Big list of violin tips, tricks, common mistakes, bad habits, good habits and more.
Don't leave you violin or bow in the sun! Careful leaving them next to windows where the sun may pass during the day.
It will take years to master the violin so be patient.
If you aren't confident using the tuning pegs, ask someone with more experience (such as a teacher, shopkeeper, or violinist friend) to do peg tuning for you. It's easy to snap violin strings (especially steel core strings) by turning them too far on the pegs, which is both irritating and time-consuming to rectify.
If you're short on money, you can get a violin online for less than $100. Old-timers will hate this tip, but the fact is Chinese factory built violins are getting better and better (mine is amazing) - so long Suzuki monopoly, welcome to the future!
If you're having trouble getting clean transitions between notes, make sure you place your finger on the string fast and take it off fast. If you don't, you'll get weird sounds in between notes. Be careful not to squeeze the violin, or tighten up your hands though - fast, not hard.
As a beginner, get into the habit of regularly checking how you are holding the bow (i.e. your 'bow hold'). Keep you thumb bent so that the bow pivots on it like a see-saw.
Perform Vibrato Without Assistance. The student must be able to perform the vibrato motion in first position without any crutches or external aids. If the student must still rest the wrist against the violin shoulder and perform the vibrato movement in fourth position, then the student is not ready to reap the benefits of this exercise. Once the student is able to perform vibrato, even slowly, in first position, then I think it is time to introduce this exercise. (From 'Teach Suzuki'
Common Mistake: Violin pointing down towards the ground, and / or gap between violin button and neck
, making it look as if the violin is slipping down towards the ground. Also known as "shooting ants" and "sinking Titanic". This disease is quite common, and causes tiredness due to an imbalanced posture with too much weight thrown forwards. The bow starts to drift into the fingerboard area and a noticeable drop in body tone results from not having a stable, horizontal platform for the bow to lean on. Bowing becomes slow and cumbersome because of the extra burden of the shoulders and head which should be held slightly back to counterbalance the weight of the violin and our arms. In this picture a 3 year old holds his violin in a healthy horizontal position. You will find buttoned collars most uncomfortable when trying to hold the violin as closely as possible. You must wear comfortable clothes which do not impede a naturally close contact with the violin. As to keeping the violin horizontal, a bad posture is to lean forwards slightly in the same direction as the violin thereby adding more weight to that side of the body. In order to counterbalance the weight of ones arms and the violin, one should lean slightly backwards and look slightly upwards, thereby lifting the position of the violin to horizontal, and also assuming a healthy upright position especially especially good for the chest. (From Leonid
Your jaw, just under the earlobe (not your chin), is supposed to be resting on the chin rest. This helps prevent the instrument from sliding off your shoulder. (This is also why violinists on TV always seem to be looking down and to the right.
Make sure you use the lower part of your bow (near where you hold it - at the frog). When the frog gets close to the strings of you violin, there should be pressure on your pinkie to counter-act the leverage caused by gravity on the other end of the bow. If there's not pressure on your pinkie, you're not doing it right.
Instructions unclear... Dick stuck in violin
Dragging of one upper note to down lower note. How to study them ?
Dragging of one upper note to down lower not. How to study them ?your bold text here**
Keep your left elbow (the one holding the violin) away from your body in a comfortable position. Don't ever rest it against your body.
The left wrist should be neutrally aligned with your left arm (i.e. not bent). Also, until you begin playing high up on the fingerboard in advanced positions, it should not be touching the violin.
It's hard to see mistakes you're making when you can't actually see yourself. Practice in the mirror. Or record yourself on camera. If you don't have any full lenght mirrors or any space in your bathroom area, try waiting until night time to practice and practice in front of a window. Windows make excellent mirrors when it's dark outside!
Don't squeeze or choke the violin! It may not seem like a big deal now, but this can develop into a really bad habit later - keep your thumb and index finger relaxed.
