The Technical vs. Musical Violinist – Which One Are You?

There are three areas of violin learning that I want you to be aware of.

The technical side, the musical side, and the mental side.

By managing each of these three areas, you will be in a position to improve most efficiently on the violin AND be in a state of happiness with playing your violin.

I see students deal with many inhibitors with these three groups and they directly relate to them quitting the violin or becoming so passionate about learning that the violin becomes a part of not just what they do, but who they are.

Let’s first see how you score in each of these areas, and then I’ll give you an evaluation based on your score.

The Technical Side of Violin Playing – What’s your Score?

Give yourself one point if you can say “yes” to any of the five positive traits of being a technical player below:

In the past week, you have…
1. Worked on violin scales/drills for at least 30 minutes, or 1/3 of your total practice sessions.
2. Practiced exercises at least three times, to improve a bad habit.
3. Taken a challenging part in your violin music and worked on it slowly.
4. Worked on rhythm by slowing down or using a metronome.
5. Practiced articulation SLOWLY in your music (slurs, staccato, spiccato).

Give yourself one point if you can say “yes” to any of the five positive traits of being a musical player below.

In the past week, you have…
1. Practiced multiple songs/pieces.
2. Played for any other human being, not including your teacher.
3. Listened to an inspirational violin/fiddle song.
4. Practiced preparing for a performance of any kind.
5. Worked on playing a piece from the heart, and not thinking about technique.

Give yourself one point if you can say “yes” to any of the five negative traits below.

In the past week, you have…
1. Been overwhelmed with how much progress you are making on the violin.
2. Been frustrated with the amount of time you are not spending with the violin.
3. Decided to not practice violin because of some mental inhibitor (overwhelm, discouragement, lack of knowledge, etc.).
4. Felt like you are not sure where you are going with the violin and practicing has felt like a drag.
5. Not felt any inspiration of any kind.

Evaluating your Scores

First, I want you to know that some weeks are better than others with playing the violin.

Don’t be critical of yourself if this week has just been bad.

If that is the case, give yourself scores based in general what you would say “yes” to, although this scoring system does help you identify positive health with progressing on the violin on a week-to-week basis as well.

**Take your first two scores and put them together and subtract it from the last score.**

In my opinion, here is what each score means for you.
-5 : It is highly likely you will quit the violin soon, or never practice.

-4 to -1 : You are very discouraged with the violin and combined with the fact you are not doing the right things, this will lead to negative progress, discouragement and likely you will quit if you don’t get help.

0 : With not practicing correctly and being overwhelmed, you are not likely to quit, but to see positive results, I recommend improving any of the areas to start feeling happier about violin playing (and to see better results).

1-4 : This is a standard range. I would say you have inhibitors to progressing or staying motivated, but you might just be having a bad week/month. Try to improve, and you’ll start accelerating your progress and find more joy in violin playing.

5-9 : This is a healthy range where you will see decent progress over-time, and don’t have enough mental inhibitors to make you degress. Still, try to find ways to improve to become an even happier violin player and see better progress/happiness.

10-14 : You are probably feeling “in the zone” with violin playing and are excited to see ways to improve. There are no issues, just ways to continue to grow and become even better.

15 : This is the utopia. You are in the best possible state of mind to improve and are a balanced musical/technical player. Keep it up, and you will only see dramatic results on the violin.

If you want detailed help on establishing a solid foundation on the violin, I cover how to rosin the bow, tighten the bow, use the finger finder tool and lots more in detail through my Violin Foundation Course.

Violin Scales – 3 Things to Focus on when Practicing Scales

Violin Scales

There are many reasons why practicing violin scales is so essential when you are trying to learn the violin.

Working on violin scales allows a student to focus on intonation, or in other words, where to place your fingers down in the right places.

Being that the violin is a fretless instrument, there needs to be a significant amount of time spent on mastering muscle memory in the left-hand.

This can be done by working on violin scales.

The key to effective violin scale practice is having a sense of focus.

Just playing through a few violin scales is not going to increase your ability level if you don’t practice scales properly.

What Violin Scales Should You Practice?

I recommend working on these scales based on your ability level on the violin:

0-3 Months Experience – D Major 1 Octave

3-12 Months Experience – C Major 1 Octave, G Major 2 Octaves

1-2 Years Experience – A Major 2 Octaves, Bb Major 2 Octaves, F Major 1 Octave

2-4 Years Experience – Eb Major 1 Octave, C Major 2 Octaves (3rd position), D Major 2 Octaves (3rd position)

4-6 Years Experience – Ab Major 2 Octaves, B Major 2 Octaves, F Major 2 Octaves (5th Position), G Major 3 Octaves (5th Position)

6-10 Years Experience – All 2 Octave Scales (including minors), A Major 3 Octaves (7th Position), Bb Major 3 Octaves (7th Position), C Major 3 Octaves (9th Position), D Major 3 Octaves (9th Position)

10+ Years Experience – All 3 Octave Scales (including minors)

Here is a link to download every violin scale that you can practice.

