Archive for July, 2016

Violin Lesson 5 – Left Hand Frame

Saturday, July 30th, 2016

We’ve made it halfway through the 10 week summer course!! Just 5 more weeks and we will be playing simple melodies. Today I’m teaching you to play with fingers on the string for the first time! That means we need to talk about left hand frame. Find the video of Lesson 5 here: Summer Violin Lesson 5 – Left Hand Frame

Note Values

First a quick review of some things we’ve already learned. By now you should know quarter notes, half notes, and whole notes. I gave you some sheet music to practice with all the note values mixed up. The duet part I arranged for Auld Lang Syne also included these different note values.

Combining Swinging the Elbow with Hand Frame

So you’ve taken the first step to a good left hand frame in lesson 4, beginning with your hand relaxed at your side, waving from the largest knuckle of your fingers as you carefully bring your hand/arm up to the level of the violin. You’ve also been practicing rotating your shoulder joint to move your hand the distance from the G-string to the E-string. Now that you have spent some time concentrating on teaching your muscles these movements, you are ready for the next step.

Violin Left Hand Frame

FullSizeRenderThis week I want you to practice slipping your hand under the neck, pull your left elbow in to push your fingers beyond the G-string. All the while, continue the waving motion to encourage a soft and relaxed hand frame.

Now, think of your fingers as an accordion fan. Reaching forward with the index finger, back with the pinky, fan your fingers out gently. (Remember, keep waving!) Slowly tap, tap, tap your fingers over onto the G-string until they are in position. Spacing as shown in the photos:

  • Nut to index finger – about 1 inch
  • Index to middle finger – about 1 inch
  • Middle and ring finger are Best Friends! – about 1/2 inch
  • Ring and pinky finger – about 1 inch.

The idea here is that the little finger, our weakest finger, should be the most comfortable. Our index finger, much stronger, is the one that should be doing the reaching, if there is any reaching needed.

Let’s think for a moment about the names of the notes that would be on the G-string. All the notes in music are named after the first 7 letters of the Alphabet. Therefore music goes forward and backward, up and down the music staff, following this pattern: A B C D E F G A B C D E F G A. I want to point out that A always follows G to start over again with those letter names. So with our open string being G, the fingered notes are as follows: 1A, 2B, 3C, 4D. Hey! Look at that; the 4th finger on the G-string is the same note as the Open String to the right. This makes it very easy to know if we are pressing 4th finger down in tune.

Extra tip: You can also use a Tuner to check your intonation. This is very helpful in tuning your violin as well. This is the one that I use: Tuner/Metronome

Left Hand Frame Spacing

Front view of finger spacing

This week, I’d like you to try to place your hand, using our hand frame approach, on each of the four strings, drawing sound with your bow while 4th finger (and all the others too!) is pressed down. Check your intonation with the string to the right each time. Try to establish muscle memory for the location of the 4th finger notes. Next week, we will try playing the other fingers as well! How exciting, more and more notes each week! You really playing music on your violin now!

Learning about Rests in music

It is time to learn the Rests that coordinate with the Note Values we have already learned. This weeks sheet music will include the note values and rests together.

The quarter rest (1 count) reminds me of a lightning bolt. Or even Bolt himself! 🙂 I actually have a piano student who brings Bolt with her everywhere! He comes to every lesson, and the recitals too. Rabbit trail I know, but I bet you won’t forget what a quarter rest looks like. 😉

Half rests (2 counts) and whole rests (4 counts) can be confusing, they are a mirror image of each other. I think of the half rest as a black top hat. It sits above the line because it is light, only 2 counts. The whole rest is upside down, hanging below the line because it is heavy, 4 counts. That is how I have always remembered which one is which.

Here are some more Flashcards to add to your little collection: Lesson 5 Rests Flashcards

Reading the Treble Clef, Space Notes and Line Notes

As mentioned above, the music letter names are derived from the first 7 letters of the Alphabet: A B C D E F G A B C D E F G, etc. So it is easy to walk up and down the staff as if it were a ladder, or stair steps, in order to discover the name of a specific note on the staff. There are also a couple tricks to help us remember the names of the notes in Treble Clef.

Treble Space Notes

The Space Notes, from bottom to top, spell the word face.

Treble Clef Line Notes - Lesson 5

The Line Notes, from bottom to top, are the first letter of each word in the following phrase: Every Good Boy Does Fine.

Simple Tunes to Practice Rhythm

I’ve put together some sheet music for you to practice this week. I didn’t have time to make a practice video with backup music yet as I need to start working on Lesson 6. I will add this at a later time. For now, here is the music for an arrangement I made of Au Clair de la Lune, as well as some exercises I wrote for you. Enjoy and please let me know how you liked these in the comments!

