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How To Improve As A Player With No Instructor

Not taking lessons during the summer? In between teachers? Not able to take lessons at the moment? Here are some tips on how to improve as player and still stay on track with your musical progress.


Warm Up

The warm up sets the tone for every practice session. It’s important to do a good warm up every time you play your violin. A good place to start is by playing long open strings. By playing long tones on open strings, you listen to the intonation nuances that are created by your bowing. This will help give you better bow control. It can help to do this in front of a mirror so that you are aware of how your bow is crossing the instrument, and be certain that the bow is at the appropriate place between the fingerboard and the bridge. Also try crescendoing and decrescendoing on the long tones to further improve bow control.

Next, move on to long tones with your fingers in the standard positions on each string. Starting with low A and working your way up slowly, check your finger position on each note with a tuner. This will help train your ear and your finger to better understand the position and sound more naturally. Make sure to practice using your fourth finger regularly. While this creates the same note as the next open string, moving from a third finger note to an open string can produce an unpleasant and jarring change of tone in a piece.



After a good warm up of long tones, you will continue with scales. Try to play all of the major and minor scales that you know from memory in an even manner. If you only know a few scales so far, look up the ones that you don’t know online and try to learn and memorize them.

Scales are the building block of all music and the more easily you can recall scales without thinking about it, the easier all music will be. Also, make sure you try playing your scales using different bowings. For example, the first time through, play the scales so that every note gets its own bow stroke. The next time through, try to play, or slur, four notes with each bowing. This will help improve your bowing and string crossing.



Lastly, you will want to to practice a set of etudes that you find fun to play, and which are challenging enough to help you improve as a player. Younger or newer violinists may want to start with the Wohlfahrt 60 Studies for Violin. The first 30 etudes are all in first position and are great for new students. For the more intermediate students, the Kreutzer 42 Studies for Violin is a great place to improve. Lastly, the Dont 24 Etudes and Caprices for Violin is a great place for the advancing student to continue to improve.


Remember, practicing is how we improve, and the more you improve, the more fun playing becomes. So don’t let the fact that you haven’t got an instructor stop you from practicing.


photo credit: toddovich via photopin cc

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