Piano and violin?

December 21, 2015 at 03:03 PM · Hi everybody! I'm sure this questions have been asked more than once here.

I play the piano, and I enjoy it a lot. I can play Mozart sonatas, Bach symphonies and some preludes and fugues from the Well Tempered Clavier, Scarlatti, Chopin... but I would like to try violin, as I consider it a very melodic and delicate instrument and it's something completely different. I wouldn't give up the piano, of course.

I'm serious with the projects I start, so I would be taking lessons, and I would try to reach an intermediate level after some years.

The questions are:

- To what extent do you think the piano can help me learning violin... and viceversa?

- What violin/bow/outfit/etc would you recommend me for starting?

- Has anybody combined the same instruments at the same time? If so, can you tell me something about your experience?

If you need more data about me, feel free to ask. I'm more than 20 and less than 30. I've finished a degree at the university and I'm preparing a bar examination for my future profession. And, as you may have guessed, English is not my primary language.

Thank you very much.

Replies (22)

December 21, 2015 at 04:57 PM · Hi Miguel, I play both the piano and the violin, approximately equally well. Which means I am a rank amateur on both! My background is that I started both instruments when I was young and continued studying them through high school. During high school I switched my attention on the piano to jazz, and when I went off to college I continued with jazz piano while my violin went into long storage. I retrieved my violin again several years ago when my daughter started her lessons; she and I have the same terrific teacher. I play jazz piano at a variety of local venues.

Rambo is right about the musicianship factor. There are many aspects of practicing -- using rhythms, focusing on the hard bits, making it musical right from the outset -- that you'll carry over. But that carry-over will be neither seamless nor nearly complete. The issues of producing a beautiful tone and of enforcing intonation will be completely foreign, so you could find yourself feeling stuck playing things that are beneath you musically, when you really need to be doing that for the sake of developing a proper technique. I urge patience there.

Should you reach an intermediate skill level, then one huge advantage that you'll have -- as a violinist -- is the ability to understand the piano parts of sonatas, trios, etc. (and even ordinary accompaniments), better than violinists who had only maybe rudimentary piano studies.

Your grasp of harmony is also likely to be far superior among violinists of the same skill level. This will help you not only in your overall interpretation but also in the fine adjustment of your intonation.

Let us know how it goes! What you're doing is very exciting and I wish you all the best.

December 21, 2015 at 05:25 PM · I think my background in piano (this might also be the case for other instruments as well but my experience is limited to violin and piano) has given me a unique leg up on learning the violin over somebody who's coming to it with no music background. The violin scales are very much like those on a piano; once you understand the "spacing" (in my case, mentally visualizing the C scale on a piano and following the spacing of the white keys; so the spacing between E/F and B/C is a "half" step whereas the rest are "whole" steps, etc), you have a leg up on finger spacing for the violin. I'm also much more familiar with reading the treble clef, whereas with say a viola (with its alto clef) I'd be having to learn a new skill.

Perhaps "leg up" is being kind; there is SO much to the violin that is radically different (proper intonation and grip, bow control, etc) which must be learned before you can even call yourself proficient. But having the background reading music was a godsend, as well as understanding the "why" of finger spacing for scales.

December 21, 2015 at 07:32 PM · No Background in piano, but I greatly benefit from my training and experience in classical singing (as an amateur) as regards to phrasing and intonation, not to mention basics like rhythm, reading music, intervals, scales, and even more basics such as ears and mind adjusted and being exposed to music (making). The violin in itself is difficult enough, but being no stranger to music making is ever so helpful. I cannot (yet) play works the same level Iam used to tackling as a singer, but simply trying to close this gap step by step is a very rewarding endeavour. And it's not a one-way: My singing benefits from my progress on the violin, too.

So go for it, enjoy the ride, it's worth every second.

December 21, 2015 at 09:48 PM · I started violin at five and piano at six; took about six years of both instruments before dropping piano; picked piano lessons up again at conservatory (I qualified for lessons with a faculty member) and took another four years of both. I am a professional violinist but I use my piano extensively for accompanying students.

Piano skills are unlikely to help you with learning violin beyond the musicianship aspect already mentioned. I remember being briefly confused as a child because the finger numbering is different--piano 5th finger is violin 4th finger all the way down to piano 2nd finger is violin 1st finger (we don't number the thumb, obviously)--but you should sort that out pretty quickly.

