My experience after completing three years of violin playing
Hi. I've recently completed my 3rd full year of violin playing as an amateur. When I was doubting on the convenience of taking violin lessons while keeping piano lessons, I asked here, and got the little encouragement I needed to start with violin. And I can't be happier. So, for anyone who wants to read it, here's what I've observed so far in my violin journey:
Main problems I've encountered:
(1) Lack of quality practice time: I usually arrive late at home, and being tired, I must really force myself to start playing. If I do, I must play with a heavy mute, which is not ideal. I've been playing just between 1 and 2 hours per week through all this time. I also spent a complete month out of practicing due to a surgery. But I enjoyed coming back to it.
(2) Headaches: Despite I enjoy playing the violin, I've observed it's a great migraine trigger for me. This is also related with my lack of quality practice time. Studying with a headache is not easy.
(3) Vibrato: I thought it wouldn't be difficult, but the 2nd and 3rd fingers are still a "pain" to vibrate.
(4) Fingering: This one is silly, but I usually switch fingers because of piano fingering. The index is still a number 2 in my unconscious mind.
(5) Playing at the frog: I don't know why, but this has been difficult for me since I started playing.
(1) Despite my lack of practice time, my teacher says that I'm advancing at a good pace, and that I'm at the point where most people arrive after playing for 4 years.
(2) My intonation has improved a lot.
(3) My piano playing has also improved a ton. I'm playing with more expression on each separate voice and I'm really enjoying the pieces I'm studying.
(4) I'm also starting to enjoy what I play on the violin after successfully overcoming the "raw beginner" phase. I can't do everything I want with the bow, but I'm getting there, and the different basic bow strokes that I've been taught are starting to show spontaneously when needed.
(1) Ensemble playing: I still feel a bit insecure about my playing, but when I improve a bit, I'd like to start playing some chamber pieces along with other people.
(2) Bach: This is my long-term/lifelong goal, and the main reason I will stick with the violin for a long time. I want to be able to tackle some solo Bach with odds of succeeding. The enjoyment I get from Bach, by listening to his pieces or playing them at the piano is incredible.
So I owe v.com members a big thank you for encouraging me to start and for answering the very basic questions that a beginner amateur like me could have.
Congratulations! It sounds like you're hooked. As you get into more challenging music (Bach) it will be hard to see much progress on an hour or two a week, and practice at the end of your day, when your brain is fried and you're tired, is tough. My best practice is when it's the first thing I do. I wonder if you could take that time at the end of your day and relax, and then play after you wake up in the morning. On vibrato, since your goal is to play Bach, I would pay more attention to being "present" in your touch on the strings than in worrying whether you generate vibrato. Vibrato sounds awful in Bach (IMO, of course) unless it is not continuous and behaves more like an ornament, or something that creeps in a bit during a sustained note. That's more of what Bach had in mind when he wrote that stuff. From what you said, it sounds to me like you might be pushing it into your playing before you're ready, and you may not actually need it, given your goals.
Congratulations! I think many can relate to lack of practice time and practicing late in the evening. It sometimes feels like an uphill battle.
I play the piano too so I know what you mean about fingerings, but since I learned all that as a child, it's totally natural and I don't ever thing about it. Fast forward to a few years ago when I had to learn alto clef to play the viola. Much harder.
Funnily enough, playing the violin has confused my piano fingering. Yesterday I started buying another set of Bartok's Mikrokosmos (I used to have one in the 70s, but gave it away in 1990), and I got confused by a 4 in the left hand, and had to work it all out.
As a fellow adult beginner (with two kids at home as well) I commiserate about the lack of quality practice time. What I’ve done is to practice during my lunch hour out in the parking garage.
Miguel, right yesterday it was three years I brought home the first rental for myself (after fooling around on my son's first rental for a few weeks...) So we're in some kind of parallel slalom. Happy three years day!
I thought the bit on vibrato was interesting too. Most people I know find 2nd and 3rd fingers easiest, and have more difficulty with 1st and 4th fingers. I took 18 years to develop a consistent 1st finger vibrato, and used to sometimes shift positions just to avoid playing long notes on my 1st finger. But a few years ago I played in a community orchestra with someone who had no trouble with 1st or 4th finger vibrato but found 2nd and 3rd finger vibrato difficult. I wonder if this is just true for certain hand shapes?
Funny. Never heard of that, but obviously it happens. Short 1st, maybe?
Congratulations on starting and continuing!
Thank you for sharing your experience, Pamela. Migraines are a silly thing to suffer. They're not extremely grave, but they can easily knock you out for a good time.