Absolute beginner with no real instructor in sight.

February 28, 2012 at 02:33 AM · A bit about myself. I’m 49 and have decided to learn the violin. I have relative pitch so hearing notes is not a problem. I’ve listened to classical music all my life. Played guitar in rock bands. Learned all the solos by ear. If I could hear it I could play it. Love Jazz. I plan on learning as much as I can playing classical violin then go into free form jazz. Here’s my problem. I had my very first violin lesson today. The first thing the teacher told me was to make a ‘U’ shape with my left hand. Then she directed the neck of the violin into the curvature of my thumb base and told me that’s how the violin is held. My thumb sticking up in the air like a dead tree trunk. The neck of the violin rested in my hand like a shovel handle. Vibrato is done by tapping the neck as you bow. She holds her bow on the top like you would a dinner knife. Despite the fact that I can barely read music she’s starting me in Suzuki book 2. HELP! This is the only instructor within 50 miles of where I live. My first thoughts were, “maybe I can move....” Not an option. Where do I go from here?

Replies (29)

February 28, 2012 at 03:12 AM · Yikes. I'm reading this and wondering if you are spoofing?? What you wrote doesn't sound remotely like classical technique. It doesn't sound like the "invented technique" of many good fiddlers, either. If this is for real, maybe you could get your computer set up for Skype, and take lessons that way. Or buy some beginner school-method books, study the descriptions & pictures, and teach yourself.

February 28, 2012 at 04:04 AM · You might have more options than you thought:


February 28, 2012 at 04:36 AM · Thanks folks,. No this is no joke. Just because I could hear the notes and play an almost in tune scale she got the idea I could read music. She opens this book and asks me to play the first line. She might as well asked me to read Chinese. I did find a place about 30 miles away that teaches violin. Really hoping to be able to go there. I'm more than heart broken right at the moment.

Thanks for the link Joyce Lin. Gives me a few more options to choose from.

February 28, 2012 at 05:27 AM · It's great that you've started violin Paul. From your description it sounds like you've already figured out that it would be best to avoid that "teacher" you found. I wish you the best and I hope you find a good mentor to help you. Is there an orchestra near you? If so you might try calling them up and asking if they can recommend a teacher. Good luck in your efforts!

February 28, 2012 at 05:38 AM · Here is another thread that might be of interest to you.

I'd suggest that you contact Laura Yeh. If her studio is too far, she might be able to recommend someone closer. Good luck!

February 28, 2012 at 09:11 AM · Hi Paul, I agree with Sue, a lot of what you outlined about your lesson seems very wrong. Regarding good teachers, not all of them actually advertise on a regular basis. Like mine, they might just pop an ad in the local paper only occasionally, if they have a space for a student. You need to find someone who knows, maybe from a 'local' violin store or orchestral group.

Seeing you have the internet, you could join the violinlab site and follow some lessons that way, or perhaps check out professor v lessons on youtube. They are pretty good by and large. Also on the internet you can order 'Basics' by Simon Fischer, on the Simon Fischer website. It takes about a week to arrive from England and provides detailed direction on bow and violin hold, fingering, vibrato and other things. It is a worthwhile book to have for most violinists. But these options are only for the desperate and are not a great substitute for a real teacher. Do try hard to find one. Good luck.


February 28, 2012 at 01:12 PM · It might be worthwhile, to get started, to find a good teacher even if it's at a distance away from you.

If you can only get together once a month due to the distance/drive...but find some way to set up a practice scheduale that has you progressing...or skype in between as part of your lessons...that would be more useful than poor lessons or only on-line lessons.

For myself, periodically my teacher has to move my hands, shoulder, or arm around for me when I don't 'get' what she's saying otherwise...so having in-person lessons is definately worthwhile...

