How to Teach Myself Violin

November 2, 2020, 7:54 PM · I have been learning violin for multiple years now. I learned basics(posture, violin/bow holds, where the fingers go, etc.) through orchestra class at my school. The class was disbanded because the teacher quit and there weren't that many people in the class. I have tried to self-teach myself ever since. Violin lessons where I live are very expensive. I think I've done a pretty good job teaching myself, but I feel like I'm slowing down in my learning. I'm playing Vitali's Chaconne and the Bruch concerto right now. I guess my main problem is with technique. I kind of just learn off of Youtube, but the tutorials there are mostly for beginners and it's hard to tell if I'm doing them right.

Replies (25)

Edited: November 3, 2020, 2:05 AM · With so many of us teaching via zoom, I think it is very likely that you can find a teacher. Don’t feel limited to the local options if they’re out of your price range.
November 3, 2020, 6:29 AM · I returned to the violin myself almost 2 years ago and since the pandemic hit the US in March I've had Zoom lessons with my teacher. It has worked better than I thought it would - and remote lessons opens you to a much deeper pool of teachers and price ranges if local isn't an option.
November 3, 2020, 8:34 AM · There are also a lot of programs providing free lessons from high school and college students online during the program. If you have good internet, you can do it from anywhere. We recently hooked up a kid from India who has never been able to get lessons before.
November 3, 2020, 8:36 AM · Two options:

Through the Staff: https://www.throughthestaff.org/
Sharing the Stand: https://www.sharingthestand.org/

November 3, 2020, 8:52 AM · It is very hard to teach yourself until you reach a certain level, and even then there are some things only certain good teachers can communicate. It is the goal for every teacher to make themselves irrelevant-to make the student his/her own teacher, but that is a long journey ahead, even after playing Bruch and Vitali/Charlier's Chaconne. Lots of discipline and self-observation are required. Most times, an intermediate player needs help seeing/listening to things they are not aware of in their playing and music making, and even great players take lessons or like to be heard by someone else every now and then.

I recommend Fischer's "The Violin Lesson", but do heed the advice above, as many qualified people are teaching online at usually lower prices than the regular NYC professional teacher lesson rate.

Wishing you all teachers and players well, and hopefully a new semblance of hope starting from today.

November 3, 2020, 6:33 PM · The secret to self-learning violin? Don't!

You'll regret not getting a teacher sooner. Violin is deceptively difficult. Maybe consider doing some extra work to be able to afford lessons if you're serious about learning the skill.

November 4, 2020, 3:50 AM · Deceptively difficult?

It's VERY difficult. One of the hardest disciplines on the planet to master.

November 4, 2020, 4:31 AM · I think you should be applauded, Sophie, for pushing ahead as you have in a difficult endeavor! Shame on your school for abandoning the program! Well done that your teacher inspired you to want to continue! But everybody is right that you need some lessons with a good teacher.

You didn't say how much the lessons cost that are "very expensive" so it might be that practically any price would be too expensive.

The free lessons from college students that Susan mentions may be good or they may be horrible. Just because a person knows how to play doesn't mean they know how to teach. Of course, that's true of any teacher, college students don't have a monopoly on not knowing how to teach. So if you try some of those free lessons be careful about what they say and if possible try to do some research on what they teach you to see if it's valid or not.

Proceed with caution in finding a teacher -- Mary Ellen is right that there are many people offering on-line lessons now so location isn't an issue as long as you have a decent internet connection, a web-cam in a room with plenty of light and space for you to play the violin without being cramped.

While many people have taught themselves after a certain foundation was laid either from friends who played or from a school program, most self-taught people can't proceed beyond a certain level because of the intricacies of advanced violin playing. And at your level spending a lot of time playing without a teacher can cement some bad habits you may have developed.

When you do find a good teacher you can afford and can work well with, don't be alarmed if they take you back to some more elementary pieces and technical points in case they need to fix some things in your playing.

With your enthusiasm I think you will be able to move beyond this point in your playing, just proceed with caution to find the best path for you so that you won't develop habits that might cause physical damage or prohibit you from advancing.

Please keep us posted about how you decide to move forward.

November 4, 2020, 5:22 AM · This site needs a way for people to easily post a video of themselves playing something.

Otherwise it's impossible to give any true advice.

Edited: November 4, 2020, 6:33 AM · How old is the OP? After a certain age, monthly lessons are almost certainly best. I have heard of an adult being forced to sign up for "a course of" weekly lessons. I would hazard a guess that that was with a poor teacher. The cost of those weekly lessons (4.3 weeks in a month) might be more per month than monthly lessons with a properly trained teacher who will teach good technique.
November 4, 2020, 7:33 AM · Any competent teacher is going to want to see a beginner weekly. Too many bad habits can creep in over the course of a month.
November 4, 2020, 7:51 AM · OK, the other adult was a beginner, but Sophie isn't, and my main point was that the cost of lessons can be looked at from different perspectives.
November 4, 2020, 8:36 AM · Sophie, Contact my teacher, Mirabai Peart, and see if she can help you. Best of luck.

https://www.mirabaipeart.com

Edited: November 4, 2020, 9:23 AM · Thank you guys so much for all the advice! I haven’t really thought about online lessons that much. For me, violin is a hobby, I’m not really looking for a professional career, but I do want to progress. I will definitely look into the online lesson option.
November 4, 2020, 10:37 AM · I'm not following your train of thought, Gordon. My best progress has been happening since I started doing lessons twice per week, two or three years ago. Monthly is like coaching, where you'd really need to be at a near-pro level to be able to make the most of the time in between lessons.

