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5 Tips to Get You to Practice Your Instrument

If you really want to get yourself into a routine and stay motivated while practicing your instrument, then it’s best to have a solid plan. The following are five tips to keep you going:

1.   Create the right atmosphere

Nothing will motivate you in your musical practice like the right environment. You might be one of those people who prefer a quiet room. Others need a little bit of stimulation. Whatever setting you like, try to be consistent so as to enter the right mindset when you start practicing. If you will need water, snacks, picks, pencils, manuscript paper, and sharpeners etc. have them with you. If you use apps, download them in advance.

2.   Warm up

Musical instrument practice is much like a physical workout. To get yourself in the mood, ensure you do a warm up every time before you start. That way, you will be able to prepare your mind and body before the actual practice. It doesn’t have to be 15 minutes of fiddling with scales but can be something like sight reading or playing a familiar song if you like. Also, get into the right mindset by considering the keys of the pieces you are rehearsing.

  3.  Set Goals

Practicing is not synonymous with just playing through your music. You need to have the end in mind at the start of each practice session. With a prior goal for each practice session, you will find yourself progressing more quickly and effectively. Only that each goal needs to be broken down into smaller and focused objectives. Every time you complete a goal should help you feel more accomplished.

  4.   Be realistic

Many people – including your teachers – have told you to “get a lot done now”. Of course, it’s not realistic for you to do all your practice in one go. It gets even worse when you have a tough part to practice. The best way to go about this is to practice a little but more often. That way, you can go through a long-drawn process bit-by-bit. Think more about quality and not the quantity of your practice. Practice smarter and not necessarily longer if you want to have the willpower to keep going. Small and realistic goals should help you overcome areas that looked tricky and accept any missteps you might have made.

  5.   Identify and overcome problems

There is no need to ignore any areas you might find problematic. Learn to identify where you are using the wrong fingering or stumbling out of time. Decide why it’s going wrong and make up your mind how you will fix it. Obviously, different problems require different techniques. Problems with rhythm call for steps at mastering it. You may want to practice rhythm by simply clapping it out or use one note alongside a metronome. That way, you will know when to increase the tempo and when to slow it down. With time, you will master your musical instrument. Having the right music teacher is also a huge factor in overcoming plateaus and ultimately making the most progress. That’s where we come in, contact Music to Your Home to set up your NYC music lesson today!

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Piano Lessons - Violin Lessons

What’s the Right Age to Start Piano Lessons?

We all know Mozart started playing piano around the age of three, but if we suspect our children aren’t musical geniuses, what’s the ideal age to start them on lessons?

Firstly, bear in mind that Mozart came from a musical family. His father was a composer and taught his older sister how to play the piano, or the 18th century equivalent, the harpsichord. All this music around young Mozart kept him intrigued. It was only natural for him to imitate his big sister by thumping away on the piano when he had the chance.

Your Music Habits

In judging when to start your child’s piano lessons, consider how often you play music in your home. How does your baby respond? By dancing, laughing and raising his arms in glee? If yes, do you or the baby’s other parent play piano or violin, actively practicing? It’s better if you do, since kids love to imitate. It’s a great idea to start your child’s piano lessons around the age of three or four if music is already a large part of your lives.

If it’s not so much, but you want to see it as such, think about taking your kids to group classes while they’re young. For children under the age of three, these usually require parents’ involvement. Often by the age of five, kids are ready to learn an instrument with the violin or piano lessons. By age seven, it’s okay to start guitar lessons.

How to Get Kids to Practice

The hardest part about getting kids to appreciate their violin or piano lessons is to get them to practice on the regular. Try rewarding them with a treat like ice cream or soda for every half hour they practice. Private piano lessons can be a good addition to lessons at school, where kids can’t always get the individual attention they might need.

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Guitar Lessons - Violin Lessons

What Happened When I Quit My NYC Violin Lessons

When I was a kid I took lessons in NYC. I learned all the basics and I wasn’t half bad. I would play for my parents, who would watch me move from the songs I was learning to a freestyle, bow-rubbing frenzy. Honestly I didn’t practice enough, but I did get used to my violin for about twenty minutes a day.

