Sunday, June 23, 2019

Online Lessons for Stringed Instruments

By Andy Fein, Luthier at  Fein Violins
and Ivana Truong

We know as well as anyone that learning an instrument is a massive undertaking. Even the first step, finding a teacher, can be overwhelming and difficult. They have to be in your area, someone who works well with you, and their rates have to be in your price range. That's why more and more students are trying to learn online, whether that's through Youtube videos, websites, or Skype lessons.

Nicola Benedetti's take on vibrato. You can use videos like this 
to compare with what you are learning or have learned to develop your playing

And teachers! If you can develop the skills to teach online or do instructional videos (and charge for them!) you can expand your studio far beyond your geographic area and far beyond the time that you can devote to giving one-on-one lessons.
Tina Guo has some great tips & lessons on her Youtube channel

An easy/cheap/painless/first step way to learn a stringed instrument online is through free videos on Youtube or other video streaming platforms. There are videos for almost everything, including more typical lesson style videos, as well as tutorials focusing on specific pieces or specific aspects of playing. But it's important to keep in mind that anyone can upload these videos, regardless of actual ability or experience. (OK- I won't name any names, but one of the first people to pop up on Youtube when you search for 'Violin Lessons' is showing a bow hold I have never, ever seen taught for violin. It looks like a cello bow hold to me.) That's why we don't really recommend learning solely through video tutorials. Especially as a beginner, it's hard to know whether or not a teacher is teaching correctly or is giving sound advice. We would recommend using these videos for quick tips or for a different perspective compared to your teacher.

Another option that is closer to the more traditional private lesson is a webcam or online lesson. Websites like Preply, takelessons, and lessonface show students many different teachers and their rates. Oftentimes, online teachers will have a "trial lesson option", so this can be a good way to look for a teacher that suits your specific learning style or needs. Having a larger selection of instructors can make learning an instrument possible if you live in a rural area or are looking to learn a more niche instrument or niche style such as Klezmer, Old-Time, or Celtic. Often, the costs are lower than in-person lessons. Since there is no need to commute, it can also be convenient for parents who would otherwise have to drive there children to their teacher's studio every week. It can be a very good option for some students.

takelessons has 200+ violin teacher online with a lesson cost of $20-$65 for 30 minutes

Preply has fewer teachers, but also cheaper prices- $7-65 per hour and every teacher has a trial lesson option

Still, we would recommend in-person instruction if possible. With online instruction, teachers can't physically manipulate and guide a student. Especially with beginners who are just learning posture and playing technique, this can be difficult. Teachers also can't mark music or play along with students, which I find extremely helpful when I'm learning a new piece. Online lessons require much more communication for tasks that could be done easily in person. This doesn't mean that online lessons are always worse, the convenience and teacher selection can make learning online a better experience for some, but overall we prefer in-person instruction.

For intermediate to advanced players, there are plenty of videos focused on advice and tips for better playing. We would really recommend looking at some of these. Nicola Benedetti, who has performed with the London Royal Symphony, London Philharmonic, and NY Philharmonic, has a great video series, "With Nicky". It covers everything from warming up to developing your sound. Hilary Hahn also made a mini masterclass series on her album "6 Partitas by Antón García Abril” explaining how she interprets and plays the beginning of each of the 6 Partitas.

The first video of the mini masterclasses covering interpretation

Nicola Benedetti covering the basics of staying relaxed while playing and how it can
improve your playing

The above two series are available for free on Youtube, but we would also highly recommend Itzhak Perlman's paid video lessons on Masterclass , explaining everything from bow grip to producing a good sound to different styles. We recently signed up for it in the shop and all our employees are watching it. The entire Masterclass series from Perlman is $180.00. Just $180.00 to learn from one of the greatest violinists ever?? What violinist would NOT pay that??? If you use this link- Masterclass , you'll get a $30 credit towards an All-Acess Pass to all the Masterclass classes and we'll get a $30 Amazon gift card.

A trailer for Perlman's Masterclass

In our opinion, lessons with a good in-person teacher are the best option for learning an instrument. With some extra work, webcam lessons can work very well, but we would recommend using online videos more as a way to improve your playing and explore different perspectives. But above all else, learning an instrument is incredibly enriching. If you want to learn the violin or any other instrument, use whatever method makes it possible for you!

We have great violins, violas, cellos, and bows for all levels of players- beginners to professionals. Come visit us!-

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