“If it is true that the violin is the most perfect of musical instruments, then Greek is the violin of human thought.” - Helen Keller
The violin, viola, and cello are famous for the demanding technique they require in order to be played.
A good number of Brits have taken at least one lesson on how to play a musical instrument in their life. Most people say the guitar is their favourite string instrument while very few seem to have a soft spot for the violin or fiddle.
That said, there are actually plenty of people interested in learning to play the violin, they just either think it's too difficult or too expensive to do. Especially with the instrument accessories that you have to invest in too.
There's some truth to this. The violin can be really tricky to play and it's almost impossible to learn it for free. However, with the right resources and planning, you can make learning much easier and cheaper than you probably first thought.
In this article, we’re going to look at exactly how to play violins right-handed.
Choosing a Right-handed or Left-handed Violin
Generally speaking, if you’re right-handed, you’ll place your violin on your left shoulder and hold the bow in your right hand as your left hand manipulates the neck in order to produce the notes.
You need your right arm and right hand in order to correctly play the violin strings with dexterity, flexibility, and musicality.
Learning to play the violin is an arduous task, especially if you’re trying to teach yourself. It’s recommended that you take violin lessons because there are a number of things that a budding violinist will have to do:
- Avoid picking up bad habits
- Adopt the right posture
- Learn music theory
- Learn to read sheet music
- Correctly hold the violin, etc.
When you start playing violin, you run the risk of becoming demotivated as the violin is very difficult at the beginning.
The main goal of violin tutorials is to ensure that you enjoy playing violin music while also providing musical training for beginners. Your bowing technique will determine how good a violinist you’ll become.
You’ll probably have noticed when watching symphony orchestras that all the bows are pointing the same way. In fact, conservatoires often refused to accept left-handed violinists unless they agreed to play right-handed.
A left-handed violin is a mirrored version of its right-handed counterpart; the strings are in the opposite order, and the bridge, nut, and bass bar are all reversed, too. In this case, private violin tutors will have to adapt their teaching style to their left-handed students (unless they’re left-handed themselves). This can be difficult as they’ll have reverse every movement they see in order to produce a good sound or play a violin piece.
You’re far more likely to see a left-handed person playing a right-handed violin than a right-handed person playing a left-handed violin since around 1 out of every 10 people is left-handed. With fewer lefties about, manufacturers and luthiers make fewer left-handed versions of their instruments.
That said, being left-handed has never held back virtuosos and some of the greatest musicians of all time (including Schumann and Beethoven) were left-handed.
In order to play a note correctly, the bow has to be guided by the forearm and the wrist. You’ll also need to work carefully on holding the violin bow.
How Do You Hold a Violin Bow?
After you’ve tuned your instrument and applied rosin to the bow, you’re going to have to learn how to use the bow.
We’ve said it once and we’ll say it again, correctly holding the bow is fundamental to producing quality notes. How you hold a violin bow is both a science and an art.
Holding the bow itself isn’t the most difficult thing to do. However, holding whilst accurately moving it in order to produce notes is rather complicated.
You need to place the bow with the middle of your index finger just by the pad next to the screw. Then place your pinky on the flat part at the base of the bow while keeping the finger curved. The index and pinky will naturally envelop the top of the bow and now you can place your thumb underneath. Your hand needs to be relaxed yet rigid as if you were holding onto a small rock on a climbing wall.
Achieving a good sound and nuance will come from the speed of the bow, the pressure you apply on the strings with the bow, and how the bow is positioning in relation to the bridge.
This is what we call resonance. You then need to learn how to move the bow through the air. The ideal way is to trace figure eights in the air rather than circles. There are tonnes of great videos on YouTube explaining this technique.
How to Loosen Up Your Right Hand
So you’re in the right position to play the violin with the instrument between your collarbone and your chin. You just have to start playing with your right hand.
We recommend playing open strings first just so you can get the hang of holding the bow. Above all, make sure you stay in the right position.
Place the hair of the bow halfway between the bridge and the neck so that the bow is directly over the soundbox. Move the bow straight across the strings in a smooth and fluid motion.
Don’t forget that the more pressure you apply to the bow, the louder you’ll play. This will be useful for nuanced playing (fortissimo, forte, mezzo forte, piano, pianissimo, etc.).
Normally, you won’t remove the bow from the strings as they’ll need to produce a continuous sound. If they don’t, you might need to add some rosin. Getting the sound right is all down to how you move the bow.
There are a lot of exercises you can do with just open strings. Once you get the hang of one string, you can move onto another string to make sure you’re used to the different heights.
You can then start playing notes by bringing your left-hand into play. Once you can correctly play a note, you can start by placing your middle finger a bit further up from your index, and then your ring finger, all while playing one string with the bow.
What Violin Techniques Are There?
You can’t just stop there doing basic techniques. Just like playing the guitar or the piano, you won’t become a master in just one day.
Mastering violin bow technique can take a lot of practice.
There are also plenty of different techniques, too:
Whatever type of attack you use, here’s some advice:
- Position your elbow as if you were playing the D string
- Move your elbow straight when you change from one string to another
- Lower your elbow for the reverse motion
- Give the impression that the bow is horizontal
- Move the bow down when you move to the G string
- Keep your elbow at the same height when playing a single string
Would you like to learn to play the violin at a conservatoire or music school? Or are you looking for a violin teacher near me?
You can also get private violin tutorials at your house! There are plenty of violin tutors from all over the UK on Superprof. Many of the tutors on Superprof offer the first hour for free so you can see if you get along, the type of tuition they offer, and organise the details of your tutorials, such as the rates, schedule, and what techniques you'd like to focus on.
With private tutorials, you're the only student in the class. This means that the lessons are tailored to you and what you want (or need) to learn. If you're just playing for fun, your tutor can teach your some of your favourite songs. If you're preparing for an audition for a music school or conservatoire, they can help you to focus on techniques that are going to impress!
Don't forget there are also online tutorials via webcam if you live rurally or can't schedule tutorials with local tutors!
When you first start, you should consider an electric violin or a try to practice with the violin mute accessory so you don’t upset your neighbours with your playing.
It would be a shame to get complaints just as you’re getting started with the violin. Stick with it! You’ll soon be making progress.