February 28, 2012 at 01:18 PM · Wow, Paul. That is just too awful. How in the world someone with what appears to be limited skills and pedagogical understandings is able to attract students is beyond me. Good luck with some of the other ideas given. I agree with the writer who suggested traveling for a monthly solid lesson if that is the best choice for quality, informed live instruction. Sue

February 28, 2012 at 05:52 PM · One thing you may consider is looking for music festivals or other gatherings, and take advantage of workshops. There are a number of them, and it may be easier to attend a one-time event to learn some techniques, where a weekly trip is out of the question.

Below is a link that may help.


February 28, 2012 at 07:23 PM · Do you really live in Warrenton? If so, then you're 57 miles from St. Louis, according to the map. It's not like you live 150 from the nearest teacher. Search around a little more.

February 28, 2012 at 08:36 PM · Paul,

there is much better instruction than that available on YouTube. Check out ProfessorV lessons (Mr Todd Ehle). A wealthy of information.

There is also The Violin Lab (on the internet). And others.

Good luck in finding a better teacher.

February 28, 2012 at 11:08 PM · Thanks agin everyone for the links and help. I've been watching vids on Youtube from,





Ycudi Menuhin Violin tuorials

as well as a few others. The more I watch the more I know I need help. LOL Once or twice a month is about all I'll have time to go. I do custom work and there are times I can't get away. Going to check out a place tonight. Hopefully they'll be able to work with my schedule.

Yes I live in Warrenton. St. Lois is only 50 miles to the east of me.

Hopefully I can find something closer.

February 29, 2012 at 02:05 AM · Just got back and I'm grinning from ear to ear. I start this Sat! Not a week day were I'd have to worry if I'll make it or not. Saturday! So my violin playing officially starts in four days.

February 29, 2012 at 03:22 AM · WOOHOO!

I know what it is like to try and fit in instruction with too busy of a schedule; congratulations!

February 29, 2012 at 07:24 AM · Congratulations!

After the "not so great" teacher you've already tried out I'm sure you'll love seeing what great results quality violin instruction will produce.

Good luck!

February 29, 2012 at 01:55 PM · Congrats. Let us know how this teacher is in comparison!

February 29, 2012 at 06:14 PM · And let us know when you get to "May Song." That is kind of a turning point in the development of any professional violinist. :)

February 29, 2012 at 09:56 PM · Thanks again folks. Really looking forward to this. I'm sure my neighbors are too...LOL Right now I'm starting to memorize what notes are where without playing. Just the name of the notes on each string and where they sit on the staff.

N.A. Mohr, as long as she doesn't call it a fiddle and tell me to hold it like I'm chucking a spear. Not much to compare. Guess I shouldn't knock my former teacher. I know she plays a lot of bluegrass and performs often. Just not the music I want to do.

Now for the ruff part. I have to go tell a friend I wont be taking lessons in his store.

March 1, 2012 at 11:55 PM · I'm SO happy that you've found a better teacher! I was really worried when you described your original teacher's techniques. I'm sure you'll make much better progress studying with your new teacher. Have fun!!

March 3, 2012 at 09:52 PM · It's official. I had my first lesson today with the new instructor. The first thing she told me was what i was doing wrong with my left hand. Said the bow hold I was doing (learned on line) was good. And although it still feels awkward the position i have the shoulder rest in is right. She also likes the idea that I've learned to keep the bow in about the same spot on the strings from frog to nut. I told here I used a hammer. Put lines on the handle of a fretting hammer. Put the head on my neck and used the lines to learn to keep the bow in one spot. Also shown I'm trying to learn colle but still not confident enough with my bow hold. Then she put tape on my violin...guess that means it's official. I've started to play.

The book I'm starting out in is called 'Essential Elements 2000". I'm not concerned weather one way is better than the other. As long as I have an instructor that's going to correct my playing and not let me get away with being sloppy I'm happy. I told her I'm not interested in quick results. I don't want to waste my time spending three months undoing a mistake. I've paid up for this months lessons. If it's obvious she's not being strict enough I'll go somewhere else.

