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The Violin Tutor: 10 Basic Lessons

The Violin Tutor Book


Basic
10 Lessons
Violin
for

Compiled and edited by

Andrew Gibson

Supported by Software from

www.theviolintutor.com
Copyright 2007, Andrew Gibson. All Rights Reserved.
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The Violin Tutor: 10 Basic Lessons

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The Violin Tutor: 10 Basic Lessons

Practice Record
Week

Date

Assignment

Mon

1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
14
15
16
17
18
19
20
21
22
23
24
25
26
27
28
29
30
31
32
33
34
35
36
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Tue

Wed

Thurs

Fri

Sat

Sun

The Violin Tutor: 10 Basic Lessons

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The Violin Tutor: 10 Basic Lessons

Contents
Forward and Acknowledgements
Care and Maintenance
Terminology of the Violin and Bow

Lesson 1 - Holding the Violin


Feet - Standing Position
Tuning
Shoulder Pad
Rest Position
Thumb Position
Left Hand Strumming
Positioning with 2 hands
Playing Position
Chin Rest
Left Hand Pizzicato
[1]
[2]

Lesson 6 - Shadow Bowing


Elbow Swing
Bowing on the Shoulder
Holding Instrument and Swinging Bow
String Crossing
7 Bow Levels
[11] Short Strokes at the Middle
Lesson 7 - Open String Bowed Accompaniments
Bow Lift
[12] Lightly Row (14)
Circle Bows - Double Down Bowing
[13] Hot Cross Buns (1)
[14] Let Us Chase The Squirrel (12)
[15] Skip To My Lou (5)

Lesson 2 - Placing the Violin with One Hand


Violin Salute
Raise and Lower Head
Shifting Preparation
Violin Position
[3]
[4]
Lesson 3 - Crossing Strings with the Left Hand
Elbow Swing
[5] Lightly Row (14)
[6] Hot Cross Buns (1)
Lesson 4 - Preparation for Holding the Bow
Bunny Grip
The Balance Point
Finger Taps
[7] Skip To My Lou (5)
[8] Baa, Baa, Black Sheep (8)
[9] Let Us Chase The Squirrel (12)
Lesson 5 - Beginner Bow Hold
Beginner Bow Hold
Crawling Exercise
Windshield Wiper Exercise - Beginner Bow Hold
Windshield Wiper Exercise - Regular Bow Hold
[10] Jingle Bells (15)

Lesson 8 - Open String Note-Reading


Note-reading practice
[16] Lightly Row (14)
[17] Hot Cross Buns (1)
[18] Let Us Chase The Squirrel (12)
[19] Skip To My Lou (5)
[20] Mary Had A Little Lamb (3)
[21] Baa, Baa, Black Sheep (8)
[22] Jingle Bells (15)
Lesson 9 - Playing on Two Strings
7 Bow Levels
[23 - 28]
Lesson 10 - First Scale and Tunes
st
Establishing contact between thumb and 1 Finger
Tapping - Fingers and Thumb
rd
Octave Practice - Locating the 3 Finger
[29] Descending Major Scales
[30] French Folk Song (9)
[31] Hot Cross Buns (1)
[32] Au Claire De La Lune (2)
[33] Mary Had A Little Lamb (3)
[34] Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star (10)
[35] Major Scale
Theory Review

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The Violin Tutor: 10 Basic Lessons

Forward
This tutor is titled 10 Basic Lessons because each lesson covers some fundamental aspect of starting to learn the violin.
The content is not just the notes but endeavors to demonstrate movements as exercises and drills that though they may
individually appear simple, which they often are, they combine to form the violinists technique.
Left hand and right hand actions are presented separately at first and once introduced should form the basis of a regular
practice regime. Reading music is not required to begin because letter and finger based systems are presented along with
music notation, providing a way to start learning immediately, but in the process gradually introducing how to read music.
Though ideally intended to supplement lessons with a teacher it has been designed with a view for those seeking a means
of self instruction.

