Advice for a violin beginner?

Edited: March 14, 2019, 2:41 PM · 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.
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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.

Replies (49)

March 12, 2019, 2:57 AM · 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 :)
March 12, 2019, 4:16 AM · Like you I struggled to learn the ABCDEFG while I was a lot more familiar with solfege.

But IMHO the ABC is way more popular than solfege, given that some 90% of online videos in violin instruction use it. Introducing the other system to you is a little unfair at this beginner stage as it adds a level of complexity to what’s already an initially quite steep learning curve.

Is t possible for the teacher to change?

March 12, 2019, 4:22 AM · 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.
March 12, 2019, 4:45 AM · 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 don't think you should change teacher if one lesson doesn't go well. But do ask yourself how many lesson do you want to spend before you decide to stay or not.

I have a very different experience when I first started (last year, not that long ago). In my very first violin lesson. I was taught to play open string. We spent a lot of time on the bow grip, and how to get a clean sound on the open strings. I had a lot of tension on the right thumb, so the teacher stopped me, take away the bow and make me shake my hand to loosen up. At the end of the lesson, I got some exercises on string crossings and music involves only open string notes.

Well, we did talk about the D major scale, but my teacher told me not to spend too much time on it until I am comfortable with the open strings. Of course, I ignore what he said and go home and practice them all.

I can only afford a private lesson once every few months. But when I meet up with my teacher, he focus on the fundamentals. In the latest lesson, my teacher told me that my posture was bad, so he took my violin away and got me to stand split weight, shoulder relax. Then when I started playing and my posture got worse, he took away my violin again and the (relaxation) exercise repeat. I don't think everybody can deal with teacher who confiscated instruments and spent the entire hours on posture. However, since I don't see him every week, it works for me somehow.

Edited: March 12, 2019, 6:35 AM · 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.

If it helps, my first lesson was spent with my teacher assessing what I remembered after 45 years (proper posture, bow hold, and the ability to draw a straight bow, not much else but even that was more than I had expected). We then moved onto open strings, scales took 2 lessons to reach if my memory is correct. The point is he took several lessons to ascertain exactly where I was at the time, he did not assume.

March 12, 2019, 6:31 AM · 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 wasn't even told that the bow needs to be parallel to the bridge, I just knew because I watched violin videos on YouTube beforehand.
Well I CAN change teachers if I want to. The music tuition centre(not sure what to call it) has this system where students can book a schedule for their lessons and choose the teacher for every lesson.
However the other teachers available are pretty young as well so I guess instead of hoping they have years of teaching experience I can only pray that there's at least one that has a teaching style that suits me, and then practice as best I possibly can by myself at home.
I'll prolly give the current teacher another go before trying out other teachers. And because the lessons are already paid for(1 year, 2 lessons per month) I want to refrain from switching teachers around too much.
Any tips on practicing? Like what to focus on first and what to look out for etc? Are notes usually learnt string by string or by finger positions?
March 12, 2019, 6:44 AM · 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
March 12, 2019, 7:29 AM · 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.

You could be 20 and have played the violin for a long time.Probably just as important as education and experience is teaching ability. I think some people have a natural knack for that and others don't.The person should be personable and genuinely concerned about you learning no matter who you are. I'm surprised you haven't mentioned the Suzuki method. Even if she doesn't use that, she should have some kind of rubic to guide what's happening. I recommend to augment your lessons with online resources. There are lot's of free videos on Youtube and low cost online violin tutorials. I would press the teacher to find out what system she plans to use to teach you.Scales, finger placement and intonation are all important.
I wouldn't personally use finger tapes.The scales can be major ones in the beginning in one octave or two at most. I think for the 1st 6 months or year it's a lot of acclimation to the instrument, proper bow and techniques. At 2-3 years into this my intonation still drifts here and there and my fingerings aren't smooth. Things are just now beginning to settle. The long term outlook is usually 5 years to begin to get to the place where you have a handle on the instrument. I was playing twinkle twinkle in the 1st few days, but it gets steadily more demanding as you go. Be prepared to be really annoyed with your sound for awhile until you begin to move up. Good luck!

