Lessons: Consistent Accuracy Issues

December 15, 2018, 6:50 PM · I have been taking lessons for a little over a month now. I have been very pleased with my lessons, but find I need to remind her that I need to go slowly, and that I am not in any hurry. I am 64 and just doing this for my own benefit. I can’t move on with new things until I am sure I can do the current lessons. I get flustered. Once I learn something, I can take off, but this is more than just learning how, I must also be able to do that fingering or bowing technique confidently. Piling more on buries me. I was going to mention this at the lesson this past week, but my lesson was cancelled due to an emergency on her end, it happens.

The cancellation actually gave me a chance to work on one of the two songs she assigned that I was going to forgo. She assigned five songs. Three were in the key of D and I really was not having issues with those, beyond intonation and bowing. The other two, including, the one I was able to work on due to the class cancellation, are in the key G. The issue is the C not being a C#. Two of those five songs were G.

It also gives me an extra week to work on accuracy.

I have been working very hard at home on fingering accuracy this week. The natural “C” has been added and I am having trouble with it. All the songs, exercises and scales so far have been key of D (F# and C#). I have issues with the “E” string also (I believe part of the issue is my setup). I know the songs. They are the same as the ones in my cello book, so the notes and melody are familiar. As stated, three of the songs are key of D, but the other two are the key of G (F#). That natural “C” is really hard for me. I need to work on that before I can move on. I have no issue with the natural C on the cello, but this is different. So, I was going to mention this at the lesson that was cancelled. The cancellation helped me have more time.

I have chosen the slower song that is in the key of G, not all eighth notes. I have been working very hard on making that natural C come naturally, no pun intended.

I do not want to put stickers on my fingerboard. I put some on it, and it took a long time to remove the residue without harming the fingerboard, so I am trying to just be able to do it without the dots or pin-striping. My instructor used a silver paint pen during the first class to mark the first finger first position as a starting point. She said it would wear off, or could be removed easily. Nope. I got most of it off, but there is still some on the fingerboard.

I don’t understand why I can’t be consistent. I can have the accuracy and then lose it. So frustrating. I can start a song with accuracy, but midway through, I lose it. Sometimes I make a mental note of that spot and start over and try to get it right. Sometimes I move my finger to correct it and continue. Doing one or the other each time I mess up. I am not sure which is the best reinforcement method.

It seems to me, that to move my finger to adjust and continue, just reinforces to hit the wrong spot and move my finger to correct. I think making a mental note, slowing down and correcting it in a redo of the song would be better, but I do not know.

I do not have any aversion to doing scales but my brain does not work that way. It has to be a melody or it makes no sense to me. This has baffled many a music teacher I have had. Jazz is lost on me because it makes no sense,I keep trying to listen to it. Scales are just notes, no melody. I can’t make heads or tails. It is just the way my mind works.

I was taking cello lessons and my instructor recommended a book of fingering exercises. It has some really nice fingering exercises. The ones that made no sense because they were not “melodies” to me were a lost cause. It blew her mind. Taking them apart did not help. So scales for the violin that are just scales and not melodies are not helpful. The finger exercises between songs in the Suzuki books just confuse me because they make no sense to me. It really takes any confidence that I have gotten away when I try them. Is it necessary to be able to do those in order to get accuracy? I am hoping that if I keep playing songs that I have memorized over and over, I can concentrate on fingering and obtain my accuracy that way. I am hoping that is the case.

I am working in the following songs (they are in Suzuki Book 1):

Perpetual Motion (by S. Suzuki) (I have this memorized and can stay in tune almost all the time)

Allegretto (by S. Suzuki) (I have this memorized and am inconsistent)

Andantino (by S. Suzuki) (Again, memorized, but inconsistent)

The above three all have the C#, so not much issue, other than consistency.

Etude (by Suzuki) (Not memorized. Key of G. Just barely makes sense because I don’t know where it is going, but it is not without a pattern. All eighth notes. This is the one I am not going to do.)

Minuet No. 1 (by J. S. Bach) (Key of G. Memorized. Since last class was cancelled, I am working on this, but accuracy is worse than the other three songs I am working on. The natural C is hardly ever accurate, the B below it is off a lot, also.)

If anyone here has done, or is doing Suzuki, are there any tips for these songs?

Does anyone know of some other way for me to get my accuracy down pat? I cannot move on until I can get the first position accurate or it will just be piling inaccuracy on top of inaccuracy.

Also, I was wondering, is an issue bowing the E string common? I seem to be very weak on the E string. I was using Dominants. They were on my violin. Yesterday I replaced them with Violino. The Dominants were no longer staying in tune and sounded different, so I changed them. I love the sound of the Violino E string on my violin, but I still have a weak E string bowing issue.

I practice and concentrate on accuracy in 15 minutes to 45 minutes sessions about 5-6 times a day, mostly 6, but sometimes life gets in the way. I have gotten so I can do 45 minute sessions most of the time. I am working on my endurance. When I get so I am flat all the time, or sore, I stop for a while and do other things (like housework or cooking, or sewing).

