Lessons: Consistent Accuracy Issues
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.
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.
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.
Can you stay fully in tune on the Twinkles?
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.
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.
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.
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?
Cynthia, are you learning the cello simultaneously? Just curious because you mentioned it a couple of times.
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.
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.
This beginner agrees... five is way too much. I hope you can have a positive conversation with her about that.
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!
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.
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.
Oh, my - you are trying to learn instruments that are played somewhat differently, despite their similarities.
Yep, I read the music, treble and clef. Almost can read alto without a cheat sheet.
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.
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 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?
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.
You're probably going to sound choppy for quite a while, honestly.
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.
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.
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.
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 ?
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.
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.
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.
Not sure if this will be helpful or not but...
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.
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.
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.
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