Playing a string instrument is really excellent for one's ear training

December 22, 2015 at 08:25 AM · Thank you everyone. So I guess playing the piano is likely to help me in terms of music understanding, reading and maybe expression, as most of you told me. I obviously knew that the technique is absolutely different, but that just makes violin more interesting, as it is a completely new challenge.

Rambo, thanks for yout kind answers. It's true that I have agile fingers in comparison to an absolute beginner, so I hope it helps a bit. The position however is completely different.

Paul, I promise to be patient. I know that I won't play like Paganini after the second week (well... in my whole life), and, as I've read that the learning curve is quite steep at first, I'm made aware of it. I promise to come here and tell you my progress, of course!

Sara and Johanna, thanks for sharing your experiences. I will share mine after I've learnt to play the violin.

Mary, I didn't know that fingering issue... good to know. It may be quite tricky the first few days, but I hope to get used to it soon.

So I'm going to start with it this new year. I'm getting a violin for Christmas (we exchange presents on January 6th in my country).

Thank you again. And, as you've been kind with me, please, enjoy a bit of famous piano music... I let you choose from a variety of styles and composers:

BACH: Prelude and fugue No. 1 C major BWV 846

https://youtu.be/duS3sfyWS34

MOZART: Sonata in D Major for two pianos K 448 (1st mov)

https://youtu.be/tq1rZXzjP-I

BEETHOVEN: Sontata No. 8 c min (Pathetique)

https://youtu.be/cg9KQ610biU

CHOPIN: Nocturne in c# minor (Posth). https://youtu.be/ekEj6LBKFjQ

LISZT: La campanella https://youtu.be/0FbQZCsYXVg

DEBUSSY: Golliwog's cakewalk https://youtu.be/DhvtsQ-qmHA

OSCAR PETERSON: C Jam blues https://youtu.be/NTJhHn-TuDY

VINCE GUARALDI:Linus and Lucy https://youtu.be/x6zypc_LhnM

December 22, 2015 at 09:52 AM · Miguel ... Fritz Kreisler (one of the titans of violin playing) was a remarkable pianist. Jascha Heifetz ("The Emperor") was also an amazing pianist and often accompanied his students in lessons.

One day, your piano skills will hopefully help you compose for the violin like they did.

You'll have a much better grasp on scales and arpeggios coming to the violin from your experience with piano. In return, your violin ears will help your pianistic musicality. I would think the careful attention we pay to bow changes will give you a new sensibility for phrasing and moving from note to note on the piano to create a more singing line.

The best part about studying the violin? When you collaborate with us, you will have compassion for our hardship, be able to anticipate tempos and rubato. You may end up becoming a highly sought-after collaborative partner!

December 23, 2015 at 08:33 PM · I didn't know Fritz Kreisler. I'm going to search and listen to him and his works. Thanks. And it would be really interesting being able to compose. Bus that' san uthopy right now, let's just start playing the violĂ­n.

December 23, 2015 at 09:20 PM · I wrote a bunch of stuff and then went back and saw that Paul had already covered it. I think the biggest specific thing that learning piano will give you is an appreciation for the harmonic context you are in. The layout of the keyboard is a great way of visually understanding the relations between notes and keys, whereas the violin itself doesn't give much to go on. Of course, you still will learn the relations in the particular way the violin is set up.

Enesco was a fantastic pianist as well as violinist. Julia Fischer plays both at a very high level.

December 23, 2015 at 09:58 PM · I heard a while ago on the radio that the cellist Rostropovitch had sometimes played piano concertos in public. I think this was likely because he studied both piano and cello at the Moscow Conservatory.

December 30, 2015 at 12:22 PM · Hi Frieda, thanks for your answer and sorry for the late answer. I plan to learn with a teacher (at least the first steps) because I know the importance of acquiring the correct technique when learning an instrument. So it's the only option I'm contemplating. I didn't know that violin teachers focused so much in technique... I think both lessons (Piano and violin) will help my general understanding of music. I'm doing this as a hobby, just because I like music. I've never followed an official grade of piano because of that. I don't need to hurry up, just to enjoy what I do. And I really learn piano technique (my teacher says I'm one of her best students...) and enjoy classical music. So, as I previousy said in another comment, I promise to be patient with the violin.

December 30, 2015 at 02:56 PM · The sound quality on the piano youtube videos is very nice. What's the secret? Is it microphone placement?

