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Have you heard those schlubs who say adults can’t learn to play the violin? You know that weird look you get when you tell friends and family that you’re taking lessons?
They’re all wrong. Adults can learn to play just as well as kids. One of the best ways you can take responsibility for your learning as an adult is to work on the relationship between you and your teacher.
Like any relationship, this one takes time and effort.
If you feel like your teacher is “writing you off” or treats you as if you are an unworthy use of their time because you will never be like Heifetz and you’re not a child prodigy, there are a few things you need to consider.
- Are you imagining this, due to some possible insecurities you might be feeling?
- Is this teacher good enough that you want to salvage the relationship with him/her? If this is a fantastic teacher, then you should probably spend some lesson time just to chat about what you want as a student, how you feel about their attitude toward you, and just work it out as openly and honestly as you can.Doing this will either make or break your relationship. If your teacher has a particularly large or fragile ego, they may react badly, but this isn’t your problem. (Try telling them lots of things you LOVE about their teaching style first….a spoonful of sugar).
If it’s not your imagination, and you’re tried talking to the teacher, regardless of how great the teacher may be, FIRE THEM. You are paying them for their time, the same as anyone else, and you deserve to be given their full effort in your lessons.
You deserve to be given full attention and respect. But make sure you are giving yourself the same respect that you are asking of your teacher. Giving some time and effort to the relationship is a great way to do that.
Thoughts? Speak up in the comments section!
I am so glad you took the time to tell us about the journey we are about to embark in the world of music via violin/fiddle.
You are so detailed oriented this is one of the many reasons I decided to take your online violin class.
You really care about ALL of your students. I am in Unit 3 of your Red Desert Violin for Adult Beginners, and I feel like you are actually there with me. I will NOT make any moves unless I know that my sounds are good, strong, clean, and clear. Thanks to your step by step instructions, I am more focus on our homework dealing with techniques, warm ups, and stretches (which provides more than enough information on the introduction of violin playing) for now. I cannot believe that I am also absorbing so naturally the art of learning how to play the violin by ear and sight at the same time. Also, I discovered for myself that if I am not comfortable with how I am playing then I am doing something wrong. My growth will include less pain and to more gain thanks to you being such a devoted teacher.
Thanks for that comment! I’m so excited for you, because I know these lessons will get you where you want to go. (but all the work is up to you!)
I applaud your dedication to the violin. Keep up the GREAT work. You have SO MUCH to look forward to!
I’m a viola player. A few years ago, I began to play the instrument after a few decades of break from playing.
I play now in an amateur orchestra twice a month while I take lessons every week.
The most difficult thing I think as I play is about tone production, how to produce a beautiful tone.
Recently I came across an internet site, which is Three tone lessons by RDV. The site deals with the problem from three points, Bow Weight, Bow Speed, Bow placement. That the Bow Weight comes first in the series seems meaningful, because I think, of the three,
Bow Weight is the most difficult problem to deal with.
Now I watch the video carefully and I hope my viola tone will soon improve.
Thank you very much, Lora, for your Three tone lessons and other wonderful videos.
I’m thrilled to know that you found my videos, and that you are working through them. It takes only 30 minutes to watch the videos and understand the concepts……but it takes many months to really learn to apply the concept of combining the 3 ingredients in just the right ratios to create the exact sound you want. Good luck! Keep up the good work!
Hi Lora, I was an adult violin student about 24 years ago at the then age of 60, when I studied classical music through Suzuki, book three. Through some sickness and other distractions I stopped my lessons for many years. I currently sometimes play hymns in a church. I am still quite flexible in my fingers and other joints. Quite recently I was asked to join a group of old-time fiddlers who do a lot of charity playing within our city. The opportunity has fascinated me but I know nothing about fiddle music, nor can I play such a fast tempo. I know you can help me.
YOu are very fortunate to have a group to join! It’s a great social outlet, plus it is very inspiring to be around other players.