Au Clair de la Lune – Open String Duet Part, Teacher melody part.

Red light_Green light Rhythms – Rests and Note Values, all mixed up.

Request a tune of your choice for a future lesson by commenting with the title below!

Halfway Review Test

Congratulations on making it to the halfway mark in the course! I am excited to be halfway done creating the course and I hope you are proud of your accomplishment as well!

It is time for some serious review. How much of these music facts and details have you retained? Let’s find out! I put together a simple review survey for you to test your music knowledge.


Create your own user feedback survey

Violin Lesson 4 – Our First Song

Thursday, July 21st, 2016

And we’ve made it to Lesson 4! Our First Song!! Now that sounds exciting! Go check it out on YouTube. My iPad will only upload smaller videos so I had to upload the song, Auld Lang Syne, as a separate video.

I hope you are getting very comfortable dividing your bow in ½ and 1/4s while adding a small movement with your left hand at the shoulder. Yes, yes, I am pushing your coordination skills! 🙂

Ring Game

As you continue reviewing our bow games for a great bow hold, I’d like to add a third game which I call The Ring Game. It is a simple concept, but you will need a friend to do this game justice. You can use anything from a canning jar ring to a pony tail, just find an object that is a ring shape.

  • Set your Right hand up with your best bow hold, then close your eyes.
  • Ask your friend to move the ring around the tip of your bow.
  • Put the tip of the bow through the ring, yes, with your eyes closed!

WHY would I ask you to do this silly exercise? There are a few reasons.

First of all, having your eyes closed will help you focus on what you are doing, whether or not you are maintaining a good bow hold.

Secondly, you will be practicing your agility while keeping bow hold strong as you move around seeking the ring.

Thirdly, when you do find the ring with the tip of the bow, I want you to push the bow ALL the way through the ring which will force you to let go of the frog and practice replacing your bow hold. In other words, this is just a creative way to get you to repeatedly practice placing your hand on the bow correctly.

Rhythm and Note Values

Last week we learned about quarter notes. Comment and tell me what a quarter note is in your own words. Before we get to playing our first song, let’s learn Half Notes and the Whole Notes.

  • Half Note: similar to a quarter note, but the circle is hollow instead of black. It is not filled in. Half notes receive 2 counts/beats.
  • Whole Note takes up a whole measure, or 4 counts/beats. It is simply a circle with no stem.

Music Note Values

Think about an apple. A whole note is an apple, untouched. A half note represents the apple cut in half. And then quarter notes are when the apple is cut into 4 slices. With this in mind, you will understand when I say 4 quarter notes fit inside a whole note, 2 half notes fit inside a whole note, 2 quarter notes fit inside a half note, etc. I like to call this music math.

I made a few more flashcards for you to add to your collection. Keep reviewing the previous flashcards as well! Download the PDF of Lesson 4 Flashcards.


Ask any of my private students and they will probably tell you that Handframe is my favorite thing to teach. Now don’t get me wrong, I don’t actually like teaching it any more than they, or you, like practicing it….however, the results this exercise produces are outstanding! That is why I push so hard for a strong foundation in handframe.

  1. Bring your violin up to position and stand with both arms relaxed at your side. Completely relaxed! This exercise must be done in front of the mirror, it is crucial to be able to see what you are doing. I want you to notice the natural curve in your fingers when your arms are loosely dangling at your sides. Just like your right bow hand, we want to keep this relaxed shape in our left hand.
  2. The next step is to add the baby wave motion while the hand is relaxed by your side. Slowly and carefully, concentrating on keeping your muscles soft and relaxed, wave continuously as you bend your elbow and lift your hand slowly to the height of your violin.
  3. If at any point you feel tension in your hand/wrist/arm, drop right back down to the starting point and try again. You want to teach your muscles to be relaxed as they become familiar with playing the violin. Establish good muscle memory in the beginning and everything else will be a bit easier in the long run!
  4. Once you can get your hand up to the height of your violin without any tension or change of hand shape, continue waving from the largest knuckles as you gradually turn until you are waving over your left shoulder, as if someone was behind you to the left.

I will show you more of where we are going with this exercise next week! For now, you will have to trust me that this is worth the effort in the end. 🙂 I know it takes patience and determination to practice this exercise well.

Bonus tip: The left hand, handframe, is a mirror image of the right hand, bow hold!

Swinging Elbow

As you work towards moving your left hand from the shoulder of the violin out to the neck, you again want to establish good muscle memory habits.

