Violin lessons are available for ages 5 years to 95 years. Slots for children under 12 years are generally a half-hour per week, and from ages 12 up there is a choice of 45 min or 60 min lessons at the rate of one per week. Slots for adults are more rare.
For the younger children a group practice session per week is offered additional to the 1:1 lessons; the cost of this is nominal. We accommodate all different levels in the group practice as they learn from each other. Group lesson availability depends on the number of applicants.
The method of tuition is largely classically based. It is tailored to each student's individual needs. Method books used are: Suzuki Method, Violin Tunes
series, classical studies and pieces, as well as some more modern and genre styles such as gypsy and Irish fiddling, to provide a broader base. Scales and techniques are dealt with in the course of the development of the student, as the correct prerequisite levels are reached; and also in exam preparation. Scales are learnt based on the approach of celebrity violinist Alan Solomon's
method, as recorded in his book "Not Another Scale Book".
Why music is so good for you:
Many studies have been done on the effects of music on children's development, and on the whole person. The reasons you should allow your child to learn an instrument, are many, ranging from increased IQ, to vastly improved fine motor skills, to an emotional outlet to balance the psyche. Below are a few links to articles (there are countless more).
Why do we need live musicians at all?
First Evidence That Musical Training Affects Brain Development In Young Children
The Effect of Music on Children's Intelligence
The Benefits of Music - A Review
Frequently asked questions:
How long before I / my child can play?
"Can play" is very relative. An adult / child over 8 years of age can learn to play short, pretty tunes within 4 - 8 weeks. (Younger children take longer.) Irish ditties, church hymns and folk songs are all within reach in a very short time.
However, to develop from a beginner into a concert violinist takes, it has been estimated, 10 000 practise hours. On average, eight to ten years are the time frame to be able to play the Bach Chaconne, Beethoven's violin concerto or the 'Gypsy Airs' by Sarasate. We are presuming that the student practises diligently during these years.
Many adult beginners carry on for 3 - 5 years, ending at a level more or less equivalent to the Grade 5 level of TCL and ABRSM, and capable of playing tangos, easier classical pieces, early baroque, and of course any modern songs they please at a nice level. This is a good amateur level, a nicely satisfying goal for a hobby. Children should ideally keep on learning and developing as far as they can go, as music is always a potential second income and a safety feature in today's uncertain times.
How long must I practise?
This is both relative to age and level of advancement. (Unlike Tiger Mother we don't believe it's healthy or necessary for toddlers to spend two hours a day practising.)
Note to Mom: Your encouragement and enforcement of the practising routine is key.
Encourage and coach, don't criticise (that's the job of the teacher). Allow your child to try out different things, don't be too controlling. Please allow your child to develop at his own pace and don't get ambitious on his behalf, no matter how enthusiastic the teacher sounds. Violin is a long road, and viola no less. Pressure from parents to achieve, inevitably results in problems.
Beginner, 5-6 yrs:
Try for one or two sessions of ten minutes per day and slowly extend the time as the repertoire grows, to 20 minutes.
7-9 yrs, older beginners:
Aim for 30 minutes a day. As the repertoire grows, this will lengthen slightly.
10 yrs+, or already played for a year or more:
Aim for 45 minutes - 1 hour every day. You can practise longer (2 - 3 hours) but it should not become a habit to practise one long session only once a week! The daily habit is more important than the length of the practice.
Just like cricket or rugby wants three practise sessions per week of 3 - 4 hours each, so your violin/viola needs practice. If you can't find the time to practise in the afternoons due to sport overload, try to get up half an hour earlier to practise in the mornings. It works!
You know you ought to practise an hour a day the moment you have enough material to do so. But we also know that you work, and there isn't always time. Try to practise 15 minutes in the morning before work; you will find that you miraculously have the energy for a second, longer session in the evening.
Please note: It is not acceptable not to practise at all.
If you never find the time to touch the instrument between lessons, analyse your time and see how you have organized your priorities. If you can't reorganise some of them to include practising, consider doing something else instead of learning an instrument. Because all you're doing is wasting your time, your money, and frustrating your teacher.
Why can't my child start violin younger than 5 years?
Of course your child can. There are specialized teaching methods for this; first and foremost the Suzuki method.
While we are aware of and have some training in the Suzuki method, we prefer to focus on children whose concentration levels can already hold up through a 30-minute lesson. While some (very few) 4-year-olds have the capacity to concentrate that long, as a rule progress is very slow and, for the parent, frustrating. The danger arises for a parent to put pressure on a child that young; this inevitably results in the violin being abandoned.
For children younger than 5 we generally recommend the program "Kindermusik", which teaches them a good grasp of rhythms and melody while dancing around in a group setting. Enquire at your nursery school teacher.
Why does my child need a shoulder rest and a music stand?
While these accessories appear, at first sight, to be a prime waste of money, both are critically important for correct posture.
Neither needs to be of the expensive kind. One needs to experiment with shoulder rests until one finds the one that is the most comfortable while giving the best support. Each neck is different; so there is no fast rule. A good shoulder rest can make all the difference though as it frees up the whole shoulder muscle belt and therefore improves mobility in the fingers, both left and right, leading to improved speed and dexterity.
Not using a music stand but placing the music on a flat surface inevitably results in a hunched posture and can even lead to permanent back / neck problems.
I would like to start violin but am over 30 (40, 50...)
The benefits of learning a classical instrument, and particularly a bowed string instrument such as violin, viola or cello, are countless. Starting in childhood, there is always a chance of becoming a professional musician, even world-class if the talent is sufficient. However, starting later in life, you would have other reasons for learning to play. The youthful ambition to be "the best" is gone; now you are interested in learning a beautiful hobby.