Don't let your left hand sag underneath the violin - keep it curled over the top so your fingers have easy access to the strings.
Regarding the hand that's holding the violin neck: Make sure you've got a decent sized gap between the violin neck and the fleshy valley between your thumb and index finger. The violin should sit just above your thumb joint.
When learning vibrato, start on the A string. I generally practice vibrato exercises on the A string for several reasons. I think the hand placement and finger usage on the A string are less stressful all around than practicing on the D and G strings, although those can be future exercises. But, for learning how to do this exercise, I anticipate that the student will be spending a great deal of time on this exercise on a daily basis, and therefore I would wish the student to perform the exercise on the least stressful string area. The E string is fraught with difficulties in that it requires extreme vigilance that the left hand remains at the correct height, and I find that students may not be as vigilant about this matter as I am. So, I ask my students to stick to the A string. (From 'Teach Suzuki'
When learning vibrato, begin with the ring finger. I ask my students to begin with the ring (third) finger. As I stated in previous posts, for some reason this finger seems to be the “smartest” concerning vibrato movements. Perhaps it is because it has the best potential arch and springiness in the joints and finger shape. The middle or second finger might also be good since it is a strong finger, but sometimes students have difficulty letting the middle finger joints be loose and easy enough for good vibrato motion. The index finger in its “square” position is a tense posture, and generally most students have difficulty doing vibrato with this finger for this reason. The pinkie finger is the weakest finger, so I save this finger for later, sometimes encouraging the student to try vibrating with both the ring and pinkie fingers together. Sometimes this works for me and sometimes not. (From 'Teach Suzuki'
Use Two-Tone Vibrato:
The vibrato movement should produce the sound of two pitches, or two-tone vibrato as Ed Kreitman (Teaching from the Balance Point) calls it. Therefore, if I vibrate the note D in first position on the A string, my vibrato should alternate between D and the C# that is one-half step below D. One good reason for using the following exercise is to help the student to maintain the full range of vibrato motion between the two tones. Because the exercise starts with the slowest speed, the teacher and student can monitor whether the student is correctly performing the exercise. (From 'Teach Suzuki'
Index finger should be lightly touching:
My mother used to give me butterfly kisses at bedtime. She would place her eye close to my cheek and she would flutter her eyelashes. This would create the sensation that a butterfly was kissing my cheek with its wings. I often demonstrate this butterfly kiss sensation with my fingertips on a student’s check or arm to show them how lightly the index finger should be touching the violin. The hand should be free to brush along the violin neck with a space of about the width of an onion skin between the neck and the hand. (From 'Teach Suzuki'
Don't go too fast with your vibrato. Allow enough time between oscillations to get a good range
During vibrato, avoid finger tightening:
I look to see that the student is actually loose in the finger knuckle joints. If the student is harboring any tension, I will see it when the student’s finger does not extend and loosen with the vibrato motion. If the student’s finger retains the same shape throughout the vibrato motion, then the student is usually harboring unnecessary and inhibiting tension. (From 'Teach Suzuki'
During vibrato, avoid all tension in the left hand.
Common Mistake: Feet not aligned or not lined up.
