Learning the Letters on the Violin & How to Read Violin Notes

Written by lisa morefield
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Learning the Letters on the Violin & How to Read Violin Notes
Violin music uses the same notation as many other instruments, like guitar and the right hand on piano. (Jupiterimages/Photos.com/Getty Images)

Violin music is written on the same lines of music, or staff, that many other instruments use. It also uses the same "letters" or notes -- A through G -- repetitively. These notes correspond to specific lines or spaces on the staff. Any time a note sits on a particular line or space, it is named the same letter in the scale as that spot in the staff is named. With practice, you will quickly recognise the name of each note printed and where to put your fingers on the violin to produce that sound.

Skill level:
Moderately Challenging

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Things you need

  • Violin
  • Beginner violin book
  • Applicable website

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Instructions

  1. 1

    Notice the staff consists of five parallel, horizontal lines. For violin, there will be a treble cleff sign on the far left (it looks a bit like a backward cursive capital "S"). The lines, starting from the bottom, correspond to notes named E, G, B, D and F. This can be remembered by the phrase "Every Good Boy Does Fine,"as the first letter of each word begins with the note name. The spaces, starting with the one after the bottom line, are F, A, C and E, or "FACE."

    Learning the Letters on the Violin & How to Read Violin Notes
    Here you see the five lines. Notes can extend above and below the staff, too, by adding lines and spaces. (Medioimages/Photodisc/Photodisc/Getty Images)
  2. 2

    You will want to learn the notes on the D string first. Most beginner books, such as Orchestra Expressions, begin this way. Again, the bottom space of the staff is where the open, or fingerless, string D is notated. If a note is placed on the bottom line of the staff, it is E. This is played by placing the left-hand's first finger firmly on the fingerboard, about an inch from the end closest to the pegs. To play F on the next space, you add the second finger. To play G on the next line, you add the third finger. The charts in most beginner books will show how far apart to place these fingers. It will change depending on whether the note is to sharp (a little higher) or flat ( a little lower.) Some websites, such as Fretless Finger Guides, will also give this visual information.

  3. 3

    Learn the notes on the other strings in the same way. The A space already named on the staff refers to playing the open, or fingerless, A string. If notes are added to the line above the A space, they are played with the first finger. The space above that is the C, or second finger, and the line above that,D, the third finger. You will notice, as notes are placed higher on the staff, you add fingers or go to a higher string. Of course, the opposite is also true. Beginners learn these strings and notes first.

  4. 4

    Be aware there are more notes for the violin below and above the staff. These are notated by adding lines or spaces. For example, below the bottom line of the staff (E) is a D. If you add a line below that space, it would indicate the note C. It is played with three fingers on the G string. The space below that would be B, played with two fingers. The line added below that would be an A, played with the first finger, and the space below that would notate G, the lowest note on the violin, open G string. Above that top note of the staff F, played with the first finger on the E string, the first space would be G, played with two fingers. An added line above the staff would play another A, with three fingers on the E string. Remember, you only use A through G and then start over with A. The violin can play many notes added above the staff, but you won't need them for a while as you learn.

    Learning the Letters on the Violin & How to Read Violin Notes
    The additional lines and spaces above the staff denote high notes on a violin. (Digital Vision./Digital Vision/Getty Images)
  5. 5

    Listen carefully to the pitch your fingers create. To be accurate, press hard enough that the strings leave indentations on your fingertips. If you have a keyboard handy, play the note with the same name until you can match that pitch with the proper finger on the violin.

Tips and warnings

  • When beginning, it's a good idea to put small stickers on the fingerboard where the first three fingers commonly go, to assist accurate placement. They can be removed once your placement is a habit, and your ear discerns the correct pitch more accurately.

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