suzuki violin method

The Pros and Cons of the Suzuki Violin Method

suzuki violin method

Are you trying to decide whether the Suzuki violin method or traditional lessons are right for your budding violinist? Below, violin teacher Julie P. explores the pros and cons of the Suzuki method…

The Suzuki violin method can be a polarizing topic in the music world, as there are many different opinions. While some argue that the method helps children develop a high level of playing ability, others say it doesn’t teach students the proper violin techniques.

If you’re considering the Suzuki violin method for your child, it’s best to thoroughly research the basic principals of the method to help determine if it’s a good fit for your child.

To ensure you have all the necessary information, below are the pros and cons of the Suzuki violin method from my (a teacher’s) point of view.

1. Structure

Suzuki violin programs are a mix of group and private violin lessons.

  • Pros: Students receive frequent reinforcement of skills because they are attending at least two lessons per week. The varied lesson plans provide a well-rounded approach, covering many different learning styles. Group lessons are also a great environment for children to be encouraged and challenged by their peers.
  • Cons: The lesson commitment for the Suzuki violin method is more than that of traditional private lessons, which can be too much for today’s busy families. Additionally, the Suzuki structure is pretty regimented with not much flexibility for missed lessons.

2. Listening

Students are encouraged to listen to music daily, especially recordings of the songs they are learning in lessons.

  • Pro: Listening to music daily is a fantastic way for children to develop an ear for the violin and other instruments. The more they listen to the songs they are learning, the faster and better they will learn those songs.
  • Con: The commitment to listen to music daily typically falls on the child’s parents. Not only is this a burden on busy families, but some parents will quickly grow tired of listening to same Suzuki songs day in and day out.

3. Performances

Recitals play an important role in the Suzuki violin method.

  • Pro: Preparing for a recital gives students a goal for which they can aim. Students are often proud of their accomplishments after a recital, which is a great self-esteem builder. Suzuki recitals with group performances also provide a safe performance environment for new violinists.
  • Con: Children who are very shy may have a hard time with this aspect of the Suzuki violin program. It can be awhile before a student feels comfortable enough to go on stage and showcase his or her skills.

4. Rote Learning

Beginner students learn songs by rote (or memory), with note reading introduced several years later into the program.

  • Pro: Students develop excellent ears, meaning that they can hear whether or not they are playing in tune. Songs become very strongly ingrained in their minds because everything is played by memory. Students who struggle with note reading will find great freedom in being able to play music without reading notes.
  • Con: Because note reading is not introduced until later in the program, it can often be a struggle for students. By the time they learn how to properly read music, their violin techniques are much more advanced. Going back to the basics can be frustrating, not to mention difficult for students who might have already developed bad habits.

5. Practice Commitment

Daily practice is expected.

  • Pro: Any student who practices an instrument daily, even for 10 minutes a day, will make significant progress.  After all, daily practice is one of the best ways to improve upon one’s skills.
  • Con: As parents are well aware, most children will not practice daily unless they are told to. A lot of responsibility for the daily practice sessions will fall on the parents, which can quickly become a burden.

6. Parental Involvement

Parents are expected to learn the violin alongside their child, attend all lessons and classes, and direct practice sessions at home.

  • Pro: Young children benefit greatly from having such strong parental involvement. This is especially clear with the parent-directed practice sessions at home. The focus and assistance that parents provide during these sessions ensures that students are reinforcing the skills they learned during their violin lessons.
  • Con: The Suzuki violin program is a sizable commitment for parents. In addition to attending lessons and directing daily practice, parents must carve out significant time in their schedule to learn the instrument themselves. Not only does learning an instrument take time and patience, but it can also be difficult to do as an adult.

As you can see, there are many great aspects of the Suzuki violin method. The cons are largely circumstantial and depend on the lifestyle of each individual family.

The Suzuki method is great for some families and very difficult to adhere to for others. If you have further questions, you might want to take a lesson with teacher who has Suzuki experience, as this individual will be able to give you solid advice.

 

JuliePPost Author: Julie P.
Julie P. teaches flute, clarinet, music theory, and saxophone lessons in Brooklyn, NY. She received her Bachelor’s degree in Music Education from Ithaca College and her Masters in Music Performance from New Jersey City University. Learn more about Julie here!

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violin books

Top 5 Instructional Violin Books for Kids

violin books

Do you need to purchase a violin book for your child, but you’re not sure where to start? Below, violin teacher Julie P. shares her top five violin books for kids…

There is an unbelievably large amount of music books available to kids who want to learn the violin. While there are many great options to choose from, sifting through all of them to find the best one can be daunting.

Most students start with a method book, but activity and solo books can be great supplemental materials to aid a student’s progress. To help guide your selection process, below are my top 5 violin books for kids.

1. Adventures in Violinland

This charming series engages beginners with a unique approach that’s geared toward children. It is full of pictures (some even for coloring!), recurring characters, and familiar songs.

violin books

The series starts with book 1A and includes 24 books that follow a very systematic approach. What’s more, it includes a scorecard and points system that helps kids see their progress as they move through the books.

 2. Essential Elements 2000 — Violin Book 1

This is a great beginners method book most appropriate for students ages seven and up; although I have used it successfully with students as young as five. It is full of classical, folk, and holiday melodies that children already know.

violin books

It also includes rhythm and technique exercises, as well as theory and music history information that provide a well-rounded approach to learning the violin. Students will benefit from the MP3 play-along tracks as well.