March 12, 2019, 8:15 AM · @Timothy Smith
Oh I definitely do not doubt her skill in violin, she's been playing the violin since she was 4(according to her profile). But I do think she's fairly new in teaching, hence the lack of guidance? basic information? provided in my first lesson.
I think she might be using(or just as a reference) the Suzuki textbook. I'm not 100% sure but the photocopied Twinkle Twinkle sheet has "Suzuki Shinichi" on it so yeah (oh and I'm currently residing in Japan so there's that as well).
I currently have two tiny round stickers on my fingerboard for the first and fourth finger. I'm doing my best to not rely on them though.
Is it good to practice with a tuner? Or better without?
Edited: March 12, 2019, 8:51 AM · 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.
Play the tune and the scales slowly, listening for tone and intonation on every note and staying aware of being relaxed all the time.
I wouldn't tolerate the solfeggio, though. That's just for singers, isn't it?
March 12, 2019, 8:51 AM · 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.
Edited: March 12, 2019, 9:29 AM · I'd say "give it a month or 2." If you feel overwhelmed then look for a teacher who has more experience teaching adults.

The first note names to learn are the names of the open strings. everything follows upward from that. Even 4 year olds can learn that.

I oppose having to learn solfege. The alphabet system for identification of notes is so much more natural for people familiar with the Roman alphabet. It is the system generally used for identification of the key of a musical composition - although you will find old scores with such "La major," which is the starting key for the Suzuki pieces (3 sharps).

I started violin at age 4 so that system (alphabet) in treble clef was natural for me. At age 14 I was started on cello lessons - with bass, tenor and treble clefs. I was a natural on cello but even by the time I had studied and could play some significant cello concertos I could not name notes in bass or tenor clef without relating them to the names of the open strings.

In fact, it was not until I was over 60, and one of my adult cello students was a very successful piano teacher that I finally learned to play a few sonatinas on piano and learned instant sight-recognition of bass clef note names.

I think it is natural to relate positions of notes on the staff to positions on the instrument. It is the mix of these two systems that allow one to become an excellent sight reader of music. Translating from one system to the other takes time (memorizing the position and then thinking the name (if you need to)). It is only when you are reading music above 7th position, or so, that you might need to think the note name first (especially with hand-written scores). But that will be a far-future problem for OP.

March 12, 2019, 9:21 AM · 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 just worked on a tune that I made a backing track for it. Intonation really sticks out if playing to a backing track like this.Sounded better until I compared it to the track.Having a backing track helps me. I guess a drone is also sometimes recommended. Coming from my background a drone, as in a bagpipe drone is what I associated it with. Apparently in classical music is gives you a kind of navigation to the tune and helps your ear.
Edited: March 12, 2019, 9:58 AM · "I'm not 100% sure but the photocopied Twinkle Twinkle sheet has 'Suzuki Shinichi' on it ..."

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. Try singing the tunes to yourself -- in solfege system.

The fact that your teacher kept on with solfege system after you said you weren't familiar to it suggests that she's either dogmatic, inflexible, or thick. But you say she's inexperienced. If so, then my guess -- seriously -- is that your teacher is actually just a little nervous. So she's not as nimble on her feet as a more experienced teacher might be. Teaching is a kind of performance -- one that she's not so accustomed to. You could actually help *yourself* by finding a few ways to put her more at ease. Not your job, you say? Fine -- but it might actually help you get more of what you're paying for.

March 12, 2019, 9:57 AM · 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”.
Edited: March 12, 2019, 10:07 AM · 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 also wouldn't waste an adult student's time on boilerplate information like instrument maintenance. I'd find a few good YouTubes or websites on the subject and assign those as homework, then next week ask if there were any questions on that content. In university teaching we call that "flipping the classroom."

To the OP: Also buy a tripod and videotape your lessons. That way you can review stuff like posture instruction midweek. Also maybe once you've reached "Song of the Wind" you can ask your teacher how to make use of the mirror and the metronome.

March 12, 2019, 10:06 AM · "Boy did I have trouble comprehending information given to me throughout the lesson."

Ivy, I think you're seriously overthinking the learning process here, and trying to make it something which is not intended. Unfortunately, that's a hard problem to solve, and this thread, starting with your long note and numerous people jumping in with this or that advice, myself included, will make the problems even more confusing.

You're trying to learn to read and apply that, but using Suzuki materials, for which the intention is to not teach you how to read at the beginning, but instead to learn the sounds and mechanics. I think you should focus entirely on that. What's important for the beginner is not learning to read music, but the basics of holding the instrument and bow, hand positions, etc., and then having the body do what the mind instructs it to do, in terms of knowing and hitting the pitch, duration, articulation, etc.

