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How to Play the Violin

Pick up your bow and confidently fiddle your way through a thorough and accessible beginner’s violin course.

How to Play the Violin is rated 3.3 out of 5 by 15.
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Rated 3 out of 5 by from Good introduction to the violin. This is to a good introduction to the violin for beginners. It is not so rewarding for those already experienced with this instrument. The workbook is very disappointing. It is very limited in its size and scope. It does not remotely compare to the workbooks for the courses on how to play the piano and guitar.
Date published: 2022-12-27
Rated 3 out of 5 by from This Course Requires Much Patience At 74 years young--with zero musical background and even less potential musical ability--I decided I wanted to mentally challenge myself and focus on a musical instrument that I could pursue for the remainder of my years. I saw the Wondrium course, bought a VSO (violin-shaped object) online and decided to begin my new musical journey. While the first few lessons in this course can actually help a rank beginner, they quickly progress at too rapid a pace and lead to frustration; I simply set the course aside and focused instead on a text (Violin For Dummies) and various online violin learning options. Seven months later, now with a better quality student violin, more practical knowledge, and an improving ability to read music and improving playing ability I am resuming Wondrium's "How To Play The Violin" course. With the passage of time and the addition of more personal familiarity with the violin/music the course makes much more sense and will serve to enhance my development. I originally planned to write a very negative course review but I do not think such an approach would have been fair to the instructor; my expectations for the course, at least initially, were not met because I could not progress in synch with the course material as presented. Although I am still a rank beginner with the violin, the course material now makes much more sense and I am ready to dive back in to learn what / where I can. I am thankful for the course--despite any deficiencies--since it inspired me to purchase my (first) inexpensive violin and I hope that Wondrium / The Great Courses will consider adding additional instructional material/options for violin as has been done for the guitar. Life-long learning demands periodic refreshing and one or two (or more!) additional violin courses will be much appreciated by individuals who share my interests in the violin. There are many great violin instructors and there is always MUCH more to learn on the violin!
Date published: 2022-11-30
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Terrific Course I bought this to try it out as I always wanted to play the violin. Well I wasn't disappointed. This was a game changer for me as I now have a violin and using the course. Excellent presentation easy to follow just a great way to start out.
Date published: 2022-08-27
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A Great Course and a Great Instructor imo!! Hello! I am a beginner on violin. I really like this course! I think the instructor Jules Whelpton is great! The workbook is great also! It is so nice to have an experienced teacher show you, rather than just instruction books! Thank You!
Date published: 2022-07-08
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Important Basics 1) What credentials instructor has, not known. We just get to know his name! what is that important? See my 2nd point. 2) She cannot draw a straight bow and she is teaching. In my own thoughts: this kind of teachings are very dangerous, because it creates a very wrong learning right at the beginning and kils the talents by the act of ugly frustrations later for learners, because changing the bad habits are very very very difficult. 3) I recommend removing this course.
Date published: 2022-06-19
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Best investment after my violin purchase I could've paid for one class somewhere else what I paid for this entire course and I wouldn't have learned as much. I have learned more from Jules in the past couple of days than in the four years prior. It started like a kids course and it got serious pretty soon!
Date published: 2022-05-26
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Are You Kidding!?! This young woman, aside from speaking in a totally stilted, non-conversational rhythm [no use of contractions, as would occur in normal speech], demonstrates poor tone, and absurdly incorrect understanding. She actually states that the purpose of rosin is to "lubricate" the bow. That's 100% opposite to the truth. So, basically you receive a tedious delivery of often questionable information. How could she possibly have passed audition as an instructor of a Great Course. WONDRIUM might try Matt Glaser [Berklee instructor], someone who's deeply knowledgeable and variably experienced as both a player and a high-level instructor of both music and the specific instrument. Or get a recommendation from him, as to someone equally qualified. This course is an absolute embarrassment!
Date published: 2022-05-26
Rated 2 out of 5 by from I have purchased numerous Great Courses, and I have previously found both the lectures and the printed course summaries to be ... “Great.” I have NOT so far found this true for the Violin Course.
Date published: 2022-05-14
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Gain the skills and confidence you need to learn any violin piece you want to with our comprehensive 24-lesson course, How to Play the Violin. Musician and music instructor Jules Whelpton will take you on a musical journey from easy beginner essentials all the way to complex, advanced techniques. Even if you have never held a violin before, you will find yourself on the road to playing a range of different songs on this amazing instrument.


