When selecting a violin teacher, remember that teaching styles and personalities differ. Some teachers may work better one-on-one or in a group setting (group lessons are usually cheaper, anyway). An ideal teacher is one who will not only provide you with a solid foundation of violin technique, but also one who will teach you in a manner that motivates and inspires you as a musician.
Suggestions to find and select a violin teacher:
- Seek violin teacher recommendations from friends, other violin students, music stores and local school music teachers
- Attend school and community concerts and local recitals. Watch for good players and ask them with whom they study with.
- If you have a university or college nearby, contact the music department. Many music professors run private studios or can give you a recommendation for good teachers in your area.If the professors are unavailble, ask if any of their advanced pupils give lessons. I was instructed by an Arizona State University graduate student about 10 years ago and I would say it was on-par to being taught by a claimed “professional” music professor.
- Local chapters of professional musician unions often maintain a list of musicians you could contact for referrals. If your community has a professional symphony or chamber group, attend their concerts and ask the performers if they or their students have a teaching studio with room for new students.
- Contact local music teacher organizations for referrals (e.g. in the United States, members of the Music Teachers National Association or the American String Teachers Association).
- Numerous online music teacher directories are available on the Internet. For example, if you’re interested in a particular teaching approach such as the Suzuki method, use Internet search terms such as Suzuki Association of the Americas or International Suzuki Association.
- Ask prospective violin teachers for references, and evaluate their credentials. Who did they study with? Do they ever perform on the violin? How long have they been teaching? What level or age of students do they generally teach? What approach to the study of the violin do they take? (e.g. is there a particular violin methodology they favor?) What are their expectations of students? (Reflect on your personal time commitment to learning and practicing will be. Some music teachers demand hours of practice time from their pupils.)
Once lessons begin, it’s important to ask yourself: are you motivated by this violin teacher? Are violin lessons a positive experience, or are they discouraging? Effective teaching is very personal experience, so if you feel uncomfortable with the personality and teaching style of the teacher, it is perfectly acceptable to find another violin teacher!
Throughout your career as a violinist, you will find yourself changing the strings on your violin often. As I have mentioned before, it is useful to always keep an extra set of strings in your violin case, just to be precautionary. Here are some useful tips for changing strings on your violin:
- When replacing all of the strings, violinists generally replace one string at a time. Do not remove all of the strings on a violin at the same time, or the fingerboard could collapse.
- Although the order you replace strings isn’t critical, many violinists start with the G-string, and work their way up to the E-string.
- If the string you are installing has a fine tuner, insert the ball or loop end of the string over the tuner cartridge in the tailpiece, and pull the string toward the bridge.
- If the string does not have a fine tuner, insert the ball or knotted end of the string through the tailpiece string hole, tug firmly to make sure the knot or ball is securely in the slot and pull the string toward the bridge. You may need to hold the ball or knot in place with your finger while increasing the tension of the string as you turn the peg.
- Slightly pull out the peg the string will go in until the peg hole is just inside of the pegbox. Thread the end of the string through the peg hole (let the string slightly protrude), and evenly begin winding it.
- Push the peg in as you’re turning the string to keep the peg from slipping.
- Generally, fine tuners are used only on the E-string, but beginning violinists often find it useful to have tuners for each string.
- When replacing all of the strings, violinists often tune all of the strings to an approximate correct pitch, then do the fine tuning to get each pitch precisely in tune.
- Be aware that when you put on all new strings, it will take more adjusting than usual to tune the violin.
- If your pegs are slipping or are too tight to securely adjust the strings, you may want to purchase a peg compound.
- If you don’t have peg compound and need a temporary quick fix for slipping or tight pegs, you may want to try these options:
For sticking pegs, pull the peg partially out, and rub pencil graphite on the sticking part of the peg.
For loose pegs, pull the peg partially out, and rub candle wax on the peg to help it stick.
Common Violin Damages
You should not worry too much if your violin suffers from one of these common violin damages:
- An unglued fingerboard
- Snapping/collpase of the bridge
- The snapping of the bow
How to care for your violin
- Avoid extreme climate temperatures – Do not store a violin in or near areas that are subjec to extreme changes in temperature, such as a basement or attic. When violins are continually exposed to extreme temperature changes, they eventually break and fall apart over time.
- Proper storage – When not playing the violin, store it in its case at all times to ensure protection.
- Too much rosin – In light of my last post on violin rosin, avoid putting too much rosin onto the violin bow. If too much is applied, the rosin will drip onto the violin and cause straining.
- Quality strings – Cheap strings, like the ones that usually come with a beginner’s violin, will bring tension on the violin and cause cracks and warping on the instrument.
If you ever feel that there is something wrong with your violin, even minorly wrong, it is important to get it checked out by a luthier, an experienced professional in repairing stringed instruments. Most little damages will eventually become bigger problems in the future.