The violin is often considered to be one of the most difficult instruments to learn. By knowing the challenges of learning violin before you get started, you can better prepare to avoid bad habits and enjoy a life-time of music making.
Violin is one of the most popular musical instruments in the world and as such, many people want to learn how to play it.
Unfortunately, many aspiring violinists' desire to learn is often overshadowed by the fear it is too late, they don’t have enough time, or that violin is too hard to learn.
If you’re struggling to learn the violin, or debating on whether or not to even begin, don’t worry, you’re not alone! Chances are you’re reading this because you’ve also dreamed of learning the violin and you want to know the answer for yourself.
Is violin hard to learn?
The short answer is yes. But with some hard work and perseverance, not only can you be successful in your new venture, you can actually have fun learning!
It is true, the violin is one of the most difficult instruments to learn - and for good reason. While it only has four strings, it presents its own set of unique challenges for beginning violin players. Anyone who has ever tried to play the violin has struggled at some point along the way.
But by knowing the challenges ahead of time, you can better prepare to overcome them, avoid bad habits, and enjoy a life-time of music making.
Begin By Knowing Your Why
Take a moment to think about your “why." What is the reason you want to learn the violin? It may be that you want to learn a Bach concerto, play for your friends and family, or maybe you just want to have fun picking up a new hobby. You may have even heard the violin in the background of one of your favorite soundtracks or saw a violin virtuoso in concert and thought, “I wish I could do that!”.
Whatever your “why” is, it will ultimately keep you motivated whenever you feel frustrated or discouraged. It will help you face the challenges of learning violin head-on and you’ll have a better chance of reaching your goals.
Let’s look at some of the reasons violin is hard to learn and how you can set yourself up for success from the very beginning.
As a beginner, it is hard to just pick up any instrument for the first time and make a beautiful sound. This is especially true for the violin and any other bowed string instruments, like the cello, bass, or viola.
The first time you pick up your violin and try to play, you may feel a little awkward and make some unpleasant sounds. Don’t let this discourage you! Even the best professional violinist you can think of didn’t make beautiful sounds when they first started.
In order to produce a pleasant sound, your hands have to move in completely contrasting ways. One hand moves the bow on a horizontal plane while the other works on a vertical plane on the fingerboard. This doesn’t come naturally to the human body. It’s counterintuitive - like patting your head while rubbing your stomach (talk about something being difficult!)
You can overcome this challenge by practicing one thing at a time in the beginning. Instead of jumping in and learning how to use both hands at once, take some time to get more comfortable holding the violin and playing pizzicato (plucking the strings). Then, put the violin down and practice holding your bow and moving your bow arm.
The bow makes the violin sing - it’s the voice of the instrument. Traditionally, your right arm and hand control the bowing technique. Gaining proper control of the bow without dropping it, or sending it flying through the air, can be difficult for beginners.
Instinct tells us to grab the bow like we would any other object, like a pencil or a water bottle. But there is a specific way to hold the bow so you have control over its weight and speed. A bow hold might seem hard to master at first, but after determined practice it becomes second nature.
You may be reading this and wondering, what if I’m left-handed? Does that make the violin more difficult to learn?
You can bow with your left hand if you choose to. Because violinists use both hands equally (and they are both equally awkward in the beginning), it’s really up to your preference.
Either way, with a little rosin, some guidance on technique, and a lot of practice, you’ll be able to make your violin sing!
Traditionally, the left hand controls the fingerboard. On many other string instruments, like the guitar, the fingerboard has frets. So, for a guitarist, as long as their guitar is in tune, they play in tune.
However, the violin is a fretless instrument. So having the correct distances between your fingers and pressing down on the exact right place on the violin strings is how you play different notes correctly.
This sounds hard, but it’s not impossible! There are methods to make this easier in the beginning, like putting finger tapes on your violin to help you know where to place your fingers.
You can also practice finger placement using pizzicato. Beyond that, ear training and repetition is key to overcoming this challenge. Eventually, muscle memory takes over, and knowing where to place your fingers on the fingerboard becomes like second nature. Then you can move on to more advanced left hand techniques like vibrato.
Now that you know a little more about what makes the violin hard to learn and a few strategies to help, knowing how to set yourself up for success is equally important.
