How To Practice Without A Teacher

November 4, 2004 at 10:11 PM · Started in 6th grade.. never had a teacher but I still WANT to play, it makes me happy :) I'm in 9th now, almost 1/2 way done with school.

Currently I'm Playing: String Sonata No.2 in A Minor Movement 1 by Rossini and Caprice No. 24 by Paganini [Side project, plan to be on it for years lol]

Does anyone know some few general pointers for practicing by yourself, when your not all that great? Also, I'm looking for some new string.. but I don't know which kind to get. I recently switched my A/D for Dominants, but even after a week they sound very dull compared to my first ones. Consequently, I have no idea what kind I had first... Finally, does anyone know about how much it cost to get a bow rehaired?

Replies (39)

November 4, 2004 at 11:54 PM · Where there is a will there is a way... Get a teacher. Since you are in the 9th grade maybe you can find a teacher that you can do odd jobs for such as mowing their lawn, raking leaves, painting the house, washing the car, etc. Or maybe you could do these things for a neighbor or family member who lives close by. The best way without exception is to not reinvent the wheel learn from someone who knows how it's put together and how to make it roll smoothly. Bow rehairing in my area is about 50$. Good luck.... Tim

November 5, 2004 at 01:19 AM · Essential to get a teacher. First, find some teachers, then explain your situation and ask for advice. I'm sure they'll be sympathetic and helpful..after teaching unwilling kids, it's so good to hear of someone who wants to play.

November 5, 2004 at 01:48 AM · Granted, I'm an old guy - 53 - but I'm fairly new to the violin. I spent a year self teaching before I finally decided to get a teacher. You can learn a lot, but a lot is learned wrong without a teacher. If you really caan't find a teacher - by all means try to learn to play, but You will do much better with a teacher. Even a very occasional lesson.

November 5, 2004 at 01:54 AM · Josh you can look on but you really would be better off with a teacher. You can probably at least get one free lesson when you meet the teacher the first time. Also are there any music schools where you live? Sometimes you can get a scholarship or financial aid.

November 5, 2004 at 02:23 AM · Well, I truely have no cash.. we had to spend a good chunk of it all for my violin. Tomorrow I'm going to ask around if anyone knows a good teacher, but money is definately my biggest problem. It's almost winter, so there aren't many lawns to mow. But raking wouldnt be too bad. Unfortunately, I don't live in a poor area... if that makes sense lol. Everyone here has professionals do their lawns or painting jobs. I'd rather not try to sucker a teacher into giving me a large discount or free lessons because I don't have the money.. it's not fair to him/her. Also, anyone have advise on strings?

**Thanks all for replying

November 5, 2004 at 02:28 AM · Yes, the violinmasterclass site is very well put together, and you can learn a lot from it. I've even learned a few terms there I've never known before, and it gives helpful tips.

But even if it is a great site, you'll still need a teacher. Try to get the lowest priced teacher, and I agree with the occasional lessons. You don't necessarily need to go every week, but don't have too large of a gap between lessons. Try to get many teach-your-self videos (along with the teacher), it'll speed it up if you're not going to lessons all that much.

You might also consider some jobs, like the ones suggested. As long as you get some kind of a teacher, you'll be fine.

November 5, 2004 at 03:16 AM · I'd take the odd-job route a little further...ask your potential teachers themselves if they would be willing to hire you to work. A surprising number are willing to exchange lesson time for work time; I know my former teacher regularly gave lessons to a girl who helped her clean house. I myself got a number of free lessons for doing inventory for taxes, cleaning rental violins, and selling supplies. Fun work, and the experience was invaluable.

Another option would be to check out the local university, if you have one nearby. Usually - although not always - college students are cheaper than their fully-qualified counterparts, and they're usually (in my experience) just as good at teaching.

And lastly don't be afraid of taking lessons every other week or every third week (although, unless you're really desperate, I wouldn't advise the latter). It's better than nothing at all, trust me.

If you're really serious about learning the violin, and learning it correctly, you will find a way to get a teacher!

In regards to bows, the local rehairer costs $30 in my neighborhood, but I've seen services advertised for as low as twenty - don't know what kind of job they do, though. Beware of cheapskate rehairers, my friend!!! I've had too many bows returned to me with a shortage of hair.

As for strings, I've been a lifelong Helicore devotee. They're not that expensive and they make a great sound. The only problem I've had with them is that they occasionally unravel in first position. But of course what works well for me might not work so well for you - so be careful. Teachers should be able to tell what kinds of strings you already have or give you ideas of which ones to get.

As a closing note, I'd like to welcome you to the violin community and urge you to check back at often. Also, start listening to some violin music if you haven't already. That will give you a better idea of what you'll eventually sound like! :D Bach's sonatas and partitas are particularly magical, if played nicely.

