Violins: Buying, Selling, and Getting Your Money's Worth

Buying your first violin is a big decision. Although it might not involve as much money, it’s something like buying your first house or car. You want something suitable to your needs. Not too cheap, not too expensive. If you are looking for a beginner violin, here are some tips to help you find the perfect one.

How much is enough?
That’s the question I get asked the most when new students are realizing just how expensive violins can get. Beginner violin outfits will range from $200-$500. Does the more expensive violin actually sound better? Will I progress faster? What about new versus used violins?


Shopping for beginner violins can be similar to shopping for a car. If you buy a used car, you generally get it for cheaper than a new one since you’re accepting dings, scratches, and maybe other unknown problems. With violins, if you buy a used beginner violin (from a reputable source, not Ebay or the thrift store) the first thing you’ll want to do is change the strings (around $40 plus installation) and get the bow re-haired ($40 to $75). When you take those into account, the used violin might not be cheaper.


Side note: I do have a student who found a very nice violin at a thrift store for $30. Finding jewels like that does happen (never to me!) but it is rare. More often, I see worthless violins at antique stores and thrift shops with outrageous price tags. These violins are usually useful only as wall decorations, so be wary!


If you are buying a new violin from a dealer or an online company, how much money is enough? Back to the car analogy. If you are shopping for a new car you have a couple options. You can buy a budget car that gets the job done just fine. But you might only make it to 60,000 miles before problems start creeping up and you’re ready for another car. Or you could pay a little more and get a car that will get you past 100,000 miles so you won’t have to worry about buying another car anytime soon.


Good quality “budget” violins will get the job done but you will grow out of them quicker. If you buy a higher end beginner violin or an intermediate violin ($400-$1000) you won’t have to worry about upgrading as soon. Budget violin outfits come with budget bows. Bows on the lower end of the scale can be very heavy or have an annoying wobble when you draw the bow on the string.


You will also be able to do more with a better quality violin. Some of the upgrades you might get are better tuning pegs for easier tuning, a lighter bow or a more stable bow, and better sound production. Learning to produce a good tone on a violin is possibly one of the hardest tasks beginning violinists must overcome. Having good equipment makes it so much easier.

What’s Your Mission?
Another thing to consider is what you are buying the violin for. If you want to see if you like the violin, then get the budget version or rent. If you will be playing in church or performing, go for something a little nicer. Cheap violins will not project as well when performing. With a better violin, you’ll sound better without having to work so hard. Are you buying a full size violin for a child? Will the child take this violin through high school, orchestra rehearsals, auditions, and the rest of their adult life? Pay a little more. If you’re going on a long road trip, you’d want them to have a good, reliable car, right? You can’t win Nascar races with run-of-the-mill budget cars.

Getting Your Money's Worth
Another question I’m frequently asked is, “If I sell my violin, will I be able to get what I paid for it?” That’s a very hard question to answer since it depends on what you paid for it, what condition it’s in, where you live, and what the market is like in your area. Keep in mind, beginner violins are not one-of-a-kind Ferraris. They’re more like a basic, stock, Ford Focus. Companies like Shar will be turning out beginner violins until the end of time so if you want to sell your violin, you’ll have to take that into consideration. You wouldn’t buy a new car, put 5,000 miles on it and expect to get exactly what you paid for it. Why? Because your potential buyer could go to the dealer and buy a new car for the same price.

Trade-In Policies
This is the best way to insure you’ll get something out of your old violin. Violin shops often have trade-in policies. If you buy a violin from them and ;ater want to upgrade to a better violin, they will give you money back on your old violin as long as the old violin and the new violin come from their store. Ask your local dealer what their trade-in policy is.

Until you start paying big bucks, violins aren’t really investments. If you take good care of them, they’ll at least hold their value but you probably won’t get more for a beginner violin than what you paid for it. Like other hobbies and activities you do for fun, it’s about the amount of enjoyment you get out of the violin, not how much it will be worth in ten years.