As someone who self taught for a few years, DON'T. You will only bake in a bunch of bad habits that you will spend 3x longer to undo. Look into the free or low-cost options over video for now.

November 4, 2020, 11:02 AM · I think that late intermediate to advanced students can "self-teach" to some extent, assuming that they've received a very solid foundation. However, improvement is likely going to be much slower than it would be with solid regular teaching -- or even the occasional bit of coaching.

Sophie mentions working on Vitali and the Bruch, but we don't know how well she's playing them, so it's hard to say whether she's really at a level where she's able to successfully autodidact. The fact that she learned basic beginner technique in a school group class makes that sort of advancement improbable.

Edited: November 4, 2020, 11:36 AM · Hi Sophie,
I would also urge you to find a teacher. Most violin students--even those with top-notch teachers--will not become professionals. The better quality teaching you receive, the better you will play, and the more amateur opportunities that will be available to you.

The problem with teaching yourself--unless you already have excellent technique--is that, if you are intelligent and hardworking, you may be able to "figure out" how to play relatively "easy" (I'm thinking Accolay, Viotti, deBeriot, etc.) pieces in time, in tune (more or less), and with reasonable tone, yet with really bad habits. You can't possibly anticipate how those bad habits will inhibit you until you try to play more difficult music. A good teacher will recognize habits that will preclude future progress. I'm the poster child for someone who developed bad technique due to ineffective/indifferent teaching as a kid. I could hack through de Beriot, and Haydn (and Mozart and Lalo--kinda, sorta) but couldn't really move forward no matter my level of effort. I had no idea what was holding me back. It's been a painful three years trying to remedy bad habits. Based on my experiences, I urge you to avoid developing bad habits in the first place.

An option for you is to contact one of the "expensive" teachers you really admire and that you know produces good students, and ask them to recommend one of their students who has limited teaching experience, but would teach you at a very, very reduced rate in order to get some experience. Good luck!

November 4, 2020, 12:44 PM · +1 to Lydia.
Edited: November 4, 2020, 5:34 PM · In a short time a top professional can spot your weaknesses and assign you etudes to work on.

Forty-seven years ago I participated in a masterclass** and was assigned scales and etudes to work on. It is amazing how quickly such a pro can spot a violinists problem areas and recommend cures - sort of like a top physician with all the latest technology diagnosing an illness.

I continued to warm up on a 30 minute daily routine of that "assignment" for the next 5 years and in spite of my age (40 to 45) I improved significantly. I was the concertmaster of my community orchestra for about 20 years (approximately from age 30 to 50). I was essentially self-taught from age 13 - 86 (still counting). I had professional teachers from age 4 - 11, including the last 2 years at the Manhattan School of Music. I think that anchored my low-position technique - but I still had so much to learn (and still do).


** The "teacher of the masterclass was Claire Hodgkins, who, at the time, was assistant to Jascha Heifetz at USC, a past graduate of his USC masterclass and an active Hollywood studio violinist and professional performer in Southern California. ( https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Claire_Hodgkins )

November 5, 2020, 3:20 PM · +2 for Lydia. At this point, I know what I need to do, however, I find that recording myself, analyzing the performance from multiple angles (position, technique, musicality, etc) and then making appropriate corrections to be a very slow process. I prefer to have either a formal teacher or a practice buddy.
Edited: November 6, 2020, 1:10 AM · If you really have to self-teach, then look for as many opportunities as you can to get feedback from knowledgeable people.

If money is an issue, there are teachers online who offer feedback via video exchange at much lower cost than traditional lessons.

I went from from zero to major concertos (on viola) and a top-notch community orchestra with no lessons for the first 16 years and only a handful of lessons after that, but it's somewhat inaccurate to say I'm self-taught because I played in community orchestras starting about 18 months into learning, and got a lot of feedback and pointers (almost mini-lessons) from other musicians in my orchestras. When conditions are more conducive to ensemble playing, do consider playing in a community orchestra if school orchestra is not an option.

November 6, 2020, 2:04 AM · Hey Sophie, it would be good if you enroll in some lessons. Don't let your talent stop there. I found Violin Lessons this one is good, they offers the best violin lesson and would give you advices that will surely helped you in the future.
November 6, 2020, 5:53 PM · There are plenty of online teachers thanks to this pandemic. You'll find lower costs if you look in lower cost of living areas/countries.
November 6, 2020, 8:36 PM · The more I take lessons, the more I think I need lessons! I started on my own, and started lessons at Suzuki Level 3. Had (and still have years later) to relearn and correct many things that severely limited my ability to progress beyond playing the notes, which isn't "music". Needless to say what I recommend.
Edited: November 12, 2020, 3:31 PM · My first three years playing the violin were largely self-taught from observing the violinists in the orchestras I played in as a cellist. Because of my experience as a cellist this worked to a certain extent, but then I came up against the proverbial brick wall and progress stopped. My local violin shop advised me on a selection of local teachers, one of which I opted for, and was with for 7-8 years.

My teacher, a graduate of the Suzuki School in Japan, also had a background in the Alexander Technique, which became apparent when she was addressing my problems of posture and violin and bow holds. One thing she found very useful was to walk 360 degrees round me when I was playing in her studio so that she could observe my posture and possible ensuing problems in three dimensions. This approach worked very well. However, this was in a real studio face to face with a teacher, and I just wonder how teaching techniques like this could be worked with the inherent on-line drawback of teacher and pupil being on either side of a monitor screen. This is not to say of course that on-line teaching isn't useful. Far from it, a good on-line teacher can produce the goods most of the time, but it should be remembered that somewhere along the line it will be necessary to have at least the occasional face-to-face lesson to iron out problems which may not be evident otherwise.


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