Welcome to Violin 101 at Wikiversity.
This class is about Violin. You may be looking for classes on fiddle.
If you have any good ideas on how to improve this page, feel free to make edits - this page is currently under daily monitoring so don't be afraid of making mistakes, we will patch them up for you.
The same can be said for learning violin. Practice, practice, practice, and don't be afraid of making mistakes.
Listen to violin music online and live. Use resources at Wikibooks and Wikiversity.
- Wikipedia has a helpful article on violin
- [] is a more advanced class but you are free to use its resources for inspiration and acquisition of knowledge and skills.
Know your instrument
Find a Teacher
Playing the violin is challenging. It requires commitment and dexterity. Each teacher has a different technique. I prefer the method which allows students to play and finger right away. Some teachers prefer that you play open strings to perfect your bow strokes. Each time I pick up my instrument I play each open string to steady myself and check the tuning. A good teacher will teach you techniques geared toward improving your skill level. The following recommendations will get you started, but you will progress much more quickly with outside help. Consult your local violin shop. They will help you find a teacher in your area.
Holding The Instrument
Good posture is important for violin playing. Stand tall and do not slump. Keep your feet about shoulder width apart. Some teachers and performers advise turning the feet at right angles to each other while playing. The bow is held in the right hand, the violin in the left. To hold the violin, begin by clamping the chin rest under your chin. The violin should be more or less straight in front of you. However, some teachers and performers may hold the instrument more toward the left. Once the instrument is clamped under your chin in whatever position you choose, relax your left hand, and tuck the neck of the instrument into the space between your thumb and first finger. Congratulations, you are now holding the violin correctly! Your fingers should curve naturally down and rest on the fingerboard. Your wrist should be straight, so that your palm does not touch the neck.
Holding the bow is a matter of personal (and teacher) preference, but what follows is a good start. Hold your right wrist straight. Turn your palm upwards. RELAX your right hand. Let gravity flatten the natural curve of your fingers and use the weight of the bow at first to play. Orient the bow so the frog is on the left, and the tip is on the right, with the hair facing upward. Gently slide the bow stick between your thumb and first finger, adjusting it so that thumb and first finger touch in the gap within the frog. Let the other fingers fall where they may on the stick. Turn your hand and the bow over, being sure not to whack anyone with the bow as you rotate it. Move your pinky on top of the stick. This is one good shape for the bow hand. You may want to shift the whole arrangement towards the tip of the bow, so that your thumb rests on the 'grip' of the bow (the metal or leather wrapping near the frog).
The bow should be drawn so that it is approximately parallel to the bridge and between the bouts. Play in front of a mirror to make sure you are doing this. You will need to get the string vibrating, without damping the vibration once it starts (the right amount of rosin and bow tension can help beginners). Think of a plane landing and then taking off. The area in which the bow is played is also known as the "runway." Enough pressure and motion at the beginning of the stroke, then a different amount of pressure to keep the tone going, then let off the pressure and take the bow off the string.
For beginners, the hair should be flat on the strings. The right wrist should be neither rigid nor floppy. Early on, try to limit motion to the elbow. Keep the elbow high--most beginners let it hang too low. There are dozens of bow strokes possible, depending on what's called for on the page, and on your artistic judgment. Begin with the slow steady stroke, focusing on making a consistent smooth tone. Don't move to the others until your teacher says you are ready.
While holding the violin under your chin, look down the fingerboard. The strings from left to right are G, D, A, and E. To tune the instrument, you will need a reference for the A tone. This may be an electronic device, a tuning fork, another instrument like a violin, piano or oboe, or it may be your own brain if you have perfect pitch. Whatever the source, make the sound of your A string match that of the reference A. To do this, clamp the violin under your chin, and bow the A string. Use your left hand to turn the A peg back and forth, which will increase or decrease the tension of the string and thereby raise or lower its pitch. You may need to wrap your hand around the scroll, so as to gently push the peg into its hole, to keep it from slipping. Once you have the A string matched to the reference, turn the reference off. Now play the A and D together. Adjust the D peg until the two are separated by a 'perfect' fifth. This is the interval in the song sung by the workers at the castle of the Wicked Witch of the West, in the movie The Wizard of Oz. Repeat the process, tuning the G string to a fifth below the D string. Now move to the E string. Set it to a fifth above the A using the fine tuner, if possible.
Another method of tuning highly recommended for beginners is an electric tuner. You will find these at many music stores. It is also good to tune by ear. However, the goal here is to start playing without too much frustration.
You should perform this process every time you start practicing, and during your practice time if needed.
If you notice your violin pegs slipping or have difficulty keeping your instrument in tune take it to your local violin shop (luthier) and have them check the set up of the instrument.
For the purposes of violin playing, the fingers are numbered starting with pointer finger (first finger) on up to the pinky (fourth finger). Strings played with no finger on them are said to be 'open'.
While holding your instrument under your chin, with the neck in the crotch of your hand, let your fingers fall lightly on the fingerboard. Move your hand so that your first finger is just against the 'nut'. Now lift the fingers up ever so slightly. Play the open E string. Now push your first finger down quite hard, touching only the E string. Congratulations! You are probably playing an F-natural (make sure to compare this or any other new note to a tuner or pich pipe). Nudge that finger up (toward the bridge) a bit, and you will probably be playing F-sharp. Put your second finger down just as hard, right next to the first finger. If all is well, you are playing a G. Move that second finger up a smidge, and you will be playing a G-sharp. Put the third finger right next to the second, and you will play an A. Put your fourth finger down, about a finger's width away from the third finger. You should be playing a B-natural.
Repeat this process on all the strings. Your teacher will give you assignments to strengthen your fingers and to help your hand 'learn' where the various fingers should go.
Depending on pedagogy, scales are either played on a routine basis as separate exercises, or pieces are chosen so that technical and artistic ability are developed side by side. Normally one scale is taught at first and after mastering it other scales are introduced.
To play the canonical scales, there are 4 basic fingering patterns.
- G major - 0 2 1 0 1 2 3 4 1 2 3 4 1 2 1 2 3 4 1 2 1 2 3 4 4 4 ...
- A flat major, A
- B flat, ... D major
- E flat to F# major