“If you put your hand on the piano, you play a note. It's in tune. But if you put it on the violin, maybe it is, maybe it isn't. You have to figure it out.” - Itzhak Perlman
Since most string instruments are for right-handed musicians, what do you do if you’re left-handed?
The left-handed violin is a mirrored version of the right-handed string instrument; the strings are in the opposite order, and the bridge, nut, and bass bar are all reversed.
In order to play the violin or fiddle correctly, you’re going to have put a lot of effort in and buy the accessories that you need to play.
Around 1 in 10 people are left-handed.
So how do you play the violin when you’re left-handed?
That’s what we’re going to cover in this article.
How Do You Hold a Violin if You’re Left-Handed?
The violin is famous for being one of the most difficult instruments to learn how to play.
In order to get good at the violin, you need determination, rigour, and tenacity.
If you’re familiar with other string instruments, one of the first things you’ll notice is that the neck has no frets. This makes playing out of tune much easier.
Even if you have a Stradivarius, it won’t sound good if you don’t know how to play it. To really make musical poetry and get your violin singing, you have to adopt the right position.
After all, you have to stand up straight and relax your shoulders, arms, and hands.
On a right-handed violin, your left hand will be on the neck and playing the notes while your right hand will be in charge of bowing. You, therefore, need to be able to coordinate both limbs in order to play a piece. Your left arm needs to bent with your forearm pointing outwards.
After you’ve placed your chin onto your chinrest and the violin on your shoulder (all without straining), your violin should stay in place even if you relax your left hand.
In the conventional right-handed position, the most common one, you’ll place the neck between the thumb and index finger on your left hand.
Once you’ve mastered your violin bow technique, you’ll need to place your four fingers onto the neck.
Each finger needs to be straight with your knuckles bending over the neck while keeping your hand flexible and nimble. Your hand needs to parallel with the neck in order to gain dexterity.
All of the above needs to be swapped over for lefties!
There’s a set of rules as to how you place your fingers on the fingerboard.
Now you’re ready to start playing a few simple pieces. You’ll be playing some interesting jazz pieces before you know it.
How Should You Position The Fingers on Your Right Hand?
What do I do if my fingers are too big?
This is one of the most common excuses for not playing the violin. After all, it’s not the size of your fingers that matters, it’s how precise they are.
Just like with the guitar, your right hand (for left-handers) will press down on the strings on the fingerboard to change the length of the string thus changing the pitch of the note when the string vibrates.
The base of your index finger is the essential point of contact that ensures that your hand remains stable. To have a good position with your hand, you need to know the basic violin positions.
The positions will determine a violinist’s fingering when playing a song or improvising. Furthermore, confidently positioning your fingers will allow you to play clean notes. This means that your elbow has to point inwards.
If your hand is too low on the fingerboard, you won’t be able to place your index finger in the right place and the notes you play will be all over the place.
Your fingers are numbered from one to four for traditional string quartet instruments (violin, viola, cello) and the double bass. Given that your thumb holds the neck, your first digit is always your index finger.
Your second digit is your middle finger, the third your ring finger, and the last your pinky. When you see a 0 in violin tabs, this means that the string is played open (with no fingers on it), 1 is the index, 2 middle, 3 ring, and 4 pinky.
How do you move your fingers along a string?
To move your fingers along the neck, your index and middle finger will move to the left (towards the lower notes) whereas your ring finger and pinky will move to the right (towards the higher notes).
You can learn more about this technique with the help of the private violin tutors on Superprof.
Violin Techniques for Left-handed Violinists
“When you play a violin piece, you are a storyteller, and you're telling a story.” - Joshua Bell
Are you interested in playing jazz music or classical music on the violin?
Either way, violin technique is really important.
Once you’ve learnt to read music and know your bass clef from your treble clef, there are 8 main violin techniques you should learn:
- Hand shifts
- Double stops
- Harmonic Glissando
Hand shifts are one of the most commonly taught techniques. This is when you move your hand along the length of the violin strings to play a range of notes on the same string. The notes span two octaves in this case.
Vibrato is achieved with your wrist, forearm, and the tip of your finger by moving it backwards and forwards on the string. It alters the pitch of the note.
Trills are done by alternating quickly between two notes that are separated by a semitone to 6 semi-tones. You leave one finger pressing down on the string while another finger will quickly press and release a higher note.
Harmonics are when you place a finger on the string without pressing down on it in a precise position. This creates a very distinct sound.
Double stops are when a violinist plays different notes simultaneously on two strings; a technique that requires that both notes be pitch perfect.
Pizzicato is often done with your bow hand. However, there have been violinists to have performed this technique by using the pinky on the other hand while pressing down on the strings with the preceding finger.
Glissando is done by gliding your finger along the string while pressing down on it. You’ll probably have already seen this technique if you play the guitar. It allows you to slide either upwards or downwards on the fingerboard.
It’s a way to quickly go from one note to another note that’s far away from the original.
Harmonic Glissando. This is a glissando where the violinist doesn’t apply any pressure to the strings.
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Learning Music Theory
Another fundamental part of learning to play the violin is scales and learning how to read sheet music.
While you can read violin tabs, understanding major, minor, harmonic and pentatonic scales will help you to drastically improve your violin playing.
A scale is an ascending or descending series of notes. Scales are useful for improvising a melody.
D major is one of the easiest scales for beginners to learn to play as it begins with an open d string. You’ll need to play D, E, F#, G, A, B, C#, D. There are copies of ancient violin dictionaries featuring violin scales available online.
Of course, you could always just visit some websites, too. The most important thing is to play your musical instrument correctly.
Don't forget that you can also get private violin tutorials at your house! There are plenty of violin tutors from all over the UK on Superprof. Many of the tutors on Superprof offer the first hour for free so you can see if you get along, the type of tuition they offer, and organise the details of your tutorials, such as the rates, schedule, and what techniques you'd like to focus on.
Google for violin lessons for beginners.
With private tutorials, you're the only student in the class. This means that the lessons are tailored to you and what you want (or need) to learn. If you're just playing for fun, your tutor can teach your some of your favourite songs. If you're preparing for an audition for a music school or conservatoire, they can help you to focus on techniques that are going to impress!
Don't forget that, besides violin lessons near me, there are also online tutorials via webcam if you live rurally or can't schedule tutorials with local tutors!
When you first start, you might want to either get an electric violin or a practice with a violin mute so that you don’t annoy your neighbours with your playing.