Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Violin Bow Buying Tips For Beginners - What Material Should I Choose?

Buying a violin bow can be a tricky process especially for beginners. The violin bow is one of the most important pieces of playing the violin and different bows will drastically change the sound of the violin and playability level. It is valuable to be knowledgeable about the bow you are using and what other types of bows are out there for the future if you were to pursue the violin for a longtime. The more experienced you are, the easier it is to tell the difference in sound.

Violin Bow Material
The first factor to consider when choosing a violin bow is what kind of material it is made out of. There are many different types of materials that explained below.
  • Fiberglass - This is the least expensive and worst quality material you can buy. They typically can run anywhere from $20-$50 and can work for beginners who aren't too serious about violin yet and aren't sure if they want to learn the violin long-term. Very often violin outfits that you buy online include these cheap bows as part of the package. These bows sound very stiff and any experienced violinist would hear the difference in sound immediately.
  • Brazil wood - These bows are a cheap quality wood that can be a good upgrade to fiberglass. They work well for beginners who are serious about the violin but are just starting. These bows can run anywhere from $60-$120 depending on the quality of Brazil wood and maker.
  • Carbon Fiber - These bows are very durable and have similarities to good quality wood bows. They are a lot stiffer, but have a good sense of cleanliness to their sound. These bows work great for fiddle players that aren't doing advanced classical techniques or for a more intermediate classical violinist. Carbon Fiber Bows run anywhere from $150 to $1,000 depending on the quality of the material and maker.
  • Pernambucco - These bows are the best quality bows you can buy because of the quality of the wood. Pernambucco wood is considered the most valuable and best quality wood in the world because of its ability to resonate and bend. Typically these bows are hand crafted by some of the finest bow makers in the World. Pernambucco bows range in price all across the board but usually start off at about $300 dollars. They can also be worth thousands of dollars depending on the quality and reputation of the bow maker.

Monday, November 29, 2010

My Violin, In Repair

So I have had my violin in the shop recently, as it needed some cosmetic repairs. One corner had caved in, the bottom had chips taken out of it from performance wear and tear, and there was just a lot of varnish damage.

Guarneri House Violin Shop did a fantastic job fixing up my instrument.

Here is the corner that was once concave, and is now rightly convex again. :)


 ...and here she is looking nearly brand new, with a fresh coat of varnish!

I am thrilled to have my violin back!

For those gear heads out there:

My instrument is a Meyers Halverson violin made in 1972, it was the instrument my Grandfather used in the Grand Rapids Symphony. 

Stradivarius Violin - How Do I Know If This Label is Real?

Working at a prestigious stringed instrument shop for over three years I definitely got my share of questions about people wondering if they actually own a Stradivarius violin. If you didn't already know, Stradivarius violins are the most valuable violins in the World that were made by the Stradivari violin family in the 1700's. Under a thousand of these instruments were actually made and there are only a few hundred that are actually claimed to exist in the World today. These violins are valued at anywhere from 1-4 million dollars depending on a variety of variables.

Why is this a Common Question?
So why do so many people believe they own one of these rare collectibles that are worth so much money? Back in the late 1800's, a German factory decided to mass produce violins by the thousands. These violins which are now called "Strad Copies" are great sounding instruments now because of their age and were made to portray an actual Stradivarius violin by having an exact replica of a Strad Label. These particular violins look very aged and can easily be mistaken by anybody to be an original Stradivarius violin. Without having the proper training of violin appraiser, it is very common for people to look at this label and believe they actually own one of these million dollar violins.

So how do I know for Sure?
To know for sure if you actually own a Stradivarius is to visit a violin shop that specializes in appraising violins. These people have the experience at looking at many different variables to see if a violin is an original or not and how much they believe the violin is worth. Even if your violin is not an original Stradivarius does not mean that the violin isn't worth a good amount of money. Some of these Strad Copies can range anywhere from $1,500-$3,000 depending on its year of origin, wood quality and condition.

how do you learn how t do vibrato i practice my fingures on the sideof the violin almost eveyday but still they are stiff like a board

Hey There! I would suggest watching a few of my videos on vibrato and I also have a Ezine article that explains how to do proper vibrato!

