Discoveries: Things I Learned My First Month of Playing Violin
Posted on February 19, 2019
When I decided to learn to play violin, I came to the instrument with zero exposure to the instrument. I don’t know anyone, past or present, who plays violin. In fact, that cheap violin was the first violin I actually held — I was surprised at how light it was!
I thought that it might be interesting to gather the discoveries I made during my first month as a completely new violin player. Here you are!
Violins are Emotional Instruments
All instruments can express emotion through sound. But, something about the violin in particular reflects the player’s emotion in a way I haven’t experienced before. I joked with my friends that my violin “tells on me” when I’m not feeling very confident during a practice.
By this, I mean, if you don’t commit to bowing a note — if you approach it with doubt or concern — the way the note sounds (I suppose this is the tone?) reflects your own uncertainty. This can be a telling experience, especially when you’re already not so sure of yourself… And now your violin is making this weedling sound as a result. It’s almost comical.
Something about this is amazing — especially if a player learns to express a sense of confidence in their music. It seems that learning to play violin is just as much about training your self-expression as it is learning the music.
Violins are Organic Instruments
I’m not quite sure if “organic” is the right word to express this sentiment. What I mean by this is that something about violins feels very old and tied to the earth. This is something I really love!
When you learn about violins, you discover everything about their sound hinges on the wood they’re crafted from. As they age and are played, they begin to open up in sound — the older the wood, the better the instrument. In a day and age that values newness, this is a different way of thinking. I’m almost excited to see how my new little student violin develops as it ages!
Everything Matters with Violins
To piggyback off the previous thoughts, something about the organic nature of the violin makes everything matter. Tiny things can throw off your practice session and your violin’s sound including:
- How you hold the violin
- How you hold the bow
- How tight or loose the bow hair is
- How much rosin is on the strings
- The type of rosin you use
- The type of strings you use
- Your posture – including how you hold both arms/hands
- Where the bow crosses the strings as you play
- How straight the bow is as it crosses strings
- How much you commit to each note you play
- Where your fingers are on the fingerboard…
There’s just so much to be aware of as a new player! It’s part of what makes practicing violin a challenging instrument.
Though, the best thing about the above list is that time and practicing good habits evolve these things into something you’ll do automatically, without thinking about them. I’m not anywhere close to that point yet, but I’ll be thankful for the day when I can just pick up my bow without double and triple checking my hold!
Other Important Discoveries
The combination of a shoulder rest and chin rest that fit you as an individual helps reduce arm strain. It took me to replace the shoulder rest and chin rest to finally get to a place where I could practice without an extreme amount of arm strain. When I first started playing, I didn’t know if I’d be able to stick with it because it hurt so much! Switching out these two accessories made all the difference!
Learning the bow hold is tricky! There are things, such as the Bow Buddy, that assist with this!
There’s a thriving violinist community online! There’s lots of places to go to interact with other musicians of all knowledge levels. I’ll write a post about this soon!
Investing in a good quality, properly set up student violin is worth it. Don’t make the mistake I did in buying a cheap violin online. It may not cost much, you may think it’s a good deal, but it can really hold you back and cause frustration.
I know that for long-time experienced players, none of this may come as a surprise. But part of the delight in learning something new is the act of discovery. It’s exciting to think I’m only just starting!