How to Play the Violin

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3 To my mom for forcing (haha?) me to play the violin at a

young age. Thanks Mom.




Introduction... 7

What you Need...8-9

Parts of a Violin and Bow...10-15


Violin and Bow Care...18-20

Proper Violin and Bow Hold...21-23

How to Play...24

Violin Fingering Chart...25

Introduction to Reading Music...26-29


Twinkle Twinkle (with Variations)...32-34




The violin is an instrument which is part of the strings family. It is a soprano member of the string instruments. A range of four octaves can be reached with four strings (g, d', a', and e''). A tone is obtained by passing the bow over the string, which sends vibrations through the bridge and to the belly. The left hand can be moved up and down the neck to reach different positions, varying the notes played. Vibrato, an effect used by many modern players on all but the quickest notes, is created by a controlled rocking of the finger. Originally used only to accompany dancing and for doubling the voice, it is now one of the more prominent instruments in an orchestra.

Usage of this guidebook requires previous knowledge about how to read music notes although this book will contain a quick refresher on music notes. It is not recommended that you learn about how to read music notes solely from the information on book.

"The true mission of the violin is to imitate the accents of the human voice, a noble mission that has earned for the violin the glory of being called the king of instruments."



What you Need

In addition to a case, above is all you require in order to play the violin. First of all, you need an actual violin and a bow. The two other pieces needed would be a rosin and a shoulder rest. These two things, while not essential to playing a violin, would greatly benefit the comfort of the person playing and the quality of the sound produced.

The rosin creates friction between the bow hair and the string, creating a rich sound. (see page 17)


9 The shoulder rest is padding for where the violin contacts the shoulder.

The shoulder rest also adds the correct height to the violin between the shoulder and prevents the violin from slipping off your shoulder. To put the shoulder rest onto the violin, make sure the taller side is on the side of the e-string. The shorter side should be on the side of the g-string.


10 Figure 1: A violin and bow seen from above.

Parts of a Violin and Bow

To properly play the violin, there are two parts that are essential- the actual violin and the bow (figure 1). The violin itself has several parts. Starting from the top (the part closest to the body), is the chin rest, tailpiece, fine tuners, bridge, f-holes/sound holes, neck/fingerboard, scroll, and pegs.

This is the body of the violin. This can also be referred to as the 'belly' of the violin.


11 Figure 2: The chin rest.

Figure 3: The tailpiece and fine tuners, and strings.

The decorative edges around the body of the violin are called the 'purfling'. At the

top of the violin, the round black (sometimes brown) piece connected to the underside of the violin is called the chin rest (see figure 2). This piece is where the chin rests while the violin is played. Some say that the

thinner the chin rest is the better. Connected to the chin rest, the long narrow piece that gradually gets wider towards the other end is called the tailpiece (see figure 3). This is what holds the strings on one end. In the tailpiece are the fine tuners (figure 3). These are


12 Figure 4: Bridge and f-holes.

Figure 5: Neck and Fingerboard one of the two methods that may be used to tune the violin. There is one fine tuner for each string on the violins of most beginners. However for violinists who are more comfortable with tuning the violin, there may be only one fine tuner for the e-string. These fine tuners are only used for minor

pitch differences which is why more experienced violinists do not need one for each string. Attached to each of the fine tuners are the strings. A violin has 4

strings from left to right, ranging from low to high: g, d', a', and e''. These strings are rubbed by the bow to produce sound vibrations, creating sound. These strings stretch from the top of the violin at the fine tuners all the way down to the scroll and pegs (which will be explained later). Below the strings is the bridge (see figure 4). The bridge is a

wooden piece that supports and holds the strings in place. On either sides of the bridge are the f-holes (or sound

holes) (see figure 4). These holes are where the sound comes out of the violin. Further along down the body of the violin is the neck or fingerboard (see figure 5). This


13 is where the fingers of the left hand are placed. Moving the fingers up or down the fingerboard allows for different pitches and different notes. The other end of the strings are attached to their corresponding pegs (see Figure 6). These pegs are the second method that can be used to tune your

violin. At the very bottom of the violin is the scroll (see figure 6).

