Self teaching tips?

September 22, 2005 at 04:43 AM · I have been playing the guitar since I was 7 years old (that's 20 years now!). I always thought the violin kids at school were a little geeky which put me off even trying the instrument. I now work for a company that makes a care kit for stringed instruments and through my work I have met plenty of violin players...they are not the geeks I once thought they were! Anyway after being inspired by the instrument I got myself and electric violin and started to teach myself. I have never had a lesson on a musical instrument in my life and don't intend having violin lessons. When I told this to a local teacher, she looked at me as if I were dirt and told me that you can't play the violin without lessons. I don't want to learn to read music and have no interest in playing other peoples music. I'm getting on pretty well with my playing and I'm starting to use effects to make things a little more interesting. But I'd really appreciate any tips anyone give someone who is unwilling to go to lessons and learn the traditional way.

Replies (75)

September 22, 2005 at 05:17 AM · Well, I hope you have an incredible ear and a knack for experimentation. If you do, then that's how you do it. And if you get really frustrated, you know where to find us. :)

September 22, 2005 at 06:56 AM · sounds like a synthesiser and computer programme might be more appropriate

September 22, 2005 at 07:20 AM · You need as Emily said:

1. an incredible ear

2. the naturally given ability to apply that ear to the sound you produce while reading the music

3. the naturally given ability to apply that ear to the sound you produce while reading the music perfectly

4. the naturally given ability to apply that ear to the sound you produce while reading the music perfectly and holding the bow

5. the naturally given ability to apply that ear to the sound you produce while reading the music perfectly and holding the bow perfectly

6. the naturally given ability to apply that ear to the sound you produce while reading the music perfectly and holding the bow perfectly and touching the strings with it

7. the naturally given ability to apply that ear to the sound you produce while reading the music perfectly and holding the bow perfectly and touching the right strings with it

8. the naturally given ability to apply that ear to the sound you produce while reading the music perfectly and holding the bow perfectly and touching the right strings in the right place with it

9. the naturally given ability to apply that ear to the sound you produce while reading the music perfectly and holding the bow perfectly and touching the right strings in the right place with it and twisting your left hand somehow around the fingerboard

10. the naturally given ability to apply that ear to the sound you produce while reading the music perfectly and holding the bow perfectly and touching the right strings in the right place with it and putting your left hand onto the strings on the fingerboard

11. the naturally given ability to apply that ear to the sound you produce while reading the music perfectly and holding the bow perfectly and touching the right strings in the right place with it and putting your left hand onto the right strings on the fingerboard

12. the naturally given ability to apply that ear to the sound you produce while reading the music perfectly and holding the bow perfectly and touching the right strings in the right place with it and putting your left hand onto the right places onto the right strings on the fingerboard

13. the naturally given ability to apply that ear to the sound you produce while reading the music perfectly and holding the bow perfectly and touching the right strings in the right place with it and putting your left hand onto the right places onto the right strings on the fingerboard and holding both bow and fiddle in a position good for your health

14. the naturally given ability to apply that ear to the sound you produce while reading the music perfectly and holding the bow perfectly and touching the right strings in the right place with it and putting your left hand onto the right places onto the right strings on the fingerboard and holding both bow and fiddle in a position good for your health while steadily thinking: "I do not need a teacher!"

This is btw a non-comprehensive list of tasks for autodidacts on the violin. One thing could ease the pain, however: forget to play other peoples music and declare whatever sound you produce for your own invented music. That's perfectly ok. But do not expect other people to accept your declaration then. They might or might not accept your sounds and noises as music. And, please, understand that music of any kind is based on some form of social consensus. Leaving this consensus means leaving music and going to "therapeutic expressivity" instead.


September 22, 2005 at 07:06 AM · Tom, you know what they say about first impressions being the best ones?

September 22, 2005 at 07:08 AM · It is too bad that the formatting does not show Frank-Michael's text without wrap--it makes a nice big triangle and accentuates the idea that you have to figure out how to do so many things at the same time.

If you can ice skate, swing a stick, put the puck in the net, and simultaneously know where all your players are, and manage to flatten all of the opposing players on your team while not being flattened in return, then you can also play the violin without instruction (or insert your favorite sport--rugby, etc). ;_)

Seriously, if you are a person that likes a challenge, likes to experiment, and you are perceptive, then you just might show some of us (especially me) up!

I wonder how violin instruction worked in, say, 1590, when they were more or less being invented?

