Have 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
Photo by sean dreilinger