Friday, December 31, 2010

Hi Michael, Thanks for giving us Violin Tutor Pro! I have a Granada violin (I live in India). My only concern is that the fingerboard paint has started fading away ... Any help is appreciated :) Amit Joseph Patole

Hey Amit! Thanks for the comments about Violin Tutor Pro! Glad you are enjoying the software so far. :)

In answer to your question, normally fingerboards are actually not painted. They are made of ebony, which is a solid black material. I have seen a few fingerboards that were made of a different material and then paint was added, but this usually shows that the instrument is poorly made.

Fortunately the fingerboard has nothing to do with how expensive the violin is worth. You can get a new fingerboard put on, which is a little expensive, but worth the money if you have a valuable violin.

On the other hand I wouldn't worry to much, unless you are looking to sell the instrument.

Michael Sanchez

P.S. Can't wait to announce the launch of Violin Tutor Pro Series 2-5!

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Favorite Holiday Moments

I love, as I'm sure many of you do, the holidays! I thought it might be fun to share our favorite moments and traditions that come around the holidays.

I'll go first: I love having a day like Christmas to help everyone rearrange their priorities, and put another's happiness before their own. It is a day to show someone you may not typically share things with, how happy they make you.

Okay, now it's your turn! Leave a comment with one of your favorite holiday moments or memories...maybe we will find new things to appreciate that we hadn't thought of already!

Happy Holidays everyone

Formspring Question - Hello sir! I just want to ask, what violin should a beginner buy? I want to learn violin and i would like to buy one. What brand should I buy? The cheapest one sir. :)

Hey There! This is definitely one of the more popular questions I get from beginners as everyone needs a violin to start playing right!

My suggestion is don't buy an instrument off of craigslist. You might find something nice 1/10 times, but do you really want to take that risk? Most of the time what you find on there sounds literally like a tin can. You can get decent instruments on Amazon, and I actually purchase violins on there from a few different vendors.

Cecilio Violins are great, and these are really good for beginners just starting out. A good beginner outfit is the Cecilio CVN-500, which costs anywhere from $175-$350.

Once you have played for a while though, you will want an upgrade to this. It isn't long before you will be able to tell the difference between the quality of different violins. But the Cecilio is a great place to start if you don't want to spend too much.

Hope this helps!


Tuesday, December 28, 2010

What brand of strings do you prefer? I use Dominant, but was considering changing to a string with a brighter sound. Any suggestions? Joc

Great Question! Dominants are actually one of my personal favorites if you are looking for a synthetic string. A similar string that you might find a little brighter would be Evah Pirrazi strings by Pirastro. They are a little more expensive, and don't last as long as dominants, but you will like how bright they sound.

I wouldn't suggest using the Evah Pirrazi E, and going with the Pirastro Gold E as it sounds much better.

Hope this helps!


Ask me anything!

Monday, December 27, 2010

Formspring Question - Is it too late for me to start learning violin by the age of 20?

Great question! Many people have the perception that the violin should only be started by those at a young age. This is totally incorrect. Although starting at a young age is great for human development, it is never too late to start playing the violin even at a much older age than 20.

I have found in my studio, that adults learn at a much faster pace. At least 2-3 times faster than a young child between 8-15 years old. They pick up on concepts much faster than children, and most importantly find it more important to work on certain techniques and fundamentals that they appreciate.

My studio ranges from 4 all the way to 88 years old! Some of my students in their later years, started with me, and after a short period of time, are playing very well, and capable of playing in many solo settings. Many of them enjoy it so much!

So in summary my answer to your question. Is it too late to start the violin at age 20? Are you kidding? Absolutely not! If you have the interest, you will be amazed at how far you can go :)

- Michael

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Beginner Violin Lessons - How to Play the Violin

Playing the violin is one of the most rewarding experiences you can encounter as a human being. Violin music can ease the mind and can turn into a great hobby for people of all ages. You are never too old to start learning the violin, and even if you aren't interested in becoming a violin virtuoso, you can still have tons of fun learning the basics as a hobby.

