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Intermediate level
At what point would you be considered a intermediate player?
Topic Rating: 3 Topic Rating: 3 Topic Rating: 3 Topic Rating: 3 Topic Rating: 3 Topic Rating: 3 (2 votes) 
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HP
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April 24, 2019 - 9:00 am
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At what point would a violinist be considered a intermediate player? I find the definition to be rather vague compared to the other levels we have. You're a beginner when you first pick up a violin in the attempt to learn for the first time. You're a semi professional if you get paid gigs now and then, while a professional if you have regular gigs and have a paid day/night job as a violinist.
But what about intermediate? What skills do a player have to master? I know, master isn't the best term to use, considering many people spend their whole lifetime trying to perfect their skills, but you get the point, I'm sure. What stepping stones should one achieve? Is there a clear line that separates a experienced beginner from a intermediate player? I would like to know what you all think about this.

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

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GregW
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April 24, 2019 - 9:30 am
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I found a good description that seems reasonable here...

"How to pick your skill level"

http://www.flatpik.com/online-.....kill-level

 

This is a website for flatpicking guitar, mandolin, banjo, fiddle but probably should give you an idea.  Scroll to the bottom after opening it and itll be toward the bottom.

What do you think makes someone intermediate?  Personally..Im not sure.  I would have to use the above link to find where I would fit.  Ive wondered about it myself.

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HP
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That's a interesting list, I don't know if I agree on a lot of the things on it though. In my very first lesson I was taught both slurs and double stops, how to check the octave/intonation using double stops etc. and using the 4th finger. Not the most advanced forms, but it was touch upon pretty early because it's great help for learning intonation and bow control early on. This seems to be a common practice in my area. 

I don't really know what I would consider intermediate, but I guess being able to play fingered double stops in tune would be a good indicator. To have good intonation. Be able to sight read well and/or play by ear. To play attack bowing techniques well. Good tone throughout the whole bow. Be able to play well with others in terms of timing and blending in. Have a good understanding of all the major and minor keys and be able to play the majority in tune. Good control over dynamics etc. 

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

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GregW
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April 24, 2019 - 12:06 pm
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"That's a interesting list, I don't know if I agree on a lot of the things on it though. "

Yeah I know. .not sure how the list was developed.  The only reason I knew about this site was that I had considered going and was looking at what classes to take.

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pchoppin
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Generally, intermediate is considered half-way between advanced and beginner.  I know, that's way obvious.  Also, this definition does not have any indication of time or experience playing.

There are many factors that go into how far a given player has advanced with playing violin.  Among those are some skills which I would say are specific for certain stages of play.  For example, vibrato is an intermediate skill. The reason for this is that most teachers will agree that a player should not begin vibrato until at least they are competent with first position and their intonation in that position is consistently accurate (beginner skill development). The beginning stages of playing first position include, among other things, developing good muscle memory to be able to play consistently in tune for all fingering.  This clearly takes time to develop.  Therefore, to begin vibrato the necessary time must be invested in order to first develop good intonation.  Playing vibrato without having first developed good intonation will ultimately result in a longer time to achieve consistent, accurate intonation (which I am sure most players would agree is more important than learning vibrato) i.e., do not put the cart before the horse.

There are several other skills that beginners should develop before they begin working on intermediate skills, such as shifting to different positions, more advanced bowing, certain pieces of music that are more in the intermediate skill levels.

The site that @GregW posted is much more of a guide. They are attempting to give you some idea of what kind of their classes to select, which is sort of an indication of what you may be learning in each class level. 

Much of determining skill level, however, depends on how much time a player practices, their experiences as they develop skills (such as playing in an orchestra, taking private lessons, performing solos), whether they have had previous instrumental experience prior to beginning to learn violin, aptitude for music in general, whether they play alone or if they have support while they learn violin (friends or mentors to help), amount of time to dedicate to their instrument... It would take many websites to go over all the things that affect how a player advances, and what defines beginning, intermediate, and advanced.

It is difficult to tell sometimes.  Soon I will be joining a community orchestra.  I believe I am able to play intermediate level music, which is what this orchestra plays from what I can tell.  But that does not mean that they may at some point take on some more advanced pieces.  My thoughts about joining any orchestra are what can I contribute, not where I rank on some arbitrary scale.  I won't know what I will be playing until I begin in the orchestra anyway or what level of difficulty (probably not the level of a Philharmonic) fainting-1344

- Pete -

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AndrewH
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April 24, 2019 - 5:53 pm
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"Intermediate" is fairly well defined among the classical players I've encountered (many of them teach so this is probably a teachers' consensus), with a little bit of blurring at the edges.

