Group Classes Versus Private Lessons

How Do Group Classes Work?

Class size: Each class contains a small number of students and 1-2 teachers, depending on the level. All group classes include violin, viola or cello. You must bring your instrument to class (rentals here) and practice on it between classes. Chairs, music stands and music will be provided for you.

Online Support: More and more content is being put up on our website to help you learn the group music faster. When you sign up, you will receive a password to the Violin Class Resources Page which has sheet music, videos and MP3 files to help you learn as fast as possible.

Difficulty Level: The class is programmed to not be too difficult, but to push you along. If you never practice, you will have a hard time keeping up. If you practice 1-2 times per week, you will barely keep up. If you practice 3-4 times per week, you will be right on track. If you practice 5-7 times per week, you will be ahead, and will be very comfortable with the pace of the class.

Your head teacher has been teaching for over 14 years and is very familiar with how different people learn at different speeds. In all orchestras, there are two violin sections: Violin I and Violin II. Violin I generally has the more complicated, harder and higher parts and Violin II generally has the easier, lower, supporting parts. Here, we use this model to our advantage, even in the most beginner classes, to not only keep the music and learning interesting and fun, but also to give a slight challenge to the faster and more experienced students, and to keep the slower and less experienced students moving along.

The student orchestra is a group of students, some of whom are returning semester after semester. Thus, you can expect the orchestra pieces to become more difficult over time. Orchestra pieces generally do not repeat from one semester to the other. 1st Violin plays the more challenging part while 2nd violin supports them with a slightly easier part.

Schedule: Each level of class is held twice a week. You may attend one or both classes. Take the Absolute Beginner schedule as an example. Classes are held on Tuesday night and on Saturday morning. Tuesday’s class material will be repeated on Saturday morning. Let’s say you signed up to attend once a week and you plan on attending on Tuesday nights. One week you have a stressful week at work and you aren’t able to practice much. You can come to the Saturday class as additional practice. Or, you normally come Saturdays but are out of town one weekend. You can reschedule that Saturday for a Tuesday. To keep pace with the class, try to keep the make-up class within the same week, or as close to that as possible. Some students want to make progress as fast as possible, in which case they sign up for 2 classes per week. Since semesters are 10 weeks long, they would opt for a package of 20 classes. And, if you would like to come twice a week but can’t make it to every class, there is a package of 15 available.

As a note, you may use your package for classes of any level. E.g. If you start the semester and realize the class is too easy for you, you can switch to a higher level class at any time. Or, if you want to brush up on your basics, you can use one of the classes in your package to join a lower-level class one evening.

Expiration and Cancellation: In a private lesson, the teacher is blocking off a time slot in their calendar for you, preventing other students from signing up for a lesson at that time. Therefore in private lessons, a 24 cancellation policy exists. However, in group classes, the affordable price gets you access to classes all semester, with no penalty for cancelling classes last-minute or no-showing (though please do inform your teacher as soon as you know so they may plan properly). However, at the end of the semester all lessons in that package expire. They are not transferable or interchangeable with private lessons or any other good or service.

Comparisons: Having trouble deciding between group classes or private lessons? Many students take both simultaneously. It’s fun to play in a group, and there is a degree of accountability. Private lessons help you excel technically and hastens learning time. If you have no musical background, or would like to speed progress, consider doing both. If you are on a limited budget or schedule, you might have to choose one or the other during active semester times.

