If you are just starting to play the violin and aren’t sure if synthetic strings are better than the gut or steel ones, read our article on that and see what’s best for you. And if you’re a beginner, you might also want to read what we have to say about Kun violin rests and other shoulder rest models.
Learning to play the violin takes time and, unfortunately, this instrument is one that is harsh to beginners. When you play the piano you can get some music right from the beginning, with relative ease. But the violin is different, you need to be patient and to learn a lot until you’re able to produce beautiful music.
Here are some of the challenges that you must overcome in order to achieve greatness when playing this beautiful instrument.
The violin is a gracious instrument that requires excellent concentration and a great posture to be played correctly. It is an instrument that is held and played in a unique way, being placed on the left shoulder under the chin, giving the beautiful impression that the player and the violin are connected physically too.
A student may find it difficult to hold the violin in the perfect position. Holding it lightly with the left hand, pressing the strings with the same hand, and using the right hand to operate the bow is a hard task. And while doing all of these, you need to coordinate your left and right hands, although they sometimes make different moves.
It’s a challenge to use a single hand, so using them at the same time is hard to achieve. However, this will come naturally the more you play the violin. Unlike the guitar, the violin doesn’t have frets on its “fretboard”, so there is no physical guide to help the player in hitting the desired notes.
That is why it’s a more complex instrument and you might find it harder to play – the main thing that determines the quality of the sounds is how good the player is. The placement of the fingers of the left hand is what differentiates a note that is in tune from one that isn’t.
At first, you will struggle to find the perfect tone, and your violin will probably sound horrible. But after some time of steadily practicing how to position the fingers, you will be able to place them correctly without even looking. You will develop the muscle memory that will help you with this.
Although this is a challenge that’s hard to overcome, there are certain techniques and teaching methods that you can apply to make the process faster. One popular such technique is the Suzuki Method, and this one is most suitable for young beginners. In this method, the art of playing the violin is treated as a language and the student needs to embrace it step by step, day by day.
In other words, children should be exposed to music every day and they should be encouraged to play the songs by ear and not by reading written music. By being exposed to music so much and being encouraged to think about music, children develop a good ear and are more talented.
But for adults, this method doesn’t work that well, especially if you have lived most of your life without paying too much attention to music. You can use another method to help you progress faster – by sticking pieces of tape to the violin you can create your own frets and they should help you have a better understanding of where to place the fingers.
Learning to read the music
There are certain people that don’t have a musical background and they don’t know much theory, but they are great at playing instruments by ear. Although that is possible, it requires years of work or a huge amount of talent. But if you really want to achieve the highest levels of expression, you need to learn how to read music.
Only by knowing the theory you can go beyond what you already know and get more creative. The process of learning how to read music is a time-consuming one but the results are worth the effort. And because the violin is such a complex instrument you will also need to learn some specific terminology and not only the basic music theory.
On a piece of written music for violin, you also have markings that are used to indicate vibratos, pizzicatos and the direction in which the bow is played. There are many other terms used for violin music sheets and you will need a professor to guide you through all of them. And this is where you might face another challenge.
Finding the right teacher is sometimes difficult, especially if you’re an adult and your schedule is a bit more complicated. You can learn to play this instrument by yourself, or following tutorials on the internet, but that is difficult and you may learn things the wrong way. A qualified teacher will be able to help you overcome the challenges that appear when you play.
Make time for practicing
As the saying goes, practice makes perfect, and to play the violin well you need to practice a lot. It’s an unforgiving instrument that will sometimes make you very frustrated. If you want to learn the violin you should take the time to play it every day, maybe for hours each day. Only by playing regularly you will be proficient at it.
You probably have a busy life already, but if you want to dedicate yourself to playing the violin you will have to play a little bit every day. At first, you might get frustrated by the lack of experience and inability to coordinate your fingers and your bow, but you shouldn’t be affected by that, as this learning phase will pass.
Listening to yourself playing can be difficult and you might have issues with variations of speed when you learn bowing techniques. If you feel that you get too frustrated, the best way to get over that is to concentrate your playing time in short and intense periods of time. If you do that daily you will eventually get past this problem.
What you should know before learning how to play the violin
Learning to play a musical instrument is a long process since there is always something new to try on the instrument of choice. However, once you achieve each goal you set, the satisfaction is peerless. However, there are a few things to be realistic about, such as not expecting to play like in a movie soundtrack after just a few lessons.
