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Learning to Play the Violin

By Jon, published on 22/03/2018 We Love Prof - AU > Music > Violin > Learn How to Play the Violin

Many of us dream of having the ability to play a musical instrument.

We usually find ourselves inspired by the orchestras on the BBC Proms, or even the beauty of the musical instruments themselves as we yearn to experience the euphoria of being a part of such a wonderful sound.

Watching violinists can be a mesmerising experience, whether they’re playing a solo or as part of an ensemble. Watching every player in the orchestra move their bow simultaneously creates an air of mystery… how do they know?

The very sound of the violin can be soothing enough to send you to sleep, joyful enough to bring a smile to your face, solemn enough to tell you a heart-breaking tale, and ominous enough to make you shudder.

‘A sandwich and a cup of coffee, and then off to violin-land, where all is sweetness and delicacy and harmony’ – Sherlock Holmes, The Red-Headed League

Experiencing the joys of an instrument as beautiful as the violin doesn’t have to be limited to the theatre or the radio – you too can learn to master the smallest member of the string family by enlisting the help of violin teachers near me!

Learning how to play violin demands motivation and dedication, as you attend regular lessons with a professional violin teacher which are tailored to your learning needs and objectives. You will also be expected to develop your new skills and musicianship with plenty of practice of your pieces and scales outside of lessons as part of your music instruction.

Learning to play a musical instrument is about far more than playing the right notes in the right places.

If you’re going to truly understand the workings of the violin and the music you’re reading, there are lots of skills you will have to learn along the way.

By receiving musical training from an expert violinist, you will be introduced to musical theory (including how to read music), learn how to take care of your violin, using different musical styles and even how to play in an ensemble.

So, if you’ve been thinking about taking up a string instrument, what are you waiting for? Superprof has loads of tips for beginner violinists!

Violin Lessons for Beginners

Before you meet with your violin instructor for the first time, you’ll need to find yourself a violin to play.

It can be difficult for complete beginners to know what they’re looking for when on the hunt for an instrument, but you’ll find that there are plenty of people in music shops who are more than happy to lend a hand.

In the digital age, it can be all too tempting to head to the internet for advice on buying or renting your first violin, however, it is highly recommended that you approach a music specialist for guidance.

Approaching a music specialist will give you the best chance of walking away with the right size violin for you, as well as a basic knowledge of how to care for your new instrument.

Get specialist advice before you take home your first violin Learning to play the violin involves learning about the instrument itself ¦ source: Pixabay – webandi

Finding a violin teacher can prove difficult, especially if you don’t know anyone else who plays violin and may be able to put you in contact with a teacher.

Finding the right violin tutor for you is all about looking in the right places. Private music teachers tend to rely on word of mouth, whereas those offering group lessons tend to opt for online advertising.

So, once you’ve found a teacher, what can you expect?

The format of your violin lessons will vary depending on your level of musical knowledge.

Sessions usually begin with warm-up exercises (such as scales and arpeggios) before you begin focussing on tunes and pieces.

Music lessons are usually taught with the intention of preparing students for ABRSM or Trinity Guildhall examinations. These exams assess your level of proficiency in playing a given instrument as well as your musicality (by assessing your musical ear and aural abilities with vocal tests).

The complexity of each music exam is rated according to a scale of eight grades, where grade 1 is beginner level and grade 8 is expert.

You can expect lesson content to follow the syllabus for the grade you’re working towards. However, violin lessons are about far more than passing exams!

In addition to working on your violin exercises and exam pieces, complete beginners can expect to be introduced to music theory and improving their tone.

Your first few sessions with your violin teacher will centre around learning how to play your first notes on the violin as well as learning how they look on the stave.

But what’s a ‘stave’?

In music, the stave is the five lines which indicate the pitch of the notes.

This is just one item of vocabulary among hundreds of others which you will learn during your violin lessons – but don’t let this overwhelm you.

Learning to read and play music takes time and plenty of patience. The more you use musical terminology, the sooner you will feel confident using it.

How to Find Your Ideal Violin Teacher

If you’re not involved in a musical community or you don’t know anyone already taking music lessons, it can be difficult to know where to begin your quest for a good violin teacher.

Finding music teachers is about much more than contacting those with the expertise to teach an instrument.

Your violin teacher should be able to accommodate you as a student. This means taking your needs and goals into account, and adapting private lessons accordingly.

For instance, it is particularly important that beginner musicians are taught by someone with plenty of patience as well as enthusiasm.

Developping a relationship of student between teacher and student will make for productive lessons Choosing the right teacher is crucial to the success of violin tuition ¦ source: Visualhunt – nathanrussell

These qualities are essential to anyone learning an instrument from scratch because of the common frustrations that arise trying to play an instrument properly for the first time.

And it’s not just your level which needs to be taken into account when looking for a violin teacher; other factors such as your age, location and budget will also play a part.