September 22, 2005 at 07:13 AM · I have been using Basics and Practice by Simon Fischer to improve my playing myself during the last year.

They are really great works to improve your playing, clear photographs. Primarily meant for acoustical violin, though.

(Although teaching myself now after some 10 years away from the instrument, when I was 17 years old I have been playing Fiorillo, Rode (Concerto 7); So I suppose I'm not entirely the self-teaching adult).

September 22, 2005 at 08:01 AM · Um.....fiddle players of olden times didn't drive to NYC for lessons each week.

Having said that...if you aren't taking lessons, be sure you have some kind of example to imitate to help you along. It could be books such as Simon Fischer's book on practicing, some DVD's of fiddle/violin players, or going to the local jazz club and watching other violinists in action.

September 22, 2005 at 10:41 AM · "But I'd really appreciate any tips anyone give someone who is unwilling to go to lessons and learn the traditional way. "


Of course you can teach yourself. However, you could have said this better. It comes across a bit...well...smug.

Good luck.

September 22, 2005 at 05:46 PM · I'm all for non-traditional learning.

However, at some point, if you decide that you like the instrument well enough to keep playing, you may come to a point where you'll want some external guidance.

The trick is to have taught yourself well enough to be able to take advantage of external guidance when you need it.

There are reasons why classical violinists are taught to hold the violin and bow in particular ways and all those other things that go along with it -- because shortcutting these things will only make it more difficult to advance.

If you don't care how quickly you advance, or you don't really mind not advancing past novice or so, then you don't need a teacher and you oughtn't worry about traditional playing.

If you do want to "get good" (which you may not decide until later), then it's a good idea to at least get some basic advice from someone who is physically present and can see and hear how you play.

September 23, 2005 at 04:24 AM · Get some violin 101 from someone who is experienced at the very least. otherwise, you can experiment until your heart's content but not be able to pull descent tune consistently for a long time. On the other hand, if you are one with immense patience and a high threshold for pain while self learning - then pick a piece of music that you like and try to immitate it note for note, bow for bow, etc.

I'd still take at least a few months of traditional lessons to get started at a minimum. What you decide to do from there on out is up to you and you skill.

September 23, 2005 at 12:53 PM · You need to find a friend who can help you get a good setup. If you have a good setup you'll be able to do a lot. If you have a poor setup people will make fun of you. If you're smart, a good setup should only take a couple of weeks to accomplish.

September 23, 2005 at 12:58 PM · Great advice and opinions above. I have little to add, except that for the self-student (and for anyone else) there are now many books and master class tapes that are certainly worth your attention. The classic set is The Way They Play series of books by Applebaum, a kind of old-fashioned but wonderful collection of interviews with loads of advice by the most famous violinists and violin teachers of the time.

Good luck.

September 23, 2005 at 03:36 PM · Marty gave good advice.

If you are completely unwilling to go for traditional lessons (for reasons I cannot you really think you're better equipped to teach yourself?!) then you should still get someone to show you a proper setup in terms of holding the instrument and the bow.

The thing with violin is that you just cannot go on comfort because in the beginning NOTHING feels comfortable or natural as playing the violin puts your body into everything BUT a natural position. So it's very difficult to arrive at a setup that is correct unless you have some guidance. With a proper setup you will experience much less tension in your arms, neck, shoulder, wrists, back, pelvis, legs...brain. You will not feel like it is a natural position for quite a while until you have practiced it and been guided back into it (by a trained professional) when your body forgets...which IT WILL if you don't have someone to train you.

Good luck! I suppose if you have no desire to play "other peoples music" and just wish to play your own (I assume) then go for broke, but in all honesty, don't expect to get too far. But I'm open to all possibilities and won't be disappointed if you prove me wrong.


September 26, 2005 at 01:34 PM · Thanks for your comments. I apologise if, as one of you pointed out, I sounded smug. It was certainly not intended, I suppose I'm not very good at expressing myself with words. After reading all the comments I think there is two that will help me more than the others...I will be going out to see as many violinists as possible and listening to the violin on CD and working it out myself, after all this is how I learned to play the Guitar and I'm now a very proficient guitarist. I may not know the names of the notes, chords and time signatures, but I know I can play them. Thanks.

September 27, 2005 at 03:44 AM · It sounds as though you have a great ear for music along with the ability to figure out where it's at on the fingerboard. That can take you a long ways.

It's good that you're aware you need to watch proficient players; live & on instructional tapes/CDs. Pay particular attention to how the hands, wrists & arms are positioned. You don't want to hold your bow like a toothbrush. (A tendency for beginners & self taught.)

