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One Year of Playing Violin
Self-evaluation. Looking for opinions. Please feel free to be honest!!!
Topic Rating: 5 Topic Rating: 5 Topic Rating: 5 Topic Rating: 5 Topic Rating: 5 Topic Rating: 5 (1 votes) 
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Pete_Violin
Utah
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January 28, 2019 - 8:24 pm
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At the risk of exposing myself, I would like to have some honest evaluations from our forum.

I am sorry, but I do not feel confident recording my playing at this time.  But I will give a rundown of my progress and where I am now.

I began playing the violin in January, 2018 and I have completed one year of playing.

Before I began violin, I never played any string instrument.  I have played orchestral percussion for many years and I have played in a few orchestras. So I do have a background in music.

Some of my percussion did require learning to read music, but only the very basics and certainly not the depth required for a string instrument.

I have been taking private lessons for almost the entire year of violin.

I am very fluent now with reading.  Sight reading is still a challenge for me, but I am getting better.

I have learned 1st position of course, but I have not begun playing any other positions yet.

I have the notes with fingering down well.  And my teacher feels I am ready to start vibrato, which means my ear is doing well and my intonation is such that I am ready to play vibrato.

I have fair control over my bowing and I am able to play 8th notes with clarity and consistency at speeds of 65-80.

My music repertoire includes all of the Violin I level and much of Violin II for most lesson books.  In addition, I have been learning some other songs such as Somewhere Over the Rainbow, Greensleeves, and Pure Imagination (the Willy Wanka song).  But I have not begun any orchestral music. 

I have been able to play duets, but I have not played in an orchestra yet. although my teacher says I am ready to join a community orchestra.

Please give any advise, and offer opinions as to where someone should be in their progress at one year with violin. 

I do realize people learn and progress at different speeds and levels. 

be honest and let me know what level of play you might expect one to be at at this stage of learning violin.

Thank you!

- Pete -

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Fiddlerman
Fort Lauderdale
January 28, 2019 - 8:39 pm
Member Since: September 26, 2010
Forum Posts: 14781

I think with learning to play an instrument it's best to set goals but not have expectations. Expectations can lead to disappointments.
Did you expect to have come this far in a year?

Are you enjoying yourself? The journey is as important as the destination.

Did you set any goals? If not, maybe now is the time. I welcome you to write your goals for one, or more years, and send them to me via email. I can send them to you in a year or time of your choice. I used to do that with my students and they loved it. They would forget about it and when I gave it to them later they had a nice surprise.

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

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Pete_Violin
Utah
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January 28, 2019 - 9:07 pm
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Fiddlerman said
I think with learning to play an instrument it's best to set goals but not have expectations. Expectations can lead to disappointments.
Did you expect to have come this far in a year?
Are you enjoying yourself? The journey is as important as the destination.
Did you set any goals? If not, maybe now is the time. I welcome you to write your goals for one, or more years, and send them to me via email. I can send them to you in a year or time of your choice. I used to do that with my students and they loved it. They would forget about it and when I gave it to them later they had a nice surprise.  

Ok @Fiddlerman 

Time for truth!! LOL.  I honestly LOVE my violin and I have had the MOST fun and enjoyment playing over the last year.  I want nothing more than to continue and play and learn!  It is the most fulfilling endeavor I have ever undertaken.

But setting specific goals did not come until at least 6 months into playing.  I had no idea what to expect when I first picked up my violin, other than I wanted very much to learn to play.

After learning more, understanding the complexities of violin, and seeing some orchestral music I found out that it is absolutely an investment in time and work to learn this beautiful instrument. 

My initial desire was to play in an orchestra after about 8 months.  I changed that a bit when I reached 6 months and realized I was not ready, and would not be ready for a little while longer.  I was a little disappointed in myself because I thought I could get to that level a little faster than I had. 

But I am not down on myself now.  I am really glad for the last 6 months of playing.  I have learned so much. 

I do recall wanting to move a little faster and feeling like I could do it, but my teachers wanted me to take the pace a bit slower and get the fundamentals down and ingrained better.  I wanted to jump into Mozart when I was still playing Polly Wally Doodle.  LOL.. My teachers and my best friend who plays viola told me... I should relish this time, when I am not presented with pieces that are clearly over my head, yet I need to learn them. 

