What should I work on in my second year of learning the violin?

June 6, 2016 at 10:38 PM · Hello everybody, I have posted twice before on this forum to ask for tips about my violin playing. The tips were of great help! Now I daily visit this website and enjoy reading the posts. I don't comment much because I'm a beginner and what useful could I say? :-)

But I wanted to ask for feedback again if that's OK. I've been playing for one year now and I'm more excited every day. I just LOVE the violin!!

I wanted to share my progress video here to show you what I've learned in my first year and what things I focus on. I have no private lessons, but I'm very serious about learning the violin, so I do appreciate all help! I also wanted to make this video because I've been reading a lot about people thinking they're too old to start to learn to play the violin. I don't think age matters much. I think it can be a lot of fun to learn the violin at any age.


For my second year I'm planning to start shifting. According to this post http://www.violinist.com/blog/stein4strings/20163/17420/, I've decided to start learning 2nd and 3rd position at the same time. After that I have no clear idea of how I'll go on with the positions...

Also, I want to improve my vibrato. I've only started with wrist vibrato so far and would like to start learning arm vibrato this year.

Further I'm planning on studying Suzuki Book 3 and continue with the Wohlfahrt, Pracht and Sitt etudes.

I notice, especially in the last part of my video that maybe my left thumb is not positioned correctly? I had placed my thumb more under the violin neck to be able to use my fourth finger more easily. But now I'm wondering if that is correct. It looks a bit weird. Should I try to correct my thumb or is it OK like this?

I welcome all suggestions as to what you recommend me that I could/should work on in my second year.

Thanks so much!

Replies (25)

June 6, 2016 at 11:02 PM · Where is the progress video? I can't find it anywhere on this page. Could you maybe post a link to it?

June 6, 2016 at 11:09 PM ·

June 7, 2016 at 12:30 AM · Hello Ella Yu, I'm sorry about that. I had embedded the video in the page but maybe it didn't show up. I've now also added the link to my video now Hope you will have some suggestions. :-)

Thanks Jenny Rambo, glad you like my progress! It's just my 2nd year that's starting. :-) I'll sure keep working!

June 8, 2016 at 04:47 AM · Hey Mariko. Great work for your first year. You've covered a lot. I think tone and intonation could use some work. Good attempt at vibrato. I know you're still working on it. Keep it up.

June 8, 2016 at 10:55 AM · I also am an adult beginner. I just think it is cool that you are learning as an adult too. The violin is a long, delicate and intricate path of learning, with twisting branches of knowledge everywhere you turn. At least for me it has been for me! I can't give any relevant criticism given my own beginning status. It sounds like you are on the right path. Keep it up!


June 8, 2016 at 11:02 AM · Thank you so much Ella Yu for your feedback! Appreciate it! Working on tone and intonation is on my to-do list. :-) Do you think I'm ready to start shifting or will it mess more with my intonation?

Thanks Jessy Ringquist, glad to meet a fellow adult beginner. Oh yes there is soooo much to learn about the violin. That is actually something that makes me love the violin. I don't think it will ever get boring!! :-)

June 8, 2016 at 11:44 AM · You are doing OK but it would be best to get a teacher.

Being a bit cruel I would say your sound is rather intense, and as Rugerrio Ricci said, you need air in the sound.

I would suggest you press less into the string and use more bow. Also change the speed and the pressure a little to produce shape to the phrases. Don't worry about other positions and vibrato until you get the basic bowing and intonation right.

June 8, 2016 at 02:14 PM · Yes, I would relax and let the violin sing - try less hard, and breathe!

June 8, 2016 at 03:00 PM · Doing very well so far!


"I have no private lessons, but I'm very serious about learning the violin, so I do appreciate all help! "

This comment is at odds with itself. If you are truly serious, you WILL GET A TEACHER!

It is expensive, but totally worth it.

I'm an adult beginner too, started about 4 years ago, and have now graduated to the viola.


June 8, 2016 at 06:00 PM · Hi everybody, thanks so much for all your feedback. :-)

I know getting a teacher is great advice! But... I live in a place where I would have to drive 500km to have violin lesson. I'm sorry, I just can't do that... And as I said in the video, Skype won't work either due to slow internet connections. I realize it must sound stupid but it's the truth. I was sad at first because I wouldn't be able to have a teacher.:-( I had lessons before for clarinet so I know that having lessons is great! Anyway, I decided to not keep thinking about the things I can't have, and to make the best of it. Please don't suggest me to get a teacher because at the moment it's not possible.

