Ideal Time to Practice

The ideal time to practice violin. Well, it’s right now. You can practice for a few minutes instead of reading this article. When you get back to this article later, again, read those last two sentences.

Okay, if you broke that loop and landed on this next paragraph, you’re probably looking to create some sort of discipline and commitment for your practice. Good for you. If you create a schedule and stick to it, there’s definitely more chances of succeeding. Especially if you’re a self learner. But you already know what anyone would say to this – “There is no ideal time. It’s specific to you and your lifestyle.”. So let me not say that same thing. If you don’t want to think about anything else and just want someone to tell you an ideal time for practice so that you can begin somewhere, let me tell you. The ideal time for practice is early in the morning. Get up, brush your teeth, drink a big glass of water, clear your bowels, eat a snack (or a quick breakfast) then do your practice. There you go. You have your input – now go create a commitment and stick with it.

You’re still reading? Are you sure you’re not procrastinating by reading internet articles instead of practicing? Okay, if so, then the early morning thing isn’t probably working for you. Or you wonder whether it will. In that case we only come back to the most common answer to this – only you can decide the ideal practice time for you. But what I can do is to give you some pointers to decide on your practice time.

Your Energy Pattern

Some people are full of energy when they wake up, get tired through the day and go to sleep exhausted of that energy. Some people hate to wake up, feel lazy and uncommitted in the morning but they turn productive as the day progresses and get exhausted by the end of the day. Yet others are slow and groggy when the sun is up, but late at night, after everyone else is asleep, their engine starts running at full throttle. So what’s your deal? When do you feel most productive? It’s good to keep your violin practice at this time. At least when you are just beginning and playing the violin itself hasn’t become a rewarding pastime yet.

Your Lifestyle

Do you have a 9 to 5? Going to work or school? Almost everyone has to reserve about 8 hours for their main gig. If you don’t great, your practice time can be anywhere. But if you do, what I find good is keep your practice time a bit far from that 8 hour block. For example if you need to start to work at 8 AM, and you wish to keep your practice in the morning, do it at 6 o clock rather than at 7 o clock. If you get back home at 6 PM in the evening, and wish to practice in the evening, keep your practice at 8 PM rather than 7 PM. If violin playing is your full time pursuit, then you should be looking beyond all this – make violin practice your 8 hour main jig and plan other things around it.

Your Priority

Take a realistic look at how important violin playing is to you. Are you pursuing it as a career? Are you playing to improve your personality? Are you playing to impress someone? Assign the time accordingly. If your office work is your most important thing in your mind, playing violin after you finish work is better. You will feel more relaxed and focus better. If you still want to practice in the morning despite your day job or school being most important to you, device some sort of wrap-up mechanism to free your mind. For example, at the end of the day, make a concrete list of things you have to do at work tomorrow. That way, in the morning when you are about to practice, your mind is not occupied with thoughts about work – you already have those jotted down.

Finally, Make it a Habit

By “making it a habit” what I mean is build it into your routine rather than assigning it a fixed time on the clock. For example “I will practice after I eat my breakfast” or “I will practice before I go to bed”. Rather than “I will practice at 6 PM”. If you do this, it will be easier to build as a habit because that’s how our minds are wired to think of habits. Something that follows (or precedes) some other already established habit. Always chain your habits. That way you don’t have to rely on motivation or will power for your practice. It becomes just another habit in your daily life.

Photo by Phillip Flores on Unsplash

Tuning Your Violin

‘Tuning’ the violin (or any musical instrument) means to make sure the instrument is playing the right sounds for the right notes. For example plucking the G string on the violin can sound like anything but you need it to sound the G note (technically and commonly, a 196 Hz sound).

What frequency the string vibrates in, or in other words, what note the string sounds like, is determined by two things, one is the length of the string and another is the tension in the string (means how tight the string is). We control both these things to play the violin. What we actually do was we place the fingers on the fingerboard, is quickly change the vibrating length of the string. As you move your finger upwards along the fingerboard, you’re actually restricting the vibrating part of the string shorter and shorter – making the sound higher and higher. But before we are able to do that, we should fix the correct tension (or tightness) in the string. Fixing the tension in the string is what we call ‘tuning’ a violin.

How is Tuning Done?

