Learning the violin

Learn to play Violin. The violin is a fun instrument for children to learn. As they develop they can play the violin in orchestras, solo, or as the fiddle in a blue-grass band!

What is a Violin?

The violin is a bowed instrument with four strings. It is the smallest member of the violin family of string instruments, which also includes the viola and cello.

A violin is mostly heard in orchestras. Sometimes informally called a fiddle, a term often used when the instrument is played in bluegrass or country bands.

A violin typically is made from a spruce top and maple back and uses a bridge to support the strings. A bridge transmits the vibration from the strings into the body of the instrument thus creating the notes or sound.

Violin strings may be made from gut, stranded steel, solid steel or various synthetic materials, wound with a variety of metals.

The violin bow is usually wooden, the ‘string’ of the bow generally either horse hair, or in the case of some cheaper bows, synthetic fibre.

Where do you learn the Violin?

Most primary and secondary schools offer music tuition – including violin – as an extracurricular activity. Your child could hire a violin for a minimal cost, which includes the tuition plus the opportunity to perform in the school’s orchestra or music group.

The other options are academy and private tuition.

Music schools and academies generally offer both group and individual violin tuition. Many families start their children in a class environment, then move to individual tuition as their child progresses on the instrument.

Many private teachers work from a home studio. Most are classically trained and are well qualified to provide your child with tuition and advice.

What age can your child start learning the Violin?

Most traditional teachers will start lessons from age five. The Suzuki Method teaches children as young as three years.

It is possible to get a violin size that correctly fits even the smallest child (see “What Equipment do you Need” below).

How do you progress over time?

Most students will start off with some kind of tuition book, progressing through a series of manuals.

Tuition books which include CD accompaniments are a real advantage for learning the violin. These help students to play in tune and hear if the notes they are playing sound correct.

After a series of manuals, the students generally progress to studying “grades”. The two main examination boards used in New Zealand are Trinity Guildhall and Royal Schools of Music (ABRSM).

They both consist of eight grades with an initial or preparatory grade before grade one. After grade eight students can study for various diplomas and letters.

There is also theory study – written examinations covering reading and writing of music notation, the overall patterns of how music works, as well as creative exercises leading to composition, song writing and arranging music.

Competitions are regularly held in most areas around New Zealand and are another way of progressing.

There is also the Suzuki Method of tuition. This popular study method relies on developing the student’s ear. They learn by listening to a CD and copying what the teacher demonstrates.

This technique of learning by copying rather than through written instructions is most commonly called ‘rote’ learning. The advantage of learning by rote is that very young students who haven’t yet learnt to read can still learn to play the instrument.

What equipment do you need to learn the Violin?

Firstly the instrument itself of course! Children typically use instruments smaller than the full size violin adults play. Violins are therefore made in “fractional” sizes: 3/4, 1/2, 1/4, 1/8, 1/10, and 1/16 – an instrument for children of all ages and sizes.

These fractional sizes have nothing to do with the actual dimensions of an instrument; in other words, a 3/4-sized instrument is not actually three-quarters the length of a full size instrument.

For example, the body length of a “full-size” or 4/4 violin is 14 inches (35 cm). A 3/4 violin is 13 inches (33 cm), and a 1/2 size is 12 inches (30 cm).

A violin purchased from a retail store should also include a bow and a case.

Shoulder rests are essential. It is important that the student can easily and comfortably hold the violin correctly on the shoulder so they don’t have to use the left hand to hold the instrument. This allows the hand to move freely playing the notes.

Strings will need to be replaced at some stage. There are a range of strings available at varying prices. Your teacher will advise you on the best choice.

Rosin is a block of gum resin which is rubbed on the bow creating a white powder. This makes the bow grip the strings creating friction which makes the string vibrate thus creating the sound.

Music stand – is essential to purchase. A stand adjusts to the correct height of the player. If the sheet music isn’t at the correct height it will affect the posture of the player and therefore the sound of the violin; it will also affect the development of technique.

How much does it cost to learn the Violin?

Beginner’s violins start around $195 – $320, the varying fractional sizes not being reflected greatly in price difference. For the next level up expect $600 – $1200 for a good student model.

You may want to consider hiring your child a violin in the first instance. This will allow them the opportunity to consider if the violin is the instrument best suited to them, without the outlay for a full-priced instrument in the initial stages of learning.

There are several hire options available – monthly, six and twelve-monthly. The six and twelve monthly options coincide with the school year and may not be available in the latter part of the year.

Minimum hire is usually three months. Expect to pay around $25 per month in hire fee.

Most music stores around the country offer a hire-to-buy scheme. Should your child choose to continue with the violin, a portion of your hire fee is deducted from the retail price of the instrument.

Shoulder rests: $20 – $75

Strings: $32 – $91

Rosin: $7- $25

How much time does it take to learn the Violin?

Lessons are usually weekly and vary in length from 20 minutes to an hour depending on the age and grade of the student and whether it is a group or individual lesson.

In the initial stages of learning, two or three short practices per week are encouraged until the student gets used to holding up the violin for longer periods of time.

As strength develops a regular practice schedule of five days a week is recommended.

Depending on the teaching method, students should be playing basic pieces within a few weeks, usually taking three to four terms to work through a tuition book.

Should the student choose to head down the formal examination path, the player will be looking at a commitment of several years as they progress through the grades and learn to master their instrument.

Great Violin Websites

www.theviolinsite.com

The Violin Site offers online video instruction for beginning and advanced violinists as well as assistance with violin technique and violin practice exercises. It has a good resources section and links to a range of violin related websites.

The Kiwi Families Team

This information was compiled by the Kiwi Families team.

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