Online Violin, Viola, and Fiddle Lessons

with Laurel Thomsen via Skype, FaceTime, Zoom,

or Video Exchange



Download Laurel’s multi-media guide Improve Your Bowing Technique











Download Laurel’s multi-media guide Improve Your Violin & Viola Technique














Master Vibrato with the world’s only comprehensive course Complete Vibrato Mastery, available at completevibratomastery.com






Testimonials for live online violin and viola lessons with Laurel Thomsen:


"We have been SO pleased with our violin lessons via Skype with Laurel Thomsen. When we moved internationally and could not find suitable violin instruction for our son we began searching for a teacher who’d be willing to do this. Laurel was quick to answer my inquiry and set up a time that worked for both of us to do a "trial run". After she had a chance to meet our son and get a feel for his ability, we determined that this could be a good fit for us and began weekly lessons. We have had almost no trouble with the connection speed, and the sound quality and video have been great. Laurel’s explanations are very clear, so she is able to fine-tune our son's technique even without being able to physically help him. She is extremely patient, very upbeat, and has had lots of good ideas to hone our son's violin skills and keep him interested and motivated. She has also recorded sound recordings for him to aid in his practice and has always been very prompt in replying to any questions. When in-person lessons are impossible, lessons with Laurel Thomsen via Skype are a great option for anyone."

~Mary,

mother of an international violin student



"Laurel finds new ways to make her teaching fun." 

~Skyler,

international violin student



“Skype has given us the freedom to still have Hana's violin lesson when we are unable to make the trip to Laurel Thomsen’s home studio. We have used Skype during my surgical recovery, and when Hana has been a little under the weather. Hana likes it because it’s fun, different, and introduces a new element to her lessons. She enjoyed taking the laptop camera on a tour of her bedroom to share her room with Laurel. Getting set-up was inexpensive and extremely easy. We will continue to use Skype for violin lessons whenever necessary, and maybe just because we want to!

~Cathi,

mother of a violin student



Read more Testimonials...

On the move? Can’t find the right teacher or need additional support?


Take violin, viola, or fiddle lessons with Laurel from anywhere!


Online violin, viola, or fiddle lessons via Skype, FaceTime, Zoom and other video conferencing technologies are a convenient and effective form of private and group instruction for beginners through advanced players of almost any age, and in any geographic location with access to a solid internet connection. The explosion of real time audio-video conferencing technologies over the last 15 years, such as Skype, FaceTime, Zoom, Google Hangouts, and GoToMeeting, allow dedicated students around the world to learn from talented teachers they may not be able to access locally, even in metropolitan areas, let alone small towns and remote regions of the globe. Online music lessons via Skype opens a student’s world to include teachers who may specialize in a particular playing style, technique, age range, or teaching method a student wouldn’t otherwise be able to experience. For English speaking students living in foreign countries and struggling with learning a new language in addition to a musical instrument, Skype music lessons create the possibility of expert instruction in a student’s native language and a little taste of home every time they have their lesson. 


In early 2012, Laurel Thomsen (violinist, violist, composer, performing artist, author, workshop leader and private lessons teacher since 1996), was honored to be included in a front page article in the New York Times about her experiences with one-on-one private teaching via Skype which she’d added to her already robust teaching studio of beginning through advanced level violin, viola, and fiddle students in 2009.


The results Laurel experienced in those first few years of teaching online were intriguing. Students from various parts of the US and far flung places around the world quickly started inquiring about lessons, many hoping for relief from issues with technique and pain related to playing that their local teachers weren’t able to solve. Some were fans of Laurel’s work with String’s magazine and her online courses, and were thrilled to have the opportunity to take lessons with her. Curious, determined, and perceptive, Laurel found she was able to troubleshoot these playing problems just as gracefully as she would have with an in-person student. The idea of helping someone sound better and feel more comfortable and at ease in their playing, literally on the other side of the planet, quickly had Laurel hooked on teaching via Skype, and had her new online students hooked as well.


Also interesting about her initial experiences teaching violin, viola, and fiddle via Skype, was the effect online lessons seemed to have on some of the students she usually saw in-person. Laurel started teaching these students remotely while on tour, and noticed that many of them where suddenly becoming more focused and engaged during the lessons. Perhaps they were simply more comfortable being at home?


