What is the usual progress after learning for five years?
I am an adult beginner and I have been learning for about five years. But I am nowhere near where I imagined I would be. I always had college/job along with it, so I think on an average I have been practicing 4-5 days in a week, not everyday. I can see that I have been improving, and I usually avoid comparing my progress to others, because it takes the fun out of playing. But sometimes it bothers me that I still don't have a good tone, or that I still can't do a proper vibrato. I have been getting better at other things, like intonation or shifting. I can now play three octaves in G and A major with, I think, a passable intonation. I have also recently started paying attention to phrasing and not just playing the notes. I am currently working on Vivaldi's A minor concerto.
But I still can't express through my playing. And I struggle a lot with vibrato. I can only do a feeble vibrato and can't sustain it for long. Sometimes it demotivates me and I feel that I might never sound good.
What would you say is the usual progress after five years? I know it's very subjective, but still, what have you normally seen? Also, what has your experience been like in terms of managing your expectations and staying motivated?
Well, the good news is that you don't need tons of vibrato to play the first movement of the Vivaldi A Minor Concerto. A little shimmer on the longer notes is fine.
I’ve been playing for 5 years: 1hour of class each week, and most of weeks less than 1 hour of total practice, some of them, any practice at all outside class. I’m an adult starter with a job that takes time. I’m more or less where you are. Vivaldi A minor + Scales. I still struggle a lot with vibrato. I’ve also 2nd and 3rd position and I’m currently starting 4th and 5th positions. I’m also studying a book of double stops.
George wrote, "I have learned that Suzuki has a long series of "benchmarks" and the student is encouraged to achieve them at particular intervals. Understand the the Suzuki method is not aimed at adult musicians (it is aimed at parents with benchmarks equating with bragging rights)."
......I am nowhere near where I imagined I would be.....
My teacher does fine bringing his adult students (including myself, for a time) with the Suzuki Books, but he knows that the "not for adults" stigma is attached to them, so he fills in with repertoire that will maintain the interest of the adult beginning-to-intermediate player like Ashokan Farewell, or maybe Schubert Sonatinas, or very often just the community-orchestra section parts that the individual wants to play more skillfully. Anything can be teaching material as long as there are appropriate technical and musical challenges, but the strengths of the Suzuki series are the very gradual progression in the first few books, and the emphasis on clean passage-work (hence the heavy emphasis on baroque rep), which is the basis of all violin playing.
You are coming to the point where you will need to start bumping up your practice time if you want to progress, and you have to learn to practice, hear yourself, sense tension in your playing, and a lot of other skills that will get built up with consistent daily practice (you also don't want to ramp up to 2 hours per day all of the sudden, or else you are likely to hurt yourself).
5-years ? That depends on a lot of factors. Progress is not constant. There are road-blocks, break-throughs and periods of consolidation. It takes about 7-10 years for the young, longer for adults. For specific topics, like vibrato or shifting, the teacher can make the biggest difference.
How much do you practice every day? Your progress seem commensurate to an average practice time of 45-60min a day for an adult learner. I find that any less than an hour every day does not lead to much progress after a while. It is OK at the beginning, but the practice time requirement to improve seems to increase exponentially as one progresses, otherwise you plateau to a given level for very long periods of time.
I have been taking one hour class every week since I started learning. I practice for about one hour, on an average. But not everyday, about 4-5 days a week
Re: Miguel Pitti
Meghna consider it in the following way. I started at 6 years old, but at 11 years old I don't think I already had a lush continuous vibrato!
Elise said it well. The one thing I haven't seen here is mention of a teacher. It's really not possible without a good teacher, so if you don't have a teacher, or if your teacher is not someone capable of producing a high-level player, I advise you to do whatever it takes to get the best teacher (for you) possible.
Uhhhh.... For me, I've seen a lot of different progress levels. Some people get it right off the bat, and can start playing more advanced pieces right away. Then some people slack and don't really practice and so they have almost no progress. And I've been playing for about 6 years, and I'm playing Mendelssohn Violin Concerto and Carmen Fantasy by Sarasate. But then I practice 6 days a week, and I imagine I probably have more time than you, so I guess that makes a difference.
How old are you Yufei?
One sentence in your post has not been addressed at all as yet: "But I still can't express through my playing."
