From the moment I had my first child, I felt the instinct, to sing to him. The same with my daughter as well. I have always sung songs to them almost every night. I think it’s very natural, and I’m certainly not alone! No matter how you sing, your baby will know your voice. It’s so natural! I also play violin for my little ones, and we sing songs, take music classes together and play with different instruments that we have at home. Our house is rarely without music.
This post is for any new student of mine, and for anyone else looking to start studying the violin. Firstly, congrats on choosing an AMAZING instrument! Learning to play the violin is a long rewarding journey, and mine, has been full of joy, creativity, tears, hard work, and the thrill of performing on stage. Everyone’s journey is different, and I wish you luck on yours!
To be clear, I don’t teach beginners online, I believe that many beginners require lessons face to face for physical adjustments as they start violin lessons. I do offer lessons online, but that is usually for more advanced students. I’m happy to help out and give advice where I can, but if you’re just starting out, you need to find a good teacher that can see you in person. I get asked all the time about violin lessons and what is needed when starting out. So for my beginner students that are studying with me and for anyone else interested in violin that wants to get an idea of that might entail, I hope this post helps! So, let’s started with what you need to get started:
Violin- you don’t need something super expensive to start with. Start by checking out a local music store with a good reputation. You should be able to buy or possibly rent a reasonable violin you can start out with. Don’t buy a super cheap violin online, it could end up costing you more and making your experience less positive than you would hope. Here’s a great blog about issues with buying super cheap violins- click here. It covers a lot of what I would tell you.
If you’re based in Calgary Alberta and are going to take lessons with me, chances are, I’ve recommended you to check out VA Hill Violins. I like VA Hill because I know they take the time to properly size you up, and choose a good chin rest, and they do it well. Bow- when you’re a beginner, chances are that your violin came with a bow whether rented or bought. Make sure if you buy one that the hair isn’t yellow and that there aren’t already hairs missing. Rosin- you need a good rosin preferably in a hard little case. I find students easily drop and shatter their rosin. There are great rosins that come in hard cases, I like these: D’Addario Kaplan Premium Rosin with Case. If you take good care of your rosin you’ll have it for a long time. Shoulder rest- this needs to be a personal choice and fit. I believe it’s important to play with a shoulder rest, unless you’re a professional baroque player. For those with anything other than a short neck, you will have better control over a modern violin when you use a shoulder rest. Get fitted by a professional who can show you all the options and discuss it with your teacher. Case- make sure it’s substantial enough to protect your violin and has enough space for all your gear. You can find cases that have pouches for your music too. That’s a personal choice.
2. Extra items:
Mute/practice mute- a mute will change the tone and volume of your instrument, often use in orchestral playing to achieve a certain quality of sound. A practice mute will allow you to play quietly so that you can practice at night when others are sleeping or so that you don’t bother the neighbours! They’re not super expensive at all. Metronome- this is a great tool for practice. Not for constant use as you need to be able to learn to have your own rhythm, but it does help you to learn how to play in time with a beat which will help when you begin playing with other instruments, and it does help you realize whether you’re playing in time or now. Electric Violin- You want to learn electric violin right off the bat? I get it! Who wouldn’t want to play amplified with some amazing music you’ve been inspired by. That’s great! It’s going to be a bit of work before you get there- you can get there! However, to start with, In my opinion, you will be a better player, whether electric or acoustic, if you start on. Acoustic violin so you can learn full control over your tone quality and all the subtleties of sound you can create with an acoustic. Electric violin really smooths over a lot of that and is a different technique. You will do it so much better with a full range technique. Talk to your teacher about when you can start incorporating electric violin into your practice.
Also, you need a notebook with lined pages and page with staff. From there we can move onto other books and repertoire depending on your learning style and preferences. These ones listed above are a great start. Your teacher will have their own preferences, so make sure you ask them!
4. Setting goals
What made you choose violin? Dreaming of gracing concert stages around the globe? Playing with a metal band? Playing with a DJ? Whatever your goals are, make sure you chat with your teacher about how you’re going to get there, and how much practice and work is required. Don’t forget your goals, as when you’re practicing daily and you meet some struggles, you can forget. So keep your eye on why you started in the first place! Don’t expect to sound amazing at first! The violin takes longer to sound great than some instruments as we don’t have frets and our tone takes skill with a bow to achieve.
