Ready for your first violin lesson?

Are you getting bored sitting at home, watching new series on Netflix?

Think it’s your time to start something new?

To be honest, as a private violin tutor who gives the priority on beautiful tone and relaxed posture from my students, I was slightly suspicious to move on to online lessons when the first lockdown started in Spring 2020.

However, I am now more and more convinced, after 10months of experience and positive feedbacks from my students, it is totally possible to have a good start from scratch (literary, it will sound scratchy in beginning!), and to gain good basics through online lessons as well.

Of course it is strongly advised to find the teacher who is local to you, so you could visit your teacher when you have issues with your instrument, and when the restriction is lifted, try face-to-face lessons. Some things are only possible to carry out in face-to-face lessons; i.e. Teacher cannot accompany you on piano in online lessons due to the sound latency.

from the class concert

About Pros/Cons of online lessons, I will write in the another blog.

Today, I would like to write here more essential and useful tips for you to start!

What do you need before the first lesson?

  1. Choose and buy or rent your instrument.

If you search online ‘violin full-size’ or ‘violin4/4’ you will easily get results of budget violin outfits with bow and case, and you can order online. They are durable and enough playable if you pay, let’s say, £100+.

Top 2 popular brands are Stentor and Primavera, both have three ranges in price (ca.£90 -£150);

  • Stentor Student Standard/Student I/Student II
  • Primavera 90/100/200

Both are really similar and have good reviews in general. However, in my experience, a few pupils of mine who came with Stentor Standard had minor issues with pegs (to tune your strings) or original strings they put on at the factory. Some of my student had to visit violin workshop to set it up properly, or to change to better strings. So I would recommend you, if your budget allowed, go one step up to Stentor Student I or Primavera 100.

There are warehouse/shops that you could try out those violins. So if you would like to be sure for the quality and setting, I would advise you to visit them, and get their advice. Also when you purchase, they may help you tune the strings (I will write about tuning problem below…)

Or there is the option for Violin Rental, such as Millers or duetshop, where you can pay monthly to rent instruments. It is great for young learners with smaller size violins, since you could simply return when they grow out the size. Also it is less likely to receive faulty product. The shops will check the instrument, tune the strings and possibly put the rosin on the bow before they send to you.

Here is one more, and possibly very useful tip for you to find your violin…

Check Facebook Market!!

Facebook Market function developed significantly these days, so you could easily search local sellers in your area for used violins. Especially before the new semester starts, many parents sell the instruments their children used last year.

I always recommend my students to first search for used (second-hand)violins;

First of all, if they are already played for some times, the sound of instruments are opened up, and easy to ring.

Plus, you may get a bonus of all the essential accessories, such as a rosin, a shoulder rest and sometimes even a starter books or a music stand with them.

When you decide to buy used one from local sellers, a few things to check and ask them before you commit;

  • All 4 strings are not missing, and they are not completely rusted.
  • Bridge* is not missing.
  • Bow is not missing
  • Bow hair is not completely black and filthy! (It is normal that very front edge of bow hair gets black when it’s used over a year. but if whole hair is already black or stuck together because of rosin, or lots of hair spread out from stick, then you have to ‘rehairing‘ the bow or have to get a new one (if it’s children’s violin, often it’s cheaper to buy a new bow separately than ask professionals to rehair.)

If you are not sure for the ones you found on market, always ask your teacher for advice before you purchase!

2. What else do I need before the first lesson?

  • Rosin — Rosin is a solid form of resin, the sticky substance that comes from trees that is not unlike sap. Your bow hair, especially the new one, will be very slippery and almost impossible to make any sound without rosin. Rub cakes or blocks of rosin on your bow hair so it can grip the strings and make them speak, or vibrate clearly. Rosin is usually included in your violin outfit, however those ones are often quite rubbish… So I recommend you to order better ones online. The kinds and ranges are again very much differ, but you do not have to go up to the top quality or special mix of meteoric iron or gold (!). Something like Hidersine (6V, ca. £5) to Pirastro (Gold ca. £12) does good job. I would say do not go under £5!
  • Tuner or Tuning App. — It is so essential to tune your violin well before you start playing, but it is quite scary and complex process for total beginners. Of course you can find Youtube Tutorials like this one; to guide you through. But if you would like to avoid any nightmare of breaking strings right away by turning pegs* too strong, I recommend you to bring it to your teacher or local violin shop to help you first. Though we only carry out online lessons for now (I’m posting this on January 2021 in UK), you are still able to visit your teacher at the door and let them tune your instrument while keeping good social-distances. It won’t take more than 5 minutes for us to tune, but for you, for the first time, it may take ages. Once strings are roughly tuned to where the notes should be (G-D-A-E from bottom to top) by turning pegs, it is very easy for you to tune it by fine tuners* on the tailpiece. This point you will need your own tuner to guid you.

So as a wrap, you do NOT have to tune your violin by yourself right out from box. But you will need Tuner or Tuning app on your smartphone. And ask your teacher how to use them, and how to tune the instrument properly.

3. Shoulder rest or not?

If you are an adult beginner, you may feel comfortable to use standard shoulder rest from beginning.

Standard ones, such as this one will let the instrument sit well on your shoulder.

However, some people, include me who has rather short neck, only need simple shoulder pad or sponge. And it gives you more flexibility around your shoulder and collar bone area. I use this one.

So I would wait for the first lesson that your teacher will advise you which kind of shoulder rest would fit you the best.

For young children, they often do not need shoulder rest for first some months, and enough to use a sponge with elastic band.

4. I cannot read music!

Many new students come with worries in beginning that they never read the music score before.

It is totally, utterly, no problem.

I have experienced many different types of students; A student who wishes to learn how to read music combined with learning violin technique. A student who doesn’t want to learn how to read and wants to learn only from ear. A very young student who doesn’t know yet ABC or 123 well either…

It really varies what the students’ needs and their strength. We have to find out together through the lessons. Some have keen ear to catch and copy from teacher’s demonstration. Some are good at understanding logics on written music and get well with it, some using Tab score (only with finger numbers) first and slowly move into music notation.

It is our job to find the best tailored method for each students. So what you need for the first lesson is to be just honest and relax. And through our journey of weekly lessons, we can find out what’s the best way for you to learn quickly and stress-free.

Please find out more about my violin lesson, please click here !

Hope it helps a bit for you ! I will write more about Shoulder rest or Not? And To read or not to read music? in another blogs soon!

*To learn the names of parts of violin, check the link here.