What type of music are you into? There's so much great violin music of all types! When I was working on my improv skills I was advised to listen to Eileen Ivers CD's Crossing the Bridge, & Wild Blueand then try to play along with bits of the pieces that jumped out. Eileen has real eclectic tastes and is able to do amazing things with her violin.


September 27, 2005 at 10:58 AM · The Music that I listen to and play is not the sort of music that you will get a violin in. My main band, House of Fix ( a mish mash of techno, metal, hip hop, rock, pop and more besides...We usually play to 1000+ crowds of drugged up teenagers all over Europe and Japan, most of whome probably never get to see a violin played. At our last show in Switzerland, I swapped my 7 string electric guitar for my electric violin for one track. As I have said before, I don't know the names of the notes, but I know what they sound like and where to put my fingers to make them. OK, so I'm no Daniel Hope, but I'm as excited about doing something new with the Violin as I was about picking up my first guitar. Once again thanks to every one for their comments, it's really helped me understand violinists a bit more and now I have a very good idea about the direction to take. All the best,


September 27, 2005 at 12:23 PM · Hi,

I just posted another thread with a link with advice that may help. Check it out. Might be of interest to anyone working on his own or trying to improve!


September 28, 2005 at 04:37 PM · Quote - "You don't want to hold your bow like a toothbrush."

-Wanda Jenkins

Quote - "We usually play to 1000+ crowds of drugged up teenagers all over Europe and Japan, most of whome probably never get to see a violin played."

-Tom Bartlett

Tom, seems like the audience wouldn't notice if you held your bow like a toothbrush. In fact, using a toothbrush in place of a bow would be real avant-garde. ; )

September 28, 2005 at 07:02 PM · I saw an electric guitarist with a bow about the size of a travel toothbrush--he used it to bow his electric guitar!

September 28, 2005 at 08:22 PM · I've tried some bows that would make great toothbrushes!

September 28, 2005 at 10:12 PM · My toothbrush needs a rehair.

September 29, 2005 at 07:07 PM · this question came up on before - you can search for the thead. A good teacher saves countless hours or inefficient practice, so in that sense is good value for money.

September 29, 2005 at 08:34 PM · I'd like to know what's so terrible about having a teacher.

September 29, 2005 at 09:38 PM · Bad:


Fixed Schedule.



Learn faster,

encourage practice,

meet new people.

Just off the top of my head.

September 29, 2005 at 10:14 PM · Control issues, perhaps. Teachers can be very controlling. Relationships can be scary.

September 29, 2005 at 11:25 PM · So find one that's not controlling, that has a flexible schedule and is nice!

I don't think they're that hard to find. But it's one's own choice, I suppose.

September 30, 2005 at 01:01 AM · Do you like it when you get a new book and a friend proceeds to tell you what happens?

It can be more fun to figure it out on your own.

Perhaps that would be the most fundamental reason.

It is fun to try to figure stuff out--violin is no different in that repsect than any other process.

September 30, 2005 at 01:19 AM · I recently saw a teenage boy playing violin with his band and was impressed at his technique & sound, along with his ability to improvise. After the show I complimented his playing, wondered how long he'd been taking lesson and commented that he must have had classical lessons since his form, posture & set-up were good.

He grinned real big, thanked me, then proceeded to say that he's never taken formal lessons. Instead he analyzed his favorite violinists, watched them live whenever possible, watched videos & DVDs and went to a few camps in the summers. Very amazing and encouraging what is possible with desire and willingness to learn.

On the other hand I watched a singer at a local gig take her fiddle out of the case, tell to the audience that she was teaching herself the fiddle, and proceeded to screech out an Appalachian song. She had no clue how to hold the bow, or position her left hand, and from some other comments had no desire to seek out advise on playing.

You mentioned you work at a shop where lots of violinists stop by, see if any are up to playing & jamming with you. Pick up pointers & tips from them. Study what they do. Then experiment with bowings and crazy sounds. Seems like a blast to me!

September 30, 2005 at 04:39 AM · Tom, I actually asked a teacher at a summer string camp this exact same question: "Is it possible to be self-taught with the violin and get anywhere?"

His response, after a bit of thought: "No."

However, he went on to explain that, "They say that a metronome is the best teacher"--which, as an avid guitarist, I'm sure you've heard before, in one permutation or another. Another thing my teacher encouraged was using a mirror as well as a tape/video recorder, based on the philosophy that "all good violinists, to a degree, look the same when they're playing" (though that's debatable). A tape/video recorder helps in the way of being able to admit that "Wow, I really can't play above third position," or, "Good grief, that's what I sound like playing double stops!?"

