Good place for an adult to start?

September 20, 2015 at 12:03 AM · Greetings,

I'm ini my last 20s I just got the Fiddlerman Concert Violin and I wanted to establish a plan of attack for learning the violin. After a brief google search I've come to the conclusion that I should get a teacher and go through the Suzuki books. Thoughts?

Replies (26)

September 20, 2015 at 01:30 AM · Your plan sounds good. Look for a teacher who is experienced, well-trained (an excellent violinist himself or herself, preferably someone with a college or graduate degree in violin performance) and who is open to taking adult students, preferably someone who has other adult students already. As far as Suzuki books is concerned, you'll want to choose a teacher who normally uses them. Using the Suzuki books does not necessarily mean that the teacher uses the Suzuki Method or that the teacher has undertaken Suzuki teacher training through SAA. SAA credentials may or may not be important to you. Ask if you can attend a lesson of another adult student before signing on. It's important, for an adult student, to have a teacher whose temperament and sensibilities are compatible with yours. Practice faithfully and be patient. If you have a video camera, recording your lessons can be a useful way to review.

September 20, 2015 at 01:30 AM · The key ingredient is a very good teacher. You deserve it. An excellent teacher will make all the difference in the world for your rate of progress, as well as technical and musical development. It is likely that a good teacher will mix it up for you with methods.

You are embarking on one of the most amazing and exciting adventures of your life by taking violin lessons. As an adult, you will be able to appreciate and cherish the small victories and how many facets there are to this adventure.

Once you get the excellent teacher and are established, you can have fun here talking about SR, CR, strings, and --- wait for it ---Rosin!

Keep reading here and your violin journey will be a delight.

September 20, 2015 at 03:57 AM · Yes! Go for it!

I started at age 45, and I am just beginning Suzuki book 3 (switched to viola mid book 2). My teacher is not a trained Suzuki method teacher, but the material in the Suzuki books presents a satisfying progression of pieces you will learn that each contribute to skill building as you progress.

As mentioned, find a teacher that is good for YOU. You will be investing a fair chunk of money, and be spending some interestingly close time with your teacher each lesson. You want someone who knows what they are doing as well as someone you can get along with well. I got lucky and found a good fit first try, but don't be afraid to shop around a bit to see what your options are.

September 20, 2015 at 04:40 AM · It's a given that learning requires a teacher, but the right teacher for you. May not use a Suzuki approach. Meet and greet with a few teachers first, and get a sense of how they will work with you. The teacher you decide on will likely have some preferred materials and may use a different method series. It's not something to get hung up on. A quality teacher could get results with a sheet of papyrus and piece of charcoal.

September 20, 2015 at 08:27 AM · how the heck did you know I used those? Is my spelling smudged.

I actually prefer the Doflein method plus other books for teaching adults.



September 20, 2015 at 11:20 AM · Buri, it was the hieroglyphic spelling that gave you away.

September 20, 2015 at 11:21 AM · Got impatient and double clicked :)

September 20, 2015 at 11:21 AM · D'oh

September 20, 2015 at 01:57 PM · Wow, a triple!

September 20, 2015 at 02:11 PM · I really like the Suzuki material...but I don't know that it's a good 'method' to begin with.

The books don't explain enough of the basics, I don't think, to satisfy an adult. And they weren't developed to teach adult beginners.

p.s. I agree you need to find a teacher you like, but around here it's sometimes hard to find even one teacher taking students. Finding a bunch and interviewing them, don't know that that's even doable...

You might try asking around for teachers that like or are willing to take on adults first. Not all teachers do.

September 20, 2015 at 03:24 PM · The Suzuki books, by themselves, were never intended to constitute a complete violin method. They are intended to serve as a selection of graded repertoire for a method in which the teacher has been trained. Thus, all of the explanations, what you are supposed to learn from each piece, and the like, are supposed to come from the teacher. It is an intentional aspect of the Suzuki Method that these details are not written down in the books. Even for an adult learner, if you read everything you were supposed to learn from the first few pieces, you could easily be intimidated. The learning curve for Book 1 is quite steep.

September 20, 2015 at 04:05 PM · "After a brief google search I've come to the conclusion that I should get a teacher and go through the Suzuki books. "

One should be careful about making plans based on brief Google searches. My question for the OP is: why Suzuki?

