“If it is true that the violin is the most perfect of musical instruments, then Greek is the violin of human thought.” - Helen Keller
The violin, viola, and cello all originated in Europe and Italy, in particular.
So does that mean that the violin is played in the same way in Europe as it is in the Americas, Africa, and Asia?
Of course not!
While a lot of children learn to play the violin in the United States, very few in Ghana and Moldavia do. Violin playing varies all over the world and before you start taking violin lessons to learn how to play the violin, you should learn more about the instrument around the world.
So let’s have a look at what learning this orchestral musical instrument is like around the world.
The Violin in Asia
For many musicians, playing the violin represents excellence, technique, and precision. It seems that many countries in Asia would agree with this, too, since they include some of the greatest violinists in the world. Asians represent 47% of entrants and 35% of winners in violin competitions such as the Yehudi Menuhin International Competition for Young Violinists. They need to adopt the right posture, coordinate their left and right hands, and get music theory lessons.
There are similar instruments, too. While you don’t necessarily need to play with a bow nor with a soundbox, the strings are essential for all instruments in the violin family. For example:
- In China, there’s the Ehru.
- In India, the Vînâ.
- In the Middle East, the Vielle is common.
- In Japan, it’s the Kokyu.
It should be mentioned that with 47 different countries in Asia, it’s difficult to generalise. In Southeast Asia, the traditional violin is popular as it is in the Middle East.
In China, Korea, and Japan, the violin is a sign of perfection and you need to know violin pieces off by heart.
Whether you’re a beginner or want to become the greatest violinist in Asia, here are some of the greatest Asian music schools:
- The Korean National School of Music in South Korea
- The Delhi School of Music in India
- The Khoshnahad Peiman Conservatoire in Iran
- The Bechmann-Mehta School of Music in Israel
- The Aichi Music School in Japan
- The Kuala Lumpur International College of Music in Malaysia
- The Taiwan Normal University College of Music in Taiwan
- The Istanbul Mimar Sinan Conservatoire in Turkey
- The Conservatoire of Hanoi in Vietnam
In Asia, you could say that the violin is played in a variety of ways while respecting the traditional customs of the instrument.
So what’s it like elsewhere in the world?
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The Violin in Europe
Did you know that 79% of European violinists are under 25 years old?
That’s because, as the birthplace of the violin, there’s a culture of learning instruments from a young age. Keep in mind that the vielle was born in Cremona, near Milan, an essential town for luthiers.
Furthermore, the golden age of the violin took place in Europe with the Renaissance and the Baroque period when new variations on the violin came about (such as the baroque violin). There were also many talented musicians such as Bach, Paganini, Vivaldi, Pizzicato, Mozart, and Kreutzer, musicians who are still part of the violin’s classical orchestral repertoire.
You don't need to play in a symphony orchestra in order to be a great violinist as there's a lot of folk music being played on the fiddle and contemporary musicians using the electric violin in modern music.
Today the violin is universally popular in Europe for:
- Contemporary music in Western European countries.
- Popular and traditional music in Nordic countries.
- Gipsy music in Eastern Europe.
It’s hardly surprising that there are over 1,500 different establishments for teaching the violinists of tomorrow. If you want to learn to play the violin, you should check out the following places:
- Hoch Conservatory in Frankfurt, Germany
- Mozarteum University Salzburg, Austria
- Royal Conservatory of Brussels, Belgium
- Academy of Music, Dance and Fine Arts - Plovdiv, Bulgaria
- Academy of Music, University of Zagreb, Croatia
- Royal Danish Academy of Music, Denmark
- Conservatorio Profesional De Música Arturo Soria in Madrid, Spain
- Sibelius Academy Helsinki, Finland
- École Normale de Musique de Paris, France
- Athens Conservatoire, Greece
- Franz Liszt Academy of Music, Budapest, Hungary
- Trinity College Dublin, Ireland
- Milan Conservatory, Italy
- Jāzeps Vītols Latvian Academy of Music, Latvia
- Academy Of Music, Monaco
- Royal Conservatory of The Hague, Netherlands
- Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, Edinburgh
- Conservatoire de Musique de Genève, Switzerland
Without a doubt, Europe has no shortage when it comes to learning stringed instruments. After all, it’s the home of many of them.