One other thing- talk to others also learning the violin! Try joining a violin community! It’s really helpful to chat with other students and violinists, to find inspirational and educational videos about learning violin, and great performances you can watch, and ideas in general, and share your experiences.
I hope this helps! If you have any questions, feel free to contact me and ask!
Imagine you’re about to do your first large performance. You’re practiced and ready to play. You feel confident on stage! What are you going to wear? Women ask themselves this question every day, let alone where it impacts your musical brand and your business.
So many questions to ask…Is this a recital situation where you’re going to wear all black? Or are you going to choose to show your personality and style? Sometimes as musicians, many of us will have an inbuilt sense of style that guides us. Some of us just need a stylist to interpret our personality and music into a style that we recognize as our own. Everyone has their path!
When I was studying for my degree, I heard all the time that it doesn’t matter what you wear, and despite the fact that I’m known for wearing flamboyant outfits and gowns, during my degree, it was nice not to wear heels, and to just focus on my playing. Even that can be taken too far though! I once wore flip flops and jeans and T shirt to an exam, and lost points for that. I guess I took the instructions that what you wear is not important, a little too far.
I have had situations where a I have been loaned beautiful items to wear, which is amazing, and I’m so grateful for those opportunities! Sometimes however, they just don’t work, for example, very long earrings that will hit the body of my violin… heels that are difficult to walk in let alone dance in… dresses that don’t suit my very curvy figure, or dresses that have such a long train in a material that doesn’t slide along the floor easily, so I know I’m going to get stuck somewhere if I move around the room.
So, when I am choosing wardrobe for my performances, I consider these important factors as a violinist:
First of all, I need to LOVE IT! It has to reflect my style.
I need freedom of movement of my arms and shoulders. If I really love it… can I get it altered to work for me?
If I plan to interact with the audience and move during the show, I consider how I will deal with a long flowing dress or train, and try it on during a rehearsal to make sure it will work.
If I’m traveling, how will the outfit fair with a long plane ride, and will I need dry cleaning/steaming on the other end? Will it be easily available in a timely fashion before the show etc…
Is it suitable for the event/concert I will be playing?
Does it work for my figure?
Will it easily host my mobile sound equipment? i.e. my wireless transmitter and my in-ear monitors?
Personally I LOVE the colour red! I also love statement pieces, and just being who I am. I love wearing dresses that accentuate my movements on stage and add to the drama! I love pieces that become a part of my show and my trade mark, and it’s just so FUN! My years in theater and dance have definitely taught me that costuming is a large part of the show, and it really is. The way you interact with the audience, the way you tell your story with your instrument and the way that you dress all adds to the experience.
I have definitely had my style crisis moments, but in the end, it wasn’t really a style crisis! They were identity crisis moments after years of being told how I really should sound and what I really should look like. Years after being told I need to be more blonde, thinner/curvier, whatever it was….. I have learnt that how we present ourselves to the world as a huge impact on our careers, and in music, it is even more amplified in my opinion, and when we are sure of who we are as people, as musicians, that the choices become easier. For me, aside from the practical choices that need to be made when choosing a wardrobe that works for stage, discovering and knowing who I am, is the most important thing!
Hey everyone! So as a musician, you probably think that of course I would be an advocate for music education, and that’s true! I absolutely believe in music education because of the benefits I have received from my studies and my life in music…. and how fun is singing and dancing with your kids?!
As a mom, I can see how music encourages babies to communicate, and is actually a way they can learn to communicate before they can speak (clapping, moving along to music, making those super adorable baby sounds while music is playing). Even just playing music in the house all the time is awesome! Here’s a little snip of my little ones dancing at home (I LOVE it when they feel so confident and just want to dance!).
At home, I play different music at different times of the day, with my little ones in mind and when we’re driving we always listen to music and singalong, or just play some relaxing piano music… here’s a little peek into our routine:
My daily music routine at home
1. In the morning I play uplifting music, either children’s nursery rhymes or some uplifting classical or baroque music.
2. When it’s time to sleep, I play calming and relaxing music up to an hour in advance to calm the entire house down after a busy day. My kids love violin music because they see Mummy play violin all the time, so it soothes them- I play my own Lullaby album, Kissed by the Moon, that I recorded before my eldest was born. I also sing to/with my kids at bedtime as well.
