Howdy from Texas y'all!
I'm still a newbie at the violin. I played when I was young and picked up the instrument again this fall after a 42 year break. I've been playing (again) about 2 1/2 months.
Reading music has been a problem for me. I played by ear (yep, you guessed it...Suzuki teacher) for about a year before I ever saw a sheet of music. It's still very difficult for me to know what key a piece of music is in. My violin teacher is having to teach me music theory as well as how to play.
I am having what I guess are typical newbie problems with bow speed and using the whole bow. I am left-handed so I seem to be picking up the fingering fairly well, I don't know if my bow trouble partly has to do with the fact that I'm not right handed.
I was hoping that you could share some tips that you found helpful when you were new, about playing, reading music, bowing, and maybe what you wished someone had told you when you were just starting.
My teacher has told me already to be patient, that it just takes time. It's hard when I can hear what it should sound like so clearly in my head and my hands just won't keep up.
Thanks in advance for the advice!
"It's hard when I can hear what it should sound like so clearly in my head and my hands just won't keep up. "
I can't offer any help..and the only thing I can say is that statement is how I feel when I play. Tone and speed are elusive and I feel your pain! I guess it comes down to sticking with it and make note of what HAS gotten better or easier and call those wins and continue on.
@JudyC - I would have to agree with @ABitRusty . I'm new, too, so I can't offer much help. I get very frustrated that I can't play most tunes up to speed. I am making improvement, but it is so slow. And, my tone (not so much intonation, but tone) needs improvement. I know a lot of that has to do with bow pressure and bow speed...another thing that is going slowly.
Your teacher is right. be patient. It takes time...a long time. My teacher tells me the same thing.
As far as reading music, I bought this book. (Please don't ask me how far I've gotten in it!) Let's just say I bought it more than 30 days ago. I'm only a few chapters in. Not so much because the book isn't helpful, but I have a real aversion to learning music notation since I want to learn by ear. (That statement ought to bring some great replies!)
Your post also reminded me of a post I made in my blog: Trying to Teach My Hands to Do What I Hear in My Head which is also the sub title of John Hartford’s 1997 video where he discusses and demonstrates many bowing styles and techniques, teaches several great tunes, and talks about what fiddling is for him.
Great ideas from Moonshadows!
@JudyC you are in luck! I'm also a leftie or is it lefty? Are you playing a typical 4/4 right hand violin? This is what I play.
I can certainly relate to the idea that the bow arm might be struggling because you're left handed. I believe this is somewhat true.
There seem to be differing degrees of "left handedness"...that last word is a concoction which I hope you'll understand. What I mean to say is, some left handed people can't do much of anything with their right hands other than the basic stuff while others are very dexterous. I think I'm somewhere in between. I can eat just fine holding utensils with either hand. I can bat either way but it feels unnatural batting right handed. I never trained my right hand to write, so I have trouble there. Much of it probably has to do with how we have trained ourselves over the years.
The violin has just as many things going on with both hands. In theory it would seem that left handed people would do better fingering with the left hand, however since the process of how we hold our left hand playing violin has so little correlation to anything else I tend to believe there's no skill we can "carry over" very well from anything else. I think this detracts from that argument. It's a very unnatural position no matter if a person is lefty or righty, and needs to be learned. The violin places a lots of demands on the brain all at one time.I know of some very good left handed violinists. There are likely many playing that you would never know they are lefty.
I'm glad you have a teacher. He or she is correct about having patience. Your muscle memory just isn't there yet and takes time to develop. As much as many adults, including me, hate to go slow..in the beginning it's all about baby steps.
Oh girl, my friend and I are in exactly the same position, and she is left handed, plays by ear....we love it!
Both going through the Suzuki books and fiddling at the same time, we are now mingling and getting tips off some fiddlers, they most recently told us to keep playing each scale, and speed up just with the scale, hitting every note perfectly, with good sound, full bow, half bow, slurring etc...it is helping. (I should have done this from day 1 - like everyone told me to!)
They also show us bowing techniques...which make a huge difference, although we will both admit we are terrible....its just practice, practice and more practice....that's the painful truth for our journey right now.
Reach out if you are near the Metroplex...we are heading off to some local camps next year and currently attend evenings where you learn a fiddle tune in 1 night along with people of like playing ability, and many who are awesome and don't mind stepping in with advice (which is wonderful!)...they are all super nice, it's a lot of fun.
OMG have to get these books, never seen these before - thank you!
My friend and I went through a stage of we have to get every book we can, to get better....I now realize I have to actually open the book, and get past the first page...and most of them are just way too hard for me...
@JudyC welcome to Fiddlerman.com from another Texan (since 1979 anyway). I live on a small farm east of the Dallas area. I started with violin in 1996, but broke it off after getting involved in building a house and commuting to Dallas for work.
Now that I'm retired, I have more time to practice, but still have "newby" issues like bowing straight, tone production, etc.
One thing I've found very useful is very slow bowing using the full bow and trying to get the fullest tone I can by varying the bow pressure. Using a mirror to keep the bow straight and watching the width of the string vibration gives me a good indication of how "effective" my bowing is. I do this on open strings or on fingered notes like the 3rd finger D on the A string which is easy to hit with the bow without raising my elbow too much.
Keep up the good work and above all have fun.
Bob in Lone Oak, Texas
@JudyC I'm still a newbie (though returned after a 60 yr break), and I can't claim I sound close to professional. I do something similar, but different from @bob. In my case, each practice I do long slow bow strokes on each string using the whole bow as well as each of the double stops (G-D, D-A, A-E). I go as slowly as I can while still getting some tone out of the string. I'm current up to a 16-count (faster than 16 seconds, maybe 10). My double stops are terrible, but improving.
I also do an exercise where on the down bow I remove a finger as I pass each quarter bow (lift pinky at 3/4 bow, ring finger at half, middle finger at 1/4 bow) and replace in the reverse order at the same places on the up now. My arthritic pinky just won't stay curved and this helps to relax it.
Welxome and Good luck!
Thanks so much for your great comments!
Hi Greg! We're only getting better from here.
I got the How to Read Music in 30 days book and am starting it now. I'll be picking up the other book later. Thanks Moonshadows!
Starise- Hey there lefty sister! Yes, I play a typical full sized right handed violin. I never knew there was such a thing as a left handed violin. I wasn't given that option when I was a child. I am still mostly left handed, though I can write (like a 5 yr old) with my right hand. I'm sure you're quite right about violin not correlating to any other skill.
Mimi- I am down by Austin. I'll have to investigate and see if there are any clubs or camps in my area. Thanks for the suggestion
Thanks so much for the bow exercises Bob and sf Bev- I'm working on not straying towards the bridge now. I keep so much attention on my left hand sometimes the right just goes to pot.
Fiddlerman, thanks a lot for your reply, and thanks for this website, I've gotten so much good information already.
I suggest the following app to help with learning music: Complete Music Reading Trainer - https://completemusicreadingtrainer.com
I found it and Love it. Note, when using it it shows notes on their lines or spaces, I mentally take each of those notes and use the finger to know the correlation on the violin.
It seems to be helping me. It's free to use (try) and cheap if you decide to use full version.