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How Much Are Violin Lessons for Kids?

Violin Prices For KidsThink you could be the parent of a budding Vivaldi? Learning to play the violin is an intricate activity, requiring the appropriate guidance. You may be concerned about the pricing of a violin instruction for your child due to the complexity of the art. Though you may want to start your child on lessons right away, you may have concerns about pricing. Worry not, violin lesson prices are not as problematic for your pocketbook as you may think.

What should you expect for violin lesson prices?

  • Private lesson costs
    Private violin lesson prices start around $15-35 per half hour, rising to $40-100 per half hour for teachers with special qualifications.
  • Group lesson costs
    Group violin lesson prices typically cost around $40-100 per month. They are a good addition to private lessons, but are not sufficient alone for learning to play the violin.

Why private lessons?

Private lessons maximize musical potential. How?

  • They’re frustration-free.
    Offering the perfect pace for each student, no one laments their learning curve or lags behind. These issues are often especially discouraging for beginning students in a group setting.
  • They build confidence.
    Private lessons set children up for success by meeting them where they are at, helping them build a solid foundation.
  • They teach children HOW to practice.
    More time is spent by the student alone in practice than with the private instructor. This instills proper practice skills to help the student get the most out of practice time – the most control, the most results, and the most confidence.
  • They keep students motivated.
    Private lessons typically hold students’ interest better, particularly those experiencing difficulty “taking it to the next level.” Private teachers give students someone to be accountable to, guidance when they’re not sure what should come next in their studies, and motivation when they’re stuck in a slump.

What factors affect private violin lesson prices?

  • Formal training
    Instructors with advanced degrees or specialties may charge a higher price for violin lessons. The violin can be a challenging instrument to master, and it is essential to find your child a professional who has the experience and expertise to get them started out on the right foot.
  • Experience teaching children
    Finding a teacher who is both experienced with and excels at teaching children is also critical to your child’s success. Teaching a child violin requires specialized methods which sometimes differ from those utilized with adults. In addition, a high level of patience is necessary, particularly for teaching young kids.
  • Student’s level of proficiency
    Teachers who only teach beginner students sometimes charge less than those instructing more experienced musicians. As skills develop, however, plan on finding a teacher with additional expertise.
  • Style
    The violin is adaptable to a number of styles of music, from bluegrass to jazz to classical. If your child is eager to learn a specific skill or genre, you might pay higher violin lesson prices for the specialized experience.
  • Where the lesson will take place
    The location of your lesson — your teacher’s studio, your home, or lessons via an online video chat service — may affect lesson prices. If you’re on a budget, traveling to a teacher is typically more affordable, as some charge for travel time and mileage.
  • Lesson duration
    The length of a lesson also dictates price point. Your budding little violinist will likely have a shorter attention span than an older child, so lessons typically start out short – about 30 to 45 minutes at most – and progress in length with your child’s skills.
  • Location
    In areas that have a higher cost of living, violin lesson prices will be more expensive than those in smaller, rural locations. Don’t fret if you’re in a high-dollar area, however. You do have options, including live online lessons via video chat. And the bonus? Mom’s taxi can take a much-needed break!

What’s included in violin lesson prices?
Violin teachers giving private lessons will dedicate 30-45 minutes, once per week, solely to your child. They will monitor your child’s progress in real-time, explain necessary theories for each piece, provide immediate feedback on your child’s performance, offer encouragement, assign practice pieces before subsequent lessons, and more.

What’s not included?
You should expect to purchase books and materials needed for lessons on your own or directly from the teacher. Plan to spend about $25-75 per year on sheet music and books. Should your child wish to participate in recitals or competitions, necessary fees, which vary based on event, are also at an additional cost.

Ready to develop your child’s natural musical abilities? Find a great violin instructor near you today!

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How to Measure the Success of Your Child’s Violin Lessons

violin for kidsWhen it comes to violin for kids, how can you tell if your investment and energy is worth it? Here, San Francisco, CA violin teacher Carol Beth L. shares her advice…

 

Parents and teachers want the best for their children and students. Both want to believe in their children’s potential. So do the children themselves. All groups want the child to be successful. But not all of them measure success in the same way. When children, parents, and teachers disagree on what it means to be successful – and how to reach that success within music lessons – it can cause conflict that impedes the child’s progress as he or she learns to play violin.

