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Learning Process
Which direction in learning is best?
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DrMike
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January 10, 2020 - 5:21 pm
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Good day, I have been looking and seeing videos of people playing a song their first week and they are doing great. My question is in regards to process.

I am an old man who is starting to play and rather than working on a song I am working on Bowing control and finger movement first along with correct finger placement on notes running scales.

Which way is better, working on a song or the path I have chosen. Note: I am a life long perfectionist and just can't help it. I am also committing 2-4 hours daily to learning in 30 minute intervals with 10 -30 minute breaks. 

Suggestions welcome!

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Sasha
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January 10, 2020 - 5:58 pm
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.I am going with a somewhat balanced approach myself on it.  I split my time between scales, etudes and repertoire.

The etude time for me right now includes a lot of pure open string bowing exercises working on getting a feel for the bow and sound.

I am sure I could rocket ahead on repertoire, and learn a bunch of songs, but I would not play them well.  Oh, they would probably be in time and with acceptable intonation, but my tone would not be good, nor would they be particularly musical.

For example, this last week I have been working on Go Tell Aunt Rhody.  I could sight read it through first time playing it and have had it memorized after playing it the second time, but it has been my focus all week, and a good song to practice and experience musically longer detache bowing.

So, even though I could have just worked scales and open strings, working on that song helped loosen up my bowing a lot over the last week, as well as making it more musical.

I guess that is one theme of mine, purposefully trying to make everything musical, from scales to open strings.  Which, really should be the approach, but I think it is easy to forget, and part of the experience is lost if I only do technical exercises.

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starise
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January 10, 2020 - 6:18 pm
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I'm not sure if there is a set prescription. The Suzuki method is quite popular as a way for beginners to advance. The way it all started was Suzuki began training children at younger ages than was common at the time. When these children began to be noticed everything pointed back to Suzuki as everyone wondered how such young children could be playing so well so young. Teachers from all around the world  came to hear the children and understand what Suzuki was doing. From there the curriculum spread and has become a staple training program for both children and adults.

The Suzuki books tend to use selected music as technique training in measured steps.Some of the material Suzuki wrote himself and some of it is the masters like Bach. Some of the exercises are technique designed to look like a song. The fingerings aren't always the ones you would use in a typical situation and are instead intended to be more difficult for learning purposes. 

I began to learn songs in Irish sessions. Later on I understood that this was leaving holes in my learning so now I augment with songs and mainly learn through the Suzuki method. Violin builds on a prior foundation. If you can't do X first well then you can't do Y. If you can't do Y well you can't do Z..........so in this respect attempting to circumvent or jump ahead to the more complex training won't work.

Don't ask me how I know that smile

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AndrewH
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January 10, 2020 - 6:28 pm
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I'd suggest doing both if you can. A good practice routine for all levels is to start your practice session with technical exercises, then spend some time on repertoire, and then finish with 5-10 minutes on either one new technique you're learning or one technical weak spot. The technique at the beginning serves both as a warm-up and to solidify past learning, then you apply it to repertoire, and finally the little bit of technique at the end is extra useful because the last thing you practiced it sticks in the brain more easily. The amount of technical practice at the beginning varies with what I have on my plate. If I have a lot of music I need to learn, then it's about a quarter of my intended practice time; if my orchestras are idle and I'm just practicing for myself it may be up to half of my intended practice time.

Also, you can combine the two: practice segments of the piece you're working on with a focus on technique.

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Fiddlerman
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January 13, 2020 - 7:55 am
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I also suggest splitting your time. Your approach is great DrMike but you need to take the time to enjoy what you are doing as well. It's also my belief that if you do it right, the pieces that you play can be etudes as well. You can analyze your bowing, intonation, dynamics, and much more while playing fun pieces of music.

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Gordon Shumway
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January 14, 2020 - 5:42 am
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What Andrew and Fiddlerman said, although warming up is maybe a very personal thing and varies depending on how far you have got in your studies. I'd recommend slow scales with much attention paid to tone quality (i.e. bowing) and especially to the intonation of each note (and the comfort of each left-hand finger). For me and Andrew there's orchestra to worry about, so after scales and as hard a study as I can cope with, I work on orchestra pieces.

