How long should it take to play Vivaldi violin concerto in a minor-1st movement, almost flawlessly?

Edited: December 18, 2017, 5:36 AM · I have been playing the violin for a little over two years, and am currently working on Vivaldi's violin concerto in a minor-1st movement. I have started working on it about two weeks ago but realised that I wasn't making any drastic improvements over those two weeks. If I normally practice around 2 hours each day, how long should it take to be able to play this piece almost flawlessly?

Replies (27)

December 18, 2017, 1:44 AM · This piece can be done by Asian method within a year, I have seen four-year old kid playing this, but normally it will cost about two years to
December 18, 2017, 2:12 AM · What is the "Asian method"? Do you mean Suzuki?

If you're not improving, work out how to solve each problem in the piece. Otherwise it will stay this way for the next 10 years. Learning how to practise properly is the most valuable thing anyone can do.

Edited: December 18, 2017, 5:22 AM · This post says that the OP has been playing a little over a year. In another post, he says "I have started playing the violin about two years ago, and from then I have always wanted to play the violin for a living." And in yet another post he says that he wiped down his violin with baby wipes. Notice also he does not come back to the discussion stemming from his posts. Sorry for being cynical, but I'm starting to get the feeling that we have someone here who knows how to write (fake) posts that will generate lots of "discussion" (i.e., argument) among our membership.

To answer your "question", if the Vivaldi A Minor is the right piece for you, i.e., if you were at the right level to start it in the first place, then it shouldn't take more than a few weeks if you are practicing as much as you say (and doing it properly).

December 18, 2017, 5:32 AM · At least they're interesting posts that don't seem deliberately troll-ish. Even if he never comes back to the thread, each contains good discussion. :-)
December 18, 2017, 5:36 AM · Oops, my bad for saying that it's been a little over a year. What I meant was "I have been playing the violin for a little over two years". Thanks for finding it out though. Also, I am fairly new to Violinist.com so bear with me not being so willing to reply and come back to discussions. :/
December 18, 2017, 7:41 AM · Have you been working through the Suzuki books?
In my experience as a teacher, Vivaldi a-minor is the first piece in the Suzuki violin repertoire that is very difficult to learn if a student has poor practice habits (either doesn't practice enough, or doesn't use proper practice techniques). Most of the music up until then can usually be gotten through even if students are still more or less using the beginner practice mindset of "Play though over and over, then go back and "fix" any mistakes." There is so much that is difficult about the Vivaldi that it really becomes necessary to use better practice techniques: breaking into small sections, practicing the 16th note passages with different bowing and rhythms, isolating the martele 8th notes, working up to tempo slowly with the metronome, etc. Of course these techniques can and should be used earlier, but students can get away with a lot up until this point. If you are struggling, ask your teacher to help you learn to practice better and make sure you follow their advice, not just once, but every time you practice.
Edited: December 18, 2017, 8:07 AM · There is no "should" about this. Each person comes into the ability to play different things in their own time after appropriate preparation.

When I was teaching adults I expected them to learn to sight read music from the start (or at least to fake it so I could not tell the difference). In that case I would expect them to be able to learn a piece by the next (weekly) lesson - maybe two weeks for this movement. By "learn" I mean be able to play it from the music - I did not require anyone to memorize, nor did I test for memorization.

The "secret" to learning to play this concerto that quickly is to have learned to play everything in the previous Suzuki lineup at an adequate level.

I taught from the older Suzuki books so I had no use for the contrarian bowings therein of the Vivald A minor and I used a different edition for that. I don't know how it is bowed in the newer Suzuki edition.

Anne Akaiko Meyers was 6 years old when she soloed this entire concerto with our community orchestra. Her performance was not only flawless, but you could tell she had this incredible bow arm which has continued to serve her well ( https://anneakikomeyers.com ) . She performed with us twice more - the Bach double concerto the next year, and the Mendelssohn Concerto when she was 12, after she had performed it with the Los Angeles Philharmonic. Her first teacher was our orchestra's principal violist (and the violist in my weekly string quartet) and the founder and leader of the city's Suzuki school.

December 18, 2017, 7:43 AM · It really depends on what you call "flawlessly". If this is your first "real" concerto and you're clearly below the level it takes to do it easily, it's going to take you more than a year to start dominating it. Of course, if you already play very well the violin, then you're not gonna learn a lot out if this concerto. I think this is one of the firsts "real" concertos beginners learn, so they normally don't know how to do vibrato very well, neither staccato, they have intonation problems, there are 2 parts of tough legatos where it's really difficult to make a balanced and constant sound, etc...
Edited: December 18, 2017, 10:11 AM · It may not be particularly relevant to this discussion, but the eminent soloist and teacher Simon Fischer mentioned in a recent blog (http://www.violinist.com/blog/simonfischer/201712/23553/) that some years ago he took 90 hours spread over 3 months to prepare the Tchaikovsky concerto for a special performance. This was someone who was
already an established soloist and had previously performed that concerto a few times. I'd guess that someone at intermediate level learning the 1st movement of the Vivaldi A minor (it's in the Suzuki course) under the guidance of a good teacher would take at least 90 hours to get it to some sort of performance level.

As an afterthought, some might think it would be better to work on that concerto from an Urtext edition rather use the slightly idiosyncratic bowings and fingerings in the Suzuki book - depends on the individual and their teacher, of course, but it's what I did.

December 18, 2017, 8:54 AM · Why "almost flawlessly?"
Do you have low standards for yourself?
December 18, 2017, 9:57 AM · Brian, I think you need a really solid base of technique to play almost any nontrivial piece truly flawlessly. The piece itself is a red herring.
December 18, 2017, 10:35 AM · "I have started working on it about two weeks ago but realised that I wasn't making any drastic improvements over those two weeks."