3. Harry Potter, Solos for Violin

Students who are Harry Potter fans will love learning how to play the theme songs from the movies. The book of 10 songs includes parts for both the violin and piano accompaniment.

violin books

It also includes a CD, featuring demo tracks with orchestral accompaniments that sound just like the movie versions. This book is for kids who have been playing the violin for at least two years, although the recognizable theme songs will make it easier for beginners to play along and learn.

4. Early Start on the Violin — Volume 1

This fun method book features large print music and text that’s easy for young children to read. Additionally, it takes a unique method toward teaching notes, as it focuses on one finger at a time. This is an ideal approach for children who struggle with finger coordination.

violin books

By the end of the book, students will be able to play popular folk songs and will become more familiar with reading violin notes. This book is best suited for younger students, ages four to six.

5. Freddie Fiddle and Betty Bow

This imaginative violin activity book is a great supplement to the other books kids use during their violin lessons. The book covers everything from the various different parts of the violin to right and left hand techniques to the names of the notes on the violin.

violin books

Activities within the book include drawing and coloring, using stickers, and flash cards. This book is great for further engaging small children in learning the violin.

With so many violin books available, there is something for every child. If you’re not sure which book to choose, you might want to consider asking your violin teacher, as they probably have a few favorite violin books that they recommend to students.

 

JuliePPost Author: Julie P.
Julie P. teaches flute, clarinet, music theory, and saxophone lessons in Brooklyn, NY. She received her Bachelor’s degree in Music Education from Ithaca College and her Masters in Music Performance from New Jersey City University. Learn more about Julie here!

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violin brands

Top Five Violin Brands for Beginner and Intermediate Students

violin brands

Is your child just starting to take violin lessons? Below, violin teacher Delilah B. shares her top five violin brands for beginner and intermediate students…

Are you thinking about purchasing a violin for your child? Choosing the right violin brand for your child can be difficult, as there are many options available.

While you want to stay within a certain budget, you also don’t want to compromise on quality. What’s more, you want a violin that’s going to last and retain its value.

So, what do you do?

To help guide you through this complicated process, we’ve rounded up the top five violin brands for beginner and intermediate students along with some tips and tricks on how to successfully purchase a violin.

Things to Consider When Buying a New Violin

From price to quality, there are a few important things one must consider before purchasing a violin. Below is a short list of things to keep in mind while you search.

  • Price range: Before you start searching for a violin, it’s a good idea to set a budget. Quality violins usually start at around $500, then go up from there depending on the violin brand you choose. Remember, you will most likely have to buy a violin bow and case separately, so be sure to factor that into your budget, as well. By setting a budget, you’ll be able to narrow down your search by weeding out instruments that are not within your price range.
  • Quality: In addition to setting a budget, it’s important that you know what to look for in terms of quality. After all, you don’t want to get coaxed into purchasing a low-quality violin at a high price. Make sure that you check the instrument’s construction and structure. A high-quality violin shouldn’t look warped or creak when you apply pressure.
  • New or used: When purchasing a violin, you have two options: You can either purchase a brand-new violin or a used violin. If you’re on a tight budget, buying a used violin may be in your best interest. Just make sure that you do your research to ensure that the instrument is in good working condition and that you’re getting the most value.
  • Size: Violins come in different sizes. For children, there are sizes 3/4, 1/2, 1/4, 1/8, 1/10, 1/16 and 1/32 violins. There are two ways to properly measure a child for a violin. With the student’s left arm fully extended away from his or her body, measure from the base of the neck to either the wrist or the center of the palm. The neck-to-wrist measurement will indicate the most comfortable size for the student.

Difference Between Student, Intermediate, and Professional Violin Brands

Student Violins

In general, a student violin is made from lower-quality wood and involves less hand work. These violins usually have some parts made of plastic, such as the pegs and chin rest. Student violins are great for children who are interested in learning, but are not yet sure if they will play for very long. Prices for student violins can vary from about $100–$400.

Intermediate Violins

Violins classified as intermediate are a good compromise between student and professional instruments. The price range can vary from $400 to $1,000. Intermediate violins are great for musicians who want something better than a beginner instrument, but are not quite ready to invest thousands of dollars in a professional violin.

Professional Violins

Professional violins are usually constructed from highly-quality wood, hand-built and assembled by a luthier, and finished with high-quality components, such as an ebony fingerboard. These instruments, which are only appropriate for professional and advanced musicians, can cost anywhere from $4,000 to $10,000.

Buying a Violin Online vs. In-Store

If you’re debating whether you should purchase a violin online or in-store, below are some pros and cons to help you make your decision.

In-store:

Pros:

  • Try it out: One of the great things about buying a violin in-store is that you can try it before you buy it! It’s common for buyers to request to try out a violin brand at the shop. In fact, many shops have practice rooms for that exact purpose. Also, most violin shops are open to letting students borrow a violin for up to two weeks.
  • Knowledgeable staff members: If you’re a first-time buyer and don’t feel comfortable purchasing online, then you might want to opt for buying in-store. Most music shops have knowledgeable staff members on the floor who can match you up with the best violin brand.