Keep Your Child’s Goals in Mind

The first step is to make sure you know what your goals are, and to ensure that the goals of the child, parent, and teacher are compatible. Success for a budding professional and for a casual amateur may look very different. Like your definition of success, your goals need not be identical with your child’s or your teacher’s – merely compatible.

Once you have set your goals, success is much easier to define. If your goals are lofty, however, be careful not to let it undermine your child’s lessons. Many violin teachers are familiar with parents for whom success means finishing one song and starting the next one really quickly. We realize that not all parents think this way. But for those that do like to go fast, not so fast. If it happens, it happens. But if it doesn’t, don’t rush.

Keep Your Expectations in Check

A few years ago, I taught a summer camp with a viola student who joined at the last minute. I only knew he was supposed to be a book two student by Suzuki standards. On the first day, I listened to each student play. He took out music for “Bourree,” which is indeed a book two piece in the Suzuki method. He prefaced his performance by saying, “I’m not very good at viola.” He was right, but it was not his fault. When he played, it was clear that he had been pushed to play music that was too difficult for him. He realized his true level, and became demotivated because he couldn’t play the songs he was being assigned.

Another summer, a violin student was considering coming to my area and was interested in continuing lessons. He had had three teachers over the course of two years. When the first teacher didn’t push him to go fast enough, the mother found him another teacher. Later, she had her son audition for an orchestra. The people auditioning gave an honest assessment of his level, and noted that he was missing some basic technique. Fortunately, the mother respected their opinions very much. Unfortunately, some damage had already been done. His third teacher asked him to redo some songs in order to pinpoint technical skills he had failed to learn previously. He became frustrated and bored, and he was no longer as motivated to practice. Pushing him forward so quickly with his second teacher undermined the child’s ability to do his best.

A student is much more likely to be successful if he or she does not rush, but advances steadily and solidly, learning each piece with precision and solving any problems along the way.

Make Sure FUN is Part of the Equation

Some parents and children also come in with the view that violin for kids should be fun. I agree. Fun and humor help students learn and assimilate information, and also stay motivated. At the same time, it should not come at the expense of being serious. And yes, it is definitely possible to be serious and have fun at the same time!

Using music to connect with others and make friends is a wonderful way to incorporate fun into music. As I grew up, my mother and her friends made a point to bring us young musicians together to play music. One of my college friends only takes her violin out when we meet to play duets – but loves it when we do. Many Suzuki teachers have group classes for their students in addition to private lessons, even as beginners. Local Suzuki teachers around the world also organize and host local summer institutes – week-long camps for violinists and other musicians ages 18 and under, again including beginners. For more advanced students, many cities have youth orchestras students can join.

Success looks slightly different for nearly every violin student out there, since the combination of goals and interests is different for everyone. Nevertheless, having a clear understanding of each party’s goals and the opportunities in your area will help you, your child, and your teacher know what success looks like. This in turn will help you measure the success of your child’s violin lessons.

CarolCarol Beth L. teaches viola and violin in San Francisco, CA. She currently plays viola in the San Francisco Civic Orchestra and has been teaching students since 2012. Learn more about Carol Beth here!

 

 

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Setting the Right Goals for Violin: 4 Questions to Guide You

8336824466_2de008b312_bBefore you start learning violin music for beginners and all of the violin techniques you need to know, it’s smart to write down specific goals you’d like to achieve. Here, San Francisco, CA violin teacher Carol Beth L. share some guidance to get you on the right track…

 

Teachers, students, and parents of younger students come to the table with different expectations about violin lessons. Even before beginning the lessons, it is important to talk about those goals to make sure everyone is on the same page, and that at a minimum, no one’s goals interfere. A few basic questions can usually help pinpoint appropriate goals, and may even help you decide if you’ve found the right teacher.

1) Why are you choosing the violin, and who is choosing it?

With young students, sometimes the child chooses an instrument, and sometimes it’s the parent. While adult students more often choose their own instruments, peers may have an influence as well. Sometimes no one cares much which instrument it is; other times, several parties might care strongly. Violin could be on the table because a friend or family member plays violin, because the prospective student saw a beautiful violin concert, or because it’s just what’s available. These are all valid reasons. In most cases, though, especially for small children whose parents must approve and pay for related expenses, lessons will go more smoothly if the choice of instrument is not one-sided. For adults, also, if your peers are encouraging you and they are involved in your motivation for picking up the violin, it is important that their motivations be sufficiently matched by your own affinity for the instrument.