The bow, simply put, are some strands of horse hair attached to a wooden stick. At the tip of the bow there is usually a metal or ivory plate (see figure 8). The base of the

Figure 6: Pegs and scroll.

Figure 7: Bow


14 Figure 9: The frog and knob/button bow is called the frog. At

the very end of the bow at the frog there is a silver button/knob which you can turn to tighten and loosen the hair on the bow (see figure 9). To

tighten the hair on the bow, turn the knob to the right. To loosen the hair on the bow, turn the knob to the left. There are specific requirements for the tightness and looseness of a bow. Below are some examples of what you would not want to do:

Here is an example of having a bow that has been tightened too much and is too tight. This is not good because the hairs attached to the bow would be more prone to breakage and the sound quality when this bow is used to play the violin will not be as good.


15 Above is an example of a bow that has been loosened too much. The bow can be loosened to a point where the hairs fall out of the bow entirely. To prevent this from happening, do not loosen the bow too much. Having a loose bow could affect the sound quality as well.

Here is an example of a bow that is just right. It is neither too tight nor too loose. This is probably the ideal tightness of the bow. Having a bow like this will give better sound quality. To check whether the bow has the correct tension, it is usually advised that you try to fit a finger between the stick and the hair of the bow. This can help measure whether the tightness of the bow is adequate.



Tuning Your Violin

Tuning your violin has a lot of importance. When playing an out of tune violin, the sound that comes out will not be of the correct tone. Even if the notes are played correctly, the sound will be out of tune. Pitch differences are when the pitch of your violin is either too sharp or too flat. To have a sharp string means to have one of a higher pitch. To have a flat string means to have a string of a lower pitch. The tightness and looseness of the strings affects the pitch (when the string is too tight it has a higher pitch and vice versa). To tune your violin, you must first have a reference tone. This can be either a piano, a tuner, an in-tune violin, tuning fork, or even a YouTube clip playing the tone. As a beginner, it is important to have a reference tone of all four strings. After having a little more practice in knowing what each of the strings sound like, it is possible to tune by only using the 'A' string reference tone.

There are two ways to tune the violin. This is to either use the pegs or the fine tuners. As seen from the previous section, the fine tuners are the little tuners located at the top of the violin. The pegs are the large black tuners located at the bottom of the violin near the


17 scroll. To tune the basic sound of each string, use the pegs corresponding the string. When turning the pegs, make sure to push inwards (towards the scroll) while turning so that the peg and string will not pop out of the violin. Also do not turn the pegs with too much strength because that could tighten or loosen the strings too much, making them break or be so loose that they fall out of the violin completely. The recommended position to use while tuning your violin using the pegs would be to hold your violin upright (scroll facing the air and body facing the ground) and using one hand to steady the violin and the other to turn the pegs. To tighten (make sharper) the strings, turn the peg upwards. To loosen (make flatter) the strings, turn the peg downwards. After using the pegs, to tune minor pitch differences, fine tuners can be used. The recommended position to hold your violin while using the pegs would be to hold it like you normally would if you were to play the violin. To help you hear how the fine tuners are altering the pitch of the string, run the bow along the string like you normally would when you play it. Use the chin to support the body of the violin and use the right hand to control the bow. The left hand will be used to turn the fine tuners. Turning the fine tuners to the right will make the string sharper while turning the fine tuners to the left will make the string flatter.



Violin and Bow Care

Violin Care

Storage (Temperature and Humidity)

Always put your violin back in the case with its proper fastenings after use. Do not put your violin in places of extreme temperatures, cold or hot. Avoid leaving your violin in the car or in direct sunlight as the heat could melt the varnish.


Gently use a soft, clean cloth to wipe excess rosin on and underneath the string any additional dust or oil on the violin after playing.


Depending on how often you play your violin, replace your strings regularly to ensure that your violin produces good quality sound. It is advised that a student replaces the strings every year.