So, where’s the best place to look for your ideal teacher?

When it comes to looking for contact details of violin teachers, there are many avenues to explore.

Depending on your age and current situation, your most obvious port of call may differ from other budding violinists.

For instance, if you’re the parent of a young child, you can always rely on word-of-mouth by asking for recommendations from other parents at the school gates. Even if you don’t get any advice on local violin teachers specifically, you can always contact teachers of other instruments who will likely be able to put you in touch with a violinist.

If asking around the community yields little results, you can always consult the local classifieds.

This means looking in the advertisement sections of your local newspapers and magazines or using a buy-and-sell app such as Gumtree to find violin teachers offering their services.

Advertisements for music teachers usually include a small amount of information about where they are based as well as the services they provide in addition to contact details.

If you’re unsure about this method, or would prefer to know more about teachers before you contact them, there is always the wonder of the World Wide Web.

Nowadays, it’s possible to do almost anything with the help of the internet, and finding talented music instructors is no exception!

A simple Google search of ‘violin teacher near me’ will give you a range of links including teachers’ websites, tutor platforms (such as Superprof) and music schools in your area. These websites will contain far more detail about the experience and services offered by local music teachers, so you can create a shortlist before you pick up the phone.

Tutoring is particularly useful if you’re looking for specific qualities in your instructor as each teacher creates their own profile detailing their experience, qualifications, and teaching style.

Superprof, for example, allows users to filter search results according to the levels taught and the response time of the tutor themselves!

Whoever your ideal violin teacher may be and wherever you may find them, they should first and foremost motivate you to persevere with your learning and aim higher. If you ever find that you have outgrown your teacher, or you want to take your learning in a new direction, there are always plenty of other options available!

How Much Do Violin Lessons Cost?

Musical instrument lessons have a reputation for being pricey.

However, as offers for musical tuition increase, learning to play an instrument is becoming more accessible.

Of course, as with any service, prices for music lessons varies according to a range of factors. Everything from the student’s goals to the hometown of the teacher can have a bearing on hourly rates.

Interestingly, the instrument the student is learning is also a factor affecting variation in prices for tuition.

So, how expensive are violin lessons in comparison to other instruments?

Let’s have a look at the average hourly rates for instruction in several instruments as advertised on Superprof:

InstrumentAverage price per hour
Trumpet£31.40
Piano£24.40
Violin£23.86
Guitar£23.36
Drums£21.36

This table shows that when these five types of instrumental lessons are ranked from most to least expensive, violin lessons are right in the middle.

Of course, this data only represents the prices advertised on Superprof, and prices may vary from the Superprof average of £23.86 per hour – but what you can take away from this table is that regardless of where you choose to look for your ideal violin teacher, you can rest assured that learning the violin will be no more expensive than learning any other instrument at the same level.

Paying for a good teacher means that you will be getting quality teaching for your money Music lessons are an investment in yourself or your children ¦ source: Visualhunt – .v1ctor Casale.

What you may find is that violin teachers’ rates vary depending on where they’re based.

Let’s see how the average hourly cost of violin tuition varies according to location:

CityAverage price per hour
London£32
Manchester£23
Bristol£23
Glasgow£18

This level of price varies might suggest a North-South or even England-Scotland divide, but what really sticks out is the London average, which is almost 40% higher than prices in Manchester and Bristol!

We can assume that the high average hourly rate of £32 in London is down to the higher concentration of people as well as the attraction of London to trained professional musicians who may offer lessons in addition to their orchestral work, for instance.

Let’s look at an example of a typical London-based violin teacher. Gwyneth is a student at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, and charges £25 per hour for her violin lessons.

Despite her status as a student, Gwyneth can justify her hourly rate because of her level of expertise and the fact that she has a scholarship for a prestigious music school.

By looking more closely, it is easy to see that those who charge over £30 per hour are usually seasoned professionals. One example is Venetia, who charges £35 per hour and also attended the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, graduating with a first-class degree. In addition, she also has experience in leading workshops and orchestras.

So, living in a bustling city can make it far easier to find a violin teacher, but you may find yourself paying more for your tuition.

Alternatively, you can always learn to play the violin online!

If you’re struggling to find a suitable teacher in your local area, finding a violinist who can instruct you via a webcam connection (or programme such as Skype) is a viable option.

The average price for online violin lessons on Superprof is £25 per hour, but prices range from £9 to £46 per hour – so you’ll be spoilt for choice!

Another advantage to taking violin lessons online is that location is not an obstacle to your learning (unless, of course, your teacher is in a different time zone!), so you don’t have to worry about the logistics of getting to your lessons.

When it comes to finding the ideal violin teacher for you, the most important thing is to establish your learning objectives. Setting out your goals as a new violinist will help you to make sure that the teacher you choose is capable of helping you fulfil them.