Affording the Better Violin
So you want the better violin, but how do you afford it? Ask your music store what their financing options are. Southwest Strings has a 0% financing policy and you never know what other options companies have until you ask.

Theory Lesson 3: Minor Scales

Minor scales are a little more complex than major scales because minor comes in three flavors: natural, harmonic, and melodic. Before we get to that, let’s figure out the half steps and whole steps in a minor scale.

We’ll start with the A minor scale which is C major’s relative minor key.  Learn how to figure out the relative minor key in Lesson 2.  Can you determine the order of half steps and whole steps between each note?

a-minor-scale-treble-clef.png

 

Your answer is: Whole Half Whole Whole Half Whole Whole

This is a natural minor scale. It’s in it’s “natural” state. Nothing has been changed or altered. Try playing it. It sounds a little strange doesn’t it? Remember how the seventh scale degree or leading tone should lead to tonic? When you have a whole step between the leading tone and tonic (scale degrees 7 and 8) it doesn’t really sound like the leading tone is leading anywhere. What if we raised that seventh scale degree to a G# so that it’s a half step between 7 and 8.

Our scale would look like this.

a-harmonic-minor-scale-on-treble-clef.png

 

This sounds a lot more “right” doesn’t it? That’s because the G# really leads to the A. When you raise the seventh scale degree in a minor key you get a harmonic minor scale. Most music written in minor keys has the seventh scale degree raised like in this scale.

The only problem with the harmonic minor scale is that it creates an awkward leap between the sixth and seventh scales degrees. Now, F and G# are three half steps away from each other! Since we are raising scale degrees, let’s just go ahead and raise that sixth scale degree too. That makes the big leap a little less big.

Now we have this:

a-melodic-minor-scale-on-treble-clef.png

 

That’s our melodic minor scale. Well, it’s half of our melodic minor scale. Natural and harmonic minor scales are the same ascending and descending but with melodic minor scales, we change things up on the way down. In a melodic minor scale you raise the sixth and seventh scale degrees on the way up and you naturalize them on the way down.

You might think that rule was created to torture music students but it does make sense. Why did we raise the seventh scale degree to begin with? Because we wanted it to “lead” to tonic. If we are descending and going away from tonic, there’s no need to have it raised. We practice melodic minor scales because that’s what we’ll see in most music written in minor. If we are ascending towards the tonic, the sixth and seventh scale degrees will be raised. If we’re descending, they will be natural. Here’s your complete melodic minor scale.

A_Minor_Scale_Melodic complete.PNG

 

Now that you know about scales we’ll move onto intervals how they can make a big difference in your violin playing!

Happy (scale) Practicing!

Theory Lesson 2: Major and Minor Scales and Key Signatures

If would be pretty boring we played all music in the same key. But we can rearrange where the half steps are in a scale and get 12 different major keys. (Do you know how many half steps there are in a scale? That’s right, 12!) A major key can be built off of every half step in a scale.

C   D♭  D   E♭  E   F   F#   G   A♭  A   B♭  B  

You might be wondering why I sharped some notes and made others flat. That’s because you will play something in B♭ a lot more than you will play something in the key of A#. Look at the piano, B♭ and A# are the same note. That means they are enharmonic equivalents: the same note written two different ways.

You know what key you are playing in based on the key signature at the beginning of the music.

Screenshot-2017-11-7 what is a key signature - Google Search.png


What’s up with all those sharps and flats? They look like they are completely random but they always occur in a certain order. If you have one sharp, it will always be F#. If you have two sharps they will always be F# and C#. The order goes like this:

F# C# G# D# A# E# B#

Use the mnemonic “Fat Cats Go Down Allies Eating Birds” to help you remember the order.

For flats, the order is the reverse of what it is for sharps.

B♭ E♭ A♭ D♭ G♭ C♭ F♭

Remember “Bead Go Catch Fish” for flats.

Unfortunately, if you have one sharp, it doesn’t mean you are in the key of F#. But it’s not to difficult to figure out what key you are in. For major keys with sharps, locate the last sharp that is written and go up a half step. That’s your key! So if you have one sharp, then F# is your last and only sharp. Go up a half step=G=key of G major. What if you have four sharps? You know the order will be F# C# G# D#. What’s the last sharp? D#. Now go up a half step to get E major.