In which case, you'd come to the discussion board and look at the different threads titled something along the lines of "How do practice double stops?" ^_^ At least--that's the advice of someone who, at the moment, is teacher-less. Hope that helps.

October 1, 2005 at 07:56 PM · It comes to mind the many fine musical traditions that the fortunate few have grown up around: bluegrass, Celtic, jazz, etc. While not formally trained, these have spent lifetimes learning their art at the feet of friends and family, without trying to shortcut it.

Wanda mentioned Eileen Ivers, a skilled player steeped in many of these traditions. Then there is Mark O’Conner who woodshedded his childhood years with Benny Thomasson to become possibly the best Texas Fiddler living today.

And there are among us those who are not as fortunate to have been raised around rich musical traditions. Poor souls who need to put in many hours with a gymnastic coach in order to do justice to the spirit of the music bequeathed to us by Bach and Brahms as well as the styles just mentioned.

Having made this priority one, of course it’s good fun to lighten up by jamming with friends or CDs.

As one who has tried both approaches, I can truly say that instruction will always lead to more skill than self-teaching ever could.

I started out frustrated as a child violin student.

Went on to study trumpet and play in the Junior High School band.

Picked up the guitar in the sixties and spent over ten years grabbing up whatever free knowledge I could get. Sure, I could spoof “Little Wing” or Samba pa Ti”, but I’d have been guilty of sheer arrogance if I called myself proficient.

Later, had formal training on classical guitar and advanced rapidly.

Returned recently to my beloved violin, understanding that from the start this is an instrument that has to be learned correctly or be unlearned. Currently I’m with teachers, studying and improving steadily with much satisfaction and no regrets.

Doubtless there are persons with natural musical gifts who could be virtuosi with little or no formal training, but they are extremely rare.

Frank-Michael spoke of a social consensus regarding what qualifies as music –

(I wonder if it still exists!?).

Discerned by the ear, there is, in the created order, a hierarchy:

Foremost, there is the Celestial Choir.

Then there is excellent music.

Then, not-so-excellent music.

Then, good music.

Then, not-so-good music.

Then, noise.

Then, obnoxious noise (ie: airbrakes, chainsaws).

Next comes flatulence.

And finally, there is the sound produced by unskilled “musicians”.

There’s been lots of helpful advice (Preston’s especially) offered on this forum. That is, for someone serious enough about music to receive it. But if one just wants to use an instrument as a stage prop, then this has all been a well-intentioned waste of time.

October 3, 2005 at 10:46 AM · I tend to think that even when you have a teacher, most of your time and learning is spent on your own. So, it is a kind of self teaching process.

HOWEVER, it is the lesser amount of time spent with the teacher that does wonders! A teacher enables you to teach yourself and to work things out for yourself (using the principles they have instilled in you). Then when you are on your own you recall the advice and wisdom of your teacher. For me too, it is part of the fun to go to a fellow violinist and gain encouragement and play music together.

October 4, 2005 at 08:18 PM · Part of the point of "traditional lessons" or at least lessons that teach you proper technique, is that you are given the tools to explore the almost limitless possibilities of the violin. If you hold the instrument or bow in an "incorrect" way, you will 1) not be able to enjoy all of the things your instrument can do, and 2) you will hurt yourself. This is serious. I have had adult students come to me to work on their basic technique because in many cases they were getting hand and arm pains that were preventing them from playing enough to improve. Even if you don't want regular lessons, PLEASE take a couple of lessons just to make sure you are not doing anything that might hurt you.

October 8, 2005 at 05:49 PM · If you want my humble opinion to add to the considerably interesting ideas put forth so far (and you probably don't), it is this:

- Of course you learn by yourself. No teacher sits with you for several hours a day instructing your practice. You figure out a lot of things yourself. You read, you listen to yourself and others, you integrate what your teacher says, you observe. Maybe it's more accurate to say that you develop your talent by yourself.

- However, you can't GUIDE yourself. You can't give yourself a perspective, or knowledge, or direction that you don't already have. And you can't grope for that knowledge and hope to get it by luck or some innate guide to perfect technique or wisdom, unless you're a Heifetz or someone like that (if, that is, there IS anybody else like that). That's why you need a good teacher.

So, in a sense, both sides are right.

(If that doesn't confuse the issue any further...)