I'll now answer it: because "Suzuki" has become, for better or worse, such a recognized brand name that parents ask for it automatically. It's the only brand they know. In fact, there is no other brand, unless you wish to call "traditional" (whatever that is) something recognizable. Which it's not. It would be like going into the supermarket and asking for Wonder Bread because you've neither eaten nor bought bread before.

The fact is, "Suzuki" guarantees little, regardless of some certificate, except for a series of gigue-heavy books meant neither for absolute beginners nor advanced students. Anyone who wants to be effective as a teacher would have to have access to a much wider world of pedagogy, and the experience to thoroughly re-edit the upper-level repertoire.

I'll suggest the addition of another brand name that both parents and adult beginner should know to ask for:


It was he, and not Suzuki, that codified all aspects of modern violin playing. And you can't really call his insights "traditional"

because Suzuki predates him, and because Suzuki is the window onto 19th century Prussian violin pedagogy, with a musical approach long outdated.

If anything, Galamian is "modern" and Suzuki "traditional."

September 20, 2015 at 08:03 PM · I'm a big Suzuki fan, but my feathers aren't actually ruffled by what Jenny says.

Unlike Jenny, I do very much like the Suzuki repertoire and think it's an excellent sequence. That said, the Suzuki books are not "method books," per se. They are a sequence of repertoire, meant to be taught by a teacher who is quite creative and meeting the student where he/she is at. (Sorry about the dangling preposition) If you just go straight through them, unless you have a teacher that is filling in the gaps and insisting on a high level of fluency at each level, there will be gaps. Woeful gaps.

I agree that I just love the Doflein Books, and for an adult who wishes to "go through" a book, I'd recommend that because there is a good mix of exercises, short pieces and concepts of resonant tone and violin fingerboard strategy in there. There is also repetition built into it, and that's important. You can do page after page and play new things, but you are practicing the same skills for long enough to "get" them. That said, I've never been able to give Doflein Book 1 to a complete beginner; it's usually just too hard. I have them go through Muller Rusch Book 1 first. (Those with no music reading skills, I start in "I Can Read Music.")

Most of my students do both Suzuki and some Doflein and other method books, scales. I find it to be a good mix: Suzuki repertoire for "polished pieces," supplemented by other relevant repertoire, and a method book for turning new pages every week and solidifying skills.

BTW I would recommend teachers who are certified by the Suzuki Association of the Americas -- that training is excellent and Suzuki teachers are encouraged to be creative in their approach and to dedicate themselves to lifelong learning and discovery. Ironically, I feel they are less prone to being stuck on a single "right path" than many traditional teachers are! As always, it varies by the teacher and by the student.

September 21, 2015 at 12:45 AM · I was surprised to learn from Jenny's post that Suzuki Book 1 uses all the same bow stroke. When my daughter went through Book 1 (which she started as a total beginner), she learned several different bow strokes -- staccato, detache, martele, spiccato, lifts, etc. I don't recall whether there were any slurs. But when I went to the first few group classes I saw that all of the students in her teacher's studio do the same variety of bow strokes, all in the same places in the pieces. And so, because I was not a Suzuki kid myself, I thought this was normal.

September 22, 2015 at 12:06 AM · Thanks for the replies!

So, I'm still doing research before committing to a violin routine but from what I've gathered from more internet surfing + this thread is:

-Suzuki is not meant for adult beginners but does train the "ear"/aural playing.

-Sticking only to Suzuki might make my music reading ability lag behind.

-Doflein is a good technical book if a bit dry, though I'm used to detailed "non-sexy" books.

-REALLY need a teacher.

Ok, so far this is the plan:

-I'm gonna shop around for a violin teacher that I "click with.

-Use Suzuki for developing "ear"/getting feet wet.

-Doflein to supplement / technical side.

-"I can read music" for.....reading music. Or I might just take a class at college for that. I need some art credit anyway.

Is Violinlab worth the sub cost?

Thoughts? My behavior might seem obsessive/perfectionist but, I've learned from sports that a good introduction/foundation is crucial for long term progress and I would really like to take the violin as far as I can.