Violinist Roy Sonne (retired first violinist formerly with the Pittsburgh Symphony for decades) issued a DVD some years ago that provided great insights on playing the ACCOLAY Violin Concerto with expressive interpretation. It is now available on YOUTUBE:
I second the recommendation for anything presented by Roy Sonne. Mr. Sonne is a soulful violin player and a warm-hearted gentleman. I was very inspired by his "master class" on the Beethoven Op. 50 Romance, to the point where I performed this piece as a solo with our local community orchestra.
The great pianist Benno Moiseiwitsch gave this advice back in 1950:
My first teacher almost always started lessons with scales. One day he asked me to play a 3-octave scale in G, and when I finished he asked how long I've been taking lessons, then he calculated it at 5 years, and said I was right on schedule. He said I had played the entire scale in good rhythm, with every single note in tune on the way up and down, and that usually took students right around 5 years to do. I was a little dumbfounded, and told him that if he had told me that in the beginning, I probably wouldn't have signed up for it!
Interesting, what you wrote, TREVOR. The other day I watched, for the first time, the 2004 DVD "Ivry Gitlis and the Great Tradition." One of the things Gitlis said was that He felt students should not study recordings of music they are working on. They should develop their own approach and only after that should they listen to others to expand their vision.
One has to remember that expressive playing is very much rooted in the *technical* tools of expression. You need to be taught the bow control to produce different articulations, and a range of dynamics, and especially, a range of colors. Some of it as also in the left hand, especially in vibrato.
I have had two teachers since I started learning. With my first teacher (I learnt for about 3 and a half years from him), the progress was really fast. I was on the suzuki book 4 by then end of three years. But then I moved to another city and had to change my teacher. then I realised that my foundation wasn't good and I was probably rushed through pieces before I was ready for them. Now from the last one year, I have been paying more attention to my intonation, bow arm, expression and other nuanced things that I did not do before. I'm playing 'easier' and fewer pieces now but learning them in more detail than I did before. In a way, I am re-learning a lot of things. Though my progress seems to be much slower now, I am far more satisfied with the results. Now when I play the scales, I can hear my violin resonate because of better intonation. My playing doesn't sound as cacophonous as it did before.
Regarding expression, my teacher encourages me try playing the same pieces in different emotions and to experiment with the bow and how it changes the sound. But I feel that maybe my technique is not yet developed to make the piece sound the way I want. Like I can't do a proper vibrato, or I can't bring out the piano after a forte, or make the dolce sweet enough. I am working on building my 'library of techniques' as Lydia said.
"the progress was really fast. I was on the suzuki book 4 by then end of three years"
Mengwei, I couldn't agree more!
"it can also be 'easy' to acquiesce to the student's wishes or what are perceived to be the student's wishes"
I disagree with Lydia about expressive playing being "very much rooted in the technical tools of expression". It is rooted in imagination. You have to have an idea in your head about how to present the music. Then you can apply those tools. They are not the root but the fertilizer if we want to stay with the gardening metaphors.
What Albrecht said. But to be fair, I think what Lydia meant was that without the technical skills in your fingers, as it were, you can not enact the creative expression. That would be like writing poetry in a foreign language without first learning that language! What you said would certainly not be perceived as you intended...
To some extent it depends on whether you are talking about a young artist on the cusp of entering conservatoire for a performing career or a beginning-to-intermediate students just figuring out how the instrument really works. In the latter case, you are learning "expression" as a series of largely binary decisions -- when rubato should be applied or not. After that comes learning a few different styles of rubato -- one style for a line that arches suddenly, another style for the measure before the main theme reappears in a classical Allegro, etc. And as you develop, you build more variety and subtlety into your toolbox, and you inform this process deeply by listening to recordings and accepting the advice of your teachers, and also by learning about the lives and historical contexts of the composers. But I'll bet that as one of our top soloists is performing a concerto, they don't have some elaborate Greek tragedy in their head, draping over the entire work and informing every subtle decision. They've broken it down to the measure level in their practice studio, and they're drawing on an incredibly advanced and finely-incremented toolbox. And the best among them can string the parlor tricks together in such a way that the listener is convinced that the artist must have had some kind of overarching vision. So yes, I think the emperor has no clothes. It's just about learning an increasingly sophisticated set of devices for expression, having the technical skill to execute them, and learning to concatenate them into a convincing overall presentation -- this process is part and parcel of what we call violin artistry. And like everything else, some are better at it than others.
