Self-taught violinists.

June 9, 2012 at 03:55 PM · I am a self-teaching myself the violin with the help of books and online videos. I want to know if there are others or what people's thoughts are on it? I ,myself, am loving the experience and the challenge. It feels so rewarding to understand the violin as instrument and finding out ways to improve your playing. It is harder then self-teaching yourself other instruments like the piano for sure but it is real worth it when you make progress. I know some people scoff at the idea of a self-taught violinists or self-taught musicians in general.

Replies (26)

June 9, 2012 at 04:08 PM · Well duh we scoff at the idea of self taught. Much better to get a teacher, trust me, a good one can sky rocket your skill pretty quick

June 9, 2012 at 04:15 PM · I'd recommend, if money/time is the issue, maybe having a lesson every fortnight or two?

June 9, 2012 at 05:51 PM · I'm for lessons. There are just too many details that someone can get wrong, even if the person believes he or she is faithfully following the source materials. Part of this thinking might be spill-over from the fiddling world, where there is a mystique that somehow the good ones are self-taught. Commonly just not so. More likely, self-taught after watching relatives or neighbors for years, or some such. It's tough enough to succeed and play at a pretty high level with lessons. Who knows how many self-taught drop-outs are floating around??

June 9, 2012 at 06:17 PM · I've got a bit of experience with this. I taught myself by observing as many lessons as I could, my daughter's and others. You'll find it very difficult to progress beyond a certain point. Not impossible, but very tough. When I had my first lesson almost 2 years into playing violin it was a revelation. When you're self-taught you just don't know what you don't know even if you think you know. I agree that it can be a good bit of fun though ; )

June 9, 2012 at 11:46 PM · I tried teaching myself for about 5 months before I found a teacher. I was having fun, but I realized that there were things I needed to learn that I could only learn with a teacher's guidance (and occasional correction). One of the best things to come out of studying with a teacher is that my growth in technique and confidence led me to join a small strings-only orchestra. I never would have felt up to the challenge on my own, and I would have missed so much joy if I hadn't taken that step.

June 10, 2012 at 01:17 AM · I believe that getting a teacher always helps but at this point in time it is not possible. I have found a stack of videos in which the teacher there has illustrated some of the Do's and Don't's. I am not too sure. As much as I love classical music, I am not seeking to be classical trained. I do, however, intend to have a few lessons at some point in purpose of correction etc. Once I have learnt the basics of playing violin, I am switching to electric. I don't think self-taught musicians are any better than those who had teachers and vice versa. I am pretty sure there were amongst the poor for centuries, fiddlers and such who would have self-taught themselves or watched other fiddlers play. I admit it be very hard but I am very, very committed. Once an instrument has touched my soul, it becomes impossible for me to drop it no matter how difficult it gets. I do understand the importance of a teacher and I do hope at some stage to have some lessons for guidance.

June 10, 2012 at 07:30 PM · "Stack of videos" strikes fear in my heart ;) Even there you can be badly misled by folks who think they can play and teach who really CAN'T. But you have to make up your own mind. There are some decent player/teachers who will Skype lessons.

June 12, 2012 at 09:03 AM · Stack of videos I mean by a man named Todd Ehle who is a Suzuki teacher and is pretty good. I sometimes use ViolinLab too. Here are Tod Ehle's videos. http://www.youtube.com/user/professorV. He does not claim for his videos to be the sole basis of your lessons but are just for help. He seems credible to me.

June 12, 2012 at 10:48 PM · If you value Todd's opinion, why not ask him?

June 13, 2012 at 03:08 AM · I love Todd's videos! That said, I would vote for getting a good teacher if at all possible. The reason is that I also have tried progressing on my own in the past. What happens is, while you're getting good instruction and tips in the video, there is no one there to correct your posture or other bad habits you might be developing.

I cannot COUNT the times in my lesson I have played a piece and thought I did so great, only to have my teacher point out posture or technique that could be improved upon. And following her direction does help me improve much faster and better than on my own. It's really invaluable to have a teacher guiding you.

I'd still utilize his videos, but to my mind it's still no replacement for the hands-on guidance of an instructor who can assist you with your own personal challenges.

June 13, 2012 at 10:55 AM · there is no one there to correct your posture or other bad habits you might be developing.

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You/yourself ensure/s that incorrect habits are not formed...

And you/yourself ensure/s 'bad habits' are iradicated....

June 16, 2012 at 08:45 AM · @Henry

That is very true and probably the thing that kind of plays in my mind. The violin has a complicated and specific in the way it is played and a teacher needs to make sure you are doing all the things right. I just wish I could afford one.

June 16, 2012 at 09:33 AM · a teacher needs to make sure you are doing all the things right.

