View Full Version : Anyone teach herself to play violin?

Mar. 19, 2012, 07:24 PM
On a whim, I bought a (cheap) violin around the holidays. I have always loved the sound of the violin. Played piano as a youngster (many decades ago).

Is this impossible? I don't know how I would fit lessons into my schedule.

Any hints? Thanks if you have some!

Mar. 19, 2012, 07:50 PM
My college roomie did, but she was very musically inclined and played several other instruments. I guess I would get some instruction books from a music store and begin just as if you were a child learning.

Mar. 19, 2012, 08:35 PM
I bought a Yamaha electric fiddle...neat invention and it's quieter than the acoustic version. I'd suggest taking a few lessons on how to hold it, some bowing technique and then go for it. Just take a lesson every couple of months to spot the bad habits before they're totally ingrained.

My brother was a concert pianist, an amazing musician. He taught himself to play the cello in 2 months...amazing talent, some people have it. I don't (I can sing though)...my musical instruments are painful examples of lack of a natural talent (fiddle, banjo and concertina). I did horses, brother did music...we both made the smart choice for our talents.

Mar. 19, 2012, 08:38 PM
I can't believe you started this thread! I've been toying with the idea of taking up the viola. I've never played an instrument in my life aside from a few weeks of piano lessons thirty or so years ago. :)

Mar. 19, 2012, 08:48 PM
I can't believe you started this thread! I've been toying with the idea of taking up the viola.

Supposedly, Violas are a bit easier to learn than violin. Haven't a clue why, but I know the violinists I know say that (of course, they insult the violists too!...they're the appaloosas of the bowed instruments)

Mar. 19, 2012, 09:05 PM
I've played both violin and viola. I took lessons, but I always learned more by ear than with sheet music. My music-reading skills are almost nonexistent now.

It would be worth it to take a few lessons; you'll need help learning how to hold the bow and how to draw it across the strings, where to put your fingers on the fingerboard (don't be reluctant to use tape to mark the positions; we all started with them), how to tune your violin, etc.

You will also need spare strings (they do occasionally break/wear out), a comfortable shoulder rest (you can start off with a sponge and a rubber band, but if you want to practice for longer periods of time, you'll want a real one), some good rosin (not the cheap crap), a soft cloth to wipe your violin off, and possibly a rubber mute if you're in a situation where you need to limit the sound level. You don't need a lot of rosin; scratch the surface of the cake with a paperclip to get it started, and then rub the cake of rosin along the hairs of the bow for about 20 seconds. You need just enough for the hair to "grip" the string and not slide, but it shouldn't look like it's snowed on your fingerboard. ;)

Super cheap instruments can make life a little harder for you as a learner; you won't get really good sound out of them, and sometimes they are harder to keep in tune.

If your violin is older or has been sitting unused for a while, it may need some maintenance. Old strings will need to be replaced, the bridge alignment checked, and perhaps the soundpost adjusted. Your bow may also need to be rehaired. You can consider adding tuners to all four strings instead of just the E string; that can make minor tuning adjustments a lot easier. Using the pegs can be daunting at first, especially if they tend to slip or stick (there are products that can help with both issues).

When I played a lot, back in high school/college, I got most of my supplies from Shar: http://www.sharmusic.com/. You'll be able to find things like rosin, strings and a shoulder rest here, but as shoulder rests can be somewhat individual, it can be better to go somewhere in person and try out a few models to find the one that fits you best.

Have fun. :)

Mar. 19, 2012, 10:12 PM
No offence, but teaching onesself violin is akin to teaching onesself to ride. A few may become passible, but why not limit the pain in the process? :lol:

Violin is a pretty difficult instrument, and it is so, so very easy to pick up bad habits (and bad technique that won't cause problems until it is fully ingrained). So, get thee to a teacher. Violin is so great once it gets rolling, and a teacher will get you there more quickly.

PS: I have an electric and acoustic, and the electric sits in the closet. It doesn't reverberate, and that living feeling is part of the fun of playing. If you need to "turn down the volume," you can get a metal mute for the bridge--it looks like a silver or brass comb.

Mar. 19, 2012, 10:50 PM
Started playing as an adult with no prior stringed instrument experience (only woodwinds). I tried to learn on my own, and it sounded like I was killing cats. So I went for once a week lessons - and yes, learning to play (ie hold, bow, form, etc) the right way in the beginning will certainly be the wise choice. Have fun!

Mar. 19, 2012, 10:53 PM
I am not playing the violin but I'm - trying to at least - teach myself to play the cello. I got a few lessons from music majors at a nearby college when I was starting (they were more willing to teach at odd hours fitting my schedule) and since then I've been trying to go through the Suzuki books on my own. Mostly I still sound like I'm strangling my cat but overall it's fun to do something completely different!
Happy playing!

Mickey the Marcher
Mar. 20, 2012, 12:27 AM
I'm a self taught fiddler, as are most of my fiddler friends, a small handful are classical converts.
If by "learn to play violin" you mean play classical music, then it would behoove you to seek on instruction, plus you'll need to learn out to read music.
For fiddle playing a few lessons can be helpful to point you on the right road, but given there are so many different styles and traditions (and sub styles within those traditions), you'd first need to zone in on what style you want to learn.

The instrument does have a steep learning curve, even for people who already have some background playing other instruments. Hopefully you live alone, as a neophyte player can drive those around them to seriously consider murder.
Don't get too hung up on the quality of the instrument, I've seen some of the finest fiddle players on the world pick up a cheap instrument belonging to a student and make that thing sing.

One bit advise I'd give is spend more time on the right hand than left, the real secret to the instrument is in the bow hand. A lot of beginners obsess with the left hand intonation, that will fall into place by itself in time.

Mar. 20, 2012, 12:52 AM
Supposedly, Violas are a bit easier to learn than violin. Haven't a clue why, but I know the violinists I know say that (of course, they insult the violists too!...they're the appaloosas of the bowed instruments)

It's not really that they're easier, but the music for viola is overall much less demanding than for the violin. The violin has a huge solo repertoire, much of it pushing the envelope, so to speak, of the technical possibilities of the instrument. In chamber music, such as the string quartet, the violin (well the first violin) is the upper voice, which is often the most virtuosic.

The viola, on the other hand, has a limited solo repertoire, and in chamber and symphonic music often functions as a filler (harmonically) voice. There are, of course, exception to this.

But it also explains why good violinists can cross over to viola, but usually not vice versa.


Mar. 20, 2012, 07:41 AM
Thanks for all the great tips!

I can use the bow without making cat sounds. I did go on-line for some video clips of how to do a couple of things. Bought one of those things to put on the neck to show the notes (but haven't put it on yet). I read music when I played piano, and it is coming back to me when I look at music.

I am finding that wearing bifocals is challenging as they are calibrated for reading and not looking down the neck of the violin. Hopefully, I'll find out how to adjust the glasses on my nose!

Did find someone on CL who does lessons ... probably a good idea to have a few of those (or more!). I will need discipline to find the time to practice. Let's see ... less brushing on horses, less playing with the dogs, less housecleaning (think we have a winner in that one!).

Thanks again!