Your First Violin Lesson
Your first violin lesson can be extremely enjoyable and perhaps transformative if you have the right teacher.
But unfortunately, the vast majority of teachers get it horribly wrong, and end up teaching your first violin lesson in a way that doesn't just not inspire you, but actually does a lot of harm.
Why is this?
Traditionally, and before the advent of the internet, violin teaching was a very 'closed' profession. There were only a few books or 'treatises' that existed on the subject of violin, and none of them addressed the subject of good teaching, such as how to structure a first violin lesson. Best practices and knowledge about the mosot effective ways to teach was not widespread.
Not only was the information inaccessible, but very few teachers looked outside of the world of violin playing and tried to understand what good teaching actually was.
The net result was a long and unfortunate legacy of violin teachers all over the world 'muddling through' and creating unstructured lessons that didn't address the most important topics.
Because the violin is such a sophisticated and challenging instrument, it can appear to most people to be very hard to play. But the main reason for this is that it requires a much finer balance of mental and physical actions than many other instruments in order to sound good.
These are not hard to do, once you understand the right concepts. But if you don't get those important concepts, you don't stand a chance.
First Violin Lesson - Core Ideas
The ideal first violin lesson for a beginner student does not include charging head first into 'how to hold the violin and the bow'. This is what most teachers start with.
Why is this a bad idea?
Well, it is human nature that when presented with something to 'hold', we often tend to grip it in a way that produces tension.
Most people do this every day when picking up objects (unless they're obscenely chilled out!). Think of writing examination papers as a school child -- did your hand ever get tired when writing under pressure, because you were gripping the pencil too hard?
Now in most things, this is not a big issue. As soon as you notice that there is tension in your body, you can release that tension, and continue with what you were doing.
With the violin, physical tension is the worst possible thing that can happen, because it immediately affects your sound.
In our own version of a first violin lesson (our introductory violin workshop for beginners), we spend considerable time exploring the fundamental relationship between the body and the violin, and the effects of breathing and the physiological state of your limbs. It doesn't take long - just the first part of the first lesson - but it makes a world of difference.
We always impress upon students the relationship between a good sound and physical ease or freedom of the body, because you simply can't have one without the other.
First Violin Lesson - How It Should Be Structured
When taking your first violin lesson, it should ideally be quite long - 30 minutes is simply not enough to thoroughly explore the key concepts.
If you have a young child who is learning the violin, their concentration span may not be able to last for much longer than that, in which case you should seek out a teacher who is happy to split a longer initial lesson into shorter chunks, perhaps over different days.
As we already established, the most important thing to grasp at the beginning of your first violin lesson is the relationship between the violin and the body. The balance of every part of your body with your instrument is key to getting this right.
A first violin lesson doesn't need to be very complex and should focus only on essential principles, such as finding freedom in every part of the body, and then finding a comfortable way to rest the violin between your chin and your shoulder.
When thinking about how to hold the violin and the bow, it is always very important to come to these topics by asking the question: 'what is the most natural thing to do?'. Holding a violin and bow is intrinsically unnatural, so you need to find the 'least unnatural' way of doing so in order to keep the body as free as possible!
We'll be expanding this article soon, but in the meantime you may like to look at our own example of a first violin lesson - our 'Violin Fundamentals' workshop. Click here for more details about how that first violin lesson structure works.