Learn violin by oneself and still become good?

May 10, 2012 at 05:41 AM · I've been playing violin for two months and two weeks now and bought myself 3 essential elements 2000 for violin. I am a student who chose to focus on studying rather then working part-time but I am currently on a strike (from Montreal) so I started praticing violin and would really like to get at a decent level, but is it possible without a teacher?

Replies (52)

May 10, 2012 at 06:12 AM · It's possible, but it's really hard. Take a few lesson when you can afford them.

May 10, 2012 at 06:52 AM · I won't say it's impossible, but I'd say it's very, very close. Classical music is classical music because of its very refined pedagogy. It's VERY difficult to learn them from books, since it's something you have to learn physically. Similar to learning ballet with no instructions.

May 10, 2012 at 07:56 AM · Its surely doable. Combine the following:

a) If you plan to play lots with piano, ignore "perfect" tuning. Just go for the equal tempered. Download Finale/Sibelius softwares, to which you can compare your intonation in all interesting passages. People might disagree with me, but I would say at the end of the day, you can sound clean and wonderful even if not having perfect tuning...especially when you play with piano.

b) Always, always record yourself and listen. Compare to others of your level. Analyze-- what do you like on your playing, what don't you like? What would you like to improve? Let your taste drive your development.

c) Use the rating of etudes & exercises on violinmasterclass.com as a reference, even if it not always accurate.

d) My advice for you would be to download a set of etudes that are matchable on your level, in the sense that they are difficult, but possible to learn within a few days. Include into the notation software, and practice. Try to do 2 etudes per week. It does not have to be perfect. Build on, and go for harder and harder sets once you finish one set. Remember: the sound you produce, must always sound pleasing to yourself. See this as a sport: to learn as many etudes and finish off as many sets as possible. You are at initial stages, when this is OK. The day when you will start being unsatisfied with how it sounds and will want to spend more time on each exercise, you have made a progress.

e) Get yourself a co-player, somebody that can stimulate your practice of musical pieces, and development.

The perfect holding of instrument/bow, perfect vibrato often is related to whether you want to become professional or not. You can always learn to play beautifully and pleasing, even if its not the "mainstream" way of basics. You chose.

May 10, 2012 at 01:56 PM · Thank you everyone, I am very grateful for all your advice,they're very helpful but do you have some exemples of etude? I really would like to try something else then 'twinkle twinkle little star'

May 10, 2012 at 02:34 PM · I would start with buying Suzuki-s first two books...

May 10, 2012 at 02:41 PM · I go online and print abunch of simples etude and torture my neighbor with those until I got quite good. Even with teacher, my time spent with her is extremely limited(1/2hr per week) I kindda have to serve myself liberty.

May 10, 2012 at 03:57 PM · Is it possible to get a teacher at least once every month? The more often the better of course... it is just that even though you will make progress doing it by yourself, you won't notice everything you are doing. If you unknowingly do something wrong (and there will be a lot...) it will be very hard to relearn it the right way, even with a teacher. In the end you might end up frustrated again and that would be sad as the violin makes very much fun.

Unless you can't afford a teacher, please try it out - it will be fun and it will be worth the money.

May 10, 2012 at 03:58 PM · Hi Melissa,

It all depends what you want to get out of your violin experience. I personally feel that it is difficult to learn after a certain level through internet or self-help courses alone. Learning consistently with a teacher will keep you from developing bad habits. Also, in the long-run, you'll be able to make faster progress because a "live" teacher can diagnose your technical and musical needs.

Yet, there are some great videos out there to help people start off. If you'll excuse the shameless self promotion, I'll even mention my own..You can find my lessons which are quite technical in nature at http://www.violincoursesonline.com.

Best of luck!