Cons:

  • Limited inventory: Do you have a specific violin brand in mind? Music stores usually only carry a limited number of violin brands in-store. The last thing that you want to do is drive around town searching for a specific instrument that isn’t in stock.
  • High prices: Because they have less inventory, violin shops tend to have higher prices and less frequent sales. If you’re on a budget, you may want to shop around online for the best price.

Online:

Pros:

  • Shop independently: When shopping online, you aren’t bombarded by pushy salespeople trying to sell you the most expensive violin in the store. You can gather recommendations, read reviews, and shop peacefully and independently.
  • Larger inventory: Typically, online violin stores will have a larger inventory of violin brands to choose from. If one site doesn’t have what you want, chances are you can find another site that does.

Cons: 

  • Higher risk: When purchasing goods online, there’s always a certain amount of risk involved. Some websites will try to coax unknowing buyers into purchasing a violin that they think is of a much better quality than what it actually is. If you decide to go the online route, make sure you purchase from a certified violin dealer.
  • Uncertainty: If you’re stuck deciding between two violin brands, there’s no way that you can “try them out” online without having to purchase both and then return the one you don’t want.

Top Five Violin Brands for Intermediate and Beginner Students

As previously mentioned, violins vary by type. Some are designed for beginner and intermediate students, while others are customized for professional violinists. Most of the major violin brands carry a variety of different styles, each designed to best suit a customer’s specific playing needs.

So, what are the best violin brands? While the question is slightly subjective, we’ve rounded up the top five violin brands based on peer reviews and recommendations.

1. Stentor

When looking for a student-grade violin, Stentor violins are at the top of the list. Ranging anywhere from $150 to $180, these violins are reliable and well-built. For true beginner students, the Stentor Student I Violin is the most popular option and features a quality fingerboard and pegs. For intermediate students, the Stentor Student II Violin is a great option, as it offers better quality and tone due to its ebony pegs and fingerboard.

2. Knilling 

Knilling violins are well known among violin teachers and students. In addition to it’s high-quality craftsmanship, the company’s student violins have unique pegs for optimal tuning. Unlike regular friction pegs, Knilling violins feature Perfection Pegs, a 4:1 gear reduction inside the peg that makes for quick and precise tuning. Beginner Knilling violins are priced at around $500.

3. Cremona

Cremona is another great and affordable violin brand. Cremona violins are designed to meet the specific needs of both beginner and intermediate students. Besides using the highest-quality woods, the company takes quality very seriously and has 22 staff members in charge of quality control. The company’s student violin, the Cremona SV-175 Premier Student Violin, starts at around $300.

4. Cecilo

Cecilio is another teacher-approved violin brand. The instrument comes strung with the bridge attached so students won’t have to assemble it on their own. Also, you’ll be happy to know that the company puts their violins through rigorous tests to ensure they are fit for purpose. They also pride themselves on using quality wood, mainly maple and spruce, and top notch ebony. Student violins come in at a low cost of $200.

5. Mendini

Mendini is another brand ideal for beginner and intermediate students. Almost all factory made, the instruments offer good value at the low price of $199. Additionally, although the violins are low in price, they are durable. However, you’ll most likely have to replace the strings at some point, as the quality is not as great when compared to other brands.

 

Purchasing a violin is a very exciting, yet personal experience. What one person may see as a must-have feature, others are not so keen. Therefore, it’s important that you take into consideration the tips above. You may want to get advice from your violin teacher or somebody who is experienced in buying musical instruments.

Delilah BPost Author: Delilah B.
Delilah B. graduated from the University Federico II Napoli with an associate degree in Italian Literature. She is an Italian and violin instructor living in Culver City, CA. Learn more about Delilah here!

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Violin YouTube

Top 5 Violin YouTube Tutorials for Beginners

Violin YouTube

Learning how to play the violin has never been easier, thanks to the wide variety of online resources available today. Whether you’re looking to teach yourself the violin or you simply want to supplement your current violin lessons, YouTube has a great selection of violin tutorials to choose from.

Violin YouTube tutorials are a great alternative learning tool. Students can try out tutorials from many different violin instructors until they find the one that best fits their needs and skill level. What’s more, violin YouTube tutorials are archived, meaning students are able to access them whenever they want.

There are tons of violin YouTube tutorials that teach students everything from bow maintenance, violin techniques, and practice exercises. With so many YouTube channels available, however, it can be difficult to find the best one to suit your needs.

Below are our favorite violin YouTube tutorials for beginner students who want to work on their musical skills.

1. Violin Tutor Pro

Why we like it: Practicing the violin doesn’t have to be boring. Violin Tutor Pro has a wide range of tutorials covering topics like playing basic cords, improving violin slurs, and learning to read violin sheet music. It’s host, Michael Sanchez, shares his expertise in easy-to-follow lessons that are instructional, yet entertaining.

“Our YouTube channel is a great place for violin players to improve their skills, whether they’re just starting out or have been playing for years. Michael is an effective and engaging teacher, and–most importantly–he knows how to make learning fun,” said Loren Alldrin, owner of Violin Tutor Pro.

Check out this video of Michael teaching students how to properly hold a bow:

2. Violin Lab Channel

Why we like it: With close to 30,000 subscribers, Violin Lab Channel is one of the more popular violin YouTube channels. The site features in-depth, studio-quality videos that offer actionable tips to those who are serious about learning how to play the violin.

