Mastering Basics: Guide to Classical Violin Playing
Written by  Daisie Team
Published on 11 min read


  1. Hold the violin and bow correctly
  2. Tune your violin
  3. Play open strings
  4. Play basic scales
  5. Learn to read sheet music
  6. Practice bowing techniques
  7. Learn the first position notes
  8. Play simple pieces
  9. Practice regularly and effectively
  10. Find a violin teacher or mentor

If you've ever wondered how to play violin for classical music, you're in the right place. We'll take a step-by-step journey through the key aspects of learning, from holding your violin and bow correctly, to mastering the first position notes. No need to fret; it might seem like a lot now, but with a bit of practice, you'll be on your way to playing beautiful classical music. So, let's dive in and begin our musical adventure.

Hold the violin and bow correctly

First things first: to play classical music on the violin, you need to know how to hold your instrument and bow properly. It's just like holding a book—you wouldn't want to hold it upside down or with a limp wrist, would you?

Hold the Violin:

  1. Rest the violin's back against your neck and shoulder. The scroll should be about level with your nose, not pointing up or down.
  2. While keeping your shoulder relaxed, use your jaw and collarbone to hold the violin in place. Remember, no clenching your shoulder or straining your neck.
  3. Your left hand should support the violin's neck. The thumb rests on the side, while your fingers curve over the fingerboard. Imagine you're giving a friendly handshake.

Hold the Bow:

  1. The bow is held with your right hand. Rest the frog (the part of the bow where you hold) in the space between your thumb and your first finger.
  2. Your thumb should bend slightly, resting against the bow. The other fingers drape over the other side of the bow, their tips lightly touching the wood.
  3. Imagine you're holding a small bird. You wouldn't want to squeeze too tight and hurt it, but you also wouldn't want to hold too loose and let it fly away. That's the kind of balance you need when holding your bow.

Nailing this part is a big step in learning how to play violin for classical music. So, take your time with it, and remember—every great violinist started right where you are now.

Tune your violin

Now that you've got the hold down, let's get your violin sounding right. Tuning your violin is like adding salt to a dish—you don't want too much or too little, but just the right amount to make everything blend smoothly. So how do you tune a violin for classical music?

Tuning Basics:

  1. Your violin has four strings: G, D, A, and E. Starting from the thickest string (closest to your left when you're holding your violin), they go in that order.
  2. You'll adjust the pitch of each string using the pegs at the top of the violin. Turn the pegs slowly; you don't want to tighten the strings too much and risk them snapping.
  3. Use a tuner to help you. A tuner is a little device that tells you if your note is too high (sharp) or too low (flat). You can find tuners in music stores or online.

When you're tuning, make sure you're in a quiet place. You want to hear the notes clearly. And be patient with yourself. Just like learning how to ride a bike, tuning your violin gets easier with practice.

Remember, a well-tuned violin is the first step to making beautiful music. So, how's your violin sounding now? Ready to move on to the next step in your journey of how to play violin for classical music?

Play open strings

You've got your violin in tune, perfect! Now, let's get comfortable with the strings. Playing open strings means you're playing the string without pressing down with your left-hand fingers. It's a basic skill, but it's the foundation of everything else you'll do. So, how do you play open strings on the violin for classical music?

Steps to Play Open Strings:

  1. Position your bow on the string you want to play. Remember, no fingers on the fingerboard just yet.
  2. Apply pressure with the bow and move it across the string. You can go from the frog (the part of the bow you're holding) to the tip, or from the tip to the frog. Going from frog to tip is called a down-bow, and going from tip to frog is an up-bow. Get familiar with both!
  3. Try to keep your bowing straight and even. Imagine your bow is a car, and it's staying in its lane on a road. That road is the violin string.

Practicing open strings will help you get a feel for the instrument and how it responds to your touch. You'll also start to develop a good bow hold and bowing technique, which are crucial for good tone.

It might seem like there's a lot to remember, but don't worry. With practice, all these things will start to come naturally. So, how does it feel to play open strings on your violin? Can you hear the different tones each string makes? You're on your way to mastering how to play violin for classical music!

