Elevate Your Playing - with an experienced teacher, who's also experienced at teaching online!
Violinist Laurel Thomsen performing infront of a bright window
On the move? Can’t find the right teacher or need additional support?

Take violin, viola, fiddle, and cello lessons with Laurel from anywhere!

When the Covid-19 pandemic forced most music teachers online for the first time, it was business as usual for this teaching studio. As reported back by the New York Times, I became a pioneering music teacher when I added an online lessons option to my already robust in-person teaching studio of beginning through advanced level violin, viola, fiddle, and cello students way back in 2009. As an internationally touring violinist, violist, composer, recording artist, author, and a private lessons teacher and workshop string instructor for nearly 30 years, I'd been noticing a need and found a way to deliver, with the same quality and success as I experienced teaching in-person.

Online violin, viola, fiddle, or cello lessons via Skype, FaceTime, or Zoom are a convenient and effective form of private or group instruction for beginners through advanced players of almost any age. They 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 in small towns and remote regions.

Location is no longer a barrier to high quality, personalized violin, viola, fiddle, or cello instruction.

The results I experienced in those first few years of teaching online invigorated me. Students from various parts of the US and far flung places around the globe quickly started inquiring about lessons, many hoping for insight into technical issues holding them back, or relief from playing related pain and tension that their local teachers weren’t able to solve. Others were beginners without any access to a teacher, but an ardent desire to learn how to play. Some were fans of my educational work with Strings and Fiddler magazines, my Violin Geek Blog, my online courses, and my Violin Geek Podcast, and were thrilled to have the opportunity to take lessons with me.

Online violin & viola teacher Laurel Thomsen

For general information about lessons with me, including my background, methods, and philosophy, visit my Teaching page.

For answers to common questions about lessons, visit my Lessons Q&A and Online Lessons Q&A pages or send me an email.

Curious, determined, and perceptive, I found I was able to troubleshoot playing problems, instruct beginners, and help students interpret and polish their Classical repertoire, audition material, or their fiddle tunes, just as gracefully in online lessons as I would have with an in-person student. The idea of helping someone sound better, have more confidence, and feel more comfortable and at ease in their playing, sometimes literally on the other side of the planet, quickly had me hooked on online teaching and had my online students hooked as well.

Early on, taking violin, viola, fiddle, and cello lessons via Skype, FaceTime, and Zoom, also seemed to have an interesting and positive effect on the students I usually saw in-person. Instead of taking a break from teaching lessons while on tour, I was able to transition my in-person students online and keep up their regular lessons schedule from the road. I noticed that many of them were often more focused and engaged during lessons online. Perhaps they were simply inspired to see me out there performing for the world, traveling to different places, playing concerts and holding workshops, or perhaps the familiar sights and sounds of being at home put them more at ease and able to focus?

My final test was finding out whether it would be possible to teach young children online. Within a few months of beginning to offer online lessons, the parents of some 3-5 year olds living in remote regions, contacted me. I decided to give it a try and found that with parental help during the lessons, these students were able to learn to play just as smoothly as the average in-person student, in some cases with more success, likely attributed to the fact that parental help during lessons meant more parental help with practicing during the week as well. Those first few little ones I taught online are now becoming teenagers and most still take lessons with me!

Now almost 15 years have passed since I first started offering a virtual lessons option. Technology and internet speeds have steadily continued to improve worldwide and 100% of my students are now scattered around the world, living on every continent except Antarctica. Ranging from 3 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 performing at Carnegie Hall, my online violin, viola, fiddle, and cello students are making serious progress each week via Skype, FaceTime, and Zoom!

Are you a good candidate for online violin, viola, fiddle, or cello lessons?
You could be a great candidate for online lessons if…
  • You want to ensure a solid technical and musical foundation with a highly qualified, experienced, and enthusiastic teacher
  • You have limited access to violin, viola, fiddle, or cello teachers where you live
  • You want to launch yourself from a frustrating plateau and don’t know where to start
  • You 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?
  • You want to master new techniques, such as vibrato, creating smoother, more beautiful bowing, or exploring fiddle styles, Classical interpretation, and improvisation, but you don’t know where to focus your time and energy for the most impact
  • You travel frequently or have an unusual work or school schedule
  • You want a lessons experience that is personal, professional, creative, and welcomes dedicated students of all age ranges and various ability levels
  • You want to ELEVATE your playing and see just how much joy and passion for music you can feel along the way
Violin with hand and fern
How did Laurel get her start with online teaching?

Like any plant or tree, starting from a tiny seed, my experience teaching online began organically, with a thought and a need, and quickly grew into the means through which I have connected with nearly all of my private students for well over a decade.

In early 2009 I began considering an online lessons option for my teaching studio, already going strong with enthusiastic violin, viola, fiddle, and cello students since I was a teen back in 1996. There is a strong military presence in Monterey, California, where I grew up and still had my teaching studio at the time. With the Defense Language Institute, the Naval Post Graduate School, as well as the Middlebury Institute of International Studies all within a mile or two, over half my students over the years had been 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 and found to my dismay that most of them were having a hard time finding good violin, viola, and cello teachers, or any teachers at all in the case of one student stationed on a Navy ship 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 was proving 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'd ask me to explain techniques, help them find fingerings for a particular passage, want my advice on something a teacher on YouTube had suggested, ask me to demystify a marking in their sheet music, or look for my guidance about their next steps in terms of repertoire, etudes, scales, 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'd finally decided to stop playing indefinitely. Trying to make it on their own with technical issues they couldn’t troubleshoot and pieces they couldn’t figure out how to tackle, had finally became too frustrating. My heart broke again and again and again.

