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Q: Looking for a Book on Learning the Violin (Music Theory)
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FinalPatriot
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July 3, 2013 - 5:09 pm
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Hello again everyone!  I've been away from these forums for quite some time due to work but thankfully, life has somewhat returned to normal.  As such, I'm going back to working hard on my violin but I'm starting to run into a problem and hope that you all might be able to make a recommendation for me.

I've been playing now for about 9 months and have a good bit of knowledge on the violin but where I really struggle is on my music theory and note finger placement/note recognition.  I have no issues with being able to identify notes on sheet music but trying to translate to the positions on the violin is something that really frustrates me.  I've found that I learn by ear so if I can hear something, I can generally repeat it but trying to play a song with just the music alone is a different story.  I'm also having a difficult time with theory in general as I've forgotten most of my training from when I was a kid.

Is there a guide/book that you all could suggest that might help me with positioning and music theory in general?

 

Thanks!

 

-Mark

 

"I know a girl who cries when she practices violin because each note sounds so pure it just cuts into her, and then the melody comes pouring out her eyes. Now, to me, everything else just sounds like a lie."

Conor Oberst
 
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DanielB
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July 3, 2013 - 6:10 pm
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I find playing from written score to be sort of like touch-typing, while playing by ear is more like typing in a chatroom.  Which is to say, related, but different skills.

And when I'm playing by ear, I rarely think of the note names unless I'm working something out to write down or transposing. 

Music theory info is pretty easy to find.  Even just hitting wikipedia will turn up more of it than most players will actually use.  Unless there is some specific part of theory that you feel you need for the way you play?

 

"This young wine may have a lot of tannins now, but in 5 or 10 years it is going to be spectacular, despite the fact that right now it tastes like crude oil. You know this is how it is supposed to taste at this stage of development." ~ Itzhak Perlman

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Picklefish
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July 3, 2013 - 6:52 pm
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The fiddlerman website has a nifty fingering chart for 8 different keys in first position. that can show you the available spots to put your finger in for the particular notes. If you know the finger patterns you can also figure out the particular note locations as well. Whole whole half, whole whole whole half. 2212221 for instance. There is also the method of using a tuner to find the notes and then put the little dots where they go.

If you just want a book that will take you through step by step I recommend either Essential elements for strings or All for strings. These are really simplified step by step with alot of theory. They are used in schools music programs. The tune a day books are really nice as well.

In my opinion the easiest way is to use the dots.

"Please play some wrong notes, so that we know that you are human" - said to Jascha Heifetz.

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FinalPatriot
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July 3, 2013 - 8:07 pm
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@DanielB :  Your analogy is perfect!  I can hear the notes in my head and so when I'm playing a song, I don't think much at all about the notes themselves. 

 

@Picklefish :  Thanks for the info on the books!  I had a position sticker on my violin but I found it actually made things worse in that I wasn't learning the tone.  There is a great little music shop down the road from my home so I'll drop by there and see what they have tomorrow.

"I know a girl who cries when she practices violin because each note sounds so pure it just cuts into her, and then the melody comes pouring out her eyes. Now, to me, everything else just sounds like a lie."

Conor Oberst
 
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RosinedUp
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July 3, 2013 - 11:07 pm
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I've taught music theory to myself and about a half-dozen others here.  I looked at a theory book a long time before there was a WWW and did not understand much of it, although I did at least remember some important terms.  Last Fall, in a month or so, I dug around on the web and learned the basics of pitch theory.  I got probably 85% of that knowledge from Wikipedia.

Probably you shouldn't expect to learn theory only from one book.  One problem is that authors and teachers are often shy of establishing the terminology needed to explain it well.  So things may be going along fine until the terminology or even the instructor's understanding falls short.  It is a challenge to get past those shortcomings to see the nature of things.

Edit:  Earlier I recommended The Complete Idiot's Guide to Music Theory, 2nd Ed.  I think it treats theory pretty well, but it does have a keyboard orientation, so you would at least need a violin book also.  The book review on amazon will help you choose something.

