Starting the violin

January 26, 2007 at 07:47 AM · What are some of the things one can expect when starting the violin? What's the learning curve like?

Replies (21)

January 26, 2007 at 05:37 PM · Could you background the student first please?

January 26, 2007 at 06:07 PM · I think that if it's taught properly, the first couple of years go rather slowly because there are so many fundamentals to work out. Good habits must be enforced from the beginning. If this is done, then the rate of progress will be much quicker further down the road.

But even within this concept, I see students progress at all different rates, according to their level of self-discipline, their ability to follow instructions, and their natural musical ability.

January 26, 2007 at 08:05 PM · I think Emily hit the main points. I would only add without knowing more,that those first 2 years are a 'huge' investment of patience and focus for musicians and non-musicians alike.

I think I'm trying to say, it's not so much the learning curve, it's the 'doing' curve that is not always so easy. Compounded by the fact that it's not like on piano where one has four or five complementing and contrasting machines to master; but, at least eight to ten physical coordination machines, overlaid with an equal number of subtle and delicate techniques.

So in the spirit of what Emily said, one should not underestimate the importance of those first couple years....

January 27, 2007 at 03:30 AM · Thank you to all who answered my questions. To answer Alberts question...the student is me. I've always wanted to take violin. I do have a musical background in piano, vioce and percussion. My grandfather was a self taught violinist and played for 50 years. I'm 42 and just starting out. I know getting a good violin is very important. I've heard stories from people who started and quit because they had a real cheap violin they could'nt get a sound out of. Others quit because their expectations were way too high.

January 27, 2007 at 03:53 AM · Do you know someone whose recommendation you would trust? I think the most important thing that will affect your success will be your choice of teacher, and you really can't tell just by looking in the paper. You need to find someone who knows violin and can point you to the best teacher in your area. Don't skimp on that. They will push you forward much more quickly than if you were to try it on your own.

January 27, 2007 at 04:45 AM · Yes! A teacher... Ditto.

And worth repeating--two years of the most humbling tiny steps--that have to be taken. This is a major pitfall for musicans. I'm not saying don't cheat and experiment--you wouldn't be a musician if you didn't, but muster every bit of discipline you can to stick to your program and skip as many diversions as you can.

What are your general approach plans like?

January 27, 2007 at 11:00 AM · My first approach is to find a teacher. Actually, theres a violin teacher right around the corner from me. I met him a few weeks ago and he showed me a few things about the violin. He seems nice but strict which I don't mind at all. I think my previous musical background will help me. I've already started figuring out where the notes are. I also think I'm at an advantage because I have large fingers. I'm really looking forward to this journey.

January 29, 2007 at 01:28 AM · I just started the violin a little over a year ago at the age of 42 and I'm really enjoying it. Well, most the time anyway. When she saw how much fun I was having, my wife started the viola. Now, my 8-year-old son wants to start the cello next year and his 5-year-old sister will probably start the the violin in a couple of years.

Yes, the learning curve is steep, but if you're humble and dedicated, and you have a good teacher, you can learn a lot in a year. I played alongside a 5th grader at my church's Nativity Pageant this past Christmas.

One of the difficult first steps is overcoming the intimidation you may feel when going to a luthier. If you're lucky like I was, your local violin shop will be helpful and supportive, as long as you tell them you're a beginner and you give them a price range. Your teacher may be able to help you with this.

I rented a violin for the first 2 months, but quickly grew tired of its shrill sound. I then bought a good beginner Romanian violin for about $400. That lasted for about 6 months until before I found a beat-up early 19th century Saxon fiddle which has a wonderful sound. At my playing level, the Romanian violin served me well, but I couldn't resist the old Saxon. It's now my most prized possession.

Just remember, it can be hard work, but it's also great fun. Good luck!

January 30, 2007 at 03:58 AM · Thanks for you insight Robert. I really appreciate it. I was lucky enough to find someone who helped me pick out a violin. Actually I was sent one from Kennedy Violins. It wasn't expensive and I was honest in telling them I was a beginner. When I got the violin, it was professionally set up with good strings and a wood bow. I was also told that in any event I didn't like it for any reason I could sent if back and they would work with me to find a violin that suited me or they would give me a full refund. Needless to say I kept it. I actually brought it to my teacher who was very surprised at how well it played for a student violin.

January 30, 2007 at 06:35 AM · Robert,

A teacher to show you good technique from the start is great. Having to show up at a lesson each week should also motivate you to practice. I'd recommend "First Lessons" by Craig Duncan, a Mel Bay publication as a good beginner book.

(I'm 50 and started violin 7 months ago.)

Also, if you're at all like me, you can expect quite a bit of frustration just trying to learn to hold the darn thing! That will pass as you sort out the chin rest (I've tried 5)and shoulder rest (I've tried 3) that fit you.

January 30, 2007 at 06:49 AM · Robert - I'll give you a working person's analogy for learning violin as an adult (think Dilbert):

You walk into a meeting. Your boss says that they want the software to do all these amazing things. You go back to your desk and start coding like mad. You bring your wonderful new software back to the meeting. The boss looks at and says "That's pretty good, but not exactly I wanted. WhatI meant was this..". So you go back and modify the code. After months and months going back and forth, the boss is finally happy with what you presented. Then feature creep sets in. Now the boss wants some more fancy automation. After a few months, that part is done. Then comes the GUI improvements, then interfaces, and so on. You buy books on different programming languages, take classes, work with others in your department trying to get your code perfect. The code is NEVER done! But, if you are a software geek you love it all.

