Violin, Viola, and Fiddle Lessons with Laurel Thomsen

The attitude and enthusiasm Laurel Thomsen has brought to teaching and coaching violin, viola, and fiddle students around the world since 1996 is rooted in her own daily discoveries as a professional touring artist, as well as the pedagogy of Dorothy DeLay, Ivan Galamian, Paul Rolland, Shinichi Suzuki, and Kato Havas. Caring, passionate, and perceptive, Laurel values holistic approaches. Her methods stress the importance of both the muscles and the mind when learning to play a musical instrument. Lessons integrate natural biomechanics, Classical technique, fiddle flavors, and performance/sports psychology, while encouraging confidence and self-esteem to facilitate playing that is free of tension, both physically and mentally.

Tips and tricks from YouTube:

Lessons incorporate:
•Classical Technique
Music Reading
•Ear Training
•Fiddle Styles
•Music Theory
•Music History and Appreciation
•Music Interpretation	
•Ensemble Playing Skills
•Sight Singing
Performance Coaching
Effective practice techniques
•Body Awareness
•Stress Management

Available Lesson Formats:
•Private Lessons
•Online Skype Video Lessons
•One-off and short term coaching
•Parent/Child Lessons
•Group Lessons	 in Schools
•Orchestra Coaching	
•Visiting Clinician

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

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

Private violin, viola and fiddle lessons via Skype are available! Take lessons with Laurel from anywhere!  
Click here to learn about lessons via Skype

Looking for guitar lessons or songwriting coaching? 
Laurel highly recommends: www.danfrechette.com/Lessons

Download over 70 free episodes of Laurel’s educational podcast:

"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’s 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."
mother of international Skype violin student 

View more Testimonials...

Ready to take your playing to the next level?

Laurel loves partnering with students to help meet their individual needs and goals, which could range from the professional Classical artist, to wanting to improvise and fiddle with friends and family, or students wanting to join a local community orchestra.

Tone and technique are very important in Laurel’s studio, as well as creativity and exploration. She wants students to know exactly why they might need to approach a piece a certain way and learn to make informed choices about their interpretations rather than just go through the motions. Over time, students build a “toolbox” of expressive elements, which includes various vibrato and bowing styles, knowledge of different Classical music periods and composers, and even a survey of different folk genres or improvisation, in effort to add personality and expression to pieces. 

While Laurel enjoys teaching a wide range of ages, techniques, and styles, she has come to specialize in bowing and tone, vibrato, technical troubleshooting, students struggling with physical tension and performance anxiety, and students wishing to explore improvising or uncovering their personal musical voice with regard to Classical interpretations. If you'd like a well rounded approach and skill set in a affirming lessons atmosphere, you've come to the right place!

Highlights of Laurel’s teaching experience and extracurricular offerings:
- Laurel has taught over a thousand private students in person, and many more in workshop and youth orchestra settings since 1996. As reported by the New York Times, Strings magazine, and the Microsoft blog, in 2009 she also became one of the first to offer lessons online to violin, viola, and fiddle students via Skype. Laurel now teaches dozens of students around the world each week via Skype, on every continent except Antartica.

- Laurel has authored over 50 articles on technique and healthy practice habits for
Strings magazine since 2010.

- Laurel is the author of the String Letter Publishing multi-media series "Improve Your Bowing Technique” (See
http://store.allthingsstrings.com/collections/improve-your-bowing-technique) and "Improve Your Violin and Viola Technique” (See http://store.allthingsstrings.com/collections/improve-your-violin-viola-technique)

- Laurel is the creator of the world’s first and only comprehensive video vibrato course, “Complete Vibrato Mastery,” available at

- Laurel is the creator and host of the Violin Geek Podcast, with over 80 episodes available for every type of student and musician.

- When she’s not writing for Strings magazine, Laurel enjoys sharing her thoughts on practice, performance psychology, and technique in her extensive Violin Geek Blog.