Finding The Right Equipment
First, you’ll need a good violin, a bow, rosin, an extra set of violin strings (accidents happen!), and of course a case to keep your instrument protected. That sounds expensive, but it doesn’t have to be.
One important thing to keep in mind while you search for the perfect beginner instrument is that violins purchased from sites like Amazon aren’t shipped ready to play, they’re often not even inspected by a qualified luthier. This means you may have to pay a music teacher at a local shop to put on violin strings, and adjust the tuning pegs and bridge. This often results in putting more money into setup and repair fees than the instrument is worth.
It is best to find a good local violin shop, or look at trusted online shops that specialize in violins. Purchasing or renting a good violin from a music shop will give you the best value for your money and ensure you’re set up for success!
Finding a Good Violin Teacher
A good teacher will take the time to understand your goals and support the “why” behind your desire to learn. It’s important that you feel comfortable communicating your goals so they know exactly how to help you achieve them.
They will also give you feedback to help you know that you’re hitting the right notes, using the correct bowing technique.
A big part of violin lessons is also learning music theory, like how to read the notes and symbols in your sheet music and understanding the techniques in the songs you are playing.
The right teacher will help you feel comfortable and confident in your ability to learn while challenging you to strengthen your technique and skills.
If you choose to use a self-guided method of learning, it’s still a great idea to check in with a teacher from time to time, as they can monitor your progress and offer you more tips and encouragement.
When you download Trala on your iPhone or Android, you’ll be matched with the right violin teacher for your age, experience level, and musical interests. You’ll meet with your teacher one a week or on a monthly basis on your own schedule, from your own home. Your teacher will become your mentor and friend, someone who’s invested in your development as a musician and can encourage you to hit your goals.
Playing Music You Like
Many think of the violin as a strictly classical instrument. This is not the case! The violin has evolved far beyond the classical genre. No matter what kind of music you like, chances are there’s sheet music out there for it or a teacher that can help you learn it.
If you are only learning one style of music or from one method book, such as Suzuki, you may feel stuck and become discouraged - especially as an adult student. Learning violin music in the styles and genres you are interested in will keep you motivated and help give you the sense of accomplishment you need to push forward.
If your goal is to learn to play classical violin concertos, jam along to your favorite pop song, shred in a neighborhood rock band, or improvise with a local jazz group, playing the type of music that interests you from day 1 is important to an enjoyable learning experience.
Knowing How to Practice
While learning any new instrument takes discipline and practice, this doesn’t mean you have to devote hours upon hours of daily practice to achieve your goals. You’ll benefit from focused practice sessions far more than from honing in the hours and watching the clock.
Instead, focus on gradual improvement and making steady progress. Developing the habit of practicing is very important. The thought of consistent practice may seem overwhelming, but that’s when you really get results!
It’s not necessarily how much you practice, but that you practice consistently. Pick a time 4-5 days a week and make it a habit. You'll surprise yourself with how quickly you learn!
Don’t rush through the learning process. Don’t worry about perfection or getting to an advanced skill level right away. The aim is not to become a virtuoso overnight, but again, to gradually progress. Remember to enjoy the journey rather than stressing about reaching the destination.
One of the best things you can do is take the time to push through periods of frustration and try your best to have fun!
There’s no reason you can’t become a great violin player, no matter your current skill level, age, or circumstances.
That’s where remembering your “why” comes in. It’s not so much about your age or how much time you have to devote to learning and practicing, but your desire to persevere in the long run.
By using these keys for success, you can overcome every single one of these challenges and reach your goals.
In the end, while violin playing can be hard work, take a lot of time, and even be a little humbling in the beginning - you’ll find the journey of learning violin is just as satisfying as the end result.
Many students find learning violin to be a cathartic experience, one that helps them unwind after a busy day or process difficult emotions. Learning violin through a community like Trala will connect you to violinists all over the world and can even bring new friendships into your life. Nothing feels better than learning a new skill or song after a few weeks of mindful practice.
So, instead of thinking of how hard it may be to learn violin, consider it a challenge you can overcome, and enjoy the benefits of your hard work! Don’t forget - you can do this!
