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Playing the fiddle and playing the violin - are basically the same - it is the same instrument of course. The difference is in the music itself. In learning how to play this instrument - everyone should start out the same. Mastering the violin is a complex job that requires years of intensive training. The violinist must be able to transmit his feelings to the listener while feeling perfectly a ease with the instrument, be it in the accuracy of each note as in the use of the numerous sound capacities of the violin!

There are two main parts to the technique of violin playing: the left hand and the right hand (bow technique). The latter serves exclusively for producing sounds, while the former can influence not only the height of the different notes, but also the quality of their sound.

1. Holding the Instrument

The violin is held horizontally, to the left of the tailpiece, between the collarbone and the lower jaw. The left arm, half-bent, encloses the neck between the thumb and the index knuckle. The violin is held in such a way that the belly faces the listeners and especially to allow easy handling of the bow.

2. Left Hand

The fingers of the left hand should press down on the string forming a slightly acute angle towards the front; the rapidity with which the finger presses down on and then releases the string determines the clarity of the sound (in accordance with the laws of vibration). The fingers move not only vertically but also laterally, so as to produce, whether they are held closely together or separated from the other fingers, the half-tones and the full tones of the scale. Double strings, used for producing chords are obtained by pressing down on two strings simultaneously and by rubbing them with the bow. The violin technique numbers the fingers from one to four, the index finger being the first and the little finger, the fourth. Changing the finger positions rapidly and smoothly constitutes a major difficulty in violin technique, the mastering of which greatly depends on the strength of the chin and shoulder, for they allow a "free hold" of the instrument and the hand to slide easily along the neck. The muscles should be supple to avoid any impediment in movement. For the higher notes, the position of the hand and fingers on the fingerboard is modified, and the spacing of the fingers to obtain a tone, considerably reduced - in accordance with the laws of physicis - in relation to the first position (starting position, near the nut.) The changing of position serves, on the one hand, to widen the sound span and therefore responds to purely technical demands; on the other hand, it plays an important role in conveying expression and consequently should be appreciated from an aesthetic point of view. As the notes of a same frequency sound very differently on the various strings, changing positions influences the timbre. The choice of fingering is indeed a fundamental means of expression in violin technique to present the various musical figures! A slight oscillatory movement, the vibrato, enriches the sound by a very slight modification of the pitch of the note; it is a means of expression typical of violin playing.

3. Right Hand (bow)

The job of the right arm is to rub the bow on the string in the right place, in the right direction and at the right speed, and with the necessary pressure. The main job of the arm is to ensure that the bow remains as upright as possible, without any lateral deviation, so as to form and maintain a right angle with respect to the vibrating string. In order to achieve this, the hand holds the bow near the frog, and the index and second and third fingers rest on the stick while the thumb presses on the underside of the frog. The little finger is slightly spaced from the ring finger, which is slightly curved. In this position all the finger joints are ready to balance and compensate the larger arm movements; the palm of the hand is almost parallel to the stick. The speed of the bow is essential for the dynamics of the sound. The faster the bow, the louder the sound. Thus subdividing the bow plays a major role in violin technique, and in the manner of striking the string with the bow lies every violinist's capital means of expression. The passages between two neighboring strings are carried out by raising or lower the wrist. The movement of the hand in rubbing the bow on the string does not follow a straight line, but rather a horizontal figure eight; thus there is more pressure on the bow at the head than at the frog. The term "pull" and the contrary movement, from the head to the frog, by the term "push" designate the movement that leads from the frog to the head. The chords are obtained by combining 2 double-strings; in some cases, one can, by a slight rebound of the bow, hold a third note! Plucking the string with the index, the second finger of the thumb is called a pizzicato.

How to Hold the Violin

Left Hand Tips:

The elbow should be under the center of the violin. Keep the wrist gently rounded. Avoid resting the wrist against the violin neck. The thumb should be opposite the first or second finger. Maintain a curved, open space between the thumb and index finger (a backward "c")

Bow Hold Tips:

Relax hand, slightly turn wrist to the left, and let the fingers drop into place. The tip of the bent thumb touches the frog, contact point. Fingers gently curve over the top of the bow stick. The middle finger is opposite from the thumb.

Bow Placement Tips:

Good tone quality is achieved through proper bow placement. Bow speed and bow pressure. Slightly tilt the wood of the bow towards the fingerboard. Place the bow on the string at the middle point between the bridge and the fingerboard. Draw the bow in a straight line so the bow remains parallel to the bridge. Loud sounds can be achieved with heavy bow pressure and by drawing the bow close to the bridge. Soft sounds can be achieved with light bow pressure and by drawing the bow close to the fingerboard. Keep the level of the arm and bow constant while playing different strings.

Violin and Bow Care

Tighten your bow before playing by gently turning the tension screw. Avoid making the bow hairs too taut - the separation between the bow stick and hair should be about the width of a pencil. Put a small amount of rosin on your bow before playing. Hold the rosin in your left hand, place the bow hairs flat on the rosin and slowly move the bow back and forth on the rosin. After playing the violin, gently clean it with a soft cloth to remove rosin build-up on the strings. Loosen the hair on your bow before putting it back in the case. Do not store your violin in extreme hot or cold locations.