So I have learned patience with playing and not to want to jump too far ahead.

I do have a goal of playing in an orchestra.  This is a huge goal of mine.  But to get there, I wanted to learn a few skills such as shifting positions, more with double stops, and vibrato.

I know that I will be just beginning in an orchestra and I do not have an expectation of playing at the level of first chair when I join.  But I do want to have a few skills ready.

I want to play more classical.  I want to take on more challenges like Mozart and Beethoven.  I want to play a recital some day, perhaps in 3 to 6 months.  I want to participate in a string quartet or chamber orchestra as well.

Does this help with describing my goals and aspirations?

- Pete -

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mookje
The Netherlands
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January 29, 2019 - 12:05 am
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I’m in the same situation, playing one year, and also don’t now what to espect at this stage. So I can’t really help you with the question.

But I think first position in the first year is good and if your teacher says that you can play in a orchestra and ready for vibrato that’s also a great progress. I’m definitely not ready to do that! 
Really kind of @Fiddlerman to help you with your goals.

Lots of fun and learning in your second year of violin.

 Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass. It’s about dancing in the rain!!

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bocaholly
Boca Raton, Florida
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January 29, 2019 - 12:58 am
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@Pete_Violin Our aspirations are pretty similar (mostly classical, community orchestra, eventually chamber music) so I was interested to learn where our development is similar and different. And mostly I can share what I discovered having played in my first community orchestra performance yesterday.

First of all, my intonation is OKish enough in 1st position but I don't think my teacher is going to pop vibrato on me any time soon (a bit to my chagrin.) On the one hand, my OKish probably isn't good enough and on the other, her method is to do some positions before vibrato. So I'm happy for you and really yearning to get to that point too!

As for your upcoming community orchestra experience, there seem to be many levels. I found one that runs the full gamut of abilities (bloody beginners like me to active professionals.) The conductor assured me that I'd be fine since the second violin parts are almost all in first position. But as it turned out, half of the pieces chosen for our first concert were soooo way beyond what I could handle (Phantom of the Opera, Marriage of Figaro.) Hence, I was the page turner for my stand partner on those. As I mentioned elsewhere, my goal was to be able to learn a couple to participate in. As the rehearsal weeks progressed, I kept adding pieces to my practice until I could play along acceptably with 6 (about half of the total.) 

An interesting piece of advice I received for playing along with the faster pieces was to just play the first note of each measure... just get with the group process. That didn't seem too satisfactory so I put in a lot of time practicing with slow downer software... progressively speeding up as I improved. That was a great tip I got from this forum! But in the end, there was still one piece (Radetzky March) with a few fast runs my fingers couldn't handle without being ridiculously sloppy so the day before the concert, I went for the solution of playing just the first and last note on those runs. It was the lesser of two evils. 

With you're previous musical experience, you have a big advantage because you're bringing a good sense of how to fit in from the start. That's probably why you were more demanding of yourself and your violin ability before jumping in. That's a reasonable call. Enjoy the ride, the camaraderie and the stretch of your growing abilities.

On the quest to play chamber music, please keep me posted on how you are going to approach this. I was thinking of going to a chamber music summer camp that accepts beginners. But chamber music being what it is (I can't hide in a section of 10 second violins) I think I have to be a more reliable player first. In the meantime, I'm working on some simple duets with a couple of orchestra buddies (another great benefit of the community orchestra experience 🙂 )

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AndrewH
Sacramento, California
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January 29, 2019 - 3:49 am
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@Pete_Violin and @bocaholly,I'm looking at my community orchestra experiences from an experienced late-starter's perspective: I started playing in orchestras as a near-beginner in early 2001 (about the same level as both of you), and progressed all the way to a semi-pro orchestra over a period of about 13 years.

Two thoughts I have on both of your ambitions and progress so for:

1) Everyone is different, especially early on. Don't worry about where you are now, what matters is that you get there eventually. And you can get there. One of the two orchestras I play in, a mid-level community orchestra that routinely plays Classical and early Romantic symphonic repertoire, includes about ten string players who started as adults. (In fact, unusually, none of the five string section leaders started before age 15.) Some got to that level in just 3-4 years, some took 10 years or more. Doesn't matter, they're all competent players and they're all playing Beethoven symphonies now.