And finally, wondering if it could be possible to teach young children online, Laurel decided to give it a try with several young beginners living in remote regions, void of local strings teachers. Laurel found that with parental help during lessons, these students were able to learn to play just as quickly and smoothly as the average in-person student, in some cases with more success, probably attributed to the fact that parental help in lessons meant more parental help with practicing during the week as well.


These experiences seemed to prove that location was no longer a barrier to high quality, personalized violin or viola instruction.


Now over a decade since she first started offering a Skype lessons option, technology and internet speeds have steadily continued to improve worldwide, and over 85% of Laurel Thomsen’s weekly students are now scattered around the world, living on every continent except Antarctica. Ranging from 4 years old to seniors, and beginners all the way up through students auditioning for conservatories and orchestras, preparing for music exams, performing with touring bands, or debuting at Carnegie Hall, her students are making serious progress each week via Skype!


~


You could be a great candidate for online private violin, viola or fiddle lessons with Laurel Thomsen via Skype, FaceTime, Zoom, or another conferencing technology that suits you, if you:

  1.   Have limited access to violin, viola, or fiddle teachers where you live


  1. Want to ensure a solid technical and musical foundation with a highly qualified, experienced, and enthusiastic teacher


  1. Want more specialized help for a playing problem than the private teachers in your area have been able to offer. Perhaps you want to troubleshoot a playing issue, ease back into playing after an injury or resolve a pain pattern, overcome performance anxiety issues, or learn from a teacher who enjoys and has experience teaching your age range, ability level, or learning style?


  1.   Want to launch yourself from a frustrating plateau and don’t know where to start


  1.   Travel frequently or have an unusual work or school schedule


  1. Want to master new techniques and take your playing to the next level, such as learning vibrato, creating smoother, more beautiful bowing, or exploring fiddle styles, Classical interpretation, improvisation, but don’t know where to focus your time and energy for the most impact.


  1. Want a lessons experience that is personal, professional, creative, and warmly welcomes dedicated students of all age ranges and various ability levels


  1.   Want to see just how far and with how much joy you can take your music


For more about Laurel Thomsen’s extensive teaching experience, teaching philosophy, and various lessons offerings, visit her teaching page.



Laurel Thomsen’s online lessons via Skype backstory:

In early 2009 I began considering an online lessons option for my teaching studio, already going strong since 1996. There is a strong military presence in Monterey, California, where I grew up and still had my primary lessons studio at that time. With the Defense Language Institute, the Naval Post Graduate School, as well as the Middlebury Institute of International Studies all in town, over half my students over the years were military families or students coming to pursue graduate degrees. These students would move to the area, take lessons for a year or two, then get a new assignment and move away, often internationally.


I kept in touch with a number of these relocated students over the years and was finding to my dismay that large numbers of them were having a hard time finding good violin and viola teachers, or any teachers at all in the case of one student stationed on a boat out in the Pacific Ocean! For many, finding a teacher who enjoyed teaching, had progressive methods for teaching technique, who could both demonstrate and explain, and who could inspire with their own playing and passion for music had proven hard to find.


These former students would email me once in a while, desperate for ideas about how they could continue without a teacher. They would ask me to explain techniques, help them find fingerings for a particular passage, want my advice on something a teacher on YouTube was suggesting, want me to demystify a marking in the sheet music, or ask for guidance about their next steps in terms of repertoire, etudes, etc. so they could try to continue learning to play on their own. With many of these students, eventually I’d get an email, thanking me for all I’d done, but letting me know that they had finally decided to stop playing indefinitely. Trying to make it on their own with technical issues they couldn’t teach themselves and pieces they couldn’t figure out how to tackle, finally became too frustrating. My heart broke again and again.


“If only I could just be there to teach them!” I lamented so many times, until a tech savvy friend said “Why don’t you just teach them on Skype?” He used Skype every day to work remotely with his tech team around the world and for conference calls with his partners. If that could work, we didn’t see why music lessons on a fairly small instrument which could easily fit into the screen couldn’t work too. Online searches weren’t really showing any other violin or viola teachers trying it yet, but after a few test runs with a couple of in-person students willing to help me work out the bugs, I was thrilled and confident in the quality of the new Skype lessons I was offering.


In June 2009 I saw yet another student in a military family moving away, this time to South Korea. Later on that evening I typed up the bare bones of this web page and soon after began teaching my first violin, viola, and fiddle lessons via Skype.