In terms of technique, intermediate means all the building-block skills have been learned but not necessarily mastered:

* comfortable in 3rd position with consistently good intonation, able to play in 2nd, 4th, and 5th positions with OK intonation
* able to play fingered double-stops in tune
* comfortable with vibrato on all fingers
* pleasant tone and deliberate bow distribution
* able to use a variety of bow strokes and articulations: detache, legato, martele, and spiccato

From an ensemble perspective, here's what the Associated Chamber Music Players guide to playing levels says about "intermediate":

"I play with a decent tone. I am comfortable at moderate tempi. I am peripherally aware of other parts. I can sight-read at a moderate tempo but slow down the hard sections."

There's more variation in opinions on what piece in the learning sequence marks entry into intermediate level: some would say the Vivaldi A minor concerto (end of Suzuki Book 4) is the lower end of intermediate, whereas others would say the beginning of intermediate level is as high as Bach A minor (Suzuki Book 7). I'd personally place it at Vivaldi G minor, which is frequently the next piece in the sequence after Vivaldi A minor. Intermediate is a wide range, wide enough that most community orchestra players are considered intermediate. The first "advanced" piece that violinists learn is usually either the Bruch G minor concerto or the Mendelssohn concerto. ("Bruch level" is often shorthand for the minimum standard to be considered "advanced.") When talking about pieces I mean being able to play them in tempo and sound decent; they don't have to be played at professional performance standard but also need to be better than just hacking through all the notes.

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cid
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April 24, 2019 - 7:19 pm
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I know that how a violinist, or any stringed instrument player for that matter, is categorized as to his or her ability matters to some. I understand why some wonder about it, in a way. But deep down, I really don’t. This question and thread, therefore is very interesting to me. Thank you, HP!

Personally, I am not really concerned about it. I find that being labeled a beginner, intermediate, advanced, expert, etc is a roadblock to me. I am not advanced in the sense that a serious classical violinist would probably laugh at me if I even called myself a violinist. But, as far as I am concerned, based on the fact that I knew nothing back in Sept 2018, and what I know now and can do, to me, I am advanced, or you could say advancing. If I keep saying I am a beginner after all those months, I am defeated. I have not improved or advanced.

When a label is placed based on a predefined “schedule” of things needed, that, to me, is judgement. I am not learning to be judged.

It also bothers me when violins, violas, and cellos are rated for beginner students, advanced students, etc., too. Why shouldn’t a beginner use a good sounding instrument? When I was upgrading my violin, due to another forum I used to visit, I was apologizing and making clear that I know I am not a “violinist” and that I am not a prima dona that thinks she needs to learn on a good instrument (my instruments are no where near top line, but not bottom level categorized as “beginner”). I have to hear good tone. I don’t have perfect pitch, but a bad sounding instrument is really bothersome to me. Seriously. I always have to explain that, because the labeling makes me feel like I think I am a great violinist. I mentioned it in a thread here when there was a small statement made about people thinking a better instrument will make them play better. I have opinions about that and may start a thread on that theory. But, that categorizing of the instrument based on ability, was a roadblock to me and it made me feel like I did not deserve a better instrument.

Using the labeling of predefined requirements for beginner students (that is an obvious one, so no issue), advanced, etc., just sets up roadblocks. I think it should be personal and what you think.

Of course, there are those professional schools that require a certain level based on the wannabe students’ abilities, but for me, the for fun student of violin/viola/cello, categorizing what level I am at, is a hindrance.

I hope this fit the original question. This is a subject that really digs into me. I think mostly due to a different forum where it was important to everyone to be categorized, and reaching certain levels in some ABRM(?) scale or whatever was a badge.

I think that if requirements are not needed to be accepted into a school, into an orchestra, etc, why hold yourself back by paying attention to categorizing by other people’s predefined definitions of what is needed to be considered advanced, advancing, intermediate, etc.? It may be that I feel that way because I really don’t do this for anyone else. I do it for myself. I do it to keep my mind working as I age (music is good for that), I do it for my own self satisfaction to try something I have always wanted to do but did not have the ability to do earlier in life. I do it because I LOVE it and find it extremely fun. Does this make sense?