Important Equipment for Learning Violin

Taking up any new hobby generally means acquiring the equipment that goes with it – and when it comes to learning a musical instrument, it may surprise you to know that you need many more items than the instrument itself!

What equipment do you need to play violin?

It’s not hard to guess the first answer to this question: you’re going to need a violin.

Getting your first violin isn’t as simple as you may imagine. There are several things to consider before you take your first violin home.

For instance, would you prefer to rent or buy your violin?

Most music shops offer deals where customers can rent a brand-new instrument for a monthly fee, where the instrument is available to purchase for a reduced price after several months.

This is a brilliant scheme for those who want to try out a new instrument without having to commit to it straight away.

If you’re certain about learning to play the violin, there’s nothing stopping you from buying straight away!

So, what should you expect when buying your first violin?

Finding your violin isn’t as simple as walking into a music shop and taking one off the shelf; your violin has to be matched to you.

Violins usually come in six different sizes, ranging from sixteenth size (1/16) to full size (4/4), which are matched to players based on the length of their arms – this is to ensure that players can comfortably reach the notes on the fingerboard.

For violins to be correctly fitted, customers are asked to hold the violin as if they were playing and extend their palm toward the violin’s scroll. If the scroll is comfortably held in the palm of the hand, the violin is the right fit for the player.

Finding the right size violin is especially important for young players The scroll of the violin is the spiral shape at the end of the violin’s neck ¦ source: Visualhunt – Photo Phiend

Once you have successfully been matched to your violin, there are several other items which are considered essential to violinists from day one.

For instance, musical instruments need to be looked after – it’s the owner’s responsibility to make sure that their violin is properly maintained.

There are several steps to good violin maintenance, but here are the main things violinists should do to ensure that their instrument is taken care of:

  • Rosin: Rosin is a type of hard tree sap which comes in block form which is gently rubbed along the hairs of the violin bow. Its purpose is to provide the bow with the necessary grip on the violin’s strings to make a sound when it is drawn over them. Players should apply rosin to their violin bow before every other time the violin is played.
  • Cleaning cloth: It is recommended that violinists wipe down their instruments with a lint-free cloth after every practice. This helps to remove excess rosin, oil from the hands and any dust which may be building up on the instrument.
  • Bow adjustment: This is one of the first things you will learn about playing the violin. Before every lesson and practice session, you need to tighten the hair of your violin bow using the screw on the end. Once you have finished playing, the hair should be loosened again before the violin is returned to its case.

These three points are the fundamental habits every new violinist is expected to take on to ensure that their instrument is well cared-for and in the best possible condition for performing.

Violin Practice: An Essential Part of Learning to Play the Violin

We’ve all heard the words ‘practice makes perfect’ – and this is absolutely the case for learning to play a musical instrument.

Regular, comprehensive practice with a clear objective is the key to success in your music education as a violinist.

But where do you start as a beginner?

Your violin teacher will advise you on every aspect of your practice sessions including how often you should be practicing violin and how long each practice session should last for, as well as the amount of time you should be spending on each aspect of your violin practice.

When it comes to making steady progress, getting into a good routine with your violin practice will not only reinforce what you are taught in your lessons, but will also help you to progress as a musician (reading music fluently, improving your tone, etc.).

At the end of each session with your violin teacher, you will be set ‘homework’ for the week. This homework will usually be made up of three parts:

  1. Scales & Arpeggios
  2. Exercises
  3. Pieces

Scales and arpeggios are sets of musical notes which musicians are expected to be able to recite from memory.

Each scale and arpeggio corresponds to a musical key and mode. This means that a different set of notes will be played depending on the starting note. For instance, a C-major scale will not contain any sharp or flat notes, whereas a G-major scale will contain an F-sharp instead of an F-natural.

Scales and arpeggios are not only useful for warming up for practice. They are also great for developing your muscle memory and playing them will set you up for playing runs in your pieces by helping with your sight-reading.

You will often find that your teacher prescribes you specific exercises to practice at home. These exercises are usually aimed at strengthening certain muscles in your hands, developing muscle memory and finding your way around tricky notes.

For example, your teacher may recommend a specific book of violin exercises, or they may choose a section of a piece you find tricky and tell you to practice playing it differently.

Your set pieces will take up most of your attention during practice. Whether you’re simply getting used to reading notes from a piece of music or preparing for a music exam, practicing playing your pieces will give you a sense of achievement as a violinist, regardless of the level of your repertoire.

Whether it’s Twinkle Twinkle Little Star or a Paganini violin concerto, knowing your pieces inside out will build your relationship with your violin whilst helping you master your playing technique as you perfect your bowing, vibrato and note placement.

So, if you’re serious about getting to know the baby of the string family and learning to perform, doing the right kind of practice for the right amount of time will stand you in good stead to develop as a musician.

Who knows? You could be leading your own philharmonic symphony orchestra one day…

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