May 11, 2012 at 04:48 AM · Thank you everyone. I've been looking at the suzuki method and checked the price of the books, they're quite affordable but when it comes to go to a school specialize in suzuki method... Might not be in my budget. I really want a teacher believe me, but finding a job considering how things gets hot in Quebec and we never know if school might start the very next day, it is somehow complicated. I was thinking about finding someone who plays violin to help me but most of my friends gived up longtime ago. I'm sure I got many things wrong in my holding and playing, but I can't get to the problems on my own

May 11, 2012 at 06:06 AM · If you really can't have a teacher, be really careful about how you feel, being tired while beginning if you play a lot is normal, pain isn't.

Try to use a mirror to see how you are playing.

When I came back to the violin, without teacher, I was playing with the violin too far on the left and a bad hand placement, which make bowing and intonation hard as hell and all seemed normal cuz I was an almost begginer. It's frustrating and can't make you progress…

Oh, and try not to put you're hand on pieces too hard, it's frustrating to fail for a long time and yet to continue trying.

May 11, 2012 at 04:04 PM · I would be very wary of learning the violin without ever having had a teacher. As others have noted, it may be possible but it is IMO certainly not desirable. OTOH, as a teenager I had a superb (and distinguished) teacher for two years and have remembered so much of what I learnt that, a few years ago, I was able to resume playing without a teacher. But I can only play without a teacher because of having been taught in the past. As to the mention of a mirror, this is interesting because I find that I am liable to make the same mistakes as years ago about left-hand technique. I therefore keep a mirror to my left when precticing, to check that my left hand is correctly positioned.

May 11, 2012 at 05:51 PM · In the past, my parents paid for me piano class for 3 years while I was asking for the violin. They didn't agreed and I got lost in music because I wanted to find my own instrument and be pleased while playing it. I got myself a bass guitar when I got my first job because I wanted to have fun during college, but I end up being bored. Then I bought a cello from China(sold not long after) because I loved the sound, but couldn't really play it because my boyfriend wanted me to stay on the bass. I had a year of confusion and spending money here and there. Finaly, I quit my job because I was getting more serious to school, but I can't live without playing music and I don't want to play piano anymore. While being on strike, I swop my acoustic bass guitar for a cheap violin and made a promise with my parents. I if I stay on the violin for a year without giving up, they'll have to pay me violin class unless I get a job before.

So you got a bit of my story and why I want to learn even without a teacher even if I would really love to have one

May 15, 2012 at 03:50 PM · How's this for a counter offer to your parents: they pay for lessons for six months and if you quit in that time; you pay them back, otherwise they keep paying for you r lessons. You'll be less likely to quit if you have a teacher. On your own, you'll find your own limitations and progress becomes more and more difficult. I was a really good guitar player and I could only advance on the violin to a certain level, then any improvement was outside my reach. I never considered quitting, so the only alternative was to get a teacher. The point is; you'll max out with natural ability and get frustrated within a year. I've only been playing a year I've had a teacher all but a few months, and I know there is no way I would be getting the same enjoyment, satisfaction and sense of accomplishment without my teacher.

May 15, 2012 at 05:46 PM · Philip's experience mirrors mine. I came into playing folk fiddle (specifically Irish) from a lifetime of classical cello, and my expertise as a cellist took me up to little more than a basic level on the violin. However, I soon realised that I was running up against a brick wall with problems I couldn't sort out on my own, and I wanted to extend my violin playing into other areas.

The only answer was a teacher. After two years tuition I was ready to transfer from the cello section of my local chamber orchestra to the second violin section, where I've been playing happily ever since. I'm still having regular lessons.

May 15, 2012 at 10:30 PM · I think it is near impossible to learn violin by yourself from the start and be good at it. In order to study yourself, you need to have a good understanding of tone production and shifting, and maybe some other things I can't think of. I currently am studying by myself and have a good foundation so I can improve.