I liked violin well enough, and my violin lesson instructor was very skilled. She knew how to get me excited about going home to practice, but something was off. I didn’t love playing violin.

By the end of the year I told her I wanted to switch instruments, to something louder and more vivacious. I wanted a brass or a woodwind instrument. I decided on clarinet. My teacher protested, saying that if I quit now for another instrument I’d never come back. She gave me an old LP that describes the tragedy of a young girl switching instruments for louder better, more interesting instruments. The girl moved through the entire orchestra, only to give up entirely on playing music.

Sure enough, the wet reeds and the honky blow of clarinet disappointed me too. By the end of the following year I had dropped it too. It wasn’t until years later that I picked music back up. I realized that what I had really wanted the entire time was to play guitar. I took guitar lessons and found that because I was able to play songs I recognized that weren’t just nursery rhyme songs like ‘Twinkle Twinkle Little Star,’ I could get excited about practicing every day.

Seven years later I still take guitar lessons in NYC. I only wished I had started playing guitar when I was younger by being honest with myself, and thinking more about what kind of music I liked, rather than the kind of music I was supposed to play.

Violin wasn’t right for me, but that’s not to say that it isn’t right for others. Playing Bach or Vivaldi on violin requires more skill than strumming three chords on guitar, and for that reason, I imagine it to be much more rewarding. The advice I want to give is: Be honest with yourself when deciding what instrument you want to play. You’re going to have to stick with it for a while.

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Violin Lessons

Why Violin Teachers Matter

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The worst violin teacher

When I was a kid, I used to take lessons for the the instrument, the violin, where I went to school. Thing was, my teacher was the worst. Her name was Ms. Ruby and she was this little angry woman who wore her hair in a bun with bristly strands sticking up. She’d spent her whole life teaching violin after she tried to make a career out of playing. It still burned her that Juilliard rejected her application. She was a real stickler for dedication to the instrument, since she’d never had enough to make it. So if we ever forgot our instruments she took it as a personal affront and she made us write out the word ‘supercalifragilisticexpealidotious’ throughout the entire period.

One day I forgot my violin and wrote ‘supercalifragilisticexpealidotious’ forty-one times. The next time I forgot my violin I thought about the first time I’d done it and I was dead set on writing ‘supercalifragilisticexpealidotious’ more than forty-one times. I wrote it forty-four times that day.

The next time I forgot my violin Ms. Ruby was in rare form. While I set out to write ‘supercalifragilisticexpealidotious’ forty-five times, Jimmy was acting a fool. Jimmy who was the class clown. He played the flute. He was making obscene gestures with it and Ms. Ruby got so mad, the veins on her neck stood out and we all thought she was going to send Jimmy to the principal to be expelled. Instead she just left the classroom. We didn’t know what to do. It was like we were free, but we weren’t quite sure if we were really free. This girl named Shawna told Jimmy he was really in trouble when she came back. Then Jimmy started to yell at her. And just as pandemonium was set to break out, Ms. Ruby walked back in and it was dead quiet. She said she’d had to leave or else she would’ve strangled Jimmy. She wasn’t joking.

I hated Ms. Ruby, too, of course. By extension I hated taking violin lessons. I didn’t learn anything I wanted to. I always thought of my violin as a burden, as something I had to learn. Until I graduated from fifth grade and I didn’t have to take a musical instrument any more.

Forgiveness after violin lessons

After Ms. Ruby, I could never feel the same way about violin lessons. It wasn’t until recently that I started to play guitar and understood that it wasn’t the violin’s fault; it was Ms. Ruby’s. Having a great teacher makes all the difference in how you practice and get excited about violin lessons.

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Music Lessons - Violin Lessons

5 Tips for becoming a great violin player from our expert

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Have you ever listened to an amazing violin piece by Paganini, Beethoven or Mozart and wondered how the violinists got so good that they were able to perform these pieces flawlessly? Well, I can guarantee you that every member in the world’s greatest orchestras has spent thousands of hours taking lessons and practicing their craft. With bands today like Coldplay, Lana Del Rey and Adele using more and more string arrangements in their music, the violin has become a very popular instrument to learn.