They call me, “Mellow Cello” 

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AndrewH
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I'm sorry that you were made to feel like you didn't deserve a better instrument. That's uncalled for. The way instruments are rated shouldn't imply that at all. A "beginner" instrument is simply one that meets the needs of a beginner, an "intermediate" one meets the needs of an intermediate player, etc. Which is to say, they respond reasonably well to all the techniques learned at those levels. There's no reason you can't start learning on a better instrument. (And many late starters decide to learn the violin when they inherit a violin that's been in the family for a long time, usually not a "beginner" instrument. I did. Nothing wrong with it.)

As for rating ability levels, it's mostly geared toward ensembles: it may take a certain level of ability to keep up with the music they play. Again, that doesn't keep you from joining the group if they'll accept you, but someone below the group's recommended level will likely have a hard time playing the music and may have to fake a lot. (Which I did for years as a beginner playing in intermediate-to-advanced orchestras, because I took a "fake it till you make it" approach. I didn't mind it. But I think it's good to know in advance.)

It can also be helpful in choosing music to buy and work on, as publishers or sellers sometimes list a difficulty level. Many people would prefer not to spend money on sheet music and then discover they are years away from being able to play it.

Of course, if you're not aiming to play in ensembles, then you can simply disregard all categories and just play!

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GregW
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@cid I tend to fall in line with your thinking on this.  I sorta needed to have some type of reflection on my level when looking at taking some classes, but other than that it really doesn't come into play.  I'm sure if I ever aspired to join a band or performance group, whatever.. they would say.. play this and it would be up to them to decide what my level is regardless of what I think anyway.  But for signing up for classes and camp workshops.. sometimes a check list of "can you do this" helps before forking over money and not being able to participate or slow everyone else down.  Other than that.. not a big thing for me. 

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pchoppin
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cid said

It also bothers me when violins, violas, and cellos are rated for beginner students, advanced students, etc., too. Why shouldn’t a beginner use a good sounding instrument?

I apologize if this is somewhat off topic from the OP.

I think it is important to make a distinction regarding quality of instruments and why one player would purchase a "beginner" instrument vs. an instrument of higher quality.

Most of the time, this is a matter of finances.  Obviously an instrument which costs $500 is not going to play to the capabilities of an intermediate or advanced level player. (We are talking about retail value, not special instruments that someone may have received from a friend or by gift). Often, especially with young players, parents may be reluctant to make a significant investment in an instrument before they see that the student will be dedicated to their instrument over the long-term.  Or an adult may not yet be sure they will want to play or even like the violin.  There are many solutions to this problem (rent, rent-to-own), but overall, instruments are generally purchased at this level based mainly on finance and the quality of the instrument is secondary. And a good music store staff will match an instrument to the needs of the student.  This may end up being an instrument of relatively fair quality if the player connects in some way with the instrument, but not necessarily the more expensive one.

In my case, I made the decision before I even held a violin in my hand that I was in this for the long haul.  So my choice of instrument was more of a "big picture" decision.  I wanted something that I would be happy with for many years.  For me, that was not a $500 violin.  I played a full range of violins, though, from the $500 price to $1,500.  I decided on a violin that felt right, sounded right, and was clearly a fairly good quality.  Although it is not a million dollar Strad, I was happy with it.  And I still am!!

So in my ever to be humble opinion, I do not believe instruments are built for specific player ability.  Instead, I believe there are a wide variety of instruments of varied quality so players can make a decision which is right for them.

- Pete -

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cid
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@HP 

It sounds like categorizing your ability it pretty much a personal thing unless you are trying to get into a specific school, group, etc. 

I really enjoyed this topic and hope to see more opinions on how and if some of us “rate” ourselves. I am sure in the highly competitive world, the ratings have an actual meaning to the violinist’s ability, but I think for amateurs, it might not be something we worry about, except for the occasional sheet music selection. I think in the competitive market, the playing level rating probably varies by school or group you are trying to join. There are probably some advanced instructors that require a certain level of ability before they will accept the student, too, but I don’t know for a fact.

Thanks again for this thread.

They call me, “Mellow Cello” 

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pchoppin
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cid said

I think in the competitive market, the playing level rating probably varies by school or group you are trying to join.

If you are referring to professionals, you either have it or you don't.  There isn't really that much of a granular distinction in ability.

- Pete -

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cid
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@pchoppin I am thinking more or a school or a group that has limited access or designed for a certain level of ability. Then, I would think the level you are considered to be at by them would be based by their criteria. I don’t know, I was just thinking that might be the case. At one school a wannabe student might be considered not quite their advanced level, but at another music school, maybe they would consider you meet their criteria or ability for advanced? 