This symbol introduces material to be read, to clarify a point or present some new material that may be helpful.
This symbol introduces an action exercise that concerns the left hand.
This symbol introduces an action exercise that concerns the right hand.
The symbols combined require the use of both hands.
Any theory, introduced for the first time, is highlighted and explained.
[6] Hot Cross Buns (1) The first number, in square brackets [6], refers to the music in the tutor book.
The second number, in curved brackets (1), refers to the music in the software program.

Open string accompaniments are written as just letter names to begin with.

Tunes are presented with fingerings

and as complete music notation.

Accompaniments are provided for teachers or advanced students


Play on all strings - A, D, G, E

Play on all other available strings, from memory or view the transposition in the program.

Play on any two strings - A&D, D&G, E&A

Play on all other available string combinations as above.

Acknowledgements
Many thanks to Amalia Hall who suffered long but patiently under the hot lights to model for all the pictures and video, and
to Wen Chuan Lin who accompanied on piano for the video.
The teaching methodology has been based on that developed by the incomparable pedagogue Paul Rolland.
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The Violin Tutor: 10 Basic Lessons

Care and Maintenance


The violin is like you, it doesnt like it too hot or cold. Neither are extremes of dry or damp good.
Do not store your violin in extreme hot or cold locations. Even a short period in a car on a hot day can be very
detrimental. Instruments shouldnt ever be left in a car, they could easily be stolen.
Dry conditions can be worse over time, the instrument may crack or seams open, but there are devices
available that you put in the case with the violin to stabalise the humidity.
Put a small amount of rosin on your bow before playing. Hold the rosin in your left hand,
place the bow hairs flat on the rosin and move the bow back and forth on the rosin.
Wear down the rosin evenly. Creating a deep groove only wastes rosin.
Be careful not to chip or drop the rosin, it will break easily. Place your thumb over the ferrule,
the metal part, to avoid it breaking the rosin.
Tighten your bow before playing by
gently turning the tension screw.

Avoid making the bow too taut, there should still be a bow in the
bow. You only need about a pencil width between hair and stick.

Loosen the hair on your bow before putting it back in the case. Make sure there is nothing under the violin, like the
shoulder-rest, when you close the case. This could cause the bridge to be pushed through the violin top.
Keep your nails cut. Long nails interfere with the correct angle of the fingers on the fingerboard and may even
damage the string. If the outer layer is broken it may cause the string to become unstable, and in turn uneven
edges may damage the fingerboard, causing grooves to appear.
After playing the violin, gently clean it with a soft cloth to remove any rosin build-up on the
strings, fingerboard and varnish. A silk cloth works particularly well in removing rosin off the
varnish and fingerboard. A light brushing movement is all you need. A cotton cloth may be used
vigorously on the strings to remove the rosin. A drop of perfume on a cloth can help to dissolve
built-up and hard to remove rosin. Never use this on the varnish.
Polish is rarely needed, and when necessary, only a commercial violin polish should be used.
Cleaning the violin with regular furniture polish could damage the varnish and thereby the
acoustics of the violin.
A cloth over the top of the instrument may prevent any marks due to bow movement or things
coming loose in the case.
Strings should be replaced if broken or worn. A string with a damaged outer winding may mark the fingerboard. Even if
the string does not break it wont last forever. Eventually it will lose its tonal quality or pitch and become false.
Never remove all the strings at once, the sound post may fall over. Replace them one at a time.

Store the violin with the strings in tune. Do not loosen the strings unless maybe travelling on a plane. Loosening the
strings too much may allow the sound post, inside the belly of the instrument, to fall over. The sound post serves two very
important roles: it stops the instrument from collapsing, and it facilitates the sound producing vibration of the string. It is
often necessary over time to replace the sound post, especially if moving to drastically different climates. The instrument
will respond to differences in humidity and temperature by expanding or shrinking, the sound post becoming
correspondingly too loose or too tight.
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The Violin Tutor: 10 Basic Lessons

Terminology of Violin and Bow

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The Violin Tutor: 10 Basic Lessons

Lesson 1 - Holding the Violin


1. Standing Feet Position
Start with heels together.

2. Tuning
Step to the left and slightly ahead.

The A string is tuned first, then D,G and E.

