Restarting my Violin life

August 30, 2023, 8:01 PM · Without telling my entire life’s story these are the facts -
I started playing violin at the age of 20, I’m now 32. I wanted to be a professional and study violin performance In college even though I got a late start. At some point a few years ago many situations changed in my life and I ended up changing my major in college to visual arts and I no longer was able to practice for hours and hours every day like I used to. I kept going to lessons weekly but that has become the only time I am playing violin for one hour a week.

Now the instrument feels completely foreign to me and my confidence on the instrument is gone even though some aspects of my technique have remained. I’m very discouraged and sad about what was once the most important thing in my life being lost to me.

I told my teacher this and we started from the beginning with Suzuki books.

Does anyone have any suggestions for me aside from what I’m already doing by starting over with Suzuki books? My main issues are intonation and reading rhythms.

Keep in mind I work full time and go to college full time so I have maybe 30 minutes a day for practice if I’m lucky now.

Replies (7)

August 31, 2023, 1:30 AM · Before the violin started feeling foreign to you what kind of repertoire were you playing? Depending on the level you were at you might just need to whip your chops back into shape with some etude books and some easier repertoire rather than starting all the way over with the Suzuki books.
Edited: August 31, 2023, 7:28 AM · For intonation, get fresh strings and make sure your violin is still set-up properly. Check with luthier, if necessary.

For building back your technique, start with the simplest thing that you can do well and build from there. Scales in only the position, for example.

August 31, 2023, 11:01 AM · I was playing some of the easier Bach sonata and partita movements and the etudes of Kayser and kreutzer. The rhythm reading issue is a real problem though, I never had a teacher who could help me with that, even when I studied music In college the aural training classes basically just said “pick a rhythm counting method and teach yourself” which I sort of did but that was years ago by now. I have rhythmic training books and apps but it would be nice to be able to progressively increase my rhythmic training along with my violin playing since I am so starved for time.
August 31, 2023, 11:35 AM · Rhythm is something you can practice anywhere, anytime. You can just pick a rate (i.e., time signature) and sets of note lengths and do it.

If you have difficulty translating rhythm on a page to rhythm in real time try going the other way - that might require pencil and paper - or at least visualization.

I carry a couple of "time signatures" in my head (60 and 120 beats per minute) and the "average of those" (i.e., 90 beats per minute) is easily intuited therefrom. Any of those can be subdivided by 2, 3 or 4. "Dotted notes" are just summing the subdivisions in different ways.

It does not hurt to try "sight reading" music "in your head" without your instrument. This might help you learn the pitch intervals before you play them. I've been playing for a long time and sometimes, when I come across music I do not recognize, doing this "silent sight reading" is all it takes to realize I have played that before, or at least heard it.

August 31, 2023, 4:41 PM · Try some fiddle tunes, great for rhythm and intonation, very few leave first position and will get you back into playing. Once you get the feel maybe it will all come back.
Edited: August 31, 2023, 5:10 PM · My teacher started me back to Suzuki Book 4 after listening to my Mozart 3. I actually performed a Seitz concerto movement in one of his studio recitals after returning to the violin for a few months after 25 years off! So don't feel bad. Many of us have had this experience and we're here to support one another! Go returners!!!

My suggestion is, make sure you have the right teacher. If you do, then dive into their tutelage and make the best of things for yourself. Find a book of studies that will provide an appropriate (not insane) level of challenge. "Instrument is foreign to me" then try Wohlfahrt 60 studies (Rachel Barton Pine edition!!!) and if that's too easy then Kayser. Kayser is considered "low level" but trust me -- it's not all that easy to play those studies really well.

Me? I now enjoy life as a violinist in a chamber orchestra, and a violist in a different chamber orchestra, and a member of string quartet club where mostly I play viola. Our next "date" is for a Haydn quartet and ... drumroll, please ... Schubert's "Death and the Maiden" quartet. Last week we did a Haydn and the Rosamunde which was awesome but easier.

Don't worry so much about "reading" rhythms. Worry about *playing* them. If you can be rhythmically accurate with practice, that's going to be fine. For most of what you're likely to do with your violin, sight-reading probably won't be hugely important, and it WILL improve with time. There have been many many many threads on that already.

September 1, 2023, 2:31 AM · there will be (and there is already) plenty of very good advice but I wanted to give you one other perspective

I am an adult learner/amateur and as such I work 13 hours a day 6 days a week and have done for YEARS.

I started learning about 13 years ago, then had to stop after 5 years, then started again and then stopped after 2 years, I stopped for a whole 5 years nearly 6.

When you stop and you are 'intermediate' (lower intermediate), all you have learnt goes away much more quickly than if you stopped at an advanced level.

Even though I am an amateur I am 'very' serious about my learning, I am some very slight aspergers traits to me although I am not on the spectrum and I demand a lot from myself all the time...this makes it even more difficult, but can pay huge rewards too.

I restarted after my 5+year break 2 and a half years ago, I had to restart on suzuki book 2, fast forward now and I am learning the Eccles sonata in Suzuki 8 (after 2 and a half years), my EXTREMELY experienced teacher (she teaches professionals so she knows a thing or two) has just started me on scales in 3rds (3 octaves all keys 'up to D major/minor), this is a compliment to me as if she believes I am ready to start them then I must be approaching a higher end of intermediate!

I recently 2 weeks ago started learning ricochet, this is of course not the most difficult stroke, quite contrary, however it is something that it is not usually taught to beginners....

what have I changed in my approach mentally?

I STOPPED CARING (or rather WORRYING) about how fast I am progressing and how good/bad I am...please do not misinterpret this, I 'do' care if I sound in tune and have good tone/phrasing etc, but I look at it 'objectively' now

My teacher has also taught me a lot about letting go of tension and fear, mistakes and bumps happen and it's just 'information' for your learning.

I also took a couple of hypnotherapy sessions to 'reset' my mindset and has helped.

There is only one thing for sure: if you give up or not practice then it will not happen, but consistent focused practice even if only half a hour a day WILL help you improve

do not be disheartened by having gone right back, the second time you walk up the hill it is not as hard! I KNOW!!!

after all now you have decided this is not going to be a professional job so relax, take a breath, and learn how to look after yourself, the violin will follow!!!

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