Whatever book (or no book) you choose for learning theory, be sure you understand the following terms and concepts (via Wikipedia and other websites) at some points along the way:

pitch

octave (as a doubling or halving of pitch)

semitone (as one-twelfth of an octave)

pitch class

scale

chromatic scale

tonic of a scale

tonic of a musical composition

interval

major scale pattern: 2212221

minor scale pattern: 2122122

key signature

relative keys

diatonic scale

diatonic mode

The difficulty of that much theory is comparable IMO to that of learning simple arithmetic operations, and it would bring you a basic understanding of pitch theory. Feel free to ignore those who would tell you it is difficult or useless to an ear player.  If you have questions you can ask on this forum or on the chat or elsewhere.

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RosinedUp
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July 4, 2013 - 7:37 am
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FinalPatriot said 

I have no issues with being able to identify notes on sheet music but trying to translate to the positions on the violin is something that really frustrates me.  I've found that I learn by ear so if I can hear something, I can generally repeat it but trying to play a song with just the music alone is a different story. 

It's said that a piece of music is a scale, but played in a different order.

If you consider a simple piece covered by just one key signature and no accidentals, the piece has no more than seven pitch classes (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pitch_class).  Usually such a piece will have exactly seven.

By identifying the key signature you know which fingering chart to look at and what scale to practice to support the playing of the simple piece in question.  You know to restrict yourself to the finger positions shown on the chart.

I learned The Ash Grove from sheet, without hearing it first.  It was a little like a kid reading a difficult sentence by just stringing words together.  Even though the kid might be able with difficulty to read each word, and in the correct order, they might not understand what the sentence means.  I felt very uncertain while playing the piece, and my playing was not fluent.  But  after a half hour or an hour or so, something clicked, and the piece somehow "made sense" musically, as when a complicated sentence is finally understood.

I would say that playing scales and arpeggios would help you get your fingers to go where they are supposed to go.  Find out the key signature and scale of the piece and then alternate practicing the scale and the actual piece.  To train your ear for scales you could play along with a recording of the scale or check your pitch with the electronic tuner as you play.  You can easily write the scale in MuseScore and play along with it.

 

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DanielB
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July 4, 2013 - 6:29 pm
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RosinedUp said
Feel free to ignore those who would tell you it is difficult or useless to an ear player. 

Some folks think theory doesn't go with playing by ear??   Well, it is possible for a person to play (whether via reading or ear) and to know very little theory.  I have known plenty of players like that over the years.

But being able to figure out whatever scale you need in whatever key, being able to figure out chords to use in arpeggios and etc yourself, it is useful.  If you can't, then you have to rely on someone else doing it for you, like finding a book that has what you need or a video or audio.  Finding that takes time.  More time than being able to do it for yourself.  If you have to buy books or etc, it can also be another expense.  And you may not find it *exactly* the way you would have done it.  There is also the benefit of having some understanding of what you are doing, which is generally useful with anything, music included.

But where theory *really* comes in useful for me personally is improvising or composing/writing/arranging.  Now, you may think you won't do those things.. LOL  But at some point, you'll want to. 

 

"This young wine may have a lot of tannins now, but in 5 or 10 years it is going to be spectacular, despite the fact that right now it tastes like crude oil. You know this is how it is supposed to taste at this stage of development." ~ Itzhak Perlman

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coolpinkone
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July 4, 2013 - 6:49 pm
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If I had to do the last 17 months over... I would still have taken my 12 lessons.. and yes.. that (god awful humiliating recital)... even more ... but if I was on my own, I would swear by the Essential Elements of Violin, and the Fiddlerman site.  ( I am currently on my own.. with my forum friends.. and two violin partners)

The Essentials book really breaks it down.. It starts with a D major scale..fingers on the violin and playing right away..which is what most people want to do in the beginning.. The site here has  so many videos that as I am learning I have been able to go back to videos that were over my head at the time and I can glean from them.

The members of the forum are helpful.  I don't have a lot to offer to help newbies, but the others here sure have been able to help me.  I find that getting involved and getting to know members here has been so useful.

I believe in Suzuki.  I have seen it and watch it work for young folks.  I bought the book in my beginning stages.  I could not figure out how to use it without a teacher.

As for playing by ear... even FM suggest it on his Twinkle video... he says.."even a young child can learn the notes by listening.."  I believe in that.  I hope to cultivate that into my learning.. and maybe by the time I finish this second year... we will see some great progress.

On my own..I plan to finish up the Essentials book and I am getting ready to buy the second book.

