1. Don't Get Discouraged
At first, you're going to sound awful. That's just a simple fact. But you want to know a secret? Everyone sounded awful when they first started. Even mega popstars like Boyd Tinsley and classical virtuosos like Itzhak Perlman were beginners, once upon a time. The only difference between you and them is practice, so keep on keeping on.
2. Immerse Yourself
Watch. Listen. Soak it in. The more exposure you have to violin music, the better your ear will be for your own playing and the faster you'll progress. If you can, go to concerts once in a while, or watch them on PBS (they just love rerunning Andre Rieu performances for some reason). YouTube is another great resource. Watch to get a visual idea of how you should be holding yourself.
3. Feel the Burn
If you're part of the 10% of the population that's left handed, congratulations! You have a bit of a head start, since the most intricate and complicated work on the violin is done with the left hand. Otherwise, do daily hand and finger rehabilitation exercises (you can find plenty of them online) to strengthen your left hand fingers and get them good and nimble.
4. Good Grooming
Keep the fingernails on your left hand short, so that you can properly apply your fingers to the neck. Sorry, ladies, but those long, manicured nails have to go. Keeping your nails short makes playing easier and makes you sound better.
5. Put it on Mute
If you live with other people, whether it's family members or apartment complex neighbors, you might feel self-conscious about practicing where they can hear you. If that's the case, you can invest in a little metal miracle called a “hotel mute" (so named because you could use them to practice in hotels). It rolls up on to the bridge and presses against the strings, drastically reducing the volume of the sound you produce, so you can practice without waking the neighbors.
6. Ask for Help
Even if you don't have access to a full-time violin instructor, there's nothing stopping you from soliciting help for free. Ask the employees at your local music store if anyone there could give you some guidance or answer specific questions. You can also check online for help, whether on how-to sites or community forums.
7. Have Fun!
The most important of playing a musical instrument is enjoying it. The less you fun you have, the less you'll play and the less you'll improve. So remember to keep a sense of humor about everything. If you're no longer having fun, it might be time to reevaluate your goals and expectations. Remember, the number one reason to play any instrument is because you like it.
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