I have lots of free resources on YouTube, plus a free “sample” membership that give you tons of really great tips and exercises. (go to the homepage http://www.reddesertviolin.com and look for something that says, “Free Membership”)
If you want some really thorough, organized instruction, consider either my Suzuki Book 1 class (Fabulous Fundamentals) or dive into the more difficult Fiddle class (Fabulous Fiddle Fundamentals).
Look around on the homepage….there’s lots of info there. And let me know if you have any questions!
Hi Lora, I have recently picked up a violin for the first time at the age of 54 and I can’t get enough. I live in a country town in Australia and was trying to teach myself to play from a You Tube when I stumbled across your videos which are just fantastic. I have since signed up for your Suzuki 1 course and love the way you break things down and your quirky sayings ????. I do not come from a musical background so my progress is slow, but I feel I am learning so much and set myself little challenges with simple tunes to try and learn to help with the motivation along the way. Hopefully in the not too distant future I will be able to get my fingers moving a bit faster and keep my bow a bit straighter (I am slowly getting there lol). Oh and I love the tips and hints emails you send. I also have been doing lots of reading and listening along with my practice. Thank you for all of the effort you put into your lessons, it is very much appreciated ????
That is GREAT that you are so addicted to violin! Passion is the fasted vehicle to proficiency! Remember to practice looking in a mirror for your straight bow, it will speed things along immensely…..but it’s not a race, is it? Enjoy your journey!
Hi, I started learning to play the violin in February, 2016 at 62. I have a general background in music, including singing in choirs, playing piano and guitar, and a good foundation in theory. As I thought, this background does allow for some acceleration (e.g. reading music) but there are no shortcuts when it comes the complexities and challenges that go with the instrument itself. I am enjoying figuring out whether a piece is something I can begin to learn right away or needs to be put away and looked at later.
I have been arranging possible duets to play with my son (viola) which is one way of keeping myself motivated through the initial period of being a beginner.
I have a private teacher whose approach with adults is what I was looking for–a combination of the fundamentals I need as well as a mentor for when I bring in pieces I’m working on which I’ve found on my own.
I also benefit greatly from Lora’s videos which deal with specifics such as keeping your bow straight or greasy elbow, as my teacher only has so much time each week and by being able to access additional information online, I can stack and complement my learning. I am seriously considering taking Lora’s Suzuki class in the near future, and am currently debating whether I would do Book 1 or 2…
I would love to find a class situation because I think being among other players would be very beneficial as well.
I work at our local community college and sing in the choir there. They are currently building their music program back up and have started to have an orchestra which is a community-based, amateur one. I contacted the director to ask what I would need to be able to do in order to participate. Now that I have this information, I can set this as a goal with a soft timeline (I’ll be ready when I’m ready, right?) and begin to scaffold my way to the scales and etudes he named.
Lastly, Adult Starters-Violin in Facebook is a wonderful, supportive group through which we learn a great deal from each other, as well as have a chance to play and celebrate our progress. Check it out!
What scales and arpeggios does the director require for entrance into his orchestra?
It takes trial and error to figure out what pieces you are ready for and which ones need to wait….but it’s awfully fun to bite off more than you can chew, isn’t it?
I used to choose a piece that was out of my reach, and then find other pieces to “bridge the gap” and get me to the higher piece. Often, teachers would tell me what I needed to do to get to the level…..other times, I just dove in and stubbornly practiced my butt off and learned the tune, for better or for worse.
Sounds like a great relationship with your private teacher. Glad my lessons compliment the process!
If you get serious about whether to join Suzuki 1 or Suzuki 2, let me know….I can help you pinpoint which one you need. (by the way, if you sign up for one and decide it was the wrong choice, we can switch you over, it’s no problem)
Glad you mention the Adult STarters on FAcebook. It’s a good group, and many of my students participate in it.
Keep up the good work!
Patience and mutual respect go a long way toward solving teacher-student issues between adults. And, sometimes, one has to have a lot of the first before the second develops. For my part, I made my appreciation of my instructor’s ability and experience obvious whenever the opportunity presented itself. On the other hand I’m not a child. It is a problem sometimes.
