The violin has many aficionados. Are you one of them? If you are, no doubt, you have good taste! And what’s more, you are in good company – the likes of physicist, Albert Einstein, and former American president, Thomas Jefferson played the violin.
However, playing the violin can seem quite daunting. It is quite unlike the keyboard and piano where you can at least sound out the notes. The violin is a much more complex instrument requiring you to have control, balance, exact placement of fingers, and good bowing strokes and technique before you can sound half decent. So, is there a violin practice routine for beginners that can move them in the right direction? Yes, there is! Towards pursuing excellence in this instrument, you can try these violin practice exercises.
If it has been a while since you played the violin or this is your first time, here is a beginner’s guide to playing the Western violin. Find out all about the parts of the violin, how to hold the bow and violin, how to stand, and the one that foxes even the intelligentsia – how to read basic Western music notations.
Music is a vast ocean and no one can claim to know it all. The more you know, the more you realize how little you know. It is an eternal quest.
– Dr. L Subramaniam, violinist
Practice techniques for Western violin beginners
1. Move the bow up and down each string
Ensure your bow is straight, moving it up and down the open E, A, D, and G string – one string at a time. Try to make sure that your bow moves parallel to the bridge. Ensure your forearm and elbow are in line allowing your wrist and fingers to move the bow up and down smoothly.
Over time, with practice, you will learn to play smoothly and avoid that scratchy sound that comes when you press the strings too hard or too soft or too slowly. This is one of the most basic skills you must master as far as practising violin techniques goes.
2. Adjust your elbow position as you play on different strings
Move the bow across all the strings starting from open string E, along A, D, and finally G. Elevate your elbow as you move across strings.
You can play the bow up and down on each string one by one and observe your elbow position go up as you move from strings E to G. Or you can play all the strings with one up bow and then play them one by one with the down bow. This will give you a good idea of how your elbow position should change.
3. Watch yourself play
Posture is very important with the violin. The position of the elbow will lend flexibility to the wrist enabling you to play more fluidly and smoothly. And for a longer time. It can be challenging at first to maintain the elbow position. A good way to ensure correct posture is to play in front of a mirror. You can then check yourself visually as well as aurally.
The beginning of a beautiful journey is a click away! Join LIVE Western violin classes at SaPa.
Quick tips for beginners of the Western violin
- Break your practice sessions into two 15 minute sessions rather than a half an hour session at first. And practice every day!
- Ensure you fix a time to play the violin. This will ensure you identify that time slot as violin practice time.
- Make sure your bow is always between the bridge and the fingerboard.]
- Keep your elbow position aligned to the string you are playing.
- Avoid hunching – keep your shoulders straight. This will ensure you don’t get back aches with prolonged practice.
- Play with the wrist, keeping it loose – when you need to play fast, hold the bow with fewer fingers of the right hand; it gives you more flexibility.
- Keep your metronome on while you practise.
4. Practise playing on different parts of the bow
It is important to be able to play smoothly and with control on each part of the bow. If you practise this well as a beginner, it will help you as you progress to more complicated lessons farther down the road.
Play up and down each string using different parts of the bow exclusively; first with only the top part of the bow, then with only the middle, and then with only the bottom to make sure that you’re comfortable with all parts of the bow. You might sound scratchy at first. You will get a good feel of the bow and how hard it has to be pressed in each part to get a sweet sound.
5. Spend time reading notation
C Major Scale
Western notation makes most beginners feel illiterate. But, it is just a matter of practice before you will read the minims and quavers just as you did with your A-B-Cs.
Run your eyes over notes before you begin playing every day; don’t count it as part of your practice time. You can at first write the names of the notes below the symbols and then test yourself to read it without the notes. The more often you do it, the more well-versed you will be.
6. Play scales
If you have followed the violin practice exercises 1-5, you are now ready to practise basic scales. Yes, it is exciting because this is the basis for playing songs. So, make sure that you have a very good hold over each of the scales. Some of the commonly played scales for beginners are A major, G major, D Major, and C Major. You could play them at slow, medium, and fast pace. Practising scales can help you
- Improve intonation
- Get your fingering in place
- Play at different speeds
- Correct your bowing technique
Practise scales with a single bow where each note is either an up or a down bow.
Download these FREE PDFs of scales of A Major and D Major.
7. Practise slurs
You can also practise slurs – where you will play a certain number of notes in one bow – like two notes while using the up bow and two while using the down bow. You can slowly increase the number of notes per bow to four and even eight notes. Practise this well as it lends fluidity and melody to compositions. And this will help you farther down the line with classical pieces.
8. Practise mindfully
The question on all violinists’ minds is “How many hours of practice is good?” The answer is dependent on your ability to focus. If you can focus for 1 hour then that should be the length of your practice session. If it is 30 minutes, then that’s good too. Practice . But what you can do outside of playing time is reading notes, mentally going over the lesson you learnt that day, and actively listening to music so you have an eye on the ultimate goal.
9. Practise, practise, then practise some more!
The best advice you will get as far as the violin is concerned (well it is true for all instruments and art forms as well) is that practice makes perfect, so keep at it. There is really no substitute for or short-cut out of it. And when you continuously do it, you will enter a different realm of playing without realising it – a seamless crossover into a beautiful world of melody.
So, enjoy the process and enjoy the struggle too. You know you want to see the light at the end of this tunnel. The results will make everyone sit up, and you come alive! Try it, you will love it!
“I know the most joy has come to me from the violin.”
– Albert Einstein, Physicist
Remember that it takes hours of focussed practice over years to master this delicate but powerful instrument.
“If you learn something slowly, you forget it slowly. If you learn something very quickly, you forget it immediately.”
― Itzhak Perlman, violinist
You can practise as many of these violin techniques as is feasible for you every day. Remember that time is a major factor in practice. If you are able to survive the brutal phase where you will have people looking for a lost donkey in your room (that screechy sound does closely resemble a bray!) and stick around for the hard-earned, sweeter phase where those very same people will gravitate towards your music, you will definitely feel the practice was well worth your time, effort, patience, and dedication.
“The best teacher is the one who himself has had to struggle to learn.”
– Yehudi Mehunin, violinist
It’s never too late! Start out on your journey to the land where fairies inhabit! Join Western violin classes at SaPa now! Don’t be in a hurry to get ‘there’. Enjoy the journey and you will have the time of your life!