Violin and viola are amazing instruments, but have the reputation of being extremely difficult to play. While few skills are easily mastered, many of the challenges associated with these instruments are exaggerated. Given the right instruction, anyone can learn to play well. In my experience both as a student and as a teacher, there are three primary reasons why students of the violin and viola struggle to improve, and none of them have anything to do with natural talent!
The student has not been properly fitted for a chin and shoulder rest.
Each and every student is physically unique from all others, requiring a unique instrument arrangement. The combination of a properly fitted chin rest and shoulder rest will result in comfort and freedom, without unnatural twisting or tightening.
The student has developed poor fingering and bowing habits.
Most string students cannot play in tune reliably. This is because their left hand is not properly trained. Perfect intonation and remarkable agility are the natural results of a correct left hand position and action.
A natural bow hold is the foundation of all tone, color, brilliance, and virtuosity. Most students push and destroy the sound, being unable to play cleanly and beautifully.
The student is focusing on pieces of music and not proper technique.
Pieces will never produce technique. A fine left and right-hand technique is, and has always been, the only reliable foundation of virtuosic string playing. Building technique first will enable students to play anything.
Essentials pave the way to mastery!
I have worked with hundreds of students over my decades of teaching experience, and I have found that proper understanding and development in these areas always produces fabulous results:
- Posture and Setup — for freedom in both arms
- Left Hand Position and Action — for ease, precision, and speed
- Bow Hold and Bowings — for control and expressiveness
- Scales, Arpeggios, and Double Stop Scales — for fingerboard mastery
If you are interested in mastering the violin and/or viola, or in teaching others, please read more about my approach to teaching and explore my teaching materials for violin and viola.