I’ve taught adults in various capacities–medical, musical, English and English as a Second Language. My general approach is that the student and I are entirely equal except that I know more about some subject and I’m trying to transfer this knowledge. In this narrow area the adult student grants me a sliver of authority. With children the area is more comprehensive and the authority deeper. I expect that some of the disagreements mentioned above have their roots in this difference.
Between my teacher and I, things have sorted themselves out, pretty much. My arm length is unlikely to change and we disagree about how to compensate for that, but hey–
I’m over 70 and have been playing the violin with more enthusiasm than success for just under a year.
Sandra, I love your philosophy that “the student and I are entirely equal except that I know more about some subject and I’m trying to transfer this knowledge”. That is wonderful, and so true!
Sounds like you know a thing or two about teaching….AND learning!
Hi Lora, I am a new adult violin student. I am 73 and saw that our senior center was offering classes for adult students. Two of our children had played violin years ago on a Suzuki program, one dropped it and played the clarinet later. The other has recently picked it up again and is very interested in bluegrass and Irish music. I thought it would be fun to learn to play and as we are on a limited budget joined the lessons at the senior center. I purchased a cheaper beginner violin, working on my own until I found the lessons at the senior center and then my teacher helped me purchase a better violin outfit by making payments. She teaches at the schools here in the area and helps with the area orchestra. She is very supportive and is familar with the Suzuki program but uses the Samuel Applebaum String Builder books for her instruction. As a retired ICU nurse, I like to practice and read a lot for myself even though I enjoy the classes too. I have really enjoyed all the videos and the hints available in your free programs. I especially like how you have the songs with slow, fast and piano versions. I have finished Book 1 of her program and am working on “O Come Little Children” in Suzuki Bk. 1. She teaches the first half of the Stringbuilders Bk. 1 as a beginner class and then the second half as an adv. beginner class. I am going to repeat the adv. beginner class. One reason I move very slowly is I have very little music experience and it has been a real challenge to me to learn to read music. One thing that helped me was to get a pair of glasses to clarify the music on my stand at that distance. I usually just wear reading glasses. I have enjoyed reading the comments at your site and all your helpful information. I have found the sites of The String Club, Todd Ehle, Doree Huneven and Alison Sparrow to be fun and helpful also. I was amazed at the amount of info. available to help me learn. My teacher wants me to join the area string group soon and improve my music reading skills along with my playing. Maybe after my next adv. beginner lessons I will be comfortable enough to join them. It is open to all ages and skill levels. Anyway, thanks again for all your help and as they say, “I will just keep fiddling around”. I live in Oregon and will send for info. about the camp over at the Wallowas. Bye now, Billie
Thanks for your wonderful comment. I love the String Builders books. They move progressively, logically, and are well laid-out.
Of course, I prefer Suzuki, but the important thing is that your teacher HAS A PLAN, and it sounds like yours does.
Maybe I”ll see you in WAllowa?
Take care, and keep practicing!
Hi Billie, I live in Oregon also. Where are you? I am feeling like I’d like to be in a beginning class, with other people in addition to private lessons. (I started in February) I would consider driving a reasonable distance to be able to do something like that. I hope Wallowa is an annual event–I can’t make it this year but really would like to participate at another time. Also, if you are in Facebook, there is a group called Adult Starters-Violin. This is a wonderful, supportive group of starters and re-starters at various places in their journey. They are very supportive and we learn a great deal from each other– completely in line with adult learning. I’ve been inspired to work toward playing certain pieces of music from seeing their videos. I, also have a child who plays and part of my motivation is to be able to play duets, with my son–he plays the viola and is obviously much more advanced than me. Between his advanced playing abilities and my wisdom as an adult, we are able to help each other a great deal. Best of luck to you! Annie
Annie, that is SO COOL that you can play with your son! I’m jealous!
