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How to Play the Violin

Pick up your bow and confidently fiddle your way through a thorough and accessible beginner’s violin course.

How to Play the Violin is rated 3.1 out of 5 by 7.
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Rated 2 out of 5 by from I have purchased numerous Great Courses, and I have previously found both the lectures and the printed course summaries to be ... “Great.” I have NOT so far found this true for the Violin Course.
Date published: 2022-05-14
Rated 3 out of 5 by from I bought for a gift that hasn’t been given yet. Sorry
Date published: 2022-05-13
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Not That Great I have only recently started looking at this but am not at all thrilled. The instructor doesn't even seem to be familiar with the proper terms for some of the parts of the bow and thinks that rosin is made up of resin and wax. I worked as a violin maker/restorer for 9 years and have never heard anything like this. I also am not impressed with a pink painted violin. Paint is not conducive to good tone.
Date published: 2022-04-22
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Good Course! I am an eighty year old beginner at the violin. I am accomplished on the piano and guitar, but I have always wanted to try violin. My aunt was a world-class violinist with the Chicago Symphony, but she was a terrible teacher, so when she passed on, I was ready to try. I was a little taken aback at Ms Whelpton's youth, but she is a great violinist and a good teacher. While it takes several years to sound good playing the violin, I felt she helped me a lot, and unlocked several secrets to good playing that are not obvious to the novice. I now feel I can play confidently and competently for my friends and I am anxious to join our local symphony if they will have me. I would recommend this course to any early and intermediate students of the vioilin.
Date published: 2022-04-21
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great Features! I bought this a month ago and it was very informative. I would like to to see a follow up on how to write good orchestration for the string section or for String Quartet!
Date published: 2022-04-20
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Worth watching This series of lectures is for the pure novice - like me. And it works! I was impressed by the straightforward, no nonsense approach without all the thrills and spills of overblown presentation that is just a distraction. There was no useless information, or information that goes over the novice's head. I will be using this for my children, if they choose the violin. Well done.
Date published: 2022-04-09
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Cheap, Trendy, Cringey. Wondrium. Lovers of the guitar are honored with Colin McAllister, a respected musician, academic, and teacher; lovers of the violin are backhanded with Discount Lindsey Stirling, an unknown, inexperienced, ineffective instructor. This course was designed to appeal to a Gen Z demographic who likely understand proper leg acrobatics to be as important as proper bowing. It was shot on a shoe-string budget and shows. In short, it was produced by Wondrium, not the Great Courses. Avoid at all costs.
Date published: 2022-04-07
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Overview

Gain the skills and confidence you need to learn any violin piece you want to with our comprehensive 24-lesson course, How to Play the Violin. Musician and music instructor Jules Whelpton will take you on a musical journey from easy beginner essentials all the way to complex, advanced techniques. Even if you have never held a violin before, you will find yourself on the road to playing a range of different songs on this amazing instrument.

About

Jules Whelpton

The ability to communicate and play with different musicians and cultures is something that I think people must experience at some point in their lifetime.

INSTITUTION

Youth Arts Academy, Boys & Girls Clubs of San Dieguito

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.

By This Expert

How to Play the Violin
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How to Play the Violin

Trailer

Hello, Violin!

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.

20 min
Violin Rhythm and the Bow

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.

11 min
Violin Notes and Phrases

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.

15 min
Developing an Ear for Violin

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.

15 min
The Rhythmic Rest in Violin Play

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.

14 min
Violin Bowing with Style

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.

16 min
Dynamics and the Use of Violin Volume

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.

18 min
Reading Violin Music

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.

8 min
Violin Scales: Your Magical Toolbox

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.

18 min
Playing Violin as Fiddle

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.”

10 min
Orchestra: Playing Violin with Others

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.

11 min
Violin Playing in Key

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.

15 min
Violin Playing in Time

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.

11 min
Adding More Violin 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.

12 min
Americana Fun for Violin

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.

11 min
Violin Chords and Harmonies

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.

16 min
Double Stops on Violin

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.

16 min
Playing Violin with Confidence

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.

7 min
Playing in Violin’s 3rd Position

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.

15 min
Playing in Violin’s 2nd 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.

14 min
Playing in Violin’s 4th Position

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.

15 min
Vibrato Basics for Violin

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.

20 min
Violin Ornaments, Trills, and Tremolo

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.”

16 min
How to Be a Violinist

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.

13 min