Group Classes Vs. Private Lessons

Absolute Beginner Beginner Late Beginner & Student Orchestra Private Lessons
Students 3 – 8 3 – 10 3 – 16 1
Teachers 1 – 2 1 1 1
Location 307 W 36th St 307 W 36th St 307 W 36th St 307 W 36th St , Midtown West, or Your Home in UES, Harlem, Morningside Heights, Long Island
Length 60 mins 60 mins 60 mins 60, 45 or 30 mins
Frequency 1-2x/week 1-2x/week 1-2x/week Typically 1x/week though can be more depending on availability
Class times Tues night & Sat morning Wed night & Sat morning Tues night & Sat afternoon As it fits your schedule
Performance at end? no yes yes Encouraged to participate in the biannual concerts
Cost of a single class $36 $36 $36 $70 for 60 min,          $55 for 45 min           $40 for 30 min            for most teachers.
Cost per class if purchased in a package $32.50 in a 10-pack   $30 in a 15-pack        $26 in a 20-pack $32.50 in a 10-pack   $30 in a 15-pack        $26 in a 20-pack $32.50 in a 10-pack   $30 in a 15-pack        $26 in a 20-pack $65 in a 5-pack
Cancellation Policy None/No penalty None/No penalty None/No penalty More than 24 hours required, or the full lesson fee will be due
Expiration Date Single class – never Single class – never Single class – never Single lesson – never
Package – at end of semester Package – at end of semester Package – at end of semester Package – never
Sheet music provided Yes Yes Yes Not always
Classes/lessons can be purchased online Yes Yes Yes Yes
Classes/lessons can be scheduled online Yes Yes Yes Yes
Can be rescheduled online Yes, to any other offered class time Yes, to any other offered class time Yes, to any other offered class time Yes, to any available time on calendar
Can be cancelled online Yes Yes Yes Yes
Can be financed (package broken into partial, scheduled payments) Yes Yes Yes No
Focused on reading music and technical skills Yes Somewhat Somewhat Yes
Focused on listening & musicality Somewhat Yes Yes, definitely Somewhat
Learning alongside your peers Yes Yes Yes No
Offered online No No No Yes
Online tools on nycviolinstudio.com to assist Yes Yes Yes Only for Absolute Beginner level
Moves at your own pace No, though there is an assistant teacher to help No No Yes

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All Access Pass to Group Violin Classes

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group violin class

Why I Started Delivering Group Violin Classes

When I moved back to New York in 2011, I began teaching violin right away. First in New Jersey, and not soon after, in Midtown Manhattan, Upper East Side, Upper West Side and Downtown. At first I had a lot of kids (students, not my own children) but the more I focused on teaching in Midtown West, the more adult students I began to have as we would meet after work. The kids had the benefit of a concert to perform at, but that company didn’t accept adults onto the stage. As my adult roster grew, and they started practicing less, I knew I had to get them on the stage. Not only does performing give you a rush, a sense of accomplishment, something to strive for, and something for your friends and family to do (coming to watch you and your new friends), but it also gives you a reason to practice. 

Now maybe you’re one of the few people out there who are motivated all on your own and you don’t need any outside help. But I know that for me personally, as well as a lot of my students, we need a reason to practice. And all it takes is an obligation. Too often we’re willing to break promises with ourself but not wtih other people. The solution? Make a commitment to perform, and then work towards that goal!

A really, really good way to do that is to perform with a group. An orchestra is the perfect opportunity to boost your own skills while hiding in the crowd. That’s right, I said it. I admitted that an orchestra is a great place to hide. Just because most teachers won’t say that directly doesn’t mean it’s not true. And what happens when you hide? It’s a little like you’re practicing on your own, except that you are surrounded by people that are playing your part, so it’s hard to get lost for too long. It’s like you’re all on a rowboat, and everyone has an oar. You lose your flow for a second, but everybody else has your back, and so it’s easy to get back on track. (At least, that’s how I imagine a many-oared row boat would work.) 

In my first 10 years of playing, I played in an orchestra several times a week. I practiced at home too, but my teacher wasn’t with me when I was practicing, so I could only practice the best I knew how, and then I in orchestra I would find out if I had practiced it right or not. Hey, I’m just being honest. 

One great thing about being in an orchestra is that if you make a mistake, whoop-de-doo, nobody cares! It’s the exact opposite of a solo performance. Hardly anyone in the orchestra will notice, much less the audience. On the other hand, with the majority of the orchestra members playing the right then (or maybe even all of them!) the audience is wowed by what an incredible sound everybody can make when they come together. 

Now don’t get me wrong. I want everyone in the orchestra to play the right thing. But what I knew would happen as a direct result was that people would have more of a reason to practice. In my estimation I thought, “They have committed to performing this in 10 weeks from now; they’ll definitely be practicing!” but then something even better happened. I had students telling me they were practicing for the rehearsal times, which is so much better than I intended! And it made so much sense. They didn’t want to show up to class not having practiced, and feel embarrassed in front of their friends. 