May 16, 2012 at 12:13 AM · I agree with Phillip. Even though there are very good note location charts that go right on your violin (I know, I make one), and very good learning systems and methods (I publish one of those too)there's no substitute for a knowledgeable and caring instructor. Anyone that's progressed playing an instrument, knows that you don't get better until you start playing with folks that are better and more knowledgeable than you are, and they are willing to show you what they know. Additionally, a good instructor will prevent you from developing bad habits and bad tone recognition. There's a lot to learning to play an instrument well, any instrument. If you have monetary restrictions, I think there's a lot to be said for self training with instructor monitored check points. With this option you find an instructor that will start you off with lessons once per week, or once every other week. Then work into a once per month progress, technique and ear training session. If dollars are not a concern, go for the best instructor you can connect with and afford. Phillips idea for a deal with your parents on the lessons is a good one. Underneath it all, you have to commit to the practice time. No practice, no progress. Simple as that. And practice that is misguided or not headed in a good direction takes some time to correct. A good teaching musician/professional instructor can be a real life saver on the path to learning to play. Keep your head in the game and you'll get there.

May 16, 2012 at 12:25 AM · Why would I pay an instructor $50/hr to put tapes on my fingerboard? Can an instructor show me what a perfect 5th is? Look at the Todd Ehle videos on tuning the violin. He basically tells you to use a meter. Thats your high standard? How many students show up for lesson 1 with any music theory and ear training?

Sorry I can work through "A Violinists Guide for Exquisite Intonation" by Barry Ross and the Fischer 'Basics' books without all the hand holding and emotional intelligence baloney.

May 16, 2012 at 01:23 AM · You can also learn all of the following by yourself without ever needing an instructor:

Mandarin Chinese

Synthetic organic chemistry

The game of chess

How to write historical biography

General surgery

Landscape architecture

Interpretation of poetry

Electrical engineering

Jet aircraft maintenance

Molecular biology

There are plenty of youtube lessons and books in the library. Good luck!

May 16, 2012 at 08:29 AM · Where is the evidence of failed solo attempts to learn from Fischer's 'Basics'? Instead, the self-learner is bombarded with vacuous final products, most notably the Suzuki standard, which is also a set of books.

May 16, 2012 at 02:20 PM · It's really the little things that you miss out on without a teacher that will come back and hit you on the head years later. Too deep of a grip with the left hand, tense thumb on the right hand, bow not parallel to the bridge, wrist tension... cannot be explained by the books. As I said, it's sort of like learning how to do a fouette with a ballet manual. "Wrist in circular motion when you're doing sautille" sounds simple enough, but when you actually try to do it without a teacher showing you, it'll take five times as much time.

It really depends on how far you want to go. The tone difference between an amateur and a pro is something only a select few can teach. But if you just want to play for fun as a hobby, then it might be doable...

Piano would probably be easier, though. That instrument produces a sound when someone presses a key. Violin requires some time to even be able to hold it without your hand support.

May 16, 2012 at 04:24 PM · "Sorry I can work through "A Violinists Guide for Exquisite Intonation" by Barry Ross and the Fischer 'Basics' books without all the hand holding and emotional intelligence baloney."

Out of curiosity... Have you ever studied with a teacher who went to one of the big-name schools? Have you ever studied with anyone who studied under one of the great pedagogues? Have you ever studied with someone who consistently turns out professional musicians? Have you ever studied with someone who stands back and can analyze everything about the most complicated motions your body makes while playing, and then have four, five, six different ways to explain it? Not trying to be rude, I'm just honestly wondering. I've been so incredibly blessed and fortunate that I've been able to, and certain individuals have convinced me that nothing is more helpful than a first-rate teacher. I can understand the argument that "learning from a crap teacher" < self-learning (although this is a definite subjective gray area). But the argument "learning from a first-rate teacher" < self-learning...that's... Well, I won't say. It's an unusual perspective, is what I'll say.

There is no substitute for learning from a first-rate teacher. Period. Even if you can only see him or her a few times a year.

May 16, 2012 at 04:31 PM · Randall, perhaps you can point us to some examples of competent violinists who are completely self-taught.

