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Know Your Instrument

Often students are confused about where their fingers go on the violin when playingin different keys.

The chart below clearly shows finger shapes and correct notes in common keys.

You may print this chart up and refer to it as you explore playing in different keys.

Knowing these shapes is the beginning of understanding music theory!

Soon you will recall them with ease and be on your way to complete understanding of your instrument

As you work on remembering these shapes it is helpful to know the simple rule of thumb for determining what notes are played in a given major key.


  • This rule applies to ALL major keys. Know this Rule!

The 3rd and 4th AND 7th & 8th NOTES of any major scale are ALWAYS 1/2 steps


When applying this Rule the notes become:

Notice were the 1/2 steps fall on the piano - using the keyboard helps you to visualize the whole and 1/2 steps.

  • From a black key to a white key is a 1/2 step.

Notice how there are places on the keyboard were there are no black keys between. This also demonstrates a 1/2 step. (B to C and E to F)

You will also need to find whole steps.

  • From a white key to a white key (when a black key is present) and black key to black key is a whole step.

Whole steps always have a key between them. For instance, look at the steps from F# to G# this demonstrates a whole step from black key to black key...the white key is the one between in this case.

This means the key of A has F# C# G#


This is how the key of A looks in sheet music. This is called the Key Signature.

But when you are learning a tune by ear you will not have benefit of a key signature to look at. Using the system above will help you to learn the notes that are in every major key.

Learning by ear does not mean "searching " for the correct notes in the key. Learning by ear means that you find the notes of the melody you are studying. You should have thorough knowledge of what notes belong in each key. Your ear should be utilized to regulate intonation. Which basically means you are learning to play in tune notes.

This is were your fingers belong on the violin in the key of A

Note the spaces between the finger's OR  shapes - knowing the shapes helps you to remember were your fingers must be placed for the key of A.

Feel the 1/2 steps as your fingers touch against each other. Close 1/2 steps are very important when striving for excellent intonation!

Work through these keys using the system above. Play each keys scale in at least two octaves to learn the shapes.

A Bb C D E F G

Once you have mastered these keys it is time to explore minor key's...... Don't panic ... there is an easy system for this also!