September 22, 2015 at 12:12 AM · I do not recommend going through all the Suzuki books as an adult. The first two or three provide good exposure to classical repertoire in simplified arrangements, but beyond that what you are getting is excerpts of concertos when in most cases you can find the entire concertos online for free. They are public domain, after all. Furthermore, the Suzuki method is really intended for children who begin learning by rote. There are methods out there that will provide you with a much better foundation in theory. Some teachers, myself included, use one of those methods and supplement it with Suzuki so you have longer pieces to play. That's not the same as going through the Suzuki method, and as others have pointed out, the Suzuki method is in the training of the teacher rather than their choice of books.

I also do not recommend that students of any age (or their parents, in the case of children) decide what curriculum they want to use. Your teacher needs to use a method and repertoire that matches their teaching style. If the student decides what they want to learn rather than allowing the teacher to mentor them, you are limiting your teacher's approach and potentially missing something they can provide. Some teachers are open to you deciding what you want to do, but others will tell you to look for another teacher who provides that because they do not. It could be that you don't even have a teacher in your community who is open to using Suzuki with adults. Look for available teachers first, then choose the one you feel is already compatible, rather than trying to make a teacher fit your mold.

September 22, 2015 at 12:24 AM · As an adult beginner myself, I can honestly say there is nothing wrong with using Suzuki as an introduction to violin.

No, you won't learn the flying spiccatto bow stroke, but then again, you'll have plenty else to keep you busy with simply getting your fingers to the right place on the fingerboard, holding the bow and pulling a good tone etc..

As mentioned above, the most important thing is finding a good teacher, and let THEM decide how they will teach you. That's a very good point.

September 22, 2015 at 03:13 AM · Christian your plan sounds fine, but laying it all out in so much detail before you've found your guru is kind of setting the cart before the horse.

September 22, 2015 at 08:09 AM · ?Greetings,

Christian, I didn't go through with a fine tooth come but I must say I cannot find a single reference to Doflein being dry on this site. It certainly isn't true. The description you use of it being technically oriented gave me a bit of a chuckle although with you, rather than at you I hope.

I first came across Doflein after reading about him in the wrings of Jseph Szigeti, one of the most profound and thought provoking violinists / musician of the 20 c. He argued for Doflein because it is an antidote to dryness!,,,,,

His point was that however much one practiced dry tevhnical routines such as sevcik one would ultimately be better off seeking technique within the context of style and to that end he (Doflein) amassed a huge range of material that challenges the students artistry and sensitivity from the beginning, compelling the student to work on technique until that particular end was achieved . To this end Doflein assembled a diverse selection of materials including some by contemporary composers of that era. The books remain a breat taking achievement but have then to be taught according to the principles laiid out by Flesch, Galamian, and Fischer to name a few.

in other words, not Doflein, Woolfart , any other fart or Suzuki is worth a tinkers cuz unless the teacher is competent.



September 22, 2015 at 10:50 AM · Alright, I'm gonna use Paul's criteria to find a adequate teacher and let him/her guide the way instead of focusing on a particular method.

Thanks guys.

September 22, 2015 at 11:30 AM · Yay! I win! How soon do I get my steak knives?

September 22, 2015 at 12:19 PM ·

You will learn more in 6 months with the right teacher, than you will in 5 years with the wrong one.

-A good teacher will be 'consistently' correcting poor technique and poor intonation.

-A good teacher will have several exercises to aid in learning new techniques and the basics.

-With the right teacher learning will be tough, but not impossible. You will see, hear and feel advancement, and have joy when you accomplish something new.

- The wrong teacher will have 'show and tell' lessons or 1 lesson for a particular technique or 'basic' technique, and then its never heard or talked about again.

- The wrong teacher 'never' corrects poor intonation or technique.

- The wrong teacher over corrects and may even get frustrated: doesn't have the exercises or knowledge for proper advancement.

-When you are with the wrong teacher advancement becomes very slow, frustrating and you have a feeling of impossible.

If you can, sign up for 4 lesson only. Analyze how or if they inform you when you do something wrong and how repetitive they are.

Good luck or

Good analyzing

September 22, 2015 at 02:34 PM · The violin demands command of sensory feedback. This means not only critical listening to the tone one produces, but also sensing pressure in the fingers and thumb as one bows.