Lower

Higher

Listen carefully as you, or your teacher, tunes.


Have weight slightly on the left foot,
but be able to shift from the left side back to the centre.

Shoulder
Pad

To stabilize the violin a shoulder pad, also known as a shoulder rest, is often used.
For beginners I recommend using sponge cut to shape, or a rolled up cloth.
A rubber band secured around the end button is then hooked over the lower bout, under the chin
rest, left side.
The sponge makes it easier to fit, especially smaller sized instruments.

3. Rest Position
Wrap left hand around the neck
Make sure not to touch the bridge.

4. Thumb Position
The thumb provides counter-pressure, but should only be as little as
necessary without squeezing between thumb and fingers.

st

The base joint of the 1 finger


should be level with the top of the
fingerboard. Dont trap the fingers
under the neck.

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There is no one fixed position for


the thumb but use it lightly, the
relaxed hand finds the correct
position naturally.

The Violin Tutor: 10 Basic Lessons

Lesson 1
5. Left Hand Strumming
Start with the hand hanging by the
thumb near the end of the neck.
Pivot on the thumb so the little finger
can reach the G string.

6. Positioning with 2 hands


Gradually bring the violin up into a
playing position, the right hand may
help, strumming continuously.

7. Playing Position
Point the tail piece to the centre of the
neck.
Place the violin lightly on the collar
bone.

Support with the left arm but use the right hand as well to begin with.
Brush the little finger lightly across the strings, lower to higher - G D A E, letting the arm swing slightly.

Chin Rest

An ill fitting chin rest can wreak havoc with the position of the head.
The head must not be thrown back but allow the chin to sink over the lip of the chin rest.
With the chin dropped the spine, at the back of the head, straightens. Head should remain vertical.

8. Left Hand Pizzicato

With a circular finger movement pull the little (4th) finger


across one string.

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The Violin Tutor: 10 Basic Lessons

Lesson 1
This is the playing position for the pizzicato tunes and exercises

Playing
Position

The end button should be pointing towards the centre of the neck.
With the head turned approximately 45 to the left the violin will be a little bit further left.
Another way to think about it is to line the violin over the left foot.
Bottom edge of the violin should be on the collar bone, next to the neck.
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The Violin Tutor: 10 Basic Lessons

Lesson 1
Theory
Quarter Note

1 beat of sound

Crotchet Note

Quarter Rest

1 beat of silence

Crotchet Rest

Time Signature

4
4

4 beats per measure


or

get one beat

Bar Line

Divides the music staff into measures

Measure

Space between 2 bar lines containing the beats

Music Staff

Has 5 lines and 4 spaces

th

Pluck (pizzicato) with left little (4 ) finger.


Upper line - Student
Lower line - Teacher or Advanced Student

Pluck the string loudly pulling the finger back quickly from
the base joint. Keep the hand still.

1.

2.

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The Violin Tutor: 10 Basic Lessons

Lesson 2 - Placing the Violin with One Hand


1. Violin Salute
From the Rest Position raise the violin
with the left hand alone.

2. Raise and Lower Head


Avoid stiffness in the neck, lift the head
off the chin rest, let the weight of the
head sit comfortably on the chin rest.
Support between collar bone and hand,
violin sitting like a table top.

3. Shifting Preparation
Place the fingers on the string in First
position, start on the A string.

Move the lower arm until the hand is


over the body of the instrument, this is
a Middle position.

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Swing the elbow further in front of you


as the thumb goes round the neck and
fingers extend further up the neck into
a higher position.