Is the violin hard to play then? It is certainly not easy, but practice and commitment are critical and will eventually get you where you want. There are a few things to help you when learning to play the violin, though, as they will help you set realistic goals and not be disappointed when what you had in mind about the violin is not what you actually achieve when playing the instrument.
The first thing to keep in mind is that the sounds you will get in the first few weeks of practice are likely to be harsh and far from the beautiful violin sounds you hear in movies or concerts. Those sounds involve years of practice and an impressive number of repetitions.
Therefore, don’t be disappointed about those first scratchy sounds, they will eventually turn into sonic beauty if you are committed, practice regularly, and correct your mistakes. Plus, even professional violinists still have moments when their violin sounds noisy and scratchy.
Yes, there will always be someone who plays better than you but remember that this is not a competition. It is a way to help you express yourself through the sounds produced by this beautiful instrument, develop new skills, and discover yourself.
Learning the violin as an adult means that you can see better players who might still be in their childhood years. Don’t be discouraged by the difference between your level as a beginner and the level of professionals, but rather use those examples as a source of motivation to be perseverent and work harder to achieve your goals.
At the same time, if you want to learn to play the violin just as a hobby, make sure it does not become a source of stress. There will be challenging times indeed, and they might even make you want to give up, but no musical instrument is easy. Some instruments are easier than others, but all of them require perseverance and lots of practice if mastery is desired.
Practice tips for violin students
Whether you’re learning violin at 30, earlier, or later in life, there are a few tips to help you make this journey a bit easier and get you closer to your goals. It is essential to find a good teacher if you want to maximize the time you allot to learning to play the violin.
How hard is it to learn the violin by yourself? You can find that answer by trying to take a few lessons at home using instruction books or apps and then take the same or similar lessons with a teacher. You will thus see the difference. Yes, you can learn to play this instrument even at home without a teacher, but it will likely be easier to do so only after you’ve learned at least the basics with the help of an instructor.
A teacher will hear you practice in person, provide you with personalized feedback, and help you make the necessary adjustments according to the violin difficulty or issue you encounter. Students develop various issues that vary from one person to another, and here is where a personal instructor can help you greatly.
Not to mention that when learning the violin, you should start by learning more about the correct posture, how to hold the instrument correctly, and how to position your fingers. A video tutorial might help you with that, but many students need a teacher to physically tweak the issues related to these aspects.
Therefore, how hard is it to learn the violin without a teacher? In most, if not all, cases much harder than when trying to learn how to play the violin for beginners without a teacher’s help. Regardless of the instrument you want to play, the best way to make this journey easier and thus more enjoyable is to have other people who know the instrument help you.
Turn practice sessions into a regular activity. By skipping them, even if only now and then, you might lose momentum fast, which can only be detrimental to your progress. Speaking of progress, keeping an audio journal of your practice sessions will help you see how much you progressed and where you need to make adjustments.
Again, here is where a teacher can help you tremendously, but if you can only afford to take just a few lessons with a teacher to get acquainted with the basics, such a journal becomes even of greater help.
Keeping your violin in mint condition will be part of your violin experience. To be able to practice and get closer to your goals, you will have to take good care of your instrument. Still, doing so is not complicated, and it will become second nature after you take these steps a few times.
You have probably seen that violinists tighten the bow and then apply something over the bow hair when preparing to play. The bow has a little curve, and in order to maintain it, the bow should be loosened when not in use. To achieve that, just turn the knob placed at the end of the bow. Next time you need to use the bow, simply turn that knob the other way.
What violinists apply over the bow hair is rosin since the hair used for the bow is slippery, and it thus needs friction to make a sound. Rosin is used to trigger friction and enable the bow hair to create sounds. However, the rosin leaves residues on the violin strings, and you will have to clean them off.
Musical instrument stores offer cleaning kits that include everything you need to clean your violin. Learning to play the violin should also include learning how to provide proper maintenance if you don’t want to hire a professional to do that. Given that cleaning the strings, replacing them, and keeping the violin in good condition are all simple activities, you could also save money by learning to do all that yourself.
To sum up, the answer to questions such as ‘is playing the violin hard?’ depends on your previous experience with musical instruments, how fast you usually learn, and the learning methods you choose, just to name a few factors.
What always helps when it comes to mastering a musical instrument is perseverance. Practicing regularly and having reliable help to make the needed adjustments whenever they are required will help you get one step closer to reaching your violin-related goals.