Great players have a natural instinct for translating finger pressure into great tone. Much like some young children rapidly learning how to manipulate small objects, stand up and walk, or throw a ball. Or others that no matter how you try to demonstrate a physical motion, they never "feel" the feedback that the brain needs to control the muscles.

This means great players are not always the best people to teach fundamentals. They never really thought about the details of how they sense the inputs to the violin. But they have a natural instinct to manipulate their grip, no matter how extreme, to produce a beautiful tone.

There is a famous cellist/teacher, whose name escapes me at the moment, who wrote about controlling bow pressure, speed and position. (If I can find his website again I will post it.) His Ah Ha! moment came when trying to teach an engineer how to bow. The exasperated student said, "When I use your grip, I sound like me. But when you use my grip, you sound like you. I cannot just be the grip. There must me something else you are not telling me."

The cellist reinforces this idea with a story about another famous cellist who injured his bow hand before a performance. The performer grasped the bow crudely in a closed fist and hoped for the best. After the concert, he received compliments on his wonderful tone.

The grip controls the bow position, but must also provide a consistent and detectable pressure feedback so you can associate changes in tone to changes in pressure in your bow hand. If it does this, then the particulars of how you hold the bow is incidental to the feedback it provides except possibly for advanced techniques.

Relating this to the player who said the ring finger is important for applying pressure and articulation...

Almost ALL grips mentioned in violin pedagogy have the ring finger on the opposite side of the thumb to the index finger. Simple physics and trivial experiment will demonstrate that any attempt to apply pressure with just the ring finger will cause the bow hairs to lift off the string.

Unless the player has such an extreme grip that the thumb is between the ring and pinky fingers, he is most definitely NOT controlling the pressure mostly with the ring finger. He must be doing something else "instinctively" to allow him to use that as a primary pressure input. Something he might not be telling you and is even unaware of.

Most grips have the middle finger somewhere close to the thumb, and the index finger on one side of the thumb and ring and pinky on the other side.

You can control pressure with just the index finger and thumb. Down bowing will be smooth and stable, but up bowing can tend to drift to the bridge or board.

You can add downward pressure with the other fingers. But this will not eliminate the pressure in the index finger and thumb. The pressure in these fingers will remains significant because of a very simple principle of physics: the strings on the hairs induce a "turning moment" on the bow and you must develop an opposing "turning moment" in the bow hand to keep the hairs on the strings. With most grips, this can only be done with the index finger and thumb.

Most grips have the middle finger do essentially nothing except "close the ring" to the thumb. The ring finger is mostly used to stabilize the drift of the bow towards the bridge during up bow. The pinky comes into play for bow lifts off the string.

September 22, 2015 at 04:43 PM · -"Suzuki is not meant for adult beginners but does train the "ear"/aural playing.

-Sticking only to Suzuki might make my music reading ability lag behind."

Neither one's ability to read nor play by ear have nothing to do with it. These have much more to do with the teacher. For example, I start with All For Strings, and I usually require some amount of memorizing. But then again, I might use a Suzuki book to have a student practice reading. Well-rounded students need to do both.

It all depends on how the teacher utilizes the material.

September 22, 2015 at 04:52 PM · I am not a Suzuki 'student'. I like his materials as presented in books. I like that he had CDs to listen to. Listening to the CDs while reading along - and then playing is a great skill developer!

(More) money well spent.

Today it is somewhat easier to find sheet music and recordings than it was even 10 years ago, but not buying something because you can get it for free seems a little short-sighted. Quality does come into play (pun intended).

I'd much rather work from a book with better quality paper and printing than from what often shows up as questionable photocopies of poorly done scans.

I have had the same Suzuki books for 15 years...they are holding up very well. And they were cheap to begin with...

And I can't help myself from getting in one last (no promises) word; let's support publishers too - nicely printed material isn't a waste.

September 22, 2015 at 05:47 PM · > The most used strokes in book 1 are a short staccato

> and a longer staccato. There is some legato, but not enough.

The reason the advanced bow strokes are not present in repertoire in Book 1 is that the majority of children who are between the ages of three and five who start playing with the Suzuki Method aren't at the point in their physical and cognitive development where they have the control to execute those strokes yet.

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