What about the Americas?
The Violin in the Americas
Just like with Europe, the Americas have a long history with the violin. While the way the instrument is held may differ, the violin is played in the same way in the United States of America and Canada as it is in Europe. However, scordatura tuning is sometimes used in the US. There are a lot of similarities, unlike with Latin America.
For example, you mightn’t see as many violins. There are local variants that are more popular for making music:
- In Chile, Guatemala, and Ecuador, you may see the Rebec
- In Brazil, they also play the Rabeca, a Portuguese variation of the violin.
- In Peru, they play the kitaj, a blend between a ukulele and a violin inspired by Incan music.
It should be noted that in North America during the 1920s, the violin helped create two types of music.
If you’re looking to learn the violin or become a famous violin player in the Americas, you’ll probably need to study in some of the greatest music establishments:
- Musical Conservatory Beethoven, Saõ Paulo, Brazil
- Conservatoire de musique du Québec à Montréal or the Humber College School of Music in Toronto, Canada.
- Projazz Professional Institute, Providencia, Chile
- EMMAT, Bogota, Colombia
- Universidad de Costa Rica, Costa Rica
- Conservatorio Amadeo Roldan, Havana, Cuba
- Julliard School, New York, United States of America
- Conservatorio de Música de Occidente “Jesús Castillo”, Guatemala
- Instituto Nacional de Bellas Artes y Literatura, Mexico City, Mexico
- Facultad de Bellas Artes, Panama City, Panama
- Conservatorio Nacional de Música, Lima, Peru
- Conservatory of Music of Puerto Rico
- Escuela Universitaria de Música, Montevideo, Uruguay
- Conservatorio de Música Simón Bolívar, Caracas, Venezuela
Whichever American country you find yourself in, you can learn to play the violin at any time and even get beginners violin lessons near me from the locals.
The Violin in Africa
In terms of music, Africa is quite different as the violin is rarely used and there are very few variants of it:
- In West Africa, you can find the riti, an instrument with just one string that creates a high-pitched sound with the bow.
- The N’goni from West Africa is halway between a guitar and a violin.
- In Central Africa, the ennanga is a harp-shaped instrument with an oval soundbox.
- The guembri is popular in North Africa, especially amongst the Berber and Tuareg populations.
- In East Africa and Kenya, the orutu is very similar to the violin as it’s an old vielle.
- In Central Africa, the n’gombi is a mix between a harp and a violin.
- The kabosy, a guitar-shaped instrument, is popular in Madagascar.
Generally, there are only really North and West African variants of the violin given their history with Europe. Across the rest of Africa, percussion is more popular than stringed instruments. A lot of the violin practices were borrowed from Europe in North Africa.
If you want to learn to play the violin in Africa, you should consider:
- Conservatoire National De Musique Et De Danse, Rabat, Agadir, or Tetouan, Morocco
- Music School of Eastern Africa, Kisumu, Kenya
- National Center Musique Des Arts Populaires, Tunis, Tunisia
- Cairo Conservatoire, Egypt
- Dakar Music School, Senegal
- The Music Fund provides music education in Brazzaville, the Democratic Republic of the Congo
Except for North Africa, the violin isn’t very common in Africa as there isn't much classical orchestra music or string quartet music. A musician in Africa is more likely to play percussion than become a violin virtuoso. That said, that doesn't mean there are no African violinists and there are actually some exceptional African musicians playing violin music.
Whether you want to learn traditional Latin American violin, Jazz violin from North America, buy a Stradivarius in Europe, master the violin in Asia, or benefit from African music tuition, our private tutors are ready to help you.
So are you ready to learn to play the violin?
If so, you'll need to learn more about the fingerboard, which violin strings are the best, how to hold a violin bow, fingering technique, how to apply violin rosin to your bow, and how to tune your instrument. Don't worry, we've got plenty of other articles about the violin for you to check out!