What do you think of people teaching themselves the violin by means of video tutorials online?

October 31, 2010 at 05:43 PM ·

 I'm just interested in hearing people's opinions on this topic!

So, what do you think of it? Is it good or bad? Or neither good nor bad? What are the advantages or disadvantages? And should we encourage the increasing number of people who watch online videos to carry on?

Replies (56)

October 31, 2010 at 06:02 PM ·

I find it useful as a supplement to what my teacher shows me. Say mid week, when I've forgotten precisely what he said about martele or something else I will use Todd Ehle's youtube videos to refresh and maybe give a different perspective.

One thing a video cannot do is watch you and point out your mistakes.

October 31, 2010 at 06:04 PM ·

I don't know how far a "video tutorial" student can go. Violin technique is not easy... One can develop a series of bad habits while playing without a teacher to give instruction. (well, we do develop those habits even with a teacher! hehehe)

My opinion is that a good teacher is always a better deal than the videos. Although the videos are cheaper (or even free on youtube), the student that is working with a teacher is having a better instruction and, on the long run, the investment it is worth...

Just imagine how long it ill take a player to fix all the bad habits or how much it will cost to treat eventual injuries for playing with a bad posture... I would rather to pay a teacher.

October 31, 2010 at 06:13 PM ·

Just remember that a lot of the so called "experts" on youtube are anything but.

October 31, 2010 at 06:38 PM ·

I agree with first poster... the world and net is filled by incredible ressources that can enhance very much one's playing but it can't compensate for a good (and I insist on good...) teacher.

In order to come closer with our full potential (because few of us will really reach our full potential due to age or context or money issues...), one usually must have a good teacher and search a lot by themselves (videos, tutorials, youtube etc...)

This is just my humble opinion of course.


October 31, 2010 at 06:49 PM ·

 One common thing I have seen on youtube is on video tutorials, for instance, 'Hot Cross Buns' tutorials is that people have written 'I got a violin today and I can play this now! Thanks!' and similar. I think it is concerning because they give the impression that they have never played a violin before, yet they are going straight on to playing tunes without the knowledge of bow-hold, posture or actually getting a nice sound on open strings and working at fingerings over time!

October 31, 2010 at 07:10 PM ·

There's always the Toyota violin-playing robot.  If nothing else you can see bowing that is perfectly parallel to the bridge. [Thinks: wish I could get my left hand fingers over the finger board a la cello like that, without expensive surgery :-)] 

October 31, 2010 at 09:07 PM ·

 Since I'm doing that myself I could speak for myself. The key to learning anything teacher or not is consistency and honesty. It may surprise some but these things exist without the input of a teacher. Of course some external input is necessary to conform to standards or whatever. It is unfair however to assume that it is impossible to learn without a live teacher. A live instructor would certainly be a good thing. But one could as easily lie to and ignore a teacher's instructions as someone could to themselves. 

If someone is consistent and attentive during practice sessions they would make progress, live teacher or not.

On a related note, i would say it is possible to learn how to play any instrument in the absence of a teacher, for this simple reason. The person who invents an instrument has no-one to teach them to play it. Only a desire to make a particular sound, and a  device to make that sound.

October 31, 2010 at 09:25 PM ·

Insufficient, but if it's all you have ...

I think the issue with string instruments is just that they are so ergonomically unfriendly that if you do any of that "work through the pain!" nonsense, you can seriously screw up your hands.  I've been using my hands for my whole life, and pretty hard.  Most of my weekends are spent moving between a piano, a viola, knitting needles, a tatting shuttle, a spinning wheel, and a crochet hook.  And the viola is by far the most arrogantly unfriendly device I've ever manipulated with my hands.  I have never once in my life felt pain from using my hands or had to "go easy" until I picked up that thing.  My instructor has been great in not only letting me know what to try, but in just reassuring me that there are ways to handle the thing that are not painful, and to just soldier on and keep looking, and I'll find them.  His descriptions haven't helped me do them correctly then and there (which I suspect isn't possible) but they help me recognize the "right way" to do something when I stumble on it, and I realize that I am indeed leaning my hand back exactly the way he said I would or holding the bow just the way he described to make the nicest sound.