Actually that's why I came here, to make the best of it and get feedback from people who know what they're talking about. Because I really do want to keep progressing!

I'm happy to read your tips. From what I read here, I understand that I'll have to work on tone, intonation, use more bow, use less pressure, and in general relax more. I think the tone is related to a better bow use? So, that's definitely something I'll be working on.

Any other tips as to what I can work on from now on or something I could start learning now or soon? I think what I'm looking for is like a plan of what comes next in my violin journey. :-)

June 8, 2016 at 08:18 PM · Mariko, I suggest you check out Roy Sonne's School of Violin Artistry ( https://www.youtube.com/user/roysonne ). You may find some helpful things and demonstrations there - and it is free.

Roy retired after a career as a first violinist with the Pittsburgh Symphony - so you will not find someone better equipped to give you good information. He started these videos as a "business" but I think that after making them he found it easier to just keep them available as a service. (I did the same thing in the early 2000s with some engineering software I developed - so I understand the sentiments.) He continues to be a music educator and performer in his "retirement."

Roy is a delightful person, who contacted me some years ago when the Pittsburgh Symphony was performing in San Francisco - I drove into the city to pick him up and we toured around some and he treated me to a bay-side lunch in Sausilito. Most talk was violin talk.

June 8, 2016 at 08:22 PM · SERAPHIM, I too am a recent switcher to viola - I don't know if I would call it a graduation. I think most of the orchestra violinists I play with think of it as a demotion. But I'm enjoying it, reading the new clef is good exercise for an aging brain, and violists are always in demand.


June 8, 2016 at 10:28 PM · Greetings,

yep, cant go wrong with Roy.

Some general thoughts which belong in the realm of random guesswork.

1) Dont work on two positions at once.

2) Buy 'The Violin Lesson' and study the underlying principles of shifting. Just practicing going from a to b in tune is not even close

3) You are over focused on vibrato. No need to try and learn a different type right now.

4) at this stage you need more work on the bow. One thing that never quite sank into your bow stroke is the idea that the right elbow move forward on the down stroke. On your vidoes it actually move sback slightly causing you to bow round the corner. In orde rfor the bow to stay on one point on the stings we dont use a straight bow. In fact on the down stroke the bow move in an ellipse or one side of a plate shape. The up stroke reverses this.

5) You should spent time getting confortable with whole bows, gradually building up speed. The fundamentla failing of beginners, and even quite adbanced players is that they unable to use enough bow from both physical and psychologial causes.

6) You should practice one finger scale son all four strings . Get a copy of Simon Fischers scale manula for a technical explanayion of how to do this. That scale book will last you a life time so it is a fundamental investament. From the same book you should be studying the prelimianey two octave scales and paying careful attention to what fingers to leave down and how long for until it becomes second nature.

Hope tis helps


June 8, 2016 at 10:54 PM · Thanks so much Andrew Victor for the link to Roy Sonne's School of Violin Artistry!! Seems very interesting. I'm sure this is going to be very helpful!

Thanks Stephen Brivati! I'm so happy with your tips! I will use them all! I'm glad to hear that I don't have to focus on a different type of vibrato yet. :-) I think I want to do too many things at once... And it's nice to hear that it's OK to wait a bit with that.

I do play whole bows on open strings every day but I had no idea that my right elbow is not moving correctly. Thanks so much for pointing that out!! I would never have known this by myself...

I will look into those books of Simon Fischer!

June 8, 2016 at 11:07 PM · Buri is the name. Lunacy is the game....

June 8, 2016 at 11:15 PM · When you work on whole bows,

set the metronome to 120. Divide the ow into 8 units. Make each unit correlate exactly with one click. This i snot so easy. Once you are going then strat changing the length of the bow used . What I mean by this isthat you decided to do only six beats before changing direction. The bow speed stays the same. Then try four, two and finally one. Depending on where you decide to strat the lesser numbe rof units you will actually be using differnt parts of the bow more or less randomly selected. This is easy to understand once you try it. In your case it is important to emphasize the heel of the boow so try to emphasize ending up with four beat strokes in the lower half and then two nd finally one right at the heel. The unit length remains exactly the same whatever ....