Good luck to you.

November 5, 2004 at 12:26 PM · Whatever it takes get a teacher. Mine left the area when I was 15 and I carried on without one for 35 years,

getting into all sorts of bad habits and making little progress. Now I have a fantastic teacher and he has completely revolutionised the way I do everything. I just wish I could reclaim all those lost years - or indeed that I had had a teacher as good as my currrent one all those years ago - if I had I might be able to play this instrument of ours with some degree of skill!

November 5, 2004 at 02:57 PM · the correct link for the site mentioned above is

November 5, 2004 at 03:31 PM · Joining in an amateur orchestra would be better than nothing. Concertmaster would correct fault in intonation and rythm and introduce musicality;furthermore you'd learn from other vilonist.

November 5, 2004 at 11:30 PM · Have you tried looking for funding from a trust or your local council?

There are so many around. You could also write letters to all the companies you can think of. You can find these on the internet, under 'charitable foundations' or something.

This is standard procedure for older music students, you don't need to feel guilty because you are asking for help when you're not starving. That's the feeling I get from your previous post, and I think it's honourable, but I think in this case you are entitled to help.

Tell us how it goes!

November 6, 2004 at 02:02 AM · Thanks again everyone, I'm going to ask around a few local colleges and see if I can find anything. $30-50 just to rehair my bow... why does everything have to be so expensive?!

November 6, 2004 at 04:39 AM · Hey, I live in Denton. I'd give you free lessons since you're so interested, but its a bit of a drive here and my schedule is crazy. If I hear anything about teachers in our area I'll let you know.

November 6, 2004 at 07:58 AM · hey, there you go.

November 6, 2004 at 10:40 PM · Josh, don't feel guilty about the first lesson either. I think most teachers consider that you are auditioning for them and don't charge. At the very least, they might give you some helpful recommendations for other teachers or scholarships at local music schools. Good luck!

November 7, 2004 at 06:53 AM · What sort of bad habits can be established, besides bow positioning, and where you hold the violin?

November 7, 2004 at 07:31 AM · Left hand positioning is a common problem that I've seen even in students who take lessons (obviously with casual teachers); especially when the palm bends and touches the neck. Another problem is left hand tension.

As for the right hand, without proper practice, one can develop the bad habit of jerking the bow/using it inefficiently.

November 7, 2004 at 08:40 AM · Greetings,

Ed, that's an interesting question that maybe should have been raised before....

1) using the wrong muscles o too much effore in putting up the fiddle.

2) Rotating the left forarm along the wrong axis to put it in place.

3) Holding the violin too low.

4) Too far to the left /right.

5) With the chin instead of jaw.

6) Spiralling the head down onto the instrument.

70 Using too much head weight to holdthe violin.

8) Standing in an unatural way prior to raising the isntrument.

9) Taking the instrument out of the case in an emotionally over excited and non-tactile way.

10) Rosining the bow incorrectly.

11) Screwing the bow too tight/loose.

12) Tuning up incorrectly.

13) Holding the bow incorrectly.

14) No tactile sense of bow in hand.

15) Holding the instruemnt too tightly.

16) thum in unnatural psoition.

17) Arm in wronmg position in relation to the litlte fingger.

18) Neck of violin too high or low in the thumbjoint.

19) Squeezing with the first finger.

20) Incorretc placemnt of fingertips on string.

21) Too much pressure from left hand fingertips.

22) Tightening the left arm muscles ot produce a response in the left hand.

23) Phobias about the weight and balance of the violin that cause many of the above problems.

24) No understanding how to use the large muscles in the back and keep the flow of energy from this region into the hands.

25) Incorretc use of the eyes.

26) Misuse of body after raising the violin.

27) Using large units of body to do the jobs supposed ot be done by smaller ones.

Sorry I"m tired now. Another few hundred would be possible...



Geez, depressing isn"t it?

November 7, 2004 at 12:16 PM · It might be possible to teach yourself, however you do need a teacher. Here's what I would recommend for you if I was taking you on as a student, knowing your situation.

Reccommend you get Basics and Practice by Simon Fischer. These can be a bit expensive, so I might let you borrow mine for a bit. Reccommend you come to weekly lessons for a couple of months. If I had a number of students, and teaching was just a support for my income, I would offer reduced price lessons untill you were in a better financial position.

After I felt that your technique was heading in the right direction, I'd probably suggest fortnightly or monthly lessons, but reccommend that you come to listen in on one of my other lessons, with someone about the same level as you. This would give you some tips on what to look out for in your own practice.