“There are many qualified teachers out in the world, but there was very little accessible instruction on the Internet that demystified the complexities of violin playing and presented the information in an organized sequential system. At the heart of my teaching is the desire to quantify the ‘unquantifiable'; the subtleties and nuances of great playing that many people assume is out of their reach,” said Beth Blackerb, founder of ViolinLab.com.

Students can browse through various different categories—including bow technique and left hand technique—to find exactly what they want. They even provide Spanish subtitles for many of their lessons.

Check out this awesome tutorial on the do’s and don’ts of violin vibrato:

3. TheStringClub

Why we like it: TheStringClub is a perfect resource for beginner students who want to put their skills to the test and learn how to play popular songs like “The Star Spangled Banner,” “Jingle Bells,” and “Twinkle Little Star.”

What’s great about these videos is that they are easy to follow, as the videos feature numbers that slide down the strings so users can easily play along to the notes on the screen.

Check out this great tutorial on how to play the “Mission Impossible” theme song on the violin:

4. Fiddlerman

Why we like it: Besides covering a wide range of violin techniques, Fiddlerman has helpful tips and tricks for maintaining your violin. For example, the channel has various tutorials on removing and setting a soundpost, restructuring a fallen bridge, and learning to properly rosin your bow.

Are you thinking about purchasing a new violin? If you need some expert advice, the channel also has a review section in which the host evaluates different violin brands.

Check out this video on how to master double stops on the violin:

5. Heather Broadbent

Why we like it: Another great resource for beginners, Heather Broadbent features tons of engaging tutorials. As both the creator and a professional violinist, Heather shares her expertise and tips on topics like solos for young violinists, how to read violin sheet music, and how to improve finer coordination.

Heather takes what she calls a “holistic” approach to instructing students in order to help them fully connect with playing the violin.

Check out this video on various violin stretches that help to reduce tension:

So there you have it! Whether you’re looking for tips to help teach yourself or you want to supplement your existing lessons, be sure to check out these five violin YouTube tutorials!

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Best Violin Strings

The Ultimate Guide to Choosing the Best Violin Strings

Best Violin Strings

Are you a beginner violinist who needs some guidance on what type of violin strings to purchase? Below, violin teacher Montserrat P. shares some expert tips on how to choose the best violin strings…

Choosing the best violin strings for your instrument is extremely important. Finding the proper strings guarantees you’ll be able to play your violin to its full potential, which leads to you achieve more efficient development as a musician.

Unfortunately, if you don’t have the right guidance, selecting your strings can turn into a rather complicated and confusing process. It is not a matter of what type of violin strings you want, but instead the type of strings your instrument needs in order to produce the sound you want.

If you’re a classical violinist, for example, you wouldn’t want to choose violin strings that are better suited for a country fiddler or vice versa.

There are several different types of strings available. Lucky for you, we’ve created a mini guide that will help you to find the best violin strings to suit your instrument and desired sound.

Let’s get started!

Violin Strings Review: Three Main Types

Before you can choose the best violin strings, you need to know your options. There are several different types of strings you can choose from, and getting familiar with each and every one of them is the very first step toward making a sound decision.

1. Gut core strings

Gut core strings were the very first type of violin strings made. While many claim that they are made from cat gut, these strings are typically made with sheep intestines.

In terms of sound, gut core strings have a warmer, more complex sound than others and a very low tension. They are usually preferred by professional musicians who specialize in baroque music. These strings do have their disadvantages—specifically, they are more expensive and less durable.

Gut core strings are very sensitive to temperature and humidity changes, which make them prone to getting out of tune and/or breaking. Let’s just say that there’s a reason why they are mainly used by professional violinists.Best Violin Strings

2. Synthetic core strings

Synthetic core strings are the most popular choice among musicians. This type is much more stable in pitch, deals better with temperature and humidity changes, and costs less than gut core strings.

Besides the previously mentioned benefits, many professional musicians and students prefer synthetic core strings, because they are also more flexible when it comes to playing different music genres.

Even though the warmth and complexity of the gut core string is still present, the sound of a synthetic string is less complex and a little bit harsher. Nonetheless, synthetic core strings are still a very good option for both experts and beginners.

Best Violin Strings

3. Steel core strings

Steel core strings were introduced as an alternative to gut core strings. The string’s core is covered by metals, such as silver or steel, which makes them much easier to work with when it comes to tuning, for they are not affected by changes in the atmosphere.

This feature, along with their extremely low price, is why steel core strings are widely used by beginner students. Tuning your instrument is not something you learn in your first private lesson, and steel core strings offer the stability needed for the student to be able to practice without having to worry about tuning his or her violin.

However, these strings do not have any warmth in their sound. They are often described as loud and bright, which is not particularly liked among classical music circles. However, this sound is perfect for jazz, bluegrass, and folk music.

Best Violin Strings

Tips for Choosing the Best Violin Strings

Now that you’re familiar with the three main types of violin strings, you’re one step closer to finding the best violin strings for you and your instrument. Here are some other tips to consider.

  • Weigh the pros and cons: Take some time to really think about the advantages and disadvantages of each type to help you decide which one best matches your level and aspirations. The last thing you want to do is make a rash decision and end up regretting it later.
  • Ask the right questions: Are you an intermediate student exploring different styles? Or do you consider yourself a hardcore baroque player? Ask yourself these types of questions before making a decision; you do not want to end up with the wrong strings.
  • Seek a second opinion: Even though you know your musical self pretty well, it’s never a bad idea to ask for a second opinion. Ask your violin teacher or your fellow students what strings they use or if they have any suggestions.

