classifying your level

December 7, 2012 at 02:07 AM · How do you decide what level youre at ?Id like to hear others opinions on this. even in my 5th year I still consider myself a beginner, so much still to learn. Yet Ive had people tell me Im intermediate and one fiddler even called me advanced. Then I see others that dont play near as well as I (not tooting my horn either, just stating a fact) that consider themselves intermediate or advanced.

I think the standards of classical players vs fiddlers also comes into play.

If you look at the ABRSM standards for even completing grade one which would be a beginner Im sure one would humble themselves and realize they are but a beginner, I know I have. Heres a look at grade one requirements for Viola :…..la0112.pdf

Ive also heard youre a beginner until youve reached year 5, but as we all know time isnt what makes you a better musician, practice does. So let me hear your thoughts on this and what you consider yourself and why.


December 7, 2012 at 12:52 PM · Interesting question. I have noticed the same thing: I run across people who can play a couple well-known concerto movements quite well, for instance, and call themselves "intermediates". I run across people who can just about play a major scale, yet plop themselves down in advanced classes at fiddle camp or workshop. I don't see this as a classical vs. fiddle thing, btw, those just happen to be who I've seen/heard. I have had conversations, begun by them, with a couple VERY well-known and revered fiddlers/fiddle teachers, whose opinion is along the lines that we've done very well as a folk-music community in interesting people in listening to and learning to play the music. But in trying to be inclusive and welcoming, we have ended up with a lot of people who think they are "purty good", self-style at this and other sites as expert enough to give authoritative advice, even take money to TEACH, and are in fact pretty AWFUL players by any definition. And not particularly improving. They parrot bits they've picked up but cannot confirm in their own work. For myself, I guess you'd say I'm "expert", but I could tell you in quite-extensive detail what I don't do so well.

December 7, 2012 at 01:15 PM · I think the problem is trying to encompass something so diverse as playing an instrument by a single criterion. I see no contradiction in the idea that someone can be an expert in one area and a beginner in another. A great example would be baroque violin vs improvisation. This concept of beginner through expert is really generated by the need to test players for reasons that are outside thier actual ability to play. Thus, to get into a conservatory you have to have a broad spectrum of skills that have been honed to an equally high level. And this no doubt necessary else conservatories could not select the clients they need to satisfy their outcome (which is, I guess the production of orchestra players, high-level teachers and the occasional virtuoso).

The trouble is that its an averaging protocol and can not, for example, accomodate an truly world class individual with an innate talent to express and bring the audience to tears with the 'Last Rose of Summer' that lacks the other skills.

I have wondered about my 'level' (I'm pretty sure elsewhere on but the more I play and the more I learn the more trivial the effort seems to be. To my teacher I'm probably early intermediate to my orchestra I may be early advanced but some of my friends (pathetically) think I'm a virtuoso!

Its nice to hang out with your friends!

I suggest that instead of trying to find The Level you make a list of violinistic skills - intonation, tone, 'virtuosity', musicallity etc etc and both rank yourself on these and then get your teacher to do the same. I think then you will have a useful measure of progress and also a reminder of what you need to work on.

December 7, 2012 at 02:44 PM · This is not the kind of question one answers before a concert. Perhaps afterwards.

December 7, 2012 at 02:54 PM · You're performing Bart? Spill... :)

December 7, 2012 at 03:29 PM · Students' concert, Elise..

December 8, 2012 at 01:06 AM · Another complicated question! I don't think there's a definite answer unless you categorize yourself to the RCM standard or whichever standard you prefer.

I mean my teacher was already an accomplished musician but he chose to relearn everything about the violin in his late 20s and he never stopped learning. He never told me once when he was giving a masterclass and a teacher walked in and sat right in front of him and told him, "that's good but this and that and blah blah blah are all wrong"

As for myself, I think most people would say I am intermediate advanced player? but I am relearning every detail with my teacher right now and I feel like I am a beginner because there are so many things I don't know about. I am sure many musicians feel the same.

Just because you can play at an extraordinary level doesn't make you an "expert" of violin.

I think for music it's rather difficult to define one's level. It's not like sports or video game where you have rankings and such.

December 8, 2012 at 01:42 AM · Easy for me to define my level:

Rank amateur!


But lovin' it!

December 8, 2012 at 01:42 AM ·

December 8, 2012 at 03:28 AM · I know pro's who still think they have alot to learn.

Playing violin, viola, cello, or any musical instrument for that matter is a constant state of learning to master the instrument.

Rather than looking at the top of the mountain and trying to figure out where you are at in relation, simply note where you are and figure out how to get further ahead.

December 8, 2012 at 08:50 AM · I consider myself as intermediate as:

I have been practicing/playing for 4 years, I am 'confident' around the fingerboard at least up to 8th position, my intonation has improved loads and I now can sort of sight-sing, I know all scales in 3 octaves (major/minor) play scales in octaves and harmonics and in sixths and know a few in thirds LOL, I play dominants/diminished as far as the fingerboard will let me, broken chords, inverted etc

I can play a range of different bowing styles and apply a range of dynamics.

Music wise I am learning the Mozart concerto n3, Bartok Romanian Dances n1/2/3 at the moment.

But I am not a good violinist, I'd call myself 'mediocre' :D

I am sure that with the skills I have learnt so far I can say I have gone past the 'beginner' stage.

December 8, 2012 at 10:07 AM · Hmmm-honestly with my spotty violin study habits going on the 7th year I personally would rank myself as beginner intermediate. I can play, read notes, and just leaning my way in 3rd, but lacking most of all the technical merits. But I plug away hoping it perhaps will come altogether someday.