2) What role do you wish the violin to play in your life?

You may have heard about research indicating that classical music can encourage people to think in new and different ways, allowing them to improve academically. (If you haven’t, start by googling the Mozart Effect.) Others may value the new or deepened friendships found in other musicians. Maybe you just want to learn violin music for beginners for a fun hobby. Still others may hope for talent worthy of a career as a professional. Knowing your goals can help your teacher point you to appropriate resources. In some cases, teachers may focus on certain age ranges or levels. If your situation doesn’t match, they may be able to direct to you a more appropriate colleague.

3) For children, how much parent or family involvement will there be?

This depends on the family, family situation, and age of the child. Younger children often require more guidance, while older children and teens may benefit from gradually increasing independence. In the Suzuki method, parents and siblings are encouraged to stay and watch the lessons. Parents who want to be more involved tend to like this model, and children can benefit greatly when parents can help them between lessons because they know exactly what went on in the lesson. In some cases, however, it may not be feasible for parents to be present. Some of my students are in an after-school program, for example. These students’ parents are often at work during the day, and unable to attend or find separate times to take students to lessons. This does not mean that they are not interested; they communicate on a regular basis and support their child at home. It does mean, however, that they do not have the benefit of seeing what goes on in the lesson. If your child is the one taking lessons, make sure you and your violin teacher are on the same page.

4) How much time will the student spend practicing the violin on a regular basis?

There is no set answer for this question, and the right amount of time varies from student to student with age, level, and goals. Appropriate practice times may vary from around 10-20 minutes a day for very young beginning students to two to three hours or more a day for very serious students. The constant in all cases should be that practice is regular, and that the musical or technical goals for the next lesson take a priority over the number of minutes the student practices. Depending on your teacher, he or she may have specific practice requirements, and will be able to tell if those requirements are being met. If you have practice limitations at home, letting your teacher know will allow him or her to either suggest solutions or adjust expectations to meet what you are able to do. Long-term expectations of all parties need to overlap reasonably in order to avoid frustration.

As you talk with your or your child’s teacher, you may find other areas that help you set the right goals. Do your best to keep the communication open, and if something is not going the way you expected it to go, say something! It may help you reach, adjust, or even discover new goals for your violin lessons.

CarolCarol Beth L. teaches viola and violin in San Francisco, CA. She currently plays viola in the San Francisco Civic Orchestra and has been teaching students since 2012. Learn more about Carol Beth here!

 

 

 

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Ready for Your Violin Lessons? Here’s What to Expect

8535222188_597eb58e0f_kIf playing the violin has always been a dream of yours, congratulations on taking that first step and signing up for private lessons! Here, Philadelphia, PA teacher Gina P. shares what to expect and how to prepare…

 

Congratulations! You (or your child) have decided that you’d like to begin playing the violin, and you are taking that desire seriously by booking some lessons. That’s great! You’re starting down a path that leads to the joys of making music, and you’ll get boosts in coordination, finger strength, creativity, self-confidence, self-discipline, and right-brain power along the way. So, let’s get started! Here’s what you can expect at your first violin lesson:

Getting to Know You

You’ll spend a few minutes getting to know your new teacher and sharing some information about yourself: What are your interests? Have you studied music before? What kind of music do you like? If you’re still in school, what grade are you in? Things like that. You want to start building a rapport with your teacher, and feel out whether you like working with this person. Having the teacher that’s the best fit for you makes a huge difference in how much you learn and how enjoyable your lessons are.

Next you’ll want to set some goals: what genre(s) of music are you interested in playing? Any pieces in particular? Can you read music now, and if not, would you like to be able to? I generally feel like progress takes whatever amount of time it takes (which can be sped up, depending on how often and how effectively you’re practicing), but it’s never a bad idea to make clear where you’d like to be headed.

Getting to Know Your Violin

Next, you’ll go over the names of the different parts of the violin and the bow, and talk about how to care for each. From scroll to end button and tip to heel, you’ll want to get familiar with your new instrument as well as its accoutrements, a cake of rosin (rubbed on the bow and used to increase friction between the bow hair and the violin strings) and a shoulder rest.