Some helpful pieces for students have included:

The Violin and Viola Sizing Guide

Overcoming Down Times and Setbacks in our Music Learning

Violin and Viola Hardware and Set-up Demystified

What and Why Martelé?

Developing a Healthy Relationship with Practice

Are Private Teachers Still Necessary?

Determination and Goal Setting: Insights from a Software Journal

Finding a Great Violin, Viola, or Fiddle Teacher

Parkour is to Playing Fiddle as...

Enjoy and peruse more in the archives here.

And please subscribe here.

- Since 1998, Laurel has been a touring performer and recording artist across the Classical and fiddle genres. Laurel’s performance experience ranges from symphonies and Classical ensembles, to traditional music, tribute bands, creating original string arrangements for singer-songwriters and bands, improvising, and her own work as a composer and songwriter. Explore her primary touring gig since 2013, with Canadian singer-songwriter Dan Frechette here: www.danandlaurel.ca including audio clips, performance video, their tour schedule, and CDs. To find out about Laurel’s tour and workshop schedule in general, check her Calendar or “like” her on Facebook here and here, to keep up with her travels, adventures, and insights from the road and her teaching studio.

Teaching Philosophy:

A naturally curious person and an innovative instructor, Laurel Thomsen revers the attitude of the detective and cultivates this approach when troubleshooting issues with violin and viola playing and performance. Lessons flow as a teamwork of holistic learning. Instead of simply telling a student to do this or that, Laurel values having students understand why and how something works, so they are empowered and learn to make their own adjustments over time.

Laurel tailors each lesson to the individual student’s learning style, age and ability, presenting issues, anatomy where technique and posture are concerned, and personal musical goals. Laurel presents a methodical and thorough approach to technique and repertoire, while leaving room for creativity. She finds that when student and teacher partner up in the learning experience, each lesson evolves uniquely and effectively.

Violin, viola, or fiddle lessons with Laurel Thomsen emphasize all aspects of right and left hand technique, ear training, posture, and both music reading and the ability to learn melodies by ear. While her approaches are strongly rooted in Classical pedagogy, she offers a focus on both Classical and non-Classical repertoire depending on a student’s interest and outside opportunities, weaving fiddle flavors, improvising, and composing into the lessons atmosphere. Laurel seeks to foster in her students a strong musical awareness and appreciation, in an environment that empowers each student to discover his or her individual creative expression. Ultimately, Laurel’s goal as a teacher is to cultivate in her students the art of self-analysis and self-observation, ushering the day when each one may become his or her own instructor.

Though we must recognize that relatively few students have the drive and interest to become Classical soloists, Laurel believes that when an openness to learning and experimenting is combined with a teaching method that tailors to an individual student’s learning style and goals, it’s possible for every student to find his or her unique musical voice and a lifetime of musical enjoyment and opportunity. She is highly dedicated to her students progress and asks that her students are equally dedicated to their pursuit of music.

In-person Violin, Viola, and Fiddle Lessons:

Laurel Thomsen teaches from a lovely home studio in the mountains above Santa Cruz, California, and in workshop throughout the United States, Canada, and Europe. Because she is frequently on the road, she strongly encourages in-person students to attend their regular lessons via Skype in order to continue learning when she is traveling.

Violin, Viola, and Fiddle Lessons via Skype:

Since 2009, Laurel has taught online via Skype to an ever growing number of students both nationally and internationally, including Africa, Australia, the Middle East, South Korea, Canada, Hong Kong, India, Germany, England, Italy, The Virgin Islands, and The Bahamas.

To accommodate her touring schedule, Laurel has embraced live online teaching and has been thrilled by the opportunity to connect with students around the world. This has allowed her to share her music with audiences around the globe, while maintaining a full teaching studio and providing the same consistency and dedication her students expect and appreciate. Read the article featuring her on the Skype blog here

Furthermore, many students who otherwise would not have access to a private teacher, who’s schedules or needs do not fit with those of local teachers, or who want to add additional dimensions to private lessons happening co-currently with a local teacher, have found the perfect fit with Laurel’s Skype violin, viola, and fiddle lessons.