I am a beginner myself, I have been playing one and a half years, don’t have a teacher, had help off people on another forum. I practice everyday for an hour at least, scales arpeggios, very slow practice pieces to improve intonation which I find extremely difficult, but it’s slowly getting better. For what it’s worth I now think progress can only be judged by yourself, if you enjoy playing why worry, here’s were I am after one and a half years self taught, remember violin is arguably the hardest instrument on the planet to get to grips with
Hi Ron, that's how I started when I retired from work - Irish fiddle in pub sessions and no formal teacher, but possibly helped a little by many years as an orchestral cellist. After about 3 years I realised I was coming up against the proverbial brick wall as far as technique was concerned, with no way through, over or under, so I looked round for a teacher and was recommended one by my local violin shop (in Bristol, England). My teacher had been classically trained to a professional level and is the lead fiddle in a professional folk band. I was taken right back to square one, with great emphasis on posture and violin/bow hold. I'm pretty sure there was a foundation of Alexander Technique in all of this, although it wasn't specifically mentioned. The Suzuki books were used as a general guide but never exclusively - after the first year I was introduced to pieces not in Suzuki. Eventually I was able to swap from orchestral cello to orchestral violin, which I thoroughly enjoy (Covid permitting!). Unfortunately, Irish sessions in my home town have now all but disappeared (pubs closing or being turned into restaurants, you get the picture), but I'll always be grateful for the start on the violin that Irish folk music gave me.
Ron that's pretty good playing for a year and a half of work! Your intonation sounds good to me. If you can soften up the joints below your right elbow (wrist/hands/fingers could be more supple), that would help your bow draw a little straighter, which would be the first step in improving your tone because right now your bow is skittering a little on the strings. Keep at it! I'd be honored to jam with you some day.
I hate these questions... it makes ALL the difference in the world how you practiced, how much and with who. A good teacher and a willing student can achieve in 1 year what other student will in 6 years or more.
Paul thanks for your advice, on the flexibility, I am going to try to work on being more supple, I find myself tense when I play and have done from the start, but I am working on it, thanks for the support;)
I hate to compare as well.
Catherine Ty makes several points that resonate with me. I returned to the violin 22 months ago at age 59 after a 45 year hiatus, so I'm a returning beginner. My (Greek Orthodox) choir director was also a violin teacher so I went with him as I knew and trusted him, and just as importantly he knew me and how I learn.
However, it's will very difficult for us to judge how good are our teachers....
No, not even the "grade 5 for 5 years playing players" apply. Again, people don't really get this:
There are plenty of teachers who go piece-by-piece through the Suzuki books, but usually only for the first few books. Then often they pick up Barbara Barber and maybe Wohlfahrt or Hrimaly scales. And eventually there has to be an off-ramp.
Paul, you are assuming in your last sentence that the student is not motivated or even is being forced to play, presumably under a tough teaching. J Ray, better off for what?
""One of the things Gitlis said was that He felt students should not study recordings of music they are working on. They should develop their own approach and only after that should they listen to others to expand their vision."
What no-one's mentioned yet is *attentiveness* of practice.
I never tell people "little and often", because all they will ever hear is "little".
What I found, generally, when I taught years ago, was that using the Suzuki books as a pathway adult students progressed at the rate of about one book per year. But that was a general observation. Those who progressed more slowly than that soon dropped out. Those who progressed more rapidly had a tendency to add a broader scope of music.
@ J Ray "The goal in my view is music, however it comes ...."
@Andrew "Some people have a natural talent for playing certain instruments and they quickly rise to the level of their incompetence "
"No, actually nobody doesn't "get this". There are as usual several different things being discussed at the same time. The OP asked for a rule of thumb..."
Paul N, that's just not true. Everyone wants to benchmark their progress, especially parents who are paying for the lessons! Sure, progress depends on a lot of factors, including some beyond the student's control. And the distribution of "progress" is maybe quite wide. But there is a distribution nevertheless, with a mean, a standard deviation, and so on. If your son or daughter was still in Suzuki Book 2 after ten years of lessons and practicing an hour a day, please don't tell me you'd be just fine with that, because you'd be lying.