Vibrato Article:

Vibrato Videos:

Ask me anything

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving!

I hope everyone has a warm and happy holiday!

Image Source: http://blog.huayuworld.org/chicagoshin/20659/2010/11/18/76466

What made you want to pursue a career teaching others the violin? Is this the path that you always planned on taking growing up? If not, when did you decide it was something you wanted to do? (Three questions in one, I know!)

Thank you Leslie for asking such a wonderful question!

The biggest thing I have loved about teaching the violin is that I have been able to watch people grow and enjoy the hobby of playing the violin. I love when people get very involved with it, it makes me feel that I have made a positive difference in their life.

As far as for the little kids, I love being able to be a positive influence, and be a role model in their lives. I feel sometimes like I am an extended arm of the parent, that is there to help them grow in music.

I went to school for business and music, but never thought I would be putting them together to do it as a career. Teaching violin has always been considered to me as a hobby growing up and not a career. I am so happy that there is enough interest out there to now make it a career!

After all of the growth with students in the past year, I am officially hooked to teaching violin. With students locally, and online, I feel like I will be teaching them all violin (and fiddle of course) for a very long time. And I can imagine that growth of students over that long time period will make me love what I do even more!

Ask me anything

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Ask Me!

Ask me anything about violin or lessons! http://formspring.me/violintutorpro

How To Do Vibrato On The Violin

About Vibrato
Many people ask how to do vibrato on violin and what the points are to consider when learning this new concept. Vibrato is one of the more advanced concepts on violin that is basically the shaking on the hand and fingers to produce waves of sound instead of just direct notes. Being that the violin is a fretless instrument vibrato has many advantages to learning violin other than just the better quality of sound.
When vibrato is used correctly, it can actually help intonation because it gives a violinist more room for error when he is playing, especially in higher positions. Without vibrato you really have to nail each and every note in exactly the right spot otherwise it will sound sour and out of tune. In this guide I will explain the main points of how to do vibrato on the violin correctly.

Choose the Right Music
Playing vibrato takes a lot of skill and concentration which needs your full attention especially at first. When you are first starting to learn vibrato I suggest learning on a simple scale that you already have mastered so you don't have to worry as much about intonation and rhythm. If you try to do vibrato on a piece that you don't have learned very well, it is going to take your focus off the vibrato which can develop into bad habits.

Use your wrist not your Fingers
Even though it looks like vibrato is coming mainly from the movement of your fingers this is actually untrue. Your fingers are used like a rocking boat and are powered by the engine of your wrist. By moving your wrist and forearm back and forth, your finger will go along for the ride and move along with it. Your finger should never change its angle and should only move because the rest of your arm is moving. Another key to this process is to keep your finger on the tips and it should never move from its location. It just rocks back and forth.

Start Slow and Be Consistent
The key to building a tight vibrato is starting the vibrato motion very slow and consistent. This is obviously easier said than done but eventually y you should be able to play the vibrato so the note sounds the same from beginning to end. Even if you have to start off so slow that it almost sounds like a totally different note, this is better than fast inconsistent vibrato.

Be Patient
Many beginners are anxious to learn vibrato very quickly and feel it should be an overnight process. Mastering vibrato takes a lifetime and you want to make sure you do all the right fundamentals correctly especially when you are first starting to do it. Be patient and before you know it vibrato will come naturally to where you won't even have to think about it.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Ask Me!

Anything about violin, teaching, music...etc. Ask me at Formspring!

I'll post the questions and answers right here on my blog!

Let's get it started!

Friday, November 19, 2010

Violin Bow Buying Tips - Conidering Bow Weight

Even violin players who are quite experienced are sometimes naïve to the factors they should consider when choosing a violin bow. Buying a violin bow should be a long-drawn out process because it can really make or break the quality of sound for a violinist. The advanced you get, the more important it is to consider every variable and try out as many bows as you possibly can. A very important variable when it comes to choosing a violin bow is actual weight of the bow.

