Beginner Violin Tips

Fingerings – How to Read Sheet Music

Now that you’ve learned about Open Strings, it’s time to start putting fingers down.

In violin sheet music, each finger on your left hand is given a number (1 through 4) with 1 being your index finger and 4 being your pinky (little) finger. A 0 means “no fingers,” in other words play an open string.

When you see a number written above a note on violin sheet music, it means use the corresponding finger to play that note.

D Major Scale. Start on open D and then put down the corresponding fingers for each note. Once you get to the second measure, switch to open A and then continue putting down fingers on the A string.

It is common for sheet music not to include fingerings, as more advanced players (and their teachers) like to make up their own fingerings based upon their own preferences (you will discover later that different fingers can be used to play the same note, but shifting is a lesson for later).

That is one reason why it is often helpful to specifically buy beginner violin sheet music that already has the fingerings written in above the notes.

Suggestions for How to Practice Fingerings

When you first sit down to practice, decide on one or two things you want to focus on improving. If you do this consistently at your practice sessions, you will learn much faster than your peers. Here is a good goal to set for your first lesson:

  • Learn the notes on the D string.
    • Memorize which finger corresponds to which note. Try playing them out of order to test how quickly you can recognize each note.
    • Play Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star starting on open D. Repeat multiple times, getting faster as you improve.
    • Play a one octave scale starting on D.
    • Play Mary Had a Little Lamb in the D string range.
    • Find other songs you know with a limited note range that will let you focus on the notes on just one string (this week it’s D). There are some good beginner books that select some well known pieces for you.

After a while, recognizing D string notes will become second nature. This is where you want to be.

After you’re pretty comfortable (automatic or semi-automatic) associating sheet music notes with their associated fingerings on your instrument, go through the same process on the G string. After you’ve mastered that, try the A string, then the E string.

What’s Next?

Go to the next lesson, about Pizzicato Technique.

See a list all our lessons about How to Read Sheet Music for Beginner Violin.

Check out our favorite book/CD combo for How to Read Beginner Violin Sheet Music.


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