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Well, I just got a violin today. Got it set up, tuned up (I think), aaaand... Most horrible sound ever heard in my life! :D

So, it is time to learn to play it. Apparently, it is highly advised to get a teacher (Do I need a teacher to learn violin?), since many problems I have can be too specific and require someone to help me with them.

I'm a bit busy, but I will have time to learn with a teacher in a few months.

... a few months! Now, I'd hate to let the violin gather dust, so I'd like to attempt to learn to play it during my unusual free time moments.

Now then, I am having trouble finding a proper resource for learning alone. There are some sites and youtube videos that try to introduce me to the violin, but they don't seem to be very effective (some explanations are a bit vague, and they don't really seem to cover many basic points [like, dunno, how to play each note correctly etc] and instead rush to the point I'm expected to play something fine).


In summary, before attending to a formal course with a teacher, I'd like to learn as much as possible (informally) anyway, but I can't find good resources for this. Perhaps a book would do better - I admit I haven't researched books for this (any recommendation is appreciated!).

Clearly, this is very hard since it seems I do need a teacher... what can I do to help me learn violin before actually attending a course?


Perhaps it is worth mentioning - I used to play the piano (just memory-based, I don't really understand what's going on), and an application called Synthesia helped me a lot to learn to play lots of tracks. Despite it being rather informal (actually, it is just a game), it was great to get me started with the piano (which I eventually stopped playing XD). So even a game like this would be a great asset to help me learn (if there is any for the violin).

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That's awesome! I just got my new viola in the mail yesterday. +1 +Favorite –  luser droog Jan 10 '13 at 2:40
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@luserdroog: Why is your new viola linking to that meta page? –  Omega Jan 10 '13 at 7:02
    
That's who gave it to me. Here's the fabulous item itself. Miraculously, it all happened during the after-Christmas sale. –  luser droog Jan 10 '13 at 7:03
    
@luserdroog: Ah, I see. That's awesome, congratulations :D! –  Omega Jan 10 '13 at 8:48
    
These will leave your instrument dusting but I believe they're useful: 1. Listen to lots of good violin music to get your ear "tuned". 2. Learn to read music and some basic theory. The more you know beforehand the more time can be spent on actually learning the violin during your lessons. –  nonpop Jan 10 '13 at 13:16
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5 Answers 5

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I second the comment by nonpop - learn to read music and some of the basics of music theory. Otherwise you will spend a lot of time learning how to use your instrument properly while also learning to read music in parallel, which can be quite frustrating because the learning curve is steep. I'm learning to play the electric guitar, and knowing how to read sheet music and understanding the basics of music theory has helped me tremendously (I learned to play the violin and keyboard when I was a kid, so I can sight-read somewhat decently now, except for tabs which I occasionally struggle with).

Another very important point is posture. Watch some introductory videos to learn how to stand properly and how to hold your violin correctly. I'm not kidding here - if you spend a lot of time playing in bad posture, your hands will start cramping and your back and your bow arm will start to hurt. Don't use force and don't pull your shoulders up. Your bow arm should be relaxed or your bow will randomly jump on the strings.

Don't be too hard on yourself, it's pretty difficult to produce decent sounds if you've never played before, let alone play an entire piece and make it sound nice. I also found some pages with nice introductory videos a few days ago, here are some links:

Instructions on how to hold the bow properly.

Instructions on stance.

violinmasterclass.com (the second link) seems to have some more useful material for beginners, check out links in the navigation bar on the right.

Edit: Since I don't have enough rep to comment yet, @Paulski73 also makes some good points. Learning to play each string cleanly (without making the other ones produce noise) is a good starting point. Once you get there, it will be much easier to play actual "pieces" because you will need to think less about what your right hand is doing.

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I don't play Violin myself, but my son had some lessons at school. As already commented, posture and holding the bow are important things to practice.

The next thing my son learnt was to play each of the strings open (without using you left hand to finger the string), one at time. This was to make sure that he could play each string cleanly without bowing the adjacent string. The next thing he had to practice was playing simple rythmic patterns on the open strings. First with one string, then moving on to two, three and four.

The book he had to practice from was the Suzuki Violin Method, a quick search online should find you somewhere that sells copies.

Good luck!

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In addition to the other good answers here, it should be very useful to practice major and minor scales on the piano or keyboard. This should help get the sounds of the intervals in your head so finding the notes on the fretboard (fingerboard?) will be easier.

Since the strings are tuned a fifth apart, one of your first exercises (after focusing on playing each open string cleanly) should be Do-Re-Mi-Fa and then Sol on the next string. You'll have to fumble a bit to get Re, Mi and Fa in tune.

That's the extent of my experience so far. HTH.

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Just about any skill can be learned on your own, but having a teacher or taking a class will greatly accelerate that pace. A good teacher can save you years of wasted practice.

That said, I would consume everything I could. Youtube, books, magazines (if they exist for violin?). You will over time just absorb bits and figure it out through attrition.

But yeah, the one thing I regret with learning to play guitar was not getting a teacher when I was younger.

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Lots of good stuff here. I'll just add my two cents.

In the previous answer, I mentioned the three things that differ from my main instrument, guitar: intonation, ergonomics and tuning. Add in musical knowledge and that's four things you can start getting into before the lessons start.

I would start with learning some scales, maybe C major to start. First on keys, because you need to get the notes in your head, and then, you can play it kinda mandolin style and find where the notes are. Then you can start getting to something musical without having to worry about the bow. After that, start trying a few other major scales. Then the minors.

You can also group bowing and ergonomics, by trying to get a decent tone while holding your instrument under your chin. On that one, first, rosin that bow. You will overrosin at first. Accept it. Then, pressure. The Violin Masterclass will have much more on how to work a bow than I am able to present.

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