Albert Einstein once said, “I know that the most joy in my life has come to me from my violin”. There is a definitive link between knowing the intricate relationship between physics and music. If you delve into the nuances of the instrument and if you take time to pay close attention to the little things, then perfecting your violin skills might not be that difficult.
Violin, Viola, Cello, Double Bass- there are so many instruments in the violin family. Violin is one of the most popular among them for being the smallest one with the highest pitch. Classical music and violin appear inseparable. So if you are a beginner or an intermediate player trying to fine tune your skills, here are some handy tips that might help you.
(We consider the general case scenario of using the violin as a right-handed person here. Throughout this article we talk considering the left hand as the fingering hand)
1.) Just The Right Tightness Of The Bow
While we talk about bowing techniques the focus often lies on attaining a good level of friction and the way you hold the bow. But before all that comes the tightness of the bow. You should wind the bow in such a way that it is not too slack nor too tight.
A straight bow stick indicates too much tightness. The right level of tightness is where your bow hair curves slightly inwards.
2.) Fret Markers
Using tapes or readymade fret markers on the fingerboard can be beneficial for beginners. Until you get a clear mental picture of where your fingers should rest you can use the tapes as guides.
But don’t get too dependent on the tapes, as you will need to transition away from it eventually.
3.) Violin Holding Mistakes To avoid
Learning what not to do would be a better way to tweak your skills. Here are some of the violin holding mistakes that many beginners make. Check whether you are making any of them for they could be the reason why your notes do not sound as you predicted-
- Holding the elbow very close to the body might restrict free movement.
- Ignoring your left wrist position is another mistake to avoid. This also determines how responsive your fingers are when you play your notes. Do not bend or let the wrist go limp.
- Do not lift your fingers too high above the fingerboard. Neither should you exert too much pressure on the fingerboard.
- Keeping the little finger straight can be another major problem. You should not allow it to rest too tight on the bow either. A curved little finger supporting the bow from below or rested at the top can do the trick. This ensures that your palm movement is flexible to align the bow right and avoid squeaks.
4.) Eliminate Those Screeches
Screeches might be the most bizarre elements that can altogether destroy your music. Many beginners as well as intermediate violinists often get a few screeches here and there. Here are some of the reasons why you might hear this unwanted addons in between your music.
- Some violinists, with all their enthusiasm, might end up applying too much pressure on the strings with the bow. When this happens or when you happen to move the bow slowly, you might end up creating a screech. Too little pressure is not going to help either.
- If you would like the smoothest sound from your violin, ensure that you draw the bow parallel to the bridge. If the bow cuts the strings perpendicularly, there is no trouble. When you draw it at an angle, you begin to hear squeaky notes. The flatness of your bow also matters. You should allow the bow to touch all the strings on the same plane without bending or raising it.
- Unless you are doing a harmonic squeal ensure that you rest your fingers firmly on the strings. After all playing the violin is about knowing where to exert pressure and where to let it loose.
5.) Where Is Your Scroll?
Not being able to see your fingering hand might be one concern you experience as a beginner. This should not cause you to involuntarily move the scroll towards you. When you do this, there is not enough clearance for the bow movement.
Stretch your left elbow outward in such a way that the scroll stays away from your shoulder.
6.) Are You Tensing Up?
We are talking about the tension on your elbow and your shoulders here. You do not have to let your shoulders go limp, simply have them relaxed.
Performing a few stretches and warming up before your violin practice session, can all help. Less tension on the shoulders means less strain and this means longer practice sessions.
7.) Improve Your Sight Reading
With improving your sight reading, you can dramatically speed up your learning because you are innately thinking about what the sound is supposed to be and how to anticipate it.
- Try to read ahead of your next measures, if you constantly do this, you will be able to always be ahead and make adjustments.
- Make sure you can read the music and understand how to play it, you don’t want to end up taking breaks or stopping if you don’t know what you are doing.
- Playing in front of friends or family will help keep you that same sort of pressure or idea as playing in front of an actual audience.
8.) Pick The Right Accessories That Enhance Your Performance
- The music stand is something that nearly everyone would remember to purchase. The key is to choose the right one. Easy height adjustment is an essential feature. This helps your spine from going limp or bending forward to view your music sheet.
- Shoulder rest is the other popularly recommended accessory for any beginner. You need the right amount of gap between your violin and your jaw to support the violin while not hampering your visibility or movement of the bow. This also holds the violin in place preventing the smooth wood from sliding off.
Besides these functional accessories that help during practice you also need a tuner, rosin and a reliable violin case to store and maintain the violin.
If you are looking to purchase a new violin, online sellers from Amazon have plenty of violin brands that come with all accessories listed above.
9.) Have a few tricks up your sleeve
Learning the C Major scale can be a good place to start as with most other string instruments. This can be a good way to get the fingering right and to learn other scales. Here are the most popular bowing techniques that both beginners and intermediate violinists are expected to learn if they are serious about their violin performance.
This technique comprises of disconnected notes. The popular alternate bowing method is also a type of Détaché bowing.
Here is a technique that directly contrasts Détaché. With ties or even using slurs will ensure that you create a connection so that each note appears tightly tied with the other.
This is a combination of attached and detached notes. You create this by shortening the notes when you play them.
With Tenuto you play a contrary method to Staccato. Sounding more or less like Legato, here you do not shorten the notes but hold them longer.
Besides fine-tuning your techniques and your hold, make changes to your posture as well.
10.) Getting The Ergonomics Right
Knowingly or unknowingly the little mistakes you make increase the strain on your arms and wrist. This can take a toll on your performance. For practice sessions being seated is better than standing. Ensure that you keep your spine straight. A good posture will also allow smooth movement of the bow which in turn influences the output notes.
Keeping your back straight will involve less injuries down the road as well.
All of these are conceptual strategies that you can implement. In the end, the only way to become a better violinist is to truly fall in love with the instrument. Put your heart and soul into your music and it will flow through your violin as sweet and beautiful notes.
11.) The Quality Matters
if you are a beginner, you might not know if the irregular sounds coming from the violin is based off your playing ability or because of issues with the violin.
Make sure you check the entire violin back and front, inside and out for any cracks or damages. This is especially more likely to occur if you buy a used violin. Physical complications are not as uncommon as you would think.
The quality of a violin can also provide clues as to how the sound should be like. As a new player, the instrument you purchase will most likely be cheap compared to a quality violin. I understand that you might want to test the waters to see if playing the violin is something you aspire to do recreationally or otherwise. The sounds that you may make might have rattling or buzzing, this is sometimes associated with poorly made production.
12.) Bad Habits To Get Rid Of
As a new or inexperienced player, handling and playing can accidentally breed improper techniques or habits. For most new players these are the bad habits that you might have that you never thought about.
∗ Having a stiff thumb can cause improper sounds that you do not want to hear such as screeching and bow bounces
∗ Elbow movement should be consistent with the strings you are playing. If it is a G string, elbow should be elevated and if it is an A string, the elbow should dip
∗ Stiff grip on your bow will make your music sound really irregular, make sure to loosen up your arm if you notice straining in your hand
Being A Great Violinist
At the end of the day, practicing and loving the music you play no matter what skill level you are will make you a great violinist. With these tips, your violin game will be much better by focusing on certain areas of your violin playing that you could be improving unknowingly.