How heavy are Violin Bows?
Violin bows range anywhere from 56 grams to 64 grams depending on the density of the stick and frog. With this in mind, even if two bows are exactly the same weight, there will still be a potential difference in the distribution of weight across the stick. But the actual weight is a good indicator how a bow will feel and if it is right for you.

How Heavy Should my Violin Bow Be?
Every violinist has a different style and each and every bowing technique is different from player to player. A more aggressive violinist will typically play better on a lighter bow because he doesn't need as much weight to play notes cleanly. On the opposite end, typically a more conservative player will sound a lot better if they use a heavier bow than if they used a light bow. Now comparing between 56 grams and 64 grams is a huge difference and these two particular weights are very much on the opposite side of the spectrum. It is rare for me to recommend either of these weights in particular. Typically a good weight will range between 58 and 62 grams where most violin bow makers try to aim their bows to be.

How do you choose the Right Bow to Buy?
The key to buying the right violin bow is to first choose the material that you are looking to buy, then find out which weight range works best for you. After these two things are determined, you will hopefully still have about 5-10 bows to choose from that you can try out. Now the key would be to play on each and every one the same piece over and over again to see the differences. A very important thing to note is that price is not a direct determinant of quality but just a general guideline. Once you are in your particular price range, don't let the price bias you away from one or the other. Many violin shops have a price code on the bow to prevent you from doing this already. I recommend narrowing down your bow selection to about 2-3 bows and then getting second opinions over at least a week to make sure it is the one that works best for you. Don't make your decision right away especially if you are spending a decent amount of money for a bow.

Learning To Play Violin - What Does It Take To Start?

Many people want to learn to play the violin and are just stuck on exactly what it takes to get started. The violin is one of the most rewarding instruments to learn how to play and with the right resources, anybody can start playing regardless of their age.

Choosing a Violin
The first step to learn to play the violin is choosing the right violin. Many instruments are available over the internet but it is important to take a few things into consideration before going this route. Violins can be made quite cheaply if they are manufactured with fiberglass or cheap wood. This is why it is common to see instruments that you can buy for less than a hundred dollars on many different websites. If a violin is made of cheap wood, even as a beginner you will be dissatisfied with the quality of the sound it produces. A cheaply made violin can sound like a tin can and sound totally uneven from string to string. My recommendation is to read different reviews of violins that are in the one hundred to three hundred dollar range to see what others are saying about it. Otherwise buying an instrument at a local shop is a great way to go so that you can hear the way it sounds. Many shops also give you the option of renting which makes it so you pay a lot less initially to make sure it is something you want to pursue.

Choosing a Bow
Many instrument packages come with a bow and a case. Many times the bow that comes with cheap outfits are not the best quality and a bad quality bow can be difficult to play on even at first. Many beginners start on playing what is called a fiberglass bow which is the cheapest quality you can buy. The next step up from this is what is called Brazil Wood Bows which are a lot better quality than fiberglass. This would be a great bow to start on as a beginner and you can upgrade to better quality wood later.

Obtaining the Right Accessories
To learn to play violin it is important to have the necessary accessories that it takes to get started. The first accessory you will want to have is a shoulder rest which is what is used to hold the instrument comfortably. These can be quite inexpensive and start as cheap as ten dollars. The next accessory you will need is what is called rosin. Rosin is what gives the bow hair friction so that it can be played. Many different types of rosin will do the trick but I would stay away from what is called boxed rosin. This comes in a box and has a lot less rosin concentrate than other rosins. Boxed rosin almost always comes in violin outfits and I recommend getting rid of it and buying a better rosin which is in a cloth. These can start as low as ten dollars. The last accessory that you will want to have is a case which will aid in carrying the instrument around. Soft cases work really well because you can store more things in them over a hard case. Many violin outfits come with cheap cases and it is totally preference if you want to upgrade to something that suits your needs better.