October 8, 2005 at 05:57 PM · All the Heifetz worship here really makes me feel bad. I met him in the 80s under weird circumstances could have had his brain all to myself for a half hour with no one else around and didn't take advantage.

October 8, 2005 at 06:04 PM · You know, Jim, there's a story about something like that with Heifetz (I forget where I read it). He was, as you know, a real ping pong enthusiast. Apparently, he invited a ping pong champion to his house, and the two of them spent a few hours at the sport. When they finished (if I remember this correctly), Heifetz said, "You've given me a sample of your art; now I'll give you a sample of mine. What would you like me to play for you?"

This ping pong champ, who had an opportunity any of us (even if we don't like Heifetz) would probably drool over -- an opportunity to sit right in front of a living legend, have him play any piece we choose, and watch and listen virtually inches away -- this ping pong champ turned him down and said something like, "Naw, I hate that kind of music."

God, I hope that story's not true.

October 8, 2005 at 06:22 PM · I'm sure he didn't take it personally. There must have been a few things Heifetz wasn't interested in that allowed him to relate. He came to my last teacher's recital. Heifetz and I were two of the few people there and he was just wandering around the building by himself.

October 9, 2005 at 11:31 AM · It's interesting how such a visible, famous, "legendary" figure can be someplace almost alone, and just wandering around. I guess he never fit into the Paganini/rockstar mold with crowds and autographs and groupies and all that. One wonders what he thought about in his last years. I think I saw a book by someone about that, someone who had contact with him in his retirement, but I don't remember the author or the title. Sorry.

October 9, 2005 at 12:10 PM · Tom,

I started about 3.5 yeats ago as an older adult novice with much your no lessons attitude. I can't say I've become a great violinist, far from it - but I can make (self) enjoyable music on the violin. But this instrument is too complex to learn without the aid of others - if not teachers at least hang out with other musicians along the way.

I hope to find a regular teacher "any year now" when my life achieves some stability. Till then I learn bits and pieces from books, videos, observation and listening. An open minded teacher would be great though as well.

October 9, 2005 at 04:34 PM · Sander, I wouldn't draw any conclusions about him from this. It was unannounced, even the students had no idea, and in an out of the way place. The performer was his former student. He was sitting with a couple people from the dean's office I think, and went out while they stayed behind to talk about budgets or their kids or something. He was in the lobby in a good meet and greet location, but there there was no one there to greet. At the time, Perlman and his little brother Zukerman were "it." He was as famous as a violinist could be of course, but I really don't think he was such a mythical figure at that point. At least that was my perception of things at the time. The most informative thing I could say about him is I didn't see the Sphynx, but saw a friendly, intelligent, beaming grandfather.

The reason I didn't do anything except acknowledge him was a combinaton of being star-struck, and mostly, indifference. It was a period when I began disengaging from music. Also, I didn't have any questions for him really at that age (mid 20s). Now I'd have a deluge of them.

October 9, 2005 at 04:06 PM · OK, Jim. I see. But I remember him from the one and only time I saw him play in person, which was at Orchestra Hall in Chicago in, I think, the late 50's. It was a recital. I don't even remember what he played, except I think one of the pieces was the Franck Sonata. I was way up in the Gallery, but the audience was really warm and responsive and enthusiastic, even though Heifetz went about things in his usual business-like manner. That unique sound and "voice" of his playing, however, is still in my ear. It was better than any of his records. Maybe that's what we ought to remember after all. Thanks for the feedback.

Sandy Marcus

October 9, 2005 at 04:30 PM · What did he sound like live? I think his recordings must miss a lot. Is there a recording that comes close?

October 9, 2005 at 06:07 PM · Jim:

I think the difference is what has been pointed out by Perlman and many others, including Myron Kartman, who was a Julliard product and one of my teachers. Apparently, Heifetz liked to record with the microphone very close. Therefore, the recording picked up a lot of--if not bow noise--the clicks and scratches of his aggressive articulation in attacking a note or changing bows. Myron told me that his own father was a huge Heifetz fan, but when he finally heard his idol in person from the 2nd row, he was disappointed, because he heard all this bow noise. But when you are a little further back in the hall (say, beyond the 4th or 5th row), you don't hear any of that noise; it drops out. All you hear is pure music. That's what I remember...pure music, crisp attack with no apparent bow noise, a vibrato (of course) of incredible beauty and intensity, and above all (to me) a unique voice that almost talks. Myron told me that when he was a student in New York, he heard all four Heifetz concerts on consecutive nights, playing the Beethoven Concerto with the New York Philharmonic. He said that while he never cared for the Heifetz interpretation of the Beethoven, the first night was astonishing, the second night was even better, the third night was beyond belief, and the fourth performance was beyond phenomenal.