3. Sometimes I play different and new types of music and ask if they like it or not, and my eldest likes to describe the music (at his age the descriptions aren’t very long of course!) and this teaches him the confidence to say what he thinks, and he starts to learn to describe things, for example, sometimes he’ll call music that’s a little on the dark side “scary” or “dinosaur music” which cracks me up! This is a really important process to start, and when I validate his answer, he gains the confidence to go further next time and helps with self confidence in general.
4. I take my kids to music class regularly, and we always add it into playtime every day.
Some of my favorite music for bedtime
So this is one of my favorite YouTube channels for relaxing nighttime music…..Click Here …and if you’re little ones like violin like mine do, here’s my lullaby album you can download for your household!
Aside from playing music at home, check out group music classes for your kids! Before the age of 4, I personally don’t think one on one lessons are very effective at that age, but of course, it depends on the child! There are some great classes available, check your local library for sing a long classes, and local music schools. I took my kids to a local program in Calgary called Baby Rhyme Time, and there are follow up programs after that as well. Check out what’s local for you! Take the time if you can! It’s great for bonding with your little one, and amazing for them, and from what I have witnessed with my own children, and my experience as a musician and music teacher, I am certain that music education has HUGE benefits!
The Benefits of Music for Babies and Toddlers
Music creates is a way to communicate before little ones can speak.
Helps to create self confidence
Singing or playing instruments together, even just banging on percussion together, teaches the beginnings of team work.
In music, there is no one right answer, and this teaches children to think outside the box.
Music is often written with repeats- the same musical phrase might be repeated a number of times and in a particular order. This teaches children patterns, which helps with other subjects at school as well.
Learning and memorizing songs and pieces of music helps develop memory.
Emotional development- music displays a wide range of emotions and can help toddlers and children learn to identify their emotions, from as basic as happy or sad to excited or scared… or my son’s favorite, simply “I feel awesome!”.
My two little peanuts at one of their favorite classes-
There are many, many more benefits as well that I haven’t listed. Do you incorporate music daily into your parenting routine? Do you attend music classes with your kids like I do? What works best for your family? Comment below!
Hey everyone! So I have been thinking about writing this blog post for a while, since it’s something I get asked all the time! People often tell me how confident I look on stage. They ask me how I remain so calm before a show, and why I never look nervous. I usually reply that I’m only nervous if I don’t know what I’m doing (a new piece or uncomfortable situation on stage). I think for everyone, when you do something for the first time, it’s always a little nerve wracking. Or maybe you’re the kind of person that just jumps right in. I’m a honestly the type to be prepared, but either way I’m usually pretty confident.
When I was younger though, I used to hate performing. When I got up at competitions and exams, I used to get very very nervous, especially when there was someone with a pen and paper ready to write down notes about what I was playing. It just seemed so technical. And while feedback is important, I’ve always performed better when I know that people are open to my story, and not just judging what I’m going to do.
At the end of the day though, professional performers need to put all those thoughts aside and deliver every time without fail. So how did I get over those times when my hands would get a little sweaty? Here are five tips, that I hope will help you to put away your fears:
1. Put away self doubt! find things to refocus on when you get there. When we are children we are so confident, so loving, so excitable. As we get older we learn to quash those traits we started out with, for various reasons. We were laughed at when we were very expressive, and felt humiliated so we learnt, just like a toddler touching a hot oven, not to touch it again- we learn not to show those feelings. Or we make a mistake and because of how it was handled by us and those around us, we learnt not to do something unless we could get it right- and that fear of making a mistake prevents us from trying, or it paralyses us on stage. I have so much fear from studying and playing the violin in my childhood that sometimes, (and I know some of you wouldn’t believe this when you see me confident on stage!) I feel like I can’t play. So what I do, is one of two things: A)I focus on the audience and what I’m there to communicate. B) I think of the emotion or story that inspired me to create what I’m playing.
These are habits that you can train yourself to do quickly, if you ever start going to that place where doubt creeps in. Try it!