So regardless of what style of music you’re interested in playing, all good violinists need to learn the basics like holding the bow and correct posture. These are great beginning points to get you moving onto more advanced techniques like vibrato, double stops and playing in different positions.

To get you started we had one of our expert teachers and NYC Ballet Orchestra violinist Laura Oatts give her top 5 tips for becoming a great violinist.

Laura Oatts

Laura Oatts, Violinist for the NYC Ballet and MTYH teacher

1) A little goes a long way: Every student should feel that it’s ok to practice only for a few minutes at a time, if that’s what gets them to take out their instrument every day. If you’re terribly busy, several minutes every day will keep building your muscles and help you build up stamina for longer practice sessions. Just playing the open strings or playing a very in tune scale is great practice for a beginner and will help them progress in the future.

2) Love what you’re doing: Love your violin – it’s a beautiful instrument and an amazing work of art to look at and admire. Also, students should constantly be listening to music they love, and learning how to play music they enjoy. Violinists can play both classical and pop melodies, so changing up styles is a good way to keep things interesting.

3) Bowing Technique: Long and full bows on the open strings for 5 or 10 minutes every time you practice. This exercise is for beginner and advanced students and works wonders for both. Always keep your eye on the bow and make sure that it’s staying straight. Keep the bow moving slow and steady the entire time. This can be done on one or two strings. Try to enjoy the vibration of the wood and the ringing of the strings.

4) Practice your pizz: See if you can play your scales or whatever piece you are working on using pizzicato the entire time. By dropping the bow every once in a while, playing pizzicato will help you focus on intonation and other aspects of the music like dynamics and rhythm.

5) Play with a buddy: There’s a new invention called a Bow Buddy, which is available on Amazon and several other music stores. It comes with two pieces, but I prefer the pinky piece. It’s 
the smaller of the two pieces and goes on the end of the bow and helps students learn to hold the bow correctly while they begin to build the needed hand muscles. It’s a fabulous tool and helps people learn so much quicker in the beginning if they have a “Bow Buddy”.

Hopefully you enjoyed these great tips for beginner students. Keep a look out for our advanced violin tips coming soon!

For lessons, visit our Violin Lessons Page

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The Best Violinists of All Time

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Paganini, by Ingres.
Courtesy of Wikipedia.

What makes a great violinist? Just like most things in life, it helps to practice a lot. Once you have gained enough confidence from your violin training, you should have a broad capacity for bowing, dynamics, sound and color. It may take years, even decades, but if you really love violin, you can start offering violin lessons of your own, and maybe even start composing and aiming to topple the big names, three of which are featured below.

Violin Practice Makes Perfect

Paganini is considered one of the best violinists of all time. Why? Because he was so well-practiced. Talk about violin lessons: Paginini used to play ten hours a day. When he died, many assumed he was supernatural, and thought he would have extra cartilage in his fingers; however, the cartilage in his hands was worn down, much like that in a marathon runner’s knee, from playing so much. He is known for having never missed a note on his Guarneri violin, made in 1743, and for playing his entire Caprices on one string. Here’s one of his most famous ones:

Captain Corelli’s Mandolin

Corelli was born in 1653 and is known for having influenced a number of violin techniques, such as posture, bowing form, and fingering. He was known for despising high notes, and for rarely playing above the D string. In one famous anecdote, Corelli refused to play an overture that included an altissimo A in Handel’s oratorio, The Triumph of Time and Truth. He was offended when the composer, 32 years his junior, played it anyway. Bach was heavily influenced by Corelli too.

http://youtu.be/1t8aLJcL7J4

The Perennial Four Seasons

Vivaldi is another great baroque violinist, and today is probably the second most popular baroque composer only to Bach. In fact, Bach drew upon the bright melodies of Vivaldi’s concerti, of which The Four Seasons is a prime example, in his St. Matthew’s Passion, St. John’s Passion and cantatas. Bizarrely, despite Vivaldi’s fame while alive, after his death his work passed into obscurity. It was not until the 20th century that a resurgence in popularity for Vivaldi arrived.

