Modern Studying in isolation

February 26, 2008 at 06:01 AM · I have been hired to teach Violin for a school district, it's a great job, wide open opportunity, so I moved to a small town. I have been a performing musician my whole life, as a percussionist. My musicianship and experience is high, but violin is new to me. I am loving it. What are the best resources to learn violin by oneself? Can you recommend certain DVDs, online classes, certain recordings, the best books, etc? While the DVD's and Books for children are good, and I do also want to know the best of those, they are for kids....so, please, suggestions for the fast track to playing violin.

My ear is good, rhythm no problem, I just have a hunch I could progress quicker with good influential materials.

I did see the thread placed by someone who wants to be self taught- most replies were to find a teacher. That's not an option here. It's not that I want to be self-taught, it's that i need to learn fast and well, without a private teacher.

I am presently- practicing in front of a mirror, recording myself, stretching and doing yoga, what else is recommended?

Thanks, Andy

Replies (98)

February 26, 2008 at 12:26 PM · I'm just curious---how fast do you need to learn to play? (how much time have you budgeted for the task?) And what happens if you don't succeed in learning to play within that time?

February 26, 2008 at 12:56 PM · Get a teacher. Seriously.

February 26, 2008 at 01:13 PM · Oh, I don't know, I think he can do it on his own, ten years or so, shouldn't be a problem.

February 26, 2008 at 01:03 PM · First I rant: I never understood the logic of hiring a true professional musician to teach "various" instruments. Oh I had to take those brass & woodwind tech classes when I was doing ed courses, but to this day cannot produce a sound on a trombone. Personally I would rather teach neurosurgery than teach an instrument I can't play. Especially because we'v all seen first hand the damage and problems that this causes to students that want to progress in music but have to spend the rest of their lives UN-learning incorrect technique.

That said I understand your predicament as it is something all music educators are asked to do - teach what we don't know! And it's not just in music. My husband who is an art teacher was asked to teach a freshman algebra class...WHAT?

What you need is a method book with lots of pictures to get started. I would strongly recommend going to observe an experienced string teacher and have an ongoing relationship with him/her as you will be faced with many issues along the way you are not familiar with (tuning, replacing broken strings, bridges out of whack, pegs that are stuck, etc.) You will need constant guidance on how to perform these tedious little things.

You may not want to take lessons but I think it is crucial if you are going to have to constantly demonstrate correct position. Holding the bow is no small feat to accomplish, and even more difficult to explain to a child. Maybe sit in a class as a violin student.

If you ever get a chance to come to NY I would strongly recommend doing a workshop with Roberta Guaspari at Opus 118. Check out the movie that was made about her, "Music From the Heart" she has a very streamlined way of teaching that is really beneficial to teaching beginners in large groups.

February 26, 2008 at 01:40 PM · Andrew,

If you want to be self-taught, you need to have incredible body awareness, a thorough knowledge of violin technique and pedagogy, the ability to hear what you're doing objectively from outside while playing simultaneously, a understanding of physics, anatomy knowledge, patience, independent hands/arms/fingers/brain, a concept of sound and the understanding of how to find and develop it, the ability to break down a problem into its fundamentals and find solutions for them. You need to know what you're looking for in the mirror when you're correcting your posture - and why it may look right but still be dangerous, due to tension and improper use of your body and muscles. You need to have such an incredible concept of what you aim to sound like that it won't matter if there isn't somebody in the room with you who can show you in real time how it can (or should) sound (or look). You need to know how to practice the violin efficiently, and have a concept of how to approach (and conceive of) all these various challenges that present themselves at once.

People who have had good teachers still often get hurt. I don't think yoga can teach you how to use your body for the violin, though it certainly won't harm you.

Still want to learn on your own? I don't recommend it - especially if you're going to be teaching others. If you're determined, start reading and watching everything you can get your hands on - you might have a basic idea of what you're approaching after, oh, a few years.

February 26, 2008 at 02:39 PM · You need at least some minimal contact with a teacher, otherwise you'll be destroying your students and everybody who has to deal with them down the line will think you're stupid and hate you. You do have SOME sense of professional pride and duty, right? So you should try to do this the right way.

Seems like the problem (if I'm reading you right) is that you don't live near a teacher. So how about some sort of "distance learning" arrangement? You could get a web cam and have lessons over the internet with a competent player, for example. You could also do some sort of video exchange via snail mail- tape yourself and send it to a teacher, then the teacher could tape a reply. I know that neither of these ideas is ideal, but at least you could get SOME input from somebody who actually knows how to play violin and can assess what you're doing. The problem with the approach your considering, taping yourself or taking pictures or whatever, is that you don't know what to pay attention to, since you don't know anything about playing the violin. You're liable to miss something important or you might even be misled by what you do notice.

As for the DVDs and books you have being for children, I wouldn't worry about that. Just work through them anyway- play your twinkles, do your baby arpeggios... you know. When I was first learning Spanish, I bought an armload of Spanish children's books and made my wife read them to me! (My poor wife! But it was great practice for our daughter.)My Spanish was helped a lot by that experience, believe it or not.

February 26, 2008 at 03:06 PM · I'm missing something. A school district can hire a person to teach violin, that doesn't know how to play violin? Isn't that like getting the biology teacher to go teach wood shop?

How are students, really, going to learn what it truely means to play an instrument?

Is it just me, or does this sound like a bad thing?

February 26, 2008 at 04:56 PM · "I have been a performing musician my whole life, as a percussionist. My musicianship and experience is high, but violin is new to me."

So am I,and I have been playing instruments with STRINGS on them.It doesn't matter.This thing is EVIL and it will take you forever just to figure out how to rosin the bow.

I just assumed it was a fretless mandolin,so I got my hands on one.After about 3 days,with a chord dictionary,I was able to play it pretty well,BUT I STILL COULDN"T PLAY THE VIOLIN.

You are going to be back to square one nearly every time you pull it out of the case.

I understand why you don't want to, or can't get a teacher (I am considered a musical version of a soccer lout around here,that's why I can't get one)but unless you do something,it ain't gonna work.............

February 26, 2008 at 06:21 PM · I think that the ability to teach is most important. You must understand all the subtle mechanics of playing the violin to a greater degree than a performer who does not teach, but besides this knowledge you still have to have teaching skills. Just because someone can do something doesn't mean that that person can teach anyone else how to do it. If you are not absolutely confident in your ability to both play and teach then you shouldn't. Too many people have been damaged in too many ways by incompetent teaching. In my opinion beginners should have the best, most experienced teachers. Why do people think that it is somehow easy to teach a beginner? All that happens is that the student makes slow progress for a year or two then either quits out of frustration or goes to a real teacher who then has to spend several more years just trying to undo the damage to posture, left hand, right hand, balance and psyche.

February 27, 2008 at 03:57 PM · Dear participants in this thread,,

I appreciate the response so far, it's kind of you to take the time to respond to this query.

I am confident in my teaching, and I have worked with and around great violinists my whole life. I know the basics. I am holding the bow well, my posture is good. I have, and will, take coachings whenever I can. I know what is a good sound, and can hear what needs work when recording myself.

No one yet has given a specific source from which to learn at a distance, except for the source in NY and their video (i will get that).

So, I ask again, what are the best sources for improving oneself? Not philosophy worrying that what I'm doing is a mistake, nor advice to "get a teacher". Are there any- books in particular, DVD's, internet sites?

Thanks very much,

with good cheer,

Andy

February 27, 2008 at 04:01 PM · try any YouTube

by Ben Chan

February 27, 2008 at 04:30 PM · Get yourself Basics and Practice by Simon Fischer.