I have a failed experience in trying to learn a technique from 'Basics' by myself: not long after I started lessons (so I did and still do have a teacher), my teacher showed me legato bowing (i.e. seamless bow change). I couldn't quite grasp the motions when I was practicing at home, so I watched videos online (including Todd Ehle's) and read "Basics" (the page about changing bow specifically). The next lesson, my teacher told me I was doing the complete opposite of what I was supposed to do, and I told her that I learned it from Basics. So she pulled out her copy, and we read it together, and she explained to me what those sentences really meant... It's hard enough to explain and understand physical nuances verbally and visually even with live demonstrations, it's even harder to read them from a book and grasp what the motions are, and do them correctly. Perhaps I'm particularly lousy in self-learning (I doubt it!), but I would not trade learning from a good teacher with all the online resources and books in the world - I still use them, but there is no way that they can replace my teachers.

Of course, without a teacher, I suppose, one is blissfully unaware when s/he is doing something wrong, so one can be perfectly happy and think that s/he is doing great!

May 16, 2012 at 05:33 PM · It all depends on your end goals and on your defintion of 'good'.

If your goal is to play Twinkle Twinkle, you can teach yourself. If your goal is to play for an orchestra or other ensemble...no.

A relative of mine picked up the violin after he retired - and became a total enthusiast and taught himself to play (fiddle music). He performed with fellow cohorts at various venues in his small community.

But was he 'good'? Not even close. I was actually rather appalled at how not good he was. However, he enjoyed it...and so did their audience (either that or they were too polite to tell them otherwise).

May 16, 2012 at 06:13 PM · There are technical things that are not apparently obvious that one has to learn one-on-one from a teacher.

Unless, you happen to be a genius and can figure it all out on your own. That is the exception rather than the rule, though.

May 16, 2012 at 07:26 PM · My father never had a tennis lesson as a child, and he ended up playing college varsity. He once lost an 8-6 8-6 match to the 11th ranked player in the country. That said, he had some real technique problems which he tried to resolve through lessons as an adult but never did to his satisfaction. I often wonder if he would have been even better with some lessons. However, it is infinitely harder to become an acceptable string player, much less a good one, without lessons.

May 17, 2012 at 12:56 AM · Here are some issues that I often see in self-taught players who have been playing much longer than me:

1. Bad posture

2. Bad tone (such as scratchy, muddy, choked, etc.)

3. Weak sound

4. Bad intonation, or sliding fingers to try to fix intonation issues

5. Bouncy/shaky bow

6. Unclean playing, e.g. extra sound from picking up fingers at the wrong time, fingers not clearing strings, string crossing out-of-sync with fingering, unintentional double stops, etc.

7. Detached détaché (i.e. notes not sustained)

8. "Unconventional" vibrato

9. Playing wrong notes or wrong rhythm

10. Uneven rhythm

11. Unintentional accents

12. Untimely changes in dynamics (suddenly loud and/or soft)

13. Lacking in tone color

14. Lacking in musical expressions - phrasing, dynamics, articulation, etc.


These are all common beginner problems. However, with a good teacher, they will be addressed with time. Unless someone is already an accomplished musician before picking up the violin, I wonder how many self-taught players can detect these issues in their own playing, let alone fix them themselves.

May 17, 2012 at 03:00 AM · Ill give you a very brief reason why learning by yourself is not feasible if you want to be competent.

It's basically reinventing the wheel, centuries have been spent from people well before your time building little by little the knowledge and techniques and passing them on to later generations. Are you going to tell me that you are just going to say "NO! I don't want to benefit from others toil I am going to do it by myself and not take advantage of passed down knowledge".

May 17, 2012 at 07:10 AM · Well I will be fair. I have lots of the problems Joyce Lin mentioned as a self-taught amateur who practices max 1 hour per day. But I enjoy playing music each moment. But good? Its relative, and relative to good professionals I am very poor. I can only say, I would have regretted it if my poor economics would have stopped me from practicing while waiting for better times. I did this for 7 years, and it was a bad idea.

May 17, 2012 at 07:32 PM · A teacher can spot faults that no book or online course can help you with, even (or especially!) if you're not aware that you're making them. In a trial lesson with a new teacher she stopped me before I had played a single note and made two corrections to my bow hold. She also sees my left elbow when it tries to sneak back to my side, explaining my difficulty in reaching across the fingerboard. And lately she's been catching the middle finger of my right hand lifting right off the frog. I'm totally unaware that these things are happening - I'm too busy concentrating on the myriad other things one must attend to when playing violin.

