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Why Is Tool Use Frowned On
I have wondered why use of tools is frowned on. Tools are not crutches.
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cid
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July 3, 2019 - 8:38 am
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I have read, in many places, comments about using aids when learning bowing and fingering for instruments. This is a heated topic in some forums or e-mag articles, or blogs. Thankfully, it is not a heated topic here, just a topic. There are those in favor and those completely against it. There are those who have, what I feel is the best feeling about it; those who feel it is the decision and/or need of the individual student who determines their uses. Not everyone learns in the same way. I think these should be called, “tools”.

What I also find is that those vehemently against it have the misconstrued idea that this tool will be used forever. That this is a crutch, not a tool being used to help the student. Two points here.

1. Maybe that student needs the so-called crutch. Maybe this student does not have the ability to know when the finger is in the right spot as easily as others. Maybe that student needs to see where it belongs to at least get an idea where to begin. Without it, there is just a lot of guessing. Maybe this student cannot tell by hearing the tone right now. If the student thinks they are hitting the right spot but is off, that is the tone they are training their ears to. The tape is a guide for a place to start. Sure the strings need to be tuned properly for this method to work, but at least there is some starting point.

Hmm. Maybe that tape will help that student identify an out-of-tune instrument, “My finger is in the right place, but it does not sound right. Maybe my strings are out of tune.” That is something that student learned by using the tape. An unexpected benefit of those tapes.

2. The tool is temporary, for most (will get to that later). Some comments in many of the  online areas I have visited rant about the aids being used as if they are going to be used forever.

They will be removed when that student is ready to have them removed. Some comments can be very putting off, “I never use aids.” “You cannot learn with the tapes.” You cannot speak for that person in that way. If that person needs a tool, be it finger tapes, bow guide, the little things they put on bows to assist the hold, etc, telling that student, “You cannot learn with (whatever that tool is),” is defeating for that student who needs that tool. Maybe you did not need it, but others need them.

As far as them being temporary. Maybe someone enjoys playing the instrument and needs those tools forever. It could be a case where the memory of how it feels or should sound just does not work for that person. Should that person feel (s)he should not play that instrument and have fun because, to some people, you should not use tools? Certainly (s)he should play and have fun! Good grief. I think that when people who need the tools read comments cutting down the use of these tools, it belittles them and deters them from learning. I think that when someone asks about a tool, the comments about them not being used, should not be used, are just a crutch, “I never used them”, etc, do not help. I think the comments should be more positive. If the person could do it without the tool, the person would not be asking.

I wish when a question about using a tool is asked, comments about that tool would be as applicable to the question as possible. If you have not used it, why does it require a post in the thread asking about that tool, “I never used that”, to me it is demeaning that person for asking about a tool (s)he feels (s)he needs? I know it is not meant that way. But, that person could very well not be able to learn the instrument without that tool. I know those comments are meant to be encouraging, most of the time, and sometimes just made with no thought. As posters, we do not know the other posters’ situations.

When you learn to ride a bike, typically it goes, tricycle, bicycle with training wheels, bicycle. If you watch trampoline students they often times have a tether at the waist assisting with flips. For iceskating you usually start with double runners and go to single blade. Roller skating starts with four wheels spread apart and the skate attached to you sneaker, then the normal rollerskate boot. Even swings have special seats for little tykes to use. Many activities require tools when learning and steps to achieve the desired result.

I also do not think that in order for a person to play with an group that that person needs to have the finger tape tool removed from the fingerboard, especially a non-professional group. So that person needs that tool, so what? If that tool allows that person to play that instrument and have fun, tool or not, who cares? I would have no problem seeing someone using a tool in a group and having fun. “Go for it, girl!” That is my thinking.

I have not noticed much of the negativity here, but have read many blog posts and other forum posts with comments about tools being used as a negative, without giving thought that maybe you did not need any, but other people do. The replier to the post does not know what caused the poster to ask the question about that tool.

There is no “yes” or “no” to tool use. There was no post in this forum that caused this thread to be written. I have just been thinking about it and can’t figure out why people tend to look down on people asking about and using tools to assist, and many times, to make possible, a person to play an instrument. I think post repliers need to read the question about the tool and answer that question, and realize that there is a reason, you don’t know of, that that poster wants to know about that tool.

