Advice for a violin beginner?
I just started violin about 1 week ago and am a little lost on how to practice. Here's how my first lesson went: I was given two sheets of paper, one being the scales and the other being Twinkle Twinkle. The teacher taught me the finger placements and after a few runs of scales jumped straight into Twinkle Twinkle.
Boy did I have trouble comprehending information given to me throughout the lesson.
She taught me the finger placements in solfege(do re mi) instead of letters(ABCDEFG) for the notes, which made me feel totally lost as I had one year of piano lessons during my childhood and was taught the letters instead of the notes. She would say "play La" and I was like "??????". Then I had to refer to a fingering chart she drew on a paper and only understood "oh that's A". I did tell her that I don't know solfege but she was just like "oh." and the lesson continued in the same fashion.
Then Twinkle Twinkle came. She showed me the finger placements on the violin (the sheet music was basically a prop throughout the session) and I memorized how to play after a few rocky runs. However I didn't understand why I had to play the C and F in sharp (there were also no sharps shown to me in the scales previously taught so it was completely new to me) until I looked up key signatures myself after looking closely at the music sheet when I got back home.
Welp that was my first violin lesson.
So, right now I'm wondering if I should try memorizing the notes in solfege? Just so I can understand what note the teacher is saying during the lessons? Or should I just try to read the sheet myself instead? I can read notes on the staff in alphabets, but as I am still new to the violin it takes time to relate the notes to positions on the violin.
And should I learn the notes by finger positions(ie. starting from 1st finger notes only and gradually moving on to 2 3 and 4) or by string(ie. G string notes only then moving on to D A E)?
Any advice or suggestions are welcomed.
When it comes to practising scales, I sit and sing my scales for around 10 minutes in solfege. Its to do with getting the sound of the notes in your head so you know whether its in tune or not. Thats what I understand anyway :)
Like you I struggled to learn the ABCDEFG while I was a lot more familiar with solfege.
Sounds like someone that doesn't have any real experience teaching beginners. I'd recommend finding someone else, or you could just waste a bunch of time and money by continuing. Your choice.
Ivy, I suggest talking to your teach on what to practice. Also, tell him/her about the problem you run into. Your teacher might have assume you know something, but if this assumption is not true, it is better to clarify so he/she can make changes.
I returned to the violin in early December after a 45 year break, I must concur with the above advice. Is there a possibility to find another teacher? I would have a direct discussion with the current one outlining what you've told us, hopefully you can get on the same page. You need someone with experience teaching adult beginners, and it sounds like this one very well may not not.
The teacher is young, in fact, younger than me(I'm 24), and I doubt she has much experience in teaching.**no prejudice against young teachers(everyone has to start somewhere anyway), just that she joined the tuition centre as a teacher only like 7 months ago and does seem inexperienced in teaching**
I teach finger position starting on D string (1-3), going up to E (1-3). I leave the G until later on as its a little different
I don't look at age so much as experience. My teacher is in her mid 20's I think. Maybe a bit younger, however she has played violin since she was 4 and is in her last year of college majoring in music education and violin.
After a week, playing Twinkle Twinkle and the D major scale is good progress. Or is it A Major? Either - same shape on either string.
I think there are different thoughts on using a tuner. It really helped me, but it is also easy to fall into the trap of paying too much attention to the meter on the tuner and not on the sound from the violin. I fell into that trap myself and am more careful how I use it now.
I'd say "give it a month or 2." If you feel overwhelmed then look for a teacher who has more experience teaching adults.
I have a keyboard close by me in the studio and sometimes I'll play one of the notes to make sure I'm close in tuning. I have a clip on tuner I sometimes use to see if I'm in tune when I'm playing.
"I'm not 100% sure but the photocopied Twinkle Twinkle sheet has 'Suzuki Shinichi' on it ..."
Your first lesson should not be you playing a tune. It should be about holding the violin properly, posture, proper maintenance of the violin and bow, learning the bow hold, and maybe some practice pulling a straight bow. If there is time after that, then maybe a little bit about the A major scale. The solfege helped me in the beginning (I guess because we sang that song from the sound of music all the time in elementary school lol). I think it’s used in the beginning because it helps train your ear to hear the whole and half steps in the major scale without having to know anything about keys and flats/sharps in a scale. I do think it’s majorly confusing to say “play La”, especially for a beginner. I think it’s much better to say something like “first finger E string”.