February 27, 2008 at 06:16 PM · Andy, I also made some suggestions. One- take lessons via the internet. Two- work through some of the DVD's and method books for children, even if they seem stupid for an adult. You just mentioned Marina's suggestion because she's prettier...

Here are a couple more suggestions for what they're worth- Go through Kurt Sassmanshaus's site ( I think it's http://www.violinmasterclass.com/)and check out the masterclasses he has online for basic techniques (and not so basic techniques too).

Also you should be doing some reading about teaching violin, if you haven't already. Books such as Suzuki's "Nurtured by Love", and "To Learn With Love: A Companion for Suzuki" by Constance Starr are good places to start for early childhood stuff.

There are many beginning method books for orchestra- you should get one copy of each of the most popular (such as "String Builder" by Samuel Applebaum, or "Strictly Strings" or even "String Explorer") not just to evaluate them for your students, but to help you frame and organize your own violin study. Once you choose one, get the teacher edition too. They're mostly "quick and dirty" but you'll be able to piece together some technique using them, and with a minimum of input.

Also, Marina made a great suggestion about getting the movie called "Music from the Heart" about Roberta Guasperi. There are actually TWO movies, or rather one movie from Hollywood, and one documentary. Get both and read the book too.

So, now that I've given you some hopefully helpful advice, please tell us now why can't you study with a teacher. Did you murder the only other violinist in town or something? Just wondering...

February 27, 2008 at 06:39 PM · Howard I think you're just as pretty.

I begrudgingly use All For Strings for group classes but all the different books have their own negative aspects so I use them as supplemental material. Your best bet is to get ALL the beginner method books and try to piece together your own approach by using them as a guideline.

February 27, 2008 at 06:45 PM · You might also be interested in Mimi Zweig's dvd--it is just $85, and available from her website at stringpedagogy.com

February 27, 2008 at 09:24 PM · Todd Ehle has a series of excellent instructional clips on YouTube. Clayton Haslop (a sponsor of this website) now offers something called The Beginners Circle, a monthly series of DVDs and other instructional materials.

February 27, 2008 at 09:51 PM · Todd Ehle is excellent !

February 27, 2008 at 10:21 PM · I am following this as it is of interest to me too. I am just in disbelief over what Megan C., Michael S. and others are saying, where, oh, where in the world is that teacher that teaches you all that? If you know anyone in Indiana of that caliber, please, oh, please, give me the NAME!

February 29, 2008 at 04:37 AM · It's a laugh isn't it!

You can teach yourself - and it's time now that the current crop of classical musos took that stiff rake handle out and admitted to it.

People get hot under the shoulder rest and hop up and down on the spot about admitting that earlier players taught themselves. You are not allowed to say it. It is modern day taboo.

Fact is: Milstein was basically self-taught. Same with Heifetz. Others too. They absorbed everything from their environments. Yeah yeah yeah they were genius level players but can you deny that they did teach themselves? Can we establish that point? Oh no, they say, they went to Auer or they went to zzzzzzzzzzzzzz! wake me up when the cricket's over. What do the players themselves say? Have you REALLY read their biographies as have I??

You can teach yourself, and be very very very good. You do need talent and brains and a bit of genius though, and maybe an amount of foxlike cunning (perhaps a lot), but I have faith in you. Man (including Woman) is more of a marvel than we admit to these days.

And what are you doing playing and teaching violin if you are not smart and good with your hands/ears and cunning and independently clever and totally resourceful?

Clayton Haslop posted a recent email titled "Authorized Personnel Only". He is sharp and on the ball. He is also subtle. He can see clearly where the road is going. The poorer teachers will try to dissuade you with their arrogance and nervousness for their own importance. Ignore them. And best of luck.

Not a war on teachers. A war on arrogant or ignorant ones who say it can't be done.

The idea that everyone needs to be led by the hand up the garden path by a previous traveller is anti-art and anti-creativity. There is also a lot of fetishism bound up in the culture of modern violin teaching. They fawn over youth. Keep your distance from it if you love music.

Get a lesson every now and then if you can - maybe in the holidays - but only if you want to or think you might do it to see what happens. Even if it's only one a year or even less. But expect a bit of disinterest, aloofness and apathy from many teachers. They tend to take a dim view of people who teach themselves. The purpose of this lesson is to just get a second opinion on matters technical. Then go away and chew over what they told you. Write it all down. You don't have to take it to heart but listen to everything they say. There's often excellent advice mixed up with it all. I tend to take lessons in bunches of about 8 if I can manage it. Then back to self teaching. Some teachers I go to only once. You can get by totally without really, if you're smart.

A video camera is good for checking up on what they told you. Some of what they say you'll have to learn to ignore. Toughness and a clear insight are called for to sort the useful from the useless.

One last but very important point. A belief has developed that 'classical' music is somehow rarefied and 'not normal' and that it is 'technical' music that has to be technically imparted by a technician or clinician. This belief states that one can't have classical music in one's very bones, naturally, the way a real blues man or jazz muso from the authentic tradition knows his or her music. Poppycock! Classical music, if it is loved deeply and naturally, is second nature to a human being who loves it and has the ability to learn it and absorb it over a period of time. It is no more a 'technical' music than is any other music. That is, unless you are a machine, and you like the music of machines. In that sense, my argument would collapse.

I would recommend just about any teach yourself DVD there is. Also check out Clayton Haslop's beginner's circle program.

Teachers perform a great act of love and support for those for whom they are well suited. It is a symbiotic relationship. Teachers really only know and understand the learners who can't do without them - who really are more or less helpless otherwise. They can't fathom the other type. Who can blame them?

Not saying teaching yourself is best. Saying is best for some.

February 29, 2008 at 04:13 AM · Greetings,

Jon, I respectfully suggest you are conflating an awful lot of issues here. Some of what you say is true and some is a little misleading. I think you are a good guy and I respect your writing so I wonder if I can respond negatively some of what you say without being hauled over the coals?;)

I do think one should be a little precise. Heifetz was taught by his father- a pro, before Auer whom he spoke of very respectfully as his teacher.. Milstein was taught by Stoliarsky as was David Oisrakh. I have read Milstein`s book and think one has to take some of what he says with a grain of salt. Like Stern in his autobiography, truth gets pushed and pulled a little at times.

I think you raise an important point about not being to dogmatic about the nature of teaching. In these cases teaching was about absorption as well someone saying `do xyz@ and I agree with you that genius has a far greater capacity than an average to absorb and reject. However, the question of whether great players ever had a teacher has been explored at great length and nobody on this list has yet come up with a self taught classical player. Very often examples are incorrectly cited like a recent reference to Grapelli or sometimes Kreisler of Robby Lakos.

The teachers who argue strongly that it cannot be done well , and I am one of them, really do not deserve the insults you offer and I write this knowing full well the shoddy treatment you have been given by an apparently rather nasty community where you are situated. I am one of those teachers as are the majority on this list and I do not say majority lightly. In debates on this topic over the last 8 years the majority has been virtually unanimous. What brings about this strength of opinion is problems we have had to deal with at a later date as a result of bad teaching in our own playing and regular first hand experience of self taught people who have so many problems it takes hours of patient work to undo rather than create. A very soul destroying process.

Teachers earn licenses and the like for a reason and that is rather hard to get away from.

The complexity of the issue emerges when bad teachers start telling people not to teach yourself when frankly they might have been better off up to a point. Another complexity is the much better teaching materials and models available thanks to technology and better communication. I think they have made quite a difference in people who have no choice but to go it alone. However they are primarily reinforcing correct teaching. A decent teacher has to work with the whole spectrum of the beginner. Its so complex it boggle s my mind at times.