The feet should be placed in a normal manner, not twisted around each other. One must play standing with equal weight on both feet. Each foot to be placed under each shoulder. The feet should be parallel, as if standing on a railway track. When lining up along a line, the tips of the toes should touch the line. There are different stances, but this one is known as the practice stance. (From Leonid
**Common Mistake: Not using the whole bow, and a general lack of bowing freedom thereby not reaching neither the heel nor the tip of the bow. One must have the ability to use the whole bow even if a piece does not require it. Scales, slurred or separate, must be played with 100% of the length of the bow. It is harder to reach the heel than the tip of the bow, because the lower half of the bow is harder to master. It involves accompanying the right hand with the elbow, moving the upper arm freely. If shoulders are tense, then the upper arm does not swing freely in the shoulder socket, and the lower half of the bow becomes awkward. The first signs of a pupil not using bow right up to the heel is a greasy bow without much rosin at the heel. Make sure you rosin your bow and use it right up to the heel. (From Leonid
**Common Mistake: Right hand little finger not bent causing harsh cords, abrupt bow changes at the heel or not reaching the heel at all. In addition, this defect will cause the right hand to "lock up" losing its flexibility. If the little finger is straight, one can liken it to a toothpick ; brittle, week and inflexible. This is most important when trying to adhere to the string with softness and suppleness in the lower half of the bow. In fact the little finger should always be bent for maximum control of the bow. For instance, placing the bow on the strings at the very tip is harder with a straight little finger than with a bent one. (From Leonid
**Common Mistake: Right thumb not bent, or bent in the wrong direction. The thumb plays a major role in adhering to the string. A straight or "wooden" thumb won't accompany the bow as it travels across the string. The thumb must touch the bow in between the leather guard and the frog. It should actually come into contact with the wood of the bow. A very useful preliminary procedure is to try out the bow hold on a pencil. A pencil is much lighter and easier to hold than a bow, so the general shape of the hand is easier to understand. The thumb should bend just like my thumb in this photo. Turning the bow upside down is an excellent way to check up on the thumb and see if it is bent in the right direction. The article on détaché has more information about the thumb. (From Leonid
**Common Mistake: Compare these two pictures. The palm of the left hand should never touch the underside of the neck. Some beginners use this method to prop up the violin, but it greatly inhibits a correct vertical finger mechanism. The hand and forearm should form a near perfect straight line. A slight inward bend of the hand ( the palm bending slightly in the direction of the player's nose can be a good thing ). A pointy wrist bending away from the player is a very strained position of the left hand, and should not be used. The left picture is good and the right picture is incorrect. (From Leonid
**Common Mistake: 1st finger not in tune ( or not on dot ). The first finger is often played out of tune especially once the student has progressed on to the 4th finger, and somehow has become careless about the tone between an open string and a first finger. There are those who place it sharp and those who place it flat. An incorrect first finger can compromise the correct intonation of every subsequent finger used because it really affects the placing of the whole hand. A first finger should also act as an anchor, firmly keeping its place when 4th fingers and stretches are used. (From Leonid
**Common Mistake: Upside down bowing. ( No this isn't playing with your bow upside down ! ) rather, it's when you bow an up bow instead of a down bow, or a down bow instead of an up bow. Firstly one must be clear about a down bow ; it travels from left to right, in the same direction we read a book. An up bow goes from right to left, and usually goes up if we are bowing on the A or E strings. On the D and G strings the bow will seem quite horizontal. Keeping the same bowing ( and fingering ) in a piece is the only secure way of avoiding muddles and uncertainties. It is the only way to learn a piece by heart, and eventually, if your teacher has chosen excellent bowings and fingerings, correct bowing will show you the way to play with a great style. I never allow a student to "get used" to an incorrect bow direction. (From Leonid
**Common Mistake: Jerky bow changes. The bow change should always be smooth and slow. One must not change bow direction with a sudden impulse, as the string vibration will become upset and the bow will loose adherence, and a disturbing noise will be heard (From Leonid
**Common Mistake: Not placing and drawing the bow. The bow must not "crash land" on the string from above as a note is started. It must rest firmly on the string, even with a little weight before it is neatly draw, in firm contact with the string. The habit of starting from mid air can cause the bow to bounce upon impact, and will also probably produce a scratchy and harsh start to a note, which may be difficult to recover from. Always "Place then draw". Never draw the bow unless it is perfectly stationary, sitting on the string. I notice the defect of "crash landing" never occurs with students who start with me ( unless they have suffered external contamination ). I do, however, find it common with students who have not started with me, and wish to start their piece with an impressive bang - which is really nothing more than a percussive, and noisy habit. It does not impress. A note should be "attacked" from the string. (From Leonid
Buy full size. The violin is a small instrument, but there are specially designed smaller sizes available. These are generally only intended for very young children, so be sure the violin you're buying is full size unless you're very small. You can ask the shop for a recommendation if you aren't sure. You can also ask the shop to measure your arm length to see what size violin you need.