  • Bring your hand up to the violin neck and place the lowest knuckle of your index finger against the neck, just about an inch in front of the nut.
  • Allow your fingers to relax in their natural curved shape we talked about with hand frame.
  • Your thumb should remain loose and relaxed.
  • Swing your elbow back and forth observing how this motion will help you navigate between the low strings and high strings with ease.

Auld Lang Syne – Play Along

For your first song, I’ve arranged a simple duet part for you to play, using the open strings. This is a familiar Scottish tune called Auld Lang Syne. I recorded the piano accompaniment to go along with it as well. Practice right along with the video, repeating sections as needed, until you can play the song up to tempo. Listen to how the parts fit together and play it slowly several times before you attempt to play faster.

Comment and let me know how this went for you! Did I record the song too fast? Too slow? Did you find the tune/arrangement interesting? Your feedback will help me improve. Thanks!

Here is a PDF with your open string duet part for Auld Lang Syne notated on the music staff. Violin Lesson 4 – Auld Lang Syne. I also added a few extra open string songs for you to practice. Enjoy!

Violin Lesson 3 – Preparing to Play

Thursday, July 14th, 2016

Our third violin lesson is up on YouTube! Be sure to comment and click “like” on the video, that helps me out a bit. 😉 Thanks!

You’ve been playing Open Strings, you’re starting to sound pretty good, and you’re much more comfortable holding your bow. You’re ready to make some music!

A couple reminders about reading the Treble Clef Staff. The staff is made up of 5 lines, and 4 spaces. The Treble Clef looks a bit like a cursive S and is aka the G-clef. Our Open G string extends below the staff using Ledger Lines, these extend the staff much like an extension ladder or stairsteps. Open D sits just below the bottom line of the staff, open A sits on the second space from the bottom, and open E is on the top space of the staff. Open Strings Flashcards Lesson 2 Worksheet

Bonus tip: The space notes of the treble clef spell the word FACE from bottom to top, as shown below.

Treble Staff FACE

Sustain Tone
Were you able to draw a solid tone from your violin while sustaining one bow stroke for 30 seconds!? It is quite the challenge! But it is so good for you to practice bow control in this way. Please leave a comment and let me know if you accomplished this. Now I would encourage you to try for a 40 second sustain bow.

Violin Posture and Bow Hold
I hope you are still bringing your violin up to position from rest position, using our Bird Landing on Shoulder game. This will help you establish good posture habits and avoid the bad ones that sneak in so easily! And how is the Rocket Ship bow game going for you? Let me teach you a new bow game today.

This one is called “Pet the Kitty”. Supporting your bow in the middle, with your left hand, go ahead and stroke the lower half of the bow with your right hand, as if you were petting a cat. Now, if your cat is like mine, it likes full strokes with your hand and fingers, it doesn’t like to be pet with just the fingertips. Stroke your kitty firmly, but gently. Give it a few strokes, then relax your hand into a bow hold around the frog. Stroke a few more times, and bow hold again. This exercise will encourage a firm, yet relaxed bow hold, which is just what we want!

No Hands! Baby Wave
Are you able to hold your violin in position with no hands? This is the week to get very comfortable doing so. Supporting your violin in position, grab the shoulder of the violin in your L.H. Now I want you to think about a baby waving hello for the first time. Think how different they wave than an adult. A baby is still developing muscle, so they want to wave in the simplest form possible: from the large knuckles where the fingers connect with the palm of the hand. This is the largest/strongest muscle available for this motion.

Extra Credit: Comment and tell me, what exactly supports the violin to keep it in position?

With your hand on the shoulder of the violin, go ahead and do a baby wave towards yourself. Be careful that the wrist stays relaxed, and uninvolved with this motion! As you get a feel for this motion, try drawing your bow on the strings simultaneously while you practice doing the baby wave. Now we’re working on our coordination! Doing something different with the right arm than with the left arm. Much like the old game of patting your head and rubbing your tummy!

You can also think of this exercise as a bunny hopping in a meadow. With your fingers straight up in the air, the bunny is peaking over the top of the grass. Then he goes down and hop, hop, hop. And then he pokes his head up again and does it all over!

Dividing the Bow
Up to this point, our bows have been from frog to tip, and tip to frog. Now I want you to try dividing the bow in half. Go ahead and put a sticker or a piece of tape in the middle of your bow to help you visualize the halfway point. Starting from the frog, draw the bow to the middle and pause. Then continue with another stroke to the tip. Reverse back to the middle, pause, then continue to the frog. Once you can do that comfortably, add two more stickers on your bow to divide the bow in quarters. Then practicing stopping at each sticker for a brief moment before continuing to the next. Again, we are practicing bow control, and also preparing to play notes of different values or lengths.

