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What a Violinist Learned from Playing the Piano

Zlata Brouwer

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Published: July 14, 2015 at 8:46 AM [UTC]

In this video I share with you how playing the piano influenced my violin play. Also it answers questions around it you should learn to play the piano first or not. Oh, and you will hear me playing the piano... isn't that strange?

If you want to graduate as a violinist, you have to play piano. It is organized this way, because as a player you need to understand harmonics and as a teacher you must be able to accompany your students.

I played piano a lot and I got a very good grade for piano, but I didn't choose to play piano and hated practicing about 90% of the time. Perhaps I hated it just because I was forced to play this instrument. I tried to convince the conservatory that I could perfectly accompany my students on the violin and that I could play harmonics on the violin by playing double stops (which I wanted to demonstrate by playing the fugue, haha, all frustration!), but it didn't work and I really had to play piano.

Now I learned it, I reluctantly have to admit that playing the piano has some benefits for my as a violinist.

Before I go into these benefits, I would like to give you a little warning. Some people think that in order to learn the violin you HAVE to play piano or recorder first. They think it's too difficult to start with violin as your first musical instrument and you need some preparation.

Here's what I think about this: If you want to play the violin, the very best preparation to that is just to start playing the violin. Don't take any detours, because it is difficult enough as it is. It's definitely not true that playing the piano or the recorder is a better preparation to playing the violin than playing the violin.

The choice of your instrument, is extremely important to the joy you have in making music. Start on the instrument you prefer right away!

If you coincidently already play the piano or if you like playing the piano and you would do it anyway, it can certainly benefit your violin or viola playing. Keep in mind that playing two totally different instruments is very hard and takes a lot of time to progress on both.

One benefit I got from playing the piano is that I understand a lot more about harmonics and music theory. Playing the piano you are confronted with this a lot more as you play many notes at the same time. You have to play chords and different melodies at the same time. On the violin you play one note and one melody at a time most of the time.

With this I can create chords for my violin etudes and accompany myself. I see the harmonic progressions in my violin piece, hit the chord on the piano, hold the pedal and play the corresponding fragment of the etude on the violin. This is really good for your intonation (playing in tune) on the violin and your understanding of the meaning of the notes you play.

While I practice the violin, I often check notes on the piano. In this way you can constantly check if you are playing in tune. If you don't have a piano at hand, you can also use the D'Addario Micro Tuner to do the job.

While playing piano I have learned to accompany someone else. On the violin you are most of the times the one that is accompanied. Learning to accompany is really useful for playing together. Besides that understanding a bit more about piano playing, makes that I can play together with pianists better as I can adjust better.

Although I reluctantly learned to play the piano, I have made this video to celebrate the benefits. I hope this has been interesting to you. Remember playing the piano is not a must for playing the violin, but you can certainly have some benefits from it.

Is this video helpful to you? Please let me know in the comments below! If you like it, share it with your friends!



PS: Do you have questions or struggles on violin or viola playing? Post a comment below or send an e-mail to and I might dedicate a Violin Lounge TV episode to answering your question!

From Paul Deck
Posted on July 16, 2015 at 4:06 PM
I think the key advantages of learning the piano are really twofold. First, the reason theory "pops" on the piano is only partly because piano music is intrinsically polyphonic. The main reason is because theory can be directly visualized on the keyboard. Once you are familiar with the piano keyboard, you can see intervals, chords, and harmony by visualizing the keyboard mentally. Even for people who do not describe themselves as "visual learners" it's very powerful. It is not nearly as easy to visualize harmony on the violin fingerboard, although some will claim they can do this. Second, by studying the piano you develop a much stronger understanding of the piano part in chamber music including sonatas, trios, and even reduction type piano accompaniments, which is a lot of what violinists play. Not only does one come to understand the notes but also something about phrasing, articulation, and dynamics, not to mention the relationship between the piano and violin intonation. The practical advantage of being able to accompany someone else is only really beneficial to someone who wishes to teach the violin and then a relatively higher level of skill is needed. The visualization and appreciation aspects, in contrast, do not necessarily require strong skill development.

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