The violin, the smallest of the stringed instruments, has its origins in Italy. A violinist can play four octaves on a violin, starting with the G string, ascending to an F near the end of the fingerboard on the E string. Players create different notes by pressing fingers down on the strings and bowing or plucking that string. Good violins also produce overtones, a reverberation that enhances the sound quality coming from the instrument.
Violin players need to learn just one clef to play the music written for this instrument. Unlike pianists, cellists, violists or bass players, everything for the violin is written in the treble clef. A musical clef has five lines, and the placement of the note within the clef indicates what note it is. Musicians and composers add lines above or below the standard five lines to show higher or lower notes.
The lowest string on the violin is G, followed by D, A and E, the highest string. Players use each of their fingers on the left hand to press down the strings to create the notes on the violin. The index finger pressing down on the G string creates an A, the middle finger creates a B and the third creates a C. Sometimes violinists use the four finger to play a D, although the next string over is also a D. Open strings on a violin have a brighter sound that the note created by pressing the fingers on the string.
In order to play in tune, the strings need to be tuned frequently using the pegs in the scroll at the top of the neck on a violin. Stringed instruments are tuned in fifths, a natural interval that players learn to hear. The notes created on the violin are whole or half steps, known as naturals, sharps and flats. Players change the notes they play by moving or sliding their fingers higher or lower on the string. Learning to play in tune takes time on stringed instruments. Unlike some other instruments such as the guitar, the fingerboard of a violin has no markings or frets, and while beginning students can use tape on the fingerboard, most educators discourage the practice.
In order to play the four octaves on the violin, players use different positions. Most students start learning the first position, and teachers introduce the other five positions as the students progress. Players combine the positions to play passages more easily. The player can move her hand anywhere on the fingerboard to play a scale or a musical sequence. The first note in the third position on the A string is a D, while the first note in the fourth position is an E on the A string.