It's also a rough instrument because so many things have to be done correctly just to keep the thing from belching or farting at you.  One millimeter is enough to change a semi-musical noise into an outraged macaque.  Concentrate on your bowing, and your fingering goes to pot.  Look at the fingering, and the bow starts scraping or wandering.  Do either, and your neck tenses up.  Relax your neck, and your bow wrist goes haywire.  Pin down three corners, and the fourth one pops up.  A teacher is great for that just because they can keep an eye on ALL of that and say, "straighten the bow!" or "flat!" or "keep your middle two fingers together on the frog!" while you're paying attention to your scroll hand wrist.  A video teacher just can't do that.

But again, if it's all you have ...

October 31, 2010 at 09:43 PM ·


It worries me when you mention things like pain and strain. There should be no such things happening even when playing the viola, which is physically a bit more demanding than the violin. There should be no strain at all either in the bow arm and hand, or the left hand.

A good teacher is a neccessity in the early stages (well, for the first four or five years at least). But a good teacher should be able to show you how to play without effort, and without any strain.

October 31, 2010 at 09:55 PM ·

Actually, the cello is the most ergonomic and beginner-friendly of the violin family of instruments. 

October 31, 2010 at 10:15 PM ·

 The violin family also is the only(?) stringed family that does not use frets, is that not true? This makes it harder to just 'do'. I know most violin teachers use little stickers or tabs to mark where the first, second and third fingers should go on the violin for a beginner in say, their first year, which then eventually they get used to. Guitars CAN be learnt through tutorials because it has the notes placed there for you. it might take time managing to stretch fingers to create chords etc, but it is do-able. Classical guitar training, however, takes patience and time, and usually a good teacher. But where do you see classical guitarists nowerdays eh? 

Anyway, that's besides the point. I personally think that video tutorials are a great aid, but along-side a 'real life' teacher. I also have to point out that many 'real life' teachers have different ways and means of going about their teaching techniques and people should always consult them when it comes to learning a new technique. 

When someone has never played a violin before and they are just learning from tutorials and going straight into trying to learn 'proper' tunes, that's where it all falls...

November 1, 2010 at 01:38 AM ·

It worries ME when I mention things like pain and strain -- whenever they are encountered, it is considered a sign that things need to be worked on differently, but they're going to pop up on occasion, at least before they are analyzed and avoided, which they have been thus far.  :-)  We definitely operate on the "pain = you're doing it wrong" mentality, and that playing correctly shouldn't hurt.

November 1, 2010 at 02:30 AM ·

I wouldn't call them "woes," really.  It's frustrating, but also fascinating.  It's the ultimate puzzle.  And we do that sort of thing every time we take a step -- balance a dozen muscle groups to perform something thoughtless.  It's fun.

November 1, 2010 at 03:10 AM ·

Not having a real live teacher who you go to study with = foolish.

November 1, 2010 at 11:40 AM ·

Michael - not everyone can afford an instructor so they have to use books and videos. 

I'm 41, have rented a violin and very much want to learn and learn to play correctly and beautifully.  I am self employed and work is VERY slow so money is VERY tight.  I can afford the meager rental but not the cost of an instructor on a weekly or bi-weekly basis.  I am not sure that a monthly session would be much help at the moment and since I have many friends that have started playing in the last couple of years, they are great in helping me out.

If you truly want to do something, you will find a way even if finances will not allow.  I wanted to train dogs when I was a kid and my parents said no.  I have now put 7 performance titles on 3 dogs in the last 15 years.  I started training dogs when money was readily available and I could afford good instructors.  I also wanted to play the cello as a child and again my parents said no.  So I am now learning the violin.  Money is tight so I do what I can.  (violins are cheaper to rent and eventually buy, plus more social since they are easier to take everywhere)

When video and books are all you have available, you use them.  Not ideal but they should not be discounted either.  There is value in every type of instruction.