The side benefits I quickly realized were that online lessons could allow my in-person students with an alternate way to have their lessons when making it to my studio in-person might be impossible due to traffic, a mild, yet still contagious cold, car trouble etc., and could also allow me to tour more frequently while still keeping up the regular lessons schedule from the road.


Teaching via Skype has changed my life

and the lives of my online students!


I am so grateful to this technology for helping facilitate the connections I’ve made with hundreds of students around the world, both musically and personally. It’s been deeply satisfying to witness the relief of students struggling with various technical issues or stuck on playing plateaus, to see the gains made by students with pain, performance anxiety, or confidence issues, and watch all the puzzle pieces click into place as young (or older) beginners learn how to play. I’d seen this with my in-person students, but the results can feel even more rewarding sometimes when it’s someone living on the other side of the world, using a technology which violin or viola teachers with very traditional approaches might think could never see great results, and particularly when trying the online format might be a last ditch effort for many students for finding the help they need.


Personally, teaching music lessons via Skype has opened up new vistas for my life and performance career. I used to limit my touring to a few weeks a year and some long weekends here and there, always needing to rush home to meet the needs of my students, as well as the need for the steady income source my teaching offers me. Now I tour for weeks at a time and I’m able to arrange my schedule in order to still able to keep up with my students at their regular lesson times.


Teaching via Skype has also allowed me to teach an overall higher quality of student. I still teach beginners and students who aren’t necessarily interested in becoming professional performers or music teachers, but regardless, there has seemed to be a higher level of dedication. When I taught only in-person, the local pool of students brought many who were serious about learning, but some who struggled with motivation, didn’t want to practice, had trouble focusing during lessons, who frequently cancelled lessons at the last minute, or who just wouldn’t show up to a lesson at all, etc.. I’ve found it rare for my online students to struggle with any of these issues and have found them to be generally much more committed on all levels.


Though Skype and other online video platforms sometimes have glitches, usually due to insufficient internet speeds, online teaching does have some perks that aren’t normally part of in-person teaching - the ease of recording snippets or entire lessons, both audio and video, are a click away; the ability for students to quickly look over and see themselves in their side of the screen, confirming my suggestions and helping them visually make adjustments; the impossibility of catching a cold or the flu over Skype; as I said before, interestingly, how I’ve found students to be generally more focused and attentive online than in-person; and especially how much more we seem to accomplish in lessons, at least in part due to the fact that at an in-person lesson, at least 10 minutes are wasted getting the violin out, packing up at the end (not to mention tuning the instrument!), whereas with a lesson via Skype, the entire lesson time can be spend learning. (Read more pros and some cons of online music lessons in Laurel’s blog post celebrating her first decade of teaching via Skype.)


Most of my local students routinely take advantage of the Skype option when they can’t make a lesson in-person, or when its just less stressful to jump online rather than in the car after an already busy day at work or school.


In 2014 I started offering Video Exchange lessons for students who would like to take online lessons with me but whose internet speed is not fast enough or who are very busy and want the ease of asynchronous learning with the same quality of feedback as private lessons.


For more information on my experiences, please read my blog post with advice for teachers (and students) wanting to set up a Skype studio, from marketing to equipment:

http://www.laurelthomsen.com/Violin_Geek_Blog/Entries/2013/9/30_Advice_for_Skype_music_teachers.html



Go to the Lessons with Laurel general teaching page


Go to the Lessons with Laurel general Q&A



Live Online Violin, Viola or Fiddle lessons via Skype Q & A:


What are the set-up costs?

Skype (and most other popular video conferencing platforms we may choose to use) is completely free to download. Just go to www.skype.com and download the latest version that will work with your operating system. (Update: As of July 1st 2017, Skype has retired some of it’s older versions. Older versions will no longer work, and the newer versions of the program will not work on certainly older devices and operating systems. The choice is to upgrade devices and/or operating systems, or if this isn’t feasible, we can choose a different video conferencing platform. For details see https://techcrunch.com/2017/06/08/skype-retires-older-apps-for-windows-and-more-as-it-pushes-new-features/ )


Most computers and laptops have built in cameras and microphones that are perfectly acceptable for lessons. We will determine this in our initial complimentary meeting before we start lessons. If not, a webcam and/or mic can run as little as $30-40. Personally, I have a MacBook Pro laptop which I use when on tour, and an iMac desktop which I use at home. I use the built in camera with both, an external RODE NT-USB mic, and Bose Companion 2 speakers.


You’ll of course need good quality internet. Plugging your computer directly into your router through an ethernet cable rather than using Wi-fi improves any connection, often dramatically.