The Violin Tutor: 10 Basic Lessons

Lesson 2
4. Violin Position

Violin
Position

The violin may move up or down, or left to right, but keep the contact on the collar-bone.
Avoid pointing the scroll down to the ground. Support with the left hand.
Try balancing the bow or ping pong ball on G and D strings between bridge and fingerboard.
It is safer to practice over your bed or cushion in case anything falls.
Theory

Half Note

2 beats of sound

Minim Note

Half Rest

2 beats of silence

Minim Rest

3.

4.

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The Violin Tutor: 10 Basic Lessons

Lesson 3 - Crossing Strings with the Left Hand

1. Elbow Swing
Play with a slight elbow
swing to promote a relaxed
shoulder joint and to allow
the little finger to reach the
string without strain.
On the G string the fingers
will be straighter, on the E
string more curved.
The lower the string the
more the elbow needs to
move to your right.

Widen
Base Joint

Widen between the base joint of the fingers to give more space between the fingers and thereby a
longer reach.
This has implications for finger placement once you start putting fingers down to make notes.

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The Violin Tutor: 10 Basic Lessons

Lesson 3
Pluck the string loudly pulling the finger back quickly
from the base joint as fast as possible.

Move with a slight elbow swing when changing strings.


Place finger on string before playing and move to the
next string in the rest, that is, as soon as possible.

Keep the hand still and finger curved.

5. Lightly Row

Theory
Eighth Note

1/2 beat of sound

Quaver Note

Eighth Rest

1/2 beat of silence

Quaver Rest

6. Hot Cross Buns

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The Violin Tutor: 10 Basic Lessons

Lesson 4 - Preparation for Holding the Bow


1. Bunny Grip
Make a circle between right hand thumb and the middle digit joint of the second finger.
Place the third finger next to the
second with the first and little fingers
separate.

Wiggle the two middle fingers


- these are the bunnies nose.

2. Balance Point

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Wiggle the first and little fingers


- these are the bunnies ears.

The Violin Tutor: 10 Basic Lessons

Lesson 4
Find the balance point of the bow by balancing it on a finger
or the thumb of the right hand. Support the bow with the left
hand, either at the middle or the tip.
Next try finding the balance point using the right side tip of
the thumb. Keep note of where the balance point is
The thumb needs to be curved and pointing slightly up, as
though on a diagonal.
The fingers should be above the bow to start with, the little
finger a bit higher than the rest.
Try this over your bed or cushion in case the bow falls.

3. Finger Taps - Thumb and Little Finger


Place a pencil in the Bunny Grip between thumb and
middle joint of middle finger.

With the palm side up, letting the bow rest in the hand, tap
the thumb nail against the pencil or stick.

With the palm side down tap the little finger nail
against the side of the pencil or stick.

Promotes relaxation and correct finger shape and


placement.

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The Violin Tutor: 10 Basic Lessons

Lesson 4
Pluck (pizzicato)

7. Skip To My Lou

8. Baa, Baa, Black Sheep

Theory
Time Signature

2
4

2 beats per measure


or

get one beat

9. Let Us Chase The Squirrel

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The Violin Tutor: 10 Basic Lessons

Lesson 5 - Beginner Bow Hold


1. Beginner Bow Hold
It is advisable to begin with the thumb near the balance point,
the bow feels lighter and causes less work for the fingers.
Combine the Bunny Grip with the Balance on Right Thumb
- middle fingers hanging down on far side of the stick.

2. Crawling Exercise
With the bow pointing straight up walk the fingers up and down the bow.

3 A. Windshield Wiper Exercise - Beginner Bow Hold Position


Rotate the lower arm moving the bow left to right.
st
Feel the weight of the bow on the 1 finger.

th

Use the 4 finger to keep the bow horizontal.


th
Feel the weight of the bow against the 4 finger.

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The Violin Tutor: 10 Basic Lessons

Lesson 5
3 B. Windshield Wiper Exercise - Regular Bow Hold Position
The regular hold has the thumb touching the stick between the frog and the leather grip.
st

Feel the bow weight on the 1 finger.

Pluck (pizzicato)

Bow feels lighter, soften your hold.

10. Jingle Bells

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th

Feel the weight against the 4 finger.