Paul, what's not true?
Paul N, you said "It makes absolutely no sense to ask for an 'estimated progress over X years'." Sure it does. What you get back is an average value that sits in the middle of a wide distribution. It's not super useful without knowing what the parameters are, but the OP knows what those parameters are -- that's obvious from the first few sentences of her post. My point is that it's not entirely useless either. Every parent wants their baby to be a normal weight, normal length, etc., right? What's normal? The distribution is huge, but somehow there is comfort in knowing the average value. Maybe not a lot of comfort, and maybe some of that is false comfort, but people find it comforting nevertheless.
PS -- an adult beginner who has no physical disability, who practices an hour a day, and who takes a violin lesson once a week from a teacher who is not a total waste of carbon should be able to manage the first movement of the Bach A Minor.
I do not agree. You can totally measure weight and say that a 5.6 feet male adult is going to be between 130-170 lbs, unless something really wrong is going on: huge amount of fat eaten over the years, a desease, anorexic, etc... Weight comes natural, no matter what exactly your diet was, if you eat "normally" and kind of healthy, 99% of the people is going to be between those numbers.
How good should I be at playing violin after 5 years of practice?
Paul, stop it, you know your affirmations are totally made up. Anyways, see what you did?
Paul, you wrote, "Anyways, that's not true, almost all adult beginners practice less than 7h weekly, they are very inconsistent."
The OP is making the usual progress given her situation. Let’s think of the average student who practices 4 days a week for less than an hour, takes one 1-hour lesson a week, takes summer vacations, and sticks with it for 5 years. The quality of the teacher varies, and the innate ability of the student varies. But let’s think about averages, and:
OP, I am an adult beginner and had the same questions. Really, what I was asking, I think, was “Am I doing what I need to be doing, with the right teacher for me, given whatever talents and limitations I might have?” A few things helped me answer this. I attended a masterclass whenever possible- we live near a music school and some sessions are open to the public. When I was on vacation in a different state, I took a couple private lessons with a different teacher, and quickly realized that I had neglected some classical technique fundamentals, and that was hampering my progress. I started playing duets with friends (way before I thought I was ready to do that) and we learned from each other, and I could notice things that others were doing, and try to emulate those. And I sat in on some fiddle jam sessions, and started to understand what it means to play as part of an ensemble. I think the chance to play with other people is very helpful, both for learning and assessing progress and what’s possible— it’s harder when you’re a grown up, not in school with fellow students around. And I had to experience other teachers’ approaches before I could decide whether the teacher I had was a good fit. I looked for ways to try other approaches once in a while, without abandoning the teacher that I already had, who seemed ok to me, but really, how was I to know? (It’s the same difficulty in hiring any professional I guess, how do you know if your car mechanic, or doctor, or financial planner is any good? )
Paul, thank you, you gave me an idea of the perfect example.
To get back to the OP's question, as a general rule of thumb, a student (whether child or adult) with halfway-decent teaching and at least 30 minutes of focused daily practice, can progress at the rate of roughly one ABRSM / ACM / AMEB grade per year, or one Suzuki book per year (through roughly book 7).
See ... I'm not the only one who thinks Bach A minor is reasonable progress.
This is a useful chart, regardless of the age of the student:
Also, expression might be rooted in imagination, as Albrecht said, but imagination must be fed. Expression also is rooted, as Lydia said, in the technical tools of expression. I think you are both right. Imagination and the tools of expressing it are so intertwined, and they are definitely "teachable." That is to say that a teacher can teach the "tools of expression" and then also explore with a student how to use them, setting that student on the path to greater levels of self-expression. If you wish to increase your vocabulary, language-wise you need to read good books, then read better ones. You need to write, first badly, then better. You need to speak with people who speak well and imaginatively - and you need to speak back with them. It's a process. What drives me crazy is a teacher whose attitude is "My job is to give you technique to play, it's up to you to figure out how to express yourself." A teacher can and should do much more than that.
Is that real data Laurie? Or just someones imagined numbers. Real data should have error bars on the points. It just looks too good to be true...
