So you want to learn the viol?
A guide to the Society’s resources for beginners
Whether you are completely new to music or you already have experience on another instrument, the idea of learning to play the viol might seem daunting. The VdGSA is here to help, and we have compiled a list of advice and resources that will help you create the proper conditions to successfully start learning the viol, and make it an enjoyable and fulfilling experience.
Why should you learn the viol?
The viol is perhaps unique amongst musical instruments, in that it is the only one that is both easy to learn, and has a repertoire of musically satisfying pieces intended to be easy to play. Although having a background in playing a string instrument may help, it is by no means a prerequisite. The viol is accessible as a first instrument to anyone, at any age, with or without a musical background.
Viols come in many sizes; you can find one that works for you even if you have physical limitations. The skills you acquire on one size will also transfer to the other sizes.
[viol as a social instrument]
Finding out if the viol is right for you
There are several ways you can experience the viol and determine if it is the right instrument for you before you commit. The VdGSA offers a free week-long beginners’ class at its annual Conclave (instruments provided). We are also present at the exhibitions of the Boston Early Music Festival and the Berkeley Festival, where you can meet some of our members who will introduce you to the viol and let you try an instrument. You can also get in touch with one of our many local Chapters and see whether you can attend one of their meetings or playing session.
Obtaining an instrument
The first step towards learning the viol is to obtain an instrument. The VdGSA offers an affordable rental program that will allow you to obtain a viol in no time. Once you are ready to have your own instrument, have a look at our classifieds, where you should find instruments for sale all over the continent, in all sizes and price ranges. If you prefer a new instrument, whether it’s an entry-level or a professional one, you can also contact one of the many instrument makers and dealers who offer instruments in every price range.
Before buying any instrument, make sure you talk to your teacher or a player you trust, who will help you make the right decision for your own needs.
Once you have been a member of the Society for a year, you will also be eligible to apply for our Grants-in-Aid program, which offers financial support that can help you acquire a new instrument or bow.
While not essential, having a good teacher will definitely help you get started on the right foot and progress faster. Our members have access to a directory which includes a list of all teaching members, several of which who also offer online lessons. To help cover the cost of private lessons, the VdGSA has recently introduced the Private Lesson Subsidy program, in an effort to make viol lessons more accessible to everyone.
If you prefer to learn the viol on your own, or if you want to complement the lessons from your private teacher, the Society has produced a series of teaching videos that address a variety of topics, for players of every level. Several of our teaching members also have published method books.
Joining a community of players
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