Adult Violin Beginner - 3 years in :-)

June 29, 2018, 3:05 PM · Hi all, I started learning the violin 3 years ago. As many adult learners here I think it's a real challenge but also a wonderful experience! I've posted here before and wanted to give you an update.

I've had to learn the first 2 years and a couple of months on my own due to where I live. It was doable but not so easy... And when being on your own it's also sometimes difficult to stay motivated. That's when I heard about Artistworks where one can learn through video exchange! I signed up about 10 months ago, first with Nathan Cole and now with Richard Amoroso. And I just wanted to say to everybody out there who can't have violin lessons in person that the video exchanges are an awesome way to learn! I have a video exchange feedback almost every week and it feels like a real lesson, it's just condensed in a couple of minutes. But there is plenty of information in those minutes to keep me busy for the whole week and more. I'm so happy now that I have a teacher to ask questions and guide me in the process of learning the violin. :-)

The video below is one I also send to my teacher on Artistworks. It's a summary of what I've been doing in my first 3 years of learning the violin. And in reply to that he said that for my next year it would be great to work on my tone and vibrato. I'm so much looking forward to improve those aspects of my violin playing and with his tips it will work!

Anybody else out there learning the violin on it's own or with video exchange?

Replies (19)

June 29, 2018, 3:16 PM · Wow. I am so impressed by how far you have come with only online instruction! You must work very hard. GOOD FOR YOU!! :-)
Edited: June 29, 2018, 4:40 PM · Good job overall. Your intonation is amazing. You play in tune almost 100% of the time. You can learn to play with more dynamics. I love that you can get a full sound. However, your sound can be more resonant. Feel free to use all parts of the bow and play around with where the bow is on the string. Your somewhat unresonant/choked sound is also due to tension in your right thumb. It needs to be relaxed, or you won't sound good. Also avoid tension in your left thumb, as it leads to challenges playing fast and even and overall it causes trouble. Your downshifts are too noticeable. Work on hiding them. Speeding them up will help. Have you started learning vibrato? I think so, but I didn't notice you use much of it, even near the end of the video. Have you already started off-the-string strokes?
June 29, 2018, 6:44 PM · Just to elaborate on what Ella said:

"Tension" - in the context of violin - is simply when your muscles are being contracted when it's not necessary for them to contract. When people talk about "tension" here, what they really mean is "unnecessary tension."

For example, hold a pen in the air, and press all of your fingers towards each other. You'll notice that the pen doesn't move much, but all of your muscles are being used. This is an example of "unnecessary tension" because the pen would have been there regardless of the muscles pushing towards each other.

But technically, periods of "tension" are necessary for all physical movements, such as walking, breathing, or even just standing up. If a person had truly *zero* tension in their body, they would collapse onto the floor. We also need periods of tension to apply force into the string via the bow. Tension - in general - could best be defined as two opposing muscle groups pushing into each other. So we definitely need tension to do anything on the violin.

But coming back to the main point here: "tension" in this context means that you are contracting muscles AFTER the point that you should have stopped contracting them. So in general, you need to be more aware of any unnecessary "squeezing" you are doing with your bow hand or bow arm.

As a general rule: if you want notes to ring more beautifully instead of stopping in a dead fashion, you should start each bow stroke with tension BUT end it with no tension.

June 30, 2018, 6:33 AM · Thanks so much for your comments! :-)

@Ella, I didn't know about my thumb pressure, I will pay attention to that when I practice today and try to figure out when and how I'm using too much pressure. My downshifts need a lot of work still!
About vibrato, yes I started learning it 2 years ago. But it doesn't work out well... when I do vibrato exercises it goes well, but as soon as I try to apply it in a piece I tense up and the vibrato is very narrow. After 2 years it still is horrible and not relaxed. So this week I started from scratch, trying arm vibrato and it feels much more relaxed and I can make a better sound with it. So I think I will now focus for some time on arm vibrato now and get used to that. Because I can only do it slow for now. I hope it will go better than wrist vibrato and that I will be able to use it in my pieces.

@Erik, thank you for the further explanation about unnecessary tension. I appreciate it very much. That is very helpful and I will experiment with it and learn when to relax more.

