skip to Main Content

String Instruments Tuition

at Waltons New School of Music

‘An abundance of technique should not be a means to an end but a way to allow the heart to expand freely.’
– Pablo Casals

‘A table, a chair, a bowl of fruit and a violin; what else does a man need to be happy?’
– Albert Einstein

Tuition Offered

Instruments Taught

String Instrument TuitionThe New School’s string instrument programme provides tuition to students of all ages and skill levels, from absolute beginner to advanced, in the following instruments:

  • Violin (Classical • Jazz/Swing • Gypsy)
  • Viola
  • Cello
  • Double Bass
  • Fiddle (Irish • Bluegrass)
  • Irish Harp

String instrument tuition can also include preparation for graded music examinations and performance or teaching diplomas, as well as Junior Cert. Music and Leaving Cert. Music practicals, and it counts as the ‘personal skill’ challenge area for Gaisce – The President’s Award.

Tuition Options

Our options for string instruments tuition include:

  • Weekly private (one-to-one) lessons, 30, 45 or 60 minutes in length.
  • Group lessons, designed for students at the same level of proficiency who enrol together, and available as 30- 45- or 60-minute ‘partner’ lessons, as well as 60-minute lessons for 3 or 4 students.
  • Single 1- or 2-hour Intensive Lessons.
  • Three group courses for beginners: Introducing Violin for Children, Introducing Violin for Adults and Introducing Irish Fiddle (see following tab).

See Tuition Options for more information on private, partner and small group lessons, and Enrolment • Fees for tuition fees and enrolment forms.

Group Courses for Beginners

Group Courses for BeginnersWe offer three string instrument group courses for absolute beginners:

‘I have really enjoyed Violin for Adults at the school, especially the outstanding teaching skills, kindness and patience of the instructor. I have to say that choosing this course was a very good decision.’
– S. Zhou

‘My daughter loved learning violin at the school, and the group environment has also helped her to develop her social skills. A stimulating and enjoyable course!’ [Introducing Violin for Children]
– M. Devaney

‘Truly amazed at how far I have gone in such a short period. At Christmas I couldn’t even hold a fiddle, but I was playing tunes by St. Patrick’s Day!’ [Introducing Irish Fiddle]
– P. Hogan

Ensembles • Sessions

Our two Jazz Ensembles introduce students of all instruments to the art of improvisation through the study and performance of blues and jazz.

Trad Slow SessionsIrish fiddle students may be interested in our Trad Slow Sessions, open to both New School and external students/players, which take place once a month on Friday evenings.

Music FundamentalsBeginning string instrument students should also consider taking Music Fundamentals, designed to supplement private tuition with the basics of music theory.

Our Jazz Blues Ensemble Workshop is an excellent introduction to blues and jazz ensemble playing and improvisation for those new to the forms.

‘This course is perfect for anyone with an interest in music. It starts with the very basics of theory and the information is made easy to understand. There is a good atmosphere in the class, being with people who share your passion for music.’ [Music Fundamentals]
– I. Colgan

‘Great introduction to playing in an ensemble!’ [Jazz Blues Ensemble Workshop]
– B. Byrne

String Instrument Faculty

New School Stage System

String instruments tuition at the New School is designed to work within our Stage System, a comprehensive methodology for assessing student progress, from absolute beginner to a professional qualification (diploma).

New School Stages, ten in all, are roughly equivalent to the ‘grades’ of graded music exams offered by widely recognised exam boards (ABRSM, RIAM, Trinity Guildhall, Rockschool, etc.) and progress from beginner to performing or teaching diploma level. Stages and their grade equivalents are:

  • Stage 1 (1 term of lessons or an Introducing group course for beginners, equivalent to Preliminary Grade)
  • Stage 2 (1 year of lessons, equivalent to Grade 1)
  • Stage 3 (equivalent to Grade 2 or an intermediate group course)
  • Stage 4 (equivalent to Grade 3)
  • Stage 5 (equivalent to Grade 4)
  • Stage 6 (equivalent to Grade 5)
  • Stage 7 (equivalent to Grade 6)
  • Stage 8 (equivalent to Grade 7)
  • Stage 9 (equivalent to Grade 8)
  • Stage 10 (equivalent to a Performing or Teaching Diploma)

Students who successfully complete a stage can be issued with a certificate of completion. Please let the school office know if you would like this certificate.

