Six month review

November 3, 2017, 4:59 AM · Okay. I've been sawing away at this thing since the start of May. I thought I'd reflect on how I'm doing. I'm a former professional musician on another instrument with a graduate degree in music, so I don't need any help reading music, learning theory, or developing an ear. I'm not trying to compare myself to any other beginners out there; just trying to see if I'm going along the correct path.

I'm playing on a rental VSO and have been taking weekly half hour lessons from the start. It was difficult finding a teacher for an adult beginner (particularly because I handicapped myself by not wanting to take lessons at the music school where my wife teaches - that would be too weird). My teacher initially was very hands on about instrument setup, posture, bow hold, etc. As we've gone along he's done less and less of this. I don't know if this is because I'm doing everything more or less correctly or that he's not giving me adequate feedback. He's rather passive but will look at whatever I ask or answer any of my questions. I seem to be progressing, but I wonder if I'll need a new teacher in the not so distant future. My current teacher doesn't seem as demanding as I'm used to.

At six months I've just completed the first volume of Doflein. We've started the second volume as well as the first exercise in Wohlfahrt. Everything so far in first position, keys of E-A-D-G-C-F and e-a-d-g. Nothing beyond basic bow strokes and fingering (no vibrato yet). I practice about 1.5 to 2 hours a day, sometimes taking one day off each week. I warmup with long bow strokes on open strings, then faster bowing exercises, then a few scales, and then the first page of Schradieck (rather slowly). I take a short break every 20-30 minutes or so. I practice with a tuner the first half of my lesson-week (mostly as a sanity check), then rely on my ear for intonation the next few days. Seems to work well for me.

Perhaps because of having already developed a decent ear, my L hand seems to be far ahead of my R. Other than some inconsistency with the third finger, I can play more or less in tune, and my intonation is getting better as I develop more control and muscle memory in my fingers. My bowing, however, still sounds like a beginner. I can draw the bow straight on long tones on open strings in front of the mirror; it's just coordinating that with placing the fingers on my L hand that's a problem. I've asked my teacher to look at this in several lessons. He says I appear to be doing things correctly and just need time to develop control of the bow until it becomes innate.

Does this sound like adequate progress? Should I be expecting more from my teacher, or do most beginners spend their first six months developing control, learning basic music theory like scales and key signatures, etc.? I seem to be sounding better (according to my wife, who is a musician) and I'm still enjoying practicing.

Replies (10)

November 3, 2017, 7:43 AM · Everyone is different. However, you mention that you're playing a VSO. How bad is this violin? An actual VSO can really hamper your development of proper right-hand technique.
November 3, 2017, 8:00 AM · I think you are making a good progress. Don't worry.

I will add one thing, though. The first exercise in Wohlfahrt is about detache strokes. I would practice it at five different parts of the bow, i.e., middle, upper middle, tip, lower middle, and near the frog.

I am an adult student as well, although not a beginner. So take my suggestion with a grain of salt. Saw on!!!

November 3, 2017, 8:13 AM · Lydia,

The violin isn't that bad. It's a Scott Cao 017 model. Sound isn't great and I'm not getting much difference between p and ff, but it stays in tune and doesn't seem to hold me back.

I know we're all different. I'm just wondering about the trajectory of my lessons. For the 3 or 4 my teacher was very proactive in getting me going correctly; since then, not so much. I try to be self-aware and focused when I practice, but I doubt I'm doing everything so well that there's nothing to criticize.

November 3, 2017, 8:17 AM · It sounds to me like you're doing fine if you're starting Vole Fart after six months. I think sometimes teachers don't push adult students very hard. Maybe next lesson just bring a couple of coffees and have a conversation about your progress and your goals and remind your teacher that you want honest assessment and that (s)he does not need to be afraid to push. With a name like Madeye Hobbit you should be able to take it!
November 3, 2017, 8:19 AM · Peter,

The notes for that exercise suggest a variety of articulations (detache, first two notes slurred, etc.) for the exercise. At my current level, I'm just concentrating on a clean bow without squeaks covering all 4 strings while playing C major in tune.

November 3, 2017, 8:52 AM · Given that you've studied music seriously in the past, I think you know what a good music lesson and a good teacher look like.

If you don't think your teacher is demanding enough, ask him to hold you to a higher standard. You are practicing enough, and likely know how to practice effectively, and so you should be making faster than average progress, in all likelihood.