2) Opinions differ on how much you can get out of playing in an orchestra where you can't quite handle the music. I've heard some people say that your technical progress slows when you're spending all your time trying to learn your orchestra parts, or that it's no fun to fake all the time. But I tend to think joining an orchestra sooner rather than later is going to benefit you if you go into it with a certain mindset. No community orchestra expects everyone to play every note; almost everyone is faking at least some of the time. When I started playing in orchestras, I probably faked 75% of the time or more at first... but kept trying, eventually reached the point where I realized I wasn't faking any more, then moved on to stronger orchestras where I found the repertoire above my level again. For probably 8 of the first 10 years I played in orchestras, I was in orchestras that were clearly above my level. But, except for the first year or so, they were at least not so far above my level that I got lost on a regular basis. If you don't put too much pressure on yourself or get too impatient, and think of it as a learning opportunity, you'll find that other people in the orchestra are often happy to give you tips on technique or on how to play certain patterns. Note: if orchestra repertoire ever starts to burn excessive amounts of lesson time, you may be putting too much pressure on yourself. I won't say that "fake it till you make it" works for everyone, because people who played a different instrument at a high level may hold themselves to higher minimum standards before jumping in, but it's at least a valid approach.

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bocaholly
Boca Raton, Florida
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January 29, 2019 - 8:25 am
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@AndrewH Thanks for chiming in with your experience and good point about taking care that learning the orchestra pieces doesn't eat up too much lesson time. 

I'd add that it's the practice time that takes a hit... especially the speed aspect. 
A good chunk of the 2nd violin music (in my mini-experience) consists of familiar but very short and very very fast little bow strokes. Learning to play that definitely puts a crimp on the time available to work on the fuller gamut of level-appropriate bowing technique. This one step forward, two steps back experience lasted a good 6 weeks into rehearsals and didn't feel great. That's when I settled for stopping at learning just 6 of the 12 orchestra pieces, preferring to get back to Suzuki et al.. once I had the orchestra stuff semi under control. Ideal? No. A way to be constructively in the game? Yes. So, over all, one compromise option I could live with.

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Pete_Violin
Utah
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January 29, 2019 - 11:09 am
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mookje said
But I think first position in the first year is good and if your teacher says that you can play in a orchestra and ready for vibrato that’s also a great progress. I’m definitely not ready to do that!

I have been working hard with intonation so I can learn vibrato. That is the key. Your teacher won't begin vibrato with you before your intonation is at a certain level.

Really kind of @Fiddlerman to help you with your goals.

@Fiddlerman is awesome!

Our aspirations are pretty similar (mostly classical, community orchestra, eventually chamber music) so I was interested to learn where our development is similar and different.

Well I can tell you that I began learning on my own with a beginner book (Essential Elements for Stings I).  After my first month I got a private violin teacher.  It was then I accelerated with learning and I got a teacher soon enough to avoid poor habits.  Since then, I have been able to learn relatively quickly.  I practice every single day, and have been from the very start.  I learned many years ago that, no matter what your level of talent is, practice is the only way to progress.  Also, practice deliberately.  That is a method of focusing practices on specific areas, rather than simple repetitive play (practice is a topic in itself and should be its own thread).

How have you been learning?  Perhaps we have similar methods?

bocaholly said

I don't think my teacher is going to pop vibrato on me any time soon (a bit to my chagrin.) On the one hand, my OKish probably isn't good enough and on the other, her method is to do some positions before vibrato.

This is typical.  It is vital to wait on vibrato until your intonation is fairly solid on first position.  If you think about it, vibrato actually changes intonation, and before we want to attempt that, we need to be able to keep in tune and have the ability to adjust our tune on the fly.  Whether playing vibrato or clean notes, the ability to hear and change correct intonation is very important.

The conductor assured me that I'd be fine since the second violin parts are almost all in first position. But as it turned out, half of the pieces chosen for our first concert were soooo way beyond what I could handle (Phantom of the Opera, Marriage of Figaro.)

