If you've ever thought about playing the violin but first looked at in-person lessons, the cost may well have been a deterrent. However, as online music courses have become more common, students of many instruments have found that online courses suit their lifestyle and budget.
We don't think there's anything wrong with taking violin lessons in-person, for our purposes, we're going to focus especially on online learning. If you're excited to learn how to play, hopefully, this list will help you get started!
Learning to Play the Violin: How to Get Started
1. Test-Drive A Free Beginner Course
You already know that online music courses tend to be considerably cheaper than taking lessons in person. That said, if you've already spent the cash to buy or rent a violin, you might hesitate before putting down more money on a violin course. What if you don't like it?
Luckily, in our adventures checking out online courses for guitar, piano, violin, and more, we've found several reputable sites that offer a free beginner course. With this model, you can take the intro course and make sure you enjoy playing the instrument you've chosen. If you want to progress, many sites that offer free beginner courses have paid-course options for intermediate and more advanced players.
One site that uses this model (and a violin site we especially like) is Violin Lounge. The site offers a free 10-lesson beginner course taught by a classical violinist. In this course, you will learn some of the fundamentals of playing the violin. You'll learn how to hold the bow for optimal sound, how to hold the violin, and how to play a handful of songs. Violin can be a tricky instrument to get started with, but the patient and thorough instruction you'll find here will help make your start as smooth as possible.
We also really like that you can get a PDF copy of the accompanying beginner violin book for free. If you want, you can even print it for when you want to play without a screen.
Violin Lounge also includes a range of free tutorials, but if you want to take a masterclass, you can purchase a paid membership. Violin Lounge does things a little differently here -- instead of paying a monthly access fee, you purchase lifetime access to the course, which includes free support and all course updates. For the site's bowing masterclass, you can pay a one-time fee of $997 or make 12 monthly payments of $97. It's a little pricey, but this site also has some of the best instructors we've found. It's a great program for learning how to play the violin and then developing that skill further.
If you want to see what Violin Lounge is all about, check out this sample lesson from Zlata Bouwer, the main violin teacher on the site.
2. Set A Practice Schedule
You've probably heard stories about people who practice for six or so hours a day in order to learn the violin. If you want to do this, there's nothing wrong with it, but there's no need to worry if you aren't able to play for hours per day.
When learning an instrument, the frequency of the practice matters more than the duration. For instance, practicing for 15 minutes five days a week will get you a lot farther than practicing six hours for one day per month will. You don't necessarily have to play for a long time each day to see results.
Depending on the online learning path you choose, you may receive some guidance on how to set a practice schedule. Beginners can really benefit from several short practice sessions, especially because you likely won't be playing full songs right away. If you want to learn more about how to set a violin practice schedule that works for you, check out this helpful video.
3. Don't Discount Completely Free Options
We'll start this section off with a disclaimer -- if you want to play the violin at a high level one day, you might be better off taking an organized course, which usually costs at least something. However, if you're a hobby player and/or would prefer not to spend money when learning, there are some courses that can be found completely free.
One of these that we like a lot is Fiddlerman. This site is designed more like a violin community than a course -- there are video tutorials available for beginner through advanced players, and the site has a popular "Tune a Week" song tutorial. You get access to a forum where you can connect with other players, and the Fiddlerman blog covers topics useful to those who already play the violin and those who want to learn. If you're confident, you can even participate in group YouTube projects. Plus, you get access to lots of free sheet music to practice on your own.
You might wonder how Fiddlerman makes any money. The site is connected to Fiddlershop, where students can purchase violins, bows, and accessories. This site may not have the same definite progression as more traditional courses, but we think Fiddlerman and sites like it can be great learning resources when you're short on money.
If you want to see one of Fiddlerman's group projects, check out this beautifully-played Game of Thrones video group project.
4. Don't Forget About Other Resources
You may find that the online violin program you choose is designed to help you learn the violin alongside other methods. However, even if it's designed as a stand-alone course, you may find that using other tools, many of which are free or very inexpensive, can help you develop your playing further.
For example, there are plenty of resources that offer free sheet music. And if you have never learned to read sheet music, don't forget that there are plenty of online resources that can teach you that, too. Some resources even use the concept of gamified learning to make it easier to learn and retain information. When it comes to playing the violin, recruiting several different resources is often a smart choice. Check out this helpful video for information that every new violinist needs to know.
5. Set A Learning Plan
Whether you're learning to play the violin or are taking up another instrument, it's always a good idea to make a learning plan. A learning plan is a bit like a practice schedule, but it helps you to set long-term practice and playing goals.
As you learn, your learning plan may develop along with your playing. But even if you're a beginner, you can start making a learning plan by deciding what your goals as a player are. Do you want to play a little bit of many different genres, or is there a particular one you want to focus on? Do want to progress to advanced levels of playing? Do you want to perform with an ensemble?
Depending on the type of online course you take, the instructor may make a learning plan for you, or there may be a set learning plan that most students follow. Still, it's a good idea to keep your own goals in mind -- having a sense of direction can motivate you and keep you focused. For more information on beginning to learn to play the violin, and setting up a learning plan, check out this video of tips for new violinists.
