how to help your child learn violin

How to Help Your Child Learn ViolinAfter reading this article, you will have a clear understanding of how to help your child learn violin.

I’ve seen parents build a lifelong bond with their children through private lessons. If prepared, they can play a huge role in their child’s progress.

Get Involved with Private Lessons

I have a student named Danny that came in for his first lesson about 4 years ago. His Mom (Jeanine Heemstra) not only comes to lessons, but always pays attention to everything going on. She has never actually tried playing the violin, although we joke at recitals that she could easily play since she has listened and asked so many questions!

She is the type of Mom who wants to know exactly what Danny should be doing that week, and as a result, she knows when Danny is getting off track at home.

Danny is a good kid, and a huge chunk of his success with violin has been because of Jeanine’s attention to detail in his private classes. They are a great Mom & Son team!

Don’t Be Passive

I once had a parent call me who was interested in lessons for her 12 year old daughter. The student came for the first lesson, and I could barely get her to pay attention.

I looked back at the Mom to see that she was on her phone the whole time, and wasn’t interested in how the lesson was going. When I tried to explain to her a few practice recommendations for the week, she seemed to not really care if or how she was going to help her daughter.

As you can imagine, this led to bad habits right off the bat with the student. As the teacher, I only get to help once a week!

Establish Clear Expectations

My best advice for parents is to establish a clear understanding with your child that private lessons are expensive, and they need to be taken seriously. This means they not only practice at home, but be doing exactly what the teacher recommends.

And to be able to do that, you need to know what is going on!

Here are some specific examples of how to help your child learn violin and progress with private lessons.
1. My child is supposed to focus on a certain technique this week.
2. My child needs to play less of this song, as it’s not going to help them much.
3. My child needs to write down their practice time.

Keep the Bond with your Child in Mind

What I have found is that parents who get involved with their child’s progress on violin develop bonds that would never have been achieved otherwise. There is something about music that brings people together; parent to child teamwork is a perfect example.

Here are some videos showing you the student/parent relationships I have helped develop through the years. They were so kind to put these testimonials together for me!
Danny and Jeanine Heemstra – 4 Years of Lessons
The St. Louis Family – 5 Years of Lessons

Also, here is a video of me playing with some of my students. Their parents were so proud!

If you liked this post, check out one of our blog articles: The Power of the Parent

If you have any questions about how to help your child learn violin, or if want to learn how to get started, you can contact us by live chat or phone (616) 299-9196. We have a rental program and provide affordable private lessons (first lesson free).

Have a nice day!

onstage

Though playing an instrument alone can be both rewarding and enjoyable, don’t overlook the benefits of playing music with others. There are many reasons people choose to remain musical “hermits”, one of the most common being, “I’m not good enough to play with other people.” This is rarely true. Even if you’ve only been playing violin for a short time, you can (and should) play with other people. Here are some guidelines that will help you choose the right setting at the right time.

Laying Roots to Playing Music with Others (Year 1)

It’s a good idea to stick to learning the fundamentals and technique of your instrument during your first year or so of playing. Playing music with others can be frustrating at this stage, since you’ll be concentrating so much on the mechanics of playing. If you can find someone at your level to play with, though–even if it’s just scales played slowly–you will benefit from the experience.

Finding a Small Group (Years 1-3)

During this time, it’s a good idea to try to find one local player at the same level as you. Duets are a great learning experience and can be fun and rewarding. If you don’t know any other players, try calling local teachers to ask if they have students who would be interested in playing duets.

Considering a String Quartet (Years 4-7)

You can certainly play duets at every skill level, but it’s also a good idea to branch out and find more people to play your instrument with as your skills improve. Small chamber music groups like string quartets are wonderful to participate in, as are community orchestras. Don’t limit yourself to playing music only with other string players—lots of great music has been written for ensembles that include one string instrument plus piano, winds, brass and more.

Joining a Professional Orchestra (Years 8+)

You are now probably ready to audition for a professional orchestra. Enjoy the heights of greatness you’ve achieved, but don’t stop playing in small groups.

Keep in mind that these are just guidelines. Everyone progresses at a different rate, so be sure to do what’s right for you.