See About Our Stage System for more information.

Tuition Fees

Tuition fees for private, partner and small group lessons are listed in the Enrolment • Fees section of our website and depend on the length of lessons as well as the duration (number of terms) of enrolment:

Group course fees are listed on individual group course pages.

Enrolment • Booking

Enrolment for string instrument tuition at Waltons New School of Music requires a completed enrolment form and, except for those students using payment plans, full payment of tuition fees.

Intensive Lesson booking requires a completed booking form and deposit.

Private, Partner and Small Group Lessons • Ensembles


Group Courses for Adults • Teens


Introducing Violin for Children


Intensive Lessons


Gift Certificates


Your Feedback

Have you studied – or are you studying – a string instrument at the New School? We would appreciate it if you could take a few moments to give us your feedback in a brief online questionnaire about your experience here.


Other Information

Martin A. Walton Memorial Scholarships

Scholarships • PrizesTaking place in late May / early June each year, the New School’s annual Martin A. Walton Memorial Scholarship Competition awards full-year tuition scholarships in three categories:

  • Young Student of the Year (students aged 18 and under)
  • Mature Student of the Year (students aged 19 and over)
  • Most Promising Beginner (students who began studying their chosen instruments within the same year)

New School Ensemble Prize

This prize is awarded for the best performance in our scholarship competition by an instrumental, vocal or mixed ensemble made up of two or more students, as well as for progress over the previous school year.

See Scholarships • Prizes for more information.

Friday Casual Concerts

Our Friday Casual Concerts are a great opportunity for students of all instruments (and all musical styles) to play in public, in a relaxed and supportive setting, before friends, family and other students. These brief concerts, which take place once a month on Friday evenings at 7 pm in the school, allow individual students and ensembles to perform in public, show off their skills and learn how to cope with nerves. They are also highly recommended for students preparing for grade exams.

End-of-Year Concert

End-of-Year Student ConcertOur End-of-Year Student Concerts take place in the National Concert Hall’s John Field Room in June and showcase some of our best students and ensembles, of all ages and in all musical styles, as well as scholarship and prize winners in our Scholarship Competition. Performers are selected by their teachers and the school administration.

See School Concerts for more information.

Student Benefits

Currently-enrolled students (and parents of students) are entitled to several useful benefits, including:

See Student Benefits for more information.

Outreach Workshop

Sounds Irish Outreach WorkshopOur Sounds Irish workshop is designed to open participants’ ears to the rich tapestry that is our music, our history, and our heritage. The workshop features dynamic live demonstrations and allows participants to develop their musical awareness through the hands-on exploration (using both fiddles and bodhráns) of the forms, rhythms and instruments of Irish traditional music. See Outreach Workshops for more information on the workshops we offer.

Outreach Courses

Our Outreach Programme offers a range of curricular and extra-curricular music courses for primary schools, post-primary schools and youth centres. We offer a Violin and Irish Fiddle courses for absolute beginners as part of the programme. See Outreach Music Courses for more information.

Music at Work Programme

Music at Work is a unique programme that provides convenient and affordable music courses in Dublin-area workplaces. We offer a Violin and Irish Fiddle courses for absolute beginners as part of the programme. See Music at Work Programme for more information.

String Instruments Tuition FAQS

What is the ‘string (or violin) family’?

The string or violin family consists of four instruments that are played with a bow or plucked:

The violin is the highest pitched member of the family, which also includes the viola, cello and double bass. The violin has four strings, each tuned a ‘fifth’ apart: G, D, A and E (lowest to highest). Music for violin is written in the treble clef.

The viola is the second highest pitched member of the family. It has four strings tuned a fifth lower than the violin, to the notes C, G, D and A. Music for the viola is written in the alto clef and sometimes in the treble clef as well. Violas vary in size, although they are always larger and tuned lower than violins.

The cello (or violoncello) is also shaped liked a violin but is much larger. Supported by an end pin which is placed on the floor, the cello is placed between the knees of the musician and played with a large bow. Its four strings are tuned an octave lower than the viola’s, to C, G, D and A. Music for the cello is written in the bass clef.

