What Are Some Things You Wish You Knew When You Started Playing Violin?
I'm brand new to violin and brand new to this site, so I thought I would introduce myself and throw out a simple icebreaker question to see if I can get some wisdom from some of you lovely people.
I'm in my early 30's, disabled Navy vet (bipolar) coming from playing concert and jazz trombone in high school and college. I had a semester of double bass in high school, but I didn't really take it seriously at the time.
I'm trying to get back into music even if it's just for fun, and the violin just caught my attention out of nowhere last week, so I thought I would give it a go.
I have picked out and reserved my instrument at my local music shop, just have to go pick it up when I get paid this Friday. A simple student model around $300 professionally set up.
I've even booked my first lesson for next Tuesday with a teacher who was once the executive director and principal player in our city's symphonic orchestra.
So that's my introduction, now for the question:
What are some things you wish you knew when you started playing violin?
I was pretty young when I started, but looking back, what I lacked (and probably still lack) was a "learner's mentality.". The willingness to take instruction from someone else without pride getting in the way. Not trying to always do it in a way that I thought was better. Basically, just allowing yourself to be a student, and not feeling like you have to be anything but that.
General observation, not particularly relevant to the OP: -
I am also an adult learner. From my recent experience, these are the things that I would keep in mind if I restarted:
I wish I knew then how much fun it will be today.
How to practice efficiently. Lets you use your time and not waste it.
I wish I'd known I didn't need a shoulder rest and that my first teacher was a total shill.
I think Carlos hits on a major point:
That there are no limits to what you can accomplish, *within reason*. When one is a beginner, the difficulties of the instrument may seem "too much", and one can develop a mental (as in: "I will never be able to do that!") barrier . It's important that, while not underestimating the difficulties of our instrument, we start to patiently "problem-solve" our different needs, rather than succumbing to mediocrity (unless one is happy intentionally playing at a lower level.)
I wish I knew I'd never make a career as a pro, so I could get into a paying line of work.
I'm with Nina. I play/have played several instruments in my life and am recently getting more serious about one of them. Everything would have gone better for me on all of them had I really understood how to practice! I don't know what to say about this except that there is a lot of advice on the web about this topic, and I learn something new every time I find a new source.
Marty has a good point. Not so long ago I was talking to a friend about wasted potential and I commented that if I'd worked incredibly hard and gone to music college, I could have ended up as an oboist in a professional orchestra, but I'd be worse off than I am now.
All great advice here but I have a disagreement with the advice to not look at other sheet music or violin method books. I am an adult starter and I have found it valuable to look at different violin method books as I progressed. Some method books can progress too fast/slow and you will want alternatives to play. Of course, you need to complete the assigned material so you stay on course but as an adult you can benefit from a wider view after say ~6 months of lessons..
My advice to my former self--get good gear. Carlos, above, cautioned--"ignore the equipment bling..." I understand that it could become a problem, but I played on a cranky fiddle for thirty years with a stiff bow that didn't do anything for me. I did OK; I mean, I worked, but I didn't EVER get the sound/playability I wanted, and sort of let it slide as I concentrated on musical pursuits where I could get what I wanted aesthetically.
Don't be afraid to change teachers if its not working out. I hope you picked the right one. Many pros started playing way before they can remember its challenges or solutions. While teaching skills are in part a talent, they are like most things better learned and a pro concertmaster probably got his skills honed by practice and performance and not by learning the subtleties of playing for any person (size, attitude, background, musical experience etc).
+1 to Elise ... she nailed it. I agree with Tony also.
"Teaching adults is a unique branch of violin pedagogy and many teachers simply don't realize it."
I don't think there is a more rewarding and flexible instrument out there... and I don't think there is a more challenging instrument either, that sums it all.
I think Erik's post summed up the essence of what a beginning adult needs to keep in mind. Learning a bowed string instrument is like learning a new language, your previous knowledge and experience do not really prepare you for the child-like learning necessary at the beginning.
@paul and Carlos. Yes, buy a good violin, good strings, good bow and then forget it, and assume all your problems are your fault.
To relax - really.
I wish I knew there were teachers who were willing to accept beginners at double-digit ages. Having been rejected by several teachers who said I was too old to learn a string instrument when I was 12, I didn't realize until I'd been playing for over a decade that it was possible for me to get lessons at all.
"Steep learning curve" merely means "difficult", which may put people off.
1. I wish I would have listened to more professional violinists when I started. Listening to the music you're playing makes it so much easier to learn. And it's SO inspiring to hear great musicians play.
I wish that I, and my teacher, had a more realistic view of the orchestra business. I was one of the best young violinists in my medium size city, concertmaster of my college orchestra at the freshman year, then moved to Los Angeles, intentionally to put myself into the big pond. I was, like many others, almost good enough.
1. I wish I had known how to practice.
@Joel, I was the same way on trombone with jazz. I was the best high school player, a pretty good college player, but once I started getting some pro gigs I realized that I wasn't good enough and my confidence went out the window so fast that I ended up joining the Navy to distance myself from music. But now I'm back!
Andrew Fryer: I don't mean to put people off at all -- but too many people start out expecting to be good within just a few months, because they've learned other musical instruments quickly, and quit when they can't meet their unrealistic expectations. Better to know in advance that it will take a long time to sound good, and start learning with realistic expectations.
Wish I had put in the work to learn to read at the pace i was supposed to. I think “it doesn’t come naturally to me” is just a lie I told myself for years to justify never putting in the work. It just came slightly less naturally than listening, and I was lazy about it.
When starting out as a kid, I didn't really grasp the rather unfortunate fact that the violin is a very difficult instrument, in an annoyingly vast variety of ways.
When I was a kid I wish I had not believed what everyone told me that 12 was too old to start learning. I stopped after enduring an unpleasant exam experience where my bow kept shaking , making me more nervous and so on. I gave up immediately after the exam. No one said a word.
When I was a kid, no-one started under the age of about 11. It's competitiveness (especially in Asia where the population is in the billions) that's making them start in the womb nowadays.
I did some research before I began so I had a pretty good idea what I was in for.I mean, this thing has no frets. That tipped me off early. I even prepared my wife for the inevitable sounds she was going to hear in the beginning.I don't believe I would have changed any of that process.I milked as much as I could from my past music experience on various other instruments.Then plan to forget those other instruments for a long time because you're going to need all the time you can get.