You can learn a lot from books and other materials - but you need feedback from a live person watching you. Even an untrained person can spot things (like my wife when she noticed my bowing wasn't straight), but a good teacher is best. It's too easy to make mistakes without realizing what you're doing - you need someone to correct you when it happens.

May 18, 2012 at 06:04 PM · charlies point is true. if u cant afford a teacher, try playing for other people and recording yourself.

May 18, 2012 at 06:30 PM · It depends on the teacher too. There are good teachers and bad teachers. Not morally bad of course, just teachers that take your money and don't really do a good job of teaching you to play with good technique. Then I guess the really, really good teachers can charge more for a lesson than the ones that aren't so good. So if you can't afford to pay for a good teacher, is any teacher better than no teacher at all?

May 18, 2012 at 07:28 PM · 1. Posture

- Fischer 'Practice' P.271-274

2. Bow hold

- Fischer 'Practice' P.302-303

3. Building the correct hand shape in general

- Fischer 'Practice' P. 251-252

4. Uniform intonation

- Fischer 'Practice' P. 207--

etc etc etc

You can record yourself with a $30 webcam from any angle you wish but a mirror is usually sufficient.

May 19, 2012 at 10:05 AM · From personal experience I would say it is impossible to teach yourself to play the violin and actually be able to do it well. I taught myself for the first 10ish months of playing the violin and I think that I still struggle with issues that I learned wrong during that time almost 2 1/2 years later. It is a really tricky problem if you just can't afford lessons but personally i think that teaching yourself could do more harm that good. If you do find someone who plays the violin perhaps you could offer to pay them a small amount to teach you some things ... the issue is that if you are doing it yourself you don't know where your problems are, if you don't know that something is wrong then you won't be able to fix it, and you could pick up some bad habits that will be both time consuming and frustrating to try and fix later on.

May 19, 2012 at 05:37 PM · NO ! Joyce Lin has said everything that needed to be said.

May 19, 2012 at 06:15 PM · Surely not everyone who played the violin in the 1800s-1900s was within walking/riding distance of a teacher. How did they learn? And they didn't even have violinist.com to steer them along in the right direction.

Really though, it depends on your definition of a good player. Enough to be able to play tunes and impress your friends, sure. I think I remember reading that Suzuki taught himself for the first few years, listening to great recordings and trying to imitate their sound. Jazz musicians are really good at this sort of self teaching, but you have to KNOW what a good sound is and have a strong desire to make it yourself - these are rare traits. Beyond fiddle tunes and Seitz concerti you start running into things that you don't know you don't know. You'll hit a wall technically.

On the other hand, the often repeated line, "it will be difficult to go back and relearn something correctly," is a little cliché I think. If you are receptive to change then you can change. I'll believe this until I see a dissertation on the subject that gives me documented evidence to the contrary.

May 19, 2012 at 11:00 PM · Although you'll be able to learn without a teacher, you will progress much more with one at first. At least take a few lessons then stop and try on your own. I would take lessons at any opportunity myself. We all want to get as good as we can, and you'll get better with lessons. It is still mostly in your hands though, no matter whether you take or not, you need to practice lots, and luckily that should be a joy!

May 20, 2012 at 03:54 AM · As a teacher with a lot of Suzuki training, I'd say that the Suzuki books are actually the least likely to help someone who is attempting to teach himself/herself. Though they have a good sequence of music, Suzuki assumes that a teacher is taking the student through the step-by-step process of learning technique. Some better books for the autodidact: The Doflein Method; String Builder; Adventures in Violinland or another book that is more thorough with the steps and builds in some repetition of skills. Suzuki is great with a teacher, and also it's great repertoire to do, but you'll need more, especially teaching yourself.

May 20, 2012 at 11:06 AM · Laurie's suggestions are very good!!