That is about all I know about that.. (in my best Forrest Gump voice)

 

Vibrato Desperato.... Desperately seeking vibrato

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DanielB
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July 5, 2013 - 4:01 am
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@FinalPatriot: Music theory is the study of how music works.  By itself, it is not likely to help much with finger placement as regards to knowing the place(s) where you can put a finger down on a string to play a particular dot.  A fingering chart and some practice are the quicker route to that.

I remember back when I was taking theory in college.  At the beginning of the class, the prof asked us to introduce ourselves and explain why we were taking the class.  One of the first people who had to answer said that they were taking theory to improve their playing.  The prof shook his head and said "Theory can't do that for you.  You could take years and years of theory and by itself, it probably wouldn't improve your playing."

I personally can't agree with that 100%, since I feel it can help with certain aspects of one's playing as I already mentioned in an earlier post.  It also is useful for understanding, analyzing or discussing a bit of melody or harmony.  But I can kind of see his point.  The improved understanding and discussion that some knowledge of theory allows is what I feel makes it worthwhile.

 

"This young wine may have a lot of tannins now, but in 5 or 10 years it is going to be spectacular, despite the fact that right now it tastes like crude oil. You know this is how it is supposed to taste at this stage of development." ~ Itzhak Perlman

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Fiddlerman
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July 5, 2013 - 2:28 pm
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I'll see what I can find. We sell a lot of Mel Bay books. Will try to remember to get back to you later. :-)

"The richest person is not the one who has the most,
but the one who needs the least."

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wookieman
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Hey, I'm using the "Essential Elements 2000 for Strings" book.  I find it to be PHENOMENAL!  I really am learning a LOT just by working through it.  I will say that I also have the Suzuki Method level 1 for violin, and I will say that if you are not already partially experienced with music theory, that this one will baffle your mind on the first page.  Like I said, the EE 2000 for strings is great.  It's designed for teachers to use to teach kids who have never touched a violin before.  Actually, the first 10 or so pages has you playing pizzicato, and just doing "bow builder" exercises.  I'm learning a lot, and getting good at reading the notes on the page because of it.  I personally REALLY recommend it!  And I AM a newb. 

There is no failure, only results.

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wookieman
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July 25, 2013 - 11:19 pm
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Fiddlerman said
I'll see what I can find. We sell a lot of Mel Bay books. Will try to remember to get back to you later. :-)

 

The EE 2000, is a Hal Leonard book.  Not sure if you've got those at the shop.

There is no failure, only results.

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Ginnysg
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July 26, 2013 - 12:54 am
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Like a few others I also use the "Essential Elements 2000 for Strings".  I'm about through the first book.

I also have Mel Bays "Theory & Harmony" book and am learning a lot from it.

“Music expresses that which cannot be put into words and that which cannot remain silent” 

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Ferret
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July 26, 2013 - 1:09 am
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Hi mate

If you have an iPhone or an iPad there are a couple of good apps available.

I downloaded a couple but being a 'by ear' person I haven't really used them. But they looked quite comprehensive thumbs-up

 

And, being an app they go where you go waiting to be used.

Seen it all. Done it all. Can't remember most of dunno ..... What was I saying???? facepalm

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Johannes
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July 26, 2013 - 1:53 am
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Like RU mentioned, I've found the Idiot's Guide to Music Theory, 2nd Ed to be very useful for general music theory.

Violin-specific, I've completed Violin for Dummies, 1st Ed, and all three Essential Elements 2000 volumes (1 and 2 were "Elements", 3 was "Intermediate Technique").

What I found is that the Essential Elements 2000 series provides excellent practice exercises at a good pace of learning, but are very short on theory and technical explanations; I switched back and forth between them and the more wordy Violin for Dummies after key chapters of Dummies (EE 1 after the first third, EE2 after the second third, EE3 after finishing Dummies) so as to be able to best use both.

On the other hand, Violin for Dummies is occasionally unclear or leaves more questions than answers in terms of both theory and technique, and in those cases online tutorials like FM's tend to be indispensable.

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Fiddlerman
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July 28, 2013 - 8:57 am
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Basically only sell Mel Bay at Fiddlershop for the moment wookieman, but that is because books are heavy and hard to predict their success.

"The richest person is not the one who has the most,
but the one who needs the least."

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