Re-learning technique

February 15, 2005 at 04:42 AM · Arrrgh, I need hints and tips and I hope you lovely people can help me.

I started playing violin about 10-11 years ago, and by the time I stopped learning (because my studies were becoming very time consuming) I was working on Grade 5 Associated Board pieces. I still played for leisure after that, until I ran (very) short of money at Uni and decided to sell the instrument.

Now I've decided to give it another go, with the aim of playing in the orchestra for a local am ops society production of G&S's Pirates, which I had auditioned for, but didn't get a part as I fear there was some favouritism going on on the part of the Director (incidentally, any advice on how tricky the 2nd violin part is would be gratefully recieved). So I've bought a new instrument, it's got nice tone, and I seem to be remembering most of what I was taught. I was just wondering what people think are the most important techiques to sharpen up bearing in mind what I'm aiming for.

Also, how long, on average, will figuring out vibrato take. I never managed this when I was younger, but I'm going to be working at the violinmasterclass exercises ceaselessly.

Thaks in advance


Replies (9)

February 15, 2005 at 07:05 AM · Although you may not really want to hear this, my suggestion would be that you presently spend most of your practising time purely on technique and perhaps studies at the moment. You can gradually introduce a higher quotient of pieces content as you get more aclimatised with technique.

Perhaps one of the most important things to get the "feel" back are dedicated bow exercises, since in my experience, the bow arm can really "go off" after long layoffs. For this, good bowing manuals include Cassorti, plus some of the Dounis Daily Dozen exercises (use the search function here for lots of info about the latter).

Additionally you should spend a fair bit of time doing son file (sustained tone) exercises. But you don't have to make these part of your official practice time as such. Personally, I do these son file exercises during ad breaks when I am watching television.

Good dedicated left hand exercises are the early pages of the first book of Schradieck in the first instance. Go slowly on these at first and build up your durability, strength and left hand "rhythm". You will soon start to get basic strength and independance back into your left hand through diligent practicing of these exercises.

Once you feel some good strength and coordination coming back to you, you can graduate to 2 octave scales and arpeggios. Depending on your previous level of advancement, you can then proceed to 3 octave scales and double stopped scales.

A good idea might be to investigate if you have a particular technical manual aligned to your grading system. For example, here in Australia we have two main manuals, Level 1 which covers grade 1 to 4 and Level 2 which covers grades 5 to 8 (after grade 8 are the actual diploma levels). If your grading systems are similar, you would probably find some excellent exercises that cover the basic proficiencies needed in a structured manner. Actually I think the Australian example is now excellent. If every amateur violinist covered the stuff properly in the level 2 manual, they would be more than good enough for any amateur orchestral position going. The manual is much better than when I went through the system 20 years ago and I use it myself now.

As for studies, depending on what you might have done before, you can look at doing some studies out of perhaps Kayser (easier) or Mazas (harder). There is also a two volume set of mixed studies known as "Preparing for Kreutzer" which covers studies from a number of violinist composers, and the Volume 1 probably starts at around a level you had achieved before.

If you are prepared to put up with doing the type of stuff I have mentioned (and doing it on an ongoing basis), you will find your playing will be much more solid and pieces will be less frustrating and more rewarding to learn.

As for vibrato, it is very hard to say, but it seems that most players can achieve a reasonable vibrato within 6 months to a year of beginning serious study of it. But there are all sorts of variables at work, and there are three types main types of vibrato in any case. I am assuming you just wish to be proficient in one at this stage.

IT might not be a bad idea to find a qualified teacher, not so much for a very long series of ongoing lessons, but perhaps a few months whereby they can determine your strengths and weaknesses and devise a technical program that you can stick to on an ongoing basis.

February 15, 2005 at 04:03 PM · Welcome back to the fold! I also stopped playing for several years before picking the violin back up. In addition to the mentioned bow method books, I've been hammering away at the Carl Flesch scale system every day to get my "range" back.

Dedicated practice will get you back to where you were and beyond. Good luck!

February 15, 2005 at 04:12 PM · I second Jonathan's suggestion of a teacher. I stopped playing for 25 years and found a teacher enormously helpful in not only getting my technique back but also in moving beyond where I was when I stopped. If you do not get a teacher, you may well fall into bad habits and not progress. You can see how long you want to continue with the teacher (I still take lessons seven years after restarting and am much a much better violinist that when I stopped), but starting with one cannot be a mistake.

February 15, 2005 at 09:40 PM · Right, I'll make a note of all those exercises, and have a trawl round the web for them.

As for a teacher, it's a little impossible at the moment to have lessons. The only free night I have my partner is out, and as I can't drive and rely on him to get me around....

However, the MD of one of the choirs we sing in is a violinist, so I was planning on asking him for some help, so hopefully he'll be able to give me some advice.

Thanks again

February 15, 2005 at 10:57 PM · Greetings,

a copy of Fischer"s 'Basics' is one of the best invetsments you could make right now,



March 12, 2005 at 01:20 PM · Practice the most basic exercises you can. Play them SLOWLY and SOFTLY, paying attention to precision. I now realize what my teachers always meant when they said that 10 minutes of intelligent practice is worth an hour of woodshedding. It's worth more, actually, because just pumping away for hours without focus will lead to bad habits. Above all, don't get discouraged. I started again after a 22 year hiatus during which I did not even touch a violin. At first, I was embarassed that I couldn't even hold the instrument and bow. Now, after a few weeks of patient, dedicated practice in 10 minute increments, playing slowly and softly, I am doing quite well. In a year or so, I'll play better than I used to, and I studied very seriously at one time. Keep at it.

March 12, 2005 at 11:11 PM · Hi,

I agree with Buri about Basics. For me, one word: SEVCIK!!!!


March 12, 2005 at 11:16 PM · Go back further than you think you need to: right back to the beginning, lots of open string bowing, open string crossing, finger placing, getting first position in tune, getting bow changes in with finger changes.

I think we need to keep these things in our practice schedule no matter how advanced we think we are, and they will definitely help someone who is starting again.


March 19, 2005 at 02:22 PM · Tom, Frank, Graham, Thanks.

I agree with the last statement. Go back to the beginning. With my son starting Suzuki last year, I decided to finally 'learn how to play' the violin/viola, along with him. My, what fascination just in doing a full bow on open strings can be, now that I am an adult!

The thing about being older that helps is that we have LIVED- (As Gooch says in "Mame") and thus, we adults have emotional experiences to help us in our 'interpretation.' But that same level of feeling we did not possess when we were 15-20, is also what can hinder/frustrate us. Thus, my agreeing with the other two gents online wholeheartedly. Technique, assiduously studied, will give wings to your emotions- but only after one has mastered technique!

And, while I may never play the Mendelssohn, I can understand what makes a good performance of it, the 'event' that it truly I slog on. I'll do anything my teacher says, for as LONG as s/he says I need to, in order to 'give wings' to my desire, to make the music come alive on the violin/viola. What a wonderful joy, to be able to LEARN about this instrument, even at my age! LOL - Cheers!

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