Ready to learn violin? Here's everything you need to know before finding the right instrument, tools, and resources for your violin journey. Start playing your violin today!
The beginner violinist’s guide to finding the right instrument, tools, and resources
Purchasing your first violin can be an exciting experience, but it can also be difficult to know where to begin. There are so many different violins and brands to choose from, yet they all seem to look the same. So, what’s the best violin for beginners? The answer isn’t as simple as you might think.
Rachael Miller, Trala’s Student Success Manager, tells students to “view the process of buying a violin like finding a good bottle of wine. It’s a subjective, personal decision.”
With so many variables to consider, many beginner violinists end up with an instrument that does not support their learning. Trala’s mission is to make world-class music education accessible to all. This guide was created to help you navigate what to look for so you can find the best violin that suits your taste and budget and make learning an enjoyable experience.
Things to Consider When Buying Your First Violin
Quality and Price
Set a budget for yourself. While there is no one-size-fits-all best violin brand for beginners, your first instrument will likely cost between $200 and $500. When deciding on a budget, keep in mind that the cheapest violin is often more challenging to play, making learning more difficult and not giving you the best chance.
Unfortunately, many people who decide to learn to play lose interest and motivation because their violin simply doesn't sound good.
As a general rule, you’ll want to avoid instruments that are under $100. These violins are typically made from materials that are not ideal for the violin, like steamed wood or plywood. They are typically covered in a thick and glossy furniture varnish that doesn't allow the wood to breathe, vibrate, or produce a good sound quality.
It’s also highly likely that a cheap violin will fall apart, the wood may shrink or crack, and the violin will become unplayable. Unplayable instruments like these are known as violin-shaped objects, (VSOs) because they resemble violins but do not actually function.
A high-quality string instrument will make your learning experience more enjoyable and less difficult. Good quality instruments are not only easier to play, but you also get a better sound which keeps you motivated and helps you improve faster.
Sound and Playability
When you're first starting, you won't know whether producing a good quality sound is difficult because you're still learning or because the violin isn't right. This is the most common reason beginner violin students give up. They believe they can't play, become frustrated, and stop learning when, in fact, the instrument simply does not work.
It is important that you enjoy the sound of your instrument. Because violins are made of organic materials, each one has a distinct sound.
Several factors can affect an instrument's playability, making it completely unplayable in some cases. Too much space between the strings and the fingerboard, for example, can make playing the instrument painful. Strings of poor quality are prone to breaking, and cheap plastic hair on the bow can make it difficult to produce a sound. Instruments made of cheap wood and/or with poor varnish will produce harsh notes.
A good-quality violin is usually carved from more traditional woods and is made by a luthier or master builder. They have a solid maple back and a spruce top.
The tuning pegs, fingerboard, tailpiece, and chin rest should all be made of real ebony. Most of these fittings are high touch “wear” areas and ebony is a very durable type of wood. A good quality violin will have ebony fittings instead of a cheaper wood simply painted black.
It’s always a good idea to perform a quick visual inspection of the violin you’re considering. Whether you’re buying or renting online or at a local violin shop, there are a few things you can determine just by looking at the violin.
First look at the tuning pegs at the top of the instrument. If the pegs appear to be different lengths, they may be faulty. The pegs are in charge of keeping the strings in tune, so a certain amount of string tension is required. If the pegs won't hold the strings tight, the violin is unplayable.
Next, inspect the bridge, which is a thin piece of wood that sticks from the body of the violin and holds the strings in place. If the bridge is too high, the strings will be too far away from the fingerboard, making pressing down on the strings more difficult and potentially painful. Strings should be curved downward at the top of the bridge, so the D string sits highest, and the A and E strings are a little lower. Bridges without enough of a curve will have strings too close to the same height, making it difficult to bow individual strings.
The Correct Size Violin
Violins are available in a variety of standard sizes. They are usually expressed as fractions, ranging from 1/32 (suitable for young children) to 4/4 (frequently known as full-size), which should fit most adults. If you're smaller in stature or have smaller hands, you might prefer a 3/4 or 7/8 size. If you’re not sure which you need, you may need to have a professional fit you or measure yourself to find the perfect size first violin for you.
