Considered as the musical instrument closest to the sound of the human voice, the violin is regarded as one of the most magnificent, yet demanding instruments since its invention in the 16th century. Characterized by the mellow timbre of the lower strings, to the piercingly beautiful high ranges of the instrument, the violin encapsulates a diverse range of human emotion that no other instrument can replicate. Although learning the violin takes a significant amount of effort and dedication, hours of practice and discipline will allow even inexperienced and beginner musicians to play one of the most exquisite instruments ever invented.
As the violin is considered one of the hardest instruments to play, it will take a year for beginner violinists to play simple folk songs and simplified melodies of famous tunes. Depending on the technical dexterity of the violinist and amount of practice dedicated towards improving their skills, violinists will be able to play intermediate level classical music works after 3-5 years of playing and will be comfortable playing most contemporary and pop music songs. To reach an advanced level of performance, violinists typically take 6-10 years to perform music of the standard repertoire – however, the violin is often regarded as an instrument that takes a lifetime to perfect due to challenging technical skills, intonation and musical phrasing.
How Long It Takes to Play Simple Songs
When first starting to play the violin, musicians will take a significant amount of time perfecting the physical posture of both the left and right arms. Beginner violinists will focus primarily on the technical aspects of playing, such as finger placement, intonation and basic bowing strokes. To achieve this, beginner violinists will need to place great emphasis on learning basic musical scales and arpeggios with a variety of rhythms and bow strokes. Common scales that beginners practice with are scales in G, D, C, A and F major.
Oftentimes, beginner students will place stickers on the fingerboard to help guide finger placement and intonation and use several beginner violin tools to establish correct posture, such as a bow holder buddy and bow straightening correctors. Complementing the technical aspects of playing the violin, musicians will also need to learn to read violin sheet music and basic music theory in order to create a strong and holistic foundation.
Beginner violinists can expect to learn how to play simple folk songs like Twinkle Twinkle Little Star and Happy Birthday and in a matter of weeks and the Ode to Joy within a few months. Famous pieces such as Bach’s Minuet No. 3 and Gossec’s Gavotte can be learned and played to fluency within 6 to 12 months of playing.
How Long It Takes to Play Intermediate Level Works
After 3 to 5 years of playing the violin, violinists should reach an intermediate level of performance. Musicians should be musically literate and feel technically comfortable with the basic skills of the instrument. As violinists progress, they will encounter a range of new left-hand techniques such as vibrato, shifting, playing ornaments such as trills, alongside a diversity of right-hand bowing techniques such as hooked stroke, sautillé bowing and slurs. At this point of musical development, violinists should look to consolidate their technical prowess by practicing scales and arpeggios in a wide variety of musical keys and add technical exercises and etudes to their practice regime in order to develop a stable sound.
Intermediate level violinists can expect to play works such as Vivaldi’s Violin Concerto in A Minor after 3 to 4 years of practice, while works such as Mozart’s Eine Kleine Nacht Musik should take around 5 years of performance. At this level of proficiency, violinists should look into joining intermediate level orchestras or string ensembles to not only improve their skills as a solo violinist, but also hone their skills in musical collaboration and teamwork.
Furthermore, an intermediate level violinist should hold the technical capacity to play a majority of violin covers of contemporary pop songs, such as River Flows in You and Viva la Vida. Alongside contemporary songs, intermediate level violinists can expect to play famous themes from major films, such as the Harry Potter theme by John Williams and the Merry Go Round of Life by Joe Hisaishi.
How Long it Takes to Reach Advanced Works
After consistent and diligent practice for 6-10 years, violinists can expect to play advanced repertoire. Most repertoire will become technically accessible, and an advanced violinist will typically reach a point where most pieces are possible to play with enough practice and dedication. Coupled with a strong background in music theory and literacy, advanced violinists will be able to sight read music and have the basic capacity to teach the violin to beginner students.
Advanced violinists will need to practice several technical skills in order to perform works of the standard repertoire. Left hand techniques include double stops, artificial and false harmonics and left hand pizzicato, while right hand techniques include spiccato, collé and ricochet. To consolidate technical dexterity, advanced violinists should look to practice technical etudes and exercises by Galamian, Schraedich, Mazas and Kreutzer alongside their regular technical work routine consisting of scales and arpeggios in all musical keys and a variety of rhythmic and bowing patterns. Furthermore, advanced musicians must also now consider the musical aspects of playing the violin, by thinking about the musical phrasing, emotional content and interpretive elements of the work.