You should practice this exercises for afew minutes at the strat of every practice session. Before you do this I suggest you set your hand in a comfortable and corretc hold of the bow with fingers neither extende dor fully contracted. Now wave the bow around, drawing pictures in the air, pointing the up, down, behind you and so on , not hodling the violin. It is like a sparkler and ypu aore drawing beutiful design all over the room. During this free and stimulating exefcise your whole arm is somewhat lipm and like spaghetti. However, your right hand shape should remain constant, firm ut not rigid.

An invalubale exercise ro precede the unit distribution exercise I describe above.

Sorry, In my above post I meant one finger scales on one string over , eventually, two octaves. Now is the correct time for you to start thea ein my opinion. I also had a gut feeling from your video that your upper left arm may be contacting your rib cage but I may be wrong. You need a space under th eleft armpit of bout egg size. Just check it out....



June 9, 2016 at 01:30 AM · Hi Buri :-) thanks for describing this exercise. I'll get started with it tomorrow. I've never practiced whole bows like this before. I'm curious about the results.

Does it matter which finger I use for the one finger scales on one string?

Yes, I think my left arm is touching my rib cage, will check it out tomorrow.

Thank you for so much for this info!!! It's really encouraging for me to read your feedback and try the exercises. Because at least now I understand what to work on! :-)

I'll sure let you know how things are going.

June 9, 2016 at 01:45 AM · Of course, if you cannot find a teacher, or use Skype, as you said, then you must be your own teacher. Good on you. So far, so good.

You seem to be changing your left hand position to play notes with the fourth finger. Sometimes this must be done, perhaps. But, just consider holding the violin around to the left a little more (no rules are fixed, but try "half-past nine", with your nose at 12.00). This might be a bit extreme, but consider it. Also, lift your left elbow free of your body, (it was in some later videos), and ensure you can always see some part of the elbow "inside the square" These two things might bring your left hand knuckles a bit higher, and rotate your wrist a little, so that all your knuckles are parallel with and above the finger board. Now you might find you don't have to rotate your wrist to reach with the fourth finger. Just consider these ideas, and see if they fit your needs.

I'm glad you have Wohlfahrt Op 45. Go back to No.1,use a metronome, work for accuracy of pitch, especially with the fourth finger, think about the tone and dynamics, and work for speed, using several bowings. Get your right wrist into gear more, and your fingers. For some drill work, use No.1 again, very little bow (about 3cm, then less, as you improve) two thirds of the way toward the tip, and bow with your flexing fingers and wrist, little (no) arm movement. You should use the metronome to push the speed up. When you can finger the study easily, you find speed comes quickly.

The fingers should be "quick and decisive" in their vertical movement: hit the finger board with a clear tap, and instantly relax while staying firm on the string.

To get your wrist and fingers flexing, consider thinking about steering the up bow with the little finger (which flexes a lot without leaving the bow), and driving the down bow with the thumb (which also flexes a lot, now), and the wrist clearly pulling the bow in both strokes. These are not laws, or rules, but they might help you get both the right wrist and fingers into action. Even if working hard, both fingers and wrist should be supple and relaxed, as much as possible.

Play more fiddle tunes, at speed (reels are 240 quarter notes per minute, or thereabouts, when you are doing business like a local, and they sound great). The bowing patterns, ornaments, dynamics and "lift" of Celtic fiddling will all help you play anything musically and quickly. And fiddle tunes are fun (but use a focussed technique, so play lots of other stuff, too).

Extend the index finger in your bow hold more, possibly. Consider this. Again, this finger moves around a bit, during up bows and down bows.

Do you have "Basics" or "The Violin Lesson" by Fischer?

I've written far too much, and disregard what you wish to, just keep on playing.

Good luck.

June 9, 2016 at 02:01 AM · Greetings,

you practic ethe one finger sclae with each finger. The manner of practice is to use what I call the hooked bowing. Please do a search on this site for my description of it. If you cant find it then get back to me.

There are two fundamentaloints you need to bear in mind with these scales.

1) You must hear the next note in your head before you move to it.

2) The finger rests lightly on top of the string as you shift. IE you must release the weight of the finger from the string.

Also keep in mind it is the arm and hand as a unit from the elbow that shifts and that the relationship between string and the finger tip should not change as you move up. What I mean by this latter point is that we dont change the placement of the fingertip so that the nail is facing you in a differnt way/angle from what it wa sin first postion.