Most musical instrument stores employ luthiers, who build and repair stringed instruments as well as fully inspect and tune them before you make your purchase. This means that all parts of the instrument, including the strings, pegs, bridge, and bow, are thoroughly examined, and your violin will be ready to play as soon as you receive it (you'll still need to tune it, of course).
Instruments purchased from big e-commerce sites such as Amazon, on the other hand, are not always inspected. So, you will need to take your new violin to a local music store to be properly set up. When a luthier inspects your violin, they will look for flaws that may impair playability. Repairing a cheap violin can sometimes be more costly than a new instrument itself.
Renting vs Buying
The Advantages of Renting
If you’re just wanting to try to play the violin, but aren’t sure of your commitment yet, or you don’t mind recurring payments, there are some benefits to renting your instrument.
Most rental agreements provide a low monthly rental rate that is a fraction of the cost of the instrument. As you advance in your playing skills, or if you simply want to try a different violin before making a purchasing decision, most rental policies allow you to switch out or upgrade during your rental period.
Be sure your rental agreement covers accidental damage protection. Many dealers provide instrument insurance that covers normal wear and tear and unexpected damages. Without this protection, you could be looking at expensive repairs for things like a collapsed bridge or crack in the bow or instrument body.
Always read the fine print to ensure that you understand exactly what the rental agreement does and doesn't cover and whether insurance or services are additional.
Rent-to-own options are often available at many instrument shops. Most rental agreements allow you to put a portion of your payments (or the entire amount, in some cases) toward the price of the violin, in the event you decide to buy it.
The Advantages of Buying
If you're certain you'll continue to play the violin, purchasing an instrument can be a better overall value. It will also help you avoid recurring payments as you’ll own your violin right away.
Buying can also be a worthwhile investment. If your instrument is dept in good condition, it will be worth the same amount a year later as the day you bought it. In some cases, used violins are even more valuable because they have already been broken in. With a used one, you can save a little money while still getting an excellent violin.
Where to Find a Good Violin
We’ve partnered with two celebrated violin shops to help our students purchase the best violin for beginners. Thanks to our friends at Kennedy Violin and Fiddlershop, you can find your first violin at a price point that makes sense for student violinists of all ages. If you don’t live near a music store these online violin shops have helped countless beginner violinists find their first instrument.
Kennedy Violins shares our mission to put a violin in the hands of anyone who wants to learn. Their staff of string players is committed to finding the perfect violin for beginners, and if you need new strings, rosin, a chin rest, or anything else for your instrument, Kennedy has you covered.
Fiddlershop is a family-run business that caters to beginner violin students, hobbyists, and professional musicians. They carry a wide range of quality violin brands that make some of the best instruments for beginners including Fiddlerman, Holstein, Ming Jiang Zhu, Scott Cao, Yamaha, Cecilio, and more.
Be sure to check the return policy before making a purchase Many violin shops (local or online) offer a trial period, but if not, make sure you are clear on their return policy and return window. If you are unable to return your instrument, that should be a red flag. You’ll be able to evaluate the product for a few days to see if you like the sound, and you can return or exchange it if you don't.
You may be able to apply some or all your purchase price toward the cost of a future upgrade if the store or website you are looking at offers a violin trade-in program. Many advanced students begin with a good quality starter violin, then upgrade as their skills progress.
You’ll also want to be sure the music shop you purchase your violin from offers a warranty.
Finally, good customer service is important! Violins are not static instruments, like a pencil. They change depending on their environment. The temperature and humidity, string tension, how long it’s been sitting around, and how often it is played, are only some of the factors that affect your violin. When you find an instrument shop with great customer service, you have the peace of mind of knowing that you can pick up the phone and talk to a knowledgeable person about your instrument whenever you need help.
All beginner and advanced violinists need a few accessories to make the most out of their playing. Here are a few recommendations to help set you up for success!
When you buy a beginner violin, it almost always comes with steel core strings. They are better for beginners because they stay in tune for longer periods and are easier to tune. Synthetic core strings have a warmer, more pleasant sound and, when tuned properly, can make learning more enjoyable. Whatever type of violin string you choose, it's always a good idea to keep an extra set in your case in the event you need a quick replacement!
