How to Play the Violin
Pick up your bow and confidently fiddle your way through a thorough and accessible beginner’s violin course.
Jules Whelpton is a professional musician and music instructor at the Youth Arts Academy, a nonprofit program from the Boys & Girls Clubs of San Dieguito. She has also taught at organizations including TakeLessons, and she created and codirected an after-school program for Peninsula Union. She received her BA in Music Studies from Humboldt State University.
Jules specializes in popular and classical music and plays regularly across the country. In 2017, the San Diego Music Awards nominated her band for Best Rock Album. She has been featured in articles from Guitar Girl Magazine, The San Diego Union-Tribune, Making Music Magazine, and more. She has also received endorsements from Pig Hog Cables, Reunion Blues Gig Bags, and Reverend Guitars.
01: Hello, Violin!
Lay the foundation for playing your first notes as you explore the anatomy of the violin and learn how to care for and tune your new instrument. By the end of this lesson, you will be able to perform your first exercise, “Monkey Dance,” created by your expert Jules Whelpton.
02: Violin Rhythm and the Bow
You know that notes and pitches are essential in music, but let’s not forget rhythm. Follow along as Jules teaches you how to read note values, and then pick up a couple more exercises to practice your newfound skill. Jules also emphasizes the importance of practicing slowly and not jumping ahead.
03: Violin Notes and Phrases
Using your finger tapes, you will play a game by following along as our instructor shows you how to perform some simple tunes building on the notes you just learned. With practice, you will soon be able to make it sound as if your instrument is singing these melodies.
04: Developing an Ear for Violin
This lesson is all about training your ear and memory to play by rote. You will learn how to match the pitches that you hear and play back simple melodies. You’ll also be introduced to the concept of scale playing and how important they are to your foundational violin technique.
05: The Rhythmic Rest in Violin Play
It is perhaps more critical with the violin than with any other instrument to master playing a rhythmic rest properly, because this technique hinges on your skill and control. This lesson covers the necessary bow patterns needed to play half and quarter note rests, first slowly and then quickly.
06: Violin Bowing with Style
Explore and develop some artistry bowing techniques such as legato and staccato bowings; legato is smooth, and staccato is short and detached. These techniques are fundamentals of early bowing. Once mastered, they will lead you to learn other techniques that are based on these foundational ones.
07: Dynamics and the Use of Violin Volume
How do volume changes in music bring art to musical pieces? Adjusting the volume to either very loud or soft can evoke emotion and show the listener the difference between a beginning violinist and an advanced player. Learn to hear and play four primary dynamics in this lesson.
08: Reading Violin Music
You have practiced playing by ear in previous lessons, but now you will begin to sight-read your violin music by understanding the musical alphabet and seeing how it is written on a page. You will be learning the lines and notations needed to decipher music as written notes.
09: Violin Scales: Your Magical Toolbox
Take a deeper dive into the Western styles of music by studying the notes and their accidentals—flats and sharps. You will then combine them in steps to form keys and scales, play some fundamental major scales, and memorize their patterns with your fingers.
10: Playing Violin as Fiddle
What is the difference between a violin and a fiddle? Journey into medieval European history to answer this question, then begin to learn the art of fiddling by using the call and response method used in earlier lectures to play your very first fiddle piece, the “Swallowtail Jig.”
11: Orchestra: Playing Violin with Others
Now that you're comfortable with basic violin music theory and have practiced solo, it's time to consider taking the next step: playing with others. Discover the inner workings of an orchestra and see how being in one will enhance your musical experience and reinforce the reasons why you're learning the violin.
12: Violin Playing in Key
Here you will further practice intonation by using scales, beginning by reviewing all the ones you know so far, and expanding to some others that grow your technique by adding some “low twos” as well as accidentals. You will also work on resonant tuning to develop your violinist’s ear.
13: Violin Playing in Time
At the halfway point through this course, you will be ready to take some of your finger tapes off and move on to learning how to improvise your own melodies within a given chord progression. You will prepare for this by learning how to play arpeggios in many different rhythms.
14: Adding More Violin Rhythms
The violin is a very versatile instrument that spans multiple genres and styles. To elevate your playing, you will be picking up more complicated rhythms by exploring the art of syncopation, as well as using compound meters, which are helpful in genres such as rock, jazz, or Americana.
15: Americana Fun for Violin
Americana folk music is a fantastic way to practice your improvisation skills because it is informal and can be practiced in small groups. In this lesson, you will use a track to experiment with knowing when to blend in or stand out in this type of ensemble.
16: Violin Chords and Harmonies
Did you know that violins can also play chords like a ukulele or even a guitar? Here you will practice the easiest way to begin learning to do so by setting up your bow to cover two strings at once, using resonant ringing to keep your pitch in tune.
17: Double Stops on Violin
If you've ever been to a wedding where Pachelbel's “Canon” was performed and wished you could play it, you're in luck! We'll be using this piece to conquer the concept of playing double stops, a technique that is an extension of chord playing and spans from folk to classical music.
18: Playing Violin with Confidence
At some point in your journey of becoming a violinist, you will hopefully perform in front of an audience, whether it be your family and friends or the public. Here, we will discuss all the ways you can ensure that you will always have confidence and perform your best.
19: Playing in Violin’s 3rd Position
So far, everything you have learned to play has been with your left hand held in the first position. Now, it is time to explore other notes that are higher than the ones you have marked, which brings you to learn how to play in third position.
20: Playing in Violin’s 2nd Position
After third position, you will now learn second position, which will help you with more advanced fingers and notes that are guaranteed to appear as you progress with the violin. You'll then be introduced to a piece that will train you to shift effortlessly between first, third, and second positions.
21: Playing in Violin’s 4th Position
Fourth position in violin is an advanced step that you will be taking now that you are becoming competent with first, third, and second positions. This position is a very comfortable one, best practiced with scales, and is very important when it comes to learning how to play vibrato.
22: Vibrato Basics for Violin
Mastering vibrato can take years; however, it is never too early to start trying this technique that uses wrist motion to cause a slight fluctuation in pitch to create richness and depth in your tone. You will begin by practicing with a slow tempo, then move up to faster tempos.
23: Violin Ornaments, Trills, and Tremolo
You will now learn three significant bowing and tone techniques to complement everything else that has already been covered: ornaments, trills, and tremolo. Each one will be explained in detail, and you will practice good technique by using only your wrist and fingers with our expert's original composition, “Tremors.”
24: How to Be a Violinist
In this final lesson, you will go over a roadmap that will review concepts you have already explored, such as playing in tune, rhythm, dynamics, form, and bowing techniques and articulations. Keeping this roadmap handy will help you essentially learn any piece you would like to on your own.