The Art of the Violin

Home | Noted Violinists | Famous Composers | History of Music | Learning the Violin | Reflection | Work Cited
Basic Technique


The standard way of holding the violin is with the chin rest between the player’s chin and the left shoulder, with the optional help of a shoulder rest. The left hand controls the pitches by pressing the fingers on different areas of the fingerboard, and the right hand controls the bow by pulling it back and forth across the strings.

Left hand pitch production: the fingers of the left hand are conventionally numbered one through four starting with the index finger. The thumb is placed underneath the fingerboard to guide the other fingers. Since there are no frets on a violin like on a guitar, violinists learn by muscle memory where the fingers should be placed. Where the left hand is placed is also determined by positions. The natural position for the left hand is 1 st position. When the first finger takes the place of the second finger the hand is in 2 nd position. 3 rd position is when the first finger takes the position of the third finger. 1 st-3 rd positions are the most commonly used, although violinists can use as low as a half position, when the first finger is near the peg box, up the 15 th position, when the first finger is near the end of the fingerboard. One of the most commonly used finger techniques is vibrato. Vibrato is when the left hand finger on the fingerboard vibrates back and forth in its position on the board with a pulsating rhythm. When to vibrate and on what notes to vibrate is up to the violinists artistic discretion.

Improving fingerings: Increasing finger dexterity, intonation, and shifting accuracy consists of many exercises and drills. Violinists use technique books which contain small pieces made of different components designed to improve specific areas of violin playing. Some exercises consist of quick, slurred notes to help the player’s fingers move more speedily in close proximity. Some are made up entirely of pitches in many different ranges to improve player’s shifting accuracy and agility. Aside from exercises, one of the main ways that violinists can better their finger technique is through repetitive practice.

Right hand bow control: the right hand, arm, and bow are responsible for tone quality, rhythms, dynamics, articulation, and some changes in timbre. The most important part of the bow hand is the bow grip. The thumb is usually bent between the small area between the frog and the winding around the stick of the bow. The other fingers are placed along the top of the frog section of the bow. The bow should be pulled with more force and greater pressure on the strings to create more volume, and to create softer dynamics, use less pressure on the stick and pull with less intensity. There are hundreds of different bowing methods that not even virtuosos have mastered. Some of these are: legato-style bowing, staccato, spiccato, martele, ricochet, and sautille. Bowing is essentially what creates the sound of the violin.

Bow Hand Improvements: Experimenting and practicing various bow styles and techniques are the most reliable ways to develop a violinist’s bowing talent. One can also find exercises in technique books that are tailored to the improvement of a player’s bowings. For example, some exercises combine numerous notes on one bow stroke, or slur, to help elongate a player’s bow stroke.

Send comments to webmaster. Last modified Thursday, January 15, 2009 8:16 AM . Copyright 2008.