Music is the motivation, means, and the end goal, and a result in itself as you learn it better, but the physical aspects of controlling the instrument through your body are what you have to focus on to start.

March 12, 2019, 10:17 AM · I agree with Erik 100%. This is someone who has no idea how to teach.
March 12, 2019, 10:37 AM · 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.
March 12, 2019, 11:02 AM · I'm with Erik and Mary Ellen.
March 12, 2019, 11:29 AM · I'm with Colonal Sanders and Hoopo. That's another thread.
March 12, 2019, 11:33 AM · "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."
^ I'm not trying to defend any copyright infringement activities but please understand that the materials are prepared by the teacher not by me. I have no idea if she intends to apply the Suzuki method fully as well.

"Ivy, I think you're seriously overthinking the learning process here, and trying to make it something which is not intended. Unfortunately, that's a hard problem to solve, and this thread, starting with your long note and numerous people jumping in with this or that advice, myself included, will make the problems even more confusing."
^ Hmm it appears that my long post in the beginning came off as more of a rant. Well just to clear some things that was more of me trying to give a background of my current situation ie.not familiar with the solfege system and the violin in general, hence resulting in my "having trouble comprehending information throughout the lesson".

"You're trying to learn to read and apply that, but using Suzuki materials, for which the intention is to not teach you how to read at the beginning, but instead to learn the sounds and mechanics. I think you should focus entirely on that."
^ Ah okay now this cleared up some of my confusion. I obviously have no idea what exactly is the Suzuki method. The Twinkle Twinkle and the scales sheet I received has solfege handwritten on them by my teacher so I automatically assumed I need to remember them right off the bat. I suppose that's kinda my fault for jumping to conclusions. Then again assuming if she continues to refer to the notes in solfege I thought it might be helpful to learn and read myself so I wouldn't have to keep trying to translate solfege to letters. Does this mean that I shouldn't bother about the notes yet? I can read the individual notes, I'm just unfamiliar about their positioning on the violin, aka I need to take long pauses to relate positions of notes on the staff to positions on the instrument.

Well the main purpose of me creating this thread is to ask for some advice because I am not really sure what I am supposed to be doing just starting out. Do I focus on scales? Open strings? Repetitively playing Twinkle Twinkle until I can play it in tune?
Also I live in a dorm so I can't really play my violin in my room(the soundproofing is terrible even a heavy mute wouldn't help, I can even hear farts from next door no kidding), so I try to practice by plucking, and leave actual bowing to when I go book a room at a karaoke place. Is practicing by plucking ok?

March 12, 2019, 11:44 AM · " I try to practice by plucking, and leave actual bowing to when I go book a room at a karaoke place. Is practicing by plucking ok?"

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.

March 12, 2019, 12:07 PM · " I thought it might be helpful to learn and read myself so I wouldn't have to keep trying to translate solfege to letters. Does this mean that I shouldn't bother about the notes yet?"

Suzuki is often taught to very young children, who aren't expected to be reading at all. I don't know when exactly reading was intended to be taught, but it's somewhat left to the discretion of the teachers, who have differing practices. 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.

Granted however that adults do not have the same limitations as very young children, and might already be capable of reading music, and moreover have a greater need to do so as they wouldn't have the guidance of a parent, which was also a key part of the original Suzuki method. But regardless, they are two separate skills. Anyone can learn how to read music. Relatively few people learn how to play violin well.

Edited: March 12, 2019, 12:31 PM · "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."

^Sadly moving is not an option. I do understand the importance of bowing technique so I do try to practice bowing as much and as often as I can. Unfortunately it's the best I can do for now. But thank you at least now I know that practicing by plucking is not entirely useless.

Edited: March 12, 2019, 12:30 PM · "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."

^ I see. Hmm maybe I could try and get hold of the recordings myself. For this past week I've been trying to play Twinkle Twinkle in tune by referring to a tuner constantly. I did worry about ending up too reliant on the tuner if this goes on, so maybe the recordings will help. Thanks for the reply!

March 12, 2019, 12:30 PM · 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: https://www.thestrad.com/improve-your-playing/5-tips-from-isabelle-van-keulen-on-achieving-a-relaxed-bow-hold/8674.article
March 12, 2019, 12:48 PM · 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.
March 12, 2019, 1:46 PM · 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.

About practicing: oof, I've been in that situation with paper-thin walls. If plucking is the best you can do in your situation, then it's the best you can do, but you really should practice with the bow. Ideally without a mute, too, because it's hard to practice tone production with a mute. Perhaps you can have a word with your neighbors and agree to times that you can practice? Surely there are times they will most likely be away?