You never know what you will be presented in orchestra.  It's not a classroom and, precisely because of the range of playing abilities, the conductor may chose any piece and any level of music.  It is a performing environment.  The entire reason for orchestra is to perform for an audience.  I never assume I will have the ability to play what the orchestra is performing, which is why I need all the skills I can learn.

there was still one piece (Radetzky March) with a few fast runs my fingers couldn't handle without being ridiculously sloppy...

Itzhak Perlman said "You must always practice SLOWLY"

On the quest to play chamber music, please keep me posted

Absolutely

I'm working on some simple duets with a couple of orchestra buddies (another great benefit of the community orchestra experience 🙂 )

Another huge reason I want to be involved in orchestra.  I need to get to know other musicians, be in and around music, make friends with musicians!

AndrewH said
I've heard some people say that your technical progress slows when you're spending all your time trying to learn your orchestra parts,

Part of what I will to do is bring orchestra the experience into my lessons.  By that, I mean I will continue my lessons while I am in orchestra and add it to part of the lessons.  As you know, many skills and play, such as bowing with the string section and playing specific techniques with the section, as well as following the conductor and keeping in time with other players, are all experiences which are unique to orchestra playing, and will help me in my lessons and widen my musical experience.

or that it's no fun to fake all the time.

I do not believe in "fake it 'til you make it.", although I understand that playing at the same level and precision as more experienced players at first will be unrealistic.

...people who played a different instrument at a high level may hold themselves to higher minimum standards before jumping in, but it's at least a valid approach.

This is always my approach to music, keeping in mind there are certain realities I must accept, especially with violin, I do have a high level of standard I hold on myself.

bocaholly said
I'd add that it's the practice time that takes a hit... especially the speed aspect. 
A good chunk of the 2nd violin music (in my mini-experience) consists of familiar but very short and very very fast little bow strokes. Learning to play that definitely puts a crimp on the time available to work on the fuller gamut of level-appropriate bowing technique. This one step forward, two steps back experience lasted a good 6 weeks into rehearsals and didn't feel great. That's when I settled for stopping at learning just 6 of the 12 orchestra pieces, preferring to get back to Suzuki et al.. once I had the orchestra stuff semi under control. Ideal? No. A way to be constructively in the game? Yes. So, over all, one compromise option I could live with.

@bocaholly Forgive me, but I highlighted some phrases you said that I believe are self-defeating.  For me, these never come into my mind and I never allow them to affect my music.  Please consider that you may believe yourself if you say these things to yourself.  And I would add, my uncompromising high standards I place on myself are part of the reason I have been able to learn violin.

Music, especially strings, is an enormous challenge, and much of it is a mindset.  So I understand completely what you are saying.  There is a reason not everyone plays an instrument.  It is because it is very difficult.  It's as simple as that.

To be able to deal with the difficulties, challenges, and setbacks, I tell myself the following as replacements for this: "Practice is never compromised", "I progress every day", "I do not settle for mediocrity", "I am done with Suzuki" (I am not a fan of Suzuki, but it is a necessary evil for us), "I will NEVER compromise my music!".

Consider replacing any negative with positive.

- Pete -

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Fiddlerman
Fort Lauderdale
January 29, 2019 - 11:25 am
Member Since: September 26, 2010
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I was going to mention that BocaHolly started playing in a community orchestra recently, and she did that above. Her tips are pretty good too. I suppose it was a real challenge but she dove right in. One must be willing to be bad in order to get good too. Pushing yourself is GREAT. Putting negative pressure on yourself for not doing well or not progressing fast enough is bad.

@mookje - I will do that for anyone who likes. I've done it with members here before. Feel free to send yours to me if you like. It's always a surprise for the player when they receive that email from me. 🙂

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

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mookje
The Netherlands
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January 30, 2019 - 9:35 am
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@Fiddlerman You’re really so kind. So busy with the shop and everything but always taking time for people on this forum. That’s really awesome! I’m a person with not many goals, I just wanna learn to play very beautifully in first position, good internation and clear sound, playing with expression and being able to admit ornaments. I’m not gonna play in a orchestra or else, so I’m not in a hurry to learn smile

 Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass. It’s about dancing in the rain!!

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Fiddlerman
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February 10, 2019 - 9:11 pm
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The important thing is to enjoy yourself. 🙂

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

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