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Which End of the Bow Should I Hold?

July 9, 2010 at 1:04 PM

Good day too all of you, and thank you for taking the time to come and check out my blog.

My name is Neil Nelson and I have had this little voice (from only god knows where) running rings in the back of my head for a couple of months now, telling me that I should learn to play the Violin. I have been a fan of classical music from my days as a choir boy at my secondary school, sining bass in Antonio Vivaldis' Gloria and Gabriel Faures' Requiem (both fantastic pieces in my opinion for vocalists and instrumentalists(?)) And have had a healthy appetite for everything from Tocata et Fuga en Rah Menor to Le Quatro Stagioni (I know most of my limited Italian from learning what song names translate into).

So, having recently returned from a deployment (I am in the Royal Navy) and had a good while to mull the idea over in my head, I went to a recently opened music shop in Portsmouth where I am based, and purchased my first violin, a Stentor Student ST 4/4.

I also purchased a Korg chromatic tuner, a tourte style mute (I live in close proximity with a lot of people, some of whom do not appreciate screetching strings) and some literature to get me started, including:

Eta Cohen's Violin Method, Student's Book 1.

Abracadabra Violin (third edition) complete with two CD's to play along with.

First Steps in Music theory, Grades 1 to 5 by Eric Taylor (ABRSM)

And a few more pieces I will list at the end of the post.

I have had the Violin since Tuesday, and have tried to get a couple of hours in each day, it is now Friday and I can meander my way through Twinkle Twinkle (hopfully soon to be followed by Frere Jaques and Oh When the Saints) As well as a scale on the G and D strings. I need more practice with my finger positioning as I can tell even without the tuner that I'm much better at flats and sharps than hitting naturals at the moment, but as I said, practice practice and practice some more :)

I'm really enjoying playing so far and even the really simple songs that use a couple of open strings in Abracadabra are a pleasure to play at the moment, and I can;t wait to move onto things like Ode to Joy, We All Stand Together and What Shall we do with the Drunken Sailor (of course)

It appears that it's against the grain to pick up a violin at 23 but hey, I'm sincerely looking forward to advancing in ability, and sharing my experiences here with you as I do so. Thanks again for reading :)

Other Literature;-

SEVCIK Violin Studies, Opus 1 part 1 and 2.

"Tipbook" Violin and Viola, hugo Pinksterboer.

Basics by Simon Fischer.

From Tom Holzman
Posted on July 9, 2010 at 3:39 PM

No time is the wrong time to start.  Welcome to our world.  It looks like you have acquired the basics.  What you probably should acquire now is a teacher.  You are likely to progress much more quickly and not develop bad habits with a teacher.  Good luck and have fun.

From Julian Stokes
Posted on July 9, 2010 at 4:44 PM

I would second that you should get a teacher. Having someone to start you off on the right foot and able to see mistakes that you don't even notice will save much time (and tears).

From Pauline Lerner
Posted on July 10, 2010 at 9:03 AM

I agree strongly with the previous two commentors.  Get a teacher!  This is especially important when you are beginning because you need to learn a lot of postures and muscle movements that you do not use in every day life.  You should have weekly lessons so that your teacher can watch you and make corrections as needed.  Without the feedback from a teacher, you will learn bad habits which you will have to unlearn later.  The violin is really a very technical instrument, and intuition and enthusiasm won't teach you technique.

Welcome to the world of violinists in general and especially to  I wish you luck in your studies, and I will be very interested in reading about them.


From Alison Daurio
Posted on July 10, 2010 at 11:55 AM

Why is it against the grain? :) No one ever designated a right or wrong time to start to follow a dream. I picked up the violin (seriously anyway, I had one as a kid, but could care less about it *then*) at 21, the viola at 23. There are many adult beginners on this site, and plenty of helpful professionals/teachers to offer you advice. Good luck and welcome!

From Marsha Weaver
Posted on July 10, 2010 at 12:45 PM

Welcome aboard, Neil!

Hey, you're still a "puppy" in terms of beginning age for violin.  I'm just starting out at age 60, and I know there are lots of beginners older than me.

Just a few words of agreement with those who've recommended finding a teacher -- I spent five months trying to teach myself.  I could already read music, so I figured I'd "eliminate the middle man" and be able to learn what I needed to know through careful reading and practice.  What I didn't take into account, though, is how easy it is to pick up bad habits that will either slow your progress or potentially cause actual physical injury.  So I've jumped enthusiastically on the "Get a Teacher" bandwagon.  The guidance and feedback are more than worth the price!!!

Enjoy your violin, and thanks for your service to your country!

Best regards,



From Neil Nelson
Posted on July 11, 2010 at 4:50 PM

Thanks for the replies, support and ideas boys and girls. I have now sent e-mails to four instructors in (more or less) my current area, just waiting to hear back from them.

As you can see in my more recent blog entries I'm thoroughly enjoying my playing so far, and have noticed/felt some things that certaintly seem strange / wrong. Slowly falling in love with my violin though. Can't wait to play well enough to do it justice.

From Dale Forguson
Posted on July 12, 2010 at 12:52 AM


I'll second Marsha. I'm 56 with no prior musical experience to speak of. Just starting myself and having lots of fun with it. I also thought of going it alone but luckily I joined "Adult Starters - Violin/fiddle" on Facebook. The group actually formed from a discussion here on v-com. I was strongly encouraged to find an instructor by the other group members. The best thanks I can give them is to pass their advice along to you along with an invitation to join our group.

 - Dale

From Kim Vawter
Posted on July 12, 2010 at 5:06 PM

 Ha, ha! What joy! I am so excited for you! 

Before I read all the comments, my first thought was for you to treat  yourself to a good teacher.  Like visiting an exotic world location. It would be much more enjoyable to know the language and to hire a guide. 

As an adult beginner, I asked the best violinist that I knew if he would consent to teach me and he said yes. It was the best present I ever game myself. He had a beautiful technique and I wanter to make my violin sound like his so I tried to listen to and practice everything he suggested. A good teacher can diagnose what it is that you need to improve your skill. He or she can watch you and tell you what can help. No book or on-line instructions can take the place of a good teacher.

Enjoy the ride and write often.  

...and one more thing. I am a fan of Gabriel Faures. I have been working on "Apres un Reve" for several years. Josh Bell has it on his CD "Voices of the Violin" #4. I also downloaded the "Pavane" sheet music for violin and piano. My personal favorites to play outside of my lesson assignments.

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