I may be putting finger tapes back on my cello and I don’t care. If it will help me, that is what matters. If I need them forever, I don’t care. If it allows me to feel better about my playing and enjoy it more, all the better. I have not failed, although when reading tool comments, that is what it seems to indicate, again, this is mostly from blogs, forums, video comments, etc. But I choose to have fun and play the best I can, in any way I can.

I have begun to realize that I was drawn into the idea that the use of finger tapes makes you a lesser cellist, violinist or violist. Have no idea how that happened. But, over time I have realized that it does not matter. It seems to be a badge of honor to remove them. I have decided I do not need that badge. If I need the tapes as a guide, so be it. It will be less of a struggle. Heck, who knows how many more years my joints will even allow me to play the instruments. I don’r want to be struggling all that time. It was much easier with the tapes, and more enjoyable.

One size does not fit all when learning or doing most things. These stringed instruments are a good example.

dazed

 

 

They call me, “Mellow Cello” 

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HP
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July 3, 2019 - 11:17 am
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I believe some of it stems from a mindset of "The old masters didn't use it, therefore it's bad." kind of thinking. I don't really mind the use of tools, as long as it doesn't impact the learning of a important skill. For instance, I'm not a huge fan of tapes. Way too many students becomes so obsessed by the visual cues, that they don't develop their ear as fast as they could have been without it. Not only that, but don't learn how to read the instrument (by resonance etc.). However, I don't think it's a bad thing to use tapes for a beginner to learn the difference between a natural/flat/sharp note and where to find these on the fingerboard. But as soon as the student knows where the notes are, the tapes should come off pretty fast. That's just my honest opinion. 

For bowing I don't really see much downsides to using bowing tracks or even pinkie houses. It's useful for developing the muscle memory, which is a good thing. 

'Armed with theory, practice becomes meaningful. Through practice, theory becomes fulfilled.' - Egon von Neindorff.

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Irv
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July 3, 2019 - 11:56 am
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@cid and others, but mostly cid.  

I doubt that I would have been successful in learning the cello if I did not begin with the lower tuning of a=434.  It would have been too hard to hold down the strings until I developed finger strength.  Is that a tool?  Absolutely.

From what I have read, young students do not learn how to tune pegs until after a year of lessons—their teacher does it for them at a beginning of a lesson.  Waste of valuable instructional time and the student always plays on an out of tune instrument.  Add lack of tape and what is a student to do?  Even here, mention of planetary tuning pegs causes concern.  Nonsense.

@AndrewH introduced me to the Tertis Viola.  So I got one.  Gang Busters.  Makes me wonder why violin and cello models are not made.

I am assembling test subject instruments to see if I can expand the hole in heart operation to fractional viola and cello.  Almost ready to go.  But not much interest on the forum.  I guess another tool.  

Research is what I’m doing when I don’t know what I’m doing.  —Werner von Braun

Without deviation from the norm, progress is not possible.         —Frank Zappa

Experience is a difficult teacher, it gives the test first and the lesson after.

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Pete_Violin
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July 3, 2019 - 12:21 pm
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@cid 

I took a while to read through carefully and consider all your points before responding to your post.  Some parts I re-read to better understand. 

So here are some of my thoughts...

First, to me, it is not a point of judgement or shame or any kind of classification of what kind of a player someone is when they decide to use any particular tool to aid in their learning.  If you think about it, everything we do to learn these instruments are tools.  Private lessons, online video tutorials, books, exercises, listening to and watching classical music and all forms of music.  Even adding something to the instrument like shoulder rests, chin rests..  these are tools we use all the time, some for life.  But they are just tools.

Having said this, my (albeit limited) understanding of string instruments is the learning process needs take a certain path for success.  Meaning that for a student to gain the most out of their instrument, there are certain things they need to understand physically, mechanically, and with regards to how they "feel" about the instrument.

Let me explain...

When students first begin, often string instruments are awkward, uncomfortable, painful to a certain extent, not well understood, and can be frustrating.  This is normal and expected.  And we have found there are many tools to alleviate/expedite/ease the transition from first day to feeling comfortable with the instrument.  And there really is nothing wrong with this as long as the student, and more importantly their teacher, understands that the tool is only an aid and the more critical part especially early on is establishing good foundations of form, posture, good habit, good ear (and listening), and understanding how you feel when you play correctly.