Getting the Right Instruction
Learning violin is very difficult especially at first and it is very important to have the right teacher making sure you are doing everything correctly. Private lessons are a very good way to obtain violin instruction but can be costly. Normally violin teachers charge anywhere in the range of $20 to $30 per half hour lessons. Another option is to learn the violin online which saves a lot of money and can make it so you can learn the violin on your own in the comfort of your own home.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Found This Today...

So I'm not much of a guitar player...but I can certainly recognize a master craftsman when I see one. Check out Martin Luthier and his army of homemade guitars: http://martinedwardsluthier.blogspot.com/

(You can also hear sound clips of these beauties here: http://www.soundclick.com/player/single_player.cfm?songid=9274791&q=hi&newref=1)

These guitars are amazing Martin.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Gut Core Violin Strings Review

Gut strings are one of the oldest styles of strings that have been around for hundreds of years. Back in the 19th century, these were the only type of strings available on the market. These types of strings are used primarily to this day by more advanced violinists because they are the hardest strings to play. Gut strings come in different windings and can some are even totally unwound for players to produce a more classical style sound. It is not uncommon for some violinists to only want gut strings on the lower two strings because they want a more deep, dark tone on the low end compared to the high end. Then sometimes they go with synthetic strings on the high end.

Gut strings are well known for their richness and complex overtones which is why they are still popular in the market today. The great thing about gut strings is that you can dig into them very easily and can get certain sounds out of them that you cannot from a synthetic string or steel string.

One of the negative things about gut strings is that they take a long time to stretch and are highly affected by weather changes. They can go out of tune quite easily and they can be considered high maintenance. But for an advanced player these negativities can be worth what kind of sound the strings can produce if managed properly.

My recommendation is that these strings would work great for intermediate to advanced players that are looking for a rich classical tone on a nice instrument. Some great gut strings that have good ratings are Pirastro Obligato and also Pirastro Eudoxa. Both these strings run over a hundred dollars per set which make them some of the most expensive strings on the market. But if you are looking for that complex overtone and are willing to pay for it, these are probably the best strings to go with.

Violin Strings Guide - What Are The Different Types?

There are many different types of strings on the market that many beginner violinist get a little overwhelmed by. Different types of strings will have different sounds and different playability compared to other types. The key is to find a string that fits your particular needs and not focus as much on price. The three different types options are steel strings, synthetic strings, and gut strings. All these types have different pros and cons and I will explain in more detail exactly what these types are all about.

Steel Strings
Steel strings are the most direct string on the market and are also the most inexpensive. They are used mostly by beginners that are just starting because it takes time to develop enough ability to tell the different in string sound. Steel strings stay in tune very well and are by the far the lowest maintenance string on the market. They also last the longest and are considered the most durable string. The negative side to steel strings is that they have the weakest sound quality compared to synthetic and gut strings. They are known to have a tinny type tone and sound very thin on most instruments. They work very well for fiddle players that use amps to play, but don't work as well for more advanced classical violinists who are looking for a more complex sound. The best type of steel string I would recommend on the market is Helicore Brand which are probably the best quality for the dollar. There are also some very inexpensive steel strings that can get you by that can run even under twenty dollars per set.

Synthetic Strings
Synthetic strings are the newest type of string on the market and have really revolutionized the way violins sound to the day. They have many characteristics of both steel strings and gut strings which make them a great fit for many classical violinists and fiddle players. These type of strings can be costly, but are well worth it if you find the right combination on your instrument. They don't last as long as steel strings, but have a great response time and awesome playability. They have similar qualities of overtones compared to gut strings, but not quite as high maintenance as gut strings. I recommend these type of strings to players who are a little more advanced that are looking for a better quality sound compared to steel strings. Dominant strings are the most popular synthetic strings on the market and are probably the best place to start.

Gut Strings
Gut strings are a type of violin string that is used primarily by more advanced classical violinists. They are the most expensive because they produce the richest tone and have very complex overtones. These types of strings can be dug into quite well but are also the hardest to play. That is the reason why they are used for more advanced players. These type of strings are also high maintenance as they adjust quite rapidly to changes in the humidity. The best type of gut strings that I would recommend are Pirastro Eudoxa and Obligato. Both these sets run over a hundred dollars but I believe are worth a try if you are an advanced player with money to spend.