I probably wouldn't go longer than a month without a lesson. But once you know how to practice, you've got the books with excercises to correct problems that you're experiencing, you should be able to learn sufficiently to stay at an ok level and keep the money in the bank.

You'll probably never get into a college or conservatorium with no teacher, but if you're just playing for enjoyment then that should be sufficient

November 7, 2004 at 09:16 PM · Okay so everyone says, get a teacher. If in the end it's absolutely impossible for you to get a teacher, however, we haven't given you a lot of advice in teaching yourself. Here is what I can suggest.

Have an amazing schedule for yourself. First of all, get a blank notebook if you don't already have one, and list the pieces, etudes, and scales (including arpeggios and double-stops - these are immesely important, and more so without a teacher to tell you when you are out of tune!) you are doing, along with seven check boxes. This is a weekly schedule--every day you practice those things, check them off.

Along with a weekly schedule, have a LONG TERM schedule. Research pieces (or ask us!) that you want to be playing (or should be playing) by 12th grade, and the progression you should learn thereof. That way, you will know which concertos you should be working on in 10th grade, in 11th grade, in 12th grade. You'll know you want to finish Kreutzer (etudes) by the end of 10th grade or whatever, and start on Rode (also etudes--very famous).

That's a great starting point I think, having a good schedule. Just keep yourself on track, and you will do fine. You have a million message boards at your disposal, you can ask questions, etc; Everyone needs a teacher, but if you are diligent and do your homework on what pieces you should be doing for your level, you can do quite well without.

Best wishes! Ask more questions!

PS: They say the teacher will come when the student is ready. Don't be discouraged!

November 7, 2004 at 09:54 PM · If a teacher is absolutely impossible, how about someone who plays the violin well to check out what you are doing once in a while just to spot trouble spots and propose solutions. What we are doing and what we think we are doing can be such different things.

November 7, 2004 at 10:28 PM · Exactly, that's another good point. Surround yourself with other violinists that you look up to (or are at your level); get involved as much as possible in orchestras, ensembles, places and people that can introduce you to good teachers in the area and good groups in the area. Go to concerts (in my area, there are plenty of free concerts) frequently. Ask to observe violin classes (private lessons they probably won't allow, but group lessons--if there are any around--you would probably be allowed to watch). That's another reason you need to know teachers in the area even if you aren't taking from them. Develop relationships with them and their students, and hover their concerts as well.

November 7, 2004 at 10:49 PM · very good advice, i'm sure other violinsts in an orchestra or whatever would be happy to give you little pointers.

November 8, 2004 at 01:24 PM · Thanks again, it all SOUNDS great... but this is how it is around my area. If your in orchestra, your a dork :P That's fine with me, cause I bet it's like that everywhere. But here's where the problems arise. Although we have many kdis who can play like anything and are just so great and get lessons by world famous teachers, they hate playing. I'm 6th chair 2nd violin in Sympohinic (best of the 3 classes) which is great, but everyone behind me just doesn't care about playing at all and aren't very good. All the people infront of me REALLY hate playing... it seems like the better they get, the more they dislike playing. I know ONE person who would consider listening to me and whatnot... guess I'll have to ask. About schedules and self-practice, that sounds smart lol. Can't believe I never thought of it, I usually just get home.. whip out my violin and play for about 3+ hours. (Not straight, but probably net that much) Where can I get these Kreutzer and Rode etudes from? Should I just go to my local music shop and ask? If so, what exactly for? I just made a nifty weekly schedule with Excel :P Long term however, well... I don't have any clue what I should be playing. And Paganini right now probably isn't the best thing ;)

November 8, 2004 at 02:48 PM · The Kreutzer is 42 Studies for Violin by Kreutzer. The ROde is similar (I don't know the exact title) but if you ask for Kreutzer violin Studies and Rode Violin Studies you should find them. ALternatively you could possibly google them and find out that way.

November 8, 2004 at 07:37 PM · yeah Josh I'm not sure what level of playing you are but I would definitely work your way up - Rode is quite difficult, I would wait awhile on that one (probably at least 2 years). Kreutzer you work your way up, there are some "easy" ones at the beginning that will get you started. I think I've got my book somewhere, if you want fingerings or pointers I could scan in my pencil markings :)

as for other etudes, do your homework; I would call your local music shop and see if they can advise a lower level Kretzer book for you, like Kodaly, Wohlhart, Sevcik or that double-stops book (the red ones... can someone help me out here? I can't remember the author). other than that, just stop by the music shop, look through their etude books and see what level looks about right for you.

one more question then, and that's: do you have knowledge of all positions? if not, which positions can you do comfortably? a position etude book will probably be quite useful to you at this stage.