The Violin Tutor: 10 Basic Lessons

Lesson 6 - Shadow Bowing


1. Elbow Swing

Place your left hand into the crook of your right elbow. Keep the upper arm still.
Swing the lower arm from the elbow, like a door moves from its hinge.

2. Bowing on the Shoulder


Place the bow on the left shoulder.
Let the wrist rise to touch the chin without lifting the
bow or moving your head.
Let the elbow hang, ready for the down bow.
Move out in a straight line until just the tip is on the
shoulder.
Rotate the lower arm to keep the feeling of weight
st
through the 1 finger.

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The Violin Tutor: 10 Basic Lessons

Lesson 6
3. Holding Instrument and Swinging Bow
Have the left hand above the instrument.
Hook the tip of the bow with the curved little finger.

Keeping the bow tip away from the instrument raise and lower the
bow from the upper arm.

4. String Crossing
Place the bow hair flat on the string between bridge and
fingerboard.

Silently raise and lower the whole arm from the lowest to
highest string.

Start with right arm at a right angle.

The arm moves to a new position or level for each string.

7 Bow Levels

Each individual string has its own arm level as does each pair of strings G-D, D-A, and A-E, for a
total of 7 bow levels.

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The Violin Tutor: 10 Basic Lessons

Lesson 6

Theory
Down Bow

Move Bow to the right

Up Bow

Move Bow to the left

Comma

Lift or Stop Bow

Repeat

Go back to beginning and play again

Play on all strings

11. Short Strokes at the Middle

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The Violin Tutor: 10 Basic Lessons

Lesson 7 - Open String Bowed Accompaniments


1. Bow Lift
Change the bow position by lifting and
placing it at different parts of the bow.

th

Keep 4 finger curved to help balance


the bow weight in the hand.

Change position gradually


Middle - Heel - Middle - Point
Make a wide change
Heel - Point

Theory
Dotted Half Note

D and A Strings

3 beats of sound

12. Lightly Row

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Dotted Minim Note

The Violin Tutor: 10 Basic Lessons

Lesson 7
2. Circle Bows - Double Down Bowing
Play a down bow and without stopping lift it off the
string and return it to its starting position with a
circular motion, then stop.
Keep the bow pointing in the same direction off the
string as on.
The little finger must be curved and still, to balance
the bows weight.
The bow should be placed silently and lightly on
the string before the next note is played.
Use the fingers like springs to produce a soft
landing.
Play from the string, relax unwanted tension once
the bow is on the string again.

Short Strokes with Lift =

G and D Strings

13. Hot Cross Buns

14. Let Us Chase The Squirrel

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The Violin Tutor: 10 Basic Lessons

Lesson 7
Theme and Variations
Theme

15. Skip To My Lou

Variation 1

Variation 2

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The Violin Tutor: 10 Basic Lessons

Lesson 8 - Open String Note-Reading


Note-reading practice

D and A Strings

16. Lightly Row

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The Violin Tutor: 10 Basic Lessons

Lesson 8
D and A Strings

17. Hot Cross Buns

G and D Strings

18. Let Us Chase The Squirrel

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The Violin Tutor: 10 Basic Lessons

Lesson 8
G and D Strings

19. Skip To My Lou

A and E Strings

20. Mary Had A Little Lamb

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The Violin Tutor: 10 Basic Lessons

Lesson 8
All Strings - G D A E

21. Baa, Baa, Black Sheep

Theory
st

1 Ending

Play first time through

Repeat Sign

Go back to the beginning

nd

Play second time in place of the first ending

Ending

G, D and A Strings

22. Jingle Bells

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The Violin Tutor: 10 Basic Lessons

Lesson 9 - Playing on Two Strings


Playing two strings at the same time: arm level moves between the level of the individual strings.
Each string has its own arm level as does each pair of strings G-D, D-A, and A-E, for a total of 7 bow levels.

23.

24.

25.

26.

27.

28.