My recommendation is always to be working on 2-5 violin scales and focus on these three things.
1. Intonation (finger placement)
2. Right-hand technique/bowing
3. Left-hand habits

Focus #1 – Intonation work with Violin Scales

In the case of working on intonation, I recommend downloading any violin tuner on your devices and working on getting each note as close to in tune as possible.

My favorite tuner is INSTunerLite on Iphone, but there are many others out there that will do the job.

Don’t kill yourself trying to perfect intonation on EVERY note, as perfect intonation is very challenging to achieve.

Try to be at least 95% accurate with all your notes when focusing on intonation with violin scales.

This type of practice will carry over into how in tune you sound in general when playing the violin.

Focus #2 – Right-Hand Practice with Violin Scales

When focusing on right-hand technique/bowing with scales, try to identify any bad habits you have and focus on fixing them during scales.

If you aren’t sure what some of these bad habits are, I recommend you go through my playlist on Youtube that helps you identify any bad habits you may have on the violin.

Equally as necessary, you can work on various bowing patterns when practicing violin scales.

Here are tips for practicing violin scales related to bowings based on ability level:

0-3 Months Experience – Focus on using the whole bow, keeping the bow moving the same speed.

3-12 Months Experience – Throw in working on two notes per bow stroke (slurs)

1-2 Years Experience – Work on staccato, and the staccato slur with various scales

2-4 Years Experience – Practice thirds with scales

4+ Years Experience – Practice spiccato (off the string), and four notes per bow stroke

If you aren’t sure how to do any of these techniques, I recommend you start going through my playlist on Youtube of how to play the violin which will cover all of these concepts in detail.

Focus #3 – Left-Hand Practice with Violin Scales

There are so many habits you can be doing incorrectly on the violin related to the left-hand (outside of just being out of tune).

Having a solid structure of the hand is key to your success – many students are doing these things improperly:

1. Moving fingers too much to find notes
2. Fingers popping up in the air
3. Over-pressure into the fingerboard
4. Not having the hand high enough
5. Using stress/strain to make finite adjustments

These are just some of the things that can be challenging for students, and it’s so important to identify them.

If you haven’t done a lot of technical work with your violin playing, understanding these things will give you a significant boost to your progress efficiency.

I cover many of these concepts through my Youtube playlist especially in course one, as it’s key to have a perfect left-hand to succeed with the violin.

How long should you practice violin scales?

I’m huge on balance when it comes to practicing the violin, including how long to practice your scales.

The amount of time that you spend practicing scales should be based on a percentage of the amount of time you dedicate to practicing the violin each session.

Have the mindset that your practice sessions should be split up into these three parts.
1. The first third – Focus on drills, violin scales and any technical habits that you need to improve.
2. The second third – Focus on intonation, rhythm, articulation, and dynamics with etudes and short excerpts/songs.
3. The last third – Focus on longer pieces, thinking less about technique and more about the musicality of your playing.

So if you decide to practice for 30 minutes, spend the first third (10 minutes) practicing what’s in the first third (violin scales and drills).

Even if you only plan on practicing for 6 minutes, use this same structure to get optimal results with your violin playing.

If you want detailed help on anything discussed so far, I cover how to rosin the bow, tighten the bow, use the finger finder tool and lots more in detail through my Violin Foundation Course.

How to Hold the Violin Bow – Beginner Violin Video

How to Hold the Violin Bow Video Summary

One of the most important things in learning how to hold the violin bow is understanding where to place the fingers on the bow.

By learning how to hold the violin bow correctly, you’ll be on your way to getting a good sound.

Make sure your index finger is nicely over the stick.

Make sure you aren’t holding the bow too tight.

You also want to make sure your fingers are overall relaxed on the bow.

Make sure you curve the thumb in the groove of the violin bow.

Also, ensure that your pinky is curved on the button.

Many students stiffen their pinky which causes issues later on with playing the violin bow at the frog.

If you do these things, you’ll be on your way to applying proper application to pulling the bow back and forth.

How to Hold the Violin Bow Additional Tips

  1. Avoid using your thumb and pinky to guide the violin bow.
  2. Use the index finger to push the violin bow downwards for varying dynamics.
  3. Focus on keeping tension away from the violin bow at all times.

If you want detailed help on anything discussed so far, I cover how to rosin the bow, tighten the bow, use the finger finder tool and lots more in detail through my Violin Foundation Course.