Benefits of Playing Music in Groups

Playing music with other people will greatly improve your overall musicianship as well as your proficiency on your instrument. It’s also just plain fun! The sound of multiple instruments playing together is lush and full, and you get the pleasure of knowing you are a part of something bigger. The joy of creating beautiful music with other people can’t be matched.

 

You will find that playing with others forces you to pay close attention to your rhythm and intonation. When you play alone, you don’t have to be as precise. But add just one other person into the equation, and suddenly correct rhythm and intonation are vital if you want to avoid a train wreck.

 

Playing with other people can be motivating and inspire you to practice consistently. Having a community of other musicians is helpful for discovering performance opportunities, meeting new people and getting encouragement. Who knows–your ensemble may even make a little money performing.

 

Everything you learn when playing music with others will benefit your solo playing. Ensemble playing helps you learn to listen and adapt, and creates well-rounded musicians. Isolated players often don’t progress as fast or become as versatile.

 

We encourage you to start today: ask a fellow musician if they’d like to play some duets, start a string quartet or join an orchestra. Don’t worry that you’re not good enough, just jump in and start playing. You have nothing to lose but the discouragement of musical isolation.

 


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Few musicians want to be away from their instruments for extended periods of time, but sometimes it can’t be avoided. Proper storage of your instrument and bow will ensure that they are still in good condition when you return to them.

Prep your instrument

Getting your instrument ready for long-term storage isn’t complicated. Wipe excess rosin off the stick of your bow with a soft cloth, then loosen it. Wipe down the body of your violin with a soft cloth to remove dust and rosin residue. Loosening the strings is unnecessary, but you should place a soft piece of fabric under the tailpiece. This will prevent the top of your instrument from getting scratched by the tailpiece should the bridge collapse. Finally, place your violin in its case and close it securely.

Storing the case

The best place for your instrument case is somewhere the temperature and humidity will stay fairly constant. Don’t keep the case near an exterior wall or anywhere the sun could shine on it. Often a closet on an interior wall and without a vent is a good place.

Bow storage

You may already have experience with “bow bugs”, small beetles that eat bow hair. If they infest your case, you’ll notice lots of broken or very loose hairs when you remove your bow. Sometimes an infestation necessitates a bow rehair. Since these bugs don’t like light, they prefer to target rarely-opened cases. To prevent your bow hair from being a beetle’s lunch, it’s best to store it out in the open, if you have a safe place to put it.

Waking up your instrument

When you return to your instrument, give it a quick visual inspection for cracks or opened seams. If you find any, or if the bridge has fallen down, you’ll need to take it to a luthier. If your instrument is no worse for its long nap, tell it how much you missed it, tune it up gently and you’re good to go!


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TomTom Announces New Fitness Wearable Featuring Activity Tracker and Music (PRNewsFoto/TomTom)

How is playing an instrument like exercising? Here’s a hint: it won’t give you big muscles. Apart from building muscle mass, there are many similarities between improving your fitness and playing music. The most obvious is that they are both extremely beneficial, but here are five more similarities you might not have considered.

1) Progress can be slow

It takes lots of time and consistency to develop your skills as an instrumentalist. Just like you can’t become an olympic athlete in a month, or even a year, it takes time to become a proficient player. Patience is key.

2) You have to pace yourself

Anytime you take up a new activity, you have to pace yourself. It’s exciting to start something new, and you may be tempted to push yourself too hard in the beginning. Fight that temptation! It’s important to take it easy and not burn yourself out. Playing for hours a day when you are starting to learn a new instrument is like doing too many reps at the gym. Aside from getting discouraged, you could end up in pain or even injured.

3) Form is important

It’s hard to make progress toward your fitness goals if you’re working out with poor form. Technique is similarly crucial when playing an instrument. Playing with good form helps keep you from getting injured and ensures that you’ll be able to continue progressing without having to backtrack to fix bad habits.

4) You need to follow your trainer

Your music teacher is like your personal trainer: he or she will help you reach your goals. Many students struggle to objectively evaluate their progress, know what to practice next, even know how much they should practice. That’s where a teacher comes in. Like a competent personal trainer, a good teacher knows what students should expect of themselves, how fast they should be progressing and how much they should be practicing. Follow your teacher’s lead–he or she can guide you and help you set realistic expectations.