The wooden bridge supports and holds the strings at the correct height and distance from one another. As


19 the bridge is very fragile and is not fixed to the violin body, you must ensure that the bridge remains straight. Gradually as the violin is played, the bridge will lean forwards or backwards, warping under string tension. Bow Care

The bow is quite delicate and good bows are expensive. An important rule for taking care of your bow is that you must put it in a safe place. A good place to keep your bow would be in the violin case as it is designed to keep the bow safe. There are other essential parts to take care of your violin bow.


The rosin is a wax-like material that is applied to the bow. The function of the rosin is that it helps the hair on the bow have friction so that you can play. The more

you play the violin, the more the bow wears out. Thus, there is less friction, making the violin harder to play. Additionally, the rosin also keeps the hair from wearing out. Generally, the rosin should be applied in a few full bow length strokes. This must be done to the bow every few practice sessions.


20 Rehairing

The hair attached to the bow stretches and wears with use. To maintain the best quality of sound, it is recommended that active string players re-hair their bows every three to six months.

Hair Tension

Each time after playing the violin, you should loosen the hair tension. Turn the button at the frog one turn. The next time you play the violin, loosen the bow. By releasing the hair tension, it allows for the bow to remain stronger for playing.


Over time, the bow will accumulate rosin, dirt, and oils from playing. It is suggested that you wipe it down once a week with a soft dry cloth. Avoid touching the hair so that it does not become dirty and ineffective.



Proper Violin and Bow Hold

Violin Hold

Having the proper violin hold is essential to playing the violin. These steps will teach you how to hold a violin properly:

1. Hold out your left arm at 45 with the palm up. The wrist is never bent.

2. Bend and lower the elbow slightly and place the neck of the violin on your hand.

3. Create a u-shaped hook with your hand, curving your thumb and fingers slightly. There should be a little 'tunnel' beneath the neck where the thumb curves. Rest the fingers on the neck of the violin. The palm of the left hand should never be in contact with the neck.

4. Curve the arm at the elbow joint and hold up the violin with the shoulder and the weight of the head instead of with the arm. Place the chin on the chin rest. 5. The pad of the thumb (soft, fleshy part) should be placed on the side of the neck. The thumb should not be


Head Hand


22 applying pressure to the neck. It should be relaxed so that shifting and pivoting is possible.

6. To position the fingers, make sure the base knuckle of the index finger is on the level of the neck. Bend the fingers over onto the neck. The first two fingers should be more squared in the knuckle joints. The third and fourth fingers are more gently arched.

In addition to knowing how to hold the violin, there is also a proper stance you must be able to do. Here are the steps to having a correct and proper stance:

1. Stand straight with both shoulders back. Look straight ahead.

2. Place the violin on your shoulder at a 45 angle, allowing your shoulder and chin to bear the full weight of the violin. Do not clamp down on the violin with your chin or tilt your head. The chin should rest comfortably on top of the chin rest without raising the left shoulder. 3. Keep the violin level so that both ends are at the same height from the ground. However, the left side of the violin should be higher than the right. Never let the elbow of your right arm rest against the side of your body.


23 Bow Hold

The following are simple steps for a beginner's bow hold: 1. Make a circle with the thumb and middle fingers of your right hand.