Skype now offers split screen call recording right through the app, but if you’re on a Mac, the additional plug-in “Call Recorder for Skype,” let’s you video record the call as a split screen or individual screen version, only the audio, etc. (click here to read my blog post for more info). I routinely record parts of the lessons for students and now have a library of over 500 video demos of various scales, etudes, pieces, technical exercises etc. my students can access.


Is there latency?

Everything looks and feels like it’s happening in real time as long as the internet connection is robust (at least 15 mbps download and 2-3 mbps upload). And the internet quality is always better and more stable when using an ethernet cable plugged into the router rather than Wi-fi (I can’t stress enough what a difference this can make!).


Can you really correct a student when you’re standing next to them in-person?

I’m asked this question a lot! The truth is, if a teacher is not perceptive or knowledgable enough to identify and make corrections, corrections won’t be made, regardless of whether the violin or viola lessons are happening in-person or online. For most teachers who are experienced and solution oriented, online video lessons do not hinder our ability to make the same technical adjustments and troubleshoot playing issues we would in-person, in most cases. However, for a teacher who is not experienced in these areas, who may just be starting out or who doesn’t listen and look for technical issues (sadly, there are some!), I would imagine that teaching via Skype would present an even greater challenge to instruction.


My primary teaching passion is technical troubleshooting - helping students find greater comfort, ease, and playing ability by working with the natural mechanics of a student’s body and individual anatomy rather than against it. If I didn’t feel I was able to achieve the same results and standard I set for myself as an instructor in the lessons I teach via Skype, I simply wouldn’t be doing lessons this way. Over time, I have developed a teaching vocabulary that allows me to communicate very technical and physical adjustments in a way that is easily understandable and accessible to most students I’ve encountered. Furthermore, my video library of over 600 demonstrations and the personalized videos I often make for students in addition to our one-on-one lesson time, provide extra support and solidify the remedies I want my students to use at home.


For me, identifying playing problems and helping students fix them through online lessons, be they technical, interpretive, postural, or even something as basic as intonation and rhythm, have been just as graceful as with in-person lessons. Yes, I can fine tune your intonation. Yes, I can hear what needs to change in your bow arm to improve your tone. Yes, I can see the tension in your left forearm and down into your thumb which is contributing to your lack of vibrato stamina. Yes, yes, and yes! Or I just wouldn’t be doing this!


Since I can’t move around the student to look for problems when teaching via Skype, I may ask a student to reposition his or her body from time to time so I can see the positioning in question. Though at first this might break the flow of the lesson, in my experience, students quickly get used to having to move and turn occasionally and instruction becomes seamless, just like in-person.


We can experience differing levels of instruction quality with any lessons format. The fact that many of my students have come my way because they know that they have playing problems, and sometimes even pain patterns, that in-person teachers have not been able or willing to address, makes me assume that quality instruction has nothing to do with lessons format.


It’s important to recognize that no teacher will be the right fit for every student at every stage of their development. Through lessons via Skype, it’s possible for every student to have access to some teacher who best suits their age range, playing level, learning style, personality, and who has experience with their playing struggles. While it’s wonderful when it’s possible to find this teacher a short drive away, that’s not always realistic. Sometimes the only teacher in the region is one that is not the best fit for a particular student. I’ve seen mismatched student-teacher relationships damage students’ playing ability and self-esteem, sometimes irreparably. Some of these students eventually come my way, and while many can be helped, the mental, emotional, and physical repair process can take many years to heal. Some are forever scarred. I hope that technology can help stop this pattern from happening. Every student deserves to find a violin, viola, or fiddle teacher who they love. Furthermore, anyone on the path to true artistry, needs the help of a variety of teachers to achieve the highest levels.


How does it work with payment in currencies other than US dollars?

When I invoice students through PayPal it will be in US Dollars, but students are able to pay with credit card, PayPal balance, etc. in their countries’ currency. PayPal will convert to USD automatically. Some foreign students have used other payment methods as well. Apple Pay is a nice way to avoid the excess charges of PayPal. In any case, we will work together to find a method which is easiest and most cost effective for the particular situation.


Can violin and viola lessons via Skype work for kids?

I initially assumed that Skype would not work well for young students, especially beginners under age 6 or so, but I’ve taught lessons via Skype to students as young as 4 quite successfully. Skype parents need to be much more involved in lessons. While parental involvement has always been a strong encouragement, it is a requirement for online learning with students under 8 years old that parents sit through the lessons and help with manual adjustments. More often than not, they choose to learn to play alongside their child.