December 30, 2015 at 06:25 PM · Yes, of course. For a professional recording, there are usually various microphones placed around the piano at different distances. For home recordings, in my own (and limited) experience, the key is not to put the microphone very close to the piano.

December 30, 2015 at 06:46 PM · Since no one else has commented on Violins I will add a few thoughts.

Student violins range from 100 to 1000 give or take a little bit. The quality between a ~100 instrument and a 1000 is huge. On the other hand, the difference between a 1000 instrument to a 2000 is really not that much.

If your budget allows, I would start looking at the advanced-student models (or step-up) violins that are in the 1000 range. As a musician, you have already developed your ear and sense of tone you want. I believe you will have a much happier time learning the violin on a well crafted violin that can project some decent tones then you would on a low-end student violin.

Better yet, take a year to rent an instrument from a reputable place. My experience renting was such that the instruments are good quality violins that would retail in the 600-800 range. In a year I think you will be advanced enough to know if you want to pursue the instrument further as well as having the skills to pick out an instrument you would keep for a long time.

December 30, 2015 at 07:36 PM · Kreisler, Heifetz, Enesco (used to play with Schnabel, but was acknowledged to be technically superior to him on the piano - where Schnabel scored was his musicianship, Enesco veered just a little too much to the mechanical), Julia Fischer ...

I gather that there was also a Johann Sebastian something-or-other and a Wolfgang Amadeus something-or-other that were acknowledged to be experts on playing both instruments and seem not to have been too bad at composing either. So be encouraged.

December 30, 2015 at 07:36 PM · Well, I haven't bought my violin yet. I plan to get it for Christmas (January 6th in my country). I have no rental options in my city (which is not very big), but I can easily purchase one. I asked on the best music shop and they told me that Yamaha are a good option. They showed me some $300-$500 violins, which are affordable to me. And, as I play the piano on a Yamaha "clavinova" keyboard and I've had a really good experience with the brand, I think their violins may be good also. Please tell me if I'm wrong.

December 30, 2015 at 07:39 PM · John... thanks. But these Johann Sebastian something and Wolfgang Amadeus were outliers! :)

I'm encouraged enough at this point. I'm sure this will be an amazing journey!

January 1, 2016 at 02:32 AM · I'll go out on a limb and suggest that someone with a solid background in piano studies will be generally better at sight-reading because from my experience this is emphasized much more in ordinary childhood piano training than it is with violin.

January 1, 2016 at 04:25 AM · I heard Milstein play the piano at a violin Master class at Juillard. He played runs and arpeggios up and down the piano, and part of a Russian concerto, I think. It was pretty amazing.

January 2, 2016 at 02:03 PM · My take on Yamaha instruments: They generally do a very nice job with a student model in most instruments. But they tend to be a little basic and lacking in spark.

I have no experience, though, with Yamaha violins, which perhaps doesn't really bode well for them. When I've been shopping for violins, the shops around here don't carry Yamahas. I don't know if it's because they're lackluster instruments compared to what else you can get in that price range or if Yamaha only works with a few independent stores.

In the US, there are some companies that will rent or sell instruments by mail. From what I've heard, this works well for a lot of people. Is that an option where you are?

My first violin was used and therefore cheaper, but the price isn't always lower for used instruments.

January 2, 2016 at 02:09 PM · If you are going to be taking lessons, you might want to find a teacher first and ask their advice about what to buy before you start.

January 5, 2016 at 06:23 PM · About what a "good" violin is - generally violins get better with age. I don't know why exactly but as they are played (in tune), it changes the sound. So if you were like a violin student pursuing a career in music you would try out violins (by mail if possible) and find one you like within your budget, rather than buying a new one specially made for students. Personally, I rented violins. When I got to a full size, my mom gave me hers. She says they originally bought it for $800 but it was so terrible it really held me back from progressing, but as a young violinist I didn't know the difference and my teacher didn't tell me, so I had to find out later. Recently we sold it for $100 for parts. It was that bad. So watch out for that. If possible, have a good teacher look at prospective violins and make sure they're good quality. When I was doing my most recent violin search, I found one company whose $4,000 instruments were much better than other companies' violins.

January 7, 2016 at 03:00 PM · I finally got a Yamaha v5 for Christmas, which I was told is a good violin to start, and continue studying some years. Now, I'm looking for some lessons, but I will not really enjoy it until March, as I'm studying hard the next two months. I'm really happy to start this journey. I promise to keep you updated with my progress! Thanks again to everybody.

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