6. Consider Live Online Instruction
Many of the online learning options we've found (for both violin and other instruments) come in the form of pre-recorded videos. However, if you're someone who prefers interacting with a live teacher, you might want to think about live video lessons.
These lessons tend to come in two types -- one-on-one lessons (which tend to be more expensive) and group lessons (which tend to be more affordable). One site that offers fairly affordable group lessons is Online Violin Lessons. This site offers violin courses through the Global Academy of Arts, language, and Culture (GAALC). With this course, you can choose classes for beginners through advanced violinists, and you can also select from short courses through extended courses. Pricing is also fairly affordable -- the courses range from $130-$150 per quarter.
Classes are offered in just about every violin genre you can imagine -- you can learn jazz, classical, bluegrass, country, folk, rock, fusion, and even Hindustani, Arabic, and Indian violin. Video lessons are conducted over Zoom, Skype, and similar platforms.
As we've mentioned before, one of the main downsides of online learning is that you don't have an instructor there to quickly point out mistakes and help you correct them. Learning to play the violin is challenging -- you need to master the correct bow hold and learn the right way to use a shoulder rest -- and that's even before you delve into playing techniques. With an instrument this demanding, choosing to learn how to play violin with an instructor who can see you may well be worth it. If you're curious to learn more about GAALC lessons, check out this informative video.
7. Seek Out One-On-One Feedback When Needed
Just like with any instrument, you can learn to play the violin on your own. However, the violin can be a real challenge to master, especially in the beginning. Even learning to hold the bow can be a challenge, and it often takes some practice to figure out just how much pressure you need to apply when drawing it across each string.
Similarly, figuring out the right position of your left hand can be tricky as well. And while online violin lessons can certainly show you how to hold your left hand and right hand and master basic fundamentals, it can be useful to occasionally see an in-person violin teacher. If it's within your budget, it might be good to consider seeing an instructor periodically in order to make sure you aren't making any mistakes that can hinder your violin journey in the long run.
Of course, we aren't saying that you can't learn the violin with online resources, but the occasional in-person lesson just might help your playing along. If you're on the fence, check out this video on the benefits of music lessons.
8. Make Use Of Exercises
You might not think of playing the violin as being like a sport, but it's a physical activity. And like any physical activity, there's some risk of injury. The lesson program you choose might incorporate strengthening exercises, or the instructor may just ask you to do a number of playing exercises per day.
It's important to make sure you do these exercises daily (or almost daily). They'll help prevent injury, and they'll also give you a sense of mastery. Exercises and violin drills might seem tedious at first, but they're laying the foundation you need to be an excellent player over time.
If you want to see what we mean by "violin exercises," check out this helpful video showing you nine violin exercises and how they can help you.
9. Consider How Long A Site Will Last You
If you're just starting out, you may mostly be looking for a site that will teach you to play the violin through beginner levels. However, it's worth thinking about how far you want to go. If you see yourself playing the violin through advanced levels, it makes sense to choose a site that has considerable material for advanced players, too.
One site like this that we think is a great option is Peckins Studio Online. This studio offers a wealth of lessons for violin players from beginner to advanced. As you progress, you can take in-depth etude studies and lessons on techniques that can take your playing to the next level.
Peckins Studio lessons are taught by Joshua Peckins, an accomplished violinist who is also on the faculty of the New England Conservatory Prep School. We like that membership is very affordable for the variety of lessons and the quality of instruction -- for a fee of $15/month, you get access to all the site has to offer. You can start out with a two-week free trial to make sure you think this is the right course to help you learn the violin. If you want to see Joshua Peckins in action, check out this video.
10. Do Your Best To Honestly Assess Your Strengths And Weaknesses
When learning how to play the violin, it's important to make sure you are patient with yourself. When we say it's important to know your strengths and weaknesses, we don't mean that you should beat yourself up -- every player has weaknesses, and when you're new to playing, it might seem like everything is weakness.
But as your playing gets better, you'll probably notice that there are some skills you're especially good at, as well as some you want to work on.
One way you can get a feel for your strengths and weaknesses is to record your practice sessions. You can notice a certain amount when playing, but when you record and playback a session, you can hear where your playing is strongest. Check out this video on some of the benefits of recording your practice sessions.
Another way you can find strengths and weaknesses is by consulting your violin instructor. Some online programs include critiques from teachers, and other ones offer an option to purchase a one-on-one virtual lesson. If you have musically-inclined friends, you can even play for them and see what strengths and weaknesses they notice.
11. Practice Playing In Time
If you've ever played a musical instrument with a metronome, you already know that the sound of a metronome can be grating after a while. However, especially if you're practicing violin solo, using a metronome can be a great way to make sure that you keep time when playing.
Being able to play in time is vital if you want to play more complex pieces well. And if you decide you want to play in an ensemble at some point, you'll probably be thankful you took the time to practice with a metronome. If you want more information on using a metronome to play the violin, check out this helpful video.
Hopefully, you enjoyed our list! And if you're considering learning to play the violin, we hope that some of the tips here will help you find the course and the learning plan that's right for you. Being able to play the violin is an incredible opportunity, and it's important to be patient when choosing the right course for you. Similarly, remember to be patient with yourself when learning the instrument itself -- the violin takes time to master, but it will be well worth the effort. Let us know if you found this list helpful, and please feel free to share it if you liked it!