I know I need to work on my bowing. I bounce, when I listen to a recording of my playing, everything seems choppy, etc. I am going to talk to my instructor about that, too. I have a long list in my notes.

Thanks for any suggestions.


Replies (34)

Edited: December 15, 2018, 7:34 PM · Your teacher is overloading you, for sure. 5-6 pieces at the same time is a lot. I think you are trying to correct too many things at one time. If you've only been playing for a few months, your main goals should be playing in tune and pulling a straight bow, both of these can be trained doing scales. Intonation especially needs scales to practice, being able to hear the intervals in the scale and putting the muscle memory into place for where the notes are is probably the most important part of what you need to be doing at this stage. Practicing scales will help correct your consistency issue. The bow bouncing is probably because you are raising your shoulder or you have a tense right thumb.
December 15, 2018, 8:18 PM · Thank you, Christopher. I was thinking the same thing. I always tell instructors that I need to go slow and learn basics. I always tell them I have no problem repeating lessons before adding more when I am still working on being able to do the current skills. It works for a while, then the speed picks up again. I have a note at the top of my page of notes for this week’s lesson, “Need to go slower and learn basics before I move on.” It is in caps in red pen. Was not sure if I was correct.

It is like this is a race. I am in no hurry. This is something I wanted to do growing uo, and now, as a senior citizen, I can do it. This is for my own benefit. No hurry.

Thank you.

December 15, 2018, 8:44 PM · Can you stay fully in tune on the Twinkles?
Edited: December 15, 2018, 9:56 PM · Lydia,

I can play Twinkle Twinkle ... in tune pretty much. I can run through it about 4 times before I have to stop. I actually go back to that periodically.

We actually spent 2 weeks in my scales book, but before I was able to get accurate intonation(?) on the first week’s lesson, the difficulty was ramped up the next week and added to that previous week for the next week’s lesson.

How many scales exercises would be considered too many for a week, before the next lesson? There are a lot of scale exercises on one page in my book.

The first week that she used my scales book she assigned one page for the week. I would say there are 10 lines of exercises and the first 2/3 are to be done 3 times, tip, middle and frog.

I was racing to get through them all. I think there were too many to do for one week. When I got to the lesson for those scales, we went through them. I know I was off. Then my other scales book was opened and she found another page and assigned that whole page, in addition to the page from that previous week. They were the same key, but a ton of different bowing patterns. I have trouble with just simple bowing, and these were not simple bowing exercises.

I think I have to request she back up to start from scratch. I am going to ask that she redo the scales and not so many. I am going to request that we work on my intonation and bowing.

What I don’t get is that I do not think my bowing is being watched in the lessons. She plays along and uses vibrato. I find that very distracting. I need to hear her without vibrato. Is that normal? I mean, if the instructor is playing along, why is the instructor not playing it as written so the beginner student, who is still working on intonation and bowing, can hear how it should sound, without vibrato. Did you follow that?

I don’t want to tell my instructor how to teach, but I know me. I am methodical, I need to understand and be able to do the basics before I can do the more advanced. I was expecting scales, serious intonation work and serious bowing instruction before doing all these songs. She is a terrific musician.

Would it be wrong to request to have the breaks put on and start over? I do not think I am ready for what she has progressed to. I know I am not ready for the next song in the book. I had enough issues with it with my cello, and this is more difficult. After those two weeks with scales, she said we don’t want to just do scales. That is when five songs we given. Then the next week, two songs were dropped and those two songs in the key of G were added. I do not think I am ready for those because I have bowing and intonation issues.

I am enjoying getting lessons, but it seems like my statement about not being in a hurry, slow is what I need, repeating lessons until I can do them not being an issue, etc has been forgotten. When I did piano, that instructor was pleased to hear that and said that child students get bored like that. But, unfortunately, he forgot my slow steady request. Maybe that is why she is forgetting my slow and steady request. I think I am her only adult student.

December 15, 2018, 10:36 PM · Scales are the basic tools for step patterns but if you really need a "song melody" that isn't a complete octave to octave scale, you can do as the Suzuki children do and use Twinkle (descending steps). French Folk Song from cello has steps going up and down, Lightly Row is good for skips (thirds), and you can play them in A, D, and the upper octave of G.

(My students just had our holiday performance so I have it on the mind: the beginning of Joy to the World is a complete octave descending, and the First Noel has a complete octave ascending.)

You are right about needing train the finger to land in the correct spot, rather than developing the "muscle memory" of landing in a wrong spot then adjusting, so that may take stopping at the previous note and repeating the finger action to the next note. If you're repeating an interval such as D-C-D-C-D-C, that does get away from the context of the melody, but it takes a lot more time to always be starting at the beginning of the phrase.