The bow is your most valuable tool for producing a good tone from the violin. A good bow improves the tone and playability, making it easier and more enjoyable to play. You don't have to spend a lot of money on a bow, but cheap quality bows can be very soft, heavy, or out of balance, making it difficult to play.
Cheap bows have low-quality plastic hair that will not hold rosin. Good bows will have horsehair and will hold rosin better. The weight of the bow is also important. Beginner bows should have some weight to them so that new students can easily make sounds and balance between strings. When the bow is too light (due to cheap materials), you will have to apply more pressure to get it to sound. This may result in a screechy, unpleasant sound.
Wooden bows are said to have the most pleasant sound. However, carbon fiber bows are better at maintaining their shape and consistency across a wide range of humidity levels, and they typically have great bowing action and response. Carbon fiber bows are also more long-lasting. You can always use the bow that comes with your violin outfit and then decide on the perfect bow for you as you progress to intermediate and advanced bowing techniques.
The sound of your violin is greatly influenced by the rosin you use. It is made primarily from tree resin that has been cooked and molded into a hardened shape. When you rub rosin into the horsehair of your bow, it leaves a sticky residue. This residue is what allows the bow to make a sound when you draw it across your strings. The rosin, not the hair, is what is in contact with the strings. The sound will be abrasive if it is too sticky. Poor-quality rosin can even make it impossible to produce a good quality sound.
Don’t be afraid to try different kinds of rosin to find what works for you! You can always use the type that comes with your violin outfit and experiment later.
In the beginning, playing the violin can feel awkward and uncomfortable. You may find your violin slipping around during your practice, or your neck aching because you must bend it to keep your violin up. A good shoulder rest can help you avoid pain and posture problems! Shoulder rests allow your violin to sit more comfortably on your shoulder and ensure you keep your neck straight. Because each person’s build is unique, it’s important to find a shoulder rest that is comfortable for you.
The violin you rent or buy will come with a chin rest, but you don't have to use it. There are several types, including some that sit higher up over the violin or tailpiece. The chin rest that works best for you fits comfortably against your jaw. It all depends on the shape of your shoulders and neck, and the type of shoulder rest you get. Many beginners use the chin rest that is already attached to their violin at first. You can always work with a violin teacher or shop to figure out what type of chin rest works best for you!
If you live in an apartment building, have roommates, or want to practice while the kids are in bed, purchase a violin practice mute so you can play for as long as you’d like without bothering anyone. A mute works by sitting on or close to the bridge (depending on the type you choose) and lessening the vibration of the strings which in turn dampens the sound your violin produces.
The environment plays a significant role in your violin’s condition. Weather conditions and heat could cause your violin to get too dry. When this happens, the wood can split, or the seam could begin to come apart. It’s a good idea to either purchase a humidifier for the room you keep your violin in, or some humidifiers sit inside your violin case.
Violins are sensitive and go out of tune often. You’ll want to tune your violin every time you get it out of the case to play. A tuner will help you know how far to turn the tuning pegs or fine tuners to tighten the strings. When you download Trala on your iPhone or Android, you’ll have a tuner built right into the app! It will tell you exactly which peg or fine tuner to turn and when each string is in tune.
Fingerboard Tape and Stickers
Because the violin doesn't have frets like a guitar to signal where you place your fingers, it can be difficult to tell if you're putting your fingers in the correct place. Fingerboard tape can be used for beginning violins to help play in tune. These tapes or stickers go on the fingerboard to clearly label all the notes. As you become a more advanced player, you'll want to take all the stickers off your violin.
Although these tools are useful and it’s easy to get overwhelmed by all the things you think you’ll need, there is no need to purchase them all at once. Many people begin with a violin outfit. A violin outfit includes everything you need to get started. Other than the violin, the outfit should include a carrying case, a bow, rosin, and a polishing cloth.
Additional Tools and Learning Resources for Beginners
If you’d prefer to learn on your own or need more structure in your self-directed practice time, go beyond YouTube videos and look for a tool that will allow you to get feedback on how you sound and the notes you play.
We also highly recommend supplementing any self-directed learning with lessons from a professional violinist. When you take violin lessons with a great teacher, you'll become a more confident, adaptable musician.