2. Place the thumb under the frog and the 2nd and 3rd (middle) fingers over the frog.

3. Place the fourth finger on top of the end of the frog. This finger should be curved.

4. Wrap the 1st finger around the bow. Make sure your thumb is still bent.



How to Play the Violin

After you have mastered the correct stance and bow hold, you are ready to begin playing the violin. First, get into the proper stance. Place the bow about a finger's width away from the bridge- that is where the tone is the clearest. Instead of placing your left hand on the neck of the violin, put it on the right side of the belly of the violin. This will ensure that you will put most of your focus on controlling the bow rather on the finger placements on the neck. Push the wrist joint of your right hand, guiding the bow in a straight path along the strings. Do not apply too much pressure onto the bow otherwise you will have an unpleasant squeaky sound. Control the bow and guide it down along the strings. When you feel that you have enough practice and can now bow smoothly with clear sounds, you can begin learning the finger placements on the neck of the violin. There are generally several positions that the hand can be in. Beginners usually only learn 1st position, the most simple and basic position. The fingering must be quite accurate otherwise the notes that are played will sound out of tune. Having the wrong finger placements will affect the quality of the sound. It is recommended for beginners to put colored tapes on the correct first, second, and third finger spots. To do this yourself, use either an electronic tuner or a piano to find these finger placements on the A string. These are the notes B, C, and D. To find this, place your fingers on the string one at a time, adjusting them to fit the B, C, and D notes.



Violin Fingering Chart

Source: oads_files/MUE392%20Handouts%20Week%201-5.pdf

This fingering chart to the right can be referred to in order to find out which notes will be played where the fingers are put. Try to remember this and gradually learn to rely on this chart less and less as your learn the placements of the fingers.



Above: On top is the treble clef. Below is the bass clef.

Introduction to Reading Music

The following is a very brief introduction on how to read music. It is recommended that you have previous experience and prior knowledge about how to read music.

Clefs, Key Signatures, and Time Signatures In music, at the left of every measure is a clef and the key signature. Time signatures only show up at the beginning of the first measure. There are two main types of clefs: the treble clef and the bass clef. When playing the violin, the only clef we will see is the treble clef.

Key signatures are an indication of the sharps and flats of a song. Sharps are notes that must be played a half-step higher while

flats are the opposite- notes that must be played a half-step lower. These are also called 'accidentals' when they appear other than in the key signatures. There are a total of 7 sharps and flats. The 7 sharps are F♯, C♯, G♯, D♯, A♯, E♯, and B♯. The 7 flats are B♭,E♭, A♭, D♭, G♭, C♭, and F♭. The key signature at the beginning of measures show which notes in the following measures must be sharp or flat. The sharp and flat symbols are placed on the line of the note. Every note which falls under those shown in the key signatures will then be sharp or flat


27 unless there is a 'natural' symbol (♮) where they will be

played normally. If there is no key signature at the beginning of a measure, that means that the song is in C major- the one with no sharps or flats.

Time signatures are also placed at the beginning of each measure. They indicate how many beats are in each bar. Duration of Notes + Rests

There are a variety of notes that show up in the score. Here are the basics:

From left to right: Quarter note (1), Quaver/Eighth note (1/2), Minim/Half note (2), (3), Whole note (4), and Semi-quaver/Sixteenth note (1/4). The dot following the note fourth from the left means to add half a beat to the original value of the note. In this case, a 2+1= three beats. There is a similar list for rests:

From left to right: Semiquaver rest (1/4), quaver rest (1/2), quarter not rest (1), Minim rest (2), Breve rest (8)


28 Another very important aspect to playing the violin would be the bowing. in order to have coordinated and synchronized bowing, there must be some indication on the score about the type of bowing required. There are two directions the bow can go: up and down. Respectively, there are two symbols for these two directions. Here they are:

The symbols above the two notes show the type of bowing required. The cap-like symbol above the first note (A) symbolizes a down bow. The 'V' shaped symbol above the second note (F) symbolizes an up bow. Slurs

In violin, there is also a skill called 'slurring'. Because a violin is played with a bow, slurring is possible. Slurring is playing two (or more) notes within the same bow. These notes are also on different strings. To do this, you must be in good control of the bow and to leave 'enough bow' for you to continue playing the following note. The following is an example of a slur.


29 Notes

The above notes are from the lowest notes a violin can do to the highest note (in first position). The first note of each bar (excluding the last bar) are all open strings on one of the four strings. The second note of each bar is what note is played when the first finger is on the neck and so on.




Before jumping into playing songs, practice is absolutely essential. While practicing the following things, make sure your stance, bow hold, and violin hold are correct. Practice it several times slowly then gradually add speed. Here are the practices:

Above is a practice with open strings. The first not is a 'G' on the G-string. The second is a 'D' on the D-string. Following that is the 'A' on the A-string and lastly an 'E'

on the E-string. Practice this with the hand on the left side of the violin body because fingering on the neck is not yet necessary. The above will help with the bowing motion and also changing strings. When comfortable, move on.