I would argue that there is a big difference in results depending on the focus. When having a teacher, much of the focus is put on fixing the weaknesses in your playing.

When working as an autodidact, one can do the opposite: focusing on the strengths (not meaning one neglects the weaknesses), e.g.

*An "unconventional vibrato", can instead of being a weakness become your trademark, on good and bad. The sound public recognizes, and perhapsa a part of it even loves.

*A bad bow-arm, can allow you to do alternative sounds nobody has produced on stage before. Maybe you will be able to play the most heart-breaking, transparent pianissimo and create atmospheres. The lack of colors, can become a wide range of it.

*The eternal thinking on how to improve the musical phrases, will force you to listen a lot and train up a your problem-solving capacities.

*Sliding fingers, can become fluent fingers, playing a bit with 19th century style.

*A bad posture, will put a time-limit on the amount of practice you can put into it, e.g. 1 hour. This will make you to appreciate this 1 hour much more, focus better during it, and allow you to broaden yourself in other ways.

One unfair aspect of the discussion, is the assumption that having a teacher and musical education prevents you from many of the above mentioned habits. As many of us know, even on concerts of professional performers we often can hear such things as a flat musical expression, sloppy intonation, bad rhythm, bad interplay, etc.

I think, whether or not one can get self-taught, depends very much also on the persons

a) musicality

b) well-developed analytical skills

c) self-motivation

Without any of those three components, I doubt there can be success. In this way, I think having a teacher partially replaces the need of (b) and can either boost or kill (c).

May 20, 2012 at 11:39 PM · ...also: having a teacher doesn't guarantee you'll be a great violinist (at whatever level you're aiming for)...you need both a good teacher and to be a good student to get there...

Also...keep in mind that you don't need to have weekly lessons. If you organize your lesson and practice time you can go every two, three weeks or even monthly...how well that works depends on you and your end-goals...

May 21, 2012 at 10:21 PM · I regularly hear from self taught beginners that really just needed a way to make some sense of the instrument. How it works, where the notes are, what are good exercises to begin with, Etc. I call it Novice Player Anxiety Syndrome. It has to do with all the extraneous stuff that throws up road blocks for new players. In my humble opinion, those little burrs under the saddle can be the difference between success and dust collecting on the instrument.

Melissa, I think, is wondering if she can take herself forward in the task of learning the instrument with any success. I would agree that the self taught student can successfully learn some of the basic mechanics of playing violin, but it has to be said that there are some subtleties about the instrument that just need to be learned from an instructor.

The old timers from the 1800-early 1900's may have been able to coax a song out, but it may not have sounded as good as a rendition that was learned from a better player/experienced instructor. Mainly because the only rendition they may have ever heard was there own, and they conjured that one up from memory.

Those of us that are "mentally tough" (Randall) obviously don't need some of the things that others might. Doesn't make it right or wrong, just different. Melissa may not desire the tough road, she might want to seek a less frustrating route that takes advantage of the experience of others (videos, DVDs, YouTube, acquaintances that play better than she does, Etc.). Doesn't make it right or wrong, just different. By the way Randall, there is a very good alternative to tapes now. Try a Google image search for "violin position markers".

It would seem to me that anything that helps someone pick up the instrument, keep it in their hands and leads them to become a better player can't be bad. Especially when that player is fortunate enough to be able to incorporate a knowledgeable, patience and forward thinking instructor in their journey.

Melissa keep up the effort. You will never regret giving yourself the gift of being able to play an instrument. There's nothing like sittin' on the back porch leveling the alpha waves through music. Maybe if you add the cold beverage of your choice it could get better.

May 22, 2012 at 05:06 AM · Sverker: your point about professionals also having those bad habits is a good one, but it just goes to show that even professionals can benefit from seeing a teacher once in a while if they care about their craft.