Choosing the Right String Gauge

Once you’ve determined which type of string you want, the next step is to start thinking about the string gauge, which is just a fancy way to refer to its width.

Most players stay in the middle gauge because it offers the best of both worlds: the volume of the thicker gauge without its massive tension and slow response, and the precision of the thin gauge without its low projection.

So, which string gauge should you choose? Well, that depends on your instrument and what type of sound you want to make. If your violin is already loud enough, for example, you might want to turn to a thinner gauge. If your instrument has a hard time projecting its sound, a thicker gauge might be better.

At this point in the process, you will really want to ask somebody with more experience for some help. An experienced violin instructor will be able to tell you what your instrument needs in order for you to achieve what you want.

Where to Buy Violin Strings

Now that you have gone through the process of figuring out which strings you need, you’re ready to buy them and start working your way toward the peak of your artistic development. Below is a list of websites where you can find awesome brands that carry the best violin strings.

  • Shar Music: This online violin store has a wide variety of violin strings to choose from as well as other accessories. The site gives you all of the information you need to make a confident decision, including information about the brand, warranty data, and helpful ratings and reviews from actual customers.
  • Johnson String Instrument: Serving as New England’s largest violin shop, Johnson String Instrument carries all of the top violin string brands at great prices. Don’t live in New England? Don’t worry, you can purchase items online through the company’s website.
  • JustStrings.com: With a name like JustStrings.com, you know this online musical instrument strings and accessories store has an impressive selection of violin strings.

Other Helpful Resources

  • Violin String Review: If you want to find some honest reviews of violin strings, visit Violin String Review, a website dedicated to supporting and promoting strings.
  • Violin Information: Authored by a professional violin maker, this website has tons on great information about the ins and outs of purchasing strings and other accessories.
  • Consordini.com: This informative website has a ton of great reviews on a wide varitey of violin accessories. Check out this post on the 10 best violin strings.

Now that you have this information, go and start the process of finding the best violin strings for your instrument. Hang in there, ask for help when it gets confusing, and remember how amazing it will be once your strings are ready and you can start playing!

Montserrat P.Post Author: Montserrat P.
Montserrat P. teaches violin and music theory lessons with TakeLessons. Originally from Costa Rica, she is now completing her studies at Interlochen Arts Academy in Michigan. She is bilingual in English and Spanish, and has been teaching music lessons since 2012. Learn more about Montserrat here!

By Steve Snodgrass

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violin online

Learn the Violin Online: Top 5 Online Video Platforms for Lessons

violin online

Taking private, in-person violin lessons is the best way to learn the violin; however, sometimes there aren’t enough qualified teachers in your area. Luckily, there are various different video conferencing platforms that allow you to learn the violin online, and finding the right teacher for online lessons is very easy to do.

Besides having a larger pool of qualified teachers to choose from, online violin lessons can be taken just about anywhere and at anytime. With the kind of schedules most people have today, it’s not always easy finding a time to meet with a teacher. Setting up an online lesson, however, allows you to fit lessons into your busy schedule.

Before you can learn the violin online, you must choose a video platform that works best for you and your teacher. Below are some tips to consider when selecting a platform.

Tips for Selecting a Platform

There are a few things that you want to consider before you start your online violin lessons.

  • When it comes to violin lessons, price is always a consideration. Thankfully, many video platforms are free, so you don’t need to worry about additional costs when taking violin lessons online.
  • You need a reliable Internet connection. Every platform has a minimum bandwidth requirement, so make sure you find one that works within your Internet’s capabilities. You don’t want to have a lesson drop in the middle of a song, nor do you want to be distracted by trying to work with something that isn’t user friendly.
  • The platform should enable you to set your status as “busy,” so that you can avoid any interruptions.
  • Do make sure to discuss what platform you choose with you teacher, as he or she may already have a preference or suggestion for a particular one.

Once you’ve considered the tips above, it’s time to find the platform that suits your needs. The following five platforms are the most popular for learning the violin online. The platforms aren’t in any particular order, so feel free to try out different options if your teacher doesn’t already have a preference.

Top Platforms for Learning Violin Online

1. Skype

violin online

Skype

Arguably as the most popular video platform, Skype allows you talk face-to-face with your teacher over any mobile device for free. All you have to have is a reliable Internet connection to take advantage of Skype’s popular video calling service, and setting up an account is easy.

The only downfall of this platform is that if you want to have a group video lesson, you’ll need to upgrade to Skype Premium for about $5 per month. Additionally, Skype requires you to set up a username and password.

2. Google+ Hangouts

violin online

Google+

Google+ also offers free video conferencing, called Hangouts. Run by the most widely-used search engine, this platform is well designed and user friendly. If you already have a Gmail account, set-up is easy—all you have to do is sync your existing account with the platform.

Google Hangouts is a bit less reliable than Skype, because the platform requires more computing power. If your computer barely meets the requirements, you’re more likely to experience freezing and buffering, which can bring your lesson to a screeching halt.

3. Tox

violin online

Tox

Tox is a new and nifty video conferencing program. The great thing about Tox—besides being free—is that it doesn’t allow advertising on the site, so you will not be distracted by scrolling text or popups while you’re in the middle of a lesson.

As a newer program, however, it is not as established as Skype or Google Hangouts, so you may encounter unanticipated issues the first few times you use it.

