Surviving the First Three Months as a Violin Beginner

I recently heard from a frustrated online student. When I asked him how it was going (I always check on my new beginners in the first month), he confessed that he was ready to give up. In his words, “I can’t get past the squeaks”.

Here is the advice I gave to him:

YES, violin is the worst instrument for beginners. Think about it: how bad does a beginning pianist sound? Not bad at all! The tone is there from day one!

How about a beginning oboe player? Not bad at all…they can’t even get a sound out of their instrument at first!

How bad does a beginning guitar player sound? Not bad at all! Once you learn a D and A major chord, you can strum beautifully to many a folk tune.

But a beginning violinist’s first sounds? Ugh! We squeak and squawk for weeks on end. If it’s not something we are doing wrong with the bow, it is something we did wrong with our left hand.

Let’s face it: It is easy to sound bad on the violin, and hard to sound good.

But to those who persevere and get past those initial horrible hurdles, the reward is immense! The violin is an instrument that gives back all the love that you put into it! It is the gift that keeps giving, and the challenge that never ends!

Jascha Heifetz once said, “The more I learn about playing the violin, the more I realize there is to learn.” That is The Heifetz. One of history’s greatest violinists. I think we can cut ourselves a little slack!

Below are some of the most fundamental keys to getting over those initial beginner squeaks:

  1. Play only in the upper half of the bow
  2. Master the Middle Lane of the highway (sounding point…stay on it!)
  3. Use greasy elbow to move the bow, not your shoulder
  4. Play lots of open strings, or lots of repeated notes, thereby removing the added difficulty one hand while learning to create good tone with the right hand.
  5. Learn to relax your bow hold
  6. Learn to not use excessive pressure or weight. LESS IS MORE!

Those six items seem like a lot, but really, the first three go together. Number four is just a practice tip. Five and six go together. So really, there are three main things to keep in mind as you are beginning: bow motion, bow hold, and bow pressure.

Try them out! I bet you will be enjoying your tone in three months or less. Good luck!