The "crutch" concept should also be explained...

This is talking about an "artificial" substitute for something that is used in place of something else.  Let's use fingering tape as an example... and please don't misunderstand... I am not saying that the use of fingering tape is detrimental to playing a string instrument.  However, this tool, like many, can become a crutch in a short period of time.  The reason is that the player can easily start to rely on fingering tape as a primary means to find the positions to place their fingers on the fingerboard.  Once this has happened, they have changed from using it as a tool to using it as a crutch.  

You may want to say, "so what?".  Well, the answer is as complicated as the music the student will be playing.  By this, I mean that as the music becomes more complicated... more complex.. more demanding... it will be more and more difficult to be able to work with fingering tape and play more advanced music.  Eventually, it will become impossible to use the tool, so the question is really has the teacher made sure to transition the student from using tape to using muscle memory and their ear for queues to play with good intonation, as these will serve the student far better as they advance musically.

I used fingering tape for about 4 months on the advise of my teacher.  At first they were helpful.  They provided a way to build the muscle memory to begin with in first position.  But after about month 3 I noticed that I was constantly looking at the fingerboard to find the tape.  It had become a habit.  This was a problem for me because I also got into other bad habits of not looking at my music.  I would lose my place all the time.  I would tend to memorize music so that I would not have to keep my eyes on the music.  I would constantly watch to make sure my fingers were in the right place.

To this day, I still struggle with this.  I am much better at keeping my eyes on the music and I trust my muscle memory better.  My ear is better at hearing the intonation.  But I can attribute many of my bad habits to the bad use of fingering tape.  Please note that it was not the tape itself, but how I used it.  And my teacher should have recognized this earlier as well.

It is not a question of shame or status, or even whether a player wishes to continue using any given tool.  For me, it is more a question of how a tool is used and whether the tool can eventually be taken away so that the player can play naturally without the aid of the tool.

- Pete -

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Mimi Aysha
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Good stuff! Don't you think the way we learn as adults is different, some with repetition, some have to read, some can hear the tune, some can memorize, some can't....there are variables....and surely anything that helps is worth it.

I recently bought replacement tuners, I had watched more than 1 video saying that professionals use 1 fine tuner. Even the lady in the store asked why! Well I could not get the thing in tune, shoot I'm gonna spend longer tuning than playing, so I put them on...plus I'm not a professional heading up an orchestra (at least not in this lifetime!) 

I think anything you can do to cross that little hurdle, when your learning shifts to tunes and technique rather than just struggling to hit the right note and people actually start to recognize the tune you are playing!...does it really matter how you got there...

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Jim Dunleavy
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The world of classic music in general and violinists in particular seems to be plagued by stuffed shirts who claim to know the 'proper way' to do it all and are contemptuous of any other way.

Ignore them and carry on playing. 🙂

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Gordon Shumway
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I remember once saying here that I never used tapes, but I'm more than 99% sure I didn't imply that people shouldn't. Violin may be easier than cello in that respect. I think the problem is not that you use tapes, @cid, it's that you had previously posted about using mixed and matched professional string sets, which seems a little inverted, prioritywise. The thing about all these string instruments is that the ears need to be trained as much as the fingers (the ear training is very specific, I have found: when I played piano, I used my ears very differently), and I wonder if tape will prevent one's ears from learning, if relied on too much. The general tone of all your posts seems to me to be one of self-dissatisfaction. I think the best thing is for you to put on the tapes and do things in the right order: - learn where to put your fingers, learn how to intonate with your ears (more precisely than by tape), learn how to get good tone, irrespective of what strings you are using. Very slow scales listening to every note.

I talk a big game. I am not confident about my own playing. Somewhen in September will be my first anniversary. I feel I should celebrate it by buying a camera and recording myself, but I am terrified (I'd better do it an hour after I've taken my beta blockers!). When I imagine how I'd play something, I hear myself sounding like Yehudi Menuhin. Then when I play it, it's always an unpleasant surprise how big the gulf is between how I imagine it and how it actually sounds (lol).