When you download Trala from the App Store or Google Play you will get matched with the best private lesson teacher for your unique needs and interests. When you're a beginner, the right violin teacher can help you navigate important milestones like finding the best violin and shoulder rest (reminder: don't order your violin from Amazon), setting achievable goals, and building a strong practice routine.
Trala has a wealth of learning resources that will teach you how to play the violin, how to read sheet music, how to improve your violin skills, and much more to keep you motivated with your practice.
Finally, be patient in your search for the ideal beginner violin. You might fall in love with the sound of the first violin you try, and if so, congratulations! If not, use this article as a guide and keep searching. And as with your journey to learning violin - don’t give up!
Need help tuning your violin? Follow these simple step by step instructions to avoid breaking a string or hurting your instrument.
If you’re new to learning violin, you might be intimidated at the thought of tuning your instrument for the first time. Don’t worry if tuning seems complicated at first. Trala teachers have taught thousands of beginner violinists to tune their instrument. With a good electronic tuner and a little bit of practice, you can be confident in your ability to tune your violin.
If you’re already a Trala student, you have access to an in-app violin tuner that lets you quickly tune your violin at the start of every practice session. To get started, watch the video below to learn how to safely tune your instrument. Then, open the app and look for the violin tuner icon at the bottom of your Trala homepage. Trala will listen to you bow or pluck open strings and tell you how to adjust the fine tuners of your violin (or tuning pegs, if you’re really out of tune) to achieve the right note.
If you aren’t able to download Trala or tuning app, consider purchasing a clip-on chromatic tuner. Remember, even professional musicians rely on tuners. Unless you have perfect-pitch, a good tuner is a must-have for any student violinist.
Need help tuning? Watch this video to learn how to tune your violin as a beginner.
Pegs slipping? Watch this video to troubleshoot common violin tuning problems.
Violin tuning cheat sheet
How to tune a violin
1) Take out your clip-on tuner or use Trala’s in-app violin tuner. Many orchestral violinists start by tuning the A string. At Trala, we break with tradition and encourage beginner violinists to tune their E string (the thinnest string) before moving on to the rest of the violin strings.
2) Pluck or bow the string. If your tuner indicates that your string is slightly too sharp, turn the fine tuner on that string to the left (counterclockwise) to loosen it slightly.
3) Play or pluck your string and continue to adjust until your violin tuner indicates that you are in tune.
4) If your tuner indicates that your string is slightly too flat, tighten it by turning your fine tuner to the right until you have reached the correct pitch.
5) If your string is loose and needs a bigger adjustment than the fine tuner allows for, use the peg box.
6) If you’re standing, sit down. With the F holes facing you, place your violin on one leg. Anchor your violin to your hip and securely hold the shoulder of your violin with your left hand.
7) If your string is too low, it will need to be tightened. Slowly turn the peg away from you (clockwise), pushing the peg into the scroll of your violin as you turn. This is a slow, incremental motion. Remember, never crank the pegs of your violin, or you’ll break your string.
8) Stop to play or pluck the string. When your violin tuner indicates that your string is nearly in tune, stop turning the peg and firmly push it into the scroll of your violin to secure the string. Finish tuning by using the fine tuner until you've reached the desired pitch.
9) Repeat the tuning process with the rest of your strings in this order: A and E string, D string, G string.
If you tune your violin every time you practice and stick to a regular practice schedule, you’ll notice that your strings will stay in tune for longer periods of time. If you stick with your practice routine and keep your violin away from excessive cold, heat, and humidity, you’ll find your violin only needs minor adjustment to get in tune. When in doubt, use your fine tuners (not the pegs)!
How long does it take to learn how to play the violin? In this article, we'll explore what progress you can expect to see in six months, one year, five years, and beyond.
Wouldn't it be amazing to learn a musical instrument within a matter of minutes? Imagine all the music you'd be able to play! Unfortunately, as with many other skill sets, it’s not quite that simple. Learning to play a new instrument takes a lot of practice, just as it takes a lot of practice to hit a perfect shot on the golf course, or to learn another language. The more you practice, the faster you'll improve.
In the end, how long it takes to learn violin depends on one thing: You.
