We live in a different world now. Human contact, especially in a hands-on environment, can be deadly these days. With proper precautions (wear your mask people!), small groups can interact, but larger groups like, say, an orchestra or choir are trouble. In our new world, artistic professionals (musicians, artists, etc.) have gone to teaching online through Skype, Google Duo, or Zoom. Even more of us have created online classes for websites like Udemy or Skillshare. We’re seeing a lot of online courses that promise to teach a specific skill, like the violin, in just a few hours of on-demand video. So, that begs the question – can you learn to play the violin online?
TL;DR – No, but…
Two Types of Learning Violin Online
Many violin teachers have moved to teach violin online. Students and teachers connect through an online platform like Skype, and lessons are given live. There are some drawbacks to this. Obviously, the student and teacher have to position themselves in front of a webcam and that can cause trouble. Sound quality is another issue. Sometimes it’s difficult to tell if the student sounds bad or if it’s just the audio. Of course, students can use that as an excuse too ;). All in all, learning this way is the best alternative to in-person violin lessons.
On the other hand, a quick Google search will show you that there are hundreds of online classes that promise to teach you how to play the violin. For a mere $99.99, you’ll get an hour or two of pre-recorded video that’ll give you all you need to perform at Carnegie Hall. If you can smell sarcasm, your nose is tuned properly. No doubt, the instructors for these classes are probably good teachers or performers, but as all good teachers know, what works for one student might not for the next.
Are Any of These Online Courses Any Good?
Well, maybe. If anyone promises to teach you to play the violin in just a few short hours, run in the other direction, fast. Let me be very clear – you cannot learn how to play the violin without a good, in-person, private teacher. Period. You might be able to pick up a few bits of technique or learn a few songs (a personal favorite of mine are the violin courses that have you learn a ‘song’ and not a ‘piece’), but only a good private teacher in the flesh can really show you how to play the violin.
On the other hand, there are a scant few courses (like mine – shameless plug) that teach one or two specific techniques that can be incorporated into your existing violin study. An example would be an online course specifically on shifting or changing positions. Think about if you wanted to learn how to paint. A 30-minute course on How to Paint won’t teach you squat, while a 30-minute course on How to Paint Trees could be very helpful. If you want to take an online class, look to learn a small bite of something instead of the entire calzone.
I have two online courses in the works, one on Udemy and one on Skillshare, and many more rattling around in my noggin. My Udemy course, 5 Power Moves for Better Violin Technique will be live in the next day or so, and the first 25 people to enroll will get the class for free – click here for details. The Skillshare class, The First Two Things Every Violinist Should Learn, will be up within the next two weeks. These classes are on specific techniques of violin playing. I’m not trying to teach you to play the violin online. Rather, I’m helping you with fundamental techniques that will help in your regular violin study.
With the world in its most uncertain state in decades, online learning is becoming ever more essential. If you know what to look for, you can definitely learn a few things. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking you can learn to play any instrument through online classes only. You need a good teacher to truly master any instrument, and even then, it’s no basket of fruit.