November 8, 2004 at 11:41 PM · Hey Josh, Go to They have great practice schedules you can download and print out. Lots of good videos too and graded repertoire and etude books. Just what you need until you can find a teacher. Good luck!

November 8, 2004 at 11:47 PM · Greetings,

one simple way to evaluate what you might be doing at a certain level is to take a look at the ASTA graded list of tehcnique, pieces and etudes. This give a vert convenient impression of order, whta kind oif tehcnical capabilities you need to be doing certain kind sof studies and pieces etc.

Kreutzer counts as fairly advanced technique. There is a huge stack of etude books to get through before then. Most have already been mentioned: Wolhfart, Kayser, Sevcik, Mazas, Trott and so on,



November 16, 2004 at 01:51 PM · Hey everyone, thanks for the advice. Wednesday (11-16) I'm going over to my friend's teacher's house so she can meet me. My friend told me that one of her other students quit and she has an open spot, yay! Not only do I have a good chance at getting that spot, but she said it would be just fine for me to baby-sit her kids or tutor them, etc instead of paying cash. Things are starting to look up and lately, I've been feeling.. I guess you could say "more in control" of my violin/bow.

Also, I'am playing a piece for my ensemble class, it's a Quintet. I believe it's called "Quintet in E Flat Major, K 407 (386c)." It's for Horn, Violin, Two Violas, and a Cello. Fortunately there's a Cello 1 and 2 part, because we don't have a Horn lol. It's by Mozart, FYI. Back to my questions... I'm playing Concerto in G by Mozart for my solo too, and when I was playing it in class... one of the 1st violins came over and told me I was playing the style all wrong and it was "classical." "You're playing way too rough, and you need to decrecendo at the end of every phrase." I get the decrecendo... but I don't understand how to play loud and "smooth" at the same time.. help?

Thanks a bunch everyone,


November 16, 2004 at 06:24 PM · Hey, Josh, Great news about the teacher. Excellent!

About the Mozart G major concerto: listen to as many recordings as you can. Go to your library or wherever you can get recordings and listen. I can send you music files if you email me and they open up on your computer. To play loud and smooth--I'm working on that too. A teacher can really help you here. Mine's been working with me on this all summer and fall and I just finished the Mozart G last spring. I can't pass Go till I get it right. It has to do with your bowing, but for now try using more bow but try to keep it under control. Soloists even when playing moderately soft lyrical sections still have to fill the concert hall enough for people to hear.

By the way, playing Mozart well is hard! I will go back to it once I fix my bowing.

Good luck with everything.


November 16, 2004 at 09:10 PM · Josh, good luck for meeting ther teacher!

November 18, 2004 at 02:31 AM · I got a teacher :) She loved me! The deal is I tutor her kid when he's in need, and she gives me lessons! My 1st lessons is this friday at 6:30! Yea Mozart IS hard... I'm working VERY hard on my bowing right now.. I can't seem 2 keep it straight and whatnot. She gave me some quick tips though.. on the phone.

Thanks again all!

November 18, 2004 at 03:57 AM · Congratulations Josh!! I'm so glad you have your teacher. What a happy ending :)

November 18, 2004 at 04:17 AM · Hurrah hurrah! Yes, do let us know how you're coming on!

By the way, Mozart 3 is tough!!! I've been playing five or six years now and I still haven't ascended to that level yet. So don't stress out too badly about not being able to play it as well as you might like. :)

So glad to hear that you've found a teacher. May you and your violin spend many happy years together.


November 18, 2004 at 07:04 AM · AWESOME! Great news!

March 6, 2005 at 05:47 AM · "The teacher will come when the student is ready"

So true, for both student and teacher. I am Josh's teacher and I believe we were both ready for each other. Josh is an amazing raw talent with an incredible desire to play the violin. There is so much to teach him that there never is enough time. I am the lucky one to have aquired such a student. He is a sponge. We have both learned and shared so much from each other. Our journey has just begun! Remember, "play your music with the joy that comes form the beauty of the is the love and joy of the music that fills our soul"........=)

Josh has new strings, remade bridge and a special new soundpost. Violin finally sounds like it should. No bow rehair yet. He really needs a decent bow.

March 7, 2005 at 01:05 AM · The price to get a bow rehaired usually varies between 20 and 40 US Dollars. I got mine done for twenty and I think they did a pretty good job.

March 7, 2005 at 01:28 AM · Yvonne,

What a wonderful post. Thanks for coming up with a way for Josh to have lessons. He sounds like a keeper.

March 7, 2005 at 01:41 AM · Yvonne, Thanks for writing to us and letting us know the good news. I'm glad that you enjoy having Josh as a student. As you said, things worked out well for both of you. It's not often that we hear true stories with such happy endings. I wish you both many years of enjoyment with music.

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