November 1, 2010 at 01:33 PM ·

 Working through the pain of improper posture is a bit unwise, since, well, it hurts. Simply, no activity that is intended to be performed frequently or for long periods should hurt. When i first started by back would start to hurt like hell after 20 mins. I couldn't figure out why until i looked in the mirror. I realized that i was standing like a strung up turkey. It took a few days to adjustments in my posture to become reflex, but the relief was pretty much instant. If i needed my teacher to tell me my back was hurting... Idk, what would that make me?

November 1, 2010 at 08:53 PM ·

The prime use of a teacher is the fact that taking lessons make me practice regularly. I am inherently a lazy fellow that would not practice regularly if I did not have someone who I would not like to disappoint.  My teacher thinks I am making good progress he wants me to play in his senior group and that makes it even harder for me to quit. Why do I put myself through this torture, I could have been chasing wild women on my motorbike. Problem is they would be only after my money.

November 2, 2010 at 10:46 PM ·

 New question: Do you think replacing a teacher with online tutorials after some years of lessons is good or bad? Can bad habits be picked up over time? Should it be a permanent replacement?

November 3, 2010 at 01:59 AM ·

 In reality, what would happen is that you would likely come up with your own way of doing things. This frightens some people. If you want to play the violin, or do any action for that matter, like someone else does, then you'd have to observe that person to do so. Today I discovered this guy:


Alexander Markov. He literally goes against all of the standards that I know people hold to as rule. He does not bow parallel to the bridge. His fingers are not curved, especially not his 4th finger. 

In the end though, his performances are stellar. If he was a beginner people would complain, OH! CROOKED BOW *gasp*, forgetting that the point of bowing parallel to the bridge is to help maintain a consistent, smooth sound when required. He does it quite well with a diagonal bow. 

That isn't to say that you should ignore things like parallel bowing, just keep in mind the sound that you're trying to produce. 

As for whether it should be a permanent replacement... If you want to conform to some particular violin standard, then it would be difficult. You'd have to find a collection of videos and performers who all conform to some SPECIFIC standard. 

If you're interested in playing the violin, making it sing like you would with your own voice, then you could very well study online videos, keeping in mind that you'd probably piss rigid conformists off with they way you do certain things... Wait a minute, you'd piss them off anyway...

Todd Ehle on youtube always points out the way he sees things done vs the ways he prefers to do things, which I think is the way teaching an instrument should be done. The thing is, some people find it hard to understand that, there are multiple ways to do most things on the violin.

November 3, 2010 at 02:08 AM ·

 I do think it helps to be accountable to someone, even if it's just once a month. If you never play for anyone, you can live under the delusion that you are progressing when you aren't. Once an adult student came to me, mostly self-taught, and said she was in Suzuki Book 6. I asked her to play something for me, just anything. So she got out Book 6 and muddled, very badly, through something in Book 6. It wasn't even recognizable, much less learned, much less polished. I didn't mention this, but I wanted to see what she could play, so I encouraged her to play something for me that was easier for her. We kept backing up, and ultimately, she could not play one thing for me. Not one thing! I told her that we likely would need to back up a bit from Book 6, and I was not too surprised when I never saw her again!

November 3, 2010 at 09:01 AM ·

i follow several youtube teachers (david bragger, reddesertviolin ... the inimitable professorV) - glad to have 'em! - and recently, i started taking lessons at a music school near-by.  i don't mind starting off on page one - literally - as i'm trying to learn how to read (choke) music.  looking at videos is just as valid as watching others to see how they do it.

November 3, 2010 at 11:18 AM ·

 Susan, please don't take offense at what I said, but I stand by it and we have something in common.  My parents said 'no' too.  I just deleted a whole long thing I typed about my personal endeavors because I didn't think it was truly relevant.  I don't know what your personal situation is and I don't mean any disrespect to you but trust me when I say I know exactly what it's like when everyone says "no" and there's no money.  I made it happen, even when it meant lying about my age and getting fired for underaged labor (twice).  I only mention this because I don't want you to think I'm some snob looking down my nose at people who can't afford lessons. I'm no snob, I'm a hard-working perpetual student and have been since the age of seven.