Regarding minimizing tape residue, I've had good results with 3M painter's tape. My taping philosophy and progression is a long story, but at Etude/G major, my students have the 3rd finger stripe and a small circle positioned under the A and E strings for the C natural and G natural. They learn the "new 2" spot and the new 1 that's close to new 2 (because the B in G major is not in the same spot as the B in A major). I find that this is a good balance between training the ear and having visual help.

December 16, 2018, 1:33 AM · Cynthia, everything you said tells me you are learning by hear. It's OK if you wish to learn folk tunes, but will get you only so far in classical. It takes a long (perhaps very long) time to play scales accurately, and after a while they will make sense to you melodically, just keep doing it. If you feel pressed and getting stressed out about it, indeed ask your teacher to slow down the pace to where you feel comfortable, but not too comfortable if you wish to make progress.
December 16, 2018, 6:24 AM · Mengwei Shen, thank you for the painters’ tape info. I think if I just put a skinny strip for the first finger, first position I will at least have a starting point.

Also, Mengwei, I will try not starting at the beginning and repeat that one area to re-enforce proper position.

December 16, 2018, 6:26 AM · Actually, I read the music, but I think that doing melodies actually hinders me. I hear the melody too much in my mind and get lost in the tune. Does that make sense?

I think that I am going to put the Suzuki book away from now until my lesson on Tuesday. I am going to work on a D scale. I am going to concentrate on position and bowing. I will go slow. I can’t use my metronome until I can do the piece because concentrating on accuracy and bowing will be impossible if I need to keep the beat. I will try to keep a steady slow beat, but without the metronome, for now. I think the metronome will be necessary and will add it when I am ready. I will move on to the G scale after I get the D scale down so my intonation is good. I think that if I get the other note positions correct changing from C# to C might not be as hard because the B and D fingers will be in their correct positions. I can build from there with more confidence.

When I get to my lesson this week, I will explain all of this. I was not sure I was on the right track in my thinking. I believe my instructor will understand and accommodate my need. She really is a lovely person. I think she got caught up in not wanting to bore the student like my other instructors.

I was enjoying the scale book the two weeks we used it. I was challenged by them because I do have that mental issue with them. Strange that the tunes with the “scale” pattern in them do give me issues. The French Folk Song in the Suzuki book does give me issue, even with the cello. I have to rid myself of that scale pattern mental block.


Edited: December 16, 2018, 7:26 AM · Cynthia, are you learning the cello simultaneously? Just curious because you mentioned it a couple of times.
December 16, 2018, 7:39 AM · Try automotive detail tape. Just keep in mind that whatever you use, the tape is going to probably move a little over time and will need to be adjusted.

There's a reason that people don't start playing with scales. It's easier to hear intonation with the tune. That's why Twinkle is so useful. It has a scale-like pattern while still being a super-familiar tune.

The intent of Suzuki is that you master a piece before moving on (memorized, at tempo, with nice tone and good intonation), but you continue to repeat pieces that you've learned before in order to keep pushing them to a higher level. Your teacher should not be pushing you ahead before a piece is fully comfortable. A good approach is likely to be "one piece you are currently learning, one piece that you are currently reviewing". Or sometimes, "One piece you are currently learning, one little hard bit from the next piece that it will be useful to practice in advance, and one piece that you are currently reviewing". Five is way too much.

December 16, 2018, 8:13 AM · Horace, I took cello lessons before violin. I am still a beginner on cello. I love the sound of cello and enjoy playing it, but it is not very portable! LOL I would have done violin instead of cello when I started. I have somewhat fat fingers, not extremely fat, just not the typical feminine skinny ones you always see violinists with on YouTube. I thought with the thin neck of the violin that I would not be able to do the fingering. I could not just touch one string on my guitar, no matter what, even my wide classical neck. Again, instructors kept plugging along, so I hit a brick wall and could not continue. Bridged chords were not happening and they gave up with that, too, just kept moving along. What was the hurry? I did not want to do chords. I do not sing! I wanted to, what I found is called, solo guitar. It was fun playing the actual songs, not strumming chords. But, with the constant moving along, I never was able to work on guitar fingering accuracy. I figured the cello would work.

It does, but not very portable, as I stated. I still do it in my own peridocally (twice a week) to not lose what I have learned and give my cello a workout. I am working on accuracy with that, too. Those scales are actually easier. The fingering exercises are not too bad as long as the notes make sense to my weird way of understanding.

I bought an inexpensive violin and viola to check them out (how I wish I could have done this when growing up!). I found I could finger the strings without bumping other strings and muting them. Maybe it is the position the violin is held and my hand is because the neck is much skinnier than the guitar. I love all three instruments, but am taking violin lessons. I am not going to become super duper good at it, I am already 64 and not sure how long my fingers and hands will allow me to do this! That is not my purpose. I do not want to keep on playing that, “Woulda, coulda, shoulda” in my head. Learning this and finding that I actually can do the fingering and bowing (just not correctly at the moment) means the world to me and I just love it. I just want to learn it to the best of my abilities for my own satisfaction.

