Re: Anybody play/played the violin?!
Yep, I'm a violinist by profession. Spend my time teaching, performing and freelancing for recording work. Just got in from playing Carmen at the Theatre!
A few things that almost everybody needs constant reminding about when first starting are:
1) Left hand wrist - don't let it touch the neck of the violin (for many, many reasons which would take pages to write about here). You don't want to poke it out backwards, just try and keep a relaxed straight line between elbow and knuckles.
2) Keep the violin up on your shoulder and nice a level - don't let it droop so it's pointing towards the floor. You'll be creating road blocks for yourself in the future if you get into that habit.
3) When you're first starting to bow, practice bowing on just open strings. Concentrate on keeping the bow straight (parallel to the bridge) and with the bow hair flat on the string or tilted slightly away from you. Bowing not parallel with the bridge will give you bad tone, throw the bow momentum in the wrong direction and scupper you in the future when you start doing martele/spiccato/flautando/sautille etc. bowing. And tilting the bow towards you is a whole heap of trouble!
By removing the left hand, you can really concentrate on getting the bowing action right without other things to try and concentrate on also.
4) When playing notes with the left hand, keep your fingers curled over (don't let the 1st knuckle collapse) and use the tips (more or less) of your fingers to play. If you use the flat of your finger (a) you get a crap sound (the finger doesn't make a defined point on the string and the edge of it is squishy which stops the string from vibrating properly), (b) it's very hard to get certain notes in tune (e.g. playing on the D string if you play a 2nd finger F# and then place your 3rd finger down for the note G, you need to get the notes close - if your finger goes on it's tip you can get them close. If your finger goes down flat, the point from where the string is free to vibrate is further up the string and so the note will be sharp). And (c) you'll not be able to develop vibrato unless the finger is placed on it's tip.
5) Keep the left hand thumb next to or just behind your index finger on the neck. This will help keep your hand in tune. Find the place for your thumb where just naturally raising and lowering your 1st finger goes in the right place. If your thumb moves, the 1st finger (and therefore the other fingers too) will follow it. If you can keep your thumb in the right place, you won't need to look at your fingers to check tuning as your 1st finger will automatically go onto the string in the right place.
The thumb should sit on the neck with the pad of it - don't let it poke over the top and you're aiming for a kind of OK or 'O' shape with your thumb and 1st finger.
6) With your bow hold, keep the little finger and thumb curled over. It's tricky to start with but in the future you will need to be able to flex these joint to facilitate smooth bow changes and other bowing techniques. If your thumb is concave and your little finger 1st knuckle has collapsed, you can't do that. Far better to persevere now than have to re-learn it the right way later on.
Remember, alot of the stuff you do when first starting is building up muscle memory. It takes a while and regular repetition (i.e. frequent practice) along with not letting yourself get away with something because it feels easier is essential. Obviously, play stuff you like and enjoy it, but at the same time, devote a little time to practicing these basics even though it's a little boring and like hard work!
Hope that's of some help. Sorry if it makes no sense - I'm frazzled.
if you have particular questions, PM or email me. Or post here if you think others might want to know!