Bows wear down over time. You can get your bow re-haired for a small fee at most music shops.
Some violinists, especially beginners, purchase a shoulder rest, which is a violin-width pad that sits on your shoulder underneath the violin and makes it easier to hold. Many people start with a shoulder rest and eventually remove it after a few years. If the violin seems to dig into your shoulder when you play, consider purchasing one.
You should tighten the bow hair until the hair is about a pencil's width from the wood. Don't use your pinky finger as a gauge because the oil from your skin will transfer to the the hair, which needs to remain oil-free to get the best sound from the strings.
Rosin comes in two types, dark and light; either is fine to use, and neither is expensive.
Too much rosin will cause the bow to grip too well, producing a scratchy sound. If you over-rosin your bow, it's fine; it'll just take a few hours of playing to bring it back down to the correct level.
Your bow may need more rosin than normal if it's brand new. Draw the flat side of the bow hair across a string to see if it makes a clear sound after three or four strokes of rosin. If it doesn't, add a couple more.
The strings, in order from lowest tone to highest, should be tuned to G, D, A, and E.
You can get tuning apps, but sometimes they're a little unpredictable. I've found that just getting a frequency testing app and tuning the strings to their correct frequency works best. The frequencies that the strings should be tuned to are as follows: E - 659Hz, A - 440Hz, D - 293Hz, G - 195Hz.
When holding the bow, your hand should be relaxed and loose, and somewhat rounded as if holding a small ball. Don't let your palm close or rest on the bow. This reduces the control you have over the movement of the bow, which becomes increasingly important as your skill increases.
As a beginner, your hand should be as far up the neck as possible while still allowing your pointer finger to come down on the fingerboard.
If there are gaps in the tone, it's usually because your bow needs more rosin.
Rotate the bow slightly toward the scroll (so you're sliding on the side of the bow hair, not flat) and your tone will be more focused, producing a more professional sound.
Practice every day. Start with a short time (15 or 20 minutes) and work a little longer every day until you reach an hour, or you can't find any more time to play. Serious violinists often practice for 3 or more hours per day; then again, many violinists at that level get money for playing. Practice as much as you reasonably can, and keep at it. Even sounding good enough to play a few simple songs can take months, but eventually, things will begin to come together.
Clean off rosin buildup on your violin after every practice session. Use a clean, dry, soft cloth on the strings, on and under the fingerboard, and around the bridge. Don't wipe rosin off the hair of the bow.
Get a teacher, and you'll learn much faster. Check for teachers at local universities, community colleges, orchestras, and some high schools. If you don't find the best teacher for you right away, continue to look until you find someone you are comfortable with.
If you don't have the money to buy a violin, renting is always an option. Rental violins should always come with a bow, case, and strings.
Practice slowly, then work up to tempo. As in typing, eventually your fingers will remember where to go by themselves.
DO NOT leave your bow tight after playing as it can be damaged and bows can be very expensive.
Be cautious about buying a violin online they usually are never very high in quality and may cost more than they are worth to repair.
Take lessons at least once a week. Even a short weekly lesson can provide invaluable feedback.
Always treat your instrument with great care. Don't drop it, throw it, or expose it to extremes of temperature or humidity. The same goes for your bow.
Holes in the Violin Hold:
I look to see that there are no holes between the left index finger and the neck of the violin. Although we do not want the student to squeeze the neck, we also do not want the student to overcompensate for squeezing by opening up a hole between the base of the left index finger and the violin neck. In general, we touch the violin in three places with the left hand: thumb, base of the index finger, and finger tip. However, when executing vibrato, we must be sure that there is enough “space” between the base of the index finger and the violin neck that the vibrato motion can occur. (From 'Teach Suzuki'