Play basic scales

Alright, you’ve mastered playing open strings. That's awesome! Now, let's add a new skill to your toolkit: playing basic scales. Scales are the fundamental building blocks of music, and they're a great way to start getting your fingers moving on the violin fingerboard. So, how do you play basic scales on the violin for classical music?

Steps to Play Basic Scales:

  1. Start with a simple scale like the G major. This scale uses all open strings, which makes it a good starting point.
  2. Start on the G string (the thickest string) with an open string note. Remember, this means you're not pressing down any fingers on the fingerboard.
  3. Next, press your first finger (index finger) down on the G string. This is the note A.
  4. Press your second finger (middle finger) down on the G string. This is the note B.
  5. Then, play the open D string. Continue this pattern until you reach the open E string.

That's it! You've just played a G major scale. Try it a few times, and once you feel comfortable, you can try other scales like D major or C major. Remember, the goal here is to get familiar with the fingerboard and to start building finger strength and accuracy.

So, how's it going? Are your fingers getting the hang of it? Keep practicing these scales, and soon you'll be ready to play more complex pieces. You're getting closer to mastering how to play the violin for classical music!

Learn to read sheet music

Now, let's dip our toes into the world of sheet music. Don't worry, it's not as scary as it sounds. Knowing how to read sheet music is an important part of learning how to play the violin for classical music. It's like learning a new language—a musical one!

Understanding the Basics:

  1. Sheet music is divided into measures, represented by vertical lines. Each measure has a certain number of beats.
  2. On the left side of every measure, you'll see a clef. For violin music, this is usually the treble clef, which looks like a fancy & symbol.
  3. Each line and space on the staff corresponds to a different note. The higher the note on the staff, the higher the pitch you play on your violin.
  4. The note symbols—circles that can be filled or empty—tell you the rhythm of the music. For example, a filled circle with a stem is a quarter note, which gets one beat.

Reading sheet music is like reading a book. It goes from left to right, and when you get to the end of one line (measure), you move down to the next. Practice by following along with simple sheet music at first, and gradually work your way up to more complex pieces.

Remember, learning to read sheet music is a process, and it's okay if you don't get it right away. The most important thing is to keep trying. Before you know it, you'll be reading music as easily as you read this blog post. And that's one giant leap closer to mastering how to play the violin for classical music!

Practice bowing techniques

Alright, we've made some great strides, but let's not rest on our laurels just yet. Up next on our journey of how to play violin for classical music is mastering various bowing techniques. Your bow is not just a stick that you wave about—it's a precision tool, and learning to use it effectively can truly elevate your music.

Start with the Basics:

  1. Long, smooth bow strokes: This is your bread and butter. Try to use the entire length of the bow, moving it parallel to the bridge. Make sure your bow stays in the area between the bridge and the fingerboard.
  2. Staccato: These are short, sharp strokes. You press the bow lightly onto the string and then release it quickly, resulting in a brief, detached sound.
  3. Legato: This is the opposite of staccato. You play the notes smoothly and connectively, with no silence between them. It's like drawing a smooth, continuous line with your bow.

It's important to remember that bowing techniques are not just about how you move your bow, but also about how you hold it. A relaxed grip will allow for better control and less fatigue. So, make sure your fingers are curled comfortably around the frog (that's the part of the bow you hold), your thumb is bent, and your wrist is flexible.

Just like with reading sheet music, practicing your bowing techniques will take time and patience. But trust me, once you get the hang of it, you'll see a huge improvement in your sound. And that's what learning how to play violin for classical music is all about, isn't it?

Learn the first position notes

Next up on our how to play violin for classical music journey is learning the first position notes. If the violin was a city, the first position would be your home base. It's the location on the neck of the violin where you'll begin to learn notes and play melodies.

First position on the violin involves placing your fingers (index, middle, ring, and pinky) on the fingerboard in a specific arrangement. Let's break it down:

  1. First Finger: In first position, your index finger will play the B note on the E string, the F# on the A string, the C# on the D string, and the G on the G string.
  2. Second Finger: Your middle finger will play C on the E string, G on the A string, D on the D string, and A on the G string.
  3. Third Finger: The ring finger will play D on the E string, A on the A string, E on the D string, and B on the G string.
  4. Fourth Finger or Pinky: Your pinky will play E on the E string, B on the A string, F# on the D string, and C on the G string.