Jules Whelpton

The ability to communicate and play with different musicians and cultures is something that I think people must experience at some point in their lifetime.


Youth Arts Academy, Boys & Girls Clubs of San Dieguito

Jules Whelpton is a professional musician and music instructor at the Youth Arts Academy, a nonprofit program from the Boys & Girls Clubs of San Dieguito. She has also taught at organizations including TakeLessons, and she created and codirected an after-school program for Peninsula Union. She received her BA in Music Studies from Humboldt State University.

Jules specializes in popular and classical music and plays regularly across the country. In 2017, the San Diego Music Awards nominated her band for Best Rock Album. She has been featured in articles from Guitar Girl Magazine, The San Diego Union-Tribune, Making Music Magazine, and more. She has also received endorsements from Pig Hog Cables, Reunion Blues Gig Bags, and Reverend Guitars.

By This Expert

How to Play the Violin
How to Play the Violin


Hello, Violin!

01: Hello, Violin!

Lay the foundation for playing your first notes as you explore the anatomy of the violin and learn how to care for and tune your new instrument. By the end of this lesson, you will be able to perform your first exercise, “Monkey Dance,” created by your expert Jules Whelpton.

20 min
Violin Rhythm and the Bow

02: Violin Rhythm and the Bow

You know that notes and pitches are essential in music, but let’s not forget rhythm. Follow along as Jules teaches you how to read note values, and then pick up a couple more exercises to practice your newfound skill. Jules also emphasizes the importance of practicing slowly and not jumping ahead.

11 min
Violin Notes and Phrases

03: Violin Notes and Phrases

Using your finger tapes, you will play a game by following along as our instructor shows you how to perform some simple tunes building on the notes you just learned. With practice, you will soon be able to make it sound as if your instrument is singing these melodies.

15 min
Developing an Ear for Violin

04: Developing an Ear for Violin

This lesson is all about training your ear and memory to play by rote. You will learn how to match the pitches that you hear and play back simple melodies. You’ll also be introduced to the concept of scale playing and how important they are to your foundational violin technique.

15 min
The Rhythmic Rest in Violin Play

05: The Rhythmic Rest in Violin Play

It is perhaps more critical with the violin than with any other instrument to master playing a rhythmic rest properly, because this technique hinges on your skill and control. This lesson covers the necessary bow patterns needed to play half and quarter note rests, first slowly and then quickly.

14 min
Violin Bowing with Style

06: Violin Bowing with Style

Explore and develop some artistry bowing techniques such as legato and staccato bowings; legato is smooth, and staccato is short and detached. These techniques are fundamentals of early bowing. Once mastered, they will lead you to learn other techniques that are based on these foundational ones.

16 min
Dynamics and the Use of Violin Volume

07: Dynamics and the Use of Violin Volume

How do volume changes in music bring art to musical pieces? Adjusting the volume to either very loud or soft can evoke emotion and show the listener the difference between a beginning violinist and an advanced player. Learn to hear and play four primary dynamics in this lesson.

18 min
Reading Violin Music

08: Reading Violin Music

You have practiced playing by ear in previous lessons, but now you will begin to sight-read your violin music by understanding the musical alphabet and seeing how it is written on a page. You will be learning the lines and notations needed to decipher music as written notes.

8 min
Violin Scales: Your Magical Toolbox

09: Violin Scales: Your Magical Toolbox

Take a deeper dive into the Western styles of music by studying the notes and their accidentals—flats and sharps. You will then combine them in steps to form keys and scales, play some fundamental major scales, and memorize their patterns with your fingers.

18 min
Playing Violin as Fiddle

10: Playing Violin as Fiddle

What is the difference between a violin and a fiddle? Journey into medieval European history to answer this question, then begin to learn the art of fiddling by using the call and response method used in earlier lectures to play your very first fiddle piece, the “Swallowtail Jig.”