Challenge: Combine dividing the bow with baby wave or bunny hop. Can you bow continuously while waving or hopping with your hand at the different divisions on the bow?

Note values – Quarter Note
The first music notation value we will learn is the quarter note. It is made up of a black dot, with a stem or tail. A quarter note gets one count in 4/4 time, the most common time signature in music. In 4/4 time, there are four quarter notes, or the equivalent, in each measure. Quarter Note Flashcard 2

Music is divided into measures using bar lines. So for our purpose today, a quarter note is one count and one bow stroke is one count or one quarter note. Follow the notation in the attatched PDF worksheet below to play along with my chords on the piano (found at the end of the YouTube Lesson 3 Video).

Download the PDF for some extra notation tips, the play along duet music, and space to create your own melody: Violin Lesson 3 – Play Along Duet Worksheet


Summer Violin Lesson 2 – Rocking the Bow

Tuesday, July 5th, 2016

Lesson 2 – Rocking the Bow!

Hope you enjoyed spending a bit of quality time with your violin last week! You should be feeling more comfortable handling your instrument by now.

Violin Lesson 2 – Rocking the Bow! just went live on YouTube. Head on over to the channel and check it out. If you watch closely, you’ll even get to see my kitty, Macchiato in the background. 🙂

Lesson 2


  1. You can still turn in your Lesson 1 worksheet by email or just check your work with the Answer Key.

  2. Keep practicing “Bird Landing on Shoulder” to establish excellent posture habits!

  3. How is the Rocket Ship bow hold game working for you? We will learn a new bow game next week!

Bowing on Open Strings

Bowing Open Strings

Now that you are familiar with the different parts of the violin, bow, and how to hold them, let’s play! The first step is to learn how to produce a nice solid tone from each of your open strings. I’m guessing you’ve probably gotten curious and already tried to pull the bow across those strings. Did you like how it sounded!? Most people envision cat fights, chalkboards, and the like when they first try to get a nice sound out of their violin. Be patient with yourself! Put some time in with these exercises I’m going to give you and you will be sounding great!

Exercise 1:

Give me a nice full bow stroke, starting from the frog and traveling to the very tip/point of the bow. Practice bowing in front of a mirror as it is very natural to bow in a bit of a U shape. Ideally, the bow will travel parallel, in between the bridge and the fingerboard. Repeat these bow strokes 10x daily on each of the open strings.

Airplane Wing

Have you noticed the bow bumping the other strings while you’re playing? Learning the angle of each string will help you produce a clean tone on each individual string. This is a muscle memory exercise, pause on each string for a second and memorize how it feels.

Exercise 2:

Much like an airplane flying through the sky, tilt your arm to a new angle for each string. You will notice the G – String is much higher than you would expect (watch that Right shoulder though, it should stay down and relaxed). The E – String is pretty relaxed, your arm almost hangs at your side as it normally would.

Sustain Bow

Bow control is key to playing the violin well. At this point, bowing probably still feels pretty awkward to you. That’s okay! But we want to get you comfortable and confident sooner rather than later. Depending on how much weight (from your arm, hand, shoulder) you rest into the string, you may get scratches and crunching sounds from the strings. Finding the right balance of weight/support, heavy/light bow is what makes a clean bow stroke.

Challenge: See if you can keep a solid tone from frog to tip, sustaining the bow for 30 seconds.

Open String Notes on the Staff

Reading the Open Strings on the Staff

Many people are very intimidated by learning to read sheet music. Honestly, all it takes is a bit of memorizing, repetition, and diligence. I have taught many people to read music efficiently in one month’s time. The music staff is made up of just 7 letters of the alphabet, repeated in a stairstep sequence. For now, we will just learn the location of the Violin Open Strings on the treble clef staff.

  • The music staff is made up of 5 lines and 4 spaces.

  • The Treble Clef (or G – Clef) is similar in shape to the letter S.

  • Ledger Lines are a way of extending of the staff, much like an extension ladder.

There are several music clefs, but we will just be learning the Treble Clef staff because the Violin is a Treble Clef instrument. Does this still sound intimidating? 🙂 5 lines, 4 spaces, ledger lines, one clef, 7 letters of the alphabet? Let me know in the comments if this still sounds intimidating to you. If so, I’d love to know why!

Here are the Flashcards for the open string notes: Open Strings Flashcards Lesson 2 Worksheet