4. Viber

violin online

Viber

Viber is similar to Skype and Google Hangouts in that it’s free, easy to use, and available on any mobile device. Rather than using a username and password to log in, however, the platform uses your cell phone number as an identifier—which could come in handy if you tend to forget your username and password.

Like Tox, Viber is fairly new to the market, which means some technical issues may not be completely worked out. What’s more, Viber is said to have lesser call and video quality when compared to Skype.

5. ICQ

violin online

ICQ

As another free option, ICQ is great for students who like to communicate with their teacher via social media, as the platform allows users to exchange messages over a number of different social networks. Video chats can happen at the click of a button.

There are known security issues with the program, however, and you may receive spam. Also, based on their terms of use, ICQ owns the information you post to their platform.

 

As you can see, there is a variety of online platforms that you can use to learn the violin online. If you’re not sure which one to choose, you might want to consider trying out a few to see which one you like!

There are a number of benefits to taking violin lessons online from reduced costs to more flexible scheduling. Don’t make excuses as to why you can’t learn the violin. Set up an online lesson today and become one step closer to reaching your goal!

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Violin Mistakes

Are You Making These 5 Common Violin Mistakes When Practicing?

Violin Mistakes

Do you want to get more out of your violin practice? Below, violin teacher Montserrat P. shares some common violin mistakes students often make when practicing and how to fix them…

You don’t think Lindsey Stirling or Jascha Heifetz got to where they are without practicing the violin, right? In order to prefect your violin skills and progress further, you must frequently practice. After all, practice does make perfect.

Unfortunately, many students don’t know how to properly practice on their own, without their violin instructor to help guide them. They either end up not practicing enough or working on the wrong techniques.

To ensure that you get the most out of your practice sessions, avoid these five common violin mistakes.

1. Over-Practice

We all know that feeling when we finally start to get a passage right. Although your fingers are learning it, and your brain understands it; it’s not quite solid. So you think to yourself, “Just five more minutes; that’s all that I need to get it right.”

Well, as long as it is just five minutes, then go for it.  But if after that time the passage is still not there, stop playing.  Your body and mind have a limit, and if you push them too far, there will be no improvement. You will be playing in what I like to call “automatic mode.”  In other words, you will not be thinking nor paying attention, and you will run the risk of getting an injury.

Avoid this all too common violin mistake by listening to your body and your mind. Don’t overwork yourself; once you get to the point when your practice is no longer productive, stop.

2. Poor Posture

Your hands and arms are not the only parts of your body that are involved in your playing; your back plays a very important role, too. Your back muscles provide the support and strength your arms need to play. You depend on those muscles to pick up your violin and do what you love.

That is why proper posture is so important.  Back problems can quickly go from a temporary injury (such as pulling a muscle) to a permanent problem (like scoliosis or other deformations).  If you develop these conditions it can – and probably will – keep you from playing the violin. Therefore, take care of yourself in order to be the artist you want to be!

3. Unbalanced Practice Time

Do you spend three quarters of your pre-determined practice time in your scales?  Do you usually find yourself overplaying in order to practice your études?  What about your solo piece?

When practicing, it very often seems as though there is a lot to be done and too little time to do it.  That is why it is very important to start practicing with a time distribution on your mind.  As a general rule, you should spend half your time practicing scales and études, and half your time on your solo repertoire.

By doing this, not only will your practice session be more productive, it will also allow you to get a proper warm-up in. What’s more, your technique will be settled by the time you get to your piece, giving you the time and freedom to start working in musicality and expression.

That being said, feel free to adjust your practice time according to your needs.  If your arpeggios don’t sound great but your scales do, cut some time from the scales to work on the arpeggios.  If you have a recital coming up, spend some more time practicing your repertoire.

The important thing is for you to have a plan in mind before you start playing.  Believe me; you will be able to hear the results.

4. Not Warming Up

Would you run six miles right after you got out of bed without any type of warm-up? Every person knows that this is a terrible idea, as your body hasn’t had time to prepare for that activity, and there is good chance that you will get hurt.

Well, there is no reason for you to treat violin practice any differently. If you don’t do proper warm-up exercises before playing, your muscles will not be prepared, and your practice session will not be as productive.

For example, without a proper warm-up, your hand will be warming itself up with the complicated parts of your practice, which means that it will not be learning what it is playing. This will lead you to waste time, and chances are, you will end up overplaying and probably injuring your muscles.

Once again, your body is your most immediate instrument; your violin is just an extension of it.  You need to take care of your body if you want to be able to successfully play and practice.

5. Not Taking Breaks

This is one of the most important, yet less widely-known rules of violin practice. The rule of thumb is to play 20 minutes and rest for two or three. By doing so, you will ensure your body rests enough to be able to continue, but not too long so as to cool off. Also, your mind has enough time to internalize the progress you just made, but not too long to get completely distracted from your practice.

Of course, breaks will be different for everybody.  You might want to play for an extra 10 minutes and then take a longer break; or maybe you will want to take a long break at the end of an hour (in addition to your smaller breaks).  Whatever method you choose, the important thing is that you pace yourself and give your body and mind the time they need to assimilate the work they’ve just completed.

Are you committing any of these common violin mistakes? If not, good job!  Keep doing what you are doing.  If you happen to be guilty of these violin mistakes, don’t worry.  Now you have the tools to fix your errors and start learning. Good luck!