10 min
Orchestra: Playing Violin with Others

11: Orchestra: Playing Violin with Others

Now that you're comfortable with basic violin music theory and have practiced solo, it's time to consider taking the next step: playing with others. Discover the inner workings of an orchestra and see how being in one will enhance your musical experience and reinforce the reasons why you're learning the violin.

11 min
Violin Playing in Key

12: Violin Playing in Key

Here you will further practice intonation by using scales, beginning by reviewing all the ones you know so far, and expanding to some others that grow your technique by adding some “low twos” as well as accidentals. You will also work on resonant tuning to develop your violinist’s ear.

15 min
Violin Playing in Time

13: Violin Playing in Time

At the halfway point through this course, you will be ready to take some of your finger tapes off and move on to learning how to improvise your own melodies within a given chord progression. You will prepare for this by learning how to play arpeggios in many different rhythms.

11 min
Adding More Violin Rhythms

14: Adding More Violin Rhythms

The violin is a very versatile instrument that spans multiple genres and styles. To elevate your playing, you will be picking up more complicated rhythms by exploring the art of syncopation, as well as using compound meters, which are helpful in genres such as rock, jazz, or Americana.

12 min
Americana Fun for Violin

15: Americana Fun for Violin

Americana folk music is a fantastic way to practice your improvisation skills because it is informal and can be practiced in small groups. In this lesson, you will use a track to experiment with knowing when to blend in or stand out in this type of ensemble.

11 min
Violin Chords and Harmonies

16: Violin Chords and Harmonies

Did you know that violins can also play chords like a ukulele or even a guitar? Here you will practice the easiest way to begin learning to do so by setting up your bow to cover two strings at once, using resonant ringing to keep your pitch in tune.

16 min
Double Stops on Violin

17: Double Stops on Violin

If you've ever been to a wedding where Pachelbel's “Canon” was performed and wished you could play it, you're in luck! We'll be using this piece to conquer the concept of playing double stops, a technique that is an extension of chord playing and spans from folk to classical music.

16 min
Playing Violin with Confidence

18: Playing Violin with Confidence

At some point in your journey of becoming a violinist, you will hopefully perform in front of an audience, whether it be your family and friends or the public. Here, we will discuss all the ways you can ensure that you will always have confidence and perform your best.

7 min
Playing in Violin’s 3rd Position

19: Playing in Violin’s 3rd Position

So far, everything you have learned to play has been with your left hand held in the first position. Now, it is time to explore other notes that are higher than the ones you have marked, which brings you to learn how to play in third position.

15 min
Playing in Violin’s 2nd Position

20: Playing in Violin’s 2nd Position

After third position, you will now learn second position, which will help you with more advanced fingers and notes that are guaranteed to appear as you progress with the violin. You'll then be introduced to a piece that will train you to shift effortlessly between first, third, and second positions.

14 min
Playing in Violin’s 4th Position

21: Playing in Violin’s 4th Position

Fourth position in violin is an advanced step that you will be taking now that you are becoming competent with first, third, and second positions. This position is a very comfortable one, best practiced with scales, and is very important when it comes to learning how to play vibrato.

15 min
Vibrato Basics for Violin

22: Vibrato Basics for Violin

Mastering vibrato can take years; however, it is never too early to start trying this technique that uses wrist motion to cause a slight fluctuation in pitch to create richness and depth in your tone. You will begin by practicing with a slow tempo, then move up to faster tempos.

20 min
Violin Ornaments, Trills, and Tremolo

23: Violin Ornaments, Trills, and Tremolo

You will now learn three significant bowing and tone techniques to complement everything else that has already been covered: ornaments, trills, and tremolo. Each one will be explained in detail, and you will practice good technique by using only your wrist and fingers with our expert's original composition, “Tremors.”

16 min
How to Be a Violinist

24: How to Be a Violinist

In this final lesson, you will go over a roadmap that will review concepts you have already explored, such as playing in tune, rhythm, dynamics, form, and bowing techniques and articulations. Keeping this roadmap handy will help you essentially learn any piece you would like to on your own.

13 min