Yes, I think your thumb is too far back for your hand size. Ultimately theositioj of the thumb is simply decided by the orretc postionn of the fingers, not as an independent entity.

You could practice placing your fourth finger and having it nicely curved and relaxed. Memorize this feeling and retain that hand postion as youplay first and second fingers.

The kley understanding here is that the left hand fingers stretch back from the fourth and third. If you are thinking you should balance the hand on the first and secon and stretch forward for the fourth you are in the wrong ball park. Pay a lot of attention to this point.



June 9, 2016 at 03:23 AM · Hi Mariko,

If you don't know of him already, there is a great youtube violinist that has uploaded some tutorials and helpful tips for violin called Professor V; here is the link to his channel. Hope this helps!


June 9, 2016 at 07:44 AM · Apart from this excellent advice you should also have a sound in your head. Think of the most beautiful violin sound and try and see how you can reproduce it. Also listen to a great violinist and try and find a similar sound.

June 9, 2016 at 08:38 AM · Mariko,

just an idle thought while Im at it. One of the most iortant and difficult aspects of vibrato to see is that? it is not actually a simple back and forth movement. It starts from the note itself and as the fingertip joint collapses the finger actually releases pressur efrom the string as well. In the forward motion of the finger tip (towards your nose) the weight of the finger actually rolls back into the string again. This is one complete vibrato cycle. From this we can understand that vibrato is actaully a circular movement of tnesion and relaxation on the string. An awful lot of players, including many playing professionally actually do not know this and it ctainly doesnt seem to get taught often enough. If ypu are retaining the same pressur eon the string pthen this is a cause of tension in your vibrato and may be one of the reasons you are having trouble with your first finger.



June 9, 2016 at 01:45 PM · Great answers!!! When practicing the whole bows I would recommend relaxing breathing, and keep your hands and fingers "limp like spaghetti" except for just enough tension to hold ring. Tension kills sound - when placed where it is not needed. Think of it this way - what effect would tense shoulders have? You want enough tension to hold the note in your left - but not more, and a relax point instead of constant tension. (like the vibrato point above)

Once you have whole bows in a relaxed mode - then I would add scales this way, and follow the excellent suggestions on bow geometry.

I had a good suggestion from my first teacher - look at your hands - if you can see the bones on the back stiff, you are too tense. You can see this by gripping a ball and letting it go - you want your hand to be in the "letting go" side.

I also wanted to say you are not alone!! I, too, cannot make the long drive to have lessons. (nearer teachers refuse to teach adults) Driving 4-6 hours for a lesson is not feasible until I retire - and I gave up the violin a while back because of this. Bad decision, as I missed the joy of playing - however, with the many Internet resources available, and this board - one can indeed have success!! Good luck on your journey!!

June 9, 2016 at 03:27 PM · Nice to hear that there are other people out there trying to achieve the same thing like you Andrea. Yes, there are so many excellent resources online. And this forum is great!

All this feedback and tips I've received here will sure keep me busy a couple of months. :-) And that was the idea, now I know what to practice! Thanks to you all!!

I like the idea of going back to an easier etude and pay close attention to intonation and bowing. I think I want to rush myself too much, always trying to learn new pieces, while I should take more time to focus on getting the basics right.

All the advice about my left hand, thumb and arm setup is really an eye-opener.

To answer a previous question: yes I have the Basics book from Simon Fischer. I'm thinking of getting the other books too. I read the entire Basics book last month when I was on vacation and enjoyed it very much. But I didn't bring my violin on vacation and since I'm back I haven't tried any of the exercises yet. I'm sure that doing all the exercises will take me years... Do you think it's best for me to get started with Part A about the Right Arm and Hand. Or should I start with a different part of the book?

June 9, 2016 at 11:23 PM · Greetings,

its great that you read Basics. To tell the truth, from a teaching perspective that is really a teacher or experienced players book. It wa sa little bit of aprototype. Over the years Simons knowledge and writing increased exponentially with the resul

t that The Violin Lesson is, in my oion, simply the best book on violin playing ever written. That is not a staement one can make lightly. Its greatness lies very much in he shows clealry and simply how an adult learne rsuch as yourslef can improve any aspect of their playing quicly and easily. As such, I would earnesly reocmmend you start with that book rather than Basics.

Basics can supply very good supplemental details to The violin Lesson.



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