As a pioneer in the Skype music lessons movement, Laurel was featured in a New York Times front page article in 2012, and has also been interviewed for articles in Strings magazine.

Click here to learn more about Laurel’s experiences teaching violin, viola, and fiddle via Skype, how to set yourself up to take lessons via Skype, and how to get the most out of your online lessons.

Finally, click here if you’re a teacher and would like advice on setting up your own online music teaching studio.

Video Exchange Violin, Viola, and Fiddle Lessons:

For students outside the California Bay Area area, but also unable to do lessons via Skype for whatever reason, Laurel now offers a video exchange format. Video exchange lessons are especially great for students who are very busy and want occasional help.

Based on four exchange packages, these lessons can be stretched over a minimum of four weeks or a maximum of six months. Students send a 5-10 min. video of themselves playing their current repertoire, technical studies, improvising, asking questions, etc. and Laurel will respond within the week with a video demonstrating her suggestions and answering questions. Most computers and phones can record HD video now, so you probably already have what you need to record yourself. Videos may be uploaded to Dropbox or under an unlisted link on YouTube.

Short Term String Coaching and Workshops:

Laurel also offers one-off and short term coaching to violin, viola, and fiddle students, in-person or via Skype. Please contact her for a consult and a quote if you:

- have technical issues you want to overcome?

- pieces needing polish, or a performance or audition to prepare for?

- want a second opinion about where to focus your energy and valuable practice time for the most pay off?

- want to learn to tell a story through your music and learn to love playing more than ever?

- need performance coaching?

- want to overcome performance anxiety?

- want guidance about making your practice time more effective and efficient?

- want to explore improvisation or composition?

Finally, Laurel loves teaching group lessons in schools, coaching youth string orchestras, holding workshops, and teaching as a visiting clinician in public and private schools.

View her list of workshop topics at http://danandlaurel.ca/Teaching and please contact her to set up a visit to your group, school, or orchestra.

Perspective student? Questions about lessons?

Peruse the Lesson’s with Laurel Q&A for answers to the most commonly asked questions about violin, viola, or fiddle lessons.

Ready for lessons? Please email Laurel at laurel@laurelthomsen.com, or call 831-224-0913 for more information about her rates and availability.

Happy Practicing!

“I'm an adult student who took up the violin 6 years ago. Up until this point, progress has been painstakingly slow. I was frustrated and considered giving up. Instead, I decided to change teachers to see if a fresh approach would help. I've been taking lessons from Laurel Thomsen for 10 months now, and I've made so much progress! She's an expert in isolating problems, and has a wealth of information available in addition to private lessons, including her podcasts and videos. She's helped me gain a new positive attitude. For the first time, I am really enjoying playing music.”

~Denise, adult violin/fiddle student

Beginners - Learn through Laurel’s systematic approach to technique, repertoire, and musicianship that will have you playing beautifully and confidently and quickly moving beyond the common squeaks and tensions that many find so disheartening about being a beginner on the violin, viola, or fiddle. Learn effective and efficient practice habits and embrace the joy and discipline a musical life has to offer.

Intermediates - Develop a well rounded repertoire and skill set tailored to your personal musical goals and dreams. This may include a focus on Classical repertoire and orchestral music, while honing skills like shifting, vibrato, and more advanced bowing techniques, such as spiccato and sautille, and/or fiddle styles, better reading skills, and the ability to improvise and play by ear. Take your playing beyond notes and rhythms to explore emotion, style, and contrast!

Advanced players - Learn to express technique seamlessly, master your interpretations, and hone your performance and audition skills. Develop consistency in your playing and learn to manage your physical, mental, and emotional energy for remarkable performances. Performance anxiety got you down? We have tools to help that. Don’t know where or how to share your music with the world? We can coach you to the next level of your career.