November 3, 2010 at 11:51 AM ·

@ Lauri - I would never be insulted if someone told me I needed to back up in my learning.  I am learning to play from books and videos with the full realization that I probably have some things wrong.  That's why you get one-on-one in put - to find out what you are doing wrong.  Too bad that new student didn't have an open mind about where they were at.   Although I am following "Violin for Dummies" (didn't know about the Suzuki books when I bought it) I am considering buying the Suzuki series and following it from book one.  Sometimes backing up can be beneficial

@Michael - there is a difference between being a kid and your parents saying "no there is no money" and being an adult and saying "lets see, my mortgage or a violin lesson".  If I wanted to play professionally I would be willing to make more concessions.  I don't aspire to play professionally so am happy to learn what I can from books and videos and get help from friends when I can.  Everyone has different goals and will take the route that is best for them.  Would I be a better player with an instructor? Absolutely!  But until I can afford one, this is the route I have to take.  Same with my dog training / showing.  I can't afford lessons but in this case, I can still attend classes.  For repayment I often repair equipment, help where needed, steward at shows, even organize and run a few shows each year that enable my instructor to be competative with her dog. She knows I do this and lets me join in class without payment.  Like you said, where there is a will, there's a way.

November 4, 2010 at 04:01 AM ·

 Actually, for self-teaching, I think Suzuki would not be the best choice because not everything is really written in the books; the books are only the repertoire. I'd recommend a true method book that is more step-by-step, maybe Muller Rusch, or the Doflein Method, or maybe others have suggestions. But Suzuki rep, with no teacher, leaves a lot of holes.

November 4, 2010 at 09:19 AM ·

I agree with that assessment, Laurie.  The Suzuki books may indeed give the pupil the "what" and the "how", the "how" becoming more detailed in the later books such as #9 and #10 devoted to two Mozart concertos, but the "why" can only be explained by a teacher. Suzuki is a progressive system, not just a haphazard collection of repertoire, and needs a teacher who understands the "why" and can apply it to requirements of the individual pupil (in other words a teacher who also understands the "who" and can guide the pupil).  That is why Suzuki is not advisable for the beginner/improver working on their own in a vacuum as it were.

November 4, 2010 at 10:16 AM ·

"Alexander Markov. He literally goes against all of the standards that I know people hold to as rule. He does not bow parallel to the bridge. His fingers are not curved, especially not his 4th finger. 

In the end though, his performances are stellar. If he was a beginner people would complain, OH! CROOKED BOW *gasp*, forgetting that the point of bowing parallel to the bridge is to help maintain a consistent, smooth sound when required. He does it quite well with a diagonal bow."



There are a lot of misconceptions about violin playing. One is about parallel bowing. Once it was suggested to me that you should push your bow arm out and away from you to keep the bow parallel at the point! What rubbish! Just look at youtube and Milstein to see that he doesn't - and what a great sound and bowing technique.

This list is endless. I more than once heard a fiddler called Tossy Spivakovsky who looked totally deformed when he played. But great playing. (I don't know though, but his strange teqhnique may have provided a time limit for his career - I don't remember him performing much after he was about 50).

But unfortunately there are a lot people giving "lessons" on youtube who shouldn't be. Be warned.