Hopefully, listening to these amazing compositions will inspire you to continue with your NYC violin lessons, or to start them if you haven’t already!

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Violin Lessons

This Is How Hard Is It To Become a Professional Violinist

It all starts with the violin. If you live in NYC, you have access to one of the best Philharmonics in the world. The New York Philharmonic is the oldest in the U.S., founded in 1842, and today they have won twelve Grammys. If you’re growing up as a kid in NYC taking violin lessons, you have some really great examples to follow.

High-Intensity Practice

If you continue with your violin lessons for a few years, you’ll start to get good. If you combine that with a serious passion for the instrument, your chances of becoming a professional violinist increase dramatically. It all comes down to how hard you practice, not when you started. Even though the Suzuki method advocates that the younger kids start the better chances they have, those who begin playing violin after grade school can definitely still become pros. They may be intimidated by how younger kids show superb talent but a lot of the time, these prodigies are forced to practice between two and three hours a day for years in order to further their chances of playing professionally and wind up playing like machines, without the deep, resonant feeling originally intended for the music.

If you’ve started violin later, you can still play professionally, you just need to catch up by practicing more. It can be hard to practice more than four hours a day, but studies show that the more you practice the more you will be willing and want to play. Professional violinists practice sometimes more than eight hours a day. That’s what you have to look forward to if you’re really serious about making a career out of playing violin.

Violin Love Outweighs Tough Competition

Once you have those thousands of hours of practice under your belt, you still have to beat out the competition. Usually only three or four seats open up every year across the U.S., with hundreds of people trying out. One wrong note immediately disqualifies you, and that’s not all. You can play the violin perfectly, but if your playing lacks a certain emotion, a certain feeling for the piece, that will separate you from the best. It can be nerve-wracking playing this way, even before you’re playing on a stage, but it’s part of the game. If your playing can stand out during an audition, your chances of moving on to the next round will improve. And while competition can be stiff, sometimes playing to beat friends for a seat in an orchestra, if you love violin, if it’s part of your essence, then you have to keep playing.

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Music Lessons - Violin Lessons

Music to Listen to Before NYC Violin Lessons

Lessons are crucial to playing violin confidently, but there are other ways you can boost your violin skills outside of that one hour a week.

The most obvious is through practice. Half an hour a day is standard, but if you find yourself only doing that a few times a week, the problem may be your schedule. Try to play at the same time each day to stay motivated. That way if you practice every evening at 8 o’clock, you’ll feel like you’re missing something if you don’t. Another good way to get in the mood for your violin training session is by playing one of your favorite movements from that violin concerto that’s been stuck in your head.

Listen to violin music

The best way to get excited about violin lessons in NYC is to have a piece you really want to play. For those of you unfamiliar with violin concertos, here are a few of the best:

Any of Vivaldi’s Four Seasons
Bach’s Violin Concertos in A Minor and E Major
Mozart’s Concerto 3 in G Major, No. 4 in D Major, and No. 5 in A Major
Louis Spohr’s Violin Concerto 8 in A Minor
Beethoven’s Concerto in D Major
Mendelssohn’s Concerto in E Minor
Max Bruch Concerto No. 1 in G Minor
Vieuxtemps Concerto No. 5 in A Minor
Brahms’ Violin Concerto in D Major
Paganini Violin Concerto in D Major
Camille Saint-Saens Violin Concerto No. 3 in B Minor
Edouard Lalo’s Symphonie Espagnole Op 21
Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto in D Major
Sibelius’s Violin Concerto in D Minor
Dvorak Violin Concerto in A Minor
Prokofiev Violin Concerto No. 1 in D Major

Other Tips to Prepare for Your NYC Violin Lessons

This list of 16 concertos should be enough to get any young violin player interested in learning a specific piece of music. Parents reading this should help their kids stay motivated by buying this music and playing it in the car so that it becomes familiar. Once a piece becomes familiar enough to hum, you’ll be surprised at how much more your kids will want to practice. That allows them to create the very music they want to play, while staying relaxed and playing with emotion.

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