5) Mix it up

If you are striving for a fit physique and healthy lifestyle, you don’t do just one kind of exercise. The fittest folk know the importance of including variety in their workouts: weight training, cardio, interval training, sports. Playing an instrument is much the same–it’s important to include variety in your practice times. Try including scales, etudes, solo pieces, and duets or chamber music. Are you a classical player? Find a jazz piece you enjoy and master it. Fiddler? Pick a classical piece and learn it well (then audition for a local orchestra). Playing a variety of music and exercises will keep boredom at bay and help you become a well-rounded player.


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Boy and girl playing violin and piano at home

Many parents have their children in music lessons, and none of them want their child to fail. Yet many children still end up quitting their instrument after becoming frustrated and disappointed. The good news: you truly can help your child succeed! You are uniquely qualified to improve the chances of your child sticking with music and seeing success.

Here are five reasons why you are the best person to come alongside your child on their musical journey.

Reason #1 – You know your child

No one knows your child the way you do. You know what they understand and how best to explain things. This can be a great benefit as you sit in on your child’s music lessons. When you hear the teacher say something you know went over your child’s head, you can speak up. Asking for clarity and making sure your child really understands what is being said will go a long way toward keeping frustration at bay.

Reason #2 – You have great influence on your child

Newsflash: your kids watch you. Your attitude toward music lessons can affect theirs in a profound way. If you sigh and gripe every week when it’s time to go to lessons, your child may end sharing your bad attitude. Likewise, genuine enthusiasm for music on your part will rub off on your child. Attitudes are contagious.

Reason #3 – You see your child every day

Music lessons work best when the child is diligently practicing at home and comes to lessons prepared. If the student doesn’t practice, the teacher often ends up having to stall progress or backtrack, which wastes valuable time and effort (not to mention your money!).  

Your child’s music teacher probably sees him or her only once a week. You see your child every day, and you can be a great help if you get involved in their practice. If you sit in on lessons, you can help your child remember their goals and make sure they’re using correct technique when they practice. Younger students especially benefit from a little hand-holding between lessons.

young_violinists_jh01_t460Reason #4 – You can keep an eye on progress

No one is more qualified to keep track of your child’s progress than you. If you notice progress tailing off, start sleuthing! Slowing progress can be a sign of material that’s too hard, decreased motivation, lack of practicing or even the wrong teacher.

You can look into motivational strategies and reward systems if motivation and practice hours are decreasing. If the material is too hard you should talk to the teacher. A good teacher will listen to your concerns and work with you to come up with a plan and material that’s right for your child. You’ll know it’s time to write a different name on the check if you hear, “I’m the teacher, I know what I’m doing!”. Which brings us to our last point…

Reason #5 – You can screen teachers

The right teacher is a very important variable in the success equation. Be sure to use your intuition where the teacher is concerned. If something doesn’t seem to be clicking between your child and the teacher, don’t be afraid to move on. You know your child’s learning style best and what sort of teacher they need. Sometimes you have to try a few before you find the right one!

Bonus: A popular myth debunked

Myth: You have to know how to do something in order to teach it (in other words, you must learn alongside your child or you won’t be able to help them).

Truth: While we think it’s a fabulous idea for anyone to learn music, especially parents and children together, you don’t have to learn your child’s instrument in order to help them. Just sitting in on lessons will give you everything you need to keep your child’s practicing on track and answer their questions. Case in point: my mother has patiently sat in on eight years of weekly violin lessons. She could help you hold the instrument, hold the bow, and put them together with proper technique. Yet she doesn’t play the violin herself!

Kids with involved parents are almost always more successful–just ask any music teacher. If you’re a parent with a child in music, get involved! You have more to contribute than you may realize.


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Who we are

The Violin Tutor Pro team is a small group of people who are passionate about instruments, music and learning. Our main goal is to see people succeed in learning to play stringed instruments. We want to inspire passion and develop a lifelong love of music in the people we teach. No matter your skill level, we can help you learn!

The problem

Taking private lessons from a local teacher is expensive. Because the cost of lessons can be prohibitive, many aspiring musicians try to learn on their own. While admirable, there can be problems with this approach. People who try to learn an instrument by viewing videos online (on YouTube, for example) tend to end up discouraged and frustrated. Learning consistently and staying motivated requires structure, and sampling the vast “buffet” of online videos provides no structure. This is where the Violin Tutor Pro solution comes in.