November 4, 2010 at 11:29 AM ·

After I had been following "Violin for Dummies" for about two months, I was at my local violin supply store and looked at the Suzuki book 1.  I was intimidated!  It looked complicated.  The "Dummies" books really break it down, starting with "this is how you take your violin out of the case.  Have a clean, soft surface to rest it on while you take out your bow.  Don't set it on a chair because stupid accidents happen."   I think you're about 100 pages in before you put bow to string and even then they have videos to help.  Once you are making sounds, there are audio files that show you how it's supposed to sound.  I find the book to be surprisingly helpful.  My one complaint is that they often throw in a bit of music before teaching things about that music.  Like Bach's G Minor Gavotte.  Lots of slurs.  They don't explain what a slur is for another 50 pages.  So you feel like you missed something.  At this point I am about 2/3's of the way through the book and I am stopping.  They are starting on bow techniques, vibrato, and other things that I know I am not up to yet.  I would like to find another series of books to follow from page one and begin again.  There is often a lot to be learned by starting over and hearing/reading other explanations of things like bow hold.

November 4, 2010 at 12:21 PM ·

 I think the "rules" about parallel bowing and the like are there to help and guide beginners along what is a very difficult path (as we all know!).  When the beginner matures into an advanced player with a high level of control over all aspects of playing then they'll know when they can bend or even ignore the "rules" to get the best out of their playing, without disaster.  A good teacher would understand this as the student progresses.

The point about the Suzuki books is that they are for students and are intended to be used in conjunction with a teacher who understands the underlying Suzuki principles and methods;  otherwise they are just another useful repertoire source for the advanced player.  

November 4, 2010 at 12:59 PM ·

In the best of all possible worlds, we'd all have excellent live teachers guiding our every move in "the way of righteousness", violinistically speaking.  In reality, that's simply not the case; a great many of us (especially older folk not unlike myself), for a variety of very valid reasons, have been denied the opportunities others more fortunate have enjoyed all along.  Such is life; deal with it! One "way in" to the wonderful world of fiddle/violin lots of us have had recourse to would be the Internet. Six years ago, I was one such "online learner". Fortunately for me, I'd been a practising musician and teacher for most of my adult life (not on violin), so I was able to "cut to the chase" with a lot of the online lessons.  People like Todd Ehrl have certainly won well-deserved praise for their efforts on behalf of the "instructionally challenged"; I've made substantial use of his many excellent Youtube videos. Thanks, Todd!

November 4, 2010 at 02:36 PM ·

I hate to disillusion people about Todd Ehle on youtube, but I've rarely heard such unmusical and uninspiring playing. And those Paganini Caprices are played well under speed and about as unmusically as its possible to play them!! And no shading whatsoever and a terrible sound.

I know amatuers who play better than that!

November 4, 2010 at 04:34 PM ·

i'd heard about violinists being waspish - todd ehle is a great teacher - thanks todd (II).

November 4, 2010 at 04:37 PM ·

But that's only your opinion.

November 4, 2010 at 04:50 PM ·

As is yours, which no one on this board has an obligation to value unless they choose to do so.

November 4, 2010 at 05:10 PM ·

Janis Cortese

"What do you think of people teaching themselves the violin by means of video tutorials online?"

That is the question posed by the original post. I made my comment.

You personally do not have to take my opinion. It's entirely up to you. You can instead take seriously the people teaching on the internet. But do so at your peril. I see I have ruffled a few feathers here, but that's not a bad thing.

November 4, 2010 at 05:53 PM ·

Peter - I think that Todd is good to see how one person might tackle different techniques - as I said sometimes filling the void between lessons. But I have to agree with you - I don't like his playing. It does absolutely nothing for me on an emotional or intellectual level. And I speak as one frequently moved to tears by what I perceive as beautiful music, played with passion.

November 4, 2010 at 11:11 PM ·

I hate to disillusion people about Todd Ehle on youtube, but I've rarely heard such unmusical and uninspiring playing. And those Paganini Caprices are played well under speed and about as unmusically as its possible to play them!! And no shading whatsoever and a terrible sound.

@Peter : that is indeed a personal opinion. An important point : it should be remembered that Mr Ehle is using a home-standard video recorder (as most YouTubers do), for the purpose of teaching. It's quite difficult to get a decent sound with this, no matter how good a player you are.  It's not fair to compare that with some performance videos on YouTube, where the original recording is of top quality (apart from the standard degree of degradation common to all YouTube clips - even when played in "high-quality" mode).