For flats, it’s a little different. Find the second to last flat in your key signature and that’s what key you are in. You don’t have to worry about going up half steps. So if you have three flats (B♭ E♭ A♭) The second to last flat is E so you are in the key of E♭ . What if you only have one flat? For now just remember one flat is the Key of F. You’ll understand why when we learn about intervals.

These two tricks work for major keys. We’ll talk about minor keys later.

Major Scales

How do major scales work? Well it all depends on the arrangement of whole and half steps. Start with C major. Can you write half or whole in between each note?

Screenshot-2017-11-7 c major scale whole and half steps at DuckDuckGo.png

 

This is the order you get. Whole Whole Half Whole Whole Whole Half.

That’s the order of half and whole steps for all major scales which is why major scales sound the same. They have the same relationship between the notes. Try this exercise. Print out some blank sheet music. Notate an E (the first line on the treble staff). Without looking at a scale book and without thinking about your key signature for E, begin writing the scale just by the order of whole and half steps. Now compare your scale to an E major scale in your scale book. If you really  want to give yourself a workout, try doing this for the more complicated scales like A#.

You can number each note in your scale. We call these scale degrees. The numbers above the notes are the scale degrees.  Each note in a scale also has a name which are written below the note in the following picture.

Screenshot-2017-11-7 scale with scale degrees - Google Search.png

Don't worry about remembering the name for each scale degree. The most important ones are tonic, dominant, and the leading tone. Scale degrees and scale names are the same for major and minor keys.

Why do we call the seventh scale degree a leading tone? Because it wants to lead to tonic again. Try playing a scale and stop on the leading tone. You’ll be itching to play the tonic to feel complete. (Legend has it Mozart’s father would play scales in the morning ending on the leading tone. Young Mozart would jump out of bed, run down stairs, and play the tonic. Brilliant idea to get a prodigy up in the morning.)

Minor Key Signatures

You’ve probably recognized that some music sounds happy while other music sounds sad. For the most basic explanation Major=happy and Minor=sad.

For every major key, there is also a minor key that shares the same key signature. So there are 12 minor keys. How do you know if something is major or minor based on the key signature? It’s not always obvious at first since one key signature can have two possible keys (the major key and the minor key). A minor key that shares the same key signature as a major key is called a relative minor.

Screenshot-2017-11-6 d major - Google Search.png

Let’s say you have this key signature to the right.

 You’ve played through the song and it sounds sad. Now figure out what minor key you are in. First, determine what the major key would be? Remember for sharps you look at the last sharp written an go up a half step. So we are in the key of D major if we were in major. To determine the relative minor key, go backwards three half steps. I imagine a piano keyboard in my mind to help me count backwards. Three half steps back from D is B so you are in the key of B minor. Going back three half steps works for both sharp and flat keys. To sum it up, to determine a relative minor key determine the major key and go back three half steps to determine what the relative minor key is.

Screenshot-2017-11-6 e major - Google Search.png

Before we move on to what makes up a minor scale, memorize your key signatures. If you see this key signature to the right you want to know immediately it’s E major. Then test yourself on what the relative minor key would be. While it’s important to remember all your key signatures, focus on the ones you will be playing in the most. For now that’s 0-4 sharps or flats. Answers below.

key_signatures_chart.gif

Next we'll talk more about minor scales.

Happy Practicing!

    

 

Theory Lesson 1: Half Steps, Whole Steps, and Why They Are Important for the Violin

Most beginners' biggest fear about the violin is knowing where to put their fingers. While there are no frets, keys, or markers of any kind on a fingerboard, that doesn’t mean we aren’t using a framework to help us. That framework is built out of…you guessed it, half steps and whole steps.

What is a half step and whole step? First, let’s start with intervals which are measured distances between one note and another note. These distances are measured using half steps and whole steps. A half step is the smallest distance between one note and the next. On the violin, a half step is when your fingers are basically touching each other. A whole step is two half steps.


