The violin dates back to the early sixteenth century in which the instruments were depicted in the works of Gaudenzio Ferrari, a pioneer of classical artistry who was active throughout the early to mid-1500s.

Although it hadn't gained worldwide popularity until much later, it is noted that people had been playing the instrument for over five hundred years and within the change of decades, centuries and millennia, there has been an abundance of techniques developed to support players who wish to progress and develop their skills.

Conventionally, seasoned players may offer their services in a 1:1 player-to-learner situation or the teacher may choose to lead learning groups for students within a similar experience level.

Throughout the years, there have been many developments in the way students of the violin opt to learn.

There is a range of beginner books to support players at varying levels of experience and proficiency; some of these books will be discussed in this article.

Whether a beginner goes down the route of structured lessons or instead uses online and physical resources to support their learning; the very essential techniques and areas of understanding must first be mastered in order to progress at an efficient level. 

Usually, a player is advised to work on their understanding of the parts of the instrument and how it is held before learning a piece of music.

Also, learning the violin requires the player to read sheet music and this in itself can be done in conjunction with learning the violin.

Usually, players have had some experience with reading sheet music as this can be covered within music lessons from early education. If the player is however completely unfamiliar with reading sheet music, then this is a great place to start!

Violin teachers will often hand out additional work for their students to support learning in between lessons. A lot of these independent tasks would be to revise sheet music to help gain familiarity of the various notations and time signatures - a deeper understanding of this is covered below:

An Introduction to Sheet Music - Reading Music for Beginners

A piece of sheet music lays on a stand.
Although reading sheet music may at first seem a little daunting, it is important not to be deterred! The more you practice the easier it becomes. (Source: Visualhunt)

It is said that musical prodigies can play any piece of music simply by listening and repeating. And as fortunate one could be to possess such abilities, that, unfortunately, does not apply to the everyday player.

Just like anything, regular practice develops one's abilities, and in the context of violin playing - one's ability to recognize, interpret and replicate a piece of music can take a significant amount of time, especially when attempting more complex compositions.

So, starting with a step-by-step guide is a great way to get started!

Identifying the Musical Symbols of Notation

Symbols in sheet music comprise of the staff, the clefs and the notes.

The staff is what most of us are familiar with. The five lines and four spaces in which the clefs and notes lay.

The Clefs

The glorious treble clef, with its curved neck and swirling tail - at first, a challenge to draw, but similar to riding a bike, once you master it the skill never leaves you.

This symbol is used at the beginning of every line of music to show the notes which will be played by instruments that can achieve a higher notation. It is one of the most common symbols in sheet music and therefore the go-to for a beginner.

As well as the bass clef (also a common symbol in sheet music), it is vital to gain a stronger understanding of the usage of these clefs and why they are important to recognize when reading music.

The Notes

Once the player forms an understanding of the structure of the staff and clefs, it comes to learning the notes and how they each contrast to tell the reader what should be played.

The notes generally tell us three things:

The note head: located at the top of the note, helps the reader to establish which note to play due to its placement on the staff.

The note stem: The purpose of the stem is simply to make the note easier to read.

The note flag: This is the curved part which you would find attached to the stem of the note. This tells the player how long they should play the note.

What Is Needed? A Violinists Non-Negotiable's

A man plays his violin in a standing position.
Beginners often underestimate the amount of equipment needed to play the violin. (Source: Visualhunt)

When it comes to equipment required for a beginner, find below a list of the 'must-haves' needed before arranging violin lessons:

  1. Let's start with the obvious: A violin. They come at a range of prices and this is discussed in more detail within this article. It also highlights the average cost of violin lessons across The United States.
  2. Every violinist needs a bow - again, they can come at a range of prices and makers use different materials. The material, age, and brand of the bow tend to affect the overall price. 
  3. Rosin - this substance comes from pine and comfier trees and is used by cellists, violinists and other users of stringed instruments. Its primary use is to help the bow grip the strings, therefore, creating a more effective production of sound: It is applied directly to the strings and is needed for all players! 
  4. Durable case - similar to other stringed instruments, violins are especially delicate so a player must invest in a shockproof, reinforced case. Most music shops can advise on cases in alignment with the overall price.

Other accessories needed include:

  • Shoulder rest
  • Chinrest
  • Music stand
  • Tuner
  • Sheet music/violin books
  • Extra costs
  • Soft Cloth
  • Dampit - to combat humidity issues.

Violin Books for Beginners

A pair of spectacles rest upon a piece of sheet music.
Some books are revered within the violinist community, yet recent publications have given beginner/intermediate players more options to choose from. (Source: Visualhunt)

Consordini is a well-known online platform in which musicians from all respects can research to gain a reliable insight into new musical equipment and the various accessories that are available for their instrument of choice.

Best violin books: A must-have list for beginners and advanced violinists is a great place to start! Within this list, there are several books created specifically to support and develop aspiring violinists of varying levels of experience.

Each of the books listed within the link provided review cover most 'essentials' of violin learning, however, some books, including Frost and Anderson's 'All for STRINGS' offer particular insight into the very fundamentals of violin playing, mostly explaining the systems of scales and how one should hold and place their fingers when playing various scales and chords.

Rapoport's 'Violin for Dummies', non-coincidentally targeted towards newbies and absolute beginners, covers the most basic of techniques as well as specific instruction on how to look after your instrument as well as tune it and apply the resin to the bow.

Seasoned violinists often talk of how some performers cannot reach their maximum potential due to unsavory techniques they may have picked up along the way which, in turn, can go onto tarnish personal development.

Therefore, following necessary instructions on how to hold your bow and violin properly should never be underestimated!

More advanced publications which support beginners in learning how to play the violin include:

One of the most decorated violinist educators of the 20th Century, Japanese performer Shinichi Suzuki, created a series of books in which the teachings become increasingly more challenging between each volume.

Simply titled 'Suzuki Violin School' (Volumes 1-4), the style of teaching is said to be unique and revered within the violinist world.

Another publication suited toward more intermediate and advanced players is the principles of violin playing & teaching by Ivan Galamian. The musical theory is, comparatively, much more advanced than most violin books on the market and also includes various ideologies and high-class, advanced player exercises.

Although such books are helpful and are usually advised to support the development of beginner and intermediate players, finding an ideal violin teacher, especially when it comes to violin lessons for beginners, is considered the most effective way in a player's development.

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