I have a pretty good ear as far as remembering a violinist's sound or performance, but unfortunately I can't translate it into words. I wish I could. The sound of that violin from that one Heifetz recital stands out in my memory, even though I don't remember many of the pieces.

Now that I think of it, there is another violinist whose recordings do not do him justice -- Leonid Kogan. I heard Kogan live (also at an Orchestra Hall recital) the first time he ever played in Chicago. I think many of his recordings are incredible, but none of them matches what I heard in that hall so many years ago. One of the things he played was the Bach C Major Sonata. He certainly did not play it in a Baroque style, but the tone, the connectness of the notes, the slides, the illusion of separate moving voices (especially in the Fugue), still are in my ear. And he also played the Caprice Basque, a performance so astonishing that I have yet to hear anyone come close.

I don't know. Maybe recordings, ultimately, cannot possibly pick up all of the overtones. Who knows?

October 9, 2005 at 06:26 PM · And one more thing about that Kogan concert, just as an aside. I was in high school at the time, and went to the concert with a few friends from our high school orchestra. We went backstage afterwards to the green room to try to get his autograph. And I got a chance to meet him and shake his hand. I don't think he knew any English. I thanked him and told him the performance was wonderful, but he just gave me a warm smile and a handshake. I remember that there were two (I'm quite sure) Russians in cheap suits standing on either side of him, dwarfing him (he was pretty short) and scrutinizing everyone who came in. Unfortunately, his signed program is long gone. But the memory remains.

SOOOOO...getting back to the topic of this discussion:

No, I don't think you can learn an instrument like the violin without a teacher.

October 9, 2005 at 06:43 PM · It's the interaction of a lot of different things and it can sound either worse or better than live but usually different, I think. RCA, which I guess he was signed to was one of the worst in terms of fidelity. They all sound very colored and the same. Hopefully, it's in the mastering. I read an article a couple years ago about the guy who remastered some of the "Living Stereo" concerto recordings for CD and I always mean to look into those. I'd like to find one recording, maybe where for some reason good engineers had the last word, that would at least let me hear something that would give a bit of an accurate impression, where I could mentally fill in the gaps and feel like I knew what he sounded like.

October 9, 2005 at 11:55 PM · I know little about sound engineering, but that is fascinating. And, you know, I agree with you about RCA. Their recordings never sounded like they captured the full sound, but I never knew why.

October 10, 2005 at 01:13 AM · Amen. There is, of course, those Heifetz master classes that are available. They include he and Eric Friedman playing the last two movements of the Bach Double. If you've never seen those, they are very interesting. He is very candid on them, and shows what was a sharp sense of humor. One of the "performances" on them is a parody of a lousy violinist playing the 1st movement of Vieuxtemps #4. With his deadpan expression, he makes every typical technical and musical mistake you can make, even wiping his nose at one point. He also in at least one place seems to be poking a little fun at Hubermann. Great farce. Well worth getting if you haven't seen it. I'm sure it's on CD, but I have the two video tapes.

October 10, 2005 at 04:17 PM · Tom: I just re-read your original question --

"I don't want to take traditional lessons. I want to teach and evolve myself. Do you have any tips for me?"

I guess my answer (embedded in previous responses) is that I think you can indeed "evolve" yourself, but I don't think you can "teach" yourself.

(Now, if you can figure out what I just said, let me know. I'd appreciate the explanation)

September 28, 2012 at 03:27 PM ·

September 29, 2012 at 01:52 PM · What I deduce from the Albert Sammons story is that he must have had a sound basic technique instilled from the beginning from his father, and later on in a top-up from a pupil of Ysaye. I think he must have been naturally very observant of other players and learned a lot (i.e. taught himself) by copying them. If that were not so he would doubtless have hit a technical wall on the way and ended up as no more than a middling amateur violinist, hardly likely to attract the interest of the likes of Thomas Beecham.

So, violin self-teaching can be done successfully but only with the right foundation and right sort of personality, and that combination must be very rare. I understand that the great 19th/20th century teacher Leopold Auer didn't do much teaching on the technical side - he expected his pupils to sort out technical problems among themselves, which must have been good training for them if they were looking to a professional career, as most of them probably were.