Playing the violin also includes learning how to take care of it: wiping the strings and the body down after each time you play, treating the delicate bow tip and hair with special care, and storing it properly in its case.

You might also learn about tuning the violin at your first lesson, or your teacher might take care of that in the beginning. Either way, you’ll discuss to which pitches each string should be tuned, and how to tell if a string is sharp (higher) or flat (lower) from its designated pitch.

Now you know the different parts of the violin, and how to take care of it. Next, you’ll want to pick it up and talk about how to hold it — where to situate it on your body, what kind of posture to adopt, and how to position and use your left hand to gently support the violin. It’s likely that you won’t start using the bow until a few lessons in, especially if you are a young student. But you want to make music! I’ve got good news for you: you can make sounds with the violin even without a bow, by plucking the strings with your right hand pointer finger. This is likely what you’ll do for a few lessons, learning as you go where to put down your left hand fingers to make different pitches.

Wrapping Up

That sounds like enough for one lesson! At the end of your first time together, you and your teacher can discuss what to work on for next time, and how to work on it, including how long and how often you should practice. Your teacher may use an exercise or song book in the first lesson, or in the subsequent lessons, or never, depending on whether you’d like to learn how to read music or not. You should write down whatever homework you have, and any important things you learned that you definitely want to remember later.

So there’s a general idea of what you can expect at your first violin lesson. Like learning anything new, it might be slow going in the beginning, but hang in there! You’ve started on an exciting and fulfilling musical journey that can provide you with a lifelong source of joy.

GinaP

Gina P. teaches music theory, piano, singing and violin in Philadelphia, PA. She received her Bachelor of Arts from New York University, and her Bachelor of Music, Vocal Performance from Temple University. She has been teaching students since 2011. Learn more about Gina here!

 

 

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5 Ways To Make Money Playing Violin

5798939739_7bffcf4d6f_bWhen you think about making money using your skills as a violin player, violin teacher jobs might be the first thing that comes to mind. But there are so many more options! Here are some ideas from Brooklyn, NY teacher Julie P...

 

The ability to play the violin is a very marketable skill. If you’re looking for violin teacher jobs, working at a school or teaching private lessons is a great way to earn money. But if you’d prefer to just play and perform, there are a number of opportunities open for you to make money with your violin playing.

1. Special Events

Special events such as weddings, funerals, bridal or baby showers, and church services are great places for violin players to provide music. Any of these events may call for a solo violinist, but often they call for string quartets or trios. The types of music requested are usually classical and light jazz/pop, but it really depends on the event. Churches often use violinists as part of larger orchestras for special services around Christmas and Easter, or as a solo instrument for weddings and funerals. Some funeral homes keep a database of musicians to contact when clients request special music.

2. Playing in Bands

If you play any music in the rock/pop/folk/bluegrass/jazz genres, you could make money playing violin in a band. Since the violin is often a featured instrument in these groups, playing in a band is great for people who enjoy performing as a soloist. Some groups provide written music, but often the violin player improvises their own parts, so it’s important to be able to improvise and play by ear. You can also work your way up to soloing with musicians such as Celine Dion, David Bowie, and the Rolling Stones.

3. Cruise Ship Entertainment

Many cruise ships hire string groups (often trios) to play mostly classical music in the dining room, as well as in places like the grand promenade on large cruise ships. If you have your own group and possess the proper repertoire, this can be a great opportunity to get performance experience while also seeing different parts of the world. Cruise ships pay a weekly salary and also provide room and board free of charge. Some cruise ship companies have websites that list opportunities for musicians, but often your best bet is to find an agency that books acts on cruise ships.

4. Musical Theater

Many musical theater productions call for violinists. If you enjoy this kind of music and don’t mind playing the same thing for multiple nights in a row, playing for a musical can be a great way to make money. The top level for this kind of playing is Broadway, where the pay is quite high. But opportunities exist in almost all major cities, as well as at high schools, colleges, and community theaters.