This above practice is for all fingers of the 1st position. Play these notes starting from the 'G' on the G string. This practice will help you with the correct fingering and also with changing the bow on strings.


31 This exercise is similar to 'scales' which are ascending and descending notes that begin on one note and end in the same note one octave higher (or lower). Scale practices are important because they allow you to know which notes are sharp and flat in each key. Scales also help train you in placing your finger in the correct spot on the fingerboard and in muscle memory. Increasing the speed will increase the difficulty of the exercise and further prepare you for more difficult pieces.



Twinkle Twinkle Variations

While playing your violin, there are several rhythms that are seen quite commonly in songs. It is recommended that you begin by clapping the rhythm before playing it on the violin. Clapping the rhythm with a metronome set at a slow pace is also advised as it will help you with counting the beats. Listed below are several variations of Twinkle Twinkle that can help you with rhythms that may be seen later on:

This is Variation A of Twinkle Twinkle, also commonly referred to as the 'Theme'. It is the normal version where the quarter notes last for one beat. There are four beats per bar. This is the most basic version. It is advisable to learn this variation and be able to play it fluently and without breaks or pauses before you move on.


33 Here is Variation B of Twinkle Twinkle. The general rhythm are the words 'Mississippi hotdog'. Practice saying and clapping this rhythm at each of the syllables- four short and two longer beats before attempting to play.

Here is Variation C of Twinkle Twinkle. As you can see, it looks a little short. This is because the rest of the song (shown above and in the previous image) has already been included. Apply this specific rhythm to the simple notes of the song to play. This rhythm is the 'cupcake'


34 rhythm. Make sure that the rest that stands for half a beat is seen and understood especially when clapping out the rhythm for the first few times.

This is Variation D of Twinkle Twinkle. The specific rhythm for this song is 'popsicle' because the beats are like how the word 'popsicle' is said (long short short, long short short).

After you have finished playing each of these variations, you are ready to begin playing more advanced music that includes more notes! Unfortunately, this book will have to end here.

Please remember.. Practice makes Purrrr-fect! Source: 253798144/hC404CF1E/




bridge - a wooden piece that supports the strings and holds them in place

button - a silver knob at the base of the bow where the frog is, used to tighten and loosen the hair on the bow

chin rest - the round black (sometimes brown) piece

connected to the underside of the violin located at the top of the violin near the fine tuners, where the chin literally rests f-holes - also called sound holes, these holes are where the sound comes out of the violin

fine tuners - one of the two parts of the violin that control the tightness and looseness of strings, used mainly for minor pitch differences

fingerboard - also called the neck, this is the board on which the fingers of the left hand are placed to adjust the pitch of the notes

frog - the very end of the bow, opposite to the tip neck - see 'fingerboard'

pegs - one of the two parts of the violin that control the tightness and looseness of strings


37 reference tone - a tone that can be referenced to when tuning the violin

rosin - a wax-like material applied to the bow to create friction between the hair and strings, also keeps the hair on the bow from wearing out

shoulder rest - the padding where the violin contacts the shoulder.

sound holes - see 'f-holes'

strings - strings stretching from the top of the violin (tailpiece and fine tuners) to the bottom (scroll and pegs): a total of 4, ranging from low to high from left to right: g, d', a', and e''. tailpiece - the long narrow piece connecting the chin rest to the strings, holds the strings on one end


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43 Acknowledgments

This guide book couldn't have been completed without the help of a whole bunch of people who've contributed, big or small.

To Ms. Raymond, for meeting with me nearly once a month to support and guide me throughout the creation of this book, to Dr. Wallace, who inspired me to create this guide book and let me interview her, to all those people who completed the surveys I created, asking for your opinions, to Sharon and Daniel my cousins who have allowed me to interview them, and to Zachary and Zoe who were been very critical and picky while proofreading the completed book for me.





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