December 8, 2012 at 10:14 AM · So I think its clear then. We are all beginner, intermediately-advanced experts.

December 8, 2012 at 02:23 PM · all great replies !! Thank you for the insight, much appreciated

December 8, 2012 at 06:04 PM · The concert is over. I can be more specific now. Bach (BWV 1014) went well, Hindemith (op. 11/1) not so well -- those tempo changes! So my level must be somewhere between B and H. Zemlinsky, watch out, here I come!

December 9, 2012 at 12:38 AM · The best violinists in the world, whether intermediate, advanced, beginner, beginner-intermediate, intermediate-advanced, baroque-romantic, contemporary-classical-shoulder-rester, concerti indivisible, or sonatae unlimited: Bach cannot be too heavy, nor Kreisler too light.

December 9, 2012 at 06:49 PM · Its kinda scary how most people (read above) define levels by technical skill - ability is how YOU see it. I hate to break it to you, but ability is in the ear of THE LISTENER - since thats what the violin is mostly for - performing to an audience.

Thus, if I may:

Beginner: notes are recognizable but not a pleasure to listen to.

Intermediate: plays the notes in tune and in the right order and rhythm and does not offend - it may charm family but does not necessarily appeal to a general audience.

Advanced: plays the violin in such a way that an (unrelated) audience would stop to listen and be left enlightened.


Early advanced: does above with ANY piece (yes, twinkle-twinkle counts, just try it!).

Intermediate advanced: does above with the standard repertoire and chamber music

Elite advanced: does the above with virtually any music.

(See also PDO)

December 9, 2012 at 08:49 PM · Whenever I have a student ask me this question, I have the same response and a quote. It's not a satisfying answer for someone looking for an answer, but I honestly don't want to define "levels" in players. I just want them to improve.

Anything you do in life, you'll get better at it as long as you work hard and recognize what you can improve. The first step to reaching the next stage in your journey is finding what you don't do well and doing the scary work in fixing it.

'There is no top. There are always further heights to reach.' - Jascha Heifetz

December 18, 2012 at 04:28 PM · I never think about where I am.

I think about where I would like to be.

December 18, 2012 at 04:36 PM · I think how advanced someone is depends upon the eye of the beholder.

To someone like Itzak Perlman, I'm completely wet behind the ears. He'd probably only give me the time of day to say "I'm glad you started playing violin. Keep at it and some day you'll be good at it."

To someone like my daughter, who started at the same time I did but who doesn't practice quite as much as I do, I'm "really good" because I can play songs at first sight that she cannot.

To myself, I'm a "beginner" because I have glimpsed the mountain of skill and knowledge I do not have and know that it will be a life's long effort to climb upon that mountain and feel its switch backs and perilous points along the way, yet also the exultation of reaching each higher peak along the way.

To someone who have never picked up a violin, I'm (again) "pretty good" because I can play tunes that they instantly recognize. I can put smiles on their faces and they don't even notice when I play some notes sharp or flat. They just know that I am doing something they cannot (at that moment and with their current mind-set).

So, how good am I really? Not good enough. But good enough to feel happy about what I can do and sober enough to realize that I can grow so much ever more.

December 18, 2012 at 05:25 PM · I consider myself intermediate, but everyone that hears me play says I'm the best... like 10x better than Heifetz.

You see how labels don't really mean anything? It doesn't help you to become a better violinist if you are worried about being a beginner, middle-of-the-road, or advanced. It is just something that feeds the ego and takes us away from violin playing itself. These labels, levels, or plateaus (however you want to describe it) create a sort of comfort zone. I see this a lot in public school orchestras. Some of the kids will reach a certain skill level, start relaxing, and not really wish to work any harder. And when I ask them to do something, the first thing they say is a complaint, because I am asking them to go out of their comfort zone.

It doesn't matter your "level" as long as you are willing to be honest with yourself. "OK. This is my violin playing today. How can I make it better?"

December 18, 2012 at 05:46 PM · That reminds me of a Beethoven story. The king, I don't remember which, asked Beethoven, "What do you think of my piano playing." So Beethoven was in a tough spot. After all, one doesn't want to offend the king. So Beethoven said, "There are three categories of pianists: those who don't play at all, those who play badly and those who play well. Your majesty has now advanced to the second category!"

December 18, 2012 at 06:45 PM · Every year for the last three years I play in a big well-organized double carol concert in a local church. Sometimes one of the concerts is broadcast on local radio. Every year I've been invited back. That is good news.

I have been playing violin in my chamber orchestra for three years since I got a free transfer from the cello section in the same orchestra (two years after taking up the violin). I have not been asked to return to the cello section. That again is good news.

In another orchestra I have recently been placed in the firsts. More good news.

For me, these are really the only valid indicators of progress.

December 18, 2012 at 06:46 PM · Duplicate post

December 19, 2012 at 11:27 PM · I consider myself advanced. It's funny, but people I know who are not violinists at all consider me a master violinist, whereas professionals I know say, "Well, I guess you're pretty good." I don't currently take lessons, as I'm looking for a new teacher, but my old teacher would probably have classified me in the advanced level.

I think I'm advanced because I have good bowing technique, good intonation, I know my way around the finger board, I can read music fairly well, and I know all my scales up at least 3 octaves (I can play 4 on G, Ab, A, Bb, or B, and C if I really put my mind to it). I made it through Suzuki book 7, but after that found the music in the later books a bit too boring and too easy. I'm currently working on Polonaise Brillante by Wieniawski.

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