Tips for a Beginning Violinist

Hello! Today, I’ll be sharing some tips that helped me as a beginning violinist; I hope they’ll help you now as well! Enjoy!


Listen to Good Music

I can’t stress this tip enough. I think you will agree that we are products of our environment. Therefore, surround yourselfwith beautiful music when you begin your studies on the violin. Not only will you expose yourself to great music, but your own playing will reflect the techniques of the great masters – even if you’re playing a simple Mozart theme. 

Play with Confidence

This is some of the hardest advice to follow, but believe me, it’s worth it! Playing with an outward appearance of confidence when practicing will make you play with confidence. Not to say that you should have a show-off attitude, but it helps so much to begin each practice session with a positive mindset and a smile. And belive me! Nothing is more important than having fake confidence at a performance! Keeping your shoulders back, head held high, bright smile on face, and sprightly step will tell yourself (and your audience) that you are prepared and ready for your performance. So, in the words of Maria from The Sound of Music: “I have confidence in me!

Warmup

Warming up is a crucial key to having a good practice session.The more I play, the more I realize the benifits of warming up. When a complete beginner, this tip may not apply as much because you are not playing that many notes at a time. But, as you progress and are required to play long passages of notes, you will realize that warming up is crucial for free and relaxed fingers.

I usually warm up by playing rhythms, scales, repeated notes on each string…etc.

Watch a finger warm up exercise from Vivian Waters by clicking here.

Practice with Purpose

It took me a while to get the point of this tip. Isn’t playing through your piece(s) a couple of times each day, enough? Bluntly put, the answer is: no, it isn’t. Of course, you will progress to some degree each time you play through your piece, but your knowledge will be at a surface level. And I guess this tip is leading me into the subject of learning a piece. So, roughly put, here are the steps I use when learning a piece. And of course, everyone learns a piece differently, especially if you play an instrument other than the violin.

1. When I first receive my sheet music, the first thing I do is run through it about 2 times. Fairly slowly and methodically. In this step, I can get a good idea about what parts I’ll have trouble with, and what parts will need less work.  After that, I listen to multiple recordings of the piece, to get an idea of the melodies and basic rhythms…etc.

2. After getting a grab at the surface material of the piece, this is the time to put in bowings and fingerings. Depending on your learning situation, this step could take a couple of minutes or hours.  This is the step at which you, as the player, make decisions, in the technical format. I try many different fingerings and bowings before finding the right fit. And don’t forget, always use a pencil! You never know when you may want to make a tweak here or there. When a begining violinist, your teacher might help you write in the bowings and fingerings of a piece. Or, an editor may have done most of the work for you.

3. Okay, this is when the nitty-gritty work begins! I suppose some people may take the approach of mastering one technical issue at a time. For example, first conquering the bowings, then the fingerings, and then the dynamics…etc.

I, on the other hand, prefer to conquer a piece phrase by phrase. This involves

First: Finding the phrases within the piece and studying their similarities and                differences.

Second: Running through the phrases with my eyes, studying every single symbol and marking. Also, if I notice any Italian that I don’t understand (and there’s bound to be some!) this would be the time to look it up.

Third: Start playing. Each phrase should be treated like a chapter in a book – you most likely need to understand the first chapter to understand the others – the same is true with phrases in a piece. And once you’ve read the first chapter, or phrase, you connect the first chapter to the next, forming a plot, which climaxes and then hopefully, beautifully comes to an end. And, somewhat regretfully, this is the point at which I have to play with the metronome, as well. Hahaha! 

4: After I have mastered the phrases and have connected them (and don’t get discouraged; that will take a while) I have reached the polishing stage. At this point I make the piece my own. Not in any drastic measures, just subtlety. The changes may not be noticeable, even to me. In this time, I just play the piece, memorizing every detail and enjoying making it seem easy to play. I may listen to some more recordings, noticing little things that jump out  from other violinist’s interpretations that I hadn’t noticed before.

5: After a while, it’s normal to get tired of my piece, after practicing it for weeks, if not months. At this point, I put the piece away for a week. When I get it back out, everything comes back and the piece is perfected.

So, that’s my method for learning a piece. I could write a whole post on more details, but those five steps are basically what it takes for me to learn a piece well.

…………..

So that concludes my post on tips for beginning violinists (with an extra long section on learning a piece)! Hope you enjoyed!

Cammi 

 

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