Montserrat P. Montserrat P. teaches violin and music theory lessons with TakeLessons. Originally from Costa Rica, she is now completing her studies at Interlochen Arts Academy in Michigan. She is bilingual in English and Spanish, and has been teaching music lessons since 2012. Learn more about Montserrat here!

 

 

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how to hold a violin

How to Hold a Violin Properly: 7 Expert Tips and Tricks [Infographic]

How you hold your violin makes a huge difference in the way you sound. Below, violin teacher Julie P. shares some helpful tips on how to hold a violin properly…

As a beginner violin student, you know that posture is very important when playing the violin. Since there aren’t any keys to push, every sound is created by forming precise angles with the violin and bow. Below are some tips on how to hold a violin properly and how to find the best posture to support your playing.

how to hold a violin

1. Sit or Stand Up Straight

Why it’s important: Maintaining an upright playing posture is not only good for your body, it also helps create enough space between the violin and your body to allow for excellent bow and arm movements.

Slouching will make it more difficult to play and can even lead to long-term injuries.

2. Hold Violin Between Chin and Left Shoulder

Why it’s important: The left hand needs a lot of flexibility. Not only do the fingers need to be able to move quickly, when you get into more advanced music, the left hand will have to shift up the fingerboard to higher positions.

Even if you’re just a beginner and are not yet shifting to new positions, it’s best to adopt this good habit from the very start.

3. Keep Left Shoulder Relaxed

Why it’s important: The left arm is supported by the left side of the torso. If the left shoulder is tense, the left arm loses support from the torso. Not only that, tension from the shoulder will creep down the arm and cause other problems.

If you feel your left shoulder tensing up, your shoulder rest may not be placed high enough. Look for a shoulder rest that can be adjusted higher, so that it spans the distance between your chin and your shoulder.

4. Relax Left Arm Away From Body

Why it’s important: The left arm needs space to move, as well as flexibility. Holding the arm in against the body, or out in a “winged” position, adds tension to the posture and reduces flexibility. Therefore, make sure you’re relaxing your left arm away from your body.

5. Keep a Straight Line From Left Elbow Through Left Wrist

Why it’s important: It’s common for beginners to hold the palm up against the neck of the violin to support it. This puts a lot of strain on the wrist, in addition to reducing the movement range of the left hand.

Maintaining a naturally straight extension from your arm through your wrist helps to eliminate tension and reduce strain on your inner wrist.

6. Put Your Left Thumb in the Same Spot Every Time You Play

Why it’s important: Playing in tune on the violin requires exact finger placement for each note. Even more, that exact placement needs to be replicated consistently over and over again as you play through music.

The left hand is anchored by the left thumb, so find the best place for your thumb, and practice putting it there every time you play. Usually it’s on the side of the neck, near the nut.

7. Pretend to be the Best Violinist in the World

Why it’s important: You probably already have a picture in your mind of what it looks like to play the violin. Chances are, that picture is the result of seeing professional violinists in action.

These players all hold the violin properly, and if you imitate them, you’ll automatically sit up straighter, relax your arms wider, and play with less tension. Plus, pretending you are the best violinist in the world is fun!

As you can see, there are some common themes when it comes to how to hold a violin – eliminating tension and creating flexibility being key. Following the tips above will make a positive impact on your playing and reduce your chances of having an injury.

Your violin teacher can also give you individualized attention to help you improve your posture.

JuliePJulie P. teaches flute, clarinet, music theory, and saxophone lessons in Brooklyn, NY. She received her Bachelor’s degree in Music Education from Ithaca College and her Masters in Music Performance from New Jersey City University. Learn more about Julie here!

 

 

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famous violin players

10 Inspirational Quotes from Famous Violin Players

Do you need a little inspiration to get you through your violin lessons? When learning a new instrument, especially one as complex as the violin, it’s normal to feel frustrated or defeated. Even the most famous violin players have felt insecure about their playing at one point or another during their career.

Instead of admitting defeat and giving up, it’s important that you overcome these feelings of frustration and remember the many reasons why you first started playing the violin. Below are 10 inspirational quotes from current and past famous violin players to help you stay motivated and keep positive.

1. “The discipline of practice every day is essential. When I skip a day, I notice a difference in my playing. After two days, the critics notice, and after three days, so does the audience.”

– Jascha Heifetz, renowned violinist who is synonymous with technique and musicianship

famous violin players

2. “The only reason I am successful is because I have stayed true to myself.”

-Lindsey Stirling, an American violinist and 2015 winner of the Billboard Music Award for Top Dance/Electronic Album

famous violin players

3. “The stage is the best experience in the world. It’s a great compliment to be able to share the music…”

-Vanessa Mae, British classical and electronic violinist with an estimated 10 million CD copies sold

famous violin players

4. “To send light into the darkness of men’s hearts—such is the duty of the artist.”

-Robert Schumann, German composer in the Romantic era

famous violin players

5. “I know that the most joy in my life has come to me from my violin.”

-Albert Einstein, physicist and amateur violin player

famous violin players

6. “When you play a violin piece, you are a storyteller, and you’re telling a story.”

-Joshua Bell, celebrated violinist who has recorded more than 40 CDs throughout his career

famous violin players

7. “What does it mean to be a ‘successful’ musician? You can play a hundred or a thousand concerts, as long as there are two or three occasions that you remember yourself.”

