March 26, 2015

Frequently Asked Questions

Are the violin and viola really difficult?

Yes, and no. When playing the violin or the viola, you use muscles that you may otherwise never use, or at least in ways that you never thought necessary. On the first few lessons, students usually find that just holding onto the instrument isn’t as easier as it looks. (Fear not, it does get easier after a couple of lessons!) Learning to play in tune is also a challenge. Because of that, the learning curve is a bit steeper than other instruments. That said, even before you master the instrument, you can still make beautiful music for everyone to enjoy!

What’s the best age to start the violin?

How about now? You can start learning the violin at almost any age. The youngest students that I have taught were 4 years old, and the oldest was a semi-retired restaurant owner. Students who start at age 6-8 usually progress the fastest. This is partly because their language development is accelerated at that age, which helps with learning how to read and interpret music. I do not recommend starting the violin until at least the child is at least 4-5 years old. (Children younger than 4 can still benefit from other music groups that are appropriate for their ages.) And for adults, now is as good a time as ever!

How long are the lessons?

Lessons can be 30 minutes, 45 minutes or 1 hour long. In the first year, younger students benefits most with 30-min lessons, and for adults, 45-min lessons. By the time students reach a RCM Grade 2 level, regardless of age, there will be lots more to learn at each lesson, and an hour-long session is most beneficial.

How frequently should I take lessons?

I recommend having a lesson at a regular time once a week. This interval allows enough time for students to go home and practice the songs and new techniques, but not too long that they develop bad habits that are hard to break. Getting regular weekly lessons may be more difficult for adult students, and I try to work around to find the best way for them to get the most out of their lesson time.

How much do I need to practice?

All music teachers wants their students to practice more, and I’m no exception. After all, the saying that “practice makes perfect” is mostly true. When I was in graduate school, I would practice 2-3 hours every day: 1½-hour of scales and techniques in the morning, plus 1 hour of performance pieces in the evening. But my time was managed very carefully so that I don’t over-exert myself, and so that I don’t develop bad habits. In general, I don’t ask my beginner students to practice as much as myself. Instead, I ask them to find time to practice every day, even if it’s only for 10 minutes. Practicing 10 minutes a day is more effective than 20 minutes every 2 days, but that’s still better than practicing 40 minutes every 4 days, or one hour once a week. The total time is the same, but the results are not.

How much money should I spend on my instrument?

You should spend as much or as little as your budget allows. For beginners, mass-produced violins and violas from China cost about $150-$200; better quality mass-produced instruments from eastern Europe cost about $400-$500. If this is your first instrument, I do not recommend spending too much. Young children outgrow their instruments quickly, so spending $500 on a 1/8-size violin that will only be used for 9 months may not be practical. Adult students are luckier in that they don’t outgrow their instruments in size. Regardless of age, however, as students get more skilled, they’ll require better instruments that can cost a few thousand dollars. For most young violinist earning a living as a professional musician, their instruments will cost ~$70,000.

Aside from my instrument, what else do I need?

You’ll need a music stand, and your music books to put on your music stand. Fold-able music stands are more flexible and cheaper, but they are usually not very sturdy. As for books, my beginner students usually start with one song book, and 1-2 books on basic techniques. As they become more advanced, more books are added.

Can you help me buy my instrument?

Yes, and books too. Most music stores carry beginners’ violins (but not necessarily violas), but not every store carries the right books. I can either pick up the necessary supplies for you at the music stores, or I can direct you to the stores myself.

What is a consultation?

It’s a chance for us to get to know each other. It usually takes about 30 to 45 minutes. You can find out more about it on this page.

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