November 5, 2010 at 04:07 AM ·

No good deed goes unpunished! Todd has been generous in giving those tutorials, and he communicates extremely well. Peter, let's see your Paganini, lol. Also, your excellent and superior tutorials. Please share the link.

November 5, 2010 at 04:42 AM ·

One who plays well doesn't mean one can teach well. As a teacher for beginners or amature players, Todd's videos are good. Of course, there are no substitute for live teaching, but students can get a different point of view from the online videos. I think it's better to have more choices for us to use our own discretion, rather than none.

November 5, 2010 at 07:36 AM ·

Well, I wouldn't put myself up as a teacher, even in real life as a one to one, and I certainly would not on a youtube situation.

I agree that sometimes people can teach without playing well, but that's not the usual case.

As for Paganini, well I've never been that attracted to him as a composer, at least not enough to want to learn the music. I would rather stick to the composers I appreciate. But I still think it unwise and it also demonstates a bit of ego to put things on youtube, especially if they are a bit iffy.

Sorry if I've ruffled a few feathers - but that's real life.

November 5, 2010 at 09:13 AM ·

 I think the basic point of the Todd Ehle videos is to demonstrate and explain technique, something that he does very effectively.  Doing it as a "performance" could, in this scenario, actually be a distraction.  It's also worth knowing that Todd has had a very serious shoulder problem which has been affecting his playing for quite a time, but not his teaching.

Good on-line teaching is a life-line for many throughout the world who do not have access to live teaching, for whatever reason. 

November 5, 2010 at 09:50 PM ·

"Good on-line teaching is a life-line for many throughout the world who do not have access to live teaching, for whatever reason. "

I think Trevor makes a good point here. In a perfect world, every learner would have a good 'live'  teacher, but web clips are great for thos who have no teaching source.

I think we need to put the "almighty" YouTube in perspective. If you look at the YouTube category viewing stats, performance sport takes 90%, followed closely by (all kinds of s*x)-related stuff at 87% - home and car maintenance, golf tips, etc etc swallow up the remainder, and right at the bottom (around 16%) are the music instruction clips (of which violin specifics must be around 4%, at a rough guess).

So - violin teaching clips are very important. The quality of teaching cannot be guaranteed - but if you take someone like Prof V, then I don't think you can go far wrong. I think most people would agree. From what I've seen, there are far more good teachers than bad who are offering materiel on YouTube.

November 5, 2010 at 10:16 PM ·

The arguments being presented here seem to result from the confusion that people have in differentiating *instruction* from reference materials.

Instruction requires direct one-on-one communication, whether that is in person or over a videoconferencing device.

Reference materials cover the entire spectrum from reading textbooks to viewing videos on the web. They are helpful as supporting material so that students can see many different approaches to similar problems, and are available for those who are in some way unable to study privately.

However, with any source of information, one needs to evaluate both the quality of the content being presented, as well as the legitimacy of the source. Unfortunately, it is entirely possible for someone with absolute no understanding of a subject to present correct, factual, useful information, and vice versa.

November 6, 2010 at 08:54 AM ·

I haven't changed my mind about the danger as I see it from people learning to play the violin over the internet , but I can see that the lessons Todd Ehle gives could be useful for people who have violin lessons and want to refresh between lessons, especially if the face to face lessons are irregular. (I looked at the video lesson he gave in playing thirds)

I suppose the fact that I have reservations about his own playing and musicianship are slightly less relevant if he gives basically good advice in the video lessons. However, I would add that I've so far only looked at one of the instruction videos he gives, and even then I have some questions regarding left hand position (although his left hand is similar to many amateur and some professional players).

It is dangerous to learn from these sources because even if the advice is good, it can be mis-interpreted, and in a face to face situation it can be more obvious that the student is misunderstanding.

So I would advise caution, and would say that there are probably too many people on the Internet giving conflicting and often bad advice, even though there are some like Mr Ehle who seem to be on the right track, they are definitely in the minority, and an inexperienced violinist may not know the good from the bad.