What you need to get Started
You will need certain materials to get started playing the violin. First you need a violin, bow of course which most people know that they need to have. You also will need a good case to carry the violin and bow in, and a shoulder rest to aid in holding the instrument. To use the bow correctly, you will need rosin, which makes the bow sticky enough to grip the strings. A basis book will do to get started and I recommend Essential Elements Book 1 as a good starting book for beginners.

How to Play the Violin
Playing the violin is not as hard as you might think. The key is having the right teacher to make sure you are doing everything correctly. Gripping the bow correctly is a key element to starting. Making sure your pinky is at the bottom of the bow, and having your thumb curved is quite important. Having a teacher watch this constantly is a huge help. Having the instrument level is important and is aided by a shoulder rest. Make sure your hand is placed at the nut of the violin, and doesn't creep up. This causes your notes to start to go sharp (out of tune). The most important thing to play the violin correctly is playing straight across the strings. Many beginners like to use too much arm and move the arm backwards instead of extending out with the forarm. Having a teacher watch this really helps, but you can also help yourself by watching your playing in the mirror.

Once you have all these fundamentals in place you can start learning from the book! Take things slowly and don't try to play too fast. Focus in on playing in tempo, and getting to the tip of the bow with full bow strokes. Having a teacher to watch this really helps. Start off by learning basis open strings and then going into putting fingers down while stroking the bow. The Essential Elements Book starts off in the key of D which means your second finger should be a space apart from one. To put your third finger down, use the second finger as an anchor which you put this finger right next to it. This really helps when you are first starting out. Keep progressing through the book slowly and I can promise you learning the violin as an adult beginner is really a lot of fun!

If you can't access a teacher in your area, Violin Tutor Pro is an excellent alternative to private lessons. These Online Violin Lessons are perfect for any adult beginner.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

First, congrats on making your twitter so popular. You are Worldwide (Poland). There is a funny coincidence because today I got the idea of buying myself an electric violin! And here you are, following me on tw ( : My request is for you to tell me everything bout it!

Hey there thanks so much for telling me where you are from! It is great to see that the violin is an interest Worldwide, and not just here in the United States. Sounds like you speak pretty English which is great!

I personally don't have any electric violins, or have never purchased any. I do have some friends that play in various bands, and they seem to lean most toward Yamaha fiddles. The ones with the cool halo bodies. Here is one on Amazon that I have seen other fiddle players use. Yamaha Silent Electric Violin.

I have always used a pickup on a classical violin to play gigs. I prefer this because I have played classical all my life. It makes me feel like I have more control over the instrument :). If you want a recommendation of a pickup, I would suggest going with a Yamaha VNP-2. They hook right into the bridge, and really produce a great warm sound.

Hope this somewhat helps!

Michael Sanchez

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Updating The Face Of Violin Tutor Pro And RivertownMS

I did a photo shoot to update the photos featured on Violin Tutor Pro and Rivertown Music Studio.

Ahh...feeling fresh and getting to work!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Are there different "brands" of the violin? If there are, what kind of violin is the best to get?

This is a great question thank you for asking!

Unfortunately violins are not like cars, in that one brand operates a certain way compared to other brands. Each any every violin is unique, and can sound/play differently from one instrument to another. The more advanced player you are, the more you will notice this difference.

Opposite of cars, violins actually appreciate in value. This means that the older they get, the better they sound, and more expensive they are. Although you can find good new instruments, typically the older they are the better they will sound.

Most of the time if you see a violin label with an individuals name on it, this means that the instrument was hand crafted by this person. A hand crafted instrument will sound much better than one that was made through a machine! The next thing you will look for is when the instrument was made, which will tell you a lot about what you might be dealing with.

The best thing you can do is go to a trusted violin shop and play violins in an affordable price range, and pick the one that sounds best to you. This may not be the one that sounds the best to another violin player because of your different playing styles.

Hope this helps!

Ask me anything!

Violin Buying Tips For Beginners - Should I Buy Online?

Many people ask the question if they should buy a violin online as a beginner. I consider buying a violin online a risky way to pick out an instrument because you never know what you are getting. Don't get me wrong, I am far against buying products online being that there is a huge selection and you can find pretty good deals if you look in the right places. But it is hard to find a good deal on a violin because you don't really know how good the violin is until you get the opportunity to play it.