5. Symphony Orchestra

The violin sections of professional and semi-professional symphony orchestras are made up of some of the very best classical players in the world. Getting a job in one of these orchestras is very difficult and consists of passing at least one audition, if not more. The amount of money these orchestras pay their members depends on the number of services (rehearsals or performances) that make up their season, as well as the performance level of the orchestra itself. The top orchestras pay a full-time salary while the semi-pro groups often pay a set amount per service. Audition notices may be posted in union papers and some trade magazines/journals.

For any of the ways to make money playing violin listed above, you have to be a solid player as well as have good networking skills. Musicians are often recommended and hired by word of mouth, so it pays to know as many people as possible in your field. It’s also important to conduct yourself professionally in all work situations, and be easy to get along with. If people have a good time on the gig with you, chances are they’ll want to work with you again.

If one of these five ways to make money playing the violin appeals to you but you don’t have the necessary skills yet, private lessons are a great way to move toward your goal. Find the right teacher to help you achieve your goals today!

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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In-Person, Online, or DIY: What’s the Best Way to Learn Violin?

violin for kidsBefore you begin your violin lessons, you’ll need to make a decision about the type and location of the lessons. Here are some helpful tips from Brooklyn, NY teacher Julie P...

 

So you or your child wants to learn how to play the violin, but you’re not sure if you want to work with a teacher in-person, online, or maybe just go the DIY route? This article will help you think through the pros and cons of each option. By the end, you should have a better idea of which way is the best way for you to learn violin.

Teach Yourself Violin

Learning the violin on your own is definitely the cheapest option. There is no weekly or monthly payment for lessons and in addition to the thousands of tutorials available for sale, there are tons of free books and videos available. This option allows you to progress at your own pace and requires no regular schedule or commitment.

This option is best for someone who is self-motivated and who already has at least a basic musical background. If you’ve played guitar or some other stringed instrument before, you’ll probably be able to figure out how to tune the violin, and where to place your fingers on the strings for proper intonation. If you’ve never studied a musical instrument before, these tasks could be very challenging for you and you would probably do much better with a teacher. Either way, if you want to get serious about playing — or if you find yourself struggling or losing motivation — it’s time to commit to private lessons.

Online Violin Lessons

Online lessons are great because they let you study with anyone in the country from the comfort of your own home. Lessons can occur at any time of day because of the access to teachers from all different time zones. Online lessons are also very useful for when a teacher or student travels out of town, or if one of you feels sick and doesn’t want to pass the illness on to others, yet still feels well enough to take or teach the lesson.

However, there are a number of significant drawbacks to online violin lessons. While the sound quality is usually good enough to conduct the lesson, it’s definitely not as good as in-person lessons, and there can be connectivity issues as well. The teacher cannot play your violin to tune it or assess it for mechanical issues. Teachers also cannot assess and correct postural issues as easily, nor can they play along with you due to the way sound is transmitted through the online format.

Online lessons are best for people who live in remote areas where teachers aren’t readily available, and for people who need a higher calibre of teacher than is available in their area. This option could also be good for people who don’t have easy access to transportation.

In-Person Lessons

In-person lessons are the best way to learn the violin. If you have the ability to take violin lessons from a teacher in your area, try to make this option work first. A teacher who meets with you for lessons can help you purchase a quality violin, and then periodically assess your instrument for any mechanical issues. He or she can also show you how to tune and take care of your violin, which is very important to your progress as a violinist.

Teachers who meet with you in person will help you establish a healthy and effective playing posture, as well as quickly identify any bad habits that need to be corrected. In-person lessons do not suffer from any sound quality issues and teachers are able to easily play along with you to help you train your ear. Additionally, it’s easy for teachers to quickly write down practice reminders or exercises for you to take home.

 

As you think through the three options for violin lessons, consider what your musical goals are. If you want to learn how to play advanced classical violin music, you’re going to need a teacher to lead you through that process. If you want to play on a casual level just for fun, the online option might work out for you. If you’re really not sure what the best way to learn violin is for you, try taking a few lessons just to see how it goes. Regardless of how you decide to learn the violin, having the help of a teacher as you get started will greatly speed up your progress.

Ready to get started? Check out the great violin teachers in your area at TakeLessons.com!

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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How Often Should You Practice Violin to REALLY Improve?

347113197_39874d3ced_bNew to the violin? Not sure how often you should be practicing? Find out here with these violin practice tips from Brooklyn, NY teacher Julie P...

