Is it easier for guitar players to learn to play the violin?

It’s often said that if you know how to play one type of stringed  instrument, then you can more easily learn another. But is that true when transitioning from the guitar to the violin?

The guitar and violin are obviously both stringed instruments. But guitar strings are plucked or strummed, while violins require a bow to create their distinct sound. The other big difference? The violin is a fretless instrument, which can make correct fingering a frustrating challenge for guitarists.

If you can play the guitar and now want to try the violin, read on for more about frets, technique, and transitioning from six strings to four strings.

It’s not as easy as it seems

guitar & violin

Let’s start with frets. The frets on a guitar help to guide a player’s fingers. But since a violin has no frets, players need to be more precise with their finger placement so that they play in tune. In addition, the fingerboard on a violin is much shorter than the fretboard on a guitar, meaning mistakes may be common while you are learning.

Another clear difference between the guitar and the violin is the use of a bow. Whereas guitar players can use a pick or play with their fingers, violinists play with a bow unless playing pizzicato (plucking the strings to create a staccato sound). Bowing is a unique and difficult skill to learn since it requires coordination between your left hand (on the fingerboard) and right hand (holding the bow). Depending on what type of sound you want, bowing must be timed precisely with the positioning of your fingers, all while maintaining the correct body posture. There are numerous bowing techniques to learn – down-bows, up-bows, staccato, legato, and spiccato to name a few.

If you want to play guitar, you can learn the basics in about three months with diligent practice. But it will take longer with the violin. For that reason alone, some players become frustrated and quit early. That’s why it’s a good idea to take lessons from an experienced teacher who can help you transition from one instrument to another. 

Making connections

The learning curve for the violin is steep in the first few months. Students need to be determined and disciplined to see real results. The good news is if you already know the guitar then you have already developed the strength and coordination necessary to perform complex fingering positions with your left hand. In addition, depending on your background you may have gained some understanding of music theory, especially as it relates to stringed instruments. Knowing how to read music before learning to play the violin is a HUGE leg-up and should not be discounted. It’s a terrific head start.

If you’re interested in adding the violin to your instrument repertoire, you may want to start with a violin rental. But for how long should you rent your violin? At Johnson String Instrument, we can answer any stringed instrument question you may have. You can also order from our online catalog by visiting our website today.

Additional Resources

Carriage House Violins

Located in Newton, Massachusetts, Carriage House Violins is the instrument sales division of Johnson String Instrument.

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