March 4, 2012 at 12:42 AM · I'm glad you had a good lesson! It makes a world of difference! :D

Now...dare I ask aout the validity of taping for adults? *ducks*

March 4, 2012 at 12:54 AM · ANY teacher that uses tapes sucks. Period.

AND you need to learn to play legato before any fancy bowings. It looks like the US has as many bad teachers as the UK!

March 4, 2012 at 01:25 AM · The tape is there but I'm not going to use them. Never had to look at the guitar neck and there's plenty more notes to be had on it. But this will all have to wait. Not going to start with the left hand till I get more instruction on it. No need to start a bad habit. Right now I'm trying to keep the string silent after playing a note. If everyone in an orchestra squeaked as much as I do it'd sound like a bunch of rats in the room. Also having a problem of going sharp when I get to the frog. So I got two fixes before next Sat. Squeaking and going sharp.

To point one thing out. My instructor never said how much bow I should use. Or what part. So I'm using the tip end, frog and mid section to practice the first two pages. I'm also trying to use the entire length. Can only do a full stroke slow. Not going to get into the habit of swatting at flies with the tip end of my bow. Learning colle and using a full stroke is my doing. I don't see anything wrong with learning good technique from the start.

March 4, 2012 at 02:54 PM · Ask her about how much bow to use...the beginner books usually start with full bows and then introduce half bows, etc.

But yes, you need to learn all the basics first.

Down the road, the rules change depending on what you're doing...but that's not something to worry about for a long-long time still...

I'm your age (although I started when I was 10), and I'm just now really starting to 'listen' for subtle differences when I play. I wish I had been doing that all along...I'd be so much further ahead. But mind-set and readiness all play into it as well. Apparantly I've come a long way since September (with my new instructor)...so I'm pumped!

March 5, 2012 at 09:36 AM · I can relate to your location issues. I lived in the Alaskan Bush for most of my life. Services that woould normally be available become major projects to obtain.

There is one site on the internet that no one has mentioned. Pierre has been playing professionally for 25+ years. He has set up a free site called http://www.fiddlerman.com

It is a good place to learn alot. He offers lessons via Skype also should you want them.

March 5, 2012 at 04:42 PM · N.A. Mohr,

this book starts out with everything in pizzicto however my instructor said to use the bow. I admit trying colle is easier when my bow is held without any support. I’m guessing the extra weight is helping me keep my fingers in place. For now I’m going to be aware of it. Only shifting slightly to get used to the idea. Using my thumb as a fulcrum point helps me to keep it in place. The movement is also helping me to keep aware of my right hand. Which keeps me aware of bow travel. My thinking is you play the violin with your right hand (arm). If this wasn’t the case it would make more sense for a right handed person to finger with the right hand and bow with the left. I want to develop good bowing now so I can concentrate better on my left hand in the future. I’ve already stated I’m not looking for quick results. Just good ones.

Tanks for the link Bob Bears. Looking forward to going threw and seeing all he has to offer.

March 5, 2012 at 09:53 PM · Well, however she teaches...let us know...

I'm very interested in how adults learn...(as in what works, what doesn't, and why...)...

March 10, 2012 at 09:19 PM · I consider today my very first real violin lesson. I played. It was nothing more then alternating between the A and D string. But it felt good to play. I had questions, she answered. I made mistakes, she let me know. Hopefully she'll be this picky all the time. She did tell me that all the adults she's taught have been as hard on themselves. I should lighten up.

March 10, 2012 at 11:54 PM · Listen to your teacher! :D

I'm glad you had a good lesson.

I'm playing my viola in a very beginner ensemble at the moment...and it's interesting to see how everyone is learning and progressing and what areas each has more/less problems with.

I thought I had a handle on the c clef - was all proud of myself, then yesterday we got some some new music. and geez, you'd think I'd never seen a note before...it was awful...lol.

I'll be fine for next time. Once I go through the new music slowly and at my own pace, I won't be 'stuck' anymore...so it can all be learned!

Point is...enjoy the process!

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