A Writer's Guide to Violinists
I'm a violin player, and I love reading books with violinists in them, though in my opinion there aren't nearly enough. I decided to put together this post on violins and their players for other writers out there possibly wanting to write about them. I'll start with some facts, then debunk some myths about them. Since I've been playing for thirteen years, I hope I can help other writers out there. (This is also my first guide, so it may not be the best. Bear with me.)
If you're going to write about violinists, first be sure to do your research. There are many parts to a violin and you should know them all. Below I've included a diagram for you to study.
There are four strings on a violin called, from left to right, G, D, A, and E. The violin is held in your left hand and the bow in the right. You put the fingers of your left hand on the fingerboard and there are different positions for your hand to be in.
Most kids start violin around six, with a 1/8th or 1/6th size violin. As their arms get longer, they grown in violin size until they reach full size.
There are many techniques violinists need to learn. Bowing alone has many ways to do it- staccato, legato, martele, and more. For the left hand, vibrato is the most important thing to learn. My teacher says that vibrato is one of the things that makes professional violinists stand out from the average performer. While it may look like a simple wiggling motion, it takes lots of time and practice to get it right.
Many violin students use the Suzuki method of teaching. There are ten books that get progressively difficult. The Suzuki method focuses on playing well, practicing with purpose, and lots of listening. You also learn to play in a group setting and how to memorize music, even if it's four pages long. You also do lots of review, even when you're in book 5, like I am.
As kids get older, many join orchestras for the learning experience. It's different to play with an orchestra than even playing with a group. You have to learn to play with many other instruments, and often learn to audition. (Probably the single worst part of playing in an orchestra.) Plus there's the rush of performing in front of an audience.
Playing the violin doesn't come without pain. Try holding out your arm, twisting it so it's face up, bend it a little, and imagine holding an instrument like that for long periods of time. It's exhausting. After orchestra camps, my back aches from so much sitting straight. When you first begin to play, your fingers hurt so much. Later you build up calluses on them that help protect them.
The violin is a difficult instrument to learn, but a great skill to have. You have the ability to perform or play whatever you want.
Myths About Violinists
Myth: All violinists are extremely talented.
Truth: We are on all levels. I know violinists who are very good at the violin, and others that do it for the school credits. Like anything else, there are many levels of players, and you can't judge us all by a few.
That's one of my pet peeves with books about violinists. They all seem to be first chair sort of people, and I'd like to see more books about the average player. (First chair in the first section of an orchestra means you're the concert master, or mistress, and is the most prestigious place in the orchestra.)
Myth: You can pick up an instrument and just play it.
Truth: Not even close. I've had friends pick up my violin and out come the worst scratching noises. They just can't understand how I can make such beautiful sounds. Playing the violin takes practice and dedication to make it sound good. It takes years to become a good player.
It seems in books that people can pick up a violin and play it like they've had lessons for years. Not true. One book that portrayed it correctly was one of the Young Sherlock Holmes books, where Sherlock starts lessons on a voyage to America.
Myth: All violinists are completely dedicated only to the violin.
Truth: We're actually interesting in many things. I know players who also do sports, art, and other activities. I personally love to do many things. But that doesn't mean we don't love our instrument.
Myth: Violinists practice hours every day.
Truth: Practice length depends on age and dedication. When kids first start playing, they may practice around fifteen minutes. As you get older the time increases to half an hour, then to an hour. How much and how long you practice will also change depending on what you want to do. If you want to be a soloist, you may practice longer times. If you just play for the fun, a half an hour is fine.
There you go. If you have any other questions about violins or playing them, ask me in the comments.
Do you play an instrument? Do you enjoy classical music? Let me know in the comments.