Basically, I am just thinking rating as advanced, intermediate, etc might be partly relative by the group or organization you are trying to join. Again, I don’t know, just guessing that level rating might have some relativity in it. Just some thoughts.

They call me, “Mellow Cello” 

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AndrewH
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cid said
@pchoppin I am thinking more or a school or a group that has limited access or designed for a certain level of ability. Then, I would think the level you are considered to be at by them would be based by their criteria. I don’t know, I was just thinking that might be the case. At one school a wannabe student might be considered not quite their advanced level, but at another music school, maybe they would consider you meet their criteria or ability for advanced? 

Basically, I am just thinking rating as advanced, intermediate, etc might be partly relative by the group or organization you are trying to join. Again, I don’t know, just guessing that level rating might have some relativity in it. Just some thoughts.  

At advanced level, there usually isn't any need to describe it, because everything is by audition at that point. Usually the list of options for audition pieces is enough of a description for candidates to understand what the necessary level is -- you have to be able to play one of those pieces well. (For the most part, getting into any violin performance degree program requires a major concerto, i.e. Beethoven, Brahms, Tchaikovsky, or Sibelius, in the audition.)

If you're not at advanced level, then it's less likely that there will be an audition, and the level description is more for your benefit. If a teacher advertises lessons for intermediate level and up, then you have some idea of what level it takes to be accepted after a trial lesson. Conversely, there are many teachers who teach only beginner level, or only beginner and intermediate levels -- if you're already above the level range they feel comfortable teaching, then you know not to waste your time or the teacher's time. Community orchestras usually only have auditions if their minimum level is upper-intermediate or advanced, so if they say the minimum level is "intermediate" it's to tell you what kind of ability you'll probably need in order to keep up with the music they play. They'll probably accept you even if you don't play at that level.

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BillyG
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April 25, 2019 - 2:06 am
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Look what you've done @HP LOLOL !    What a great discussion you've started .    Good points made by everyone.

From my own point of view and my own playing scenarios - which are -

* playing and learning about the instrument for the sheer unbounded pleasure of it,

* playing lots of different "tunes" be they 'popular', fiddle, occasional well known excerpts from classical pieces adapted as solos

* playing on live streaming sites to an audience,

* playing with other folks with an interest in folk music,

* playing to over-dub other players' performances posted on the internet (i.e virtual duets) ..... and so on 

.... I feel that (for me, and to me) the distinctions (beginner, intermediate, advanced) matter not.   Of course, they do matter in other playing scenarios whatever the longer term goals, desires and ambitions of the "student" may happen to be, especially if they have set themselves a course of "formal study" or have a tutor.

@cid - you say

But, as far as I am concerned, based on the fact that I knew nothing back in Sept 2018, and what I know now and can do, to me, I am advanced, or you could say advancing. If I keep saying I am a beginner after all those months, I am defeated. I have not improved or advanced.

I would say to you - pay little attention to such labels, and most certainly do not let them discourage you.   You are on this journey for your own pleasure, self-enlightenment and advancement, no-one else's !

I have a "wider" view on this - I've been playing for 5 years now.  Although having a fairly wide-ranging knowledge of musical theory (self taught over many years) and some previous practical abilities from piano and guitar - the violin was most definitely new to me.   To put a number of playing-hours on the 5 years and make that more meaningful - I would say that encompasses around 10 hours per week - so I guess I am somewhere around 2500 hours playing/practice time  - plus - a lot of hours (maybe 1000) just spent researching technique, investigating instrument set-up, maintenance, carving bridges, messing with sound-posts, technical investigations, and general study.   Now, had I spent 10 hours per DAY, I might be a David Garrett (j/k) - no - on reflection, even that wouldn't be sufficient.... but I do wonder where I'll be, when I have 10,000 hours on the clock (if I survive long enough)

Of course, I applied the label "beginner" to my initial attempts - and continued to do so for around 3 years-in-to-playing - simply because I knew of no other way to quantify "where I am" in the journey.... (if specifically asked, I would quantify my answer as, for example - "Oh, I'm a beginner, been playing for around x months")

Right now, I would never properly fit into the "intermediate" label (or maybe somewhat - but there are commonly regarded aspects of intermediate-level skills such as sight-reading at speed which I'll never need, and simply don't want, or intend, to spend time on achieving.  Of course I can sight-read but for the types of tunes I like to play I'll just learn it from the sheet (or by ear if it's a tune I know well) and then play from memory). 