So, cello is my reference because I have gotten quite far in that ability. It is just not portable. I would like to be able to sit out on my deck in good weather once in a while. I live in the country, so neighbors are not an issue. Farmers’ cows might not be too contented with it, though!

December 16, 2018, 8:38 AM · Cynthia,

You have to be easier on yourself. You also have to communicate better with your teacher. While young people build new neuromuscular paths quickly, but as we age that process slows down. I wonder what you really want to play on the instrument. Somehow, I don't think that the music in the Suzuki books are meeting your needs or leading to your goals.

As to putting tape on the fingerboard: look at the Fretless Finger Guides they are plastic that doesn't use adhesive.

December 16, 2018, 8:39 AM · This beginner agrees... five is way too much. I hope you can have a positive conversation with her about that.

Even if my teacher is more measured in portioning out assignments (like one scale and two, 3 line pieces a week), I still often felt that she was having me move on before I could play the current assignment "properly". I tried to figure out why she was letting me off the hook so easily and had trouble accepting her explanation. In her eye, each piece is there to acquaint me with some new skill or concept. Improving on it would come with time. It didn't help with my discomfort.

I felt like I had the choice of switching teachers or mustering up some "willing suspension of disbelief". Sometimes it works, sometimes, not. Nine months later, I'm just starting to get what she means. Some of the stuff I was doing poorly, I can now do with consistency and many new skills are a mess. I'm starting to realize that they don't just need practice, which I do plenty... they need time. Does this put me out of my comfort zone? Yup.

December 16, 2018, 8:56 AM · Cynthia, I’m just beginning at age 59, so I understand your philosophy. It is similar to my own. I’m also in Suzuki Book 1, but just now getting to Long Long Ago, after three months with teachers. I began self teaching in April. I’ve always loved the violin, but never thought about playing until recently. It’s interesting to hear about your frustration with guitar, as I had a similar experience!

My intonation/accuracy continues to improve, but I’ve found scales most helpful with that lately. My teacher says I need to work on rhythm now, so she is integrating several things in each lesson, but we only move onto a new piece when I’ve consistently improved on the present one.

It sounds like you are being rushed and need to slow down. Do you have the option of trying a different teacher? I did, and it really made things better.

December 16, 2018, 12:02 PM · New teacher is not an option, I went through my drought area in another post. I am going to have a heart to heart with her at my next leason this week, if she is able to do it. It was cancelled last week due to an emergency. Given the emergency (I know what it was), not sure she will be up to it yet, will find out in a couple days.

The songs in the Suzuki book are not a problem. I like them. I am just feeling extremely rushed and not being taught the basics. In the end I just want to play songs, not with an ensemble, not with an orchestra, not with an audience. I cannot do anything with an audience and have no desire, since it was called, “Solo Guitar” when I tried guitar, it is probably, “Solo Violin” ;-) It is not that the Suzuki songs are not meeting my goals, or I do not like them. I am just being rushed.

I also don’t like that she will play along with me, but with an accompaniment part. Well, that does not help me be able to play better, at this point. It does not help when she plays along and inserts those vibratos, either. I cannot do vibrato and definitely not ready for that and don’t need to hear it. I am still trying to finger accurately and bow properly. I am not ready for that, and I told her I am not interested in playing with or for others. Some people can and some people can’t. I can’t and it does not bother me. This is for myself. I am going to ask her to just watch my bowing and hold, and listen to my intonation and correct what needs to be corrected, for a while. I do not recall her even mentioning my hold. I really doubt that I started out holding it correctly. What would be the odds? I think, that because I am an adult student, she assumes I know more than I do, or I am not interested in being taught (or something like that).

It boggles my mind. I know scales help. I know fingering exercises help. I think she does not like listening to scales and fingering exercises from students. Could be. I really do not have objections doing anything that will help me learn the violin. I don‘t need to do actual songs right now. I just do not think what is done in my class is achieving my goal to learn violin so I can pick up sheet music, and play a song I want to play. I don’t want to have to worry about flats and sharps, or key signatures. I don’t want to say, “Oh, key of G, can’t do that” or “Oops, shifts to another position, can’t do that one”. The fingering exercises with sections that make no sense to me, are probably good to do because they are not a melody that I can quite often know what note will come next.

But, from these responses, I realize that I am correct in thinking that something is not right in my lessons. I do not want to hit that brick wall with violin lessons because basics are not taught, and everything else is rushed. I tell instructors on day one that my goal is to learn to play songs for myself, I want to learn the basics, I am in no hurry, I do not have an issue with doing scales or kid songs, I do not mind repeating techniques over and over until I get it right consistently, I do not mind repeating songs. I tell them I need a goodmfoundation. I tell them this on day one, and that I am in no hurry, I want to learn it properly, they say they understand, but then seem to think it is a race. It is so weird.

We never did Twinkle Twinkle Little Star. We started with Perpetual Motion in the Suzuki book 1. Isn’t that odd?

Definitely going to,bring thia all up ar my nexr lesson. It would be interesting to know how her lessons were done.