The answer to this question is obviously that it's not just a matter of time spent but what it takes in technique and for addressing the technical gaps which this may expose, as with any other piece. I would expect a professional to be able to sight-read this piece and to be be able to play it well with less than a day of practice. A student could take anywhere from that to four years or more -- going by its appearance in the RCM repertoire at grade 4 (as well as Suzuki book 4).

December 18, 2017, 12:43 PM · The short answer is, it varies from person to person depending on abilities, guidance and study habits.
December 18, 2017, 2:35 PM · Andrew Victor,
i like your last post,especially the story about Anne Akiko Meyers.
December 18, 2017, 7:21 PM · Yeah, I am using the Suzuki method, and I guess this is my first "real" concerto if you don't really count Seitz concertos as "real".
December 19, 2017, 7:08 AM · I have been playing for two and a half years. I could probably work on this piece and get it to sound "good" with a lot of work and not focusing on too much else...but why? I have so much technique to work on and so many other pieces that are fun and amazing and beautiful that I could play and I have many, many technical things to work. Why skip that so that I can say I played a concerto when in a few years of more technical study I will be able to sight read this piece and play it much better with the same amount of work I would put in now?

December 19, 2017, 7:17 AM · Jeff, Thanks - I like it too. For some reason I was not playing with that orchestra (even though I was the CM) for Annie's first two performances (probably had work travel commitments) but I did see, either the weekend concerts or the dress rehearsals (can't recall which). But I was the CM when she played the Mendelssohn with us - so I had the best seat in the house! She was still pretty small, but the thought that entered my mind at the dress rehearsal and performance were "BIG TIME!" She was amazing!

I have followed her career (and violin acquisitions) all these years and have bought all her recordings.

Edited: December 19, 2017, 8:54 AM · Scott I interpreted "almost flawlessly" as a sign of reasonable humility. The likelihood that a student for whom the Vivali concerto is appropriate will play it as well as a top professional soloist would seems unlikely. And had he said "flawlessly" instead of "almost flawlessly" probably even more people would be picking on him for that too.
December 19, 2017, 10:44 AM · I think a phrase such as "to the best of my ability" or "as well as I can" covers the eventualities without causing unwanted feedback. Anyway, there's no such thing as a "flawless" performance if you dig deep enough!
December 19, 2017, 3:44 PM · Well, I can already play the Bruch concerto as well as I can (i.e., the first line of the prelude. Kind of.) :-)
Edited: December 20, 2017, 3:44 PM · Is this the one that goes “mi la la lA LA LA DOTI LA DOTI LA”?

I remember it being one of my favorites to work on, aside from Veracini Sonata.

What exactly do you mean “drastic” improvements? I don’t think anyone really makes “drastic” improvements, most are steady. Do you mean you aren’t able to play notes as accurately as you would like, or that you can’t get it to sound like the music you would like for it to sound?

If you mean the notes, precise and proper slow practice usually helps. I don’t remember there being too many runs in the piece, so I didn’t do any rhythm practices.

The reason I really liked working on it was because that was the piece I learned to properly use vibrato, to convey increasing intensity by finding the right frequency and width. That part comes from understanding the phrase and where each note is headed. I used to sometimes sing it out to figure out where the breaths are supposed to be, and that helped pretty well (because you’re supposed to breathe, anyway).

I don’t exactly recall how long it took me, but I think I spent close to three weeks to milk out all I could.

—I think it sounded pretty decent, but I don’t think sounding almost flawless and having learnt all you could are always mutual. I don’t think people play Suzuki to expand their repertoire either, but rather to pick up skills you will need in the future in exploring other literature, which is why I also am hesitant to say you should sound almost flawless to move on. Just learn what you can to the maximum and use it as a learning tool.

December 22, 2017, 1:28 PM · My take... You may be able to play each notes relatively in tune and tempo in a matter of weeks to the limit of your current abilities, but after only two years of learning to play the violin, short of being a prodigy, it may take several years to develop your tone and bow control to the point of being able to perform this relatively simple piece to what many would consider “flawlessly”.
December 26, 2017, 9:02 AM · Yes - depends what you call "flawless".
Take any simple piece )technically) and listen to one of the greats play it. There's a lot more than playing it in time and in tune.
Edited: December 26, 2017, 12:38 PM · It seems it's not all that easy to find professional level (or near) video performances of Vivaldi Op 3 No 6 on YouTube (as opposed to professional audio performances). Here are two live performances that I managed to find:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=46w3KOy_ros André Rebacz with the French Chamber Orchestra
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dB9FwOWDWyU performed and directed by Spike Johnston (Baroque violin)

The Rabacz performance is among the quicker I've come across, but is to my ear a little spoiled by an overly resonant, and uneven, acoustic.

Technically, the other performance isn't at the level of the Rebacz, but the acoustic is better.

What I would like to see is a video of a performance by Il Giardino Armonico.

Edited: December 26, 2017, 1:25 PM · I've now found a good performance by Roman Reiner who is also directing The Chamber Orchestra of Cracow Music Academy:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UandrVGCMcI

Roman Reiner is a full professor at the Cracow Music Academy in Poland.

December 26, 2017, 4:06 PM · Brian,

It sounds like you hit a plateau. That is quite normal and the best thing to do is to put it aside for a while, work on something different and then circle back to it later when you can see it with fresh eyes.

As far as flawless playing: that only takes a lifetime. My teacher taught me that: "You will never 'MASTER' music because the minute you think you know it all, music throws you a new challenge." It is the journey that matters most, not the destination.

December 26, 2017, 5:29 PM · In my view "flawless" is about technical mastery. Inherently means 'without flaws' and things like musicality & emotional expression can't really be measured in that way. Obviously you can go beyond that, which is what makes a true master.

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