The problem in my opinion is that what is practice d is learnt at some level. A (good) teacher can bypass the errors a beginner makes that are going to be absorbed into the playing because they are working with the individual at a human level. They are rather like a doctor and I cannot believe that people either wish for an untrained doctor of would let their child go to someone claiming to be a doctor who is reading out of a family health magazine.

I stand by this rather clannish analogy while acknowledging the side of the argument you present. Some doctors are totally useless and one -sometimes- is les s harmed by reading a book.

I don’t have a feeling that you like this position at all so I can only end by saying that your comments are always worth listening to, but I have never seen a self taught violinist with aspirations to play classical music well who hasn’t got really bad habits that were difficult to undo. Perhaps I am only saying this because this is my job, but how many jobs are there where someone trained to do it would rationally cede the training to the person about to learn the job in question let alone encourage them to be a trainer of newbies.? This does not alter the fact that there are people all over the world with no access to a teacher who are benifitting greatly from the new and very high level teaching DVDs now available.

Cheers,

Buri

February 29, 2008 at 05:23 AM · As always, a great post, Buri.

Jon,

Go back and read all your posts. They have a continuous theme as if you have an agenda. Granted, you've apparently had a really bad encounter with a teacher or teachers but does it really make you feel better to insult all teachers?

February 29, 2008 at 05:51 AM · Whilst I am sympathetic to what Jon said, I feel that it is one thing to self-teach for your own purposes, but it is an entirely different thing to do so for the purposes of others.

It seems to me that the original poster is taking a significant gamble not simply at his own private risk, but he is taking a gamble at his future students' risk who will likely not even be aware of this gamble being taken on their behalf.

That is something I would have a very very serious issue with if I was a parent in this school district. So much so, that I would become politically active to rally decisively against the school board who made such an irresponsible decision.

February 29, 2008 at 06:25 AM · Now, now, Buri wasn't firing the pistol for people to run after Jon. Jon doesn't have an agenda, it's his thoughts. I understand a lot of what he's saying. When he talks about the fawning over youth, and keep your distance if you love music, truer words were never...

Now, I think Andrew is an experienced musician and a level-headed guy. I expect he could "teach himself" pretty well. Professional education in a public school is what you can manage to put together under rough circumstances it seems to me, rather than everything ideal. Somebody I know did mus. ed. and ended up teaching math or something. Andrew might have a professional teaching certificate, which would blow the professional doctor argument up.

February 29, 2008 at 06:24 AM · Without any intent to offend, I am truly thankful that I wasn't born and brought up in that greatest country in the world where people seem to have such low expectations of their public schools and don't even seem to care.

February 29, 2008 at 06:37 AM · We're the hot shots so they like to jump on us, but I read something from Britain. 60% thought Sherlock Holmes was a historical figure, 70% thought Winston Churchill was a fictional figure, and so on :) People are pretty much the same all over, except for you.

February 29, 2008 at 06:39 AM · Take a look at my latest blog. The Assistant Principle violist in the Oregon Symphony wrote an excellent article that touches on the problems of music programs in public schools. Right, wrong or indifferent, this is the world that we are in today.

February 29, 2008 at 06:42 AM · shucks, I thought Sherlock Holmes was an elementary school teacher...

February 29, 2008 at 06:48 AM · He did say the word a lot. Confusion easy to understand. Shouldn't go in the offical comparison.

February 29, 2008 at 06:47 AM · I'm a 5th grade beginning orchestra teacher. I have two degrees in violin performance, I studied at a conservatory in Europe, I studied cello in college for two years, and I took viola for a semester. I've also been playing in several regional orchestras for 10+ years. I like to think I'm qualified to teach a group of 10 year olds how to play the violin, viola, cello or bass. However, I think it's nearly impossible for ONE orchestra teacher to be able to teach several classes (I teach 5 classes daily) of 25 students each and expect each student to have perfect position, good intonation and rhythm, and to play musically. One top of that, to expect them to learn how to read music at a good level...all this while preparing for concerts. With all of the other things we have to compete with in schools (sports, yearbook, band, etc) it's hard to keep one's sanity, let alone keeping the kids interested in rubbing a hairy stick across a wooden box.

My point is that even with loads of experience it's horribly diffictult to get a kid to play correctly. This is where you need to rely on private instructors as early as possible to fill in the gaps that we teachers may leave.

I like to think that I'm a good orchestra teacher, but I'm also a realist (and, as much as I love my kids...some of them are great!..the public schools aren't always the best breeding grounds for young virtuosos).

February 29, 2008 at 07:09 AM · Jim, do you realise who you are quoting? The viewers of the TV channel which undertook the poll you refer to are anything but representative of the UK population. Instead it has a reputation of catering to retarded couch potatoes. If there ever was a situation where Benjamin Disraeli's postulate "There are lies, damn lies and statistics" applies, then this is it.

By contrast, the state of public education in the US is measured and published by a number of reputable and reliable institutions who consistently come to the results which are so stunning to the rest of the planet.

In any event, a school board should not hire somebody to teach something they haven't acquired the ability to do PRIOR to their employment, self-taught or not.

February 29, 2008 at 07:14 AM · Jefferson was the father of public education, and was opposed to making it mandatory. Can you think of reasons why that might have been? Therein lies some answers that will keep you from being so stunned.

February 29, 2008 at 07:13 AM · Buri,

Everybody in the world knows SH sells locks for homes…

February 29, 2008 at 07:13 AM · Jefferson has also long been dead. If he was alive today, there is always the chance he might have a different view. Different times often require different policies. Charles Darwin springs to mind.

February 29, 2008 at 07:18 AM · Nope, Jefferson's power was dealing with things that are beyond a particular time.

February 29, 2008 at 07:25 AM · :-D

February 29, 2008 at 07:29 AM · I've heard you Brits are still pissed at him for what he did :)

February 29, 2008 at 09:20 AM · As someone who has had both formal and informal violin training (at the hands of a good teacher as well as on my own), I have to say that I agree with a lot of what Jon said in his long post above.

Having said that, though, I feel that the post could have been better worded. It comes across as a bit too cynical of teachers. Overall, however, I understand and sympathize with what he's trying to say.

I also agree with Buri that the student and teacher have a symbiotic relationship. There always has to be a "feedback loop" so that the student can tell the teacher whether or not the lessons seem to be working as well as what goals can/should be achieved -and in what order.

I used to think of myself as that Zen student one always sees in Kung Fu movies: silent and always accepting. Now I see the student-teacher relationship as a kind of growing/evolving friendship that nourishes the student until the time comes that their paths must diverge.

February 29, 2008 at 11:54 AM · it will be perfect if dvds can feed you with info,,,as well as providing feed-back. ditto for teaching oneself.

February 29, 2008 at 01:11 PM · Oh Jon Oh Jon Oh Jon. I am more prone to listen to someone who writes from their experience rather than someone who writes with the chip that has been removed from their shoulder. I have not read Heifetz's or Milstein's biographies but I don't think it's possible to infer that they were self taught. I could be wrong but reason, logic, history, and experience stand against that.

I have a tremendous amount of respect for musicians who are self-taught, primarily in the genres of folk and traditional music. But even in those genres "self-teaching" and "learning from the greats" go hand in hand. I especially wish I could be one of the musicians that play beautiful music yet can't read a single note on a page.

But that is neither here nor there. Speaking as someone who has a number of degrees, certificates, and licenses to teach I am of the belief that teachers should be qualified. But let's say that you have a point which I believe you do - it is possible to be self-taught to a certain extent and flourish as a musician. In the case of the OP I would not want my child being taught by a self-taught musician who IS NOT EVEN YET SELF-TAUGHT!