What Does “Learn Violin” Mean To You?
Learning violin can mean something different for every aspiring violinist. Maybe you want to play in front of family and friends at a party, join a local orchestra, play some difficult violin concertos, or maybe you want to play violin as a means of fun and relaxation.
Goals and timelines can be very different for someone who wants to become a proficient violinist, and someone who wants to become a professional violinist. Someone aspiring to be a competent musician and someone aspiring to be a master violinist have very different goals. Whatever yours are - they are within your reach!
The point is that only YOU can measure what success looks like for you. When it comes to learning the violin, everyone moves at their own pace. Most people, on the other hand, reach specific milestones after a certain amount of training.
Learning violin is an ongoing process with no set endpoint. It might take a lot of time and hard work, but anyone (at any age!) can learn the violin. With consistent practice and a great teacher, here’s where you might be in 6 months, 1 year, 5 years, and 10 years from now.
Before You Begin
As you dive headfirst into learning how to play the violin, the first step in this process is selecting the violin that’s the right fit for you. Regardless of whether you rent or buy a new violin during the early stages of your learning process, it's important to do your homework.
The best violin to learn on doesn’t have to be expensive. Going to a music shop or online violin store with qualified luthiers is the best way to go. Purchasing a beginner violin from somewhere like Amazon will result in a low-quality violin that produces a low-quality tone - no matter how hard you practice. And you’ll likely have to pay someone to set it up for you and potentially do repairs. So, it’s best to find a good beginner violin that is properly set up so you’ll be ready to play from day one!
You'll begin learning the fundamentals in your first month of violin lessons, such as understanding the parts of your violin, how to tighten and rosin the bow, proper bow hold, and how to care for your new instrument.
Don’t worry, you won’t be stuck here for long! Great habits are best formed from the start, whether you play the violin as a hobby or aspire to be a concert-level musician.
Early violin lessons will include posture, proper bow hold, note reading, violin scales, and music theory. If you’re a Trala student, you’ll learn these foundational skills while playing real songs on day 1 of your violin journey.
To assist with learning the different notes, you will learn how to play pizzicato (plucking the violin strings). Violins don't have frets to help identify different notes, so this will help you develop the skill of placing your fingers correctly on the fingerboard in first position.
You’ll also learn how to bow open strings to help you control the weight and sound of the bow. Ultimately, it is better to learn what each hand does separately until you are comfortable.
As you become more comfortable with simple bowing, you can add your fingers and play exercises on one string, and eventually learn how to cross strings with your bow.
The next few months will be exciting because you will be able to play some simple tunes that you are already familiar with!
At this point, you will become more familiar with the fingerboard and where to position your left-hand fingers (1-3) to play notes other than open strings. It will also become easier for you to hold your instrument and bow correctly, and your skills will continue to improve, including understanding notes on the fingerboard and bow directions.
Typically, you will develop your skills through more complex songs and etudes. An etude is usually a short piece designed to help you focus on a particular technique. You’ll also learn the difference between staccato (short and detached) and legato (smooth and connected) bowing.
By the end of month six, you'll have improved your bowing technique even more. You will get more comfortable using the entire length of your bow, as well as crossing strings more effectively. This will open a whole new world of violin playing for you!
By the time you complete your first year of learning violin, you’ll be able to play a variety of pop, rock, classical, and folk songs. And because you’ll know so many notes and rhythms by this point, the number of songs you can play will increase dramatically and you can really branch out into music you like to play!
You’ll continue developing your skill set and learn to play even more notes. Left-hand skills include learning to play all the notes on the fingerboard in first position, including sharps, naturals, and flats. You’ll add in the fourth finger (pinky). With the use of all four of your fingers, you’ll be able to play in flat keys, not just D and A major.
You’ll see new bow markings in your sheet music, like slurs and hooked bows. You’ll also learn how to bounce the bow and play faster and more accurately at this point.
More difficult rhythms like dotted and syncopated rhythms will be covered and you’ll be able to play faster music while maintaining a good tone quality.
Over the next few years, you’ll solidify all the notes in first position, and become even more comfortable playing in flat keys.
Your bowing will become more complex and varied, and you’ll begin to grasp double stops and triplets.