Problems from Buying Online
There are many problems that can arise from instrument to instrument that it is impossible to tell until you get the violin in front of you. Even then a beginner player wouldn't in some cases be able to tell what the problems are until they bring the violin in for a checkup. Problems include small cracks or open seems on the instrument which can harm the playability and sound of the violin. Another problem is different pieces being warped or not in their right spots. Many times violins come with warped fingerboards which can really harm the playability of the instrument.

Is it Worth taking the Risk?
Many times people buy violins Online because of the affordability. They can get a violin, case and bow for sometimes under a hundred dollars. To them this is worth the risk especially if they aren't really sure that they that serious about playing the violin. My opinion is that any violin under a hundred dollars online is pretty much junk no matter what kind of violin it is. The bow and case are also going to be junk and I would stay away from buying any violin in this price range. Some violins online that are in the 200-500 range can actually be good instruments. If you get a good background of the instrument and there is a return policy I would possibly try buying a violin in this price range. Make sure you bring the violin into a local shop to make sure the violin is in working order.

What are my other Options?
If you don't want to take the risk of buying a violin online you do have some other options. There are many local violin shops that give you the opportunity to actually play on the violin before you buy it. You could bring your teacher with you to make sure the instrument is right for you also. Many times violin shops have rental programs that are really nice for beginners that are just starting out. I would look for a rent to own program that actually allows you to pay a monthly fee but all your payments go towards the ownership of the instrument. These work very nice because you can return the instrument if you are not interested in playing violin after a short period of time. On the other side, if you build interest in playing violin, you will eventually own the instrument which is great. I suggest going to a store that specializes primarily in stringed instruments and nothing else. They are the ones typically with the good inventory. You want to find stores that will trade-in the rental instruments for a better instrument in the future.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Christmas Recital Over!

Hey everyone! We had the Christmas Recital last night and it went great! All the little ones were so cute, and even though nervous, they all did so well!

I am working on doing some editing today to be able to show all you guys the show! Can't wait to post it!

- Michael

Friday, December 10, 2010

Getting Excited for my Christmas Recital!

Having my violin Christmas recital Saturday 12/11 at 6:30PM. Would love for all of you guys to be there! The location of the recital is at Rogers Heights CRC.

The address is 3025 Michael Ave. S.W. Wyoming, MI 49509.

Check out this funny video of me getting excited for it!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Holding the Violin - Shoulder Rest Tips

Many people ask what accessories are needed to aid in holding the violin. A very important piece that aids in this process is what is called the shoulder rest. The shoulder rest is installed on the back of the violin and gives comfort to the player when he rests the violin on his shoulder and chin. Without a shoulder rest in place, holding the violin becomes very uncomfortable and can cause many bad habits down the road.

What kind of Shoulder Rests Can I Buy?
There are many different types of shoulder rests out there that aid in holding the violin. The most popular style is a "Kun" brand style. These are very popular because of their ability to adjust to different violin widths and give quite a few inches of support off of the shoulder. There are many different brands of Kuns that range in price and typically they start at about twenty dollars. I don't see much reason to choose one more expensive their starter model. There are many other types of brands of shoulder rests and I suggest trying out different ones to see which one feels the most comfortable to you. Many shops will allow you the option to put it on your instrument before buying to make sure you will be happy with it.

Do I have any other Options?
Another option you can go with for holding the violin is by using an actual kitchen sponge or rubber pad. These don't give as much elevation off of the violin but can provide enough comfort for the violinist. Obviously this method will cost a lot less and is a popular option especially for beginners.

How do I Install Them?
To install a Kun shoulder rest you will take the side that is narrower and place the rubber prongs on the front left back of the violin first. You then can install the thicker end on the right side back next. Make sure the shoulder rest fits securely. To install a sponge or rubber pad, you will be using a rubber band. The rubber band will stretch on bottom button of the violin to the left corner bout of the violin. This should be tight enough so that the sponge stays in place nicely.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Should I Rent Or Buy a Violin As an Adult Beginner?

