Thursday, April 9, 2009

Violin Lessons/Violin Tuition - is it needed?

Violin lessons are one of the most common questions I get asked about. They are incredibly useful for many people, and I still have them today. But as these tough times come into force, it may not be the most suitable option.

Most commonly, a violin teacher will teach for a set period of time and lessons in general are once a week. I think that violin teachers make a massive difference, as they notice the things that people do wrong that they don’t even realise. Violin teachers also tend to be very friendly and helpful.

One thing I must stress is that if you decide to have a violin teacher and don’t believe you get along with them, don’t feel as if you have to stay with them. I don’t mean to blast common sense, but otherwise you’ll lose the enjoyment and just be wasting money. If the teacher doesn’t suit, then move on and find another.

Violin teachers tend to teach in music centres, so as long as there’s one nearby, then there should be a violinist willing to teach. Another avenue is to go down the private route, for example, some violin teachers often teach in their own homes or come to the person.

But the only downside to having a violin teacher is the cost. For instance, a half an hour individual lesson can cost up to £15/$25 (Britain/US) and is going to stack up. I think that this is the best way to be taught, as someone can always guide the person what to do next, and their past violin experience can help.

Another alternative is to teach yourself how to play the violin! Instead of having violin tuition, tutoring yourself could save an awful lot of money, and the flexibility of when to play the violin. Going down this avenue will require a lot more patience, and may take longer to progress.

What I’d recommend is to get some violin books. Violin books are relatively inexpensive and show how to read real music! Most music shops stock violin books, so I’d get the basic ones if you wish to go down the route. On the Internet, a place like Amazon would be the best to go to – their best sellers tend to be the best books to start with. But Violin Tution such as CD’s are a waste of time as they don’t help, leading onto my next point – video!

Now, watching videos on websites such as YouTube will help a great deal on simple things, such as violin posture amongst other things. Such as searching “Violin Lessons” on there will come up with a whole range of things which should set you on your way. Again though, violin lessons on the internet are not the same thing as having a real violin teacher to guide you through the tricky progression!

On the whole, having violin lessons will help an awful lot and if you’re keen to progress quickly – it is the best way to go. But learning how to play the violin by yourself is another great way – just do what feels best. But make sure of one thing – don’t by the trashy Violin Audio Tapes!

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Violin Strings 101

Violin Strings are one of the most important parts of the whole instrument, if not the most. But there are so many different types of violin strings, how can you be sure of which ones to buy? Well, there can be 3 different types of strings. These are:


These were made of sheep gut, interestingly enough, and were the norm for many, many centuries. Gut strings are known for having a very warming tone, but the violin can easily fall out of tune if heat is applied to them. These strings are rarely sold in violin shops today, they are sold by individual violin string makers.


As technology developed, these strings became very popular for the beginner violinist. This is because the strings were a lot cheaper than other sets of strings and the pitch doesn’t change very easily – which means less hassle =). But, the sound quality is dampened, as these violin strings can sound a bit “thin” at times if coming to the end of their lifetime.


These were invented only about 30-40 years ago and consist of nylon and other composite materials. These are incredibly popular for classically trained violinists as they have the qualities that gut strings have but also have an incredible shelf life.

Now I’ve got that out of the way, the latter two are the main sets of strings that every violinist uses today. Only people that use specialist “Baroque” instruments use the gut strings as they to work better with the style of instrument. I’ll show you one of each type that I think is the best of its own standard.

Red Label Violin Strings

Now, these strings are made of the “Steel Core” material. They are incredibly good value for money and last for a long time. But I have found that these strings can hurt your fingers as they may have to be pressed down a little harder than other sets. The Red Label strings value at around £20 a whole set – for violin strings this cheap, I would recommend them to anyone for a spare set of strings if a beginner.

Dominant Violin Strings

Well, these set of strings are just incredible. Period. They are the classical violinists dream. These set of strings are made from the synthetic core and although being more expensive than all steel strings, they are definitely worth the extra price. These strings sound like gut strings and again, last for an incredibly long time. They do fall out of tune every now and then, but they do require “fine” tuning probably every time you practice.

How to fit the Violin Strings

Now, it’s a whole different ball park fitting these fiddly pieces of violin equipment! First of all, loosen the current violin strings using the peg to twist so it unwinds. When the string doesn’t seem tense, look at the fine tuners and see where the violin string ends. From there, pull that part of the string backwards and then simply pull up! The gold coil that you will see hooks inside the violin adjuster.

After you have got out the string, take out your new violin string and place the gold hook straight away into the adjuster slot. Once that’s done, it’ll be necessary if you don’t have nimble fingers (no offence intended :P) to collect a pair of tweezers. Stretch the string to the end of the fingerboard with the coloured material at the end. Try to guide the end of the string through the tiny hole of the violin peg! Push it through so it won’t fall out, and when done so, twist the violin peg several times until the violin string looks to have a similar tension to how the other violin string did before.

All that needs to be done is to do it for each of the other strings! It may get really frustrating, but it is so more rewarding and an interesting process rather than paying money for something unnecessary. But just beware, don’t tighten the string too much, or it’ll break and violin strings aren’t necessarily cheap ;). Now that I’ve told you all about violin strings, now go do it yourself!