It's all very well learning the violin through lessons and your own practice sessions. But until you're out there in the real world, playing music with other people, it can all feel a bit theoretical.
Of course, it's important to learn solo pieces, and spend time on your own carefully building your technique. In fact, the intellectual challenge of tackling the many subtle layers of violin technique can be very rewarding in itself!
But when we talk about 'making music', we're really referring to the magic that happens when you play with other musicians. That's when we have to listen and interact with each other ... and that's never going to be the same every time. Playing music with other people is a truly creative endeavour.
When playing in a group, you need to develop a fairly strong instinct for what you're doing, so that you can shift your focus away from your own playing and towards other people's. That's how you keep your awareness high, so that you can always sense what's going on, and respond accordingly.
You need to rely on your training and instinct to deliver the technique you need, so that you can stay in the present moment, and focus on the people around you... and on the music that you're creating and sharing together!
At our London school we run a series of ensembles and other community music making opportunities throughout the year, including our popular Violin Orchestra, and the Saturday ViolinHubs where we build up Technical, Performance and Repertoire (group playing) skills.
If you don't have similar opportunities in your area, then it's a good idea to ask around at music schools and shops, to see if there are any local people who are interested in playing music. You'll be surprised at how many 'hidden' musicians there are... people who've played music as a child, and would love to start playing again. Could you start your own music group, meetup, or even an ensemble?
The social aspect of playing music together is incredibly important. As well as providing strong connections to your local community, playing in a group or an orchestra is really great for personal development... and it's often simply a lot of fun, especially when players become good friends!
But orchestras and ensembles are all about using what you already know to create great music. So what happens if you haven't yet learnt how to play?
Traditionally, musical instruments have been taught on a 'master and apprentice' basis, where a reputed musician will pass on their knowledge and understanding during 'one to one' lessons and personal coaching sessions.
But what we're increasingly finding at ViolinSchool is that the social aspect of being in a group can be incredibly beneficial to the effectiveness of your learning.
Whereas in a one to one lesson you only get access to the knowledge of one expert, a group tuition program (such as our Beginner Violin Courses for Adults and our Children's Violin Courses at our London School) can help give you wider context for your learning.
Firstly, you become aware of the progress of the group, and whether you're keeping up. You can see the progression that's expected during a course, and supplement your learning with class resources and a curriculum.
But most of all, you can talk and engage with your fellow learners, discuss ideas that have been covered in the class, and support each other (with perhaps a bit of friendly competition to motivate you along the way!).
As relationships develop with the people around you, you learn more about yourself by learning about each other. Each of us starts with different strengths and weaknesses, and the way that we overcome challenges and obstacles can be both informative and inspiring to other learners.
Being generous with our knowledge and wisdom not only helps other people to progress, but it helps us ourselves to grow. One of the best ways to truly know whether you understand a topic, is to explain it to someone else. By sharing and discussing ideas in a social learning context, we become better and stronger - both as a community, and as individuals.
Social learning doesn't replace one to one attention... there are times when a bit of personal tuition is exactly what's needed in order to break through a particular obstacle, or work in detail on a complex task that needs the advice of an expert, for example.
But a good selection of social learning and playing opportunities blended with online and one to one tuition can provide an excellent mix of perspectives, environments, information sources, and experiences... all of which will enrich your life as a violinist and musician!