Eventually your code makes it through Alpha testing, then Beta testing. Someday it may actually go to market, and get up to version 4.0! Maybe it will last so long that it might actually become... obsolete! Maybe at version 10.0.

THAT is what it is like learning violin (or viola) as an adult. :)

February 4, 2007 at 11:14 PM · Despite all the differences between different beginners and the vast and unsuspected coordinations that are learned and developed simultaneously from earliest lessons until forever, I find pretty consistently that in a few months a beginning violinist can play a few melodies. At least give three or four months of earnest attention and effort before despair. It can take that long for ten subconsciously brewing components to suddenly 'gel' and pleasing or recognizable sound to emerge. Of course, with good background or talent or sometimes great zeal, learning can get results MUCH more quickly. But there's always some humbling plateau atop any dramatic early progress. Good teaching should help to keep things rolling! Good luck!

February 5, 2007 at 12:02 AM · Greetings,

if the first lesosns are devoted to scrupulous postion work and relaxtion one can learn to play, in my experience , a substantila amount of music. I have a 35 yera old stduent who has been with me for 8 months and is halfway through the Doflein book 2 playing duets by Bartok et al as well as the usual folk tunes as well as haivng nearly completed the first Wolfart book.

I think the crucial factors were/are 1)I never let a stduent asuume that it is okay to p@roduce a bad sound in the beginning. The tasks and exericses I give are never so difficult that that will occur and the moment it does we stop and look at what is happening. 2) I never let studnets think they can go along with the popular notion that one begins playing out of tune and slowly learns to play in tune. I have found that applying the Milstein adage that `intonation is like being pregnant-you eithe r are or you are not` is a s applicable for a rank beginner a sa profesisonal. This means that a students ability to produce the intonation vocally must be created first. Generlaly it is present. The worst thing one can do is immediateley start with the isntrument, taking a foul note as a start point and allowing the studnet to create mental constructs of sound in that order.

3) Left and right hand problems are separted so that before combinig the studnet is very comfortable using a whole bow and half bow in various combinations.



February 5, 2007 at 12:03 AM · Mendy’s analogy is a good one. I certainly feel that way a lot, especially with my current teacher who has high expectation of me and won’t let me get away with anything. This is probably another thing to keep in mind that, as an adult, it may be a good thing to have a ‘tough love’ type of teacher to push you hard, if you are up to challenge and generally feel good about yourself.

Playing violin well is very hard. Period. But if you are the type of person who tends to be energized by challenges, then I’ll say violin is for you no matter what others say. If on the other hand you just want to play some tunes or to be able to entertain your friends with your instrument, don’t bother with violin because there are tons of other instruments you can pick up to let you do just that a lot sooner. I won’t name them in fear of offending others.

To me, playing violin is somewhat like rock-climbing in that every step you take has to be carefully thought out and executed, and get to the top is a very attractive goal but not really the point, as there are a lot more much easier ways to go up to the top of a cliff than climbing it. Playing violin is like doing philosophy in that you are constantly examining yourself who you are, what you are doing and why you are doing it. Playing violin is also extremely therapeutic for the similar reason.

Robert, I hope you are having fun with violin so far and visit this site often.

February 5, 2007 at 01:49 AM · "`intonation is like being pregnant-you eithe r are or you are not`" This reminds me that my teacher hateas it when I utter the word "good enough". She would shout "don't say that! It's meaningless!" Intonation is like the word 'true'. It's either true that something is the case or not. "True enough" or "truer" are meaningless.

February 10, 2007 at 04:16 AM · Except that different temperaments and tunings (which in fact all violinists exploit at least sometimes) make "in tune" not quite such a digital, logical concept or judgment.

True, false, and meaningless are not exhaustive...

And even even logic isn't digital. Just ask India (multi-valent) or China (fuzzy).....


Since philosophizing on the rock face is good (I agree-- and I love your comparisons with rock-climbing and philosophy, Yixi...)

February 11, 2007 at 06:20 AM · Agreed. True, false, and meaningless are not exhaustive, but they are necessary concepts for clarity in thinking and intellectual integrity.

February 11, 2007 at 07:15 AM · Get a teacher. I didn't, and it'll really show. I've been playing for 11 years now, and I sound like I've been playing for 2. My sound didn't really open up until I started receiving lessons (at year 10!). Violin's not for everyone, I've had many friends, some who even enjoy classical, hate playing the violin.

February 11, 2007 at 07:54 AM · Robert, I wish you were in the City. I would love to have you as a student.

There's nothing as refreshing as an adult beginner who has a real yen for learning the violin.


February 11, 2007 at 07:54 AM · Robert, I wish you were in the City. I would love to have you as a student.

There's nothing as refreshing as an adult beginner who has a real yen for learning the violin.


February 11, 2007 at 07:54 AM · Robert, I wish you were in the City. I would love to have you as a student.

There's nothing as refreshing as an adult beginner who has a real yen for learning the violin.


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