There are two approaches to music -

a) make it fun (for kids or grown-up kids). This is why you'd play a tune a week, but maybe neglect good bowing.

b) make it good, what you (and I, a beginner 16 months ago at 58) are doing. For some people this approach kills their interest unless some fun can be introduced into it.

Suzuki isn't really a method unless you've got a Suzuki teacher. Without the teacher, Suzuki is just a collection of (sometimes rather tedious or tendentious) graded* tunes. Anyone else's graded collection is just as good. Here in the UK we tend to favour ABRSM (to be fair, also capable of being very boring). Suzuki seems to me to be a little cultic, so I am wary of it.

* such grading is not without contention. For example, in Suzuki 7 there's a Corelli piece that features much earlier in other collections, but maybe the bowing style affects its difficulty.

Andrew

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DrMike
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January 14, 2020 - 6:05 am
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May I suggest an exercise that I have started.

Each day I am watching

It plays notes in perfect pitch and shows what the note is on the screen. They play each randomly for probably 30 seconds then it changes.

While each note plays I play the note on the violin concentrating on my finger placement, bow hold, perfect bow draw, etc.. I have printed fiddlerman's sheet showing note placement on the violin so that I can see exactly where each is located.

I think it is helping me learn every note in first position along with exactly what its pitch should sound like.

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Gordon Shumway
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January 14, 2020 - 6:11 am
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That's a little arid. The violin is more than just a tone generator.

Scales would contribute more to your musical awareness.

Andrew

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January 14, 2020 - 7:47 am
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Gordon Shumway said
What Andrew and Fiddlerman said, although warming up is maybe a very personal thing and varies depending on how far you have got in your studies. I'd recommend slow scales with much attention paid to tone quality (i.e. bowing) and especially to the intonation of each note (and the comfort of each left-hand finger). For me and Andrew there's orchestra to worry about, so after scales and as hard a study as I can cope with, I work on orchestra pieces.

There are two approaches to music -

a) make it fun (for kids or grown-up kids). This is why you'd play a tune a week, but maybe neglect good bowing.

b) make it good, what you (and I, a beginner 16 months ago at 58) are doing. For some people this approach kills their interest unless some fun can be introduced into it.

Suzuki isn't really a method unless you've got a Suzuki teacher. Without the teacher, Suzuki is just a collection of (sometimes rather tedious or tendentious) graded* tunes. Anyone else's graded collection is just as good. Here in the UK we tend to favour ABRSM (to be fair, also capable of being very boring). Suzuki seems to me to be a little cultic, so I am wary of it.

* such grading is not without contention. For example, in Suzuki 7 there's a Corelli piece that features much earlier in other collections, but maybe the bowing style affects its difficulty.

  

I admit I wasn't a big fan of Suzuki before I got a teacher. I jumped on board with the training after she recommended it. Agreed there is a huge difference between taking that method alone and taking it with a Suzuki teacher. The main difference I notice is I would have never repeated the material as often as she makes me play it if I were playing through the books all by myself. We continually go back to many of the things we had gone over before as re enforcement of a technique or for practice routines. We work on other material as well. 

I don't think there really is a good replacement for having an "in person" teacher if she or he is a good teacher. There are lesser replacements but none as good IMHO.

I find some of the Suzuki material fun to play and it feels good to learn a technique even if the process was grueling. I still play my Irish music every night plus other music.

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Sasha
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January 14, 2020 - 9:16 am
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People put a lot of stock in perfect pitch, but it’s pretty overrated.

Relative pitch has a lot more musical value and is a lot easier to train.  Scales, arpeggios, sequences will will help develop that pitch in a musical way.

if you like that tone matching, there are interval trainers out there that would probably be a better context.

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AndrewH
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January 14, 2020 - 5:06 pm
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I'm of the opinion that perfect pitch is actually a handicap on violin-family instruments, for two reasons.

