Getting started with lessons at Open Strings:

Step 1. Please read all information carefully, including Scheduling/Tuition and rules.

Step 2. Fill out and send the online Lesson Application form. Be as complete as possible, including questions or concerns.

Step 3. We can then follow up by email or phone and make sure all of your questions are satisfactorily answered.

Step 4. When you wish to begin lessons, you can choose, from currently available lesson times, a time that will work well for you as a designated and exclusive appointment each week.

Step 5. We mutually confirm your lesson schedule, and move forward to lessons.


Lessons are scheduled and billed by the calendar month, in a framework of ongoing, once-a-week, half-hour appointments. Monthly tuition, due the first lesson of each month, covers all lessons offered in the month at your chosen day and time each week. There are no deductions from monthly tuition for scheduled lessons missed by a student. Standard holidays are excepted. Any scheduled lesson not given by the teacher entitles you to a one-lesson credit.

Standard tuition: $120/ month (4 lessons @ $30 per lesson) due the first lesson of the month. Make checks payable to Jim Hurley. Standard tuition applies for a four-week, four-lesson calendar month. If there are more or less than four lessons offered at your day and time in a given calendar month, the fee is adjusted proportionally.

Not offered: Alternating-week or variable-time plans, make-up lessons for missed appointments, 'holding' lesson spaces without payment during an absence, or other alternative scheduling models. During Summer months (June, July, August) flexible scheduling is available.

Studio Rules:

Open Strings Music Studio is designed to be a safe, comfortable and reasonably well-organized learning environment. An understanding of the rules by all is essential to achieving this goal. Your cooperation is appreciated.

Your scheduled lesson time is exclusively yours; each lesson begins and ends promptly. To get the best, and the most, from your music lessons, please be prepared and on time. Lessons are scheduled back-to-back, with no spaces in between; please be considerate of your fellow students by not interrupting the student before you, or delaying the student following you. There are comfortable outdoor and indoor waiting areas for your convenience.

Parents are welcome and encouraged to attend and observe their children's lessons. Siblings and friends are welcome, too, with a parent in attendance. Toddler siblings are welcome guests, but must be kept under very, very close physical supervision by a parent at all times. The studio and premises are not 'toddler-proof'.

Kids with special needs are very welcome at Open Strings. Please communicate the nature of these needs clearly and completely, and all means will be employed to assist them.

No 'child care' services are offered. Additional kids may not be dropped off with a student and picked up later. No supervision is available for students dropped off early or picked up late from lessons. Please be prompt and timely with drop-offs and pick-ups of young students.

No 'drop-ins'. Lessons are by appointment only, and lessons in session will not be interrupted for unexpected visitors. Please contact by phone or email first.

Aggressive, disorderly or unsafe behavior will not be tolerated and will result in dismissal.

No Fast Food! Please leave Big Gulps, Happy Meals, Slurpees and other fast food items, and their waste, somewhere else! Bottled water is always available to students, parents and siblings during lesson times.

No parking in the driveway, which is shared with a neighbor; there is abundant curbside parking in the immediate vicinity.

Lesson Essentials:

Your Instrument:

You need a functional violin, guitar, or other instrument to learn to play music. Open Strings Music Studio does not sell or rent instruments or other merchandise. There are reputable local sources for music instruments and supplies. Instruments from private parties on E-bay, Craigslist and other online sources frequently don't meet acceptable standards of quality and playability. If you are not sure, the instrument should be referred to a qualified luthier for inspection, and if needed, repair.

Your Binder:

You will get lots of 8 1/2 x 11 music handouts. A sturdy 3-ring hard cover binder that opens flat is ideal for managing your collection. Clear plastic sheet protectors, (economy weight, non-glare) available at any office supply store, are recommended to hold each page, as well; punching holes in the music is a less durable option. Please bring your music with you to lessons, especially if it includes current personal notes. There are reference binders available if you forget, though, and lost music can easily be replaced.

Recommended accessories:

Electronic Tuner:

Highly recommended; there are a wide variety to choose from; violinists should choose an "automatic/chromatic" model, rather than a "guitar/bass" model. There are tuner 'apps', as well, for your smart phone.