Many people are curious if they should buy or rent a violin as an adult beginner. This is an excellent question and in this segment I will cover the pros and cons of both renting and buying a violin.

Renting a Violin
Many people rent a violin when they are first starting because they aren't positive they are going to stick with the violin. This is an excellent way to start and there are actually a lot of programs out there called Rent-To-Own programs that allow you to use the payments you pay for a rental towards that actual ownership of the instrument. Rent-to-own programs are great for the fact that you can return the instrument at anytime if you don't want to play violin anymore but you can also own the instrument after a certain period of time. These type of programs are typically found at music stores that deal primarily in stringed instruments. I would stay away from stores that deal in a wide range of instruments because typically their inventory isn't the greatest. The negative side to renting a violin is that the instruments that are typically on these type of programs are not always the best quality instruments out there. I have seen quite a few exceptions but you want to be very careful when choosing a rent-to-own instrument and make sure that the instrument is in good condition and plays well.

Buying a Violin
The other option you have as far as picking out an instrument is to actually purchase the instrument. Most places you can buy violins especially on the Internet only give you this option. The thing about buying a violin is you definitely want to make sure the instrument will fit your needs before you spend the money. Even as an adult beginner it is nice to learn on a violin of good quality that isn't going to sound like a tin can. By buying a violin in the 200-500 dollar price range, there is a chance that you will find a good quality instrument that will last you a while. Buying at an actual local store is nice because they typically have the option for you to upgrade the instrument at a later time for a better quality instrument. Make sure you check into these policies before purchasing the instrument. The negative side to buying a violin over renting is that you are kind of stuck with the commitment and it is hard to go backwards on it. Most shops that you buy from will not take the instrument back after a certain amount of time and will only take a trade-in if you are upgrading instruments. Some shops do take in trade-ins and give you cash back but they usually only give you less than half of the worth of the instrument. The best thing is to be certain you like an instrument and that you want to learn violin for a long period of time before you spend a decent amount of money on an instrument.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

RivertownMS on Myspace and Facebook!

If you haven't yet, stop by and and add us as a friend!

Violin Buying Tips For Beginners - Choosing the Best Sounding Violin

With so many different violin options out there, I want to put into perspective what you should be looking for when buying a violin. Many violins are available to buy on the Internet as well as many local music stores but how do you know which one is going to work best for you especially if you have never played the violin before? Not every violin is made equally so it is important to choose one that is going to sound the best at the best possible price.

The Importance of Quality of Sound
The number one thing that you should be looking for in buying a violin is the instruments quality of sound. I highly recommend either buying or renting at a local shop so that you can find this out for sure. The reason why this is so important is the better a violin sounds, the better it will make you sound and the more motivated you will be to practice and progress. Not to mention you will impress those you are playing for far greater than if you were to play on an instrument that sounded terrible.

What makes a Violin Sound Good?
There is no way to tell exactly what violin is going to sound the best. You can get a good idea of the quality sound of the instrument by if its hand crafted, who made it and country of origin but none of these will guarantee if an instrument is going to sound better than another. That is why you shouldn't even worry about all of these factors and just try a variety instruments in your price range and pick which one sounds the best. That is all that really matters anyways right?

Choosing the Best Sounding Violin
By either playing the violins yourself that are in your price range or having another violinist play them for you, this will give you a better idea on exactly what violins sound the best in your price range. If you have the ability to play anything at all with the violin it is better to play it yourself regardless how inexperienced you are. Every violin sounds different with different players so that is why playing it yourself is probably the best. Once you have the violins narrowed down to a few you could either take them home for a week to see which one you like or make your decision based on going back and forth between the two. Remember to choose the instrument that sounds the best and not worry about anything else.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Christmas Recital Invitation!

Can't wait to see all my students there!

Violin Lessons For Beginners - Tips on Proper Posture

A very important part of learning the violin correctly deals with mastering the fundamentals of posture. Before you dig deep into further violin lessons on the violin, it is very important to begin each practice session with a few things in mind. Over time posture will just come naturally but until then it will take some effort to remember these lessons each time you play to ensure your greatest potential on the violin. Below we will cover a few of the most important points when it comes to posture as a beginner violin student.

