Learn to play the eight most common chords on the violin
Including sheet music, finger charts and audio samples
When you start playing the violin, you will quickly get to know the first scales and some simple tunes. You’ll be playing one note at a time. Did you know that it’s also possible to play multiple notes at the same? Just like the guitar, it’s also possible to play chords on the violin.
What is a chord?
A chord is anytime more than one note is played at the same time. Full chords must be at least three notes, so two notes at the same time are called partial chords, which are also called double stops by string players because it means playing two strings at once.
Playing chords on the violin is an advanced technique that may seem intimidating at first. Fortunately, you don’t have to start with Bach’s Chaconne. There are several beginner-friendly chords you can learn to add flash and style to your playing. Chords start showing up in many intermediate pieces, so learning them will broaden your repertoire.
In this article you find 8 easy antique violins chords for beginners to start practicing. See the rest of the article afterwards for how to read chords and a few technical tips for playing them well.
Quick note: There are multiple ways to play any chord on the violin. Here I give only the most common and logical way for each chord. Also, you might notice that the notes are played in different orders, as in the lowest note, or root of the chord, is not always on the bottom. That is because on a violin it is not always practical or possible to play a triad from top to bottom. Regardless of what order the notes are in, it is still the same chord.
How to play chords on the violin?
The bridge of a violin is curved and not flat like that of a guitar. This is why it’s possible to bow on one string. When you would try the same on guitar (or ukulele or mandolin), you would hit all the strings at the same time. However if you try to play chords, this is a bit harder.
Why is it difficult to play chords on the violin?
The violin doesn’t have frets, so you have to place your fingers very exact (the note is not stopped by the fret) and you can’t see where you need to place them. Two difficulties at once.
The bridge is curved, so you can’t bow on four strings at the same.
The violin is generally a melodic instrument, so it’s taught ‘one note at a time’ and students start relatively late with chords. This is exactly why I recommend also for beginners to practice chords.
Bowing is more difficult than plucking, which ads to the difficulty of playing the violin in general.
Here are four different ways to play chords on the violin:
Pizzicato violin chords
The easiest way to play chords is to pluck the strings. You don’t need to worry about the bow and you can easily let four strings ring at the same time. As plucking is not so hard as bowing, you only need to worry about the left hand.
An arpeggio means to play the notes of a chord one by one from bottom to top or from top to bottom. This can be an on the string arpeggio or a jumping arpeggio. You generally play the chord on one bow stroke.
You first play the two lower notes of the chord and after that on the same bow stroke the two higher notes. You can do this with a three note chord as well as a four note chord. This is the usual way to play chords, for example like those in Bach’s Chaconne.
An alternative way is to play the chord somewhat arpeggiated connected by double stop and then end on the highest note of the chord. Think about Bach’s Adagio from the g minor sonata.
With a normal violin set up, it’s not possible to play four notes at the same time. It IS however possible to play three notes at the same time. You bow a bit closer to the fingerboard, where the strings are closer together and you can press down the middle string with bow weight.