So you want to learn how to play violin. Perhaps you've checked out YouTube and followed a few tutorials. Learned how to hold and rosin the bow (ish) and how to assemble the violin (sort of). But what next? Check out this DO's and definitely DONT's from professional violinist and tutor Iona Catherine to avoid a few classic beginner's mistakes and get ahead in your violin learning quest.
✅ Set out your goals...
Why do you want to play the violin? To hit up your local folk club? Jam in a band? Join an orchestra? Learn that cool Beethoven Op.5 theme? Or the intro to Britney Spears' Toxic? Or even Oh Danny Boy? Whatever it is, have a goal in mind. Write it down and stick it on your music stand to remind you why you're spending all this time learning scales and exercises and bring positivity back into the room.
❌ Put this (or any other version!) dreaded fingerboard sticker on your instrument...
This 'handy' (NOT!) finger placement sticker for your violin fingerboard seems too good to be true... and it is. Unfortunately every violin neck is a little different in length. So it is highly likely your sticker will be totally inaccurate meaning your muscle memory will at some point have to be completely relearnt. Oops! I am surprised how many of my students turn up for their first lesson with this on the neck. And it's not easy to get off either. AVOID. AVOID. AVOID.
✅ Grab a couple of violin apps...
Tech is, indeed, the future. Download a tuning app and a metronome app. You can generally find them for free on any App Store. They often work just as well as their physical counterparts for beginner violinists. Set up the tuning app to help you get the violin strings in tune (G D A E) as well as learn where to place your fingers. And use the metronome to help you keep in time if you are struggling with your rhythm. Woohoo!
❌ Forget about the tension of your bow hair...
Violin bows are delicate and will lose their tension if you don't loosen the hair at the end of each playing session. For maximum care of your violin bow ensure the hair is loose and floppy before you put it away, although not so loose it will catch easily!
Equally, you can bend the wood (or carbon fibre) of the bow out of shape if you make the hair too tight. You want to be able to place your index finger easily between the wood and hair in the middle portion of the bow. If the gap is much larger on a regular basis then don't be surprised if the bow begins to look a little out of shape after a while.
✅ Buy a violin stand...
Grab yourself a violin stand. It makes it easier to remember to practice - as well as to admire your precious instrument - if it's on display. Try to grab one with a bow holder as well as an instrument holder. It practicing, as well as showing off your new skills, far easier if you can pick up both components in one. Just don't forget to dust off your violin every so often!
❌ Play without a proper shoulder rest...
A sponge and rubber band just isn't really going to cut it. Your body needs to learn the correct position for the violin to sit on your shoulder. A good shoulder rest is designed to help you do just that, and much more comfortably than no rest or a sponge. They're not particularly expensive, check out my favourite range by Wolf here.
✅ Practice for 5 mins daily...
When you're just starting out practicing little and often is by far preferable to irregular long practices. Just 5 minutes a day will develop your muscle memory allowing you to play in tune and with gusto much more quickly. Therefore, allowing for a much more satisfying learning experience. Violin is haaaaaard! But oh so worth it. Keep at it. You got this. And if you feel frustrated, put the instrument down, and do something else for a few hours. You'll feel better about it later. I promise.
❌ Trust everything you watch on YouTube...
Not everyone on YouTube knows what they're talking about. If you watch some tutorials and just don't get anywhere with your violin progression it's probably because you're following bad, not detailed enough, or not personalised, advice.
✅ Find a tutor...
A great violin tutor will help you hold the instrument properly, get a great sound, learn to read and play music, develop your musicality, and more in a way that is enjoyable and personalised to you. The violin is a complicated and beautiful instrument. Going it alone down the self-taught route is absolutely possible but will make the process much slower and harder. Why not check out our bespoke 1:1 online or London violin lessons here at learnhowtomusic.com. First lesson always free with professional, fun, and experienced tutor Iona Catherine. See you there!
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