Andrew

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cid
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July 4, 2019 - 8:23 am
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@Gordon Shumway I think it is much easier to get it right with the violin and viola. It is very odd. They are all three kind of odd to hold or rest in the proper position. I tried to figure out why once by first dong the cello and trying to remember how that felt when I pulled out the violin. Of course, they were different, but I could not figure out why that difference had so much of an affect. I finally figured that it must be the way the muscles and joints work in the two different contorted holds.

Oh, no, you never said you should not use tapes, I don’t think anyone here ever did. I hope I didn’t imply that somewhere in my meandering thoughts. The one site we have discussed on this forum has had posters very much against them, as well as some very much for them. I was just wondering why this creates so much controversy. It seems odd to me. There were other threads I came upon in forums that still have posts up, but the forum itself is no longer used, there were also blogs. It has been a group of different forums and blogs

I wasn’t really talking about me, personally. I just do what suits me, now. Just general feelings that come out about the use of tools.

As far as strings, I have just always been very sensitive to the type of tone. One of my six older brothers purchased a stereo (remember those?) It was an inexpensive one.  He set it up in our livingroom. Later, my oldest brother bought a more expensive stereo. He set it up in the livingroom. I used to play the first less expensive, less frills stereo. The sound out of the speakers was so much better. It was nice and full (not talking loud). The other one seemed weak and hollow. It looked really neat (at least I thought so at age around 8 or 9), it held more 45’s or albums on the stack spindle, but the sound, to me, was not as pleasant. I just could not stand it. It bothered me a lot at that age. I preferred to use the less expensive one and stop what I was doing and change out the 45’s and albums more often.

The intonation of the albums did not change, it was the overall sound that was affected. That difference of the albums being played on the more expensive stereo made the enjoyment of my 45’s and albums on the more expensive stereo simply impossible. So, the strings are not because I expect a greater accuracy in sound. I really have an aversion to the basic sounds of some strings. If an A is spot on on a set of tinny or brash or sharp sounding strings, I cannot stand it. It does not register with me. It grates and I just automatically tune it out, sometimes I literally stop bowing and hesitate a little while. I can’t help it. As a result, trying to remember the tone and connect it to the fingerboard, does not work.

I think that for older string instruments students, our ears may not be as sharp and maybe we need the tools available for a longer period of time, or forever. If a musician learned when her/his ears were younger and sharp, they would not have had this issue. I think that is the case in the blogs and other forums. They learned with younger, more acute ears. Maybe the issue does not “resonate” with them, 😂.

Again, I was just wondering why the strong feelings about the use of tools. I am not against whatever works for someone to do what they want to do and get enjoyment from it. Do I like the look of my cello without tapes? Sure, because I think the stringed instruments all look so elegant. Will I be disappointed if I have to put them back on? Maybe a tad, but not because I had to put them back on, but because I think the cello looks better, 😁. Would I try to talk someone out of using any tools, even if the progress I made at yesterday’s lesson holds? Nope. Some people may just find it hard to impossible to train ears, even young ears. If there is something that will help, go for it. But for that reason, I think answering the questions about the particular tool, when asked about it, is more helpful. Maybe the questioning person has an issue and absolutely needs to use that tool, no matter what tool it is. That is what bothered me with the other blogs and forums. Physically, that questioner may need that tool, and (s)he should not have to tell them their physical reason for needing it.

I understand the training of the ear and all, so you know what the tone or note should sound like, but that does not tell you where it is on the string, at least until you have that general idea ingrained in your hand and memory, which is where the tape helps. Eventually, most people make the connection, I believe. I might or might not make the connection, at least permenently. Who knows. The connection was made at my lesson yesterday after it was explained much more clearly by my instructor. Hopefully, it will continue today when I get my cello out, it was still there when I got home. We will see. If it does not, I will put tapes back on, I really am not bothered by it anymore. We will see, but it did work yesterday during my lesson after my instructor explained further.

My original post, was really just thinking about everything I have read, and then wondering why the big deal about any kind of tool used and the strong feelings for and against them. This puzzled me from the beginning. I remember asking about them in another forum, and wow, the pros and cons. It was very odd. I cannot remember my question, but it was never answered. What struck me was the controversy and the strong cons.

