Learning how to read violin notes is essential if you want to learn how to play the violin the right way.
Many online music lessons promise to teach you how to play songs without getting into music theory and notation. But in a real music school that would never happen.
When you learn violin notes, you’ll have a better understanding of the instrument itself and your performance will inevitably improve.
Moreover, sight-reading skills give you an opportunity to learn new music in the blink of an eye because you’ll simply be able to play as you read.
Just like in languages, each symbol in the sheet music represents a sound. Basic violin notation will also show you the pitch, duration, and timing of each note.
The notes on the violin, unlike the piano notes, are divided into strings and are played in different violin positions.
Although it takes time, coordination, and skill to produce the correct pitch on the violin, once you grasp the notes and hand positions everything will flow more easily and you’ll realize you’re learning new techniques much faster.
We’ll help you get a better understanding of violin notes and introduce you to all the essential parts of sheet music.
There are also some great mnemonic techniques to help you memorize everything.
And don’t worry – when you start understanding violin notes, you’ll be reading them just like you’re reading this article in no time!
How to Read Violin Notes
If you’re a beginner and you’ve never really studied standard violin sheet music, it might seem a little confusing at first.
However, just like any math problem, every symbol is connected to another and has a meaning so that in the end you can come to a clear solution.
For example, there are parts of sheet music that represent timing and some that will show you which note to play and when.
So if you want to learn notes, you need to understand parts of the stave and what time and key signatures indicate.
You’ll also have to learn the correct fingering, and the help of the charts will be necessary at the beginning.
We understand all of this might seem like it’s a lot to remember, but once you learn the terminology and the symbols, things will start to make much more sense.
So, let’s dig into it one step at a time!
The stave or staff is the set of five horizontal lines. As you can see, some notes are placed on the line and some in the space between them.
The stave indicates the pitch of musical notes and it’s basically the basis of music notation.
However, these lines and spaces don’t have any meaning without the clef.
The clef means ‘key’ in French, and in musical notation that’s the symbol placed at the beginning of the stave. You can play the violin in only one clef called the treble clef. The treble clef also notates notes above middle C.
Now, a ledger line is used to notate pitches above or below the lines or space of the stave. For example, the middle C on the piano is always written with a ledger line.
And if you have too many ledger lines, sheet music becomes visually confusing so the new clef will come in handy, such as the bass clef.
So, the clef indeed shows if it’s the low or high instrument, and the treble clef is mostly used with high-pitched instruments such as the viola and the flute. The violin is the highest-pitched instrument of the string family.
Right next to the clef you can see symbols (key signatures) and numbers (time signatures).
Key signatures will tell you if the song has flat or sharp notes. If the note is sharp it will have the # symbol and it means you’ll have to play it a half-pitch above the original note.
The flat note is a half step lower than the base note and it’s signified by the ♭symbol.
So, if you see the sharp symbol like in the picture below, you need to determine which note corresponds to the line or space where the symbol is placed.
When it comes to the sharp symbol, the little middle square is formed around a certain note (line or space) so you’ll play that sharp version of that note throughout the song. The same goes for flat notes.
If there are no sharps or flats in the key signature, you can play all the notes as they are.
Musical time signatures tell you how to count the piece.
The number on the top indicates how many beats are in the measure, and the bottom number describes the length of the beat.
So, you need to count the number of beats and then move on to the next measure. Most songs have four beats in the bar meaning you need to count the whole song in a four-time loop.
For example, the 4/4 time signature lets you know that there are four beats in each bar (upper number) and that the beat is the length of a quarter note (lower number).
When you have key and time signatures figured out, you can start reading the notes.
Each violin string has 8 notes, and each note is named with a letter of the alphabet from A to G. The eighth note is A again, which means there are seven different notes before the note repeats itself on the other string.
If you play a note without pressing the string with your finger, that’s called playing an open string.
Essentially, that’s bowing and plucking without modifying it with the left hand. Four open strings on the violin are G, D, A, and E.
Generally, the E string is highest in pitch, and the G string is the thickest string and the lowest in pitch.
Moreover, you can play the notes with different violin positions. The first position is the basic position and beginners usually stick to it when learning notes.
You can simply download the violin note chart where you can see all violin notes.
Mnemonic techniques are very helpful in memorizing violin notes.
For example, the notes on the lines are: E, G, B, D, F. One of the mnemonic devices is “Every Good Boy Does Fine”, but you can also come up with your own sentence and memorize it easily.
Furthermore, the notes that are placed in the spaces between the lines are F, A, C, E. You don’t need to create your own mnemonic device for that one.
As you’re learning violin notes, you’ll also learn to associate which finger to place when playing each note. This will come to you naturally in time.
But in the beginning, check the violin fingering chart and practice the correct fingering as you’re learning the basics. Violin note charts are created to help you recognize notes and correct fingering.
Mastering proper fingering technique is really important, and if you pay attention to it from the beginning, you won’t have any problems later on.
And once you grasp where the notes are located on the fingerboard as well as which fingers to use to play them, you’re on the right track!
Sight-reading is absolutely essential if you want to become a good violin player. Therefore, it’s important you start learning notes the right way.
We hope that sheet music doesn’t seem so confusing to you after this article. And although memorizing all the notes and where they’re located might be overwhelming at first, it’s really not as hard as it seems.
If you’re patient, dedicated, and focused in your practice sessions, you’ll soon realize that reading notes is becoming much easier. And over time, your muscle memory will do its part.
Apart from memorizing notes, you need to understand key and time signatures. They will tell you how to play the notes placed in the stave and you’ll know how to count the piece.
Rhythm is also something that will become much easier over time.
The important thing in learning how to read the violin notes is giving yourself enough time for everything to sink in.
If you’re taking online violin lessons or simply practicing at home, you’ll have the freedom to learn at your own pace. So, don’t rush, and don’t expect to read sheet music smoothly right away.
Learning music always takes time and practice, but it’s an interesting and rewarding process.
And that feeling you get when you can play any song you want just because you can read notes – well, the only way to find out how it feels is to try it!