Now technically, there is no reason to feel embarrassed. In truth, everybody is just trying to play their own part as best they can. They barely have any time to think about what everyone else is playing! Though when you get a grasp on your part and you can start listening to the orchestra – wow! What an amazing feeling it is to sit in the middle of a music making session. Irreplaceable by anything else! You thought listening to music was good? Try being in it! So amazing.

There are more benefits to group classes. In addition to:

  • Practicing more as a result.
  • Providing accountability each week.

You should also know that:

  • Music is more fun in a group than alone.
  • You will meet some of the best people in NYC.
  • You will get to perform at semester end.
  • You will learn things about musicality that are impossible to obtain in private lessons.
  • You will meet peers your age going through the same violin journey.
  • Your musical weaknesses will be improved by the group.
  • Your strengths will help others in the group.
  • They are more cost effective.

Here are some examples of these principles in action:

Eva used to play piano when she was a kid. Now, as an adult, she’s moved to NYC to pursue her career but finds her days tedious. She signs up for group lessons and has the least trouble with reading music and rhythm. One thing she lacks, however, is musically and expression. Her stand partner, Chris, has never played any instrument before and is weakest in rhythm but plays with great passion. As they learn at a similar pace, they are seated together, and as they progress through the classes, Eva learns to be less timid and Chris gets better with rhythm. Just by sitting in the same section!

Or take this example: Todd played the drums briefly a number of years ago. His rhythm is spot on, but he’s not great with pitch. His stand partner, Justin, has been playing guitar for a number of years. Justin’s musicality is through the roof. He can play along to anything, but he’s always had trouble reading music. Aside from plain old good company, these two learn from each other, and form Eva and Chris, because their strengths and weaknesses all compliment one other.

Of course, it’s not all there is to learning, but it’s always nice to get an effortless booster. Everybody has their own strengths, and yours will compliment the rest of the class without you even knowing what it is. Even something as simple as being studious, being attentive, or being committed can be what it takes to rocket you to the next level. Whether you grew up playing violin or you have never taken a single music class in your life, we have a class that is perfect for you.

Should I take group classes or private lessons?

Why not take both? One for one, students progress fastest and happiest when they take group classes alongside private lessons. If you have room in your budget and time in your schedule to do both, do both. If your budget is tight, take group classes. If your schedule is inflexible, take private lessons.

Private lessons have a more flexible schedule but a firmer cancellation policy. To find out more about private lessons, click here.  See the chart below for further comparison.

How Do Group Classes Work?

Class size: Each class contains a small number of students and 1-2 teachers, depending on the level. All group classes include violin, viola or cello. You must bring your instrument to class (rentals here) and practice on it between classes. Chairs, music stands and music will be provided for you.

Online Support: More and more content is being put up on our website to help you learn the group music faster. When you sign up, you will receive a password to the Violin Class Resources Page which has sheet music, videos and MP3 files to help you learn as fast as possible.

Difficulty Level: The class is programmed to not be too difficult, but to push you along. If you never practice, you will have a hard time keeping up. If you practice 1-2 times per week, you will barely keep up. If you practice 3-4 times per week, you will be right on track. If you practice 5-7 times per week, you will be ahead, and will be very comfortable with the pace of the class. Your head teacher has been teaching for over 14 years and is very familiar with how different people learn at different speeds. In all orchestras, there are two violin sections: Violin I and Violin II. Violin I generally has the more complicated, harder and higher parts and Violin II generally has the easier, lower, supporting parts. Here, we use this model to our advantage, even in the most beginner classes, to not only keep the music and learning interesting and fun, but also to give a slight challenge to the faster and more experienced students, and to keep the slower and less experienced students moving along. The student orchestra a group of students, some of whom are returning semester after semester. Thus, you can expect the orchestra pieces to become more difficult over time. Orchestra pieces generally do not repeat from one semester to the other. 1st Violin plays the more challenging part while 2nd violin supports them with a slightly easier part.