The double bass (also known as the string bass, bass viol, or contrabass) is the largest and lowest pitched string instrument of the family. It is usually played standing up and generally tuned in fourths – E, A, D, G – making it different from all other modern string instruments. Music for the double bass is also written in the bass clef.

What is the difference between a violin and a fiddle?

Actually, there isn’t one. The words ‘violin’ and ‘fiddle’ are etymologically related, both derived from the Latin vitulari (‘to rejoice’) or Vitula, the Roman goddess of victory or jubilation. Although both words are used for the same instrument, the techniques used by traditional fiddlers are considerably different to those used by classical violinist, which are generally more standardised. A traditional fiddler might choose to hold his/her instrument like a classical player (tucked under the chin), but this is not essential as most traditional music can be played in the first position. Traditional players, therefore, might hold the fiddle against the upper arm, chest, shoulders or even the waist. Bowing styles and holds vary greatly in different regions or between individual players.

At what age should string instrument lessons begin?

For a child, between six and eight is a comfortable range, a bit earlier for girls than boys, as they usually mature more quickly. This is the age range of our Introducing Violin for Children group course. Occasionally younger children can do well, particularly with violin, and we have had a few four- or five-year-old students who have done quite well with their lessons.

Are there different size violins available for children?

Violins are generally available in the following sizes: 1/16, 1/8, 1/4, 1/2, 3/4 and 4/4 (full size). Children in their early teens are usually big enough to play a full size violin. Sizing is extremely important. Playing a too-big instrument is painful and an exercise in frustration that makes it virtually impossible for a student to develop good technique and tone. If your child seems to be ‘between’ sizes, go with the smaller size to ensure your child’s success. Good advice is crucial for fitting the right size for the child, and they should be present when purchasing the instrument.

What should I consider in choosing an instrument?

String instruments have a greater price range than virtually any other musical instruments. You can still buy a decent starter violin, bow and case for under €100, while Stradivarius and Guarneri instruments are worth several million euro. The first question to ask is whether you want to buy a factory-made or a hand-made instrument. Factory-made violins are reasonably-priced and consistent in quality. Parents starting children on violin or fiddle should consider that quarter- or half-sized instruments will have to be exchanged for larger instruments as the child grows; for this reason, cheaper, factory-made violins are often the best choice. With hand-made instruments, quality (and price!) are often more subjective, and it is best to ask your teacher or an advanced player to try out an instrument before you decide to buy it.

Can an adult learn to play a string instrument?

Yes! We have taught string instruments to hundreds of adults, from beginner to advanced. Results won’t come overnight, and instrumental study requires application and practice – but that’s no reason not to start. And there is a great deal of pleasure and satisfaction to be had in learning a musical instrument. The New School also has two group courses specially designed for adult beginners, Introducing Violin for Adults and Introducing Irish Fiddle.

What else do I need besides an instrument and bow?

  • A good shoulder rest for violins and violas (Wolf are recommended)
  • Rosin (provides the bow hair with friction in order to produce a sound)
  • An electronic tuner or pitch pipe to help tune the instrument
  • A music stand
  • A spare set of strings
  • Method books/other printed materials (recommended by your teacher)
  • A ‘lesson notebook’ for homework assignments and teacher comments

What are your teaching methods?

Our teachers generally use a ‘traditional’ approach, which means they generally incorporate note-reading, musicianship, and technique (instrument-specific skills) into each lesson. Their teaching methods are not set in stone. We believe that each student learns best when approached as having unique strengths, weaknesses and learning styles, and each lesson is tailored to the individual student.

What's the point of lessons, when I can use a book or YouTube videos?

A music teacher can observe your technique and progress in real-time and give you immediate feedback, specifically tailored to your needs and goals. You will be reassured by getting reinforcement for things you do well and constructive advice for areas that need improvement. Questions and difficulties can be dealt with as they arise, so you do not develop bad habits that may be hard to correct later.

While there are many materials and aids available to help you ‘teach yourself’, determining where to begin and what path to follow is not so simple. A good teacher will evaluate your skill level and provide sound guidance to keep you on track and focused on topics most appropriate for your development and personal objectives.

Can you prepare me / my child for grade or practical examinations?

