The violin is a popular string instrument with a beautiful range of tones, widely accepted in orchestral and folk music genres along with many more musical styles. There are a surprising number of benefits associated with learning how to play violin and practicing/playing regularly.
You could be wondering if it's worth picking up a violin for the first time, or you may already be a knowledgeable student or professional violinist. Either way, I hope to inspire you to continue your musical journey with the violin as you read this article. There is so much to gain from learning a musical instrument like the violin, and I've selected what I believe to be the top 11 best reasons.
The top 11 benefits of learning and playing violin are:
- Improves Coordination/Dexterity
- Enhances The Understanding Of Music
- Yields Transferable Skills To All Other String Instruments
- Improves Discipline & Concentration
- Builds Confidence
- Introduces A New Language
- Improves Memory
- Building Relationships
- Provides A Creative Outlet
- Improves Posture
- Therapeutic Benefits
- Bonus Benefit 1: Monetizing Your Skills
- Bonus Benefit 2: Opportunity To Learn Instrument Upkeep & Construction
In this article, we'll discuss each of the benefits listed above in more detail to investigate how learning and playing the violin can improve our lives.
Learning & Playing Violin Improves Coordination/Dexterity
To play the violin properly, we must develop the careful and necessary coordination. Violins are relatively small instruments; they're fretless, have curved fretboards, and are played with a variety of techniques with or without a bow. In other words, violins are difficult to play!
Becoming proficient at playing the violin, a violist must develop the dexterity to finger the proper notes while plucking or bowing the matching string(s) with correct technique, rhythm, timing, volume and emotion. This is all done while holding the violin in place, resting it on the collarbone and supporting it by the left hand and shoulder.
Violins have their own unique playing techniques. However, the improvement of coordination will inevitably help with other instruments. This is particularly true of stringed instruments but also applies to percussion instruments (rhythm and timing-wise) and even woodwind and brass instruments (fingering-wise).
Learning & Playing Violin Enhances The Understanding Of Music
Violins are commonplace in musical genres spanning from orchestral to folk, pop to country, and even metal and harder genres. It's an amazingly versatile instrument.
As we develop our violin playing abilities, we may broaden our musical horizons and have the skills to immerse ourselves in new styles of music more quickly and effectively.
By playing new violin styles, we can better understand the music (compared to only listening) and further develop our musicality, in addition to our violin-playing chops. With so many songs to learn in so many genres, learning the violin is a musical gift that keeps on giving.
As mentioned, the violin can be played using many different techniques, including the bowing techniques (legato, détaché, tenuto, potato, staccato, etc.) and plucking techniques (pizzicato).
There will always be new musical territory to explore, and the violin is one of the best instruments to explore new musical ideas, concepts and genres.
Learning & Playing Violin Yields Transferable Skills To All Other String Instruments
The violin is generally considered the most difficult mainstream string instrument to play. It's the smallest string instrument (of the violin family), and while it's not heavy, it can be awkward to hold properly. As we've already discussed, the fretless, curved fretboard makes fingering, bowing and plucking a challenge. The small size of the instrument compounds the difficulty.
Though laborious to learn, developing the variety of techniques used to master the violin will set us up for massive success with other string instruments.
First, the proper posture and holding of the violin will transfer to the viola, even though the viola is larger. By learning the violin, we'll be much further ahead than complete beginners if we choose to pick up the viola at a later time.
As we become proficient at the violin, the bowing techniques we learn will translate to the other bowed string instruments (viola, cello, double bass). Though the posture of these instruments may change, the mechanics of running a bow across the strings will be largely the same. We can even get experimental and use bows on other string instruments if we please (check out this video of Jimmy Page using a bow on his Gibson Les Paul during Led Zeppelin's Dazed And Confused at Madison Square Garden 1973).
The same can be said of the plucking techniques of the violin, though perhaps they aren't as widespread as the bowing techniques. There are plenty of plucking/picking (pizzicato) techniques, and learning the one will make us better equipped to learn the others. Leaning pizzicato on the violin will indirectly translate to an improved technique in double bass, guitar, harp and mandolin style picking.
Violin fingerboards are small, fretting and rounded, though learning the proper technique of fingering or “fretting” (even though the violin doesn't have frets) will translate to other string instruments with fingerboards.
The violin has 4 strings, tuned in fifths. This tuning system directly transfers to viola and cello and also to the mandolin family of instruments. The shapes and inter-string interval relations will be the same in these instruments, although in different keys/ranges.
Other string instruments may have different standard tunings (the double bass and bass guitar are tuned in fourths, the guitar is tuned in fourths with a major third between the G and B strings, the banjo is tuned in open G, etc.). However, the techniques developed for fretting will hold between these instruments.
Learning & Playing Violin Improves Discipline & Concentration
Once again, the violin is a difficult instrument to play and puts forth a fairly steep learning curve. To become proficient at playing such a musical instrument, we must dedicate and focus our time and energy to improving our knowledge and skill. Such a practice involves strengthening our discipline and concentration.
Learning how to play the violin, from the mechanics to the in-depth theory, provides a fun yet challenging way to learn a musical instrument and music more generally, and also to develop discipline and concentration.
Mastering the instrument demands unwavering dedication to the craft.
