Between proper posture and music theory, learning to play the violin can be quite a challenge. Any time you learn a new skill, whether it be at home or in the classroom, you will probably make mistakes. After all, mistakes are a normal part of the learning process and, as long as they don’t become a habit, are a perfectly acceptable part, too. From practicing poor posture to ignoring technical application, these common violin mistakes may be holding you back from reaching your full potential as a musician. For beginners and more advanced violinists alike, pay special attention to this list and fix the mistakes before they become a habit that’s tough to break.
Your hands and your arms aren’t the only parts of your body you use to play the violin. Believe it or not, your back and neck play an important role, too. Your back muscles provide the strength and support your arms need to play, which is why proper posture is so important to learning the violin. Not only can playing with poor posture for an extended amount of time cause short-term injuries like pulled muscles, but poor posture can contribute to more long-term injuries, like scoliosis or other deformations, as well. If you develop these conditions, it could affect your ability to play the instrument in the future, so work with your teacher to take of the issue now.
Many violinists, and musicians in general, tend to get tired the longer they play. If you pay attention to your elbow, it’ll start out in the proper form only to creep closer to your body the longer you play. You should always be holding your elbow away from you so your violin is held in the right position. If your arms get tired, there’s nothing shameful about taking a quick break to loosen up your muscles. After all, holding your violin in the proper position is more important than being able to play the violin for two hours in a row without a break, at least in the very beginning. Over time, you’ll build up strength and be able to hold your elbows up for longer periods of time.
Ignoring Technical Application
Although repetition does have its place in music, one can also run the risk of repeating the same mistake over and over again. Playing the violin is a complex endeavor, and understanding technical application is a major part of that endeavor. Take some time during each practice session to learn about and understand the technicalities of your instrument, and how to make music the right way. Your violin teacher should already be keeping an eye on how well you maintain proper form and hold the bow, but this is something you can pay attention to, too. Consider filming your practice sessions and reviewing them at a later point in time–this will provide the “second set of eyes” you may need to ensure your technical application is where it needs to be.
Not Warming Up
You know how in P.E. class you have to do jumping jacks and stretches before you start playing basketball or head to the track field to run a mile? The same logic should be applied to playing the violin–after all, if you don’t do proper warm-up exercises before playing the violin, your muscles won’t be prepared and your practicing won’t be as productive. Your body is your most immediate instrument, and your violin is just an extension of it. If you aren’t taking care of your body, and preparing it for what’s to come via specially designed warm-up exercises, you won’t be able to successfully practice and play.
Do the notes sound choppier than they should? Are you aiming for a nice, smooth sound but falling short? If your violin sounds rough, you might want to take a look at how you’re bowing. Learning how to use the bow can be difficult for many violinists, and new musicians tend to attack the strings with their bow instead of letting it gracefully slide over the strings. The former will produce choppy, disconnected sounds, while the latter will produce a more fluid, musical tone. If you don’t already include bowing exercises in your practice routine, make sure to do so–this way, you can master the motions you need in order to get the desired tone from your violin.
Not Taking Breaks
Last but not least, taking breaks is an important rule of violin practice. The general rule of thumb is to play 20 minutes before resting for two or three. When you do so, your body (and mind) will get the rest it needs to continue, but not so much rest that it starts to cool off. Of course, recommended break schedules will vary from player to player. Some require more breaks, while others can play for 30 minutes or more without even needing one. Pay attention to your body and your mind, and take breaks as needed. Whether you choose more or less breaks, the important thing is to pace yourself and give your body the time it needs to do the work correctly.
Need more tips? Check out How to Tell If You Need New Violin Strings and Six Ways to Get the Most Out of Your Violin Bow.