 

Whether you are just starting to learn the violin or have been playing for years, the question of how often to practice is always important to answer. This question is also tied to how long you should practice. The key factor to remember is that a lot of short practice sessions will be much more effective than one or two marathon sessions.

The most effective practice routines include five or more days of practice each week. However, recreational violin players will probably enjoy a more relaxed practice schedule of three to four days a week. Practicing one or two days a week is not very effective because the brain needs more frequent reinforcement in order to retain the concepts and establish muscle memory. That being said, I have taught a number of adults who rarely practiced and yet still enjoyed our weekly lessons as a time where we would play simple songs and duets together.

That being said, there are a number of other factors to consider when determining how much to practice: age, musical goals, musical commitments, non-musical commitments, and physical health.

Age

Since violins come in a range of sizes, children as young as two years old can start to learn the violin. Students of all ages need three or more practice sessions a week, especially when they are first starting out.

Here are some basic guidelines for the appropriate lengths of practice sessions. More than one session can be completed in a single day, or a single session can be broken down in multiple shorter sessions. All of these guidelines are subjective and are dependent on the maturity level and attention span of the player.

  • Ages 2-4: 5-10 minutes
  • Ages 5-7: 10-20 minutes
  • Ages 8-12: 20-30 minutes
  • Ages 13-Adult: 30+ minutes

Musical Goals

The more ambitious your musical goals are, the more often you should practice. If you simply want to enjoy playing music that you know and love, practicing three to four days a week should be sufficient and quite enjoyable. If you’d like to enter university as a music major, you should aim for five or more days most weeks, often completing multiple sessions per day.

Musical Commitments

The music you study in lessons is part of what you should practice. If you are part of a performing ensemble such as a school or community orchestra, you’ll also have that music to practice, which could add to the length of your practice sessions. If you have a recital or concert coming up, you’ll probably find that you need more practice time as the date approaches in order to adequately prepare both mentally and physically.

Non-Musical Commitments

All musicians have lives outside of music and the healthiest musicians respect and satisfy their non-musical needs and commitments. The best way to make sure that the demands of life don’t interfere with your musical growth is to establish a regular practice routine that doesn’t suffer from the occasional missed practice session.

Physical Health

It is possible to practice too much and end up with a performance-related injury. If this is the case, you’ll need to limit your practice sessions as you work with a physical therapist to pinpoint the postural causes of the injury. Often the physical therapist will have a specialized recommendation for how long and how often to practice. I have also worked with a few adult students who suffered from arthritis. In addition to limiting the length of their practice sessions, these adults found that there were certain days when the weather made it too painful for them to play the violin. I certainly understood this limitation and these students did a great job of not letting the interruptions interfere with their enjoyment of playing.

No one can determine how much you should practice the violin except for you, because you are the one who sets your own musical goals. Whatever these goals are, take the time to find a practice routine that supports your desired growth as a violinist. If you’re not sure what your goals are, a good teacher can help you think this through, and provide additional violin practice tips. If you don’t yet have a teacher, check out some of the great teachers at TakeLessons!

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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5 Ways to Prepare Your Home for Violin Lessons

5163524064_4fb75e5ae8_bHave you always wanted to learn to play a violin? In-home violin lessons are a convenient option for students of all ages. Here, Irvine, CA teacher Tasha S. shares her advice for preparing your playing space for your lessons…

 

From a teacher’s point of view, these are the elements I look for in a student’s home to make it suitable for in-home lessons.

1. Private, undisturbed space with decent acoustics.
2. Music stand that is sturdy and height adjustable.
3. Chair without arms for me to sit in.
4. Pencil for the student to write reminders in their music; pen and paper for me to write lesson notes down.
5. Metronome and tuner for the student’s use.

Lesson Space

My colleagues and I joke that if we go to our students’ houses, we take over a room for an hour, or however long the lesson is. It sounds silly, but it is quite true. We need a space that isn’t disturbed by other members of the household to ensure our student can focus for the duration of the lesson. When Dad is watching TV in the living room while I’m trying to teach a lesson there, it doesn’t work well for either party. If the room is carpeted and has lots of furniture soaking up the sound, it can be difficult to get a more realistic idea of the projection of the instrument, and nuances in phrasing and dynamics are easily missed. So a space that is preferably fairly open, room enough for two string players and their cases, and has hard floors is more ideal for acoustics. As this has come up before, I wanted to mention that it should not be the student’s own room for propriety and focus reasons.