We have started many an adult on the violin and the guitar who went on to become enthusiastic amateurs. They do not quit their professions in favour of music; however they do derive a lot of joy out of their hobby. An adult beginner can still make it to a quite amazing level, with dedication and practice. Consider that it takes any musician an average of 10 000 practice hours from start to a professional level. Children have a head start in that they are younger and have more years to apply this; and also in that they have parents who remind them to practice. Adults also tend to be less patient with themselves, having higher standards and expectations to begin with. This can be either good or bad; it can lead to frustration or to a higher level of commitment.
Our advice: Try it! There are only so many years in a lifetime, why not live them fully?
Why does my child have to practice every day?
In our experience, 100% of the students who consistently fail to practice, eventually quit the instrument. No teacher can save you from failing to practice. We would like to walk you through the process and give you 6 lessons every week; but firstly we doubt that you'd like the charges for this, and secondly, you don't need a teacher to practice. You only need to apply what is learnt in the lesson.
It takes on average 10 000 hours of practicing to become a fully fledged musician. How fast you clock up these hours, is up to you.
Why do we have to play concerts?
Concerts have various functions.
- They teach you to stand before a crowd with confidence and perform.
- Your technique is honed. You never practice as hard as you do when you know strangers will be listening.
- You get a chance to listen to others and place your own progress in context.
- The interaction with other musicians; and the "networking".
- Playing musical concerts improves your ability for public speaking too - a skill that is valuable in most professional field.
- If you are aiming to play exams, performing your exam pieces at a studio concert is a wonderful way of polishing them.
What is the point in the Ceilidhs?
Originally practised in Scotland, Ireland, Wales and some parts of England, the 'ceilidh' is a musical open house. The main association today is folk-dancing; however our Studio Ceilidhs are modelled on the style of ceilidh that concentrates more on playing music and storytelling.
Therefore, our Studio Ceilidh is a musical get-together in which people learn to perform without pressure. The Ceilidh also promotes ensemble play; you are invited to join in on pieces that you know. While exams and Eisteddfods are about competition and ambition, the focus of a Ceilidh is completely on the musical interaction, in a very non-critical way.
During concerts it becomes apparent who has been attending the Ceilidhs. Such players perform with a lot more confidence, and their performances are much better rounded.
Are house concerts compulsory too?
Occasionally (when the studio is small) a Studio Concert will be held at a house. The nominal concert-fee that is intended to help cover the hall rental, falls away in such a case but the concert is still compulsory.
There is the other type of house concert during which only the most advanced students are invited to play and everyone else is invited to listen. These are not compulsory to attend; they are instead meant as rewards.
Why a membership fee not a lesson fee?
From 2015, the Studio changes its structure to a membership model.
It makes sense: You cannot learn violin in a single session, so we don't charge per single session. Besides the Studio offers musical extras, which are currently not covered by any fees structure, but are included in the deal.
We charge a membership fee which is payable per term; it is divisible into even monthly instalments if that suits your budget better.
The membership fee includes the following:
It does not include:
- All the lessons in a term, as per Studio Year
- Two Studio Concerts per year.
- Ceilidhs and other functions as and when they are organized.
- Exam planning, work, prep and support (exams are optional).
- Your materials (violin, books etc)
- Exam application fees
- The fee for the accompanist for the exam
- ... and other incidental costs arising.
The Studio offers 42 lessons per year, falling within the Studio Year as defined in our calendar. The Studio is under no obligation to change its calendar to suit individual students. If lessons are missed for unavoidable reasons such as sudden illness or travel, there is an option to reschedule, but not outside of Studio Term. If you elect not to reschedule, this does not change the membership fee.
The membership model largely decomplicates our Studio Rules, many of which centre around the
issue of missing and rescheduling lessons, and sadly, haggling about the fees. Like a gym, you pay to be part of the organization and to make use of the benefits offered; if you don't use all of them, this is your choice and doesn't influence the shape and cost of your membership. Savvy students use all the benefits offered, and usually the results are audible. If a certain membership type doesn't work for you anymore, you move to another type.
Will the membership be a lot more expensive?
No. In fact, the only adjustment that will take place is our annual adjustment to compensate for inflation and living cost.
The point of moving to a membership model is to simplify the Studio Rules and de-confuse issues such as missed lessons, Studio holidays etc. It is a standardizing process and is there to improve fairness and clarity.
What memberships are available and what do they include?
All memberships are active during Studio Term; there are no lessons in the Studio holidays. The Studio has 42 active weeks per year.)
30 minute lesson per week at a fixed time
45 minute lesson per week at a fixed time
60 minute lesson per week at a fixed time
60 minute lesson, five times per Studio term (on average every second week, the dates determined by the Studio from term to term); limited to Saturday students only.
Optional Extra: Call-out
In a few individual cases it may be the best option to conduct your lesson at your home. In such a case, a call-out fee is added to the membership fee to cover travel time and expense. Call-out slots are rare, however, due to the limited available time.
Included in all memberships:
- 2 Studio Concerts per year
- All Studio functions and Ceilidhs as they arise
- Planning of "advancement path": Advice on books / method required; additional material; time-frame planning; practicing training
- Optional: Exam path planning, exam prep
- We take care of the exam admin for you.
What is the "Studio Year"?
The Studio is active 42 weeks per year. While these Studio Terms by-and-large keep pace with the public school terms of Gauteng, there are
differences, particularly during the second term. Please consult the Studio Calendar to ascertain the available dates for any given year.
For concert, ceilidh and studio rules of conduct, please click here.