The Violin Tutor Pro solution

Violin Tutor Pro bridges the gap between being self-taught and taking private lessons from a local teacher. We offer an organized, easy to understand, affordable and fun way to learn violin, fiddle, or viola. We help people form good habits, stay motivated and achieve success on their instrument. We provide the structure.

We regularly upload video lessons for all skill levels, host live instructional webinars and post on our blog. We also have a growing community of like-minded musicians in the forums.

Our plans

We will continue to add to our library of lessons to include more advanced material for violin. We also plan to expand the site to include similar learning content for viola, cello and bass. We will introduce new teachers as we grow, creating a valuable resource for music educators.

VTP_logo_stacked_light_bgHow you can get involved

Get on the mailing list

Subscribing to our mailing list ensures you won’t ever miss a promotion, blog post or other important updates.

Join the forums

Our forums are a great place to connect with other musicians and students. Community is an important aspect of learning online. Our favorite topic is the “Video Feedback”. Here, you can post a video of yourself playing and get feedback from teachers and students alike.

Check it out here: http://violintutorpro.com/forum/video-feedback/

Participate in the live chats

In the lower left-hand corner of the site, you’ll see a small box with a text bubble on it. Click on it, and you can chat in real time with other people who are online at the time. It’s a great way to ask questions or get some encouragement.

Explore the site

Be sure to explore the Violin Tutor Pro site frequently, as it’s changing all the time. We are constantly uploading new content, so check back often.

Give us feedback

Last but not least, we truly value your opinion. It’s easy to get in touch and let us know what you think by using the “Do you have questions?” feature in the lower right-hand corner of the site. You can also call us at (800) 723-5043 or email support@violintutorpro.com.

Where to start

If you’re new to violin, the best place to start is with Michael’s Beginning Violin Lessons 1-10.

More than just another fiddle blog, Violin Tutor Pro is the best online resource for taking your string playing to the next level. Read more.

At Violin Tutor Pro, we’re passionate about helping you take your string playing to the next level. It’s what we do! 


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As you pursue correct finger position and beautiful bow holds and perfect posture, don’t forget the most important part of any musician’s body: that space between the ears. How you approach learning your instrument mentally will determine whether you succeed or fail. Here are some tips regarding how to keep your mind in-tune.

Tip #1 – Learning is a marathon, not a sprint

This may be the most important thing to keep in mind when you’re learning to play an instrument. A person running a marathon doesn’t start out at top speed–they’d never make it to the finish line. Similarly, the music student who launches into learning and practices hours a day is likely to burn out (or hurt themselves) and eventually quit. Remember that learning an instrument is a marathon, not a sprint. Strive for steady, consistent progress.

Tip #2 – Let your teacher set the pace

If you have a private instructor, it’s very important to let them set the pace for your learning. A good teacher knows how to keep you challenged–not discouraged or burned out–and will advise you on how to use your time effectively.

Tip #3 – Take learning one step at a time

It’s much better to set numerous small, easily attainable goals rather than a few large goals. Because our brains can focus on just one thing at a time, remember the “divide and conquer” principle. When you’re practicing, work on just one aspect of playing at a time instead of trying to improve every area of technique at once. For example: play a musical section three times concentrating first on your bowing, then left hand technique, then intonation. You’ll be much more successful this way than if try to focus on all these things simultaneously.

Tip #4 – Measure your progress in terms of months, not weeks

Improvement happens slowly. When you look back at your progress, don’t compare yourself to how you played on Tuesday, or last week. Compare yourself to how you played three to six months ago. You’ll just be discouraged if you’re having a bad week and you don’t take into account how far you’ve come in the past few months.

Tip #5 – Have a balanced mental approach

There are two sides to learning an instrument: technical and musical. Many students tend to focus too much on one side or the other. The overly technical player often strives for perfection and, in his quest for technical mastery, may continue working on the same piece too long. The overly musical student often puts too much emphasis on learning pieces (preferably by ear) and may avoid refining technique with scales and exercises. For maximum success, maintain a mental approach that’s balanced between these two sides.