March 1, 2008 at 02:21 AM · I have to agree with Marina in that a teacher should be qualified, even if he/she is self-taught. A teacher who has yet to learn the skills he/she is supposed to teach is NOT QUALIFIED, at least not yet. Whether self-taught or not is secondary in this case.

March 1, 2008 at 02:34 AM · It's possible to teach yourself by listening to music,attending concerts,attending to youtube presentations etc.

I've taught myself and its taken 10 years to accomplish.

Can play celtic and blues very well,just by playing by ear and the omnipresent improv to just about any presentation.

Many do not have access to a teacher;so what are the alternatives ?

I'm positive that I could teach the basics of the violin to others and teach correctly--with nothing to be 'unlearned' by the recipients---including maintenance and repair:

soundpost settings

bridge making.....

I've done these things hundreds of times and have failed miserably many times,BUT now I can do

these adjustments adroitly.

Learning by doing IS significant--teacher or not.

With no access to a teacher,what is one to do ? Travel several miles,to and fro,in the deadness of February for a 1 hour lesson ???

My rules are--listen,learn,play and practice.

Eventually,important lessons ARE learned and incorporated into your psyche to become a significant segment of ability.

March 1, 2008 at 03:33 AM · Joe, the OP is unlikely to have 10 years because he's ALREADY BEEN HIRED to teach the violin even though he has not yet learned to play the instrument himself. More likely he's got 6 months or a year, something along those lines.

Your situation is much different. You have already acquired the ability. So, if you were to apply for a job as a teacher, then the school could assess you based on your EXISTING skills. The school will then find either, yes, you have the skills they expect, never mind you're self-taught, or they will find, no, you don't have the skills they expect. No problem with that scenario.

However, if you were to apply for a job to teach the oboe and you'd say "see, I can play the violin, so I can teach myself to teach the oboe", could you reasonably expect to be hired on those grounds? Would it be responsible of you to take the job on that basis? Would it be responsible of those to hire you to give you the job on that basis? I don't think it would.

March 1, 2008 at 05:37 AM · ...."rubbing a hairy stick across a wooden box"....

Egads that just ruined playing the violin for me.

March 1, 2008 at 06:16 AM · Benjamin, Have you in your life ever known anybody who turned down a job because "it would be irresponsible to take it"?

And aren't you only a couple of years into all this?

March 1, 2008 at 06:37 AM · Jim, yes, I have turned down jobs/assignments to teach/train whenever I didn't feel comfortable enough with the subject matter and I know colleagues of mine who have done the same. While this is in a different field, it doesn't matter. Whatever the profession, one shouldn't accept teaching assignments if one doesn't know the subject matter (yet).

March 1, 2008 at 06:48 AM · If anyone turns down an advancement, then it's good they did, 'cause they're an idiot.

And I'll re-state: Aren't you only a couple months or years into this? You don't know what music students will remember and get out of this. And like Marty said, no matter how well he could teach violin, this would not be the ideal situation of some kind that you seem to want.

March 1, 2008 at 08:01 AM · “Have you in your life ever known anybody who turned down a job because "it would be irresponsible to take it"? I’ve seen a few, including myself a couple of times, with much careful consideration, great (self-) respect and admiration.

“...a self-taught musician who IS NOT EVEN YET SELF-TAUGHT!” Amazing, isn’t it?

“I ask again, what are the best sources for improving oneself? Not philosophy worrying that what I'm doing is a mistake, nor advice to "get a teacher".

Andrew, you may not want to hear this, but the best sources for improving oneself are within oneself, of course, such as being humble, open your heart and ears to others, to the philosophy and advice of getting a teacher -- very good advice from more experienced people who have deservedly earned a lot of respect from others on this list.

March 1, 2008 at 09:22 AM · Accepting a job you haven't got the slightest ability to do is not an advancement. Instead, advancement is to learn *first*, then *after* you have learned well, then and only then should you be assigned to teach. This applies to any subject matter, music or otherwise. This is also common sense, and thus it should be obvious to anybody whether they know anything about music or not. It is universally applicable. Anybody who claims that this doesn't apply to musicians or music students is entirely delusional.

Oh and BTW, I learned to play the recorder at age 6, and quite proficiently so, hey, I am an early starter after all!!! -- thus, by your own standards, Jim, I guess I must be perfectly well qualified to not only advance on the violin in no time but also to get a job to teach some other instrument which I have no clue (yet) how to play. I guess I should apply for a teaching job to teach the saxophone now. Heck I could take the remuneration I get as a saxophone teacher to pay for saxophone lessons since I have no clue how to play the sax. Why haven't I thought of this myself, I guess I must be an idiot, like you said.

March 1, 2008 at 01:05 PM · Learning something at 6 doesn't qualify you to do anything and I didn't say anything remotely like that. Your arguments and what you pull out of what's said isn't logical enough to satisfy me. In your perfect world you wouldn't be a teacher either. Get it now?

The thing that impresses me about Andrew is he's level-headed and a life-long real musician. He can do the job he's going to have to do better than most experienced violin players. I don't think you understand what his job is going to be. That's the reason for my reference to your just starting out, nothing to do with anybody beginning an instrument at 6.

March 1, 2008 at 01:47 PM · I'm a beginner myself and found a teacher to be very great. But also...teaching music at a school is different than teaching violin at a school. It was be like hiring many P.E. teachers-soccer, tennis, football, baseball, basketball, etc....

When my teacher wasn't available I found violinmasterclass.com to be very helpful, as was Prof. Lecher's blogs, along with many other information on this site. The problem is this I think...I have incredible proprioception and learned pretty fast, just like I learned hot to play golf very quickly. I can hit the ball long and strait...UNTIL! It was time to learn a more advanced technique and it was super difficult with that arm like this, my hip or wrist like that...then it was on to unlearning everything to learn the right way. I think that's what people are saying mostly.

Really though, I do pretty much learn on my own; I just meet with the teacher once a week for 30 minutes to catch up and correct anything. You never know, maybe you'll have a young prodigy that can be your teacher's helper.

March 1, 2008 at 03:58 PM · "He can do the job he's going to have to do better than most experienced violin players. I don't think you understand what his job is going to be." Hmmmmmmmm.....really?

The issue is not whether or not he can learn to play the violin - most likely he will learn it in time for a september class to be able to teach adequately. I do not argue against his abilities, talent, musicianship, or capacity to learn quickly.

The bigger issue is music education in America. I taught for 5 years in a public school in Harlem with the title "music teacher" and was expected to teach strings, chorus, recorders, theory, history, and appreciation. I was very uncomfortable with chorus because I had no training, and continuously argued with the principal for making me do it.

Know what else I had to teach??? Sixth grade math and reading, science, whatever needed a substitute teacher. The issue at hand is that the education system in America suffers so much that they don't care who goes in there to teach kids what. Honestly I know that they didn't care what I taught as long as I was babysitting.

March 1, 2008 at 05:01 PM · Yes, really. Two main reasons. One reason is his attitude. He's teaching violin, but that's probably going to be very secondary to the kids in the long run. Fifty will benefit from his breadth and attitude for every one that becomes an adult upset that he didn't have private lessons with fill in the blank.

Regarding schools in American and Harlem, why didn't you seek some training instead of arguing with the principal you didn't want to do it (for 5 years?). You were in Manhattan. You could go to anybody and say I teach chorus in Harlem and I don't know wtf. They would have helped you for free. Their not caring what you taught as long as you babysat is also known as freedom to do what you want. Don't demand to be told what to do. The only thing that worries me is he's a drummer, which is like viola player :)

March 1, 2008 at 05:49 PM · I have learnt a lot about the absolute essentials of violin playing from Yehudi Menuhin´s book Violin and Viola(printed 1976). I recommend strongly it for someone who wants to teach himself,Menuhin gets into the subtleties of violin playing in a great way.

