Steven Albert

Concerto for Beginning Violin and Ear Plugs in G Major, Op. 1

July 11, 2009 06:28

I have been steadily working away for seven weeks now at my violin studies.  While obviously not a vast amount of experience here, I am in a position to have a certain perspective.  To that end, I'd like to share a few observations and encouragements I've learned over my short tenure to those of you teens and adults who have recently taken up the violin.


1.  It is possible to learn to play the violin, daunting as it may seem.

2.  it is possible to learn to play it in tune, once again, daunting as it may seem.

3.  it is possible to get the bow moving in a straight line parallel to the bridge, ditto.

4.  You have to move your left elbow (not the whole arm) as you move from string to string, unless you like the sound of squeaks, squawks and "breathy" tone.  And while you may, it is doubtful that your eventual audience will.  Elbow goes to the left as you ascend, and to the right as you descend. 

5.  Keeping your left hand in proper position, while on the surface seems to run totally contrary to how the human being is constructed, it is not.  Eventually you figure out how it works.  Here's a hint.  Its connected to observation number 4.

6.  Good intonation is much easier when you connect it to observations 4 and 5.

7.  As you move from string to string, bowing, hand position and intonation seem to work like a wheel that pivots around the neck of your violin.  Right elbow up, left elbow in, ... and vice versa.  It moves your left hand along and keeps it in position.  Amazing how much easier it is for finger attack when you realize you're rotating around like this.

8.  Don't worry quite so much about your left thumb ... it seems to go along for the ride without much help (see observation 7).

9.  Use your bow like you mean it!  Tentative little scratches rarely give you a sound that doesn't make you cringe, and it will never sound in tune even if your finger is in the right place.  Right or wrong, play it with confidence, especially when you're not.  You may surprise yourself.

10. Keep a picture in your head of what you should look like as you play ... body erect, wrist out, instrument up.  Look proud.  It really helps to keep everything in proper position.  If you don't see yourself on that inner screen AS a violinist, you'll never BE one.

11.  Hear the next note in your mind before you play it.  Once you hit the wrong note, or one seriously out of tune, its difficult to get the right sound back into your head.  But, if you hear it first, its easy to bring the correct note in line.

12.  Sight reading music, bowing, hand position and intonation.  At this point it only "seems" possible to manage two or three of these at once, without the remaining going out of whack.  I am confident that getting all four are not impossible, daunting as it may seem.

I do realize that there is room for vast improvement on all of the above as I continue my studies.  But, I am here to say that after only 7 weeks, I'm not sounding all that bad at all.  So I'm living proof that it can be done, even at the ripe old age of 48 ... ooops birthday yesterday, 49.  

I hope these observations are valuable to somebody out there.  Needed to get them down on "paper" and maybe encourage others in the process.

Oh I almost forgot Number 13.  HAVE FUN, or why bother doing this at all.



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