Another thought: if you're in a dormitory, does this mean you are a student? Could you use your university's practice rooms? I was a student at three different universities for undergraduate and graduate studies, and didn't study music at any of them, but all three allowed any enrolled student regardless of major or degree program to use the music practice rooms. I've even been allowed to use university practice rooms when I was an employee and not a student.

Oh, and Paul is right. Please go out and buy Suzuki Book 1 if you stay with this teacher and she continues using photocopied Suzuki materials. She may be the one doing the photocopying, but you don't have to be a party to this.

March 12, 2019, 2:12 PM · 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.
March 12, 2019, 3:33 PM · 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?
Edited: March 13, 2019, 3:16 AM · @J Ray
Ahh that might be a good idea, a rosinless bow. And I read through the article you shared. I really like that little finger exercise with the bow. Starting from about a week before my first violin lesson till now I have been doing little finger exercises in both my coat pockets when I'm outdoors with clothes pegs in an attempt to strengthen them lol. Maybe I'll incorporate those exercises in my routine as well. Thank you.

@Holly Lerner
Thank you I found the channel. :)

@Andrew Hsieh
I didn't exactly learn much music theory in the past really. So I'm not sure which part of what I learnt can be transferred to the villin. However sharps and flats I do think I understand.

"Perhaps you can have a word with your neighbors and agree to times that you can practice? Surely there are times they will most likely be away?"

^ About this, well the dorm I'm living in is exclusively for students from my college, which means my neighbors and I share pretty much the same schedule.

"If you're in a dormitory, does this mean you are a student? Could you use your university's practice rooms?"
^ Sadly there are no music practice rooms :(

"Please go out and buy Suzuki Book 1 if you stay with this teacher and she continues using photocopied Suzuki materials. She may be the one doing the photocopying, but you don't have to be a party to this."

^ I'm all for using the original book. I did ask which textbook I'll be using to which I was replied "It's ok the materials will be prepared by us".
However if future materials are mostly taken out from the book I wouldn't mind getting the book myself. It's easier that way anyway.

@Christian Lesniak
"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. "

^Well I'm afraid the best I can do in my case is to be more vigilant when I practice by myself. I guess I could videocam my practice sessions to monitor my posture and habits.

@Matt Lawrence
"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?"

^ Well actually English isn't my first language either but that aside, you are right that the teachers here speak only Japanese(or, at least the ones in the music tuition centre I'm attending).
But I don't think that will pose a problem though as I've been here for 7 years already so I believe I shouldn't have any problems understanding the teacher.
Actually imo, I think in learning/teaching a physical skill, a mutual language is of lesser importance than it would be in the education of an academic skill (not saying it's not important of course, just to a lesser degree). There are more abstract ideas involved in academic skills which require more nuances and expressions in speech I think.

Woops another long post. I hope I haven't annoyed anyone too much yet. ><

An irrelevant question to this post but how do you type in italics? I tried looking around on instructions for formatting to no avail. Trying to make my long replies look more organized.

March 13, 2019, 3:07 AM · You can use HTML code in your posts for formatting.
March 13, 2019, 3:16 AM · @Andrew Hsieh
Thanks! Edited my previous reply.
Edited: March 13, 2019, 6:23 AM · 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.

Someone said something about plucking. There is a wonderful instrument, strung just the same as the violin, that you only pluck. It is called the Mandolin. The guitar also remains popular and the ukelele is surging lately too. I'm only half-joking. These are perfectly fine instruments to learn, especially the guitar, for which has had a significant body of serious music written for it. And it's nice and quiet.

The violin is not like other hobbies. You can't learn it on your own, just from books and videos, at least not very well. And you need a place to actually practice. With your bow, and making a full sound. And you need at least some minimum physical strength and flexibility because it can be stressful even on someone who is quite athletic. And it's *expensive* -- lessons, equipment, music, not to mention strings and rosin.