Thanks, everyone.


Edited: December 16, 2018, 12:05 PM · Oh, I can play Twinkle Twinkle Little Star but it was not done in class. I did it on my cello and was doing it on my violin from that while I was finding a teacher for violin.

Wanted to clear that up because I said I could playnit, but in my last post I said we started with Perpetual Motion.

December 16, 2018, 1:40 PM · Oh, my - you are trying to learn instruments that are played somewhat differently, despite their similarities.

From what I can see:
- You are reading the music, I hope, but in different clefs for violin and cello. (The viola requires another clef, but at least it is very similar to violin to play, except for different finger spacing for the notes.)
The fingerless fret looks to be a great gadget, and using colors to indicate notes might help at times, but I would not want a student to learn to be too dependent on colors when the brain needs to hook up instead with recognizing normal black and white scores. You could do that, but I suspect it will not take you beyond a very beginner level of finding the right note. The same happens with some very attractive looking apps for learning piano. All too soon the crutch disappears unless you just want to learn which note to push, and depend on muscle memory only to play elementary pieces.
- The bow is employed entirely different in playing violin and cello. A cello bow is shorter, held differently, and tipped slightly toward the player's face. For violin, the bow is tipped away from the player. In both cases, that bow position tips the bow toward the pegs, and allows for the best usual engagement of the strings for resonant sound. (I am not a fan of teaching a flat bow - I find students taught that way do not develop right hand use well. Yes, good players do use a flat bow at times, but not much of the time.)
- The fingering is different on cello and violin, because of the bigger stretches required. The variations are not easy to master simultaneously. I find it better to have one pattern familiar first.
- Most of us are not totally accurate in intonation, even after years and hours of practice. I think you want to get approximately close now, but you are right that pulling the sound out of the violin with the bow is key to playing. (It is also true that a teacher's vibrato has to sound in and out of pitch with your note when playing the same note, maybe even when playing a harmonizing part. I do prefer using piano to accompany, but not every teacher can do that.)
- Playing chords on a guitar is like a form of double-stopping on the violin. Again the same finger combinations will not work on a violin because the strings are tuned differently. Furthermore, using two or three fingers at once for a chord is much trickier that using just one for a while. Our fingers have to learn to move independently first.
- Playing is ultimately listening, on any instrument. I have found it fascinating how some students can play piano well at an advanced level, sing very accurately in tune, even when harmonizing - but become confused by the lack of just one note to plunk to get the right sound on a string instrument, and how to listen for and match pitch. (Guitars have frets, so are more like a piano in getting the correct note.)
- What you have learned previously may be conflicting with your violin playing. E.g.,it is very hard for a trained violinist to reverse to bowing with the left hand and fingering with the right.
(See Hilary Hahn in the latest TwoSet Violin youtube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=9&v=xwsnIoFXrt0 Funny.)

December 16, 2018, 3:55 PM · Yep, I read the music, treble and clef. Almost can read alto without a cheat sheet.

I am not taking lessons for cello while learning violin. I am just keeping what skills I have learned fresh. If I feel like it, I will add a new song that has something new or whatever. I like it.

Not interested in color coding. I can read the sheet music.

I do know the cello bowing is different from violin bowing and that the bows are different. I do a violin hold on the violin bow. Unfortunately, my first lesson, the instructor told me to do flat bow. I was angling it the way you stated. I went back to angled like you said, and she has not noticed. She is not helping with bowing, i know I am not doing it right. I try to do it on my own when practicing. I video myself and see what I am doing. I will be asking her to pick that apart at my next lesson, too.

I don’t actually have an issue with stretch going from violin to cello. I pay attention and warm up on each by bowing open strings and doing a D scale. I also don’t do them one after another. Usually different parts of the day.

The sound coming out when I bow is not always pleasant. It can sound scratchy, even when I am not close to the bridge. I actually don’t bow too close to the bridge very often. For some reason I gravitate to the fingerboard.

My sound from bowing is very choppy. Every bow direction change, every string change. Not smooth at all. I listen to my recordings. I am very choppiy and my instructor never says anything. I am not getting any guidance in bowing and have taken lessons since September. It is never mentioned, except the first day when she said a flat bow, and from my videos, and the choppy sound, I know I am not doing it right. But maybe I should concentrate on intonation first.

I am no where near fancy fingering. I do one finger at a time.

I don’t know what you are talking about with bowing with the left hand and fingering with the right. I bow with my right hand and finger with the left, same as the cello.