March 1, 2008 at 05:56 PM · Jim (and Jon),

You apparently believe in the "School of Rock" approach to teaching, in which, just like in the movie of the same name, the attitude of the teacher can work wonders with kids who otherwise would have been stifled by school and traditional teaching. It's a very romantic and seductive idea- We all (so the argument goes) have ability in us if only those stupid and rigid, beehive hairdo having teachers would get out of the way and let us find the strengths that we already have. If they would just let us soar to the heights of a subject unfettered by rigid discipline and stupid exercises, we could be great. Blah blah blah…

Unfortunatly, it doesn't really work that way as anybody who has actually ever become good at anything can tell you. Becoming good at anything is a step by step process of scaffolding, practice, building, scaffolding, practice, etc. Often, the next steps to take are not obvious, even to very smart, well disciplined and, yes, well trained people.

The problem with the "construct your own knowledge/find your own path" approach to learning is that there are so many possible paths that lead to nowhere. That's fine if you just want to do your own thing, or if there isn’t any particular goal other than play or exploration, but if you want to learn about and participate in a field that's taken millions of participants and hundreds of years to construct, then you need guidance.

Now, teaching an instrument that you don’t know how to play (yet) is just obviously lame.(Although I suppose that any parents who accept that from their schools are asleep at the switch and deserve what they get.) The children in this guy's class will be wasting their time at best, although they may scrape their way through hot cross buns in a year. I agree that his breadth and attitude (as you put it) could be a nice experience for the kids but only WITHIN THE CONTEXT of well-organized and intensive teaching elsewhere in the school. However, if every teacher these poor kids had were to have this guy’s lack of knowledge, they would be in big trouble, don’t you think? Or do you really think it’s ok to have, say, a math teacher who doesn’t know the first thing about math? How about a reading teacher who can’t read… yet. Just imagine what a school like that would look like.

Actually, better yet, Jon and Jim, why don’t you tell us how that is supposed to work, within the context of producing people who can read, write, do math, play an instrument competently? How exactly would the approach of having poorly educated or non educated teachers work? What would the kids’ days look like? How would you make sure they could, for example, get to the point that they could play a concerto with orchestra (a very worthy thing to do but it does require more than just playing around with the violin) or produce a good proof in geometry or do calculus or speak French? It might not matter to you if “violin students” actually learn violin, but what do you think about students in other disciplines not learning those disciplines? Please teach us… I mean…nevermind, I’ll just figure it out.

March 1, 2008 at 05:40 PM · Jim, the one who didn't get it was you, cause I was being sarcastic.

You say that any musician can learn any instrument in next to no time to teach it pretty much right away as he picks it up. My argument was that this is not so, that in order to teach you should first learn the skill yourself sufficiently. You say that this doesn't apply to musicians, I say this is delusional.

You say this is not an ideal world so nothing matters at all, anything goes no matter how silly. I say, in an ideal world you get a violinist to teach the violin, in a lesser ideal world where you could only get a percussionist teacher, you get him to teach the kids the xylophone instead of the violin, in an even lesser ideal world where you can't find an instrumentalist at all, you get somebody to teach the kids to sing or hum, the situation presented by the OP is the least ideal world of all, and the sane response would be for parents to make sure their kids don't have to attend and if they so desire, make alternative arrangements.

March 1, 2008 at 06:11 PM · "You say that any musician can learn any instrument in next to no time to teach it pretty much right away as he picks it up."

Benjamin, I didn't say anything that could even be remotely construed as that. Two can play that game. Quit bragging about beating your wife in every post.

"You apparently believe in the "School of Rock" approach to teaching, in which, just like in the movie of the same name, the attitude of the teacher can work wonders"

Howard you really don't know what I believe. The thing that's seductive is making staw men and setting fire to them.

"You say this is not an ideal world so nothing matters at all, anything goes no matter how silly. "

I said nothing of the sort. So quit bragging about beating your wife in every post too.

March 1, 2008 at 06:05 PM · I do live in Manhattan and I had many resources available to me, many of which I took advantage. I took some lessons with a voice coach, read up on various elementary chorus planners, took a great deal of time planning lessons carefully and I accomplished as much as I could. But what did I really gain in the end? A whole lot of time spent on something I didn't set out to do nor did I have the passion for, nor was I really qualified for. I did it to the best of my abilities, it was a valuable experience. I eventually decided to quit the board of ed and set out to do what I have a passion for, not what the board of ed will exploit me for - just so they can stretch their dollar and not have to hire an appropriate number of teachers for the jobs. Remember we are talking about public education, and America is not highly regarded for this type of thing... these kind of antics need to stop if we expect education to elevate.

March 1, 2008 at 06:20 PM · Well, Jim, nice to see that you finally agree with the rest of us.

March 1, 2008 at 06:25 PM · lol Benjamin :)

Marina, my mother taught in a one room schoolhouse in the country. Grades 1-6, every subject, every child, by herself (Howard, sorry if that sounds like a movie to you :)

March 1, 2008 at 06:23 PM · Marina, the question arises whether it makes any sense to teach any instruments at elementary to junior high school at all if resources are insufficient. The UK has had a very good record with teaching sight singing in public schools although that's history. In German speaking countries music education does not involve teaching any instruments, they teach a bit of music history and listening to raise awareness and general appreciation of music. Similar situation here in Japan, too. It is up to the parents to send their kids to music school if they want them to learn an instrument. In most European countries such music schools operate in public school buildings in the afternoons and evenings and they are often subsidised to make it affordable to everyone. This would seem to be far more efficient than trying to incorporate teaching instruments into the public school curriculum without having the resources to do so properly.

March 1, 2008 at 06:23 PM · Hey Jim,

Feel free to be clearer then. I only wrote to what I saw in yours and Jon's posts. Maybe you need writing lessons?

March 1, 2008 at 06:35 PM · "Hey Howard,"

Grow up first, then teach ;)

March 1, 2008 at 06:33 PM · Marina,

I've been in the same sort of situation in my public school teaching jobs and I am always amazed that the parents put up with that level of disorganization in their kids' schools. These same parents would never ever allow such incompetence to go unchallenged anywhere else. I think they have the idea that the schools have no money, but we know better...

March 1, 2008 at 06:47 PM · Howard, I think Jim is trying to tell us that he is arguing not what he believes but what is likely to cause a strong rebuttal, just for the heck of it all. A sort of adrenaline rush seeking polarity responder. Or maybe polarity responding joker.

If you want something from a polarity responder you always have to ask for the opposite of what you actually want, then switch quickly when the response is negative ;-)

March 1, 2008 at 06:49 PM · Hey Jim!;-)

March 1, 2008 at 06:57 PM · Benjamin, you've figured it out.

Yixi, sorry I lapse into my native tongue now and then.

Hmm what movie is that I wonder?

March 1, 2008 at 07:20 PM · Hiya Jim,

...and you should take a course on American cinema too. Your mother was working in a different time- less money, fewer people and lower expectations. In school systems that have budgets in the billions of dollars, we should be able to do better. Your mother did the best she could at school I'm sure, but obviously missed the mark at home.

March 1, 2008 at 07:33 PM · :)

March 1, 2008 at 07:41 PM · Howard, you especially are going to meet resistance getting people to spend more than billions I think.

