Hi Guys and thanks for dropping by,
Today I wanted to talk about something that is pretty important at the moment, and that is keeping on track with your violin journey through online violin lessons.
With the COVID19 crisis in full swing, things have become pretty crazy over the last couple of months. What started as a lack of toilet paper and pasta in the major supermarkets has turned into a full on lockdown all over the world; it’s certainly not a situation that I predicted we’d be in!
In the following post, I’m going to give you some practical advice on how you can keep progressing, despite not being able to physically attend your violin lessons. Whether you’re a teacher or a student, this is no time to take a break from your teaching or learning; it’s a time of opportunity to get ahead and get prepared for your next exam, competition or scholarship audition!
Should I Have Lessons Online?
Online violin lessons are not suitable for all students, so although taking an extended break may not have been something you’d planned for, it may be the best option for your overall progress and musical development.
Age and Level Limitations:
I’ve found effective teaching of very young students near impossible online. My usual lessons for beginners and very young students will involve me physically moving their bows and adjusting their fingers and arms regularly. This is impossible online and means that I need to rely on a parent or an older sibling to do so in my stead.
Where an older sibling is mature and advanced enough to help effectively, we’ve had successful lessons but even parents who don’t play the violin themselves are unable to make the necessary adjustments.
For my very young beginners without an older, capable sibling I’ve insisted on a break and for those who are a bit older, I’ve recommended some time off. The last thing we want is for inaccurate and damaging technique to creep in over the time we are apart. It is a huge shame to have to interrupt our learning and progress, but the long term damage that could be introduced through online violin lessons is just not worth it.
Successful Online Violin Lessons:
If your basic violin technique has been well established and you’re old enough to hold your concentration without having your teacher in the room with you, online violin lessons are definitely the way to go over the lock down period.
Setting Up For Online Lessons:
There are so many different programs available for video conferencing and what works for me may or may not work for you. I’ve been using Zoom and have been happy with the overall sound and picture quality during my lessons.
Whatever program you use, choose a well lit room and make sure that before your lesson, your camera is set up so that your teacher can see your fingers and bow. Perhaps run a trial meeting, even with a friend or family member to make sure that you can each hear and see each other effectively before your first lesson.
I have been allocating an extra 10-15 minutes for each lesson in case of technical issues. I’ve also found it good to have a little extra time up my sleeve to explain concepts that take longer online
Online violin lessons are going to be far more difficult if you’re not organised. Often, during normal lessons, I will tighten a student’s bow for them or find a page of music that has been put into the wrong spot so that we can get on with the lesson quickly and effectively. While I don’t mind doing this, it is not possible when we’re not in the same room.
Before your lesson, have your books ready and ordered. If you’ve got a lot of different sheet music, perhaps stick it into a scrapbook or display folder so that it is neat and organized. Tighten and rosin your bow and have your shoulder rest placed such that it is comfortable and technically correct. Do all this BEFORE you log on for your lesson; there is absolutely no use spending ten minutes of your lesson getting these things prepared!
I’ve continued to write lesson goals for my students while in lock-down. I’ve been emailing these to the students at the end of their lesson and referring back to the previous week’s goals when we meet again. In this manner, we’ve been able to continue progressing well and have been building upon our skills from the previous lesson.
Making The Most Of Videos:
Now that I’ve got my own online violin lessons up and running effectively, I’ll be back to making more videos to help you all with your violin progress. Please do use my videos where appropriate.
For example, I’ve currently got a number of students learning G major scale in three octaves. While it is important for us to go through the scale during our lesson, I am relying upon my students to use the videos and articles to help them with their technique during the week.
Duets And Piano Parts:
One thing that hasn’t worked so well online is playing two instruments at once. Sometimes, there’s a small lag, so you’ll hear the piano or second violin part slightly later than when I am playing it. We have also experienced some instability in internet connection which has lead to the sound cutting out; clearly these things are not conducive of effective ensemble.
How I’ve overcome some of these difficulties is to send my students a recording of the second instrumental parts via email. They can then open the files and play the part from their computer or audio system. Of course this isn’t as good as if I were to play in real life but it does suffice and when there’s no other pianist or violinist in the house, it’s certainly better than nothing!
For students who aren’t yet ready to tune themselves, online violin lessons can be difficult. I was working with five year old Alan last week and could tell that his violin was incredibly out of tune. We did the best we could but even with the help of big brother Alvin, we couldn’t get the violin to be in tune.
I will be posting a video and article about tuning shortly, so please stay tuned (haha)! but have also told my students to drop their violins at my door for me to tune when necessary.
I’ve seen A LOT of online music lessons popping up all over social media lately. Apparently, you can begin learning an instrument online during the lockdown period and come out at the end of it ready for a sell out recital at Carnegie Hall!
Unless you’re just looking for a bit of lockdown entertainment that you know won’t take you anywhere, beginning to learn any instrument online, let alone the technically intricate violin is a REALLY REALLY bad idea.
There are many skills you could learn effectively online over the lockdown period but unless you’ve developed your basic technique in real life and are learning from an experienced and capable teacher, violin isn’t one of them.
Best Of Luck!
I usually end my posts with a Congratulations, but I feel that this one is more of a ‘good luck’ post! Intermediate and advanced students in particular can really benefit through online lessons and while you’re prevented from going to the movies or school, you can dedicate lots more time to your practice and improvement.
Always keep correct technique at the forefront of your mind and continue practicing as you know your teacher would want you to!
Please do let me know how you go and if there are any videos or techniques you’d like me to cover over the lockdown period, feel free to reach out via the comments section below and I’ll get back to you as soon as possible!
Best Wishes and Stay Safe
Marketa (founder of myviolinbff.com)