November 6, 2010 at 10:35 PM ·

I have found Professor V helpful, and I love his philosophy and reasons for doing what he does.

November 7, 2010 at 12:25 PM ·

Even though I am learning from books / videos, there are some things - like vibrato - that I feel need to be learned from an instructor.  I think that's one thing I could really crew up if not started right.

November 7, 2010 at 01:07 PM ·

We are into boating terms here "crew up" ????? (wink)

But yes, you are absolutely right.

November 7, 2010 at 01:33 PM ·

Ha!  I have a VERY old computer and the keys tend to stick.  The "s" key must be one of them.  I currently have enough money to replace my laptop or buy a violin of my own instead of renting.  Since I need my computer for work, I know what the smart purchase would be but that's not what I'm going to do!

November 7, 2010 at 02:00 PM ·

 Wise words Susan, wise words!

November 7, 2010 at 08:53 PM ·

Peter : "But I still think it unwise and it also demonstates a bit of ego to put things on youtube, especially if they are a bit iffy."

I'm not sure it's mainly ego (possibly for some) but rather, the sentiment is one of offering / sharing : a helping hand, so to speak. Really, most of these people have absolutely nothing to gain for their efforts (myself included), apart from feedback from interested parties.

Not YouTube now, but Prof. Sassmannhaus, (as most of you will have seen - www.violinmasterclass.com ) has some excellent tutorial activity embedded in a wider entity (Starling Foundation). I think these are about the best tuition on the web at the moment. Unlike YouTube, the actual sound and video quality is excellent, and the structure is quite easy to follow, with lessons going from beginner level to advanced, methodically, showing both left and right hand techniques.

The sound, video and teaching quality is very good (no expense spared for the equipment - most certainly not a YouTube-ing handheld!), and the professor has a stash of students at varying levels of expertise, who demonstrate the topics.  

November 7, 2010 at 09:21 PM ·

I'm not going to comment on this as I have already come across this site and as far as I'm concerned it is no better or worse than any other.

If you want to really learn about playing the violin, then get a real teacher and throw your computer into the trash bin. (Or at least the violin/Internet part of it).

Also Jim, I don't agree about the audio quality you keep going on about. You can tell a crap player just as easily in bad sound as good sound. Sound quality is a red herring. You hear Heifetz or any great player on youtube in lousy sound yet you know he is a fantastic player.

I record people in very high quality sound, and some can sound wonderful and others total crap.

November 7, 2010 at 10:09 PM ·

"Also Jim, I don't agree about the audio quality you keep going on about. You can tell a crap player just as easily in bad sound as good sound. Sound quality is a red herring. You hear Heifetz or any great player on youtube in lousy sound yet you know he is a fantastic player.

I record people in very high quality sound, and some can sound wonderful and others total crap."

Well, you need to compare like with like. The point I was trying to make was that there are contrasting degrees of the quality of sound on YouTube (poor sound. visual, eg Todd Ehle), compared to something like the excellent sound / video on the Prof S site, but they are undeniably both very good resources. Good quality repro will make a good player sound better. Bad quality repro will make a bad player sound worse. Yes, talent will shine through regardless of quality, although the original recordings of Heifetz and the other big boys (original = the most important link in the audio recording chain) were done with the best analogue equipment available at the time. So, the "lousy" sound still has more basic clarity than any home-done YouTube clip - even when listening on YouTube. That's what I was trying to say (although we're getting slightly off-topic now).

Back on-topic, yes, one-to-one teaching is still the best (assuming you have a good teacher - there certainly are bad "live" ones too!), and that was the *only* way, in the days before video and web technology - Victorian days, and before that too. But, things are different now, in the respect that for some people who want to play violin or learn to fiddle well - it's web clips - or nothing at all.

That's the reality.

November 8, 2010 at 01:05 AM ·

Well, www.violinmasterclass.com is a very good site.  I like the pedagogic approach, and that he shows several different levels of players.