Synthetic Core Violin Strings Review

The newest type of string on the market that first came out in the 1960's are called Synthetic Strings. These strings have really changed the violin string industry and have become very popular over the years. They were first introduced onto the market by Dr. Thomastik who is the creator and founder of Dominant Strings. Synthetic Strings are made of the nylon material called Perlon which is what makes synthetic strings unique from other types. Perlon is what gives these types of strings a full-tone quality the great response they are known to have.

Synthetic strings have many advantages and can satisfy the needs of many violin and fiddle players. They are very durable and are much easier to tune than gut strings. They also have a great respond time that can really improve quality of sound. Synthetic strings are a lot different across the board as far as warmth and brightness but that can be an advantage once you find the right fit.

Synthetic strings have the least negative traits in comparison to steel and gut strings. They might take a few days to fully stretch out but once they are you won't have to worry much about maintenance with different humidity. These strings can be costly and can range anywhere from $40-$110 depending on the quality of string. One negativity to point out is it might take a while to find the right combination as there are so many different types of synthetic strings on the market today. Other than that there is a lot great synthetic strings out there and it is just a matter of finding the right one to fit your instrument.

I would highly recommend these types of strings to a beginner player who is looking to spend a little more money for a quality string, or definitely to a medium to advanced player who is ready for an upgrade in sound. There are many different brands of synthetics that have either a great warm quality to them or brightness to them. Many of these brands vary in prices depending on the quality of the Perlon and other variables. Currently Dominant Strings are the most popular string on the market because of their ability to play and affordability. I would give these strings a try first to see how they sound.

Steel Core Violin Strings Review


Steel core strings are strings that are used primarily by beginner violinists or fiddle players. They are the simplest string on the market and can satisfy the needs of most beginner players. They are also the most inexpensive strings compared to gut and synthetic. Their sound is very direct and they don't have any complex overtones to them.


The nice thing about steel strings is that they stay in tune quite easily because they don't stretch like other types of strings. They can also be used with fine tuners which makes them easier to tune than other strings. Other types of strings have different materials that don't work well with fine tuners so you are forced to tune them with the peg which is harder to do. Steel Strings are also the most durable strings on the market and can stay on an instrument for quite a long time. Many fiddle players like these types of strings because of their durability and the ability for them to stay in tune.


The negative side to steel strings is that they are very thin sounding and have the worst sound compared to other times of strings. A more advanced player will be able to tell the difference in sound right away but a beginner most likely will not. Steel strings can sound somewhat tinny and it is difficult to dig into them compared to synthetic or gut strings.


I would recommend steel strings to the violinist that is just starting out and is looking for a string that isn't going to break their budget. They also work great for fiddle players who want something that is going to last them a while. It takes a while to develop enough skill to be able to notice the different in string types so starting off by using a steel string is probably the best way to go.

Article Source: http://EzineArticles.com/?expert=Mike_Sanchez

Monday, November 15, 2010

How Do you Hold The Violin Bow Properly?

One of the most important parts of learning the violin is having a correct bow hold. Many bad habits can form with the bow hold which can hurt your progression down the road. That is why is important to learn this correctly. Below are the main points you should address when learning how to hold the violin bow.

Step 1 - Thumb Placement
The violin bow should be held in your right hand right by the frog. The frog is the black square piece that has an ingrave which is called the groove. When gripping the bow, your thumb will be placed into this groove. It is important to have your thumb curved when gripping the bow and not bent backwards. This is called banana thumb and is very common of beginners when they are first starting.

Step 2 - Pinky and Finger Placement
Your pinky will be placed at the very end of the bow stick on what is called the button. The button is a screw which controls the tightness of the bow hair. The pinky should rest comfortably on top of the button on a 45 degree angle. Your other fingers should rest very relaxed on the bow stick and your finger muscles should be totally relaxed. They should also be on a 45 degree angle. Many beginners want to stretch their fingers to far up the bow or have them to close together. The fingers should rest totally naturally without any effort.