Also, I believe that your list of traits required to be a successful self-taught violinist is missing some crucial ones:

* a good ear

* physical gift and/or good understanding of how the body works

* self body awareness

* good observation skills

* attention to detail

* tenacity

* curiosity

Randall: I don't think Basics and Practice are suitable for beginning autodidacts - they are not instruction books, but a collection of exercises for players who already have some foundation to build up their technique. How would a rank beginner know what to work on first? How many beginners can pay attention to so many things at once while watch oneself in the mirror and play music at the same time: posture, bow hold, hand shape, intonation etc etc etc? A good teacher would know when to introduce a new concept or a new aspect of playing in appropriate order without overwhelming the student. Are you aware that even with a good ear, a lot of the time one cannot hear one's own intonation problems while playing? (It's an interesting phenomenon that I have yet to figure out why.)

BTW, I'm not alone in not understanding what's written in Basics without my teacher - a friend of mine who has been studying violin for 9+ years also admits that he often needs his teacher's help to understand the contents in Basics. It's pretty safe to rule out reading comprehension ability as the problem. ;)

Beside all the things that have been mentioned so far about the benefits of having a teacher, I have learned these (and much more) from my teachers:

1. How to practice effectively and efficiently.

2. How to be a better problem solver.

3. How to critique myself.

4. How to be aware of my body.

These all prepare me to be my own teacher in the future. Besides, I only see my teacher once a week, so most of the time, I AM my own teacher.

In the end, it comes down to how valuable your time is - with a good teacher, you will avoid many false starts, premature plateaus, wasted time to unlearn bad habits, lots of frustration, and you will progress much faster. I cannot afford to teach myself because my time is much too precious to me.

May 22, 2012 at 08:10 AM · Joyce

My list includes most of your comments in my humble opinion, let me clarify for easier reading

a) musicality, or rather have written "musical talent": includes a good ear

b) well-developed analytical skills: includes good observation skills, attention to detail in this context

c) self-motivation: tenacity, curiosity in this context

So what it does not include, as you say, is the physical gift and/or good understanding of how the body works and self body awareness. Have you ever thought about how much you can achieve even if you reject this? This is not needed in order to play well enough, even thought this is a well-spread myth. Think of old Paganini, he still managed, didn't he? The attention to the body is needed for two purposes mainly: 1) making difficult things easier, and 2) reducing tension and injuries, allowing longer practice times. What regards (2): If you play up to 1.5 hours daily with 24 hours rest in between, you will handle it. I got myself a shoulder damage, when I was forced to play in orchestras with longer practice hours. What regards (1): if you are not intending to learn 20 new sonatas and concertos every year or being professional, whats the point of hurrying? The longer it takes to figure out a technical passage in a piece, the longer time you also have to think of each phrasing at a different place and take it to a higher level.

May 22, 2012 at 10:00 AM · Paganini had a number of teachers, even the teachers of his teachers.

May 22, 2012 at 10:22 AM · Yes, it's possible to teach yourself to a certain level. However, I have ended up with a couple of adult pupils who have done this, and then got stuck.

The main thing that drove these adults mad, was the poor sound they produced.They had no idea why it sounded so bad for so long.

Player number 1, had both serious bowing technique problems and a badly set up violin with just about everything wrong (bridge wrong height, terrible strings and soundpost in the wrong position). Player number 2 just had a bad bowing technique, and the wrong weight bow - scratching and scraping galore.

It's well worth finding a flexible teacher who will give you a lesson once a month for a while, so that you are sure everything is fine.

May 22, 2012 at 10:25 AM · At lest you won't be worring about..... 'being 'too good' technically?...'

Of course you can...'get at a decent level without a teacher?...'

But you must be diligent in your studies and 'practise, practise ,practise '. You become the teacher and you must be able to decipher the writtings of the famous pedagogues.

May 22, 2012 at 02:56 PM · Sharelle, my point of Paganini was regarding his hold of the instrument and bow...

Heather, what is a "good sound" is very much defined by the taste of the listener. How can you know that what you consider as a "poor sound" really is poor, and not simply "different from your standards"? I believe the Ear can overcome any difficulties and problems, and that you will be able to produce lovely sound even if you play with the feets instead of hands.