Edited: December 16, 2018, 6:03 PM · If you watch the U tube video it will become clear, the point is that one of the best violinists in the world struggles like a beginner when using a bow and fingering with arms unfamiliar to that action.
I am a beginner (15 m) similar age to you. Fortunately I learnt the piano when young, so being able to hear scales in my head makes them helpful for working on intonation . Funnily enough my teacher has never mentioned scales, although he has given me excercises for fingering and intonation that I have to do every day.i do the scales anyway as I find them helpful, particularly when I want to do some practice when I’m tired and don’t want to have to think too much.
I wasn’t allowed to play anything but open strings for the first 4 weeks. I was starting to get worried then met a cello teacher, who said that was normal. We then progressed similarly to Holly. - get it right but doesn’t have to perfect, as long as you get what the piece is trying to teach you, and it it will fall in place as you go along. Now I’m working on much longer, harder pieces, with higher expectations, and I notice he’s homing in again on technique. Sometimes because I’ve slipped, but some because I need to master eg bowing for faster notes.
I have never had to memorise a piece, not even for piano, although I can play large chunks from memory. Don’t see the point, if you’re not going to perform. At my age, my memory is crap compared to a 12 yo .
He has only once played along with me, and although it was a glorious experience, I wouldn’t want that all the time as then I couldn’t hear myself. Occasionally he will demonstrate a technique by playing, more so as I advance.
After me querying whether I was up to playing a piece, my teacher said “just trust me, I know what Am doing” so thinking of teachers complaints about some adult students on this site I decided to do just that and shut up and go along for the ride. So far I’m still enjoying it immensely.
This self imposed rule means I can’t ask when I will be ready for shifting or vibrato, which will be both big deals for me. He’s been teasing me with the promise of a new piece for the last 4 weeks, when I can get this one just right. I can’t wait to see what new surprise it will contain...
Just my $A0.02 worth, and sharing my experiences.
Enjoy the ride, Cynthia
December 16, 2018, 7:47 PM · Thanks everyone. Just finished playing my violin. Did scales and finger exercise pieces, then started with Twinkle... and continued with the other beginning songs from the book that were skipped. Took a break and worked on the three key of D songs that I can do fairly reasonably well and finished with the slower (easier) of the two songs in key of G. I am mot working on the one that is all eighth notes. Finished with a couple scales and finger exercises.

I cleaned my strings and put my violin away for the night. I absolutely love my violin. Thank you all.

Edited: December 16, 2018, 7:51 PM · I noticed the statement "jazz is lost on me" in the middle of a paragraph that's all about the futility of scales. Jazz will be lost on pretty much anyone who tries to boil it down to "which scale do I play now." Scales are important to jazz players just as they are to classical players, but in much the same proportion and for similar reasons. But scales are not the essence of jazz any more than they're the essence of classical violin playing. In either case, the essence is the tune you're playing: Does it sound good or not?

About fingerboard tapes, they can be helpful. When it's time to take them off, your luthier can remove all the residue in a few minutes when you bring your instrument in for regular maintenance and adjustments.

I also think you've got too many pieces right now. One you're polishing, one you're starting, and one you're mainly working on ... that's enough on your plate at once.

A common criticism of adult students is that they think about things so hard that they work themselves into a tizzy. From your most recent post it sounds like you've addressed that. :)

December 17, 2018, 10:51 AM · You've been taking lessons for a little over one month. You cannot expect perfection in one month's time, let alone in one's lifetime. Perfection is a concept, not a reality.

Slow down: three pieces (as stated) is plenty. Tell your teacher this. They may be overenthusiastic about a student who has so much time to practice.

Washi tape is great as fingerboard tape - get the archival quality. It will not leave a terrible residue behind - but you will have to reapply more frequently than with other tapes. There's no shame in putting tape where you need it to help you.

You cannot expect to play like you've been playing for a year (or longer) 4-6 weeks out of the gate. It's like expecting yourself to run a marathon when you've only started learning how to walk...

I feel the thing that learning violin has taught me the most is patience: for the journey, with myself, with the instrument. (And I am definitely in the over-thinking to the point of being worked into a tizzy camp!)

Good luck Cynthia!

December 17, 2018, 1:54 PM · You're probably going to sound choppy for quite a while, honestly.

However, string crossings should be taught as part of teaching Twinkle.

December 17, 2018, 2:11 PM · Thanks, everyone. I just wanted to make it clear that the original post was not about me expecting to be better by now and be able to pick up violin quickly. It was about the opposite. It seems my instructor is rushing things. I want to slow it down, and was just making sure my thoughts were on the mark because I have no idea how this should be taught. In checking through my lesson notes, it seems I have been getting lessons for almost three months! Have no idea where the time went. That makes all,of this even seem worse.

Anyway, my original post was because I felt my teacher was rushing me and piling too much, I do not expect to be playing anywhere near correctly, but it seems to me that not mentioning bowing technique, violin hold, intonation and skipping the beginning songs and starting In the middle of the book was not quite right. Then only two lessons where a scale was introduced, followed by being told that we don’t want to only do scales, really confused me because I thought they would help. Then, 5 songs was really the tipping point. Scales are no longer part of the lessons, but I have started them on my own since this original post, as well as the beginning songs in the book, including Twinkle.