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You become the 'teacher', the best teacher in world is 'yourself'........

June 16, 2012 at 02:59 PM · I agree with that but teachers need to be taught how to teach...self-learners (on the violin, leastways) need to be taught to teach themselves.

Also, Rasheeda, I hear you. Keep looking for good teachers though, preferably ones who studied under great teachers themselves. That's not a guarantee of a good teacher, but it's a sign they had good training. Then try to find one of them who would be okay with you studying with them once every couple months. That may be difficult, but keep digging. You'll learn so much and advance so much more quickly. I can't afford a teacher, either...I can barely afford to keep playing, between the rehairs and new strings and such...but I make it a point to go study with someone for an hour every four months or so, and doing so has made a big difference in my playing.

June 16, 2012 at 10:06 PM · Rasheeda

This question comes up pretty often. Clearly most teachers are going to tell you that you can't make it, but I think they're only partially right.

As someone who mainly plays traditional music I see many self-taught players. And yes, most people accumulate so many bad habits that they seem to get stuck pretty early on. But a significant minority do manage to achieve high standards - I know more than one self-taught semi-pro. So it can be done!

It all comes down to your ability as a self-learner, I think.

Right now I simply can't afford lessons and I'm still managing to make decent progress within the limits of my modest talent. But I do have some background in strings (I was a schoolboy cellist) which counts for quite a lot, I think. Also, I'm very analytical and positively enjoy trying to work out the intricacies of this intriguing instrument. And finally I've done a lot of yoga with very good teachers, so I've got a good idea of how to use my body safely and correctly.

If you have an analytical cast of mind and have good body awareness you have a fighting chance, especially with all the great material available nowadays.

Todd's videos are great, and also Prof Sassmannshaus at violinmasterclass.com.

Get hold of Simon Fischer's Basics and his tone production DVD. They can seem a bit overwhelming, but just focus on the basic skills at first - the information is gold-dust.

A good long mirror is your best friend.

Learn how to listen to your body and to the sound you're making - practice should be a continual exploration, not a rote routine.

And once you start playing with others, get feedback from good players. I'm reasonably confident I'm not too far off track because a number of people with good training have reassured me that my technique looks quite sound.

Neither of us will ever be playing the Chaconne at the Albert Hall, but I do think it can be realistic to pick up the sub-set of skills you need to play fiddle music or rock.

If you can find a high-quality teacher you can afford that has to be the best way, no question. But if that's not possible you can have a lot of fun teaching yourself, provided you set realistic goals!

June 17, 2012 at 01:01 AM · teachers need to be taught how to teach.

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I agree with that, however, some people have a natural gift for teaching.

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self-learners (on the violin, leastways) need to be taught to teach themselves.

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This seems to be a contradiction, but not if you read the books from the great pedagogues, then they are teaching you.

June 17, 2012 at 03:37 PM · I never denied some people have a natural gift for teaching. I totally agree. And yes, some will be able to teach themselves better than others. But they won't be able to teach themselves *as well as* someone else who is qualified and has spent years learning the instrument. Period.

I don't think it's a contradiction, really; the best teachers teach you how to teach yourself. If you don't have a teacher who can do that, or if you are never taught how to teach yourself, then you will run into a lot more roadblocks than you would have otherwise. There are many kinds of learning on the violin - learning from books, learning from watching Youtube videos, learning from seeing students perform at a recital, learning what angle to have the bow at, learning tricky rhythms from hearing someone play them specifically for you. Some of those types of learning just can't be done by yourself.

Look, I by no means want to dash the dreams of anyone. I consider myself mainly self-taught; I only had one teacher, who taught me up until I was fourteen or so, but after that it's been just me. And I screwed up a lot of stuff that has taken a long time to fix. Yes, if you have a sub-par teacher or are teaching yourself, you will be able to play. And you may be able to play certain things quite well. But at some point you'll hit a brick wall, or become injured, or start using bad technique. This is incredibly demotivating and devastating. It happened to me; it's happened to a lot of people. And I don't think it's fair to sugarcoat this very real possibility to people who are considering teaching themselves.

Is this fair? God, no. If I ever become rich *lol* the first thing I'd do is set up a foundation that offers grants to low- and medium-income people who otherwise could not afford lessons. It's a huge problem. There's a bunch of untapped potential out there. And it makes me sad.

And I freely acknowledge this is all my own personal opinion, and by no means a universal one.

March 7, 2016 at 04:25 AM · I am 35 year old, mother of three children, earned my Bachelor's degree in Business/Marketing last fall; decided to now learn something I really love, have always loved... THE VIOLIN.