Half and whole steps are a lot easier to see on the piano. A piano keyboard is made up of white and black keys.

piano-keyboard-diagram.gif

 

Do you see how there is a repetition of 2 black keys then 3 black keys? This pattern continues all the way up and down the keyboard. A half step is the distance from a white key to the black key that touches it. If you move to the right, the closest black key is a sharp. If you move to the left, the closest black key is a flat. Take the note D. If you move up a half step, you’ve reached D#. If you move down (left) a half step you have D flat. On the violin, moving up towards your bridge makes a note sharp and moving back towards your scroll makes it flat. On the piano, if you go from one black key to its nearest white key, you are also traveling a half step. D# to E is a half step.

If you study the keyboard you’ll notice there are two instances where white keys are touching each other with no black key in between them. These two instances occur between B and C and between E and F. That’s because B and C and E and F are half steps apart from each other respectively. If you go up a half step from B you get C (not B#). Other than these two instances, if you travel from one note to the next note in the musical alphabet you are traveling a whole step. For instance, G to A is a whole step (you’ve can also see how you’ve traveled two half steps: G to G# and G# to A).

So how does this help your violin playing? Two ways. Half steps and whole steps make up your invisible framework on your fingerboard and they also help with intonation. All intervals can be associated with certain songs to help you identify them. A half step sounds like the beginning of the theme song from Jaws (or the last movement from Dvorak's Symphony No. 9).

Choose any note on the violin and play “Jaws” using one note and a half step above that note. Your fingers should really be touching. Almost all beginners have trouble with their half steps being too far apart. Try playing “Jaws” again but this time scoot your half step finger up a little from the first. It doesn’t quite sound right, does it?

C Major Fingering Chart for Violin

Now let’s talk about how half steps and whole steps make up your invisible frame work. Your half steps and whole steps will change depending on what key you are in. Let’s say you’re playing in the Key of C. There are no sharps or flats in the Key of C so you’re only half steps will be between B and C and between E and F (remember the piano?). Here’s what the Key of C looks like on a violin in first position.

 

You can see the half steps, they’re the notes that are touching each other. You see how there are fewer half steps than whole steps. In fact there is usually only one pair of half steps for each string (if you’re staying in first position). Whatever key you are playing in, don’t worry about the whole steps, concentrate on remembering where the half steps are. This is how you build up your framework.

If I’m playing in the Key of C, all I have to remember is where the half steps are for each string. My framework looks something like this.

G string= B and C (2 and 3)
D string= E and F (1 and 2)
A string= B and C (1 and 2)
E string= No half steps (but your F is lower than your other first fingers since it is natural (not sharp or flat)

So when you are playing in the Key of C, I think 2 and 3, 1 and 2, 1 and 2, “low” 1 for each of the strings. This way you don’t have to think, “Is that second finger high or low?”

As your fingers develop more and more muscle memory, you don’t necessarily have to think about these numbers, your fingers will naturally just do it. But until then, practice thinking in terms of half steps.

Now you try. Let’s say we’re in the Key of G which has one sharp, F#. Your violin fingerboard is going to look almost the exact same except all of your F’s are going to move up one half step. What is your framework going to look like now? What are the numbers you are going to remember for each string? Think about it. I’ll give you the answer after this little video that is completely unrelated.

Okay. Here’s the answer for your half steps in the Key of G

Screenshot-2017-11-5 b3c9c739174d124e1bfdd1694c83d500--violin-fingering-chart-violin-music-sheets jpg (JPEG Image, 472 × 43[...](1).png

G string= 2 and 3 (B and C)
D string= 2 and 3 (F# and G)
A string= 1 and 2  (B and C)
E string= 1 and 2 (F# and G)

 

Try playing through a G scale starting at your open G string and going to your high G on the E string. Play it as fast as you can. You’re not thinking about notes, sharps, “high” 2s or “low” 2s. All you are thinking is 2 and 3, 2 and 3, 1 and 2, 1 and 2. Make those half steps fingers on each string super tight.