Somewhere around the 2-3 year mark, you will learn how to shift your left hand higher up the fingerboard into third position. This will open up a whole new range of higher notes on the violin.The higher you shift on the e-string, the farther your range.
You’ll also learn how to play vibrato, which will help produce a more nuanced sound and play with more expression. As your violin tone improves, your confidence will increase!
If you’ve made it this far, congratulations, you’re pretty dedicated to the violin, and by now, you’re pretty good!
By year 5, your confidence will soar as you gain experience. You may even want to take part in orchestras and chamber music groups, and perform informal concerts with family and friends.
You’ll begin shifting into higher positions, learning more complex songs, and learn advanced fingering and bowing, and continue to master more and more sophisticated techniques.
Picking up sheet music to your favorite songs will be so much more accessible to you now that you’ve been playing violin for a while.
You will be quite proficient by year five - keep expanding and honing your skills!
Ten Years and Beyond
There's no limit to what you can learn at this point! The more time you devote to practicing the violin, the faster you will be able to improve your skills and learn more music that you enjoy playing.
You can make a lot of progress in just a few years if you practice hard and stay committed to learning the violin.
It is reasonable to expect to reach a fairly 'professional' level in 10 years. But even after reaching a professional level, you can still improve!
The goal here is to play this beautiful instrument. Give yourself a reasonable time frame and plenty of practice. Along the way, keep in mind these 5 tips for enjoying your violin journey:
1. It’s Okay to Be Noisy
You may feel like you are screeching your way through songs at first, but with time and practice, you'll continue to develop a beautiful tone.
The truth is that at first even just holding a violin can feel unnatural and require some getting used to. It's normal to feel a little uncomfortable while trying anything new. Because you're just getting started, don't be afraid to have fun with your violin and really make some noise. Making mistakes is part of the learning process and will help you become a stronger violinist.
2. Your Journey is Unique
Learning to play a musical instrument is never a race. You are the only person you are competing against. Don't be bothered by the fact that others might learn at a different pace. Consider how you can better express yourself through music and how you are progressing towards your goals. The only thing that’s important is if you’re enjoying playing the violin.
Every violin student’s journey is unique (and often not linear). How long it takes to learn violin depends on your individual goals and how far you want to go.
When you download Trala on your iPhone or Android, you'll be matched with the right violin teacher for your age, experience level, and musical interests. Your teacher will take the time to learn your goals, help you create a custom practice routine, and teach you how to play the songs you love to listen to. A great teacher will become your friend and mentor, someone who will motivate you to keep learning and growing.
3. Consistency is Key
Students who achieve excellent results over the long term are consistent. Repetition is essential for your brain and hands to remember what you learn.
A short practice session every day, when you're fresh and focused, is much better than leaving your violin in its case for days and having practice marathons. In between marathons, you will lose your skill and decrease your learning speed.
Pick a practice length you can manage each day. Even though you can practice longer, sticking with a daily routine is what's most important to your long term growth.
While the violin is a difficult instrument to learn, it is by no means impossible! With hard work, determination, and lots of practice, you’ll find yourself making progress week after week. Learning violin does not take hours of practice every day. Setting aside even 20 minutes a day will help you make progress!
4. Pace Yourself
Remember, everyone’s journey is different! Even Mozart, a musical prodigy at age 4, took 13 more years to develop into a world-class composer. Depending on your goals, daily life, and responsibilities, you will progress at a different rate than others. It’s important to know what works best for you.
Trala allows students to learn at their own pace. You can practice with the app every day and meet with your Trala teacher for Zoom lessons once a week, or you can practice just a few times a week and take monthly lessons with your teacher - whatever cadence is most sustainable for your goals and life.
5. Learning Never Stops
A professional violinist of 27 years was once asked, “how long does it take to learn violin?” His response was “I will let you know when I finish learning it”. That’s part of the beauty of learning violin. Learning never really stops.
Even the most experienced professional violinists will readily admit they are still learning and fine-tuning their skills after many years. So, no matter how long you study violin, or how fast you progress, there will always be something new to learn!
The truth is there's no way to predict how long it will take you to learn the violin. Just remember - no matter your age, skill level, or circumstances - you can do it!