I do not have the money or the time for lessons. I have a basic understanding about music theory, I took a few lessons when I was 12 years old, but did not went to far with it since I hated my teacher. Music theory is easy to find online, you can find a number of videos, articles, blogs, and apps dedicated to help you learn music. This is a very important aspect of learning any instrument, you need to learn how to read music, at least the basics.

I enrolled into the website violinlab.com; the teacher at the website (Beth) has over 500 extremely detailed videos that will teach you from how to set up your instrument to the most advanced techniques. She has exercises, scales, etudes, repertoire tutorials and more. I also bought the Suzuki Method for Violin Book 1. Another thing I love about violinlab.com is that they have a community where you can post questions or a video of yourself playing and the community will give you feedback; this is how I realized I was holding the violin with my head horizontal and I was twisting my wrist while playing. Thanks to them I was able to catch this errors and correct them.

One thing I am sure a self-taught violinist need to have to succeed: DISCIPLINE! I have been practicing every day since January 1st, 2016. I only missed my practice when I was sick, otherwise I may feel sometimes like having a shorter practice session and that is ok. I also notice that violin requires extremely attention to detail. Some of the smallest things are the most difficult to master.

Good Luck, this is an extremely rewarding venture.

March 7, 2016 at 09:14 AM · Get a teacher, don't kid yourself. As you develop you will understand why it is so important at the beginning to get your posture and hands correct - otherwise you are likely to spend years re-learning everything you thought you could already do, because you are now at the level where you need to be able to shift positions, do different forms of vibrato etc..etc.. but you taught yourself - so your posture is bad, you hold the violin at the wrong angle (in more ways than one), your bow hand is clawed, you are strangling the neck of your instrument and, in some cases, you cannot even read a music score...now you realise, year later, your technique is awful and you can't progress without going back to basics - which is extremely difficult, likely impossible, if you learnt it and have religiously practiced it incorrectly for the past x number of years.

Either get someone who was professionally trained to show you the basics or pay for lessons. It is a violin, not a piano. Once you are up and running properly, then you CAN teach yourself a lot of it (scales/ reading music), certainly until you start doing more technical stuff (shifting/ vibrato) but that is a way off.

March 7, 2016 at 10:12 AM · It is very , VERY hard to unlearn something after you have taught yourself incorrectly.

Get a teacher and do it quickly.

I do not think I have met anybody who was self taught on the violin. There is a reason for that !

March 7, 2016 at 12:30 PM · Oh, you can do it, no worries. Why I know of one little boy who taught himself to play the violin. He did however have 3 advantages: one, he was already an accomplished pianist. Two, his father was a professional violinist, so that every day he could at least observe his dad. And three, his name was Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART!! If you're another Mozart, go for it. If not, the odds of becoming a good violinist completely on your own are probably more rare than hen's teeth.

March 7, 2016 at 01:41 PM · I began life at the feet of every Yale School of Music event that fit my schedule. I lived about 20 minutes from the main campus strictly as a spectator.

I loved the lunch/library concerts and the various groups during the Winter months (throw in a organ concert or two). Summer was spent at the Yale Retreat where members of the staff often joined in the program (perfection!)

Meanwhile, I had season tickets to a great string quartet venue which was so tiny that I could see the first violin music.

I "stole" every bit of knowledge that I could down to the color of socks. How far from the floor is first violin knee? (I knew!) Nothing escaped me.

Of course, I just about memorized all the available on-line lessons/tutoring. University of Vermont Violin Pedagogy was fantastic back then but may have changed.

There were a few videos but I think some free on-line lessons were better. I often watched the pros on You Tube. (Why does everybody play Guneri on the tail piece?)

So, would I be better having had a teacher? (The right teacher,"yes") Would I go back for a teacher? Maybe. (I have some degree of every bad habit there is and the teacher would be challenged!)

I think people need a teacher in order to get where they want to go but everybody does not share the same ambitions.

"To thine own self be true!"

March 7, 2016 at 04:52 PM · You need a teacher to teach you how to learn things on your own

March 7, 2016 at 08:02 PM · I was not able to find a teacher who could teach me how to find a teacher.

March 8, 2016 at 01:24 AM · Some instruments you can teach yourself- the piano, guitar, but in order to really get a solid grasp on violin technique, it's best to see a teacher. It can take a long time to unlearn bad habits, trust me from experience.

March 8, 2016 at 02:08 PM · Do your remarks apply as well to other violin family instruments? Cello,etc.?

Would you rank Flamenco guitar as "easy"?

The "self taught" debate almost always falls short of the reality.

Do the self taught care ??????

Even at my level there is more good music to be played than I will ever catalogue.

Juilliard only admits about 7% of applicants but, guess what? I don't care! Good for them but I just play on. No, I can not handle a bow like a light saber but does it matter?

For me the violin is fun and I leave the rest to those with higher ambitions.

Bon Voyage.

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