March 1, 2008 at 07:41 PM · No need to get so personal. The question we should all ask ourselves is "am I willing to place my child in the hands of a violin teacher that doesn't know how to play the violin?" Your answer to that question is all that really matters but unfortunately there are not many parents even willing to ask that question...

when I once wanted to talk to a parent about her daughter she cut me off and said "between 8:30 abd 3:20 she's your problem."

March 1, 2008 at 07:43 PM · Hey Jim,

The DC public schools are asking for something like 1.5 billion dollars for next year. You're right, that isn't "billionS", but it's close enough, within and order of magnitude! Other local districts are also in the high hundreds of millions. So, my point is still that with that kind of money, we should expect better than the OP or your mother.

March 1, 2008 at 07:52 PM · No offense intended towards your mother, of course. But she was asked to do an impossible job.

March 1, 2008 at 07:45 PM · Oh and by the way, what ever happened to the OP? I always wonder about people who pose a question and then prohibit people from offering advice.

March 1, 2008 at 07:49 PM · Marina, you've got to be kidding! Poor kid...

March 1, 2008 at 07:51 PM · Marina,

Yes, I have heard that sort of comment from parents many times too. It's an attitude that needs to be dealt with directly and yet most of the thinking in the schools runs along the lines of, "we can't do anything about the home, therfore let's do X at school." I think there should be a concerted effort to study and understand these sorts of beliefs and attitudes at home, and a campaign to counteract them. Instead, the schools try to bend to accomodate the lack of education at home.

March 1, 2008 at 07:53 PM · Howard, you can train my pooch :)

Marina, I think the question is -

are you going to put your child in the hands of a violinist who isn't an expert (expert technician), if the alternative is no violin at all, in the real here and now.

March 1, 2008 at 08:07 PM · false dichotomy, jim.

March 1, 2008 at 08:34 PM · No, the sane alternative is to get your kids exempted from those lessons, that is if you care.

In any event why does it have to be the violin if the aim is to give those kids SOME music education as a base? The guy is a percussionist, this means he knows other instruments he can teach, for example the xylophone, so what's wrong with that?

As far as I can see it is a choice between crap violin lessons and excellent xylophone lessons. Taking a pick should be a nobrainer, that is if you are not on the school board, apparently.

March 1, 2008 at 11:47 PM · Jim,

The funny thing is, now that I think about it,your pooch knows almost as much about the violin as the original poster.

And I would be my great pleasure to train your pooch... to bite you.

March 1, 2008 at 11:51 PM · And yes, the movie was Cujo...

March 2, 2008 at 12:13 AM · First, “No violin for you. Take the xylophone if you want!” Then there's Jim's K9 people-biter. lol!

March 2, 2008 at 12:46 AM · Hah, Yixi!

Funny to find myself arguing the conservative side for a change...

March 2, 2008 at 01:18 AM · Hehe, Howard, something in Emil’s recent gourmet cooking, maybe?:)

March 2, 2008 at 01:35 AM · Oh God... what did he make now? I haven't had one of his truffles yet, but I'm looking foward to trying them.

You should ask him sometime about the night he made weiner schnitzel at my house. Hun Hao Chi!

March 2, 2008 at 02:03 AM · I will. Lucky you! He taught you Mandarin too? ;)

March 2, 2008 at 02:55 PM · No he didn't teach me Mandarin. Ironically, given the topic of the thread, I taught myself! Hah... But I've already forgotten most of it, unfortunately.

March 2, 2008 at 03:17 PM · At the risk of sounding presumptuous, I am a professional violinist who posts YouTube videos (http://www.YouTube.com/user/BenChanViolin) on a wide variety of pieces as requested by my subscribers and viewers. Most recently I covered Wieniawski Legende, and I've covered parts of many major works, including Mendelssohn, Saint-Saens, Bach, as well as more obscure pieces like Pleyel and Mylnarski. I discuss how I learned advanced techniques like up-bow staccato, ricochet, and triple-stops, and I welcome any feedback from those who come across my videos.

Not sure if this is what you were looking for, but it might be good fodder for creativity and imagination in your playing. A great YouTuber for beginners is professorV, who has posted a variety of videos on violin fundamentals. I'm starting a beginner violin subscription site at www.ChamberHymns.com in about one month's time and will be posting much higher-quality video/audio specifically geared towards beginners (if any of you are just starting out).

Anyways, thanks for indulging my comment, and while I am nowhere near omniscient in the violin world, I do feel my videos have unique ideas drawn from my 20 years of experience on the violin.

March 5, 2008 at 04:30 AM · I am thrilled to get so many responses, this is a fun thread! My aplogies for not getting back sooner, I don’t know how many of you teach or have taught in a public school, but it is a hell of a tough time consuming job…

I am compiling many posts of interest, and a list of concrete resources and suggestions that have come up so far on this thread, that I will post at some time.

I hope to write more books- perhaps “teaching young musicians through the violin” or any other instrument…you see, my job is to teach music, to organize an orchestra program for an entire school district…and just one aspect of my job is to teach violin to very young kids. FOR MYSELF, I want to learn to play violin, I am so loving it, to hold the instrument close, like a baby, coaxing sounds out, “don’t cry, don’t squeak” taking care, and someday, if I keep at it, play some music on it.

As far as being good enough a violin teacher so that I don’t ruin my student’s futures, I;m not too worried about that. I have been around, studied with, watched, learned music from some of the best violinsts on the planet…I just saw a youtube video of Nadja S S getting a masterclass from Itzach P, I was there in Aspen in 78, it was thrilling… I performed the Beethoven violin concerto with Isaac Stern, performed with Nadja a bunch of times, Gidon Kremer, lotsa lotsa great players during 17 years as sub timpanist and percussionist with SF symphony, Aspen, Tanglewood, New York freelancing, Robert McDuffie and Kay Stern were the concertmasters with my school orchestra, and, whenever preparing for percussion or timpani auditions, my first choice was to play for string players….so I’ve got the basics of posture, sound, attitude, pitch, touch, and most important, rhythm. My job is to inspire and instill LOVE OF MUSIC, PASSION FOR PLAYING..

What I don’t have, in this new isolation, is clarity on the little fine points of how to fix technical problems- and how to transmit that to students. . Many I am figuring out….that to play one pitch plus the fifth below with one finger, you must get your elbow well under so the angle of the fingers are right, also to avoid making that squeaky sound YOU MORON another finger is touching the string…why is that so hard to notice??? And, the “bouncing bow” problem, how does one put enough pressure to avoid the bounce, but not go flat cause there’s too much weight on the string…how to get a NICE CLEAR SOUND RIGHT AWAY when changing strings…how to be clean with my fat fingers…how to keep the bow parallel really..where should 4th finger be when not in use..and all the fingers when not in use, for that matter...

OH, and I did go take a lesson this week, and my teacher said to put all 3 fingers down when I play a G on the D string (or any 4th on any string) and get the spacing right HAVING ALL FINGERS ON THE STRING…..whcih MESSED ME UP TERRIBLY, my playing this week is worse than two weeks ago….in that,for example, in those two bars of CAN CAN where you go down the D scale…I now must have all fingers places on the string before I’m allowed to descend, which has pulled my metronome mark down considerably, but, it may be a positive suggestion in the long run…

So today, I ask you, would you have your students put all 3 fingers down on the A and then D string before allowing them to descend those strings for the D scale? Is it a good suggestion?