2. Don’t confuse your feelings with facts. Don’t work yourself up with negative thoughts. Sit down and write out that negative feeling and then write the facts next to it. For example, here’s what a student of mine used to say a lot before performing: “I’m the worst violinist in the world”. That was her feeling in the moment. Fact: she was a fantastic grade 8 student! And for sure not the worst violinist in the world. When we are stressed, or anxious we come up with all kinds of thoughts and feelings around something that’s challenging to us. Make sure you don’t start embedding some of these into your mind as facts, remind yourself that they’re not, and write out some positive feelings in place of the negative ones.
3. Face your fears: go on stage more often! As often as you can! Even if it’s for family and friends, or one friend, or in front of the mirror. Record yourself playing! It’s a great way to see where you’re at as well – treat it like a performance, and listen back, focusing on improvements. Just do it until it becomes natural! Once, in Europe, I was asked to start my show on a trapeze. I thought it was a joke! I was a violinist and I had never been on a trapeze! I climbed up to see what it felt like, and my boss told the guys who helped me up there, to leave me there for a while! I was so angry I wanted to get down, but after a while, I started to feel comfortable up there. And by the time they came to get me down, I didn’t mind it at all. So if it’s performing in front of an audience, being on stage scares you then get on that stage! Not just when you need to perform- ask if you can go on stage before the show, a few days before even. Get used to the space, imagine what it will feel like, and master emotional control of that situation.
4. Have a support team: Find people that are positive, uplift you and are supportive of your goals. Those closest to you should be supportive and not create additional challenges. If you have someone around you that actually increases your stage nerves by the things they do and say, then take some space away from them, especially around a performance.
5. Remember why you wanted to perform on stage in the first place! You have a story to tell? You dream of being a performer? Unless you’re doing it because Mom and Dad said you have to…. Then during your performance, focus on why you started on the road to becoming a musician in the first place. I just focus on that inspiration and the story plays out in my mind and I forget all the rest of the things that pop into my mind. Or if I like the audience, I focus on them, and start to interact and then it becomes about communicating. We all have something special to offer. If you go on stage comparing yourself to those better than you, and thinking you’re not good enough, that is how you will play. Remember what drove you to pick up your instrument in the first place, be YOU and block the rest out. You CAN train yourself to do this.
If you want to read more about this topic, one amazing book that really helped me in my pursuit of stage command was The Inner Game of Music, by Barry Green check it out, it might be helpful to you too:
The most important thing is that you believe in yourself, even if at first you have to fake it until you make it. You know how sometimes when you smile when you’re not feeling the best, and if you wear that smile for a while, it sort of filters through the rest of you? Well, at least that’s me. So what are you waiting for? Get out there and put that confidence on, and let it filter through the rest of you! Perform like you know you can.
Hey friends, the last few weeks have been crazy busy! I have recorded a new album, almost done recording a new single and we’ve done a bunch of videos that are coming out one by one coming up… The crazy thing about pregnancy is that I have so many ideas, and things I want to do but I’m so much slower getting around LOL! So… I will be sharing with you what I’ve been working on over the next few months, and I’m so excited for that.
The single I’ve been working on is something really special to me, straight from my heart, the core of me- an original piece co-written and produced by Rob Wells, as I mentioned to you guys, it’s going back into my ancestry and discovering the sounds of Scotland and Ireland! Crazy journey. Can’t wait to share it with you. I also recorded another album with a beautiful harpist out east in Toronto, which will come out next year as well. I’m so excited to get out there and share it with you guys!
Strings: some of you have emailed me asking about what strings I use in recording. Most of the time, I use Pirastro Evah Pirazzi Gold but not all the time- I find they wear out more quickly than other strings that might not sound as rich and beautiful, but not far off and they last longer. It really depends on the situation and where I’m recording (the weather does make a difference too!). If you want to know more, ask me! Send me a DM on Facebook 🙂
Next week: a new video coming out! So you know I don’t usually do covers, but recently, I did a couple of videos of covers, exclusive to my youtube channel, (one voted by you guys too!) and next week there will be one more, filmed in the Rocky Mountains of Alberta, just in time right before the snow!