From reading cons, it was like if you cannot do an instrument without a tool, you simply should not do it. Then I got to thinking, why? Why, if a tool makes it possible for someone to do something, why are some people (again I am not talking about this forum) so dead set against it being used?  Heck, it could be just our older ears! A lot of us here, who are beginning, might not be hearing the tones clearly and will need those tapes as a guide. Our ears are not going to get younger as we continue learning the instruments. That is one reason for permanent use. It is not perfect, but for that person, (s)he will get more enjoyment. I was just wondering about it the other day. It just seems odd.

I cannot stress enough, I was wondering this for a while, before I found this forum in December. There is no way that I would even question this elsewhere, 😁.

They call me, “Mellow Cello” 

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cid
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@Mimi Aysha Just read your post after posting my post above. We seem to be on the same track with the ears! I forgot about one of the people who worked with me on my cello couldn't figure out why I needed the tapes. I used them anyways. That was over a year ago. That is what bugs me. Maybe they don’t need them, probably learned when the ears were younger. I don’t get the questioning of, “why”. 

I was also asked why I wanted to get fine tuners put in my viola. The tailpiece just had the A string fine tuner. The violin shop told me they would change out the tailpiece for a full set of fine tuners because it was set up more for professional use, if I wanted. I gave it a shot as is. When I brought it in for geared pegs, I had them do the tailpiece with a set of fine tuners, as well. A worker at another music store I was talking to could not understand the use of fine tuners. This was not because I had geared pegs installed. I did not mention that. We were just talking about fine tuners. I told her my viola came with just the A tuner and I had the set put on. “Just turn the pegs!” I had major issues trying to do that, too flat, tad sharp, tad flat. On and on like that.

I think it is hard for inexperienced students, young or old, to tune by pegs. My very very first cello lesson. I had a rental cello. My instructor told me to always tune from the fine tuners, “Don’t turn the pegs at the scroll. You will break the strings if you use the pegs,” she said. Ever since, I have been very scared or nervous just to change out the strings! Now, talking to this music store worker and she says to not use fine tuners and turn the pegs. Makes my head spin.

I seriously am afraid to tune my instruments because I have to turn the pegs at the scroll. That instructor was very forceful when she told me that, and I cannot get it out of my mind. Every time I touch a peg, I hear her.

They call me, “Mellow Cello” 

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MoonShadows
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@cid I would like to thank you for starting this topic. I am finding it very interesting.

I think the world of musicians there will always be the "purists" who will shun any kind of tool, for themselves and others, for various reasons, as well as those who will use whatever is available to help them, from the practical to far-fetched "gimmick", whether it is truly helpful or not. Then, there is the majority of folks who fall somewhere in between these two extremes.

While the end goal is the same, to learn an instrument, I think a lot of how one tries to achieve this goal depends on their particular learning style, whether they are aware of how they learn best or just gravitate towards ways that assist them in learning.

There are several ways a person can learn a musical instrument based on their style of learning.

Auditory learners use their ears to process information. They learn best by hearing information. Musically, they can recognize rhythm and melody.

A kinesthetic learner uses their sense of touch to retain information. Movement helps them, and their muscle memory develops quickly.

A logical learner will best catch on to concepts, patterns and relationships. Numbers also tend to make sense to these learners.

A social learner often learns best with other people.

A solitary learner is the exact opposite of a social learner. Solitary learners prefer to process information and practice by themselves. They like to follow a self-paced plan.

Verbal learners need to talk things through to increase understanding. Whether it’s with other students or just their instructor, conversing about a concept will help them process information faster.

Visual learners process information that they can see - it is helpful for them to have visual examples such as diagrams and drawings.

I am not a good auditory learner, and never liked social learning (think classroom, group projects, etc.). I am very much a kinesthetic, logical, solitary and visual learner. Perhaps that is why I prefer teaching tools (aides), online lessons by myself, make notes and write about my learning (my blog-Fiddling for Older Folks), have no desire to join a jam session or orchestra and more.

Think about how you learn best (not just cid but everyone reading this thread), and I will bet you that is the style or combination of styles of learning your instrument that you gravitate towards, and if not careful think is the "best", while it may only be the best for you and what facilitates your learning.

Not my complete thoughts on this topic, but what I have to share right now. I am sure as I read more posts, and further contemplate this topic, I will add more.

