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how to play the Violin

What exactly is the next step in finding out how to have fun with the Violin?

Learning the violin can feel like a massive mountain to climb. Within our ‘Beginner’s Guide To Learning the Violin’ collection, this particular section will allow you to begin your journey by giving you the fundamentals to get you going…

How To Play The Violin

Open strings

There are four strings on the violin: E, A, D and G. The E is the thinnest (highest note), and G is the thickest (lowest note). These strings need to be in tune before we can start playing. When we draw the bow across the string or if we pluck it, the string vibrates, and this controls the musical note we hear.

How To Play The Violin

How to tune the violin

Your violin has tuning pegs that hold the strings in place in the peg box, another name for the peg box is the scroll. By tightening or loosening the pegs we change the tension of the string and therefore the musical note that is played. Your violin might also have adjusters on the tailpiece. These can be used for slight adjustments to the pitch of the string.

Plucking the violin

When you first begin to learn the violin, you can start by plucking the strings with your right-hand fingers. Try the index finger first, now try some of the other fingers. How does it affect the sound? Try using the thumb too! Which finger do you find it easiest to pluck with?


Most of the time the violin is played using a bow. The shape of the bow has changed over time. It was originally an arch-shape, which it was believed made the strings sound more like the human voice. Today, when composers want us to use the bow, they write the Italian word, arco, in the music.

How To Play The Violin

Nowadays, the bow is still curved but looks like this: 

How To Play The Violin

The bow is heaviest at the heel end and lightest at the tip. As you learn to play, you need to develop a relaxed way of holding the bow. Try not to grip it. Try placing your thumb underneath the heel and your fingers on top. You might like to practice using a pencil first.

Fingered notes

To play other notes as well as the open strings, we need to use our left-hand fingers. By pressing down on the string, you change the sound that is produced by the violin. Don’t worry if you are not sure where to put your fingers in order to produce different notes yet! This is very normal when you start to learn – it is common to use small stickers or strips of tape to mark out the ‘positions’ on the fingerboard. These help to guide your fingers to the correct place on the fingerboard for the note you need.

How To Play The Violin

Remember – the thumb doesn’t count as a finger for violin fingering, so the fingers are as follows:

1 – index finger

2 – middle finger

3 – ring finger

4 – pinkie/ baby finger

As a beginner, you will use all four fingers on each string in the lowest part of the violin, otherwise known as ‘first-position’. Later on, you will start to play higher up the violin, but we don’t need to worry about that yet.

Playing Scales

The first scale we play on the violin is D Major scale. For this scale we need the following finger pattern:

D                         open string

E                          1st finger on D string

F sharp             high 2nd finger on D string

G                         3rd finger on D string

A                         open string

B                         1st finger on A string

C sharp             high 2nd finger on A string

D                         3rd finger on A string

This scale is good to begin with because the pattern is the same on both the strings that we need in order to play it.

Nursery rhymes or well-known tunes

Unlike the piano, you have to learn where to put your fingers in order to play in tune on the violin. Therefore, it is a good idea to start with some tunes that you already know and recognise – that way you can hear which note might need to come next.

Some good examples of these are:

  • Mary Had a Little Lamb
  • Twinkle Twinkle Little Star
  • Frere Jacques
  • Old MacDonald
  • Three Blind Mice

How To Play the Violin - Summary

By now, you should be able to:

  • There are four strings on a violin.
  • You can pluck and bow the strings of a violin.
  • In order to play other notes, you have to use the fingers on your left hand.
  • You don’t use our thumb to play the notes, only to support the violin when you are holding it.
  • The first scale to play is D Major.

Now it’s time to improve your technique…

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