-Ivry Gitlis, renowned Israeli violinist who has performed with the world’s top orchestras

famous violin players

8. “The aim was for perfection, but perfection can be like a computer programme. Of course, I’m not saying you should play out of tune or be messy, but there has to be a balance.”

-Viktoria Mullova, highly-decorated and Grammy nominated Russian violinist

famous violin players

9. “Art is not in some far-off place. A work of Art is the expression of a man’s whole personality, sensibility and ability.”

-Shinichi Suzuki, violinist and creator of the Suzuki method of music education

famous violin players

10. “Music is about devotion, and knowing when to be free.”

-Leonidas Kavakos, Greek violinist and conductor who has won several international competitions

famous violin players
Mastering different violin techniques can be difficult. It’s important, however, that you don’t give up. Whether you’re having a hard time mastering a particular technique or need some motivation for an upcoming audition, use these quotes from famous violin players to help inspire you!

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suzuki violin method

Is the Suzuki Violin Method Right for Your Child?

suzuki violin method

Are you thinking about having your child start violin lessons? There are several different musical teaching methods you can consider. Below, violin teacher Julie P. shares some of the benefits of the Suzuki violin method…

Since it’s inception over 50 years ago, thousands of people have learned to play the violin using the Suzuki method, many of whom have gone on to become renowned professional musicians.

Created by Japanese violinist Shin’ichi Suzuki, the method is based on the notion that all children can learn to play a musical instrument the same way they learn to speak their native language.

History of the Suzuki Violin Method

Shin’ichi Suzuki was born on October 17, 1898, in Nagoya, Japan. While Suzuki’s father owned a violin factory, it wasn’t until he was 17 years old that Suzuki became interested in playing the violin.

After taking lessons from a teacher in Tokyo, Suzuki traveled to Germany to study with famous violin teacher Karl Klingler. Shortly after meeting his wife, Suzuki moved back to Japan where he started to teach violin and later create the Suzuki violin method.

Also known as the Mother Tongue Method, the Suzuki approach was created on the notion that the same principals children use to learn their “mother tongue” can be also be applied to learning the violin.

The teaching philosophy has enabled thousands of children to play various instruments and has become one of the most popular methods today’s music teachers use. To learn more about the history of Shin’ichi Suzuki, click here.

7 Principals of the Suzuki Violin Method

The Suzuki method is a great way to for children to learn the violin. Students of all ages stand to benefit from its structure, group learning environment, and focus on discipline.

If you’re wondering whether the Suzuki violin method is right for your child, check out the seven main principals of the teaching method below.

1. Structure

The Suzuki method is a very structured approach to learning. Programs are typically made up of a combination of private lessons, group lessons, and theory classes. Children are expected to attend all classes, as well as practice every day at home.

It is believed that repetitive practice of songs and exercises over weeks and months leads to a mastery of the skills being taught.

2. Listening

In the Suzuki philosophy, it’s believed that listening to music every day is important for the musical development of the student. Children are encouraged to listen to music daily, especially recordings of the songs they are learning in their lessons.

If your child loves to listen to music, the Suzuki method is a great fit. They will find great enjoyment in listening to the Suzuki repertoire as well as learning how to play along.

3. Group Lessons

The group lessons are beneficial for many children. Groups are determined by ability as opposed to age. While this might be intimidating for some young children, it might motivate others who look up to older children within their group.

Playing and practicing with other children is fun for students, and many of them will go on to build lasting friendships through their Suzuki program. Students also find motivation from group lessons, as they are challenged to keep up with the class.

4. Performances

Recitals play an important role in the Suzuki learning process, as they give all students a chance to showcase what they’ve learned and practice in front of a crowd. Group performances create a safe environment for children who might be nervous about performing in front of others.

Younger students are often inspired when they hear the performances of more advanced students, and look forward to someday performing those pieces themselves.

5. Rote Learning

Beginner Suzuki students learn all songs and exercises by memory. This allows them to focus on the skills necessary for playing the violin, without having to worry about trying to read music.

Students learn to read music after their skills have advanced to a point where their playing is more fluid. This approach is great for young children, as well as those who struggle with reading or other visual tasks.

6. Commitment

Students in a Suzuki program usually have to two to three classes/lessons per week, which is a significant commitment. Additionally, the daily practice expectation is taken very seriously.

If your child is already in a number of activities that demand much of his or her time, Suzuki may not be a good fit. However, students in the Suzuki program benefit greatly from the high frequency of classes, as skills are repeatedly reinforced.

7. Parental Involvement

One last thing to consider when deciding if the Suzuki violin method is right for your child is the required commitment from parents. Parents are expected to learn the violin alongside their child, attending all lessons and classes, and directing practice sessions at home.

Sometimes there are even group lessons just for parents, as well as separate private lessons if parents need more help with learning the violin.

The Suzuki method has been an effective way to learn the violin for decades. While the commitment is significant, Suzuki programs can be a great bonding experience for parents and children.

Finally, practicing the Suzuki violin method can also be a great family social activity, as Suzuki programs tend to create strong communities among the participating families.

JuliePJulie P. teaches flute, clarinet, music theory, and saxophone lessons in Brooklyn, NY. She received her Bachelor’s degree in Music Education from Ithaca College and her Masters in Music Performance from New Jersey City University. Learn more about Julie here!

 

 

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