What to Expect From Violin Lessons
After you find a teacher and a violin, there will be a waiting period before your first lesson. Any attempt to learn on your own can result in damage to your instrument and incorrect approach in early muscle memory development. It is therefore extremely important that you not take the violin out of the case before your first lesson. You also should not study note reading in advance if the violin is your first instrument. The best way to learn to read music is one note at a time within the context of an instrument. If you try to learn to read music without playing an instrument, it will be kind of like trying to learn to read words without speaking. You will never learn to play the notes on the page so that they flow as music should if your approach does not include making music.
There are several things you can do before lessons, though. You can learn to name the parts of your instrument, listen to violin music, and read about the history of the violin and various composers. You can also start getting yourself into the right mindset. Start calling yourself a violin student or an aspiring violinist, and accept that being a violinist is a lifelong commitment. It is an identity, not a passing interest, and you will be setting yourself up for failure if you do not embrace it as your identity.
In a typical violin lesson, there will be a warmup period in which you play scales and exercises (called etudes). You will then play the material you have been practicing that week for your teacher to critique. If you are ready to progress, your teacher will demonstrate a new skill for you. It is important that you practice adequately between lessons in order to progress, but it is also important that you not set your expectations too high. Every violinist must learn at their own pace, and some skills take longer to learn not because you do not understand but because your body must adjust to moving in ways it never has before. Some of that adjustment depends on metabolism, reflexes, and repetition rather than anything you can do with your mind. You therefore should not be discouraged if you are not progressing at the rate you feel you should.
What You Should Bring to Lessons
- Your violin and all necessary accessories - like your shoulder rest.
- A bag or folder for music.
- A pencil and a notebook - for recording what you should practice throughout the week. I have students who record lessons with a video camera or take pictures so they can remember, for example, how they should hold the bow. Ask how your teacher feels about pictures and videos first, though.
What You Can Leave At Home
- Your music stand - unless your teacher travels to you for lessons. If you go to a studio, there is likely a music stand there that you can use.
- Metronomes and electric tuners. Your teacher probably has a metronome, and a lot of teachers prefer to tune the violin themselves before the lesson begins. Even if you already know how to tune a string instrument, your teacher might use that as a chance to give your instrument a quick checkout and warn you about things that might need to be fixed.
- Extra materials. Music you have finished and any other papers your teacher has given you should probably be kept in a file at home. Carrying everything with you can result in quite the extra load as you cover more and more music. Also, if you take too long to locate the right music in your bag, you will be wasting time that you are paying for.
Courtney is part owner of Treble Strings. She teaches lessons both online and in her studio in Smithville, MO. To contact her, please email: firstname.lastname@example.org