children at the same time the basics, which are the same for all of them anyway.

For the first two years I was in a group with three other children, which then split into two groups of two.

Individual lessons

After another two years, our violin teacher then suggested moving to private lessons. After a few years, this usually makes more sense, since the performance levels of the students usually differ. In addition, the teachers then have the opportunity to respond more precisely and individually to the problems and wishes of the individual, so that everyone is supported in the best possible way.

If you already have experience or just start lessons as a teenager or adult, it can also be helpful if you can be tutored 1 to 1 right from the start.

Online lessons

Of course, there is also the possibility to teach yourself how to play the violin with the help of online courses and video tutorials.

Learning the basics in this way from the beginning is very complicated and difficult. In addition, basic mistakes can quickly creep in, which then solidify over time, since you have no one to point out these mistakes to you.

But if you already know how to play the violin and you want to continue your education or start again after a longer break, online courses can also be an option.

Different violin sizes

Since there are different sized violin players, there must of course be different sized violins. The "standard violin", i.e. the largest violin, is the so-called 4/4 violin. The smaller violins are then given as gradations. These are explained in more detail in the table below.

The size of the violin depends on the length of the player’s arm. In this table we have shown a rough orientation. But it’s best to get your own advice before you buy a violin.

Violin sizeArm length in mmAge
1/16 ca. 350-430 3-5 years
1/8 ca. 430-445 4-6 years
1/4 ca. 445-500 5-7 years
1/2 ca. 500-560 6-8 years
3/4 ca. 560-600 7-10 years
4/4ab from approx. 600 from 9 years

The small violins, however, have the disadvantage that they cannot produce as beautiful tones as the larger ones due to their small volume.

The first violin

If you want to start learning to play the violin, you will of course need an instrument as well. Since good violins can be very expensive, you should first consider whether it makes sense to buy your own violin.

For the beginning, many instrument stores, music schools or even online stores offer rental violins. So you pay a small amount every month and can try out the violin in peace and quiet to see if you enjoy it in the long term. If you are then sure, you can often buy the instrument in question.

Especially with small children it would be a waste of money to buy a violin directly. Since they are still growing and therefore need a new violin every few years anyway, renting is the optimal solution.

If you are sure that it would be cheaper in the long run to buy your own violin (this will usually only be the case after several years), you can go directly to a music store and get advice there. It also has the advantage that you can try out different instruments directly.

There is also the possibility to order violins online. Of course, it is important to find out beforehand exactly what kind of violin you want. Also, make sure that you can return your instrument if necessary, for example, if you find that you don’t like the sound.

Violins

There is a violin for everyone

Violin accessories

In addition to the violin itself, you need some accessories to get you started right away:

Bow

Probably the most obvious accessory is of course the violin bow. Sure, without it you can’t play the violin either. The bow consists of a bow stick and is strung with (horse) hair. The hairs can be tightened and loosened by a simple turning mechanism, depending on whether you are using the bow or not.

By the way: The upper end of the bow is called the "tip" and the lower end the "frog"

Shoulder rest

The shoulder rest can be clamped to the underside of the violin, i.e. where you will later rest the violin on your shoulder. It is padded and thus ensures an optimal hold of the violin between the shoulder and chin.

Violin case

A violin case is indispensable for safely storing and transporting the violin. The case should be stable and well padded. It also offers space for the violin, one or more bows. Depending on the model, there is also a small compartment for accessories such as pencils or even an outer pocket that can hold sheet music.

In addition, violin cases have several carrying straps, so that the violin can also be hung over the shoulder.

Rosin

Rosin, also called bow resin, is obtained from tree resin. It must be applied regularly to the bow strings, because this gives them a better adhesion to the sides, which in turn makes for more sonorous tones.
How often you have to apply rosin depends on how much you play.

Tuner

Violins should best be tuned before each playing, because for example temperature fluctuations can quickly affect the violin. Since very few beginners can hear without help whether a string is correctly tuned, it is advisable to purchase a tuning device. This shows you if the page is tuned correctly, too low or too high, so that you can correct it without any problems.

Cleaning cloth

Mainly because of the rosin, which comes off by playing, but also because of normal dust, when the violin is lying around open, the violin gets dirty fast. That’s why you should always have a soft cloth handy to clean the violin regularly.

Music stand

Music stands are not directly necessary for playing the violin, but most violinists have them at home. With a music stand you can always place the notes at eye level. This helps especially with a good posture when playing the violin, because you don’t have to bend down to see the notes on a table, for example.

Types of music

The great thing about the violin is that you can play a variety of pieces from many different musical genres on it. Besides classical music classics like Mozart or Vivaldi, you can also play modern pop pieces, Christmas songs, rock pieces or film music on the violin. There are also many easier arrangements of famous pieces for beginners.

Many music books are sold with an accompaniment CD, which supports the player and adds background to the music.

An artist who proves again and again how versatile violin music can be is David Garret. On his albums you can find a selection from Beethoven to Nirvana. Here is a small example:

Violin in the orchestra

The violin also plays an important role in the orchestra. In most orchestral pieces, the first violin plays the melody part, the main part.
Violins are also divided into several voices within themselves: The first violins set the tone, so to speak, and the second violins support by providing accompaniment and background music.

If the basics of violin playing has learned, there are also for beginners numerous orchestra offers. I myself played in the orchestra of my music school and in the school orchestra. You get to know new pieces, you get to know the sound of your violin together with other instruments and you can just have fun while playing. Because the best thing about the orchestra is that if you lose your way, at best no one will even notice.

Violin in the orchestra

The violin plays a big role in the orchestra

Tips for practicing

With the violin, as with most other instruments, the principle "practice makes perfect" applies. Because let’s be honest, you won’t be able to hit every note from the beginning and you won’t be able to play symphonies at the beginning. But you will be able to do it, if you keep at it! The most important thing is not to be disappointed if you don’t get everything right from the start.

In addition, regular practice is very important for the violin. If you go to violin lessons once a week, for example, and then practice what you have learned at home over the next few days, you will already have a good foundation. Of course, it would be best if you spent a few minutes every day with the violin, but that doesn’t have to be the case. So do not stress yourself unnecessarily. Playing is still a hobby and should be fun.

Of course, it can also happen that you don’t feel like practicing at all. These phases are also completely normal. Then the best thing to do is to simply overcome your inner obstacle and get started. And you will see, once you have the violin in your hand, the motivation will come back.

And finally, the most important thing: don’t put yourself under pressure by comparing yourself with others. Even if it takes you a few weeks longer to get the new piece right, it’s still a great success. Find the tempo you feel most comfortable with and just have fun!

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