Music Stand

I cannot tell you the number of times a collapsible music stand has fallen during a lesson, nor the number of holes poked into music while trying to write on it. If you bought one of those $20 skinny metal stands, I’m talking to you. Those stands are easily transported because they are lightweight, small, and come with a carrying case — but they aren’t realistic for lesson or serious practice use. The best stands have a solid desk, no holes or gaps, and have some heft to them to keep them steady when writing notes in music. Manhasset, Hamilton, and Peak are popular brands.

Seating

Since your teacher is likely teaching lessons before and after yours, he or she will need to sit down during the lesson. It is ideal to demonstrate something quick in a chair without arms. The arms on a chair inhibit a shorter string player’s technique, as well as someone who is tall but has long arms. A chair for you may be necessary, also, depending on your age. I usually have older students stand for the entirety of their lesson. Younger students often lack the stamina, even for a 30-minute lesson, so I request a similar chair or bench be provided so they can rest as needed. The only time we play while seated in a lesson is when we’re working on orchestral music or chamber music. This provides the opportunity to practice proper seated posture in those performance standards.

Pencil, Pen, and Paper

A mantra of mine is that all notes written in music are written in pencil, not pen. Pen is permanent, and fingerings, phrasings, and personal notes for each performance may change. Take care to use a separate eraser that will be less likely to shred the paper if massive erasing needs to happen. The pen and paper is for me. I take thorough notes of assignments and suggestions in the lesson, both for my benefit at the next lesson and your benefit during the practice week.

Metronome and Tuner

I always bring a Korg TM-50 metronome/tuner gadget with me in my own case, so why do you need one in the lesson? To ensure you understand how it works and how to get the settings necessary for the current repertoire. Often we discover in lessons that the gadget you have is too complicated, and it discourages using it to the point it goes untouched until the next lesson. Since a metronome has been nicknamed by several students of mine over the years as “the ticker off-er,” I don’t need any other reasons to make its use a challenge. I recommend the Korg and Intelli brands; there are also several user-friendly apps for iPhone, iPod, or iPad that are significantly cheaper. The only problem there becomes when the battery dies, or if it’s not your personal device and you don’t have access for some reason.

Bonus

One thing that always warms my heart is when I walk into my student’s home, and notice they’re already unpacked and warmed up, and are ready to start. I really appreciate that kind of forethought and preparation. Those lessons are generally much more productive than if the student and I unpack at the same time, and the student hasn’t had any time to get warmed up first. Just 10 minutes beforehand can make a big difference as you continue with lessons and learn to play the violin.

TashaS

Tasha S. teaches fiddle, music theory, and violin in Irvine, CA.  She received her Bachelor of Music and her Master of Music from Eastern Michigan University, and has been teaching since 2002. Learn more about Tasha S. here!

 

 

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How to Set Up a Violin Bridge | Violin Tips

How To Set Up A Violin Properly There’s one important – and slightly intimidating – hurdle that all violin students have in common. Whether you’re a complete beginner looking to make a cheap, factory-made instrument more grateful to play, or a more advanced student wanting to customize your “forever” instrument to suit you and you alone, the basic knowledge of how to set up a violin is worth grasping even if your interest doesn’t extend much beyond curiosity and a love of tinkering with things.

As you’re probably aware, the bridge is a major factor in determining the sound of your instrument, and learning how to set up a violin bridge is a worthwhile nugget of knowledge to acquire, as they have a habit of collapsing at inopportune moments — like just before an exam or recital, when you don’t have a chance of getting to the repair shop.

How does the bridge affect my violin’s sound?

Assuming the sound post is properly in place, your bridge will allow the strings to resonate properly, but only if it’s the correct height. Many factory-supplied bridges are not entirely fit for purpose, and either sit too high, or aren’t curved to fit comfortably to the body of your violin. If the bridge is too high, it will require additional pressure on the strings to make a sound, and if you’re younger or less strong, this can be extremely frustrating. The bridge should be safely held in place by the pressure of the string — never resort to glue, no matter how tempting. The excellent YouTube tutorial below, from Karacha.com, will give you a step-by-step guide for setting up your bridge on a new instrument that has been shipped “bridge down”, i.e. without the bridge in place, to keep the instrument safe during transit.