Schedule: Each level of class is held twice a week. You may attend one or both classes. Take the Absolute Beginner schedule as an example. Classes are held on Tuesday night and on Saturday morning. Tuesday’s class material will be repeated on Saturday morning.  Since semesters are 10 weeks long, that’s a total of 20 classes. As a note, you may use your package for classes of any level. E.g. If you start the semester and realize the class is too easy for you, you can switch to a higher level class at any time. Or, if you want to brush up on your basics, you can use one of the classes in your package to join a lower-level class one evening.

Expiration and Cancellation: In a private lesson, the teacher is blocking off a time slot in their calendar for you, preventing other students from signing up for a lesson at that time. Therefore in private lessons, a 24 cancellation policy exists. However, in group classes, the affordable price gets you access to classes all semester, with no penalty for cancelling classes last-minute or no-showing (though please do inform your teacher as soon as you know so they may plan properly). However, at the end of the semester all lessons in that package expire. They are not transferable or interchangeable with private lessons or any other good or service.

Comparisons: Having trouble deciding between group classes or private lessons? Many students take both simultaneously. It’s fun to play in a group, and there is a degree of accountability. Private lessons help you excel technically and hastens learning time. If you have no musical background, or would like to speed progress, consider doing both. If you are on a limited budget or schedule, you might have to choose one or the other during active semester times.

Interested in Signing Up?

All Access Pass to Group Violin Classes

All Access Pass to Group Violin Classes

 

Meet your teachers:

Still have more questions?

 

How to Assess Your Level of Violin Playing

What is Your Level of Violin Playing?Joke Sheet Music

So, you’re thinking about joining a group violin class. You used to play violin, but you’re not sure what your level of violin playing would be considered (in other words, how advanced you are) and thus which group class level is right for you.

The first question I usually ask a new student who has told me that used to play violin is: “Did you train with Suzuki Method?”

Because the books are laid out in a nice gradient (they gradually get harder and harder), it’s easy to assess what a student has already learned, even if they’re not perfect at everything they studied so far. Of course, students forget things after having taken a hiatus. However, in my 10 years of teaching violin, where at least half my students were adults who used to play violin, I have found that every single student remembered more than they thought they would, and that the muscle memory of knowing how to play (left hand and right hand) and remembering how to read music always came back much quicker than they imagined. The only cases where they didn’t was when the student thought they had previously gotten it, but they hadn’t. Whatever level you used to be at, you can be there again pretty easily.

The best part of taking violin lessons again is that once you get rolling, your skill level will well exceed your previous level. How exciting!

There is no standard, agreed-upon metric for assessing a person’s violin playing level, but here are some good guidelines based on the class terms I use in my studio. And by the way, if you are taking private lessons, it’s not vital that you do this assessment, but it can certainly help your teacher to understand where you’re at before you begin taking your first lesson. It can also show you what’s next for you to learn.

Which group class level is right for you?

We have Absolute Beginner Classes for adults trying out violin for the very first time, with a special 10-week program to take a student with absolutely no musical experience to being able to perform simple songs on two or more strings in a matter of weeks. We hold Beginner group classes for adults with some experience on the violin. We hold Late Beginner classes for more experienced players, and finally, Student Orchestra, which is continually working on and performing repertoire and more advanced technique. Which class you should join depends on what your level of playing ability is on the violin. Read below to locate yourself on the skill level chart.