You are much more likely to appreciate the necessity of boring, tedious, exercises, to which you must nevertheless apply maximum mental and physical exercises. This is a discipline that most children, and for that matter other adult beginners, typically lack. You should encourage your teacher to take advantage of this. :-)

November 3, 2017, 10:09 AM · Mad eye - reading your progress and your bio was like looking in the mirror. I’m your exact age and am using the Doflein method. I started it in late March and am in the first few chapters of Doflein book II. I had to take some “sawing” time off because of a non violin related left shoulder injury but it appears we are on the same path. I’m doing Wohlfahrt OP 45 too, currently trying to make No8 sound like it should. You may want to look at the Hrimaly scale studies book, first 10-15 pages are very helpful, at least for me, I’ll be following the responses here very closely.
November 3, 2017, 1:36 PM · Always communicate with your teacher. And if they punish you for communicating, then find a new one.
November 3, 2017, 2:53 PM · Sounds like you are doing a good job and using your time well. A lot of stuff takes time and consistency - You get better and your standards go up and you get better and your standards go up.
Edited: November 3, 2017, 10:27 PM · I m a professional musician as well but on another instrument. Violin is a hobby and i ve been playing for about 13 or 14 months . Everyone is obviously different but i can tell you about my experiences.

I must say that i m currently in a lucky situation in life where i get to practice at the very least 2 hours a day, i usually get 3-4 hours, sometimes up to 6 hours. I hope i can maintain this routine for another few years.

The first few months were brutal. I play without a shoulder rest and with the russian bow hold which is a very bad combination where i live because there is no teacher who can help me with both, here. The reason i play this way is because i was initiated by a friend of mine at the beginning and he taught me this way. Alas we dont live in the same city. The situation is more complex than that but that s the gyst of my story.

I ve been through maybe 4-5 teachers and have finally found one that i think is the best i can find for my unique situation (still not my ideal teacher because he plays with a shoulder rest and insists that even without a shoulder rest i should be able to hold the violin with my shoulder, which to non shloulder rest proponents is absolute nonsense)

First teachers started me with suzuki, within 3 months i was able to do suzuku book 3. Not well but i could get through everything at a passable level meaning ok intonation, zero vibrato, bow not always straight but doesnt sound horrible.

Afterwards, i found a teacher who had big plans for me, and wanted me to work on mozart s 3rd concerto which absolutely made no sense to me because i had only been playing for a few months... i actually managed to learn a decent chunk of it, but obviously couldnt play it to any decent standard,

I then found another teacher that i liked and he devised his own program for me, it was goos, but then he moved to another city.

Then i had a teacher who told me that russian bow hold was dangerous amd that i had to play with shoulder rest because no shoulder rest was dangerous/// i quickly fired him

Then found another teacher who told me he could teach me to play without a shoulder rest, and he told me the secret was to raise my shoulder high , again pure non sense, i never called him back. I know there is a school of no shoulder rest where players raise their shoulders but i have seen people get injured ad they got much older...

So by now i had been playing for 6-7 months. That s when i really started focusing on vibrato. It was extremely frustrating in the beginning, especially without shoulder rest. I was on the verge od quitting because i thought it was gonna be impossible for me. That s how hard it was... in fact if i were to tell u my full story, i did actually quit for a bit!

But anyway, i got inspired again from a violinist friend who really encouraged, and since then I have not stopped practicing 3-6 hours every single day. That was starting in March 2017.

Today, vibrato is still very difficult, but it s come a long way... bowing while obviously not great, is at a level where it doesnt sound like nails on chalboard. My intonation while not perfect is at a level where i can practice in front of people without them wanting to run away!

I am doing 3 octave scales (G to D) and , arpeggios. I am working on the seitz concerto 5th movement to better incorporate vibrato in actual musical situations.

Here s a video of me a month and a half ago, i was playing on my friend s violin and it had a shoulder rest so i was not quite in my element. I was secretly filmed but it was great because it allowed me to see my flaws, notably my pinky being too stiff on my right hand. I have since been working on correcting it. I m improvising on this video since i m a jazz musician:

https://www.facebook.com/denis.chang/posts/10213030403529096

Here s another video of me around the same time

https://www.facebook.com/denis.chang/videos/10213090995683862/

Here s another video of me around the same time teaching college classical musicians how to play jazz (very intimidating to be playing violin in front of classical performance majors in one of canada s most prestigious universities!)

https://www.facebook.com/denis.chang/videos/10213349727631999/


So i hope all this helps u figure out what u want to do! It s been extremely hard and still is but it s my therapy

Ps: forgive my spelling mistakes, it s not easy typing on an ipad!


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