Posted on November 13, 2019
I’m rolling up on my 10th month anniversary of playing fiddle this Friday. I feel like I’ve made good progress the last few months, and have been practicing far more regularly. I’ve also been logging my daily practice and making a list of the tunes I’ve been playing.
But one thing I feel like I’m missing is the basic technical aspect of learning to play violin. I pick up tunes from whatever method site I’m using, and I learn to play the tune by watching the video. But when it comes to practicing the skill-building exercises that I hear other folks (who have teachers) work on, I don’t even know where to begin.
Since I don’t have a teacher nearby, I feel like there’s a lot of information I’m missing out on. Even if it leans more towards classical playing, I think things like scales and bowing exercises can create a strong foundation for the style I want to eventually work towards.
So I began to investigate my online options. A few months back, I ran across Violinspiration, which is a great YouTube channel with lots of free lessons and helpful videos. I signed up for the newsletter, and followed a few of the live classes provided by the instructor, Julia.
She also has an online violin academy, which requires a monthly sub. The cost is a bit more than some of the monthly fiddle sites out there, but if you look at it as it replacing the cost of weekly lessons, it may actually turn out to be a savings.
I did some research, and decided to go ahead and get put on the waiting list last week. Yes, the academy has a waiting list, though I’m not quite sure I understand how all that works. Through the weekend, I got emails that assured me that I was still on the list, and offered more information about what kind of features were provided with the subscription.
The more I read, the more I felt like this is the direction I needed to go to supplement my tune playing. So on Monday, when my invite officially came, I jumped on it quickly and joined the academy.
There’s a pretty active community within the academy, though it’s completely through their Facebook page – you can only join the group if you’re a paying member. I’m not much of a Facebook user, but I’ll deal with it because the group seems really supportive.
The community there does things like host practice sprints, group events, daily questions and responses, and posts videos for feedback. You can also post videos to the academy website and Julia will respond directly in a video in reply. So if you’re having trouble with some aspect of a song or exercise, you can demonstrate, ask questions and get answers.
For someone like me, I think this preferable to even online weekly classes. I’d be worried about not having the time to fit classes in my week, not to mention I’m camera shy. So being able to work up to making a video for feedback is more my pace. It also feels better because I see many other students doing it!
The most important thing is the curriculum. As you can see to the right, most of the beginner stuff focuses on things like scales, exercises and arpeggios. Yes, these are very basic things, but these are things I don’t do currently. I think having these examples will help me understand better what I need to practice.
Every course comes with a workbook – including standard notation for the exercises – and a practice plan in PDF format.
Courses are broken into difficulty levels, and new courses are added over time. While I should have probably started with the Beginner level, I decided to start from the very first video and go through the Basics section first.
This covered things like bow hold, holding the violin, playing open notes, and playing the first scale. I wanted to see how Julia approached these things – for example, her bow hold technique is a bit different from others I’ve followed, so I’m seeing if I can adapt to her style and if it improves anything for me.
I’ve already started using some of her bow strengthening exercises every day, and working on some of the bowing patterns she introduced early on. While this is all very basic stuff, I still feel this was a lot of what I was missing when I’m just going straight to playing tunes.
I hope to finish working through the Basic section by this weekend, maybe sooner, and start picking up the scales and exercises for the Beginner section along side my holiday tunes. I wish I’d known about this method back when I was first beginning last year. I think I would have really done well with this as my introduction into the technical side of playing. I guess it’s never too late, though!