Your first few violin lessons are critical in the learning process because you will learn how to hold your violin properly. Your sound depends very much on how you hold your instrument, so learning the right posture is essential. Your back should be straight; your left foot is a bit ahead of your right foot, somewhere at the 10 o’clock position. The violin should be placed on your left shoulder. Turn your head to your left and place your left jaw on the chin rest. The instrument should be in front of your eyes and parallel to the floor. Try to avoid playing violin that is placed lower than eye level. That may result in your bow slipping down, creating a sound that is not as clear and articulated as it could be. Your bow should always be between the fingerboard and the bridge. Flip your bow slightly toward the fingerboard, never the opposite.
I typically have students playing violin by plucking notes with your right hand. Your fingers should be curvy and flexible on both hands. I always tell my students to imagine they are holding an apple in both hands. The muscles should be relaxed, but strong. Hold your violin at the level of your eyes, parallel to the floor level. If your violin goes down to the floor and you feel that your shoulders are tired, take a short break and shake your hands for a few seconds.
Proper violin bow hold is the one of the most important skills you need to learn in the beginning of learning process. Your left hand thumb and your left hand middle finger should form a circle, and you connect both fingers between the frog and the leather winding. Your ring finger is curved and rests on the frog, sometimes touching the round pearl that is located in the middle of the frog. Finally, your curved and flexible pinky stands on the stick above this round pearl.
Bow technique is challenging for some beginner students, but anyone can improve with the right training. Try to avoid moving your right shoulder or raising your left shoulder while playing. You can move your left elbow a little bit, but it depends on what string you are playing. Try to curve it under your violin, especially when you play on a G string. In any case, your elbow has to be flexible and relaxed. Your right shoulder is almost steady because all the work is being done by your elbow. Remember, it’s the elbow that works hard, not a shoulder.
Now we’ve covered all of the beginner basics – how to buy a violin, finding a great teacher, proper posture, and correct violin bow hold. With each lesson and home practice, your hands will get stronger and as a result your practice time can be increased. Playing the violin should be fun, but regardless of your goals you have to begin right way in order to truly progress. Thoughtful practice will always bring satisfactory results.
Oleg R. teaches piano, violin, cello, music theory and viola lessons to students of all ages in Fort Lee, NJ. He received his Master’s degree in Violin Performance and Education from the Moscow Conservatory of Music, and joined the TakeLessons team in February 2013. Learn more about Oleg, or search for a teacher near you!
Photo by Boris SV