Can you play through the scale faster than you could if you were just thinking note to note? Keep working on it, just thinking about the half steps. The more you do it, the quicker it gets!

So embrace your half steps! They are the tiny building blocks for your left hand technique. Later we'll discuss  using half steps to help you play notes that span big leaps across the fingerboard, but first let’s talk a little about key signatures and scales.

Happy practicing!

How To Play Music Faster

Learn to play faster and sound better!

Learn to play faster and sound better!

“How do I play faster?” That’s one of the questions I am asked the most. Even if students don’t ask it, I know they’re thinking it based on the tempo of their performances. When students ask about playing faster, I sometimes say, “Just move everything faster.” That’s not the answer they’re looking for because they don’t want to know how to play faster. What they really mean to ask is, “How can I play faster and actually sound good?”


Ahh. There’s the rub. What is it that makes us sound bad when we play fast? There are lots of potential problems but I boil it down to two: our left hand fingers aren’t hitting the right notes and our bow and left hand fingers aren’t coordinated.

Left Hand
Let’s tackle the first problem. You’re fingers aren’t hitting the right notes, a.k.a. you’re not playing in tune. Even if you have finger tapes, playing in tune involves more than just putting your finger down. There are two must-do’s to playing in tune.


1. You must hear the note before you play it. If you can’t hear the note before you play it, how do you know if it’s in tune? Practice playing a note then singing the next note before you play it. That’s a big eye-opener. I know what you’re thinking. “That means I have to play SLOW!” Yes. I’m getting there. You know it’s coming.


2. You must relax. You have to be able to quickly adjust your finger if it is out of tune. You can’t do this if you are tense. Try tensing up your left hand and wiggling your fingers as fast as you can. Now relax and try it again. This is another reason to practice slowly. It gives you time to think about relaxing and placing your fingers as lightly as possible.

Coordination
Now the next big problem with playing fast. Coordinating your bow with your left hand. As you place a left hand finger, your bow should move almost simultaneously. If your coordination is off, you’ll get that overlapping “blub blub blub” sound. The faster you play, the harder coordination becomes. Add in slurs and string crossings and it gets even harder. There are two parts to staying coordinated.


1. Putting down fingers as soon as possible. As you advance in technique this will become more crucial to playing cleanly. If you are about to play a fingering of 3-2-1, go ahead and have all fingers downs. This allows you to move your fingers quicker than placing and releasing each one. You can’t always put a finger down ahead of time (for instance, if you’re going from 3rd finger to another 3rd finger). Even when you can’t get the finger down before you play, you can get as close as you can to actually putting the finger down. If you are going from a 1st finger to a 4th finger on the same string, let your 4th finger stretch and hover right over where it needs to go. Practicing this way requires planning and forethought and it also requires you to practice…ahem…slowly to make sure the fingers are doing what they need to do.


2. Coordinating the bow with the left hand. First put down your bow and play the excerpt pizzicato until your fingers move quickly and smoothly. Add the bow but play very slowly and stop in between each note. Place the finger and then move the bow. For string crossings, make sure you stop the bow, drop or raise your elbow to the new string level and continue. Play the passage again making the pauses shorter and shorter. You are training your muscles to do exactly what they need to do so you can play quickly without having to work as hard.

Tempo
Students often start out playing something smoothly and cleanly and before long they get excited and finish the song like they’re at the Kentucky Derby. Using a metronome helps you stay consistent and keeps you from rushing. I like to start slow then move the metronome up 10 clicks then back 5 and on and on until I get it to the tempo I want.

Keeping everything in proportion
Generally, the faster you go, the less bow you will use. Otherwise you will start a small fire on your violin. Using the right amount of bow helps everything stay coordinated.