Graduates From These Levels Can Play:
Absolute Beginner Beginner Late Beginner Student Orchestra – 2nd Violin Student Orchestra – 1st Violin
Core Basics How to hold a violin
How to hold a bow
Read and play open strings
Can read and play this many types of note and rest durations 6 (e.g. quarter note, quarter rest, half note, eighth note) 10 (e.g. whole note, ties, slurs, dotted half note, dotted quarter note,) 12 + (e.g. 16th note,)  18 – 20 (e.g. triplets, dotted 8th notes, 32nd notes 18 – 20
Strings learned Two
(e.g. D and A)
All Four
(G, D, A, E)
All Four
(G, D, A, E)
All Four
(G, D, A, E)
All Four + shifting 
Number of fingers used 3
(i.e. 0, 1, 2, 3)
3 – 4
(fourth finger optional)
3 – 4
(fourth finger optional)
Fourth finger optional but preferred Extended Four, Low 1
Scales 1
(e.g. D Major)
2 – 3
(e.g. G Major & A Major)
4+
(e.g. C Major, F Major)
Up to 3 per semester
(including Minor scales)
Up to 3 per semester (including several flats or sharps)
Keys D Major A Major, G Major, C Major 0 – 2 sharps &/or 1 flat Up to 3 flats or sharps Up to 3 flats or sharps (so far!)
Time Signatures 1 2 – 3 3 + 4 + 5 +
Bowing Techniques 1 2 – 3 (e.g. slurs, staccato) 3 – 5 (e.g. fast string crossing, slurred staccato) 6 + (e.g. tenuto, tremolo, retake, accents, double stops  6 + (spiccato, martele, hooked bowing, + )
Dynamics 2 + (e.g. forte, piano) 4 (e.g. pianissimo or mezzo forte) All (including crescendos & decrescendos) All (including crescendos & decrescendos)
Accidentals 2 + (e.g. C or F natural; L2 or H3) 4 + (e.g. Low 4 or Low 1) All (e.g. x4, finger substitution) All (e.g. x4, finger substitution)
Overall difficulty level (1/10) 1 – 2 3 – 4 4 – 5 4.75 – 6 6 – 7.5

I hope this chart was helpful and that you were able to get a better insight into how far along you’ve come in your violin journey. If you need more help deciding, reach out to us at any time here! We look forward to seeing you in the next class.

Ready to sign up? We’re accepting Early Bird Enrollments now.
(See the group class page for the details & current discount codes.)

All Access Pass to Group Violin Class   All Access Pass to Group Violin Class Financing Option

Still need more info to decide if group classes are right for you? Find out more here:

Group Violin Classes Are Now Online

 

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How to Have Patience as a New Violin Student

So you’ve chosen to play the violin. Congratulations! Whether this is something new for you or something you’re returning to after a long hiatus, the decision to play an instrument is an exciting one.

With our days filled of isolation and quarantine (hopefully New York and the world will be back on its feet soon!), now more than ever is the time to pursue your musical goals. Music is therapeutic, it offers joy and comfort and if nothing else, it definitely gives you something to do! But we hope it’s much more to you than just a time filler – music is quite special to us, and the violin in particular.

The violin is notorious for being a difficult instrument to learn. Don’t feel daunted by that. What I’m going to cover here is what your expectations for yourself should be as a new or relatively new violinist! 

First of all, please – and I cannot stress this enough – do NOT set unrealistic goals for yourself. I often find students are discouraged because they do not immediately sound like they have been playing the violin for years. Or they don’t sound like the child prodigies they’ve been watching on YouTube. But here’s the thing: to sound like you’ve been playing for years, well, you have to actually have been playing for years! Yes, those child prodigies do exist, and while I beg you not to compare yourselves to anomalies like this, even these children practice and work very hard day in and day out to sound the way they do. So, no matter who you are you have to start somewhere and you have to set some goals for yourself. And what should those goals be? 

Goal #1: True and Proper Form
Can you hold the violin and bow properly, and do you feel comfortable doing so, effortlessly? This alone is an enormously important step. Many musicians, not having focused on being comfortable holding their instrument early on, later find themselves wondering why they are combating shoulder, neck, back, wrist or hand tension, pain or discomfort. The problem is that they didn’t spend enough time ensuring their form was correct from the very start. As a beginner it might be hard to know what feels comfortable, as things may not seem natural at first. Your metric should be pain: is the feeling one of discomfort, caused by the fatigue of unexercised muscles? Or is it joint pain? Muscle fatigue from playing violin usually goes away after a few seconds of stopping. Pain caused by an incorrect hold or excess tension does not. The rule is: if it hurts, stop. And seek professional advice  if it won’t go away. When looking into accessories such as chin rests and shoulder rests, there is no one size fits all solution, since we all have our own bodies and our own ranges of motion. So be sure not to assume that something will work for you simply because so and so “does it that way”. Find what works for you. An experienced teacher will happily help you get set up.