An inexpensive voice memo recorder can be an invaluable aid to learning and remembering music. Your smart phone, again, can probably do the job. These days, video, too, is an option.

Music Stand:

If you lay sheet music on your desk or coffee table and try to play from it, you will wind up with a sore neck. Basic music stands are cheap, readily available, and make reading music much more comfortable.

Recommended for Violinists:

When you buy or rent a violin, it normally comes with a case, bow, rosin and, of course, strings. It is sometimes helpful or necessary to replace or upgrade these parts and accessories.

A functional bow is essential. Carbon fiber bows are best these days, in most price ranges. Fiberglass bows are the cheapest; they are durable and totally adequate for beginners. Inexpensive wood bows are the poorest choice, especially for kids; among other reasons, they are flimsy, break easily, and do not age well.

Bow hair is routinely replaced, at intervals of a few years, or when it becomes sparse. The same horse hair is used to re-hair a $35 "Glasser" fiberglass bow, or a $5,000 Pernambuco masterpiece. A reasonably knowledgeable craftsman can do the job. Still, the labor cost of this repair can easily exceed the replacement cost of an inexpensive bow...

Rosin is essential, very cheap, and can last for years. Made from pine pitch, if dropped on a hard floor it will shatter and make a mess of sticky dust. You just buy another inexpensive cake, and vacuum up the mess; isopropyl alcohol will remove any remaining sticky stuff.

It's the simplest stuff of all. Expensive rosin is a joke, especially when gold or silver flakes are added to the recipe. Don't be fooled...

Synthetic strings, which have pretty much replaced those made of sheep's gut, are highly recommended; Pirastro Tonica are superb student strings at a moderate price. Industry standard Thomastic Dominant strings earned their market share fairly, but are now over-priced. Pirastro's Obligato and Evah Pirazzi strings are amazingly powerful, nuanced and responsive, but amazingly expensive, as well. Thomastic Peter Infeld strings, boasting semi-precious materials, have raised the price bar even further. Even the cheapest synthetic strings, though, are better than all but the best gut or steel strings.

For young students playing on smaller, inexpensive instruments, inexpensive steel strings are OK, even the old, bottom-of-the-barrel, ironically-branded "Super-Sensitive" Red Label variety. For high-end steel strings, which many players prefer, you might try Thomastic Spirocore, or D'Addario Helicore. And there are a great many more choices, as well.

Strings made from sheep's gut are certainly still available, including some modern, and quite expensive, artisanal creations. Damien Dlugolecki speaks for his fellow elite string-makers: "A fine violin is merely an amplifier for a superb set of strings"...

A shoulder rest is usually required for the player's comfort; the newly-engineered Everest is comfortable and secure, and half the price of the slightly inferior Kun, which has been the standard brand for some time.

All violins should have fine tuners on all four strings! Tuning with the wooden pegs alone is difficult, imprecise, and serves no useful purpose at all. Unfortunately, the discarding of the fine tuners is considered by some in the violin teaching world to be a 'coming-of-age' ritual, likened to the removal of training wheels from a bicycle. It is really more like the removal of the bicycle's gear shifting mechanism.

An integrated fine-tuning tailpiece is a smart choice; Wittner is good; Otto Infeld is excellent; and there are other choices, as well.

Recommended for Guitarists:

A hard case or lightweight 'gig bag' is helpful, especially when it rains.

A strap to hold the guitar in a comfortable playing position is advisable. This may require the installation of a strap button or two, a simple procedure.

Strings should be changed at least yearly; twice a year is better; once a month is not unheard of. Extra light gauge strings (.010" high 'E') are most comfortable and easily playable for students with steel-string instruments. New cheap strings sound and play better than old expensive strings. There are dozens of brands and types to choose from.

Picks are inexpensive and available in a wide variety of shapes, sizes and materials. They get lost easily; it is best to have at least a few!

A capo is a useful gadget to have if you play with singers, and enables quick and easy transposition of any song to a singer's key. There are several types, and most are fairly cheap.