Lessons can certainly include preparation for grade examinations with such a range of exam boards. Our teachers can also prepare you for Junior Cert. Music and Leaving Cert. Music practical exams.

Since I'm left-handed, can I learn to play and have a violin fitted in the opposite way?

We do not recommend refitting an instrument in this way (in other words, with the G string to the right, and holding the bow with the left hand). The literature is not designed for this, and the problems of adjustment in reaching higher positions seem overwhelming when you consider what the configuration would have to be. In addition, ensemble playing requires consistent bowings, and even consistency with respect to fingerings for uniformity of phrasing. Many players would argue that it is actually an advantage to be left-handed because of the requirements of the left-hand technique, and certainly there is nothing to prevent a left-handed person from taking up the instrument.

How do I tune my / my child's instrument?

Learning to tune your violin, viola, cello or double bass is an essential skill to develop.

Violins, violas and cellos are tuned in 5ths, and their strings, from lowest to highest, are as follows (including links to online tuners):

Violin: G | D | A | E • Online Tuner

Viola: C | G | D | A • Online Tuner

Cello: C | G | D | A • Online Tuner

Viola strings are tuned a 5th below violin strings. That is, the first viola string is C, a 5th below the violin’s first string (G). And cello strings are tuned a full octave below viola strings.

Unlike violins, violas and cellos, double basses are tuned in 4ths, and are generally tuned as follows (although other tunings are also used).

Double Bass: E | A | D | G • Online Tuner

The top string of the double bass (G) is the same pitch as the cello’s second string.

Electronic tuners, which can be used to tune each string separately, are inexpensive and easy to use. There are also several tuner apps for smartphones available, some of which are free. Finally, there are online tuners (see below) that provide you with the pitch each string should have.

Strings can be tuned with both pegs and fine tuners (if you have them). As their name suggests, fine tuners are used for tuning the string if it is off-pitch by a small interval of no more than half a tone or so. When the string is out of tune by more than half a tone, then the pegs are used to tune the note initially, with the fine tuner used afterwards to make sure the note is exactly in tune.

When tuning any string instrument, you should always tune from below the note, up. This prevents string breakages and systematises the process of tuning, so you eventually become more familiar with the sound of a perfect, in-tune string. When a fine tuner has been wound right down to the end of the screw, you will need to loosen the fine tuner near to the end of the screw before carefully tightening the tuning peg. This way, you prevent the string from being over-tightened.

When you are tuning, play the note continuously with your bow and listen carefully to the string as it tightens towards the desired pitch. If the string sounds lower than the correct pitch, gently turn the fine tuner (or peg, if necessary) clockwise until it reaches the correct pitch. If the string sounds higher than the correct pitch, gently turn the tuner or peg anticlockwise.

It is advisable to start by tuning the highest string first and then work your way down. When you start to become more familiar with the sound of the notes of the different strings, you can try tuning the strings against each other. This is known as relative tuning.

What is the purpose of practicing scales?

For a complete beginner, scales help build finger dexterity by giving you something to play that you can work on without being slowed down by reading. They also teach you what notes are found in each key, which makes reading music go more smoothly as you’ll cease having to read each note one at a time and start to see patterns within the key.

How can I develop good sight reading skills?

Sight reading is learned by doing, and it takes practice! Being a good sight reader requires a combination of two elements:

  • Learning as much music theory, music history and related subjects as possible.
  • Practical experience in sight reading. This is acquired by joining as many formal or informal groups as one can locate, and also regularly attending to new music in the home practice.

Four things to keep in mind:

  1. At the beginning of every piece of music, there are three areas to examine initially: the clef, the key signature and the time signature.
  2. There may also be a term (or terms)describing how the music should be played. In classical music these terms are usual Italian. For example: Andante (‘walking’ at a moderate pace), Largo (slow and dignified) and Presto (very fast). There may also be abbreviate terms under the music that describe how soft or loud it should be played: p (piano, soft), pp (pianissimo, very soft), f (forte, loud), ff (fortissimo, very loud).
  3. One should also have some general idea about the style or period.
  4. Glance through the piece if you have time and look at the form and chord structures. Determine, at a minimum, whether it is in a major or minor key, and note any development or recapitulation materials.
String Instruments Tuition
Back To Top