Holding the Violin Correctly
The biggest points with holding the violin correctly are making sure your wrist is straight, thumb stays still in the right spot and your fingers stay up on the tips. It is very easy to forget anyone of these points during a practice session while you are focusing on other things. I would suggest keeping a note by your music on these lessons so that you are reminded often during your practice session. Over time you won't need this but as a beginner it would help to be reminded of these things.

Holding the Bow Correctly
It is very important to hold your violin bow correctly. This is a huge part of posture that many beginners have trouble with at first. The most important points with holding the bow correctly are having the pinky at the button, fingers relaxed on the stick, and thumb curved in the groove.

Having Proper Violin Position
Some people prefer learning the violin sitting down over standing up. This is fine as long as you follow the proper fundamentals of violin position. You always want to keep the violin parallel to the ground by holding the instrument up with your chin and shoulder. It is more comfortable to slouch the violin down by holding it up with your hand but this is an extremely bad habit to get into. If you are sitting down I highly recommend that you sit up in your chair with your back totally straight.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Something I Found and Want To Pass Along...

 I was visiting some violin blogs around the web, and came across this post referencing some practice tips. I agree with every suggestion. Some things may sound silly to some players, but the truth is...every one of these tips can do nothing but help you play more comfortably and improve faster.

Here is a link to the post:

Thank you to Thomas Metzler for posting the article, and to Janet Horvath for speaking up!

Play on!

Suzuki Violin Lessons - What Are the Advantages?

A great method of learning violin which has been around for quite a while is called the Suzuki Method. This is a method that has become very popular for learning on the violin, especially for kids that start off at a very young age. A Suzuki certified teacher will teach his classes differently than many other teachers being that he or she focuses on learning the violin by ear. Being a student of Suzuki and now a teacher of Suzuki I highly recommend this method to not just children but also adults of all ages.

The Suzuki Violin Book Series
There are ten books that are in the Suzuki Violin Series that starts off with the basics all the way up to advanced level classical music. The way these books are set up are to make the student not just learn how to read music, but also listen to a particular song and try to play it after what they heard. All the books in the Suzuki Series come with a CD that encourages the student to actually listen to the piece before he or she ever even plays it. Over time this really develops the ear for music and this has great advantages down the road.

The Advantages of Suzuki Training
The great thing about Suzuki is that it is a method of learning for all ages. The style of instruction suits very well for young kids but also can fit the style of an adult violin player. Once you develop an ear for music there is so much more you can do down the road as far as playing violin without needing music. If you have the ability to hear something on the radio for example, and someone asks you to play exactly what you heard, this is a great skill that can aid in a lot of different musical jobs that require this type of learning. Different styles of violin don't always have written sheet music that you can follow so by being able to play by ear, it really opens up your musical ability to a new level.

Another huge advantage of the Suzuki Method is that it helps out tremendously when you are trying to do improvisation. When you are performing a certain piece outside of classical music, you have the ability to add your own twist to certain notes to make it your own. With a good ear, you can do this a lot easier by knowing the key that you are in and playing different notes and rhythms but improvisation.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Which violin song you recommend to be learned as “first song”? And Why? (I want to learn how to play the violin so this will help me very much, thanks!)

Hey there thanks for the great question!

The first song that I teach in my studio, and that other violin teachers teach their students first is "Mary had a little Lamb." Here is the link to how to play this on my You Tube Channel.
I also have a set of "Series 1 Videos" on You Tube, that instruct you how to play basic songs on violin when you are first starting.

The reason these are great songs to learn is that they are confined to just the D string, which limits you from crossing strings when you are first starting.

Hope this helps!


Ask me anything

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Let it snow, Let it snow, Let it snow!

I drove through a winter wonderland to get to the music studio today! I hope everyone's Christmas season is starting to get magical!

The Rivertown Music Studio's mascot "Lazy" was too excited in the snow to sit for a picture :)
(He's a Siberian Husky)

...Finally, he's supposed to WANT to sit in the snow!