May 22, 2012 at 05:04 PM · I personally find that one of the most valuable things about having my teacher is having access to her good, well-trained ear. I don't know if others have the same issue, but my own playing sounds very different to me than it does to others. Certain things that I think are obvious and magnified, sound very subtle to someone else. Other things that I don't even notice will drive someone else crazy. I can record myself forever but in one lesson my teacher still hears things that I miss. And, she has ideas for how to fix these problems.

My son has been playing cello for about a year and had his first recital last weekend. He played along with several other string students around his age and older, from the same music school. There were a handful of more advanced violin students also playing, and I noticed that the students of one particular teacher all seemed to have certain tone and intonation issues. I was surprised--both that I could pick this out and that it seemed to be linked to a particular teacher. I found myself being glad that my son has a different teacher who works on his tone with him every week and is training him to listen for it himself. Her careful work with him on tone seems to be paying off already, even in the first year of playing.

May 22, 2012 at 11:45 PM · There are some things that only a human can teach/translate to another human. I firmly believe that the art of accurate intonation recognition is one of them. I guess it could be easily extrapolated that if humans are the best at the art, then it needs to be learned from another human/teacher/instructor/musician. Hopefully we get to learn from someone who is good at the art, and good at teaching.

It should also be recognized that some people can teach themselves incredible things. Becoming a self taught concert violinist shining star is probably not in the cards for most of us. Not to say that it hasn't happened before or won't happen again. It's that the odds are against the average human achieving that level of success as a self taught violinist.

I begged my sons guitar teacher to teach my son how to read music while he was young enough to pick it up easily. The teacher was capable, just not interested. Eventually my son learned the skill on his own and became an accomplished musician, but it took him a long time to pick up the reading music part.

The quality of the character of a self taught student is usually the determining factor for whether or not they will achieve a level of accomplishment. How many folks do we know that carried a instrument around for years in school and now they don't play a note. No character for the art of making music I suspect is the cause of that malady. A teacher with a good heart and a head full of knowledge can be a real good thing for those that need them. On the other hand, if someone wants to go it alone for awhile, more power to them. They may be having just as much or more fun that the hard core nose to the grind stone students.

Hang it there Melissa. Even though the path is narrow, it is traverseable.

May 24, 2012 at 05:27 PM · I like the notion mentioned previously that it depends on what you want to get out of the violin. Personally I want to get the chaconne out, and make it sound like Gidon Kremer. I'm 37 and have only been playing for a year, and I'm pretty sure that I, personally will not realize that goal without a teacher.

I can see and hear my mistakes on video, but my teacher knows exactly how to zero in and correct them. He is a professional teacher. And my problems are the basics! Basics which are specific to me and my body and ear. I'm still having trouble keeping my bow from wandering over the finger board. Teacher sees this and says to use more index finger on the right hand, I do and the problem is gone. I could have analyzed self videos for weeks and not have come up with that solution. He solved it as an aside during a routine weekly lesson.

Cost of a good teacher per week: $40. Hearing him say I'm on my way to the chaconne: priceless.

May 26, 2012 at 07:44 AM · Philip, its in 'Practice' on P.302 under Bow Hold with a bunch of photographs plain as day:

"First Finger: ...The pad of the first finger, on the side of stick, helps steady the bow so that it can be drawn parallel to the bridge"

'Basics' contains 6 exercises under "Bowing Parallel to the Bridge" in Chapter 1 "Right Arm and Hand".

Of course observing yourself in a video would have been useless because knowledge precedes application.

Priceless: people showing up at the instructors $50/hour studio with $100 violin + Suzuki book 1.

May 26, 2012 at 06:59 PM · I agree that you could learn violin on your own but-the technical merit will probably be absent. Speaking for myself I have not taking lessons for sometime now and have developed bad habits. I did not realize I can take advantage of 1 a month lessons. Perhaps I will look into doing this.

I really enjoy playing, but but have no confidence--I think due to the fact that I don't take lessons.

May 27, 2012 at 09:06 AM · If you perform often, and see that the audience enjoys your performance more for each of your efforts, I think confidence will start getting built over time.

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