Step 3 - Bow grip
It is very important to not have a tight bow grip especially at first. By gripping the bow to hard like a claw, the violin will sound screetchy and your bow can bounce when playing over the strings. A good exercise is to stick your hand totally in front of you and make your hand and finger muscles totally limp and then place the bow into your hand. Your fingers should barely have to move to achieve the correct bow grip. This goes for the amount of pressure you assert when holding the bow also.

The bow is the breath of the violinist and is one of the most important pieces to get right when playing the violin. It also can be one of the most frustrating parts. Even with the correct bow grip, it will still take a good amount of time to be able to play notes totally clean and pure. Be patient and just know that by applying the correct bow grip, you are on the way to getting there the fastest.

How Do You Hold The Violin Properly?

One of the first steps to learning how to play the violin is making sure you learn how to hold the violin correctly. There is a proper method to this that should be done the same way every time you pick up the violin to play it. Here are the most important points as noted below.

Step 1 - Installing a Shoulder Rest
Before explaining exactly where you will hold your violin a good instrument to use is what is called a shoulder rest. This tool is placed on the back of the violin towards the lower bout to aid in comfort when holding the violin. There are many different types of shoulder rests you can buy, but if you want to go cheap a long nylon sponge can work just fine. You can attach the sponge by applying a rubber band to the bottom of the violin and the left corner edge of the back.

Step 2 - Where to place the violin
The violin should be held in your left hand and placed on top of your left shoulder on top of the shoulder rest. Your chin will rest on the base of the instrument on top of what is called the chin rest. The chin rest is a black, oval shaped piece that is used to make the instrument easier to hold. The violin should fit securely between your chin and shoulder, and you should be able to hold the violin without any hands.

Step 3 - Thumb and Hand Placement
Your left hand will help hold the instrument and be located at the neck of the instrument. Your left thumb should be placed directly to the left of the fingerboard, which is the long black piece in the middle of the violin. The thumb should be about a half inch width apart from the very end of the fingerboard. As far as how high your thumb should be, it should be exactly level with the height of the fingerboard and not any higher or lower.

Step 4 - Wrist Position
One of the most important and most difficult parts of holding the violin has to do with the wrist position. Many beginners want to rest their wrist on the back of the violin which is improper technique. Even though it seems easier this way, the wrist should not touch the violin at all and be totally straight up and down when holding the violin. This will take practice and awareness by the player. The biggest reason for this is that having the wrist free allows you to play different notes up and down the violin freely and in tune.

Step 5 - Posture
The violin can be played either sitting down or standing up. Either position you should keep the violin parallel to the ground and straight in front of you. It is easy to get lazy and play with the violin angled downwards or to either side but it is best to follow these guidelines. When standing up you should keep even weight on both your feet and have them should width apart. When sitting down it is a good habit to sit on the edge of the chair and sit straight up.

Once you follow all of these steps over time they will just come natural to you. It is important to do these right away as a beginner so you don't develop bad habits for later on.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Learning To Play Violin As an Adult

The violin is one of the hardest musical instruments to learn at any age level. The reason is that there are so many things to learn on this instrument especially at first. Proper technique is essential to learning this instrument well and self-teaching is very hard to do. Fortunately with a desire to learn and the proper teacher, the violin can be learned by even those who have no previous musical background.

The violin is a great instrument to learn as a child because of the ability it has to challenge the brain. With this in mind, many adults feel that they are to old to pick up the violin and are unsure of where to start. The truth is learning the violin as an adult is a ton easier than learning it as a child. An adult usually has more willingness to learn, more attention span, and developed skills that allow them to excel quite fast on the violin. Being a teacher for over 10 years, some of my best students that I've had were ones that started later in life and some of them even turned out playing the violin professionally.

Private teachers can really help out a student excel to their highest potential. With so many variables to learn especially at first, a teacher will point out everything that you should consider and the things that need improvement. The right teacher will take into consideration your goals and desires and help you achieve those landmarks. There is no substitute for practice though, which is essentially what will make any student excel at the violin.