“If only I could just be there to teach them!” I lamented to my tech savvy boyfriend. “Why don’t you just teach them on Skype?” He used Skype every day to work remotely and attend conference calls with team members and partners scattered across the US and around the world. 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.

However, my Google searches for online violin, viola, fiddle, and cello lessons via Skype weren’t showing signs of other string teachers trying it yet. Could my experiment work? After test runs with a few in-person students willing to help me work out the kinks, I was thrilled and confident in the quality of my new online lessons option.

June 2009 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. If people wanted it, they would come. A couple weeks later, I had my first purely online violin student, in Hong Kong!
Violinist Laurel Thomsen holding her violin at the beach at sunset
Teaching violin, viola, fiddle, and cello via Skype, FaceTime, and Zoom has changed my life and the lives of my online students!

I am so grateful to 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, sometimes for years, with technical issues or stuck on playing plateaus. It brings me so much joy to see the gains made by students with pain, performance anxiety, or confidence issues, and to watch all the puzzle pieces click into place as young (and older) beginners learn how to play. 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, viola, and cello teachers with very traditional approaches might think could never see success, and particularly when trying the online format might be a final effort for many students in finding the help they need.

Though Skype and other online video platforms sometimes have glitches, usually due to insufficient or unstable internet speeds (easily remedied by using an ethernet connection versus wifi), online teaching does have some perks that aren’t normally part of in-person teaching (read more pros and some cons of online music lessons in my blog post celebrating my first decade of teaching via Skype, FaceTime, and Zoom):
  • Recording snippets or entire lessons for further study, either audio and video, are a click away
  • Students can warm up immediately before the lesson and continue practicing right after instead of waiting to get home
  • Students can quickly look over and see themselves in their side of the screen, confirming my suggestions and helping them visually make adjustments
  • It's impossible to catch a cold, the flu, or Covid-19 over Skype, FaceTime, or Zoom
  • Students tend to be generally more focused and attentive online than in-person
  • We generally seem to accomplish more in lessons online, at least in part due to the fact that at an in-person lesson, at least 10 minutes are wasted getting the instrument out and packing up at the end (not to mention tuning the instrument!), whereas with a virtual lesson the student can be ready to go and entire lesson time can be spent learning.
Personally, teaching online has opened up new vistas for my life and the performance side of my career. I used to limit my touring to a few weeks a year plus some long weekends here and there. I always felt like I had to rush home to meet the needs of my students. Since I started teaching online I've been able to tour for weeks or even months at a time, arranging my schedule to keep up with my students at their regular lesson times each week.

Online teaching has also allowed me to access an overall higher quality of student - those who, regardless of playing ability, meet me with more serious dedication and a curiosity about learning and growing as musicians. Before I began offering online lessons, many of my local students were dedicated, but I'd always have some who struggled with motivation, didn’t practice, had trouble focusing during lessons, who frequently cancelled lessons at the last minute, or who just wouldn’t show up at all sometimes. I’ve found my online violin, viola, fiddle, and cello students to be generally much more committed on all levels, perhaps because they aren't just trying it out with the first local teacher they find - once a student is looking for online lessons they tend to have more specific needs and goals, and once they find a teacher they think might be a fit, they are passionate about taking full advantage of the opportunity.

Most of my local students take advantage of the virtual lessons option when they can’t make a lesson in-person, when they have a cold, or when it's just less stressful to jump online rather than in the car after an already busy day at work or school. In fact, once they try it, many find it so similar to the in-person experience they rarely bother making the drive anymore. When life is already so hectic for most of us, why waste precious practice time in traffic?

In 2014 I also began offering a video exchange option for students who want to take online lessons with me but who are very busy and need the ease of asynchronous learning. With the same quality of feedback as private lessons and videos you can watch again and again, this is an especially great option for busy parents or people who travel a lot for work and might only get to practice during odd hours when they can steal away some time.

For more information about my experiences teaching via Skype, FaceTime, and Zoom, please read my blog post celebrating the 10-year anniversary of the first lessons I taught online, and if you're a teacher who's considering offering online lessons yourself, enjoy this post and podcast episode sharing advice for teachers (and students), from marketing to equipment, and getting the best audio and video quality.

Teaching Samples
Click a thumbnail to play the video. Click anywhere on the video or click ahead in the series to stop.

Ready to take the next step?

If you have questions about violin, viola, fiddle, or cello lessons with me, check my Teaching page, the Lesson’s with Laurel Q&A page, or the Online Lessons Q&A page. If you can't find the answer to your question there, please don't hesitate to email me.

Ready for lessons? Please email me at laurel@laurelthomsen.com (best way to get in touch) or call/text me at 831-224-0913 to check availability and receive more information about my rates and studio policies.

In your initial message, please include:
  • The age range and playing experience of the student
  • Your location/timezone
  • For beginners, whether or not you have an instrument yet and what pervious music experience the student has, if any
  • For more experienced students, a paragraph detailing your short and/or long term goals, recent material you've studied, and anything else you'd like to share about where you're at and what you're hoping for help with

I look forward to helping you along your music journey!

Laurel Thomsen

Violin, Viola, Vocals
Performance, Instruction, Recording

Based in Santa Cruz, California

Site by Laurel Thomsen
Photography by Michelle Magdalena

Skype: laurelthomsen

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