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Adult String Learning – A Couple of Articles, and A 10-year Reflection
Topic Rating: 5 Topic Rating: 5 Topic Rating: 5 Topic Rating: 5 Topic Rating: 5 Topic Rating: 5 (9 votes) 
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SharonC
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January 23, 2024 - 1:59 pm
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I’ve listed a couple of good, recent articles about adult string learning below. 

The 2nd article opines that it takes, on average, an adult beginner to reach an intermediate level in about 10 years.  Having played for over 10 years now, I’m reflecting on my journey.

I believe that although I practiced more time-wise in my first 5 years, the last 5 years have been more productive.  I learned to be more efficient with my practice, but mainly I think my improvements have come because my last 5 years have been less frustrating. 

In the beginning, I was easily frustrated by what I saw as a lack of progress, and would be just plain angry during my practice sessions. 

Why is my bow not straight? 

Why do I keep getting that note wrong? 

Why do I keep screwing up this (phrase, tempo, arpeggio, hand shape, etc., etc., etc.,) Grrrrr!!!!!!

At some point, I changed my perspective; I stopped telling myself what I “should” have accomplished by this point, stopped measuring myself up against some kind of self-proclaimed model of worthiness. 

That is not to say I lack focus in my practice—on the contrary, I remain a goal-oriented type person, and have learned how to be better, and efficient, in my practice (it is important to distinguish between practicing, playing, and performing—very different focus).  It is just now my focus is on what I want to do, and not what I think I should be wanting to do.  There is a difference. 

And when I say better, I don’t mean perfect.  I still can get annoyed in practice sessions sometimes—but I can diffuse that now.  Sometimes that could mean just a refocus (“okay, let me just slow that down and take another look”), sometimes just walking away and coming back later (“I need some coffee”).  But no more thoughts that maybe I need some anger management classessmile

There are, in general, standard ways to approach learning skills & techniques—I have, for the last 8 years, had weekly lessons with an accomplished violin player & teacher.   But, for me, effective learning has an ebb & flow—there are just some times when I’m more focused than others (for whatever reasons), and I’ve learned to be okay with that.  And I am lucky enough to have a teacher who is supportive—meets me where I am at.  I would tell you that if you are considering private lessons, you need to find a teacher who recognizes that you an adult learner and not a child.  If he/she can’t differentiate, I’d advise you to just move on.  Some adults are just not built for the multiple Twinkle variations of Suzuki—no disrespect to Suzuki, it is a good method, but was developed specifically for child learners.

My point (yes, I have one) is just that as an adult learner, it’s okay to take time to discover what it is that you want on this learning journey—what is effective & desirable for you to remain motivated in learning this string thing.   

10 Tips on How to Stay Motivated As An Adult Beginner Violin Student

 

15 Tips for Learning Violin As An Adult in 2023

Characterize people by their actions and you will never be fooled by their words.

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ELCBK
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January 23, 2024 - 3:29 pm
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@SharonC -

Wow - those articles are a GREAT find! 

LOVE your perspective and really appreciate you shared such helpful tips/strategies for success! 

Some may think it's discouraging to start learning to play an instrument that takes so long to get good at, but there is SO MUCH to enjoy along the way! 

IMHO, the tips to stay motivated are important for a positive frame of mind.  I believe they feed off each other - anything I can see in a positive way will motivate me.

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SharonC
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January 23, 2024 - 8:37 pm
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@ELCBK  Thanks.  When I need motivation, I always try to think back to why I started playing in the first place.  If it were easy, everyone would do it, right? smile

Characterize people by their actions and you will never be fooled by their words.

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Cajun
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February 7, 2024 - 4:44 pm
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(it is important to distinguish between practicing, playing, and performing—very different focus) 

any tips for this?  i finally struck up the courage to play a tiny bit of "she'll be coming around the mountain" the week before last on a Zoom session and, audio issues aside, i could almost feel my hands shaking a bit as I tried to play.  As I had to replay twice over because of audio issues, I simply gave up and used my kids needing me as an excuse to drop off a short while later.

 

I feel like I should already have a slight grasp on this, given I was in martial arts for YEARS when I was younger and there's a similar "learning the form, perfecting the form, and performing the form for the judges at tournament/rank testing" structure but, amazingly, I'm pulling up blank.  well, not objectively, obviously, but emotionally/internally.  i feel like i practice like i'm performing, it has to be PERFECT every time, especially with short folk songs.

"Somewhere, something incredible is waiting to be known." - Sharon Begley

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ABitRusty
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February 7, 2024 - 6:10 pm
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"...I feel like I should already have a slight grasp on this,"

trying not to be preachy but dont do that..   theres no timeline on this stuff.  you are wherever you are.  And be prepared for when you suddenly feel like youre really progressing and see alot of things youll be doing juat around the corner...only to experience the feeling that youre regressing and getting worse.

I still have shakey bow in group from time to time...but it gets easier the more you do it.  It takes an effort to go to groups sometimes.  but on those days..they often turn out to be some of the best.

when you say zoom session im thinking maybe a one on one lesson?  same thing there..youll get used to being put on the spot after a while...everyone ive witnessed has nerves when that happens.  if its a group thing then even more understandable to be nervous.  its normal.

practice with some type of time reference.  metronome..drum track.. someone playing the tune that plays like you want to play.   a raw metronome click can be boring but it keeps you honest.  do this all the time.  if you dont then its falling back into the just playing category.

practice with some type of scale tone reference.. a drone thats the root of the key.. or the actual tune being played by someone.  Im sure you know.. but you can slow recordings down.  intonation is difficult.  more for some..me..so ive found it helps.