From my own experience, I came to the violin in middle age from a lifetime of cello playing, and my initial interest was in folk fiddle (it is still an important part of my music). I was effectively self-taught as a fiddle player using my experience as a cellist coupled with observation of other players, both in orchestral and folk music contexts. However, this took me only so far, because I hit that technical wall I mentioned above and could find no way round, above or through it. So I looked around for a private teacher, preferably someone I didn't know and who didn't know me - hence deliberately excluding the teachers in my orchestra! I was recommended by a local luthier to someone who had trained professionally at the Suzuki School in Japan and had since been working as a full-time professional in folk music in England, running her own very successful ensemble and teaching - an ideal combination from several points of view.

The first two lessons were devoted to analyzing, deconstructing and reconstructing my basic technique. Everything progressed from there to the stage where after a couple of years I was able to move from the cello section in my chamber orchestra to the second violins, where I have been happily playing for the last three years, and no-one has suggested that I return to the cello section. I am still having regular lessons.

My final point is that there is too much essential fine detail in learning to play the violin to be gleaned from books or even videos, and this detail varies from player to player. Only a good face-to-face teacher is able to identify what is going wrong in a given situation and have an effective solution tailored to the individual. I unhesitatingly put my teacher in that category.

September 29, 2012 at 04:58 PM · Thats the beauty of having a great teacher. It cuts the learning curve dramatically. Conversely, you must also play with other musicians. Anyone can match a metronome, but only by playing well with others can your passion truley come out.

September 30, 2012 at 12:23 AM · I like this statement from Bill P........

Seriously, if you are a person that likes a challenge, likes to experiment, and you are perceptive, then you just might show some of us (especially me) up!

This is very true. I think many people whom take lessons expect the teacher to wave a magic wand or sumit?

September 30, 2012 at 02:37 AM · My teacher, a very fine pianist and cellist, had a year of violin lessons. It would take me years of lessons to understand what he knows. I have seen him give lessons to finished violinists who could play virtuoso show pieces brilliantly.

If one is truly gifted one may possibly teach one's self but most of us mortals are better off with a teacher.

September 30, 2012 at 03:44 AM · It would take me years of lessons to understand what he knows.

Ask your teach if he would wave his magic wand.

September 30, 2012 at 12:13 PM · So, you've never had lessons on any musical instrument, you don't intend ever to have lessons, you don't want to read music, and you don't even want to play other peoples music . . . Hmm, enough said. Good luck to you lad, but please stay out of earshot.

September 30, 2012 at 11:00 PM · Well....everybody knows where the door is, and if you see somebody may be Parker..

Because you know you can not please everybody...!!

October 1, 2012 at 12:49 AM · I am a teacer in Florida

October 1, 2012 at 08:09 PM · I think videoing yourself is a good tool if you want to learn on your own. If your are musically inclined you will know what sounds good. Though technique will be 2ndary where as it should be 1st. It's like kinda putting the carriage before the horse, but eventually it will click in and you will have to learn sound technique to start moving forward. Just a personal experience.

October 2, 2012 at 04:10 AM · Forget it. The violin is not a guitar. Period.

October 2, 2012 at 07:34 AM · I bet if I requested a detailed map of lesson content for the first month from 5 different instructors, the methodology and order would be wildly different. I believe there is no consensus amongst instructors as to how to proceed at day 1 therefore whats the point.

October 2, 2012 at 08:53 AM · Forget it. The violin is not a guitar. Period.

Oh, oh, I am so glad I did'nt listen to this kind of advice 40 years ago.....

SO!....And who are you to tell me 'how' I should be playing or 'what' I should be playing now...???

October 2, 2012 at 02:21 PM · These questions about self-teaching pop up fairly regularly. I suppose if somebody just wants to experiement with an unfamiliar instrument for the fun of it, with no intention of taking it up seriously there's nothing wrong with that. (unless they later decide they are serious and have to completely rebuild their technique with a teacher)

However, I do wonder why people ask questions like this on a forum where there are so many serious students and teachers. Maybe somebody should start up a new forum for do-it-yourselfers.

October 2, 2012 at 02:35 PM · ...well, to be fair...if you're not a regular forum participant...and just want some ideas or have some questions, you might not 'analyze' the forum to see what the tone/culture of that forum is...

October 2, 2012 at 05:30 PM · I would never start posting on a forum without first lurking for a while to figure out what kind of people posted there and what they talked about. Maybe that's just me - I've always been the cautious type.