March 13, 2019, 8:07 AM · I’m with Eric and Mary Ellen and Pamela.
I’m also an adult beginner ( well 18 months now)
I wasn’t allowed to do anything but open strings for a month .
I don’t understand why you should have to learn Solfege(my only experience with that is from the Sound of Music) as well as having to learn the names of the notes - that just sounds confusing.
A thought for practicing - I was loaned an electric violin this week, just to have fun with it ( and yes it was fun) , but if you turn it off, you can still hear yourself play, very quietly . I know this is not quite the same as an acoustic violin, but it would still allow you to practice pretty well whenever you liked
Good luck!
March 13, 2019, 9:54 AM · " if you turn it off, you can still hear yourself play, very quietly . I know this is not quite the same as an acoustic violin, but it would still allow you to practice pretty well whenever you liked"

Ivy's mentioned using a heavy practice mute. In my experience, a metal mute on an acoustic reduces the sound to around the level of an electric violin. However, different instruments, acoustic and electric, have different sound levels, so there is no single answer as to what's louder, and how much so. However, it's generally possible to mute an electric as well, which leads to that combination - electric + heavy mute being the probable quietest possible short of nothing, though with all of the negatives of that combination - that you're practicing on a foreign instrument, now further modified with a mute. Electric violins also vary significantly in terms of form and fit and compatibility, and besides that, no two instruments are exactly the same (a simple string height difference between two copies of the same instrument can make a huge difference in how they feel and play), so the learning is not exactly the same, and the search for the right electric violin takes one away from the core - learning to play the target instrument (as it is).

The fundamentals cannot be overemphasized for a beginner or even an intermediate player, with the single exception of when that harms music.

March 13, 2019, 11:26 AM · 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?
Edited: March 13, 2019, 11:56 AM · 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.

At the end of the day you need to practice, certainly with the bow and without a mute if at all possible. Often there are other options that serve the need if we think outside of the box. Have violin/will travel!

Also, to my mind, one of the many reasons for lessons is to learn how to practice. If your teacher can't handle that, along with the other things... At the end of the day, the goal is to learn how to properly play the violin, and how strong your desire is to reach that goal.

Edited: March 13, 2019, 12:03 PM · @Paul Deck
The violin is not like other hobbies. You can't learn it on your own, just from books and videos, at least not very well. And you need a place to actually practice. With your bow, and making a full sound. And you need at least some minimum physical strength and flexibility because it can be stressful even on someone who is quite athletic. And it's *expensive* -- lessons, equipment, music, not to mention strings and rosin.

^ *Sigh* The violin, so bloody difficult yet so beautiful it's hard to resist wanting to play it myself. But I'm done wishing being able to play it and decided to just go for it. Better to regret something I've done than something I haven't. About practicing making full sounds with the bow though, it's something I can't really do as often as I like at the moment, but will do the best I can with my limited resources.

And ah yes the expensive part. The one year of lessons that I signed up for are fully paid for by myself with the money I earned from my part time job, and I still feel the pain when I check my bank account balance. Plus I just bought a cake of Bernadel because the rosin that came with the violin was rubbish. Welp all the more reason for me to commit to the violin I guess.

@Rosemary Cox, J Ray
Guess I'll put in more time for open strings from now on. After reading through all the feedback I got I'm probably not gonna bother about solfege. Doesn't seem very efficient in my case since I'm more familiar with the alphabet form.

Well I can't say I haven't considered an electric violin. However, after doing some googling around I decided against it. The main reason being that it will be much more difficult to develop as a player. (Correct me if I'm wrong but) It's said that it is easier to produce a decent sound on an electric than on an acoustic, and that might hinder the player from getting a grasp on his/her true skill level, because you wouldn't be able to hear the real sound that would be produced with the same level of technique on the acoustic violin, and as a result technique development will suffer. Good tone quality and bowing technique are both something I definitely do not have right now so I thought it'd be better to just stick to an acoustic for now. However an electric might be good for when I reach an intermediate level, so I wouldn't deny the possibility of getting one myself someday.

@Paul Deck
Honestly I can't see myself with the patience to stick to only open strings for a month lol. I'm quite content with my current Twinkle Twinkle assignment for now.

@Catherine Kostyn
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.

^ No basements available.
Campus is off limits after school hours.
Hard to believe but I'm not joking when I say that I have no friends here (acquaintances yes but not at the level where I can casually ask if I can practice in their houses) [It's hard living as a foreigner here!!!]
The center I attend actually does have practice rooms, but it's very pricey and it's quite far from where I'm living.
So for now I resort to karaoke rooms on weekdays when it's cheaper, for bowing and practicing without a mute, and my room for daily fingering exercises and tunes by plucking. I'll try to come up with more ideas for locations to practice, but so far this is all I can think up of.

March 13, 2019, 1:44 PM · Would you be able to hang some blankets from your dorm room walls to muffle the sound a bit?