Businesses displaying statistics almost never put error bars on the data. (I say this as someone who works for a commercial market research firm and I can't think of the last time I saw error bars on research graphics except possibly things prepared for a strictly internal audience. I don't think most such graphics list a standard deviation, either, even if we use it internally.)
The chart that Laurie shows is probably just someone's conjecture. Paul N would probably call it BS, and he wouldn't be far off.
Well put Paul.
Is it even possible for a 4-year-old to practice for two hours per day, seven day per week for a whole year on the material in Suzuki Books 1 and 2? Is it advisable if their parent is not a musician and cannot easily identify bad habits and poor intonation?
When I was a Suzuki kid, my piano teacher (now a Suzuki teacher-trainer) had a big chart on her wall. Every week, a student had to come in and fill in how much they'd practiced every single day, in order to win prizes. This was a common thing in the program.
Perhaps the student failed to make a professional career, but did (s)he succeed to make music an enjoyable and productive part of his or her life? Or were they so burned out and bitter that they gave it all up?
I actually don't know. I lost track of them as a young adult. I haven't really kept in touch with my piano cohort in the same way as the violin / youth symphony cohort, where in addition to the FB connections there are nice alumni newsletters.
Maybe the kid is a astrophysicist now who is about to get a Nobel prize and not an absolute total failure?
Oh, I'd guess the kid is successful at something. You don't practice piano for three or four hours at a young age without being a certain type of personality, or without parents highly invested in your success.
Surely two minutes searching Facebook and LinkedIn would reveal this important information ...
BS/conjecture: Laurie's chart tells me that the Suzuki books are basically intended to be covered at a rate of about one a year - by an average hour-a-day student (half an hour a day if the student is talented). Hence the neatness of 10 books, 10 years. Maybe they have been actively designed using experience for that to be the usual outcome.
Personally, I think there should be more than 10 books (like 12-13) in the Suzuki method if the student should be playing Mozart #4 in the end. There is a big gap between books 8 and 9. Maybe it's assumed that all kinds of supplemtal work has been done before reaching books 9&10.
The chart could not have been constructed from sampling of actual data (which would be self-reported, meaning bias and errors). And what does "completed" mean - slopped through the notes? mastered actual skills? played "perfectly" (whatever that means) and "with feeling"? what else besides "Suzuki pieces" is being worked on that is musically valuable and occupies practice time that would not be represented on the chart?
The chart is suspiciously linear, but this may be a deliberate simplification in order to give just a rough guide. And perfectly designed books might indeed iron out any non-linearity. But if that had been done, I'd expect the books to have gone through 10 or more editions!
Rebecca - yes, there is even an Association-provided list of supplemental repertoire recommended for books 6-8. I start "supplementing" in book 1 with additional by ear tunes (common strategy, I think) and easy ensemble parts that they can play and perform with studio orchestra, string orchestra in book 2, additional solo pieces in 3-4, 4-5 students are often also in outside youth orchestras or chamber groups, etc. Unlike in early days in Japan, American Suzuki teachers basically have to cover music reading, unless you wait for the piano teacher to do it or wait for school orchestra (5th grade, perhaps) to do it.
That makes sense...come to think of it, I don't know anyone who has only used Suzuki books and nothing else all the way through. I just thought it was interesting that there was a big gap after book 8.
Gordon, I'm afraid I can't let you get away with that; its positively Trumpian.
A graph does tend to imply a data-set in a way that a narrative necessarily doesn't. Very "truthy".
It's not about where you should be for the amount of time you have been playing, it's about where you are and what you need to do to get where you want to be. If you are feeling like you want to progress faster, then something needs to change.
Perhaps the data scientists would be mollified if the graph didn't use the data point icons and had a more qualitative type presentation instead of quantitative, such as how Shar has the string chart that "plots" different brands on a continuum of "subtle to direct" and "warm to brilliant" with absolutely no numbers other than price ranges. Otherwise, how do you quantify subtle/direct or warm/brilliant? How do you quantify "completed" and "practice" (looking at minutes of practice, without substance of practice, is not the whole story)?
Some of the concerns with the graphic could be addressed if the title were more descriptive. The title is so vague that there is no way to tell if the graphic is anecdotal, empirical, or aspirational, or if it's trying to make a causal statement. A better title or subheading can help.
Paul: "Surely two minutes searching Facebook and LinkedIn would reveal this important information ..."