I’ve been looking at videos of Heifitz and Perlman and I don’t see all their fingers on the string before descending….but then, it might be something important for an early phase beginning student…

Why you may ask did I go from being a successful percussionist-timpanist to being a school teacher?? Good question…it’s got something to do with a higher hand playing this out…..how can I best contribute to this world…. I was hired for this job because of the depth of experience, not because of my violin playin…I still have to get a teaching certificate fer crissake, I don’t even have that….so, in the long run, it may be a good decision on their part, time will tell,…but for the time being, I just gotta learn this ax ASAP, and so I’m getting up at 4 30 every morning to have a short hour to practice before my daily duties ensue….and, I gotta get a little keyboard in every day, cause, in the long run, that’s important too…

So, in a sense, I’m not a beginner, I’ve been playing the Bach preludes and fugues for 30 years, on Marimba, (my favorit Gminor fuge is Menuhin from his younger years, favorite Chaconne is Heifitz, favorite all around is often Ostrach cause of his direct clarity) but, at 53 years, actually playing the beast, I’m a scratchy beginner, good enough to show the students an inspiring ‘BOIL EM CABBAGE” but …. really bad…but, bad, good, doesn[t matter, I’m not going to be a soloist obviously anyway, I just want to solve all the little technical turmoils, like tomorrow, and so, looking for the best way.

Thanks so much, til soon,

Andrew Lewis

Rhythmsource.com

March 5, 2008 at 04:52 AM · Greetings,

>So today, I ask you, would you have your students put all 3 fingers down on the A and then D string before allowing them to descend those strings for the D scale? Is it a good suggestion?

Yes. But first you learn to put one finger down. Then two down together and finally three. It is the kind fo skill that need sot be built up slowly andcarefully under the watchful eye of a teacher. As you have discovered, it is not the end result which is the difficuklty - it is the transitional stages in getting there.

Cheers,

Buri

March 5, 2008 at 06:56 AM · I hope you keep posting here, Andrew!

March 5, 2008 at 03:32 PM · @Andrew

> My job is to inspire and instill LOVE OF MUSIC, PASSION FOR PLAYING.

What I don't understand is why you (and/or your employer) think that this can only be done by teaching the violin. Don't you think you can achieve this by teaching an instrument you know how to play? You are a professional percussionist, so you should be proficient with the xylophone. Why can't you teach that? In many European countries, public schools only teach so called Orff instruments, the xylophone probably being the most prominent one. Carl Orff taught that the best approach to teach music to children, especially appreciation, creativity and passion for playing was to use pentatonic scales because the kids couldn't make any harmonic errors. According to Orff, the group of instruments which are best suited for this are those where you can easily remove the unwanted notes (those not part of the pentatonic scale). You can do that on a xylphone, just take the wooden pieces off. Not only can you not do that on a violin, but since the violin is fretless, you can create any pitch, so there is far more room for error, which doesn't lend itself to the idea of teaching passion for playing. Students need to "hang in there" for quite a while until they can just play away, like they instantly can on a pentatonic xylophone. Other than that, don't you think that it would be more inspiring for your students to have a teacher who can do magic on an instrument (one he is professionally trained on) than a teacher who doesn't seem to know what he is doing (playing the violin) ?!

> As far as being good enough a violin teacher so that I don’t

> ruin my student’s futures, I;m not too worried about that.

The fact that you aren't worried doesn't mean that the parents of your students should not be.

> FOR MYSELF, I want to learn to play violin.

Well, that's cool. Everyone here will certainly give you every encouragement to do so. Many of us are adult beginners, some here even started without any prior background in music at all.

What most of us who posted to this thread have had some difficulties to digest is that you have been asked to teach what you yourself haven't learned yet. No offense intended.

> What I don’t have, in this new isolation, is clarity on the little fine points of how to fix technical problems- and how to transmit that to students.

Precisely.

> OH, and I did go take a lesson this week, and my teacher said

> to put all 3 fingers down when I play a G on the D string (or

> any 4th on any string) and get the spacing right HAVING ALL

> FINGERS ON THE STRING…..whcih MESSED ME UP TERRIBLY,

> my playing this week is worse than two weeks ago….in

> that,for example, in those two bars of CAN CAN where you

> go down the D scale…I now must have all fingers places on

> the string before I’m allowed to descend, which has pulled

> my metronome mark down considerably, but, it may be a

> positive suggestion in the long run…

This only illustrates why most of us who have posted here felt it was a bad idea a) to want to teach what you haven't learned well yourself yet and b) to intend to teach yourself given a presumed relative short time frame.

By the way, what you describe is called block fingering. It is pretty much universally accepted that beginners should start with block fingering. In a couple of months you will likely realise that this makes a lot of sense. And as you progress (hopefully with at least some coaching by somebody who can play) you will find that there is always one more such thing that you wouldn't have thought of yourself. This is precisely why you can progress much faster if you have a teacher. Since you intend to eventually teach others, it might make sense to take this faster route to learning, and if only because it is faster.

Anyway, good luck in your endeavour, no matter which route you are going to take.

March 5, 2008 at 04:32 PM · "By the way, what you describe is called block fingering. It is pretty much universally accepted that beginners should start with block fingering. In a couple of months you will likely realise that this makes a lot of sense. And as you progress (hopefully with at least some coaching by somebody who can play) you will find that there is always one more such thing that you wouldn't have thought of yourself."

Amen and so well put.

This is exactly why many of us here are astonished at your situation. Such a very basic and simple thing that if not for a teacher, you would probably never have known. And there are hundreds of these little basics that you just do not know. Good luck.

March 5, 2008 at 06:02 PM · Andy, in reading your posts I get the sense that you are a very confident and experienced musician with wonderful training at "you know where" and I do not wish to belittle your experience playing with famous violinists. But namedropping is not necessarily going to impress any violinists here enough to think you've actually learned anything about playing the violin, and is regardless of the point we have all made.

Amongst my many jobs I'm also a professional page-turner (haha) and have turned pages for many many famous pianists... Have learned some lovely things about communicating with chamber players, phrasing, and interpretation - but have not learned a single thing about how to play the piano.

I don't think there is any more advice to be given on this subject except from people who are trying to promote certain learning materials. Do what you will do as so many music teachers around this country are doing - teaching instruments they don't know. If the board of ed is not going to stop you then we certainly can't.

March 5, 2008 at 06:44 PM · > And, the “bouncing bow” problem, how does one put enough pressure to avoid the bounce, but not go flat cause there’s too much weight on the string…

It's actually a combination of pressure and constant speed. When I get just the right mix, it feels like velvet. Does that make any sense?

> where should 4th finger be when not in use..

The best place for it is curved right over the string, in preparation.

> my teacher said to put all 3 fingers down when I play and get the spacing right HAVING ALL FINGERS ON THE STRING…..whcih MESSED ME UP TERRIBLY, my playing this week is worse than two weeks ago

Yes, this is to train your fingers to remember where they are supposed to go. Learning the proper technique will make you feel incompetent for a while, but ultimately you'll be much faster.

Andy, if you can't have a teacher, then my advice is to make an effort to ask detailed questions of every violinist you can get your hands on. Also, having experience playing with orchestras is certainly better than nothing. Good luck.

That said, I'm afraid I have to throw my hat in the ring and say I'm deeply troubled (if not surprised) that the school did this. I've seen first hand, en masse the damage that is all too often done by the well-meaning but poorly qualified.

March 5, 2008 at 07:28 PM · You can start by renting the movie MUSIC FROM MY HEART, starring Meryl Streep, if you have not seen it yet.

March 14, 2008 at 01:07 PM · Dear responders,

below, after my short message, is a compiled list of the suggestions I received so far. Thanks very much for them.

Obstacles remain time and money, as far as following up, but I will try the suggestions. For now, some things written in the thread have been very helpful, especially the business about blocking. I'm totally down with blocking. It's hard, but clearly will make things clearer, easier, and more in tune in the long run.