Can lessons via Skype work for a beginner?

I have taught dozens of complete beginners of all ages via Skype with the same success I might with a local beginning student. We begin by addressing good form, including personally tailored shoulder and chin support suggestions, developing a highly functional bow hold, building good intonation, rhythm, the ability to play by ear and also to read sheet music, and eventually the ability to play with a variety of bow strokes, to play musically, with feeling and good tone, etc.. With young students I require that a parent is present during all the lessons (see above).


What support do you offer students outside of  the online lessons?

As with my in-person students, I’m always available to answer questions by phone,  text, Skype text chat, or preferably, by email. I have a library of over 600 video demonstrations which I select from and share with students and as needed or requested, I make video practice recordings for further practice and study (generally something technical, like how to practice vibrato, or perhaps a demo of the piece we’re working on). After a few months of lessons, many students have a personal library of tailored videos to refer to as needed. Also, students are encouraged to check out my educational Violin Geek Blog, Violin Geek Podcast, Strings Magazine articles, and courses for additional tips and techniques in addition to lessons.


Who is your typical Skype violin, viola, or fiddle student?

In my experience, the typical Skype violin, viola, or fiddle student falls into one or more of these categories:

  1. is in the US military or is a citizen of Canada, the UK, Australia, New Zealand, or some other English speaking country, and is living in a foreign country with few violin/viola teachers, or and even fewer who speak English


  1. lives in a remote area, or an area with limited access to high quality violin/viola teachers - I’ve had students in South Korea, Africa, India, the Yukon, various small island countries, countries in the Middle East, etc.


  1. frequently travels


  1. wants a teacher other then the local choices, either for a new take on something the student is struggling with, as a second teacher able to offer a different perspective or a more specialized approach in addition to their local teacher, or as the primary teacher


  1. came across my Violin Geek Blog, read my articles in Strings Magazine, worked through my courses, has listened to my Violin Geek Podcast, and/or has seen me perform live or seen me on YouTube and enjoyed my teaching approach and/or playing style


  1. is an adult student living in an area which lacks teachers who enjoy teaching adults


What video conferencing platform works the best?

I prefer the audio quality of Skype for online music lessons. My second choice is FaceTime if Skype is not possible for some reason. Though FaceTime doesn’t offer much more than a video chat, I find its audio quality comparable to Skype. Zoom has become quite popular in recent years and shares the same types of features as Skype, but I feel the audio quality, even when setting up the advanced audio features, is not ideal for hearing the violin or viola as clearly as Skype or even FaceTime. I’ve also tried Google Hangouts and FaceBook video for lessons in a pinch. These are similar to Zoom audio in my opinion, but the video often doesn’t seem quite as clear as Skype, FaceTime, or Zoom. I have a bit of experience with GoToMeeting as well, but not in recent years.


Of course, a strong internet connection makes the biggest difference. I recommend that all students use an ethernet cabled connection whenever possible. Beyond that, a USB mic as mentioned above can significantly improve audio quality. The third most important consideration is an external speaker system.


For video quality, built-in cameras are usually excellent these days, but students should make sure their webcam lens is clean, there is lighting in front and pointing at the student, and should avoid windows and bright light behind the student.


Where do we start?

Send me an email - laurel@laurelthomsen.com


Please let me know your instrument (violin/viola/fiddle), location/timezone (for scheduling feasibility), background/experience on the instrument, and if applicable, a list of the pieces/method books you’ve been working through over the past year.


If lessons seem like a viable option we’ll start by setting up a complimentary consultation to meet, check our video connection, and if applicable, play a bit and start to assess our next steps.


“We have been SO pleased with our violin lessons via Skype with Laurel Thomsen.”

~Mary, mother of international Skype student


“I feel fortunate to have found Laurel. She is an exceptional teacher - knowledgeable, patient and insightful. My level of playing has improved in a short amount of time under her guidance. She identifies my challenges and offers specific strategies to improve my technique. In addition, Laurel has expanded my awareness and my ability to interpret the music, beyond the notes on the page. She creates an atmosphere of encouragement and support. I also appreciate her willingness to teach me via Skype. I am looking forward to continuing to realize great results that outstanding teaching can bring. Laurel is the best!”

~ Kathy

adult viola student