All violins have tuning pegs and many have fine-tuners. As a beginner, you will be using the tuning pegs to tune approximately, and then use the fine-tuners to accurately match the tone you need. As you advance with time, your ears will improve and so will your ability to use only the tuning pegs to tune your violin – at which point you might include violins without any fine tuners to your choice of violins. The basic tuning action is this – tighten or loosen the string using the tuning peg a little bit and then pluck the string or play with the bow to check the sound. Adjust the peg and check the sound again and again until it’s almost the note you wish to hear (G, D, A or E) based on which string you’re tuning. Then do the same adjust-check-repeat using the fine tuners until the sound is accurately the note for that string.

You can turn the pegs and fine tuners, but how do you check? How do you know the string is tuned to whatever note it should be playing ? There are 3 ways to do this as listed below. You can start with the first option (electronic devices), then advance to the second one (using your ears). The third option is just a luxury – you can learn it if you want or you might simply acquire it automatically as you become an advanced player.

1. Using Electronic Devices

This is the simplest way for beginners to tune. Use an electronic tuner or one of the several mobile apps available for your smart phone. How this works is you turn on the tuner (or your app) and then play sounds on your violin, and the device checks and shows you how close you are to the actual note. These tools are designed to ‘hear’ the incoming frequency and compare it to reference frequency of the note you are trying to tune to.

2. Using Your Ears

Use another instrument – a little keyboard, a mobile app / website that can play note sounds or simply record a clear sample sound on your smartphone for reference. Play the note, and tune your violin by checking if the sound from your device and your violin sound the same. It’s not that difficult as some beginning students feel. It is not easy to miss the resonance when the two sounds match. You’ll know it clearly when the sounds are same. Set aside time to do this in your daily practice exercise. Not only will you be able to tune without electronic help, you will also improve your hearing abilities by doing this regularly. Tuning your instrument is like ear training 101.

3. From Sensing the Note

You will need perfect pitch for this – the ability to simply hear a sound and judge what frequency/note it is. Instead of using your ears for a reference note, you simply know by heart which note you’re hearing – by practice or memorization or simply having heard the notes so many times. Don’t worry much about this third option – if you can do this, you’re probably at an advanced level and won’t be reading this article anyway.

Other Tips

  1. If you’re tuning your violin for the first time, or the strings are too loose and out of tune, you might want to adjust the 4 strings evenly. Because if you tune one string, when the others are lax, by the time you finish tuning other strings, the tension in the first string would have changed. So bring all the strings to approximately the same tension (and corresponding note) and then finish tuning one by one.
  2. Be patient and very careful. Tuning the violin is when most people break their strings. Don’t try to hurry up and turn the tuning pegs too hard. Make tiny adjustments, listen and repeat.
  3. There’s nothing wrong with having fine tuners. You can become a virtuoso in future and still use a violin with all 4 fine tuners. Don’t worry about people arguing whether it’s good or bad to have fine tuners. The difference is only indirect and not even noticeable for most audience. On the other hand, fine tuners make the tuning process much quicker and easier. I find violins with fine tuners more encouraging for practice.
  4. Do not ignore tuning. For a lot of students, their teacher just tunes the violin every time they are in class and the students usually don’t even think about tuning the instrument themselves till they are more advanced. I suggest you don’t do this. Treat tuning as a fundamental requirement to start learning your violin.

Photo by Stefany Andrade on Unsplash

Holding the Violin

There are so many texts and almost every beginner violin book begins with a short set of instructions with some photos on how to hold the violin. So I suppose this article is very redundant, but still this is a site to learn and practice the violin and it will not be complete without this. If you’re having a teacher, they would have taught you how to hold the violin. But if you’re trying to learn by yourself, I’d say this – don’t spend too much time and overthink this. That’s what self learners tend to do a lot of time they assume there’s some perfect position which makes it completely comfortable to hold the violin, and get frustrated that they’re not finding that sweet spot. There’s not. Playing the violin does tend to strain your neck, shoulders and hands, atleast in the beginning. Sometimes your back and fingers too. There’s only so much that can be communicated with words. You will find your sweet spot as you progress playing the violin – by making small adjustments that make you feel more and more comfortable as you go along through the days.

