Just a curious beginner with no music background and knowledge of music. I am fond of Western classical music, thus violin. I have a violin but don't know where to start. I couldn't find someone to teach me Western.

Although a music professional told me that Indian and Western violin are mostly same in theory. Is it true? Can I play Western style if I learn with Indian theory?

Please suggest where to start from scratch to learn violin.


5 Answers 5


Western classical and Indian classical violin are very, very different styles. The main similarity is that they use the same instrument, so if you learned one style, you would have a head start learning the other.

Similarities: For either style, you will need to be familiar with your instrument and learn where to find notes, and how to control the bow.

Differences: There are a lot more differences than similarities.

How the instrument is held: In western music, the instrument is held at your neck, and is played either standing or seated in a chair. In Indian classical, it is usually played seated on the floor, with the instrument upright and the bottom of the instrument's body supported by the ground. It would be very, very difficult to switch between these for someone who hasn't extensively practiced both positions.

Musical Theory:

Both styles use rhythm and pitch as the core of making music, but the details are profoundly different.

There are differences in how the styles use scales, whether and how they use harmonies, what notes are considered notes, the use of improvisation, in how rhythm is used, and more. These differences are at such a basic level that even a beginner's very first lessons will be very different between the styles.

Conclusion: I play western violin, but took a workshop in Indian Classical once. The differences in the music were huge, and I struggled to frame even the basics in my musical understanding. If you know you want to play western music, I'd start by learning that, rather than learning Indian, then changing styles.

If you can't find a teacher, I'd suggest using looking for a teacher who will teach over the internet, and in the mean time using internet video lessons. ProfessorV on YouTube is a good place to start.


I learn Indian classical violin and here are basic differences in learning Indian and western style violin, apart from bowing and holding the violin

  1. Tuning: Western violin is tuned differently than Indian violin. That means that if you play the same positions it sounds differently. It would require a lot of practice to get a mental framework of how an instrument is tuned.

  2. Emphasis: The system of Indian classical music gives much more emphasis on melody. In some sense, there is no composition without melody.

  3. Improvisation: 80% of Indian music is improvisation of melodic verses. What this means, is there is no emphasis on sheet music. Most instructor ask you sing and know the tonal qualities of a song before you play in a violin. This leads to the next point

  4. Style: Violin follows another instrument or singer in Indian classical music. This means, there is a lot of emphasis on hearing the voice and playing the corresponding note, instinctively, unlike sheet music

  5. Harmonies and Chords: There are hardly any harmonies or chords in Indian music, though modern musicians mix it up. Western music gives a lot of emphasis on this. I'm not well versed in this topic to elaborate.

  6. Music scales: The scales have some similarities but, Indian music has scales which are more specific, because the music relies on melody. There is a sense of rigor in improvisation that music feels structured and built on top of simple building blocks of melody and rhythm.

Finally, Indian music is in some sense still religious, with Hindu vocal compositions. I feel western music has separated itself from its religious roots, though I'm not an authority on this subject.


Although you have no teacher, you can still learn from the best!

Checkout Yehudi Menuhin's Violin Tutorial videos, designed for new learners of Western style violin:

Ultimately playing the violin comes down to listening, to yourself, and to others performing on the violin.

Learning western music notation will allow you to pick up a book on violin technique (etudes) which will slowly guide you into the proper technique.

Although there are many resources to teach you various aspects of technique available on the internet, there will come a point (sooner than later) when you really should have a teacher to guide you forward, and keep you from turning initial bad habits (like bad posture, incorrect bow hold, etc) into permanently flawed technique, limiting your playing possibilities.


I suggest you to find a violin teacher near by your town, or search some virtual teachers online. Try the video tutorials from some you tube channels.


You can start in Indian or Western classical music. Once you gain proficiency in either you may switch to other with ease. But, again, it depends from person to person. In my opinion your choice will be governed more by the availability teachers, the time you can devote, and most important the place to practice. So for example if you are living in an apartment, and want to practice your instrument, the others may get disturbed. In my very own case, my learning has been very staggered, for many reasons, like teachers got transferred, I got transferred, or plain laziness on my part.

One thing is sure for whichever style you follow is that you need to develop a musical "ear". For that listen to a lot of music, and youtube videos are a great source. If you are interested in western classical try locating videos of Yehudi Menuhin, Itzhak Perlman (Vivaldi RV 356 is my personal favorite), Amadeus Electric (Habanera from Carmen). I am not a violinist. If you want to learn the theory part of Western Classical you may want to refer to "http://shop.trinitycollege.com/shop/powersearch/powersearch_results.asp?search=theory+of+music+workbooks". These book are available on flipkart too. These are good for self learning, and you can write exams too. Please have a look at www.earmaster.com also.

For Hindustani classical theory you may want to refer to "Rag Parichay", or alike.

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