Common Challenges When Learning to Play the Violin

The boot-stomping exuberance of a country fiddle. The mournful voice of an Irish folk song. The elegant notes of Bach or Beethoven waltzing through a symphony hall. Who knew that one instrument could evoke so many images? But the violin dazzles with an impressive musical range. Now, if only it were a little easier to play. Fortunately, the common challenges when learning to play the violin are common for a reason. Every beginning violinist grapples with them.

Form and Posture

You’ll face your first challenge of learning to play the violin before you even play a note. There is a proper way to hold every instrument, but with the violin, unlike the piano, you’ll have trouble making a sound if you don’t get your form, posture, and bow hold right. And holding a bow isn’t the same as holding a pencil. It’s tricky, even for new adult players. If you want to get the most out of your early violin lessons, try to spend as much time practicing holding your violin and bow as you do playing with them.

Intonation

Once you manage the all-important first step of picking up your instrument, you’ll face the challenge of making sound on it—or rather, the challenge of creating a sound other than that of a truck with faulty brakes hauling yowling barn cats sharpening their nails on a chalkboard. The sounds you make in your first lessons may be discouraging. But remind yourself that you need to walk before you can run, and you’ll have to screech before you can fiddle.

After you’ve gotten past the mental hurdle of the barn cats, you’ll be ready to practice practical strategies to help your intonation. Perform these mental checks when you’re practicing:

  • Does your bow need rosin?
  • Go back to form. Are you holding your bow and violin correctly?
  • Is your bow parallel to your bridge when you play?
  • Are you playing more than one string at a time?
  • Are you pressing the string down all the way with your finger?

Sometimes, the reason for poor intonation is simply your uncertainty as you play. Start slow, practicing with simple songs and scales. The more you play, the better your tone will get. Trust us.

Reading Music

Once you can play notes, you’ll be surprised how easy it is to pick up tunes by ear. The real trick is learning to read written music. There’s a lot happening on a page of sheet music between the lines, notes, and strange words in other languages. (Flautando? Col Legno? We thought we were playing Vivaldi, not becoming him!) This, too, will get easier to understand as your practice. And if you have to write notes on your music at first, that’s perfectly fine.

If you or the little Mozart in your life have ever felt discouraged learning the violin, don’t despair. Our violin teachers in Portland, Oregon, understand the challenges when learning to play the violin. And they’re here to walk you through the whole process—from screech to symphony.