How fast is too fast?

October 20, 2016 at 08:32 PM · I am just wondering what you teachers and professional violinists think of a student's learning curve on shifting? I am at my 6 years, I am only up to shifting to 5th, am still learning it. I had no teacher for a long while, plus I on my own concentrated on 3rd position. I have heard some students in their 4th year they are up to shifting to 10th position. I know I am too slow, but 10th position at their 4th year? What do you think?

Replies (22)

October 20, 2016 at 08:35 PM · Have you been practicing three-octave scales?

October 20, 2016 at 08:38 PM · I was taught it once, but I never got to it. So, no, I haven't.

October 20, 2016 at 08:42 PM · I guess my question is really where should a student be at their, forth, fifth, and sixth year?

October 20, 2016 at 08:54 PM · I have seen students flying all over the fingerboard by the age of nine.

October 20, 2016 at 08:58 PM · I also have seen nine year old not studying any solo works, except their orchestra music. I think she is still in first position as she reached her second year, the nine year old I know.

October 20, 2016 at 08:59 PM · I also have seen nine year old not studying any solo works, except their orchestra music. I think she is still in first position as she reached her second year, the nine year old I know.

October 20, 2016 at 09:07 PM · Hi Yinmui,

I think that you should not be worrying so much about where you are or comparing yourself negatively to others . With no teacher you are better off to focus on small chunks of material at a time and set a goal to improve dramatically these small chunks and do your practice regimen accordingly. I think it would benefit you hugely to even try for a violin lesson once a month as a teacher will point out your faults and then you go home and try to correct them for your next lesson. Without a teacher sometimes it is really hard to actually know what we are doing g wrong and we just practice our mistakes over and over again.

October 20, 2016 at 09:12 PM · @ Jeff, I actually just started lessons again with a fantastic teacher. I see her every two weeks. I think I am learning a lot from her already. She played for me some of the music I am playing, and when I am alone practicing, I will even ask myself if she would have played it like that, on the stuff that she hasn't played for me.

October 20, 2016 at 09:22 PM · Plus, I don't call it comparing, it gives me ideas on how far behind I am and how far to catch up. :-D

October 20, 2016 at 10:31 PM · I'm not a teacher, and I decided at 21 not to go pro. But I was a student -- with six teachers over a long span till I finished school soon after making the above career decision.

We're all so individual, and we each have our own pace and approach to learning these skills. I was a kid beginner and started 3rd position about 3 months into lessons with my first teacher. The teacher felt I was ready, and she was right. Soon afterward came 5th; then followed 2nd, 4th, 6th, 7th, and above.

It helped that I was self-motivated, as opposed to parent-motivated; and I was definitely the geeky type -- I would leaf through the position books as bedtime stories to see what was coming up next.

On the other hand, I know of some very accomplished players who didn't start position-playing till 2 years in -- in fact, this is not at all uncommon.

October 20, 2016 at 11:26 PM · If you can do shifts comfortably up to the fifth position, I wouldn't worry about going up to the stratosphere too much. What's a lot more important is your tone (i.e. bow control). I do think that doing three-octave scales on a daily basis is a must. Start with scales and arpeggios and 7ths starting on G, A, and B-flat. Once you are proficient at these, you can work your way up.

October 21, 2016 at 12:28 AM · I don't think there's anything wrong with wanting to make the process more efficient if there's room to do so. People balk and any reference to "comparing" and don't realize that it it simply human nature and necessary in some instances. Can it be done in an unhealthy way? Of course. But I think it it impossible to escape. Think about what not comparing anything at all would mean. One would, for instance, have no idea when to be alarmed about a baby not hitting developmental milestones, or even be really be able to use adjectives in a meaningful way.

October 21, 2016 at 11:34 AM · @ Kevin, I am still trying to get comfortable shifting up to 5th position. I do have a little problem with hand placement when I play on the E string.

@ Lieschen, thanks for understanding!

October 21, 2016 at 04:29 PM · Flesch octaves on one string (the first page of each key) are a great way to learn how to play in high positions. Also, Simon Fischer--his scale book will have you playing at the top of the finger board after doing even only the first section of the book.

October 21, 2016 at 05:26 PM · Nope, not too fast. After two years, I can use any part of the fingerboard, though I cannot do runs very successfully yet (because the shifts make me hesitate). :)

October 21, 2016 at 07:25 PM · As far as I know, there is no standard mathematical function relating your years of practicing to the highest position in which you can play comfortably and in tune.

That last bit is the key -- can you reach the notes, can you get there and back, can you change among the positions -- comfortably and in tune? That's way more important than whether you're up to third position or tenth. You can try to vault yourself to the top of the fingerboard with three-octave scales, but you should also do a lot of studies that move back and forth among the positions, working you up the fingerboard gradually, and there are plenty of those among the Kayser, Mazas, Dont, and Schradieck books to help with that. And for goodness sake, get a teacher if you can afford one.

October 21, 2016 at 09:25 PM · Also, make sure your downshifts are solid.

I need work on mine. :)

October 23, 2016 at 12:33 PM · I was started on 3 octave scales once I began suzuki 2. Though, I do not know how common that is.

October 23, 2016 at 02:49 PM · Bailey, I think the answer is "not very common" since the first actual shifts do not appear in the Suzuki program until Book 3 (Humoresque is often the first piece). However, if you were naturally predisposed to play very well in tune at the Book 2 level, your teacher might have realized an unusual opportunity.

October 23, 2016 at 10:16 PM · I also started 3 octave scales during the book 2 level in my first year. I was working on other things as well. It doesn't mean I played them well though.

October 24, 2016 at 04:14 PM · I read an article somewhere once saying that there's a lot of benefit to having beginners start playing in high positions immediately--they don't know it's supposed to be "hard" yet, so why not get them up there so they don't fear it later on. I'm no teacher, but it sounds promising.

October 24, 2016 at 05:37 PM · Given that 3rd position is quite common, 1st and 3rd should be practiced in depth, and you will generally learn most of the higher positions at the same time when you play in an orchestra. I do think many people speed through the learning process to play "cool stuff" when really they lack skills in rhythm or intonation. You are usually going at an okay pace when you end up with a bit more accuracy than just hearing a melody through an otherwise cloudy piece.

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