Equally, I believe there are (probably) aspects of advanced-level playing gradually creeping in to my abilities and techniques.   From my own perspective, the learning cycle is a never-ending one.

I am learning to play violin - @cid - all you need to do is drop the words in red from that sentence - which is how I now describe myself, and I'm content with that  !!!

Pete - @pchoppin - you say 

"Soon I will be joining a community orchestra. "

  Awesome !  clapclapclap I wish you much success !   [ You see, we're all different - this would never really appeal to me, but I sure can understand why you and others would want to, great stuff ! ]

I seriously recommend not copying my mistakes. D'oh - guntohead.JPG

Please make your own, different mistakes, and help us all learn :-)

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Mark
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Well just for the record

I'm just a dumb, fat , happy, electrician who likes to saw on a fiddle in such a way that occasionally the wife comes running into my study screaming at me to let go of the cats tail ( she's been gone for 4 years now) that I'm killing her bat hearing, it just gives you a warm fuzzy feeling that she still love me.😘

Just my two cents,

Mark

Master the Frog and you have mastered the bow.

Albert Sammons

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BillyG
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April 25, 2019 - 4:36 am
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drummerLOL @Mark - dangerous combination that.... (electrician / engineer / fiddle player) - certainly is for me - leads me down all sorts of strange paths and into unexpected investigations !   

But it's obviously working for you, as you include "happy" in your list of adjectives !  Oh yes - that's really what it is all about 🙂 

I seriously recommend not copying my mistakes. D'oh - guntohead.JPG

Please make your own, different mistakes, and help us all learn :-)

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HP
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Oh wow, what have I done LOL.

My intent wasn't in any shape or form meant as being degrading or insulting, just to make that all clear. More like a way to map out the route of becoming more advanced and to see what others consider more intermediate level playing.

For me, I found that I need to have some sort of a grading system, because my long term goal is to become a professional, or at least semi. It's a way for me to find the courses and workshops in my area that would be ideal for me at the time. To help me find music that it's in my league, but still give me enough challenge to improve. To find the right studies and etudes to do. For finding schools that have the requirements that I can fulfill and so on so fourth. If it wasn't because of my long term goal, I probably wouldn't care much about a grading system. Although it would be nice to know where on the ladder on currently is, no matter the goal in the end. 

But I'll have to say, so far it has been a lot of great points made in this thread. I appreciate all the inputs. 

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

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BillyG
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April 25, 2019 - 5:24 am
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🙂 @HP - of course you weren't in any way at all degrading or insulting !   I don't think anyone would have thought that !

I think you just hit on a type of question that a lot of us - let me use the word - "amateurs" (as distinct from professional or aspiring professional players) - ask ourselves.   It has led to a great exchange of points of view !

And of course, best wishes for your own journey and progress with the instrument - I hope you find a way of measuring your progress in some formal manner that is meaningful to you - and I can understand why you want this.

exactly

I seriously recommend not copying my mistakes. D'oh - guntohead.JPG

Please make your own, different mistakes, and help us all learn :-)

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cid
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April 25, 2019 - 6:51 am
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@HP 

Oh, no, no , no! Nobody here felt degraded or insulted! It was a very interesting question. As a person who is entirely into this adventure for herself (retirement time is half just “me time”), grading or level never has nor will be part of it. But, it is interesting to see how and why it would be used in some instances or by some individuals to assist their own progress towards their own goals. 

Thank you for the question. I think it is hard to answer the exact question as “laypeople” because we are not actually using it, for the most part. I know one of the posters definitely is because he is working to enter a school, if I remember correctly. But, I think that for the most part, we are not using it. That said, there were many great points of view. The interesting thing for me, now, is that you said you were wondering to aid you in reaching your goal. That is an interesting use. It got me thinking.

Maybe, even though I, and maybe others, are not learning it and expecting to become professional, or enter a music school to become extremely extremely good (not the word I am looking for at all), could be helped by subconsciously grading or rating ourselves to give us a goal to work towards and then move that goal. Know what I mean? Without an instructor, especially, that might help with the progress, rather than deter, as I had thought. I don’t know. But it is interesting to see how the grading system could be used by self-learner.

Not sure if I expressed myself properly. I am in an Airplane Flu brain fog! 

They call me, “Mellow Cello” 

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