How to Teach Yourself to Play a Violin

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Teaching yourself to play the violin usually involves researching instructional materials, such as books and videos, but learning to properly hold the instrument is the first step. Get ideas for teaching yourself to play the violin with advice from an accomplished violinist in this free video on string instruments.

Part of the Video Series: Violin Lessons
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Video Transcript

Fred Carpenter, talking to you from The Violin Shop, in Nashville, Tennessee. We're going to talk today about how to teach yourself to play the violin. Okay, to teach yourself to play the violin; obviously, no instructor in this case. I would take advantage of the materials that are out there though; the books, the CD's, the DVD's. A lot of great instructional material that make it easier to teach yourself to play the instrument. Okay, Step One to teach yourself how to play the violin is how to hold the instrument. I like to use a shoulder rest on the back of the violin to hold it in place right there. So, to hold the instrument it should be parallel to the floor and just comfortable. It's not a this thing. It's not this thing. It's just sort of a turn your head a little bit and it should be right there, nice and comfortable. So, you really sort of want to let the violin be parallel to the floor, and then you bring the bow into the picture. Step Two, How to Hold the Bow and How to Use the Bow. The grip on a bow is always catching a softball. Just take that hand; put it right over the bow. The thumb comes up in here; the frog's mouth. There's the frog. The thumb goes in the mouth. The fingers go over. So, it's a very balanced end-to-end thing for the grip. And then, this should be ninety degrees to the instrument. You don't want this and you don't want this. Parallel with the bridge is what we're shooting for here. And the bow is a big factor in tone. You can strike a piano note; you can pluck a guitar string and there's pretty immediate tone. The bow will produce tone or not, so the key is to learn a smooth, steady bow stroke to get you a good note and avoid the squeaking of that kind of a sound. With a good smooth bow stroke... That's the basics to start with. So, we've talked about how to hold the instrument, how to hold and use the bow, and we're going to focus a little bit on the left hand now. What I would recommend is to use little pieces of tape or little Wite-Out dots on the actual whole tones. So, open first finger; put a tape across, the little piece across the fingerboard. Second finger, you can put a little tape across the fingerboard. Third finger, you can put a little tape across the fingerboard so you know those positions. Eventually, you'll want to use your ear more than your eyes to where you're putting your fingers down, but it's okay to use little cheaters to start with. Everybody uses them and it's okay. So, I would probably find the note, there it is; find the note for first finger and put the tape across the whole fingerboard. Find all your basic notes and that's a good visual you have to start with so that you learn to put your muscle memory of your fingers down on the notes. That's some real basics on how to hold the violin, hold the bow, how they work together. How the left hand finds the right spots. There's a lot more out there in instructional materials, as I mentioned, and I really recommend, if possible at all, to get some guidance with an instructor, even occasionally, if you can. This is Fred Carpenter at The Violin Shop. Have a great day.

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