Learning & Playing Violin Builds Confidence
Becoming skilled at playing the violin improves our confidence, not only with the instrument itself but more broadly in our lives. The Meriam-Webster Dictionary defined confidence as “a feeling or belief that you can do something well or succeed at something”. If we can learn a challenging instrument like the violin, we can surely learn other instruments and other subjects in life!
Music is a social art form, and as we become better at playing the violin, there will be opportunities to perform for other people. This could be picking up the fiddle at a small party or performing first violin duty in a world-class symphony orchestra. Either way, learning the violin can give us the opportunity to get out of our comfort zone and perform for others, which is a fantastic way to improve overall self-confidence.
Learning & Playing Violin Introduces A New Language
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow once wrote, “Music is the universal language of mankind” (source). Learning the violin, whether by ear, via sheet music or through the lens of music theory, is akin to learning another language.
From the literal terminology we'll learn (much of which is in different languages, including Italian) to the language of music itself, the violin will provide us with ample opportunity to expand our vocabulary.
Studies show that learning a musical instrument like the violin helps strengthen the same parts of the brain responsible for language processing (source). Learning violin not only introduces the language of music but also enhances our brain's ability to learn other languages.
By learning how to play the violin, you're effectively learning another language and, at the same time, improving your vocabulary of real written languages!
Learning & Playing Violin Improves Memory
Our memory can be enhanced by working our brains a certain way (source), and learning violin is one such method of doing so. In particular, learning a musical instrument like the violin will stimulate the amygdala and hippocampus, which play a role in emotions and memories (source).
Consider all the factors of learning and playing the violin that involves memory:
- Memorizing songs (with rhythm, harmony, melody, timbre/tone)
- The notes of the fingerboard
- Theoretical knowledge of music (rhythm, harmony, melody)
While learning and playing the violin, we stimulate the hippocampus, which activates neurogenesis, the formation of new neurons. Neurogenesis is linked to improved learning and memory (source).
Related article: Can Chords Be Played On Violins, And If So, How?
Learning & Playing Violin Helps Build Relationships
As mentioned previously, music is a social art form. It brings people together. Learning the violin gives us opportunities to participate in this art.
To begin, we can consider the teacher-student relationship. If we choose to go down the path of learning from a violin teacher, we will inevitably build a relationship with that teacher by default. This is true of in-person lessons and one-on-one online lessons.
Once you've learned how to play sufficiently, you can, yourself, become a teacher and build relationships with your own students.
Whether our goal is to join a band or orchestra or just play for fun, we can connect to other musicians on a deeper level by understanding how to play the violin.
If we develop the skill and confidence to play live, we will certainly meet venue owners, music fans and other musicians.
Learning & Playing Violin Provides A Creative Outlet
Humans are innately creative, even if we don't particularly feel that way (source). Learning to play the violin (or any other musical instrument) gives us a fairly obvious creative outlet to create music and perform or record our art.
Learning the synthesizer can actually increase the size of the corpora callosa, the bundle of axons that effectively connects the two hemispheres (source). By strengthening the two hemispheres and building new neural pathways, we add additional ways of thinking (consciously and subconsciously), which surely improves our ability to develop innovative and unique ideas.
Learning & Playing Violin Improves Posture
Holding the violin properly can take some time to master. As we play the instrument, holding proper posture becomes essential. Being aware of our posture and correcting as we play will allow us to perform for longer periods and help us avoid poor postural habits in the long run.
The simple act of being conscious of our posture when playing the violin can translate to other parts of our lives and help us develop stronger bodies in doing so.
Learning & Playing Violin Has Therapeutic Benefits
Debra Shipman (Ph.D. RN) states, “Learning to play a musical instrument provides a peaceful retreat from the pressures of daily life. Therapeutic outcomes of playing music include better communication skills, improved emotional release and decreased anxiety and agitation. Musical training promotes cognitive function, mental health, and a connection to others.” (source)
Music, in general, is also being studied thoroughly as a promising tool for therapy for the brain, lungs and heart (source). The American Music Therapy Association lists the following benefits of music therapy:
- Promote Wellness
- Manage Stress
- Alleviate Pain
- Express Feelings
- Enhance Memory
- Improve Communication
- Promote Physical Rehabilitation
Learning & Playing Violin Bonus Benefit 1: Monetizing Your Skills
As the first of two bonus tips, let's talk about money. To include another quote, Paul Van Der Merwe stated, “Money makes the world go round” (source).
Once you've become a capable violinist, there are many different avenues to monetize your skills. Of the numerous options, I've personally made money with the following:
- Performing original music live (clubs, dinner parties, churches, coffee shops and even busking)
- Performing covers live
- Record streaming royalties from original music
- Teaching violin lessons
- Recording as a session violinist
- Composing for stock music libraries
There are plenty of other opportunities to monetize violin-playing skills. Marketable skills (whether they're high-paying and/or capitalized on or not) are undoubtedly a benefit of learning and playing the violin.
Learning & Playing Violin Bonus Tip 2: Opportunity To Learn Instrument Upkeep & Construction
Learning and playing violin isn't only about the technique, music theory and songs. It's also about the instruments themselves. Leaning the violin gives us a great opportunity to learn about the physics of sound and string instruments more generally.
Furthermore, learning the general upkeep of violins teaches us about plenty of other topics, including:
- How to change strings
- The effects of humidity on wood
- Tension (strings, tuning pegs)
- How materials and violin shapes can produce differences in tone and volume
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