October 2, 2012 at 06:23 PM · M.L Scott,

I am impressed by the narrow-mindedness of your statement.

I guess you understand, that self-teaching doesn't exclude interaction with other human beings. What self-teaching means, is that one does not undergo a systematic education under supervision. Being a part of this forum and discussing with musicians (both teachers and students!!!), it helped me to progress a lot as a self-taught violinist (even if just amateur).

October 2, 2012 at 07:01 PM · I guess I didn't explain myself clearly. I am sorry if I offended Sverker or anyone else.

I don't have any problem with people teaching themselves for the fun of it, and I didn't mean that self-taught people should not use this forum.

I just think it shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone who has spend any time reading this forum, that they may get a lot of people suggesting they get a teacher.

Although I did take lessons when I was younger, I never went beyond amateur level and have not had lessons myself in a long time, so I also have found a lot of useful tips on this forum.

October 2, 2012 at 07:46 PM · Ah,

sorry Scott, I misunderstood what you meant. Now I understand, and I do agree that it is the case that this solution is often proposed.

October 2, 2012 at 07:55 PM · OK - I'm glad we understand each other now!

October 2, 2012 at 09:44 PM · :) Indeed!

October 2, 2012 at 11:59 PM · It could be said that a teacher's ultimate goal is to enable a pupil to teach themself. When that is achieved then the teacher's job is done. It is also a strong indicator of a good teacher.

October 3, 2012 at 05:31 AM · There are plenty of great musicians who never had a lesson. I think if you are interested in learning the violin independently, go for it. I taught myself for the first 8 months or so of learning violin. I searched the internet and tried to understand what information and instruction I could find. Now I have been taking lessons for about 2 months and am improving more quickly than I ever could have on my own. This does not devalue the experience I had of exploring on my own. The internet can be an amazing resource to the determined. Good luck!

October 4, 2012 at 08:28 PM · "Even classical players struggle with the ways to hold the violin in place and spend much time disagreeing"

A correct static hold is not very helpful in itself. As soon as the movements begin, so does tension because the fitness (both mental and physical, physical being suppleness of the wrist, elasticisity and strength of the fingers, etc) does not exist in the first place.

The assumption should be that most adults do not have a natural physical affinity for the violin. Therefore, Physical Impediments --> Fatigue --> Overwhelming Inefficiency and finally termination of studies due to lack of progress.

But such is not the case. Instruction is guided from day 1 by musical correctness with the idea that sufficient practice will produce fitness. To me, this works for a 5 year old who has a malleable physiology in the formative years. An adult no longer does.

October 4, 2012 at 09:01 PM · To reiterate, my complaint is that conventional beginning instruction is based on the principle of exhausting all possible finger movements within one given fixed position (1st position) guided by ear. I reject this as an adult beginner because it produces stiffness.

I instead adopted the princple of maximum use of position changes on the G string as a litmus test of ease of playing. I also practice the absolute independence of finger excercises in the Dounis collection book even though they are musically nonsensical for the same reason: to eliminate stiffness.

October 5, 2012 at 01:58 PM · I found stiffness is a result of tension and uncertainty. Holding the violin for the first time is a weird thing, then factor the fingering and bowing etc....I was scared I'd drop it. The more comfortable I became holding it the easier it was for me to increase my fingering speed. I did find out that the begining posistion is not the permanent only must do posistion and that many factors determine how to hold and what hand posistion to use. Learning the violin in first posistion and in the key of D or A has many attributes, but what ever works for you is what works for you. Nothing wrong with defining your learning style and making the most of it.

October 5, 2012 at 02:07 PM · The traditional way is an aural one. Learning by ear because you grew up surrounded by it. So now, either you find a teacher willing to teach you this way or you find jams and go hang out, make friends and learn. There are patterns to fingerings and bowings and plenty of books out there that almost explain this. I have yet to find one book that has all the answers. You should take lessons if you cant tell tones apart, and just to start of right with where the notes are and holding the bow. Of course with youtube there are no shortages of examples of various everything. There is no right or wrong technique if you can produce the sound you want and play like you want. there are however, more efficient and tried and true methods that a teacher can easily show you. I feel on average the teacher shortens the learning curve and can make it less frustrating in the beginning. Reading music isnt essential to learning but, reading makes learning quicker and easier in some ways. You still have to develop your ear regardless. I am self taught.

October 6, 2012 at 02:59 AM · Edit:

Oh good grief I didn't realize this thread had been exhumed from 2005...nvm

This discussion has been archived and is no longer accepting responses.

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