How to Start to Play the Violin

Learn to play the violin.

The violin is mostly known for being used in classical music, but there have been performers who have made a name for themselves composing more modern music for the violin. In a symphony orchestra the violin is the main melody instrument. It's a fine instrument for a music student to begin at an early age.

Starting Out

Find a private area with a straight-back chair and a music stand.

Take the violin out of its case and place the instrument base on your lap.

Pluck each string using your right or left thumb to test its tension and hear its pitch.

Use a pitch pipe or a piano to tune your violin to G - D - A - E. ("E" is the top space on the treble clef on your sheet music. "G" is below the second ledger line of the treble clef.)

Wrap your left hand around the upper body where the neck and fingerboard extend from the instrument.

Place the base of the violin and the black chin rest below your chin.

Bring your left shoulder around so it's under the chin rest and forms a support from below.

Keep the violin level using your left hand. Your shoulder and chin provide firm, but easy contact and support.

Be comfortable and relaxed.

Place your right thumb at the corner of the fingerboard nearest the bridge.

Put the pad of your index finger on top of the "G" string.

Apply slight pressure so that your finger lands on the neighboring "D" string. This is "plucking" and is called playing "pizzicato."

Pluck the "G" string four times in a steady rhythm. Use no fingernails.

Repeat on the "D", "A" and "E" strings. Count with a steady beat or use a metronome.

Say the names of the strings each time you pluck to make a sound.

Mix the sequence and keep the tempo at a slow rate. Focus on accuracy.

Identify the location of the "D" and "A" quarter notes on the treble clef of your sheet music. "D" hangs just below the bottom line. "A" occupies the second space.

Using the Bow

Tighten the bow hair so there is a 3/4-inch space between the hair and the bow at the closest point.

Place your right thumb on the inside part of the bow where the frog creeps forward and back.

Lay your three middle fingers on the outside of the bow. Place your pinkie on top, near the adjustment screw.

Rest the side of your index finger (just above its second joint) on top of the bow stick.

Place the frog end of the bow hair on top of the "G" string halfway between the end of the fingerboard and the bridge.

Allow your hand to fall naturally from your arm at the point of your wrist.

Apply a slight bit of pressure on the bow and draw a straight line while vibrating the string. Stop near the bow tip. This is a "down bow."

Reverse the direction and move the bow on the string from the tip to the frog. This is an "up bow."

Move the bow at a medium-slow and regular speed.

Focus on producing a steady and pleasant-sounding tone.

Left-Hand Fingering

Place your left thumb under the violin's neck about 1 1/2 inches below the nut.

Play two pizzicato notes on the open (no fingering) "G" string.

Keep your index finger arched and press down firmly on the "G" string with the pad of your fingertip.

Play two pizzicato notes on this same string. This produces the note "A" - eight notes (an octave) lower than the open "A" string above.

Play this low "A" with your index finger on the "G" string. Then play the high "A" on the open string above. Listen to how they match in pitch.

Adjust your finger placement on the "G" string to make the "lower A" pitch match the upper.

Put your middle finger on the "G" string one inch closer to the bridge.

Pluck the string. This note is "B" - two whole steps above the "G" string.

Play B - A - G - A - B - B - B and you've played your first tune, "Mary Had a Little Lamb."

Try these steps while using the violin bow.


A shoulder pad or shoulder rest that attaches to the base of the instrument often helps the young student support the violin. These cost between $12 and $35. Focus on the goal of knowing how each of the four strings sound. Train your ear to recognize pitch changes and the qualities of sound. Try to reproduce the pitch of the string while speaking its name. Each string is five notes (a fifth) above or below its neighboring string. Keep the bow hair at the same point on the string as you move it across the string. Be relaxed and enjoy yourself. It's okay if the pitches and rhythms are not "exact." You'll improve by listening closely and practicing regularly. Keep your thumb positioned in the same place on the neck at this stage.


When tuning, overtightening any one of the strings can put too much tension on the bridge. When replacing the bridge, bring all four strings to a medium tension before you begin tuning. Avoid "picking" the strings vertically. This can cause a "slapping" sound when the string hits the fingerboard. Avoid drawing a curved arc when pushing or pulling the bow over the strings. Loosen the horsehair of the violin bow at the frog after every playing session. An adjustment of this tightening device is an unnecessary expense at the repair shop. Don't allow the palm of your left hand to collapse on the violin neck.

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