First, not all groups tune to exactly the same pitch. Many Baroque orchestras tune to A=415, and some orchestras tune to 442 or 443. When reading chamber music for fun, I'm often not even sure what frequency I'm tuning my A to, because impromptu chamber ensembles tend to just make sure their As match and leave it at that. I have a friend who has perfect pitch and says she finds it difficult to play in orchestras that tune to any A other than 440 because of it.

Second, we have the ability to play in just intonation. People with perfect pitch often have equal temperament baked in, and sound just a little bit out of tune when they play certain notes.

Learn intervals, not individual notes. It will help you much more.

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Gordon Shumway
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January 15, 2020 - 12:21 am
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I'm not convinced anyone knows what perfect pitch really is yet.

Get a baby with the talent and deprive them of musical experience, a la Kaspar Hauser, and when they are 5 or 6, play them a note: they won't tell you what it is - you tell them what it is!

I suspect that they just have eidetic pitch memory.

The question then is, what's to stop them remembering, and accepting, all the variations in pitch? Do you get one person with perfect pitch who only accepts A=440, another A=432?

Well, I wonder if one possibility is that it is an autistic phenomenon, and refusing to accept any pitch other than the one they have been taught is the "true" one is an autistic rebellion against change? (yes, I'm aware that this could offend different people on different levels)

Andrew

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AndrewH
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January 15, 2020 - 1:10 am
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It's definitely memory. From what I've been told, it's not so much a matter of being told that a certain pitch is a "true" A, but more one of hearing so much music tuned to A=440 that, when the person learns the note names, the A fits onto the frequently-heard 440 Hz. In the modern world it's probably quite hard to avoid.

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Gordon Shumway
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January 15, 2020 - 1:48 am
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Part of my assumption was that, in the same way that many musicians' "muscle memories" can cope at the same time with uke, CG, violin, viola, bass, why can't perfect pitch cope with many pitch standards?

I suppose if these people literally hear the note, it might create beat frequencies, and if it is linked to synaesthesia in any way, those of us who don't possess it can't hope to guess what the experience is like.

Andrew

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AndrewH
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January 15, 2020 - 4:06 am
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My hypothesis would be: muscle memory for different instruments is tied in to pitch (and quickly correcting to the right pitch is an important skill), whereas the sense of pitch stands alone with no other sensory reference. Of course, I don't presume to know the psychoacoustics of perfect pitch. I don't have it myself. Ask me to name a note on its own and I'm sometimes off by as much as a third or a fourth.

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Gordon Shumway
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January 15, 2020 - 6:38 am
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AndrewH said
Ask me to name a note on its own and I'm sometimes off by as much as a third or a fourth. 

me too. I just tried to whistle a G and got it a tone sharp. That's not as arbitrary as it seems - ukulele strings are tuned to GCEA, so G is the first note you pluck when checking you are in tune. If any note is going to be memorised, it's that one, or A. Maybe that's why I whistled an A! I'll try it another day.

Andrew

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GregW
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January 15, 2020 - 2:04 pm
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@DrMike said.."

I am an old man who is starting to play and rather than working on a song I am working on Bowing control and finger movement first along with correct finger placement on notes running scales.

Which way is better, working on a song or the path I have chosen. Note: I am a life long perfectionist and just can't help it. I am also committing 2-4 hours daily to learning in 30 minute intervals with 10 -30 minute breaks. "

One thing that might make scale practice more interesting is to play the scale for a song/tune you like before practicing the tune.  That way you get your scale practice then some tune practice as well.  Also, something that may be more folk oriented is a call and response type practice.  you can find youtube videos of people playing sections of a tune with small breaks for you to play what they've just played.  That might be something of interest thats less of a random type note playing in addition to the video you posted above.  I haven't seen anything like that (call and response) for Suzuki type training but its probably out there.  bottom line is whatever works for you and keeps you motivated and making progress would be the way to go in my opinion.

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Fiddlerman
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January 16, 2020 - 9:06 pm
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I agree that relative pitch is far more valuable. Your intonation benefits from having correct intervals no matter what pitch you are tuned to.

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

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