Holding the Violin – The Shoulder and The Jaw

My first advice is – use a chin rest and a shoulder rest. They make it way more comfortable and easier to hold the violin. Don’t debate about using them. If you are in a rare situation where one of them actually inconveniences you, debate about not using them. Otherwise, use the chin rest and a shoulder rest. Put the violin slightly pressed against your neck and rest your jaw on the chin rest. I find a center chin-rest suits short players and a side chin-rest suits others. A tall player might need some padding to avoid bending the neck too much. The violin will hold fine with just the natural weight of your head – you don’t have to press and hold it with force. It will feel doubtful when you’re just starting. It’s supposed to. Because the hold of the violin is not fixed rigidly. Your neck, shoulder and left hand adjust in intricate ways as required when you’re playing. Just be confident that things will fall into place after a few days of practice.

Holding the Violin – The Left Hand

Rest the neck of the violin between the first knuckle of the thumb and the third knuckle of the index finger. Don’t clutch it. Don’t grip it. Just rest on it. Remember that as you advance in playing, you should be able to move your hand up and down the neck of the violin, for shifting to higher positions. If you grip the violin’s neck or you have too much contact supporting the violin’s neck, it’ll be uncomfortable to shift. Some weight of the violin will be supported by the left hand but not as much to restrict shifting your hand up and down.

Holding the Bow

Playing violin requires dexterity of both hands and the fingers of both hands. Holding the bow requires just as much attention as holding the violin itself. The proper way is to hold the bow between the tip of the thumb and the middle part of the middle finger, and then rest the index finger and ring finger naturally on the bow. Usually, the first knuckle of these fingers contact the bow – but not strictly – don’t try to force it. Rest the tip of the little finger on top of the bow. It works like this – the hold between the thumb tip and middle finger is basic hold on the bow, the other fingers work subtly on positioning the bow and to differentiate the pressure as you play. But this happens automatically. You wish to play louder, your fingers will adjust automatically. Don’t worry about it. It’ll happen.

Shoulder Rest

Although there once was a time very long ago, when people played the violin without chin rests or shoulder rests, it’s not really a good idea in the current times. Unless you have a rare structure that makes it easier for you to play without them, it’s better to use a chin rest and shoulder rest. That way, it will be easier for you to hold the violin comfortably and focus on what actually matters – the sound that comes out of your violin. I’ve read some articles on the internet that talk about the impact of shoulder rests on the sound quality. Ignore them for now. Several successful violinists today take advantage of chin rests and shoulder rests. If you’re still in doubt, just watch some videos of popular violinists on YouTube to know how common it is to use a shoulder rest.


Standing is best, but if you’re sitting, sit on a stool. Chairs with backs aren’t suitable for playing violin. The most important things are that your back isn’t hunching and you won’t accidentally hit on something as you pull your bow back and forth on the violin. Put your music stand in front of you and adjust it’s height such that you don’t have to depend on your neck to look up or down on it. You’ll need your neck for playing the violin and won’t always have the freedom to move your head as you like. Wear good clothing even if you’re simply practicing at home. Whether you’re wearing a shirt or a t-shirt, whether it has thick collars or the violin is in contact with your skin – things like this matter. If you practice all the time wearing a collarless t-shirt and suddenly have to play wearing a suit – you’ll be uncomfortable.

Before You Start

Internet is a treasure. There are countless videos explaining how to hold a violin. Search for ‘how to hold a violin’ and watch at least five or six such videos and just let those different perspectives sink in. Then watch the performances of some acclaimed players – pay attention and observe how they hold the violin, and how they lift up their violin and put it in it’s position. Do this for a few days and your body will find it’s own way to be comfortable while playing.

Your posture, the way you hold the violin, the clothes you’re most comfortable in while playing – all these are unique to you. Have patience and let things fall in place. Don’t think too much – let it come naturally. Just be mindful of what you learn everyday and let your body adapt by itself. Remember that it’s a frustrating journey in the initial few days until all this is behind you and your only problems are those tricky fingerings and playing in tune.


  • Watch atleast 5 videos on the internet that teach you how to hold the violin – try to imitate what each video explains.
  • Watch atleast 5 accomplished players performing on the internet and observe carefully how they hold the violin and the bow.
  • Hold the violin properly and move your left hand up and down the finger board – as if you’re playing. The neck of the violin should not touch the web between your thumb and forefinger. Don’t grip the violin’s neck. Be comfortable with holding the violin and moving your left hand.
  • Hold the bow properly and place it on the strings. The bow should rest on one of the strings, centered between the bridge of the violin and the finger board. Lift up and bring the bow down. Then keep it back on a different string this time. Observe how different it is to place the bow on the different strings. Repeat with different points of the bow touching on different strings.