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The Violin Tutor: 10 Basic Lessons

Lesson 10 - First Scale and Tunes


st

1. Establishing contact between thumb and 1 finger


Review Lesson 1: 4.Thumb Position
The thumb provides counter-pressure, but should only be
as little as necessary without squeezing between thumb and
fingers.
st

The base joint of the 1 finger should be level with the top
of the fingerboard. Dont trap the fingers under the neck.
There is no one fixed position for the thumb but use it
lightly, the relaxed hand finds the correct position naturally.
Taking the thumb off the neck to avoid squeezing is the
surest way to relieve unwanted tension.

2. Tapping - Fingers and Thumb


Tap the fingers on the string from the base joint, keeping the finger
curved.
Aim to have the string through the middle of the finger tip.
The finger should be able to sit on the string without touching adjacent
strings.
To play the same finger on two strings at the same time place the
finger between both strings and flatten the finger more if necessary.

rd

3. Octave Practice - Locating the 3 Finger


To find a balanced hand position, one where all the fingers can reach
rd
the string at the same time without strain, tune the 3 finger to the
open string lower than the one the finger is on. That is:
rd

G open string and 3 finger G on D string


rd
D open string and 3 finger D on A string
rd
A open string and 3 finger A on E string
rd

th

With the 3 finger down on the string the 4 finger should be able to
rd
easily touch the string close to the 3 finger, and still be curved.
nd

rd

Place the 2 finger next to the 3 finger, still quite curved.


st

nd

1 finger is half way between the 2 finger and the open string is the
squarest finger, more up-and-down than the rest, reaching back the
most.
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The Violin Tutor: 10 Basic Lessons

Lesson 10
Theory
Time Signature

3
4

Note Names

3 beats per measure


or

get one beat

Descending Major Scales


A and D Strings

Transposed for D and G Strings

Transposed for E and A Strings

29.a D Major Scale

29.b G Major Scale

29.c A Major Scale

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The Violin Tutor: 10 Basic Lessons

Lesson 10
Play on any two strings
A&D, D&G, E&A

Play on all strings


A, D, G, E

Play on all strings


A, D, G, E

30. French Folk Song

31. Hot Cross Buns

32. Au Claire De La Lune

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The Violin Tutor: 10 Basic Lessons

Lesson 10
Play on all strings A, D, G, E

33. Mary Had A Little Lamb

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The Violin Tutor: 10 Basic Lessons

Lesson 10
Theory
Da Capo

D.C.

From the beginning ( literally, the head )

Fine

Fine

The end. After playing from the beginning again, stop.

Play on any two strings


D&A, G&D, A&E

Play on any two strings


D&A, G&D, A&E

34. Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star

35. Major Scale

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The Violin Tutor: 10 Basic Lessons


Theory Review
Quarter Note

1 beat of sound

Crotchet Note

Quarter Rest

1 beat of silence

Crotchet Rest

Half Note

2 beats of sound

Minim Note

Half Rest

2 beats of silence

Minim Rest

Eighth Note

1/2 beat of sound

Quaver Note

Eighth Rest

1/2 beat of silence

Quaver Rest

Dotted Half Note

3 beats of sound

Time Signatures

4
4

4 beats per measure

3
4

3 beats per measure

2
4

2 beats per measure

or

or

or

Dotted Minim Note

get one beat

get one beat

get one beat

Bar Line

Divides the music staff into measures

Measure

Space between 2 bar lines containing the beats

Music Staff

Has 5 lines and 4 spaces

Down Bow

Move Bow to the right

Up Bow

Move Bow to the left

Comma

Lift or Stop Bow

Repeat

Go back to beginning and play again

Da Capo

D.C.

From the beginning (literally, the head)

Fine

Fine

The end. After playing from the beginning again, stop.

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The Violin Tutor: 10 Basic Lessons

10 Basic Lessons for Violin


Video and Software Support
35 Tunes and Studies
25 Exercise Drills
Music Theory
70 Images

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Copyright 2007, Andrew Gibson. All Rights Reserved.
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