Can I really do this on my own, or should I get my teacher to do it?

If you’re not confident, or you suspect that adjustments are needed that are beyond your capabilities — such as the height of the bridge needing adjustment, or there being inadequate curvature to make it secure — seek your teacher’s advice, or go to a good violin maker or repairer for assistance. However, if everything is otherwise as it should be, it’s a worthwhile skill to acquire yourself. Bridges have a habit of falling over when you least expect — particularly when you are changing strings or re-tuning. This YouTube tutorial on how to set up a violin bridge after it has collapsed is handy to bookmark for reassurance when you hear that alarming “snap” when tuning — it really isn’t the end of the world!

Is that it? Is there anything else I need to do?

Like all instruments, your violin will serve you well if you look after it. Most important in terms of maintenance is keeping your violin at a constant humidity to prevent cracks and other deterioration. An in-case humidifier is a smart purchase as it will prevent the need for expensive repairs.

It’s easy to become quite the repair geek as you find out more and more about your instrument and how it works, and it’s great fun too — talk to your teacher about violin repair and maintenance, and you’ll find yourself acquiring skills and knowledge beyond scales and double-stopping!

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Violin Playing Tips: Surviving Your First Audition

Violin Audition TipsLearning to play in front of an audience can be tough, but playing for an audition can be one of the most nerve-wracking experiences, especially your first time around. There are many violin playing tips to help you learn how to play, and how to listen to others in the orchestra, but many of those tips do not apply to an audition. No matter how good you are, nerves can be a huge factor.

Unlike a concert where the audience is inclined to praise you because they are there to enjoy the music, an audition involves a panel that is there specifically to judge your skills. Figuring out how to play under these circumstances is an individual experience, but there are a few universal violin playing tips that can lessen the apprehension and tension of an audition.

Early Preparation

First, take the time to determine exactly what is required of you. You may be asked to demonstrate specific techniques, or play a particular piece. If you know that you want to get into a certain school or class level, take the initiative now to go over this information.

As you practice leading up to the audition, make sure to spend some time actually visualizing your performance. Of course, the actual experience will be different, but placing yourself in that frame of mind will help you when the time comes. Once you have set up the scenario in your mind, start playing.

Setting Up

Some auditions require you memorize your music, others allow you to use a music stand, and you may be asked to play standing up or sitting down. Before you play, make sure you’re both physically and mentally prepared.

Make sure you’re in a comfortable position, especially if you have to stand. Take several deep breaths, fully inhaling and exhaling the air. You can do this with your eyes open or closed, but either way make sure you are focused only on your breathing. This sets up your mind, forcing you to pay attention to your body.

Pay attention to your shoulders, also. If you feel them getting tense, take a couple of extra breaths and relax. The more relaxed you are, the less nervous you will be. This is particularly important for your bow arm, because if it is tense, you can lose mobility and range of volume. Just like one of the first violin playing tips you learn, your bow hand should be remain relaxed.

During the Audition

As you begin your audition, return to what you visualized during your practice sessions. Of course, most of the room and people will look different than you had visualized, but you are turning to your mind’s eye. By focusing on something that is familiar, your body will react instinctively, and you’ll be more likely to play like you did while practicing.

Keep your posture as steady as possible so that your arms are able to move as needed. You left hand needs to be able to move freely, which it cannot do if you start to slump in the middle of the song. Shifting your right leg can interfere with your bow hand. Of course, you don’t want to be completely stiff, as that will cause discomfort, but do be aware of what your arms and back need.

Again, keep your shoulders relaxed. During a long rest or break, take the time to make sure your shoulders are not tensing up. The more relaxed your shoulders, the better your bowing and fingering will be.

Every audition is different, and it can be difficult to fully prepare for playing the violin knowing that you are being assessed. No one set of violin playing tips will work for everyone, particularly when you are trying to get into the best class or school. The most important thing is not to let the final results discourage you too much. Even if you don’t do as well as you wanted, learning from the experience will improve your performances in the future. Regardless of the result, treat every audition as a way to improve. Good luck!

 

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