And..you can practice using tunes.  just because its a known melody doesnt mean it cant be practice to play it.   you just have to concentrate on sections you mess up on.  playing it start to finish with no critique is just playing...so Record yourself and try and make better what you dont like.  itll be everything but pick one thing and work just on that.  instead of starting over at the beginning of the tune every time you mess up a section.   play only that part in isolation for a while.  still using metronome.

youll hear or read the above alot..its common type help comments.. but in my experience it works.

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Mark
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February 8, 2024 - 12:26 am
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Cajun

We all face this issue, I had prepared a song for my lesson and was happy with how it sounded and how my timing was etc. When i played it for my teacher i fell apart like it was the first time going through it, i was furious with my self to the point I ended the lesson early. My teacher who had busked in Chicago every Saturday morning for years and went to Juliard told me she had the exact same experience with one of her teachers as I experienced. I can remember playing a solo in a service and my bow arm got tight that it bounced so bad it sounded like vibrato. I've forgotten notes and had to improvise until I could figured out where I was, scratch fill in the blank I've done it.

Yelp welcome to playing the fiddle.

Mark

P.s. it does get easier the more you do it, plus remember 99% of the people can't play as well as you do.

Master the Frog and you have mastered the bow.

Albert Sammons

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Strabo
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February 8, 2024 - 6:45 am
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Good thread, thanks @SharonC. 

Yes, we all know that violin is difficult and progress is slow. Frustration is commonly mentioned, for all kinds of reasons.

I do think it is helpful to understand why exactly each of us has taken this on. 

Like many others, I thought I could progress much more quickly than actually happened. Previous life experiences told me that I could learn new skills quickly and effectively. I was confident in my ability to confront new challenges and figure out how to overcome obstacles.  

Of course that darn violin did not cooperate like I expected. It resisted my efforts in so many ways. I didn’t give up, but I did notice that progress was slow, that it was taking a long time to get good at this. 

In other endeavors I had learned how to make good use of others’ expertise and know-how. Most people are happy to make suggestions, to provide tips and guidance, to share their perspectives. The consistent message from other adult violin learners was to take one step at a time, to be happy with small signs of progress.

One day it occurred to me that, while I’m not the greatest fiddler in the world, I am really quite a good Music Student. I do everything that a good Student should do. I have a good attitude, I pay attention, I learn something new every day. Etc etc. I am in fact hugely successful as a Student.

TL;DR: Once I figured out that my job is to be a Perpetual Music Student, everything became much easier.

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ABitRusty
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February 8, 2024 - 8:06 am
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@Strabo said

"Once I figured out that my job is to be a Perpetual Music Student, everything became much easier."

Yes...That exactly

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Cajun
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February 12, 2024 - 2:16 pm
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I thought I'd added a response to everyone a few days ago but it seems like it disappeared into the aether on my phone.

 

@ABitRusty no, session as in a group taking turns playing tunes, singing songs, etc.  I'm US Central Time so the two that I can best access ("best" being used VERY loosely here) are 2pm on Wednesdays (I think it's 8PM UK time) and 8PM Thursdays (6PM US Pacific).  I got a wooden metronome for Christmas, it's a bit loud to use inside but i'm trying to use it when I practice outside.  not very practical to take to church for music room practice though (now that i'm thinking about it, surprised there's not one out in the open... gonna dig around and see if i can find one).  i'm still in the "beginners" songs so like "May Song", "She'll Be Coming Round the Mountain... stuff that doesn't last more than a minute or so.  On the one hand, it's not great for playing for others.  On the other, it's great practice for spotting things i need to work on.

 

@Mark @Strabo i was very fortunate last week. i help in an ESL class at church as well and we had a visitor from Iowa who happened to play violin some 20 years ago just over a week ago.  I saw her at dinner before going to practice Wednesday night, asked her for 5 minutes for some basic questions (is my shoulder rest set up right? how's my bow hold? etc).  She wound up staying with me and somewhat tutoring me on some stuff for about an hour.  This was my first time ever getting to talk to another violinist (who wasn't under the age of 10 and more inexperienced than I am) in-person.  I have a lot to work on, obviously, but she said she was impressed with where I'm at given how long i've been playing and that i'm self-learning.  which.  #validation lol.  she tried playing mine a bit but after 20+ years was incredibly rusty in her own technique (who wouldn't be though?).  But i gave her this forum, a few other websites, and a few newer violinists like 2Set and Ray Chen, and a few youtube channels to check out once she gets home today or tomorrow.  Not sure if i've gotten her bitten by the bug again but I kinda hope she starts playing again, her eyes lit up when I was asking questions.

 

btw, did you know that rosin shards on a linoleum floor sounds like pop rocks?  (yeah, i accidentally broke mine during my "tutoring")

"Somewhere, something incredible is waiting to be known." - Sharon Begley

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SharonC
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February 12, 2024 - 4:15 pm
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Cajun said:

...I got a wooden metronome for Christmas, it's a bit loud to use inside but i'm trying to use it when I practice outside.  not very practical to take to church for music room practice though (now that i'm thinking about it, surprised there's not one out in the open... gonna dig around and see if i can find one) 

@Cajun There is a Seiko model metronome that I use that has both a volume control & earplug capability.  I mention it in one of my videos here (around the 2:25 mark) if you want to see what it's like:

https://fiddlerman.com/forum/s.....m/#p135423

Characterize people by their actions and you will never be fooled by their words.

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Cajun
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February 13, 2024 - 9:40 am
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OOH!  just gonna add that to the birthday wish list now... lol

"Somewhere, something incredible is waiting to be known." - Sharon Begley

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