Is it still called blocking if it's on more than one string? my present favorite goal is to be able to just hang out and relax while holding down and playing the F major arpeggio. I love F, cause the third, the open A, is what you tune to. It's a new idea to me to tune to other than the root. And, if you're blocking well, the A speaks, broadcasts, clearly. Otherwise, it's a bunch of scratchyness (which is what I usually still get)

Another great thing about playing Violin is that you get a sense of the different character of each key, and clues as to why composers wrote in different keys. F major, the pastoral, maybe Beethoven was feeling the character of open A, happy major major very major. And since he was a violist, he perhaps loved having the C the low string for that long tonic dominant almost minimalist stuff near the end........who knows....

I apologize for 2 things in my last post, one for dropping names, that's feels yucky, and for calling myself a moron. That's a bit strong. A klutz, maybe, but....or better, a blockhead, since I'm now totally into blocking.

Hey, when your blocking on one string, is it a common exercise to move the 2nd finger up and down, from low to high position, without moving the other fingers? That is really hard, but perhaps will get the 2nd finger good at those two spots. The Gavotted, p 17 in Suzuki book one, bar 20 is perfect for that, that bar is impossible for me to play well.

OK, below is the list compiled.

Thanks very very much,

Andy

Violin comments

Mimi Zweig who teaches Suzuki in the Bloomington IN area (might still be associated with Indiana University),

Ronald Mutchnik (rjm26@comcast.net)

Posture and Balance: The Dynamic Duo _ i think the demonstrations

and explanations in there should help with setting up how to hold the

violin, the bow strokes, the movement of the left hand, finger patterns,

vibrato, shifting, etc.

Jon O'Brien

Yes…

Yes, teach yourself

Clayton Haslop's beginner's circle program.

Marty Dalton

I think it's nearly impossible for ONE orchestra teacher to be able to teach several classes (I teach 5 classes daily) of 25 students each and expect each student to have perfect position, good intonation and rhythm, and to play musically. One top of that, to expect them to learn how to read music at a good level...all this while preparing for concerts. With all of the other things we have to compete with in schools (sports, yearbook, band, etc) it's hard to keep one's sanity, let alone keeping the kids interested in rubbing a hairy stick across a wooden box.

Yixi Zhang

Andrew, you may not want to hear this, but the best sources for improving oneself are within oneself, of course, such as being humble, open your heart and ears to others, to the philosophy and advice of getting a teacher -- very good advice from more experienced people who have deservedly earned a lot of respect from others on this list.

Jim W. Miller

The thing that impresses me about Andrew is he's level-headed and a life-long real musician. He can do the job he's going to have to do better than most experienced violin players.

Christopher wexler

I found violinmasterclass.com to be very helpful, as was Prof. Lecher's blogs, along with many other information on this site.

Marina Fragoulis

The issue is not whether or not he can learn to play the violin - most likely he will learn it in time for a september class to be able to teach adequately. I do not argue against his abilities, talent, musicianship, or capacity to learn quickly.

The bigger issue is music education in America.

Jim W. Miller

Two main reasons. One reason is his attitude. He's teaching violin, but that's probably going to be very secondary to the kids in the long run. Fifty will benefit from his breadth and attitude for every one that becomes an adult upset that he didn't have private lessons with fill in the blank.

The only thing that worries me is he's a drummer, which is like viola player :)

(ONLY WORSE ac)

Ben Chan

YouTube videos (http://www.YouTube.com/user/BenChanViolin)

MUSIC FROM MY HEART, starring Meryl Streep,

Joe Fischer

try any YouTube

by Ben Chan

From Megan Chapelas

Get yourself Basics and Practice by Simon Fischer.

howard vandersluis

One- take lessons via the internet.

Kurt Sassmanshaus's site ( I think it's http://www.violinmasterclass.com/)and check out the masterclasses he has online for basic techniques (and not so basic techniques too).

. Books such as Suzuki's "Nurtured by Love", and "To Learn With Love: A Companion for Suzuki" by Constance Starr are good places to start for early childhood stuff.

get one copy of each of the most popular (such as "String Builder" by Samuel Applebaum, or "Strictly Strings" or even "String Explorer") not just to evaluate them for your students, but to help you frame and organize your own violin study. Once you choose one, get the teacher edition too.

Also, Marina made a great suggestion about getting the movie called "Music from the Heart" about Roberta Guasperi. There are actually TWO movies, or rather one movie from Hollywood, and one documentary. Get both and read the book too.

Marina FragoulisI begrudgingly use All For Strings for group classes but all the different books have their own negative aspects so I use them as supplemental material. Your best bet is to get ALL the beginner method books and try to piece together your own approach by using them as a guideline.

Jim Fellows

Mimi Zweig's dvd--it is just $85, and available from her website at stringpedagogy.com

Anthony Barletta

Todd Ehle has a series of excellent instructional clips on YouTube. Clayton Haslop (a sponsor of this website) now offers something called The Beginners Circle, a monthly series of DVDs and other instructional materials.

Jon O'Brien right on…

You can teach yourself - and it's time now that the current crop of classical musos took that stiff rake handle out and admitted to it.

You can teach yourself, and be very very very good. You do need talent and brains and a bit of genius though, and maybe an amount of foxlike cunning (perhaps a lot), but I have faith in you. Man (including Woman) is more of a marvel than we admit to these days.

And what are you doing playing and teaching violin if you are not smart and good with your hands/ears and cunning and independently clever and totally resourceful?

Clayton Haslop posted a recent email titled "Authorized Personnel Only

I would recommend just about any teach yourself DVD there is. Also check out Clayton Haslop's beginner's circle program.

Mendy Smith

Take a look at my latest blog. The Assistant Principle violist in the Oregon Symphony wrote an excellent article that touches on the problems of music programs in public schools. (ou;dn’t find it)

sara edin

I have learnt a lot about the absolute essentials of violin playing from Yehudi Menuhin´s book Violin and Viola(printed 1976). I recommend strongly it for someone who wants to teach himself,Menuhin gets into the subtleties of violin playing in a great way.

Ben Chan

(http://www.YouTube.com/user/BenChanViolin)

A great YouTuber for beginners is professorV, who has posted a variety of videos on violin fundamentals. I'm starting a beginner violin subscription site at www.ChamberHymns.com in about one month's time and will be posting much higher-quality video/audio specifically geared towards beginners (if any of you are just starting out).

March 27, 2008 at 05:28 PM · Dear thread people,

someone kindly sent me an in-depth email about dealing with the "bouncing bow" problem, and I have lost it....If the person who sent it could re-send it, that would be terrific.

thanks alot

Andy

March 27, 2008 at 07:00 PM · Hi Andrew,

There is one book that hasn't been mentioned yet in this thread. It is "Die physikalischen Grundlagen der Kunst des Streichinstrumentspiels" by a famous German physiologist whose name keeps escaping me. Trendelenburg, it was. The mechanics of bowing are clearly explained, and this has helped me with the trembling bow problem. I hope you read German.

Apart from the book, the best advice I have ever been given against bow shakes is: "let it tremble"! Applying pressure, trying to Do Something About It, makes it worse. Meditate on it, if you like, and relax. And for me: if I think I am relaxed, it helps to relax a bit more. And then, if I've been playing for a few minutes, to pause and check for unnecessary tension, and relax it.

For me, violin playing is both elementary -- put your fingers on the strings and run your bow across them -- and very difficult. That's a humbling combination. And elementary things cannot be defined: they have to be shown.

But what do I know?

Good luck!

Bart

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