Tip #6 – Value quality over quantity

Quality practice is the best thing you can do to improve your playing. Twenty minutes of efficient practice is far better than an hour of inefficient practice. Make those minutes count! You can take our music practice quiz here to find out if your practice is efficient.

Here is a great video for how to get your mind prepared for each of your practice sessions.


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is it too late to learn the violinThere are many things in life that aren’t ideal to start at a later age. Becoming an athlete comes to mind, as well as anything else that requires a great deal of physical energy or strength. Some people put learning a musical instrument on their “I’m too old for that” list, but that is a mistake. At least 50 times in my teaching career I’ve been called or emailed with the same question: “is it too late to start learning?”

My answer is always a resounding “NO!”. I believe that everyone can start learning a musical instrument if they put their mind to it. I understand why they ask the question, though: they haven’t seen the positive experiences and success stories that I have. I want to share some of that with you.

Learning to play the violin doesn’t require you to be a certain age, it requires you to have a certain desire to learn. Some of my most successful students have been in their 60s, and at one point I even had a student that was in his late 80s! What was common amongst these students was their desire to learn, and they showed it by their willingness to tackle the basic mechanics of playing. Everyone has to start somewhere, and these students just had a late start that caused no disadvantage to them achieving their goals.

A person can learn to play the violin/viola at age 9 or age 90–it really doesn’t matter. Children and great-grandparents alike have to learn the fundamentals, and that’s where a good attitude is far more important than age. The 50-year-old with a desire to learn will achieve far more success than the 7-year-old being forced to learn by his parents. The child might have more years ahead of him to learn the instrument, but that learning can become easily sidetracked by other priorities and interests. When an older person takes up an instrument, they’re making the choice to learn. They’ll usually make the time as well.

Want to hear about this concept from multiple teachers? This video below includes published author Michael Sanchez, published author of 4 Hal Leonard violin books Thornton Cline, and concertmaster Steven McMillian.

Let me give you an example of a student that I think many people in their later years will relate to. Barb was in her early 60’s, and had actually wanted to learn to play violin since she was a kid. But she was skeptical about learning the violin–she felt she could never do it at her age.

Barb decided to pay up-front for 10 lessons, and gave herself that much time to either fail miserably and quit or see a new hobby begin to blossom. Barb didn’t fail. In fact, five years later, Barb still gets up every morning and practices for an hour. She absolutely loves playing violin. She uses her music to serve God, and has finally reached her goal of being able to play every song in her psalter hymnal. She can play in multiple positions, gets a really nice tone of the violin, and now wouldn’t trade her new hobby and passion for anything. This was a person that didn’t think it was even possible to make it past her first lesson, and couldn’t have dreamed of getting as far as she has. She has become fluent on the violin–at age 66!

If you are considering picking up the violin as a “mature person”, start by eliminating from your mind the idea that you can’t do it. Anybody with the desire to learn violin or viola can do it if you keep your goals realistic. You don’t have to aspire to being first chair violin in the local symphony. Your goal could just be playing for friends, serving in your church, or simply giving your mind a new challenge. Many studies have linked learning music to better physical and mental health, and that alone is reason enough to learn a new instrument.
Ready to start? Get an instrument, get some inspiration, and get some help.

Browse Michael Sanchez’s Performance Videos on Youtube (CEO of Violin Tutor Pro and Superior Violins)

music practicing quizHow many times have you asked yourself, “Am I practicing properly?” You also might be wondering if you’re putting in the appropriate amount of time to really improve your skills. Sound familiar?

I believe the effectiveness and efficiency of your practice regimen is more important than the amount of time you put in. This isn’t to say quantity of time isn’t important–it is. It’s just very common to find that students aren’t being efficient with their practice time, which often causes bad habits to form. It’s better to practice efficiently for 30 minutes a day than practice poorly for two hours.

I’ve developed a music practicing quiz to help you discover if you’re getting the most from your practice time. Use this quiz to evaluate a recent practice session. Rate yourself on a scale from 1 (poor) to 10 (excellent) for each of the following:

Music Practicing Quiz

[___]  Your instrument was in tune.

[___]  You were in a place with few (or no) distractions.

[___]  You worked carefully on drills for at least two minutes.

[___]  You worked carefully on technique and hand position while playing scales.

[___]  You worked on an exercise piece, focusing specifically on difficult areas.