Remember, playing the violin is like learning a new language—the more you practice, the more natural it will feel. And don't worry if you make a wrong note! Even the best violinists in the world had to start somewhere, right?

As you continue to learn how to play violin for classical music, you'll find that knowing these first position notes inside and out will be a game-changer. So get out there and start practicing!

Play simple pieces

Ah, the joy of playing an actual piece of music! After you've mastered holding the violin, tuning, playing open strings, scales, reading sheet music, bowing techniques, and first position notes, it's time to put all those skills to use. Let's learn how to play violin for classical music by starting with some simple pieces.

At this stage, you're not going to jump straight into playing Beethoven's Violin Concerto—let's start small. There are plenty of beginner-friendly pieces that will help you get a feel for the instrument and boost your confidence. Here are a few to consider:

  1. "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star": This is a classic beginner's piece because it's simple, recognizable, and fun to play. Plus, it's a great way to practice your scales.
  2. "Ode to Joy": Beethoven's tune is a little more complex, but still manageable for a beginner. It will give you a taste of playing a melody and harmony together.
  3. "Minuet in G": This piece by Bach is a perfect introduction to baroque music, which is a significant part of the classical violin repertoire.

Remember, the goal here isn't perfection—it's progress. You're learning how to play violin for classical music, and every note you play brings you one step closer to that goal. So don't get discouraged if these pieces don't sound concert-ready right away. Keep practicing, and before you know it, you'll be amazed at how far you've come.

So, ready to play your first piece? Go on, give it a shot—you've got this!

Practice regularly and effectively

So you're learning how to play violin for classical music, and you've started playing simple pieces. That's great! But remember, consistency is key. Practicing regularly—even if it's just for a few minutes each day—can improve your skills more than cramming in a long session once a week.

But "practice" doesn't just mean playing your violin. It's about playing with purpose. Here are some tips to make sure your practice sessions are effective:

  1. Set clear goals: Before you start, decide what you want to achieve in that session. Is it mastering a tricky passage? Improving your intonation? The more specific your goal, the more focused your practice will be.
  2. Slow down: It's tempting to play fast, but slow practice can be more beneficial. It allows you to focus on technique and accuracy, which will make your fast playing sound even better.
  3. Break it down: If you're struggling with a piece, don't just play it over and over again. Break it down into smaller sections and tackle them one at a time.
  4. Reflect on your practice: After each session, take a moment to reflect. What went well? What needs improvement? This can help you plan your next session and track your progress over time.

Remember, learning how to play violin for classical music is a marathon, not a sprint. It takes time and patience, but with consistent, effective practice, you'll get there. And trust me, the feeling of playing a piece perfectly after weeks of practice is worth every minute!

Find a violin teacher or mentor

Now that you've got the hang of practicing regularly and effectively, let's move to another important aspect of learning how to play violin for classical music - finding a teacher or mentor. This might seem obvious, but having a guide on this musical journey can make a world of difference.

Why is having a teacher or mentor so important? Let's explore:

  1. Personalized Guidance: A good teacher understands your strengths, weaknesses, and goals. They can tailor lessons to your needs, which can help you progress more efficiently.
  2. Expert Feedback: It's hard to identify your own mistakes. Teachers can pinpoint areas for improvement that you might not notice, helping you avoid developing bad habits.
  3. Motivation and Accountability: When you're learning by yourself, it's easy to skip practice sessions or avoid challenging pieces. A teacher can keep you motivated and hold you accountable, pushing you to reach your full potential.

So, how do you find the right teacher? You might look at local music schools or ask for recommendations from friends. Remember, the best teacher for you is someone who understands your goals, challenges you, and makes learning enjoyable.

Whether you're learning violin for classical concerts, or just for the pure joy of it, a good teacher or mentor can truly make your musical journey more enriching and fun. So, take your time, do your research, and find the right guide for your violin journey.

If you enjoyed this blog post on mastering the basics of classical violin playing and are eager to expand your knowledge in the arts, be sure to explore Daisie's classes. Here, you'll find incredible workshops taught by some of the best minds in the arts, ready to share their expertise and help you grow as an artist in your own right.