Goal #2:  Produce a Beautiful Sound on Just an Open String
Can you produce a clear sound on the instrument using open strings without scratching, crunching, screeching or other unwanted noises?  If not, here’s a few things to consider. Watch the path of your bow. Be sure you are using the “middle lane”. This is a concept where you envision 3 or 5 lanes in between your bridge and the end of your fingerboard (see picture below). You don’t want to be in the lanes near the bridge or the fingerboard, but right in the middle, which is going to be the sweet spot. Your bow should be parallel to the bridge and travel in a straight path, remaining parallel to the bridge the entire time. What you don’t want is a sawing motion where your elbow swings backwards, causing the bow hair to slide all over the strings. If you are hearing a “crunching” noise (which is a low, nails-on-the-chalkboard type of sound) while you play, stop and check where your bow is – it could be too close to the fingerboard. If you hear more of an airy, scratchy noise, you could be travelling too close to the bridge or your bow could be sliding around as previously mentioned. There are many reasons for non-optimum sounds, which all have very specific causes, but these are some basic guidelines. 

violin image

Goal #3:  Keep Your Good Bowing Habits Even with Fingers Down
This is concerning left hand position & using fingers on the violin to produce notes. When learning to use the left hand, keep in mind the earlier points – holding the instrument and producing a clear tone. It’s usual when you learn something new, like introducing left hand fingers, the earlier things you learned will suddenly not be as good as you had them before. Don’t worry! That’s totally normal, and you will get past it in no time. The reason behind this is that you suddenly have a lot more to think about, and putting it all together at once is not the same as doing each thing by itself. Ideally, you have a teacher (or are looking for one) and your teacher can help you put some tape on your instrument (we use painter’s tape – it is easy to put on and comes off without getting stuck or leaving too much of a sticky residue on your instrument). Learn a scale or two as soon as you can (we recommend D, G and A) and practice them a lot. Just keep your practice time regular, and it will come together. 

What About the Bigger Goals?
Once you are comfortable and capable with your posture, positioning, reading the notes and bowing with a lot of comfort, there are more things you can start to focus on such as rhythm, musicality and style, but no matter what you’re learning, be sure you’re not expecting too much or too little of yourself. It’s important to set tough but DOABLE targets when you practice. Maybe you’ve been struggling with the hard part of a song or something you can’t seem to get your bow arm to do. While it’s important to have fun and play what makes you happy, don’t forget to give those hard parts your energy and focus. That’s when you’ll really start to see yourself improve. 

Playing the violin is an extremely rewarding experience. While it has its own set of challenges and obstacles to overcome, there’s no doubt that the reward is worth it. We hope this has been a helpful and encouraging article for you to read as a beginner. For further guidance & demonstrations, feel free to check out our YouTube channel for plenty of instructional & informational videos. https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=nyc+violin+studio 

Best of luck to you in your playing and don’t forget to practice today!

Marie Votapka
Violin Teacher NYC Violin Studio

Mind doing a little survey?

Hey guys! So in light of the extended isolation due to COVID-19, and also in alignment with my long-term goals of bringing violin education online, I have decided to start putting together an encyclopedic set of courses on violin. However, I need your input.

As you know, I love teaching. In private lessons, I get to tailor a course to an individuals’ needs, and in a group class, I can tailor a path with a specific goal in mind – the final concert! But online pre-recorded curriculums has me so filled with ideas that I’m not sure where to start first!

I would love to know what online learning platforms you have used in the past, what you liked about it, what tools I have published that have helped you the most (or could), what topics and songs interest you, and what you feel I have to offer the online learning community based on your experience with my teaching, or just what you think should be brought to the table to set me apart from the crowd.

The survey is in-depth, but I really feel it will give me the answers I need to build a fantastic series of courses. And don’t worry – these are purely supplemental to private and group lessons! In fact, I can see them really enhancing both.

So don’t be shy – leave me your input!

SHARE YOUR INPUT HERE

 

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