What’s the real key to playing faster?
Playing slower. There’s really no other way around it. I’m not talking a brisk walk, I’m talking turtle slow! And just because you play it slow once doesn’t mean you can go back to tempo and expect major improvement. You have to start slow and increase your speed gradually. Remember, any listener would rather hear a song played slowly and cleanly than to hear something quick but messy and unrecognizable. When you choose a a tempo to play a piece (whether for a teacher or an audience) choose the fastest tempo you can play cleanly. This might be slower than what you achieved at home but you’ll know you’re playing at a tempo you can actually manage with all those extra nerves and sweaty hands.

In order to play faster, you’ve also got to make sure your form is correct. If your left wrist is like a pancake or you can’t bow straight, you’ll want to tackle those things first. Learning how to practice can also help you improve your speed. Check out my blog on practicing wisely here.

Remember, it’s never a waste of time to practice something slowly. On the flip side, playing something fast before you are ready can be detrimental and even hamper your progress. You are also less likely to get frustrated when you play something at a relaxed tempo. So take a deep breath, before you start playing fast, play slow. I promise you’ll be pleased with the results!

Happy (Slow) Practicing!

 

The Key to Being a Better Musician Is....

      Making your practice time "golden."

      Making your practice time "golden."

Before I tell you the answer. Here’s a quick story. Does any of this sound familiar?

You get out your violin to practice. You know you’re supposed to start out with scales so you whiz through them so you can get to the good stuff. You play through the piece you’re working on. If it’s a good day, you make it all the way through. If not, you stop when it gets hard and go back to play the parts you sound good on. Let’s say it’s a good day. You make it all the way through. What do you do next? Start at the beginning and play it all the way through again. It might sound a little better, chances are, not much has changed. You decide to buckle down on the two or three hard lines. You play through the measures once. Ugh. It sounds awful. You try again. Even worse this time! Stupid fingers. Maybe if you try it faster…nope. Slower? That’s agony, too. You’re frustrated but you’re determined to get it right. You play it again but nothing is sounding right today and you’re practice time is up. You put the violin up for another day.

Sound familiar? What progress did you make? Not much of any. In fact, you probably reinforced some bad habits. You may not be doing all of these practicing no-nos but everyone is guilty of some of them from time to time (including me)!

What’s the key to being a better player? Practicing smarter. Not practicing more or practicing harder but having quality practice that yields tangible results. Practicing smarter is a skill you must learn. It might be slower going at first but as you get better at practicing, you’ll advance quicker.

Here are some tips to get more out of your practice time.

1. Get a warm-up routine—Doing the same warm-ups every day makes it easier to measure progress. Don’t rush it. You’re not only warming up your muscles, you’re getting your mind primed to focus. Start off with some stretches focusing on your upper body. Next I do “windshield wipers” with my bow. Then I move on to open strings. This is yoga for the violin. It’s a time to focus on relaxing, breathing, and making a good tone (one of the hardest things to do!). Draw your bow as fast or as slow as you need to make a good sound. Experiment with different parts of the bow. Try adding more weight or less weight. Think about the angle of the bow.
Next I play scales and arpeggios. You might think scales are easy and therefore don’t require much attention. Teachers prescribe scales because they are easier than your piece and are a great way to perfect difficult skills. Start by focusing on intonation then move on to varying the speeds and using different bowings. There are a million things you can focus on while doing scales. If you can’t think up any, I’m sure your teacher has tons of ideas. For now, only focus on one problem for each scale.
Depending on your level, you’ll want to transition to etudes or other method books and then you’re ready for the main song you’re learning. What’s the number one rule?

2. Keep your expectations low—Then you won’t be disappointed! That’s my life motto. Dream big for long-term goals, but for day to day practice, keep your goals short and manageable. Don’t try to conquer an entire song in one 30 minute practice session. Focus on one ore two measures. Even then, don’t repeat them aimlessly. Focus on one thing at a time to work on like getting your f sharps in tune of smoothing out your string crossings.