I wanted to make sure I was correct before I brought this up at my next lesson. I know this is a long road, and I am in no hurry, I wanted to make sure I was actually in the passenger’s seat and not out thumbing for a ride. Looks like, unless I have a chat with my instructor, I will be running along side trying to jump in. I am sure that after I have a talk and explain my thoughts, the lessons will be adapted to what I feel I am lacking in instruction. I did not want to say anything if what I was getting in my lessons was the normal path.

Thanks again, everyone. Your input, experience and encouragement is greatly appreciated.


December 17, 2018, 5:35 PM · Cynthia, I think your teacher was pleased with how much you already knew, and jumped to a point in instruction that he/she thought you could handle. Maybe it was just too much at once.
Similarly, a very good violin teacher started me long ago, while not quite in my teens rather than adult, when he discovered that I was already a competent pianist, understood theory, had perfect pitch - and he wanted me to help my baby brother, only four years of age, get started properly. He loaned me a violin, showed me the system of fingering, and we started with just playing pizzicato, guitar style hold, to learn where the notes were located on the instrument. (He started students with two 15 minute lessons a week for a month or so, no playing at home, until he knew they were practising correctly.) The second week, he added bowing.
You probably guess what followed. My mother purchased a decent German violin from my piano teacher for me. My brother did continue with lessons for some years, but never used a full size instrument. I, on the other hand, was able to careen ahead, and start proper studies and pieces because of my previous experience. Several years later, my violin teacher expedited me purchasing a much superior instrument - whether or not he received a commission, I do not know or care. I still treasure it. I was never one of his star students, but I loved studying with him for another eight years until his health failed. He was caring and giving of his time.
You knew even more than I did at that young age, and I suspect your knowledge has made you more critical of expectations and results than I was at that time. Stringed instruments are hard to master!
I suspect your teacher wants to do equally well by you.
December 17, 2018, 6:29 PM · You could be on to something, Marion. I had my violin about 2 months before I was able to locate an instructor. In the meantime, I purchased Suzuki 1 because I was in Suzuki 2 with cello, so I was familiar with the tunes. I also purchased some Hal Leonard that had login songs to play along with that went with that book. I read about and watched videos on bowing (but to get it right, really need to be taught) - some I don’t understand. It is different than cello (I was taking cello lessons at that time - stopped when violin lessons started), and I do know that and really don’t have an issue switching modes, just don’t have the proper technique.

My first lesson we played through some songs and she was surprised by what I was able to do. I knew basic location of all first position for key of D. Never dealt with the Natural C before lesdons. But, my intonation was way off. I figured those first somewhat simple songs would be used to help with that before moving on. That did not happen. She was pleased with what I did and asked if I wanted to join her Saturday morning ensemble. I declined. I don’t do anything in front of an audience. Can’t do it. I am fine with that. No way.

Anyway, that first lesson she assigned songs from the middle and we never played Twinkle or the first bunch of songs again. It did not help. I need those first songs to get a good base to work from. Sure, I can play Perpetual Motion, and the other two songs in the key of D, but not with any confidence or quality. Adding the songs in key of G with the natural C set me way back and I dropped one and am only doing the slower one. The next, probably 4 or 5 songs are all G. The next one I have issues on my cello with and I don’t have issues with a C natural on my cello because it is different and spacing is different. It is just a difficult bowing song for me on my cello. Strange that it is book 1 in the violin series. Pretty sure it is book 2 in cello. If I have issues with it on the cello, I am surely not ready for it on my violin where that Natural C is an issue, that has not improved in two weeks.

I never play cello and go right to violin or the other way around.

I do think she thought from the first lesson that I know more and am more capable than I actually am. I can read treble, bass and almost have alto without a cheat sheet. I understand most of reading music. My timing is not really good with songs I know because I tend to play them the way I hear them in my head, not the way the sheet music interprets it. The downfall of tunes you know. LOL Given that, I am positive that she will accommodate me and back up and then go slower.

In a couple hours I am going to get out my violin again, tune it, put dots for first finger, first position so that I at least have a starting point. I have dots. A little easier for me to use. Since I was told a luthier can remove the goo snd clean my fingeeboard when I bring it in in the Summer for its checkup, I will not worry about it.

I am looking forward to my next lesson now. I am positive she will understand.


January 11, 2019, 9:05 AM · Since you keep mentioning trouble with C natural and not having this problem with the cello, I just wonder if you had any problem with your F natural on D string when you started your cello studies ?

I'm asking this because F natural is my most insecure note at the moment. My C, G, D and A are OK on viola thanks to the ringing notes, E and B are coming along but F's are hard to pin down relatively speaking for the lack of obvious anchor nearby.

I would imagine myself having similar issues for C natural if I'm learning the violin.

January 11, 2019, 12:53 PM · You are going too fast. 5 slngs and you have only just begun and you have no hurry yourself. You have to be firm with the teacher, adult players should have a say in how they are taught in a sens that if it feels too fast for you, it is too fast for you. And is it so very important to memorize all songs at the same time? Not all young children that play can memorize the way Suzuki taught (my girl is an example). In my opinon its the teachers job to fix the teaching according to the student and not the students duty to be someone else she is not.
Edited: January 13, 2019, 3:36 AM · Personally, I find not every teachers out there has a good handle of adult beginners. You are better off to be very verbal about issue, or else do consider changing teacher. There are teachers teach on Skype. If you are self driven, this is not a horrible alternatives. Of course, if you can find someone local, it is a better choice. Then, maybe half an hour lesson a week work better.