Good luck - living in thin-walled buildings is a challenging situation!

I think you are going to have to befriend (or acquaint yourself with) your dorm neighbors and ask them when you can make some noise practicing. You can always bribe them with gifts to sweeten the deal.

March 14, 2019, 6:27 AM · 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
The electric violin I was using was VERY quiet, much softer than my acoustic with a mute, and would not have disturbed someone in the next room. And yes, it did make me sound better than I do normally, which which is why I won’t buy one for now either, but it would give opportunities for practice if you have very limited times to play more loudly.
I checked the model, it was a Yamaha Silent series, not sure exactly which model, so they are designed for quiet practice .
Edited: March 14, 2019, 5:03 PM · 2 kinds of solfege (at least).

If you are going to be exposed to a solfege talker you should be aware that there are at least two kinds, absolute and relative.

In "relative" (or "moveable") solfege, whatever key you are in defines "Do." The scale starts on Do, as when Mary Poppins sang "Do, A Deer," whatever the key.

In Absolute" (or "fixed")solfege, "C" is "Do." Absolute solfege was commonly used in naming music in the early centuries - at least in some European editions. The Suzuki's "Twinkle"that is in A major, would be in "La Major" in one of those editions.

As for minor scales and pentatonic, and the dozen's of others used world-wide I'm really not sure what they do.

March 14, 2019, 2:04 PM · 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.
Edited: March 15, 2019, 2:11 PM · @Pamela M
Would you be able to hang some blankets from your dorm room walls to muffle the sound a bit?
Good luck - living in thin-walled buildings is a challenging situation!
I think you are going to have to befriend (or acquaint yourself with) your dorm neighbors and ask them when you can make some noise practicing. You can always bribe them with gifts to sweeten the deal.

^Unfortunately I don't think blankets are gonna be enough to muffle the sound. Houses in Japan have a reputation of having super thin walls with zero soundproofing. Like I said, I can literally hear it when someone farts next door, no exaggeration.
As for your next suggestion ie. acquainting with my neighbors, I might consider doing it if I'm living, say, in a terraced house, or a shared house with a few rooms, because at most I'll only have to knock on about 5~8 doors approx(as if that's not nerve-racking enough for a socially awkward foreigner). I can't really give you a clear picture of my place of residence looks like so what I'm trying to describe may sound really confusing to you, but the building I'm living in already consists of 30 tiny rooms with shared thin walls (although I have no idea how many are actually occupied, or how many of those rooms the sound of my violin will actually reach), plus the building next door is also made up of idk how many rooms with multiple floors(My room is at the outermost part of the building so this is a point I have to consider as well, and the also super thin windows ain't gonna do any good in blocking my violin sound spreading to the streets). I have no idea how I'm gonna knock on the doors one by one lol. Just thinking about it gives me anxiety.


@Rosemary Cox
I checked the model, it was a Yamaha Silent series, not sure exactly which model, so they are designed for quiet practice .

^Checked the price. Ouch. Lol
Not really something I can spend my money on at the moment, not even the cheapest brandless type. Already have my hands full paying for rent and lessons :( unfortunately there's only so much I can do as a student still in school.


@Andrew Victor
Ah yes I googled solfege right after that lesson and found out what you just told me here. Pretty sure my teacher is using absolute solfege. Though I'm hoping somehow she'll magically start using the alphabet system with me though to spare me from anxiety.

@Andrew Hsieh
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.

^Oh that's an interesting bit. Although I am Asian myself my only experience with solfege is from The Sound of Music. Lol

March 15, 2019, 8:41 AM · @Ivy Low, Where did you say you were located?

How about a barter to swap the acoustic for an electric? Do you have anything like Craig's list there? They have a barter section.

Normally I would discourage an electric over an acoustic, but this seems to be the best and maybe the only option because of the proximity to others.

March 15, 2019, 8:56 AM · 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.

Where there is a will, there is a way.

March 15, 2019, 2:13 PM · @Timothy Smith
I'm currently residing in Japan.
Searched around the internet, don't see any with violins unfortunately. Besides, I'll still need the acoustic for my lessons.

@Pamela M
I'm actually contemplating just going ahead and practice in my room until someone actually starts complaining to the dorm manager lol. Hoping that they might be think it too troublesome to actually make the complaint XD. Or maybe I'll just try it one day and ask my next door neighbor about the volume, and adjust accordingly.

March 15, 2019, 2:33 PM · 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.

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