3. Keep a practice log—Before you start practicing, write down what your overall goal for the day is. Keep it manageable and tangible. Nothing like “I want to make my song sound better.” Pick something specific and simple like keeping your bow straight and relaxing your grip. If other things fall by the wayside, don’t beat yourself up. If you’ve progressed a little on that overall goal, you’re doing better than if you had no goal at all. As you practice certain measures, again write down what you want to achieve. This keeps you safe from aimless repetition. But, to determine what you need to work on, you need to stop and do some thinking first. Which brings me to my next point.

4. Be a detective—When something doesn’t sound right, don’t play it over and over again the same way hoping that one day it will sound better. Stop. Think. Is it a left hand or a right hand problem? Is it a difficult fingering or a difficult bowing? Are you correctly reading the notes or the rhythm? Once you’ve determined the problem, you or your teacher can come up with a way to fix it. You must do this for every measure and every note that doesn’t sound right! This is what your teacher is doing during your lesson. Learning to practice this way means learning to be your own teacher! That means you can use your lesson time to talk about other exciting things.

5. Stay focused—These tips won’t get you very far unless you can devote your utmost focus to the task at hand. For me, 5-10 minutes is the max I can focus on any one measure or problem, and that’s assuming I’m rested and removed from distractions. When you are past the peak of your focusing ability, simply move on to something else or take a break altogether. It’s better to practice shorter amounts and be focused. Otherwise you could be developing bad habits or reinforcing incorrect bowings, rhythms, etc. Like wise, if you start to get frustrated, put the violin down immediately and come back when you are refreshed.

6. Stop practicing on a high note— When you are nearing the end of your practice time and you play something well, STOP! Put the violin down and walk away while you are still happy! Sure, you could plow through a few more measures and risk getting frustrated but it’s much better to end feeling good about something. It will make you want to practice the next day.

Happy Practicing!

7 Ways To Make Practicing Fun!

Before I share a few ways to make practicing fun for your child, let me start with a caveat. Practicing isn’t always fun. That doesn’t mean that it’s tortuous, but it’s not always smiles and giggles. Sometimes your child just has to buckle down and do it. At the same time, you don’t want music to be yet another homework assignment. Having fun during practice time can be a great way to cultivate creativity and encourage focus if you choose the right “games.”

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What to Buy for Violin Lessons

For starters, you'll want a violin! Check out my post on buying a violin to help you pick out the right size or decide between renting and buying. Call your teacher before you purchase a violin. They'll be more than happy to help you make the right decision. I suggest buying an outfit for beginners (violin, bow, and case are included). Here are some companies I recommend for beginner violins.

Shar Music

Southwest Strings

Everest Shoulder Rest

Everest Shoulder Rest

1. Shoulder Rest. This is essential to helping you hold the violin correct. I recommend the Everest shoulder rest. Remember to purchase the size that matches your violin.

2. Music Stand.
Using a music stand promotes good posture. If you're practicing with your music in your lap, in your case, or pinned to the wall, chances are you're doing some weird things with your posture that can lead to real tension issues. Portable stands are fine and nice to have, but a stand with a solid back makes it easier to write on your music and the sun doesn't shine through, making it difficult to read the notes.

3. Metronome/ Tuner. You can buy a metronome and you can buy a tuner, or you can buy them combined into one machine. Here's a basic metronome/tuner
If you want something a little nicer, try the Korg metro/tuner.

String Explorer!

String Explorer!

4. Method Books. Here's a list for all of the beginning books I use. Remember, if you order from elsewhere, make sure you are ordering the violin book, not the viola or cello version!

Whistler Scale Book

String Explorer Book 1

Suzuki Book 1

All for Strings Theory Workbook

5. Rosin. If you purchased your violin as an outfit, rosin was probably included. However, student-grade rosin often has a grittier sound and produces more powder. For a few dollars more you can upgrade to a better sound. Dark rosin is more sticky and is better for dry climates. Light or amber rosin is better for violin but both colors work. Try Hill Rosin.

For something really fun try Magic Rosin.

Here's your final checklist!

  1. Violin, bow, and case
  2. Shoulder Rest
  3. Music Stand
  4. Metronome/Tuner
  5. Method books
  6. Rosin

If you have any questions, let me know! Happy Practicing!