Jim

Fiddling for Older Folks - Adventures in Learning to Play the Fiddle as an Adult

The Friends of the Sons of Liberty - Three Inspiring Young Men playing Early American Fiddle Music 

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Irv
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@cid .  Another tool I find useful is the silent (pick a string instrument).  It allows practice any where at any time with out bothering others.  

Research is what I’m doing when I don’t know what I’m doing.  —Werner von Braun

Without deviation from the norm, progress is not possible.         —Frank Zappa

Experience is a difficult teacher, it gives the test first and the lesson after.

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cid
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@Irv How does that work? How can you hear it? You only pick and not bow? I could Google it, but thought others might want to know.

I could Google most of what I ask here, but figure there is a slight chance someone else might want to know to do something I ask about, or just want to know about something I ask about. I have so many questions about each. facepalm

They call me, “Mellow Cello” 

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Mimi Aysha
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AND - I'm with ya Cid - to all the little pegs out there, what's the deal?...I wouldn't even get close, one itsy little twist and I'd be a whole note out...so not ready to part with my fine tuners!

Fiddlers....they'll comment "oooo great fiddle" with my mix match of fine tuners and strings - I wonder why change out a good G and D string, I just replace as they wear out, if it sounds good, I figure, just go with it...

But this is not a career goal for me, I'm an old bean - I want to learn, because I'm having a blast!... After raising kids, and working all these years, I think...

"It's your turn....it's your journey, get and use the tools you need to fulfill your dreams of playing, you are worth it!"

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MoonShadows
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Mimi Aysha said 
But this is not a career goal for me, I'm an old bean - I want to learn, because I'm having a blast!... After raising kids, and working all these years, I think...

"It's your turn....it's your journey, get and use the tools you need to fulfill your dreams of playing, you are worth it!"

  

I like that philosophy. Mimi!

Jim

Fiddling for Older Folks - Adventures in Learning to Play the Fiddle as an Adult

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cid
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What I meant here in my post a couple posts up:

I seriously am afraid to tune my instruments because I have to turn the pegs at the scroll. That instructor was very forceful when she told me that, and I cannot get it out of my mind. Every time I touch a peg, I hear her.

I meant that:

I am afraid and nervous to change my strings because you have to use the pegs, not the fine tuners, until you are about there.

I wish that first instructor had not been so scary when she said it. I take things literally and don’t often forget a warning, other things, yes.

They call me, “Mellow Cello” 

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Irv
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@cid .  When I began to learn the violin, I purchased a second hand cecilio solid body violin so I would not disturb my wife.  I did practice using a set of head phones.  As my bowing improved, I found that the “silent” violin made enough sound that I abandoned the head phones.

I am now also attempting to learn the cello.  Using steel core strings, the solid body cello easily produces enough sound that I can practice without head phones.  But my wife in an adjacent room would have to strain to hear anything from it.  

Research is what I’m doing when I don’t know what I’m doing.  —Werner von Braun

Without deviation from the norm, progress is not possible.         —Frank Zappa

Experience is a difficult teacher, it gives the test first and the lesson after.

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cid
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July 4, 2019 - 7:49 pm
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Isn’t a solid body cello really heavy? Wasn’t the solid body violin heavy on your shoulder?

Somebody has to ask you these questions! LOL

They call me, “Mellow Cello” 

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Irv
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July 4, 2019 - 8:06 pm
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I never bothered to weigh the difference, but I would say no.  Cecilio acoustic violins (which would be my comparison base) tend to be heavy except the mendini mv 500.  The silent violin is definitely lighter than a glasser carbon fiber violin.

The same applies to the cecilio solid body cello.  

Research is what I’m doing when I don’t know what I’m doing.  —Werner von Braun

Without deviation from the norm, progress is not possible.         —Frank Zappa

Experience is a difficult teacher, it gives the test first and the lesson after.

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cid
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July 4, 2019 - 8:19 pm
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That is interesting, Irv. I figured solid body, a lot more weight.

They call me, “Mellow Cello” 

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July 4, 2019 - 8:44 pm
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@cid .  Perhaps you are taking the term “solid body” a bit too literally.  They have a very skeletonized frame.  Have you ever looked at one?

Research is what I’m doing when I don’t know what I’m doing.  —Werner von Braun

Without deviation from the norm, progress is not possible.         —Frank Zappa

Experience is a difficult teacher, it gives the test first and the lesson after.

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