Sorry, I don't agree with Chris. I think if the student is reasonably attentive, you can set them up in a few minutes with posture and basic hand positions. It will not be perfect but that's okay. Then let them start making a sound. Let them work on Twinkle for a week. When they come back, make adjustments to posture and move forward again. Ther'e no point trying to get posture and hand positions perfect from the outset because it'll all fall to pieces as soon as they start to draw the bow anyway.
I agree with Erik 100%. This is someone who has no idea how to teach.
Paul, I guess it depends on how innate your skill is for violin playing. My very first lesson or two I was not capable of playing twinkle. I mean this literally, I can distinctly remember my bow going to the tailpiece when I tried to bow and place fingers at the same time.
I'm with Erik and Mary Ellen.
I'm with Colonal Sanders and Hoopo. That's another thread.
"Don't be a party to this egregious infringement of copyright. Go out and buy Suzuki Book 1. Get the version with the recording so that you can listen to the tunes as you learn them. It is not expensive."
"Are you kidding? No, it's not OK. To be clear, it's OK to work on the left hand and "plucking" technique by doing so, but as a beginner, you're expected to learn bowing, and a great deal of emphasis is placed on that from the beginning, so it's not OK to miss that. Use a heavy mute and practice when the neighbours are banging the least on the walls if you need to, or move. Don't expect to learn to play violin without working a lot on bowing."
"What's not unclear about Suzuki is that in its original form, it was intended to have a heavy emphasis on listening and on playing from memory - the player was expected to be listening to recordings of that music often, and all of the material in a book was expected to be played from memory before going on to the next book."
You can even work on bowing without making any sound. E.g. with a bow with no rosin. Of course this would be very limited as a lot of the learning is about sound production, but holding the bow is a large part of what the beginner needs to learn. This article has some good tips for example:
Ivy, while you're trying to figure out whether or not you'll be continuing with Suzuki material, check out the Youtube channel "CadenzaStringsNC" and search for "Twinkle" or any other Suzuki beginner piece for that matter.
Ivy, how much music theory do you remember from playing the piano in the past? As others say, you should know the open strings first, but if you've played the piano even a little, it might be worthwhile to at least print out a diagram of a piano keyboard to help with sharps and flats. When you get to the point of learning "high" and "low" finger placements, the piano keyboard will be a good reference.
I agree with Christopher Sinkule. It will take constant guidance for a beginner to get the hang of just holding the bow and drawing a passable tone, and the risk of ingraining bad habits is too high to mess around at that stage. My teacher has new students (maybe kids, but maybe adults too) not play except in her presence, and they take short but frequent lessons in the beginning. I'm not saying there aren't other effective ways, but you have to build the fundamentals slowly and one thing at a time.
Assuming the OP background is English and she is in Japan, most of the teachers here would speak Japanese ? So there is an added challenge of finding a good teacher who also knows English well enough. I wonder how important it is for both teacher and student to speak the same language, given that violin is a physical rather than academic skill?
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Welcome to violinist.com, Ivy. You see what our most hotly debated topics are! Come back in a month or so and ask us what shoulder rest you should be using or whether different strings or a different bow -- or different rosin -- would make your violin sound better.
I’m with Eric and Mary Ellen and Pamela.
I try to imagine myself taking up, say, the guitar, and being told by my teacher to only play open strings for a month until my tone was good enough. (Yes, tone is a thing for guitarists too.) You'd have to be a saint to stay with the instrument that long without trying to play a tune. Why does violin instruction have to be so dogmatic?
Can you practice outside? In a basement? Off hours in the hallway of a campus building to which you have access? A friends house? What about the center where you're taking classes, you might ask if you can practice there.
Would you be able to hang some blankets from your dorm room walls to muffle the sound a bit?
Yes , the open strings did drive me nuts , and I was getting a bit anxious until I met a cello teacher said that was still within the range of normal. I mentioned this to highlight the extremes from being expected to play a tune at your very first lesson
2 kinds of solfege (at least).
Oh, one thing worth noting: solfege may be the default for early music education in some parts of Asia. As per my Taiwanese cousin who plays piano, it's common there to start with solfege and not introduce letter names at all until intermediate level.
@Ivy Low, Where did you say you were located?
Well, then you will have to do what you can. If I were in your shoes, even with social awkwardness, I would go around and ask anyway and then keep my practicing between 10am and 8pm with a heavy mute unless the dormitory has a strict library-silence-at-all-times rule.
Never neglect your daily scales and make them your friends. Remember this is a life long journey. I joking say you have to marry the instrument.