Why the Violin is One of the Hardest Instruments to Play

If the violin had a subject equivalent, it would be math. Why math? Because math is challenging and 99% of your practice sessions will result in you pulling your hair out and collapsing on the floor in a sobbing mess. Same with playing the violin. If you’ve ever played the violin before, you’ll know that it isn’t…easy. Why, non-violinists ask? Well, sit back, relax, and get your popcorn because this is gonna be a long one.

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There’s like, no indication of where the notes are.

Oh, so you want to play a D flat? Whereas on a piano you push down on a key and your intonation is perfect, on a violin you pretty much have to slide your fingers around randomly and hope for the best. The fingerboard on the violin is literally a very long, very featureless black piece of plastic with strings on top of it – there aren’t even frets, like on a guitar. And even when you mark the notes with tape, it weathers over time so you’re just staring at it like, is that where the note is? Or is it that smeary spot right there? Essentially, you’re leaving your intonation in the hands of the gods of Practice™ and muscle memory.

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When you try to play in tune but it all sounds like a horrible mess anyway.

Your fingers will suffer. A LOT.

When you play notes on the violin, you’re pressing down on a line of thin metal—and sometimes more than just one—for goodness knows how long your piece is. It’s torturous, and every violinist you meet will probably have some sort of callous, if not a scar, from practicing this traumatizing experience they have to do for hours and hours. But here’s a little secret: In the depth of our souls, we are extremely proud of those said calluses and may or may not boast about them. Of course, that’s not accounting for those, ahem, neck sores you get from the edge of the violin coming in close contact with your cervix area. Which is indeed, just an effect of the violin, despite what your peers may think.

It’s a test of muscular strength.

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It’s not easy to hold your arm up for an hour straight, especially the arm you’re holding the bow with. And while playing on the E string or A string is okay, you can definitely feel the aching when playing on the lower strings for an extended period of time, or even on the upper strings in one of the higher positions. But you see, violinists not only have to hold one arm up to play the violin, you also have to hold and finger the violin with the other arm.

To get how this feels, first hold your left arm straight out to the side. Then bend it so that the palm of your hand is facing the left side of your head, with the elbow slightly bent. Now, take your right arm and bend it so that it looks like you’re about to nudge someone. Last but not least, actually DO the nudging motion, but as if the person is taller than you. Keep holding this position for an hour with rare one-second breaks for acting like you’re turning a page. Given this, is it surprising that only the strong survive?

It’s REALLY, REALLY hard to have a good tone.

awkward uh oh GIF by Married At First Sight Australia
If violins had a GIF equivalent, it would be something like this.

If you’re just beginning to play violin, please forgive the people within your proximity for covering their ears each time you pick up your instrument, or your friends for asking why it sounds like you’re sawing wood in your practice room. It’s just that violins have that ear-splitting screeeech of their bow sliding onto the fingerboard each time they play a note, and that annoying crrrreeeack of too much bow force – both of which only disappear after countless years of hard work and practice. To make matters worse, violins are the highest-pitched stringed instruments, which automatically makes the tone produced more dissonant than that of a cello, viola, or bass.

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So, dear readers, gather close and let me tell you secret. Violin may be hard, but no violinist worth his or her salt would ever say “I’m never going to get it right. I give up.” Because when you start an instrument and play it for a few years it becomes a part of you, you know?

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