Advanced violinists who play for around 6-8 years can expect to play works such as Mozart’s Violin Concerto in G Major and Wieniawski’s Legende, Beethoven’s Romance in F Major and Bartok’s Romanian Dances. After 9 or 10 years of playing, advanced musicians can look forward to playing works in the standard repertoire, ranging from the violin sonatas and partitas by Bach, Brahms and Beethoven, to major concertos by Bruch and Mendelssohn. Several more years are required for violinists to play the most famous violin concertos by Tchaikovsky, Sibelius, Brahms, alongside technical showpieces such as Sarasate’s Carmen Fantasy, and Saint Saëns’ Introduction and Rondo Capriccioso.
Why Should You Learn the Violin?
Despite the many years and hours of practice of playing the violin, there are a plethora of reasons why a person should learn how to play the violin.
Playing the violin is good for body posture
As mentioned heavily throughout the article, posture plays a major aspect in playing the violin. Violinists will develop strong ab muscles, strengthened shoulders and an improved core as a secondary effect of maintaining good posture. Consequently, this good body posture will become a habit overtime and violinists may soon find that this improved posture applies to everyday life.
Playing the violin is good for mental health and cognitive performance
Playing the violin has proven to be beneficial for mental health, as playing an instrument releases dopamine and enables musicians to experience positive emotions and a relaxed state of mind. These benefits in turn lead to an improved level of confidence and self-esteem, helping violinists to become mentally healthy and stable. Furthermore, playing the violin will help with general cognitive performance due to the high level of memorization and rhythmic sense required to play the violin.
Playing the violin will improve social life and skills
Unlike the piano which primarily has much repertoire written for the solo instrument, the violin is a very social instrument that requires violinists to have good communication skills. Solo violin music is often written with piano accompaniment and violinists will need to learn how to communicate with their collaborative pianist in order to create a cohesive sound. Furthermore, violinists can join ensembles such as orchestras and chamber music groups to extend their teamwork skills and meet new people with similar passions and interests.
What Skills Do You Need to Learn the Violin?
When learning to play the violin, violinists should keep in mind the importance of posture, intonation and patience.
Skill #1: Posture
As heavily mentioned throughout this article, posture is one of the most important aspects of playing the violin. Without good posture, violinists will struggle to create a beautiful sound as bad posture and habits will prevent violinists from improving and reaching their technical potential. Violinists must consciously think about good posture when playing and be open to adapting and improving their left and right arm posture and position in order to perform well.
Skill #2: Intonation
Unlike the guitar, where guitarists have frets on their fingerboard to guide their finger placements, violinists do not share the same luxury. The violin is considered one of the hardest instruments because violinists are required to play in tune with the correct intonation without such visual guidance – to play in tune, violinists must practice hundreds of scales and arpeggios every day to establish muscle memory of fingers and train their ears to be wary of when their playing gets out of tune.
Skill #3: Patience
Playing the violin requires an incredible level of patience, discipline and concentration. As violinists are required to consider a variety of technical and musical aspects of playing, violinists may struggle to keep up motivation in the early stages of their development. Consequently, a high level of patience is required for violinists to continue their musical studies and gradually improve over time.
Equipment Needed When Playing The Violin
#1. The Violin
The violin comes in a variety of sizes and are allocated depending on a person’s height, length of arm and overall size of body. From the age of 12, most violinists use a full-size violin. The violin also consists of strings which need to be changed every 6-12 months.
#2. The Bow
The bow is an integral aspect of the violin and comes in a variety of sizes that match the corresponding size of the violin. Like the strings of the violin, the bow hairs are typically replaced annually, as some shed off while playing.
Rosin is essential for all string instruments, as without rosin, the hair of the bow will slide across the string and will not provide enough friction to produce sound.
#4. Shoulder Rest
Although not all violinists use a shoulder rest, a shoulder rest is recommended for beginner students in order to help posture and make the violin feel comfortable on the torso.