June 30, 2018, 6:35 AM · Aah and @Ella, no I haven't really started yet with off-the-string strokes. I have tried it a little bit, but nothing seriously yet. How do you suggest getting started with that?
June 30, 2018, 11:13 AM · At this point, I don't think you're quite ready for it yet. I noticed that at the very end of the video, you were doing spiccato, so that's why I asked.
June 30, 2018, 4:13 PM · Can anyone tell me where the Veracini Gigue originates?
Edited: July 2, 2018, 2:26 PM · Hi Bill, Veracini's Gigue is in Suzuki Book 5.

Nice video, Mariko! I am glad you have a teacher to guide you now; this will surely boost your progress! :-)

July 2, 2018, 10:27 PM · Thanks. I was wondering if it was part of a larger work of his.
July 2, 2018, 10:39 PM · Lots of things that need serious improving especially the very foundation part of bow movement & grip (you need a teacher in person for this - not online or video), but I must say that is impressive by learning with just an online video!

July 2, 2018, 11:46 PM · @Bill Barber: "Thanks. I was wondering if it was part of a larger work of his."

It is. The Gigue is the last movement of Veracini's Sonata in D minor op. 2 no. 7 (from 12 Sonate Accademiche op. 2).

July 3, 2018, 5:38 AM · Oops, sorry, Bill, I misunderstood your question.
July 4, 2018, 3:20 PM · Mariko,

Welcome to the world of violin music. Like you, I started at 30 with very pedestrian goals. I still enjoy playing 40 years later even though the years have not been kind to my skills.

You are doing quite well and seem to have some passion for Celtic music. Was that what inspired you to take up the instrument? Enjoy!

July 6, 2018, 7:56 AM · Hi George, thanks so much! I do enjoy Celtic music but also lots of other styles of music. I just love the sound of the violin and good players look so elegant and relaxed when they play. That's what attracted me to start learning the violin. :-) I hope I will keep enjoying it for as long as you!
July 8, 2018, 1:13 AM · I think we should all bookmark this thread as a real living example of adult starter success. And with no teacher! OP with a live teacher would be even better, but this isn’t bad at all, all things considered.

An yes, I know no one says it’s impossible to learn like this, just low probability, but it’s still striking when you see it.

I think what is really required is an extreme level of personal conscientiousness that is rare in adults, even with a normal teaching situation. Kids can be pushed around by authority, but adults only learn things by choice and force of will.

Also, OP, your setup is really great for your circumstances, and explains a lot of your success. And it looks pretty good from day one all things considered. What did you consult when you started your self study?

July 8, 2018, 12:32 PM · Very well done! Inspiring to see what you’ve accomplished despite what many would condsider in a less than ideal circumstance or down right impossible.
July 9, 2018, 9:02 AM · Thanks so much for your nice comments!

@Jason, it's not always easy to stay motivated and keep going but comments like yours help me to continue to work hard. :-) To answer your question, the first months I saw videos on YouTube from many different violin teachers. Some I liked better than others. Those that helped me most are Heather Broadbent and professorV (Todd Ehle). Their videos are very helpful for learning to have good posture and bow use. I still follow Heather Broadbent and I have most of the exercise books which focus on shifting and fourth finger use. I've also posted sometimes on the Fiddlerman's forum and received some nice suggestions which was very helpful too!
And now I'm very happy to have regular feedback from Richard Amoroso via ArtistWorks.

July 9, 2018, 9:08 AM · Your posture at the 6 months of practice was already better than my 5 years of learning the violin lol. Good job, wow.
July 14, 2018, 11:39 PM · I'm more than impressed with your performances. Left hand control and intonation way better expected.

Vibrato development. First, I say choose whether you want a wrist vibrato or arm vibrato. When practicing vibrato, don't play songs. Just play whole notes w/ or w/o vibrato. Practice speed, vibrato pulses, etc. I don't know why, but I remember doing an exercise where I'd put the violin on my shoulder and the scroll against the wall. It fully stabilizes the instrument, while I focus on the arm (I have an arm vibrato. More powerful but less expressive at times)

Generating better tone via bow control. For whatever reason, I find I get a better tone just by going at it. No holding back. Full bows, full attacks. Good/correct rosin also helps a ton. Liebenzeller is amazing.

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