[___]  You practiced challenging passages slowly and worked on your intonation.

[___]  You worked specifically on rhythms.

[___]  You considered bowings and slurs.

[___]  You worked on a piece that is “too hard” for you, one that challenged you musically.

[___]  You had an optimistic mindset, and considered what you’ll tackle in your next practice session.

Take your score and add it up (the best score is 100, the lowest is 10). This is your practice efficiency rating.

Score Evaluation

100 Efficiency (Perfect): It’s possible to get here, but it’s not easy. You have to be extremely focused and disciplined in your practice sessions.

80-99 Efficiency (Great): This is where you want to be on most days. In this range, you can practice 30 minutes a day and be extremely effective.

50-79 Efficiency (Acceptable): This is considered “good practice.” Try to push yourself to be more efficient, and you’ll progress at a faster rate.

40-49 Efficiency (Average): This is probably the most common range. Most students practicing at this level don’t realize how much more effective they could be until they evaluate themselves.

30-39 Efficiency (Below Average): This level needs improvement. If you’re here, make it a priority to leave this level behind. You may be forming bad habits!

20-29 Efficiency (Needs Improvement): This is an area where you are most likely building many bad habits. Consider getting some help from a teacher (or perhaps try a new teacher).

15-19 Efficiency (Fail): This area is teeming with people who will soon quit playing altogether. Progress is slow, and frustration high. If you’re here and you truly want to improve, it’s time to get some help.

10-14 Efficiency (Why bother): Danger! You either need to be happy with your current playing or get some help from a new teacher. This efficiency level will bring you no progress, and your skills may actually decline.

Check out our forum. We have information on this site for violinists, fiddlers, violists and cellists.
Click here to browse forum topics

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Did you know that only one to three percent of students that play music will go on to play professionally?  Does that mean that the other 97 to 99 percent who have studied violin should be considered a “waste of time?” Absolutely not. I continually remind students and parents that I am not trying to make students professionals, but my intent is to instill the love of music in them. Who knows how many of them will go on to be connoisseurs of classical or other music – supporting music until the day they die.  How many will go on to become better citizens and make significant contributions to society in fields other than in music?  How many will become kinder and more loving people? How many will go on to use their violin playing therapeutically for relaxation or as a hobby?

Famous people that played the violin un-professionally

1. Albert Einstein

2. Thomas Jefferson

3. John Tyler

4. Woodrow Wilson

5. Benjamin Franklin

Who would have guessed that playing music would have helped Albert Einstein to discover the Theory of Relativity? Presidents Thomas Jefferson, John Tyler and Woodrow Wilson all played the violin, as did Benjamin Franklin, who discovered electricity and was one of the founding fathers of the United States. These men may not have achieved these goals without the added confidence, determination, and discipline that comes from learning and playing the violin. Then there are the people who studied the violin who became professionals. One perfect example is Maud Powell who revolutionized the violin when she stepped into the Victor recording studio in 1904, and became the first woman and person to record violin playing. She took recording technology to its highest level by becoming the first solo instrumentalist every recorded. That achievement transpired long before women were even able to vote.

Some people that play music question if all of these amazing people and achievements are actually a result of what I call the “violin effect” or merely coincidence, circumstance, luck or genetics. I have taught violin for over 25 years to more than 1,000 violin students. I can confidently tell you after delving into all of the scientific research, and the wealth of knowledge that I have learned from teaching, that there is definitely, beyond any doubt, a “violin effect”. That “violin effect” is a positive and influential force that is powerful, beneficial and long-lasting. When you delve into the myriad of scientific research on the positive and beneficial effects of playing the violin, you start to discover all of the fruit that has been borne as a direct result of the “violin effect”.  Playing the violin develops a sharper memory, finer eye-hand coordination, stamina, more focused concentration, improved test scores, particularly in language, reading and mathematics. Playing the violin can result in improved ACT and SAT scores, better discipline, increased finger dexterity, improved motor skills, increased arm strength, improved posture, and lower stress levels. Violinists have greater confidence stronger feelings of accomplishment, and more opportunities to collaborate with others, along with a greater sense of community, not to mention the cardiovascular benefits from constant use of the upper torso.

Anyone who doubts that there is a “violin effect” related to playing music should perhaps take a deeper look.