The instructions are clear.  For an online resource, it's pretty good.

No, it can't replace an in-person teacher.  But if you can only afford to learn from the net, violinmasterclass.com is head and shoulders above nothing.


November 8, 2010 at 06:14 PM ·

While I would never, ever, not in a million years reccomend and online source in favor of an actual teacher, but the truth is that there ARE people that need/want an affordable alternative to professional instruction---and just because one can not afford said "professional instruction" they shouldn't be discouraged from pursuing a dream with what means they do have. However, if one is to go about learning violin from an online source (even if it is one of the decent, reputable ones) they must be realistic about what they are doing. Can they learn to play a tune? Yeah, probably. But will they ever learn to play at a professional caliber? Certainly not. Will they learn enough proper technique to join an amatuer orchestra? Maybe, if they're lucky and have a certain decree of "natural" talent (whatever that means), but the odds are stacked pretty high against them... 

November 8, 2010 at 07:16 PM ·

Agreed with Joslyn.  Professional instruction is hands-down the best thing, but I just cannot get behind the idea that without that, one shouldn't even try.  People who give up when confronted with an obstacle are not the sort of people who can master an instrument (judgmental though this statement may be), because the instrument itself will be a far greater obstacle to any player than any transient problem with instruction will ever be.  In my estimation, strings especially are almost obnoxiously unwilling to be played.  A person whose first instinct when confronted by an obstacle is to not play will never manage to overcome the natural obstacles to manipulating one of these damn things in the first place.

Do what you can when you can, and go easy and slow if you're without a teacher -- but never, ever stop looking for a good teacher and never, ever stop at least trying to play or learn.  Will it be next to impossible to get very, very good without one?  Yes.  But who would think to themselves, "Oh well, if I won't be the best on the planet right now I might as well not do it!"  Even with a very good teacher, it takes ages to get really, really good.  Be reasonable with your expectations, but ultimately just pick the damn thing up and DO IT.  I live in an area with lots of options and have the money for a good instrument AND a good teacher, and it still took me four tries to get a good teacher.  I had zero intention of not playing if I couldn't find one.

November 9, 2010 at 07:32 AM ·

It's like learning any skill.

I spent a few years watching tennis instruction videos, reading books, etc. I progressed pretty well and had a good time figuring out how to do things...then one day I went and hired a coach. My rate of progress skyrocketed...it was so much easier when someone else with the experience could help me solve problem much more quickly than I could on my own.

Did I enjoy learning the game from web and text sources? Yes. Did it eventually lead to requiring private instruction so I could reach the next level? Yes!

Professional, one-on-one, high-caliber teaching is where it's at.

November 9, 2010 at 10:10 AM ·


"Not YouTube now, but Prof. Sassmannhaus, (as most of you will have seen - www.violinmasterclass.com ) has some excellent tutorial activity embedded in a wider entity (Starling Foundation)."

I take your point and I have revisited this site and the young lady playing the Schubert duo is certainly at a very much more advanced level and plays quite musically too.

What I don't quite get is the statement that the speed of the bow never changes - only the pressure. Was this statement alongside the small video window reffering to the Schubert Duo playing at that moment? If it was then I have to disagree, her bow was (quite rightly) changing speed.

See what I mean about confusion? Even on a good site like this, where the teacher is on the right track, misinformation and confusion can arise.

In a face to face situation this could be made more clear. In most music the pressure and bow speed changes constantly, as does the point of contact. But don't take my word for it - look at how the masters play - Heifetz, Oistrakh, Menuhin, and many others of course.

Having said that, of course the quality of the sound and video is good, which makes it much more pleasant to listen to and watch. But the quality and level of playing (or lack of) is obvious on the not so good sound ones as well.

Warning: my post is not meant to be a lesson. Go to proper teachers for lessons, don't believe in what is said here on these messageboards. (Although I hasten to add there are people giving good advice on here, but you have to know which are the good ones, and which are the less good).

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