My first instrument is flute, which I started about a year and a half ago. My very first private teacher had some very strange perception on me. She tends to think that I play well, better than what I think I am. I got a lot of praise, but not constructive criticism which is what I really want. I would like to spend more time on the fundamentals and technical exercise, but she doesn't think I need it. I think it is because her other students (mostly kids) either just want to play some pop songs or preparing for the exam pieces. We ended up in spending/wasting two lessons in talking about this issue. It ends up in her telling me "This is how I teach", and she had taught for 10 years and her students are doing great in the exam, etc, etc.

I ended up in escaping from the flute by signing up for violin classes, which get me started on this instrument.

January 14, 2019, 2:18 PM · I wrote all my issues in my notebook and showed it to and discussed it with my instructor. We went back to Twinkle. I concentrated on my bowing. This was right before the holidays. We then had two weeks without lessons. My first lesson since then, last week, she noticed how good my bowing had become. She said my form and hold were perfect and she heard no scratchy sounds by the bow not going across the strings properly. I had noticed that about half way through my break, but was not sure if it was wishful thinking.

Sivrit: before I was able to find this instructor, I had contacted two highly rated (per reviews, which are not always accurate but a good starting point) Skyle violin instructor sources, can’t remember the names, I contacted them and never heard back. I would have had a hard time with that, anyway.

Catherine: I never had any trouble with the F natural on the cello. I don’t even have an issue with the F natural on my violin. It is the C natural. I have issues with songs with that C natural. Maybe it is the angle of my fingers when fingering that A string that makes it harder for me to finger the C natural. It is very annoying. I may just put a little dot sticker on that particular spot so I can get used to the proper place to put my finger down. It has not gotten any better. I can do the E with my little finger on the A string with no issue. I just started doing that with a song that calls for that when that E is. Ot followed by any other note on the E string. I noticed that pattern. If the next note is still on that A string, the E is played on the A string. If it is the part of the song where the notes after that E are on the E string, the open E is used for the E, so it switches. I do not have any issue with that. I kind of like that E on the A string for some reason. But I have issues with the C# with my little finger on the G string.

January 14, 2019, 3:31 PM · Not sure if this will be helpful or not but...

If you do not have an issue with the F natural on your D string, then this is an inner hearing issue - my opinion.

I consistently had issues with playing B natural in tune for a bit (I could not tell if it is was in tune or not, it was super annoying) and solved it by listening to a drone of B natural (The Tuning CD is the least annoying drone version I have on hand) at least once a day without the violin, then repeatedly playing A then B with my first finger until I got it consistently, then adding additional fingerings, going up and down the fingerboard with scales and other made-up fingering exercises with the drone playing in the background, in different positions (as I'm a bit further along than you are) across all strings, and so on. It was insanely tedious, but it worked for me.

Now, for you...
You may try placing the first finger for B natural down, then placing the C natural second finger down, and then the third finger D natural down (try to keep all your previous fingers down), then one by one lift them up and place them down again: 1-2-3, then lift them up: 3-2-1. Try playing open A then C/2 until you can consistently hit the note. Have some kind of drone playing the C for you so you drill it into your brain/body that 2nd finger in that position = C natural. If it is still too hard, you may consider playing a Bb then C then D (so low 1, 2, 3).

Worth a shot, this helped me that's for sure.

C# on the G string is typically played with the third finger, not the fourth finger. Probably why you are experiencing issues there.

Hope this helps!

January 15, 2019, 5:19 AM · Pamela: I had a real problem getting the E natural on viola in tune (guess that's equivalent to your B natural issue with violin). My teacher pointed out to me for a couple of weeks and, when I didn't improve its intonation by my own effort, he got me to tune it by double stopping with A string. That works within a couple of days. Now I Just need to nail the F natural.

The weird thing is that I don't have nearly as much trouble with my B naturals, that note seems to have a special ring to it.

January 15, 2019, 8:33 AM · Catherine - my previous instrument would not ring with a B natural, so I had to learn how to hear/play it without that special ring. When I played a B natural on a different instrument, I had a huge aha moment with it.
January 15, 2019, 9:41 AM · Each Suzuki piece has certain skills it is working on. The viola book has Bohemian folk song before Etude. Bohemian Folk Song works on going between the different positions for second finger.

Some people will do a sad Go Tell Aunt Rhody substituting a C natural for a C sharp to work on playing C natural.

The Mark O'Connor books are quite good at introducing the low 2 and going between low 2 and high 2. Boogie Woogie and Old Joe Clark for starters. Those books also use pieces to introduce the skills of violin playing.

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