Make Wallowa 2017 a goal for you. You would not be quite ready to join the adult fiddle group yet this year, as it is not a “beginners” group…..more of a low intermediate level. I never know until I get there. Anyway, a beginner will feel pretty lost in my class, I think.
Hmmmm…after carefully reading your other longer comment, perhaps you WOULD be ready for Wallowa 2016. Sorry if I offended you. But anyway, you can’t come until 2017…..so make that a goal!
I am 61 years old, and just took up the Violin, this past July…so, about 5 1/2 months into it now. I am just learning from watching UTUBE videos, and from blogs, like yours. I am really enjoying this new journey…
As for physical issues/flexibility, due to age…I completely agree with your observation, that the more I play and practice, the more I am able to accomplish. I think back to the first time I picked up my Violin, thinking to myself, after trying to “play” a few notes…how am I going to be able to do this? My left wrist and fingers are so stiff, I can’t even reach all of the strings, and certainly can’t even imagine using my Pinkie finger,( my 4th finger), to play a note. I play with my 4th finger all the time now…
I will also share something with you…I was able to play my first simple Irish Jig, this week, thanks to your Video. I have had the sheet music for the “Road to Lisdoonvarna,” for a couple of months, now. As Christmas is over, now, I put away my section of easy Christmas tunes, and realized, I just lost 10 of my daily practice tunes. So, I needed to add some new tunes, to my repertoire. So, I thought, why not try to find some simpler Irish tunes, as I aspire to play that style of fiddling, too.
Anyway, I tabbed out the Sheet music, and watched your video, of how to play it slowly, a couple of times, to fix the melody, in my mind. Then, I was able to play it! Not that great, yet, but, it sounded like an Irish Jig, with Me playing it! I am so pleased about that progress…
I really find your teaching technique, of teaching/playing a slow version, a medium fast, then full speed, helps me learn the melodies, easily.
I saw your cool comments on my Youtube channel, but have not had a chance to reply yet.
WOW….congrats on learning Road to Lisdoonvarna! That is a great jig.
I’m so happy that my videos are helping you to learn new tunes. I wish I had time to do ZILLIONS of my favorite songs….but I’m a bit of a perfectionist…and so my videos take a long time. I should just hit record….and let it rip….warts and all! LOL
I applaud you for what you are learning on your own and with your own resourcefulness! Bravo!
Keep in mind, if you want EXCELLENT, organized, best in the word fundamentals, consider my Suzuki beginners course.
Or, when you get ready to take your fiddling to the next level, consider my fiddle course. (it’s not a beginner course…it is a solid intermediate)
BEST of luck to you!
I would like to comment and let you know how much I appreciate your online comments, suggestions and videos. I am hesitating to sign up for lessons because of my erratic life style.
A little about myself. I am 77 years old (78 in January 2016) Commenced learning piano in 1944 and took lessons until I was 14. Began teaching piano in 1968 and love teaching.
Bought myself a violin when I was 15 plus “A Tune a day” and puddled along without much success. Could read the music but…..
Found a teacher and did preliminary to 3rd from from 1992 to 1994.
After my husband died in 2002, moved to a new area (country NSW) and thought this was my time – so found another teacher who loved football and didn’t think I needed to know the answer to some of my questions about playing violin as it was only a hobby.
Wish I could talk to you instead of writing! 🙂
Music is my passion. It has kept me sane and blessed my life.
(I had a wonderful piano teacher and I still play some)
It is nice to get to know your history. I think you would be a wonderful candidate for my online violin lessons, because they are so convenient, flexible, self-paced, plus you have access to me whenever you get stuck.
Sounds like you have some time that you could invest in practicing and study! That always helps!
I can’t believe some teachers……I hear that so much that I want to holler. (about teachers who don’t answer questions asked by students)
Anne, if you want to discuss it further, feel free to email me (email@example.com)
HOpe to hear from you! –Lora
I am a 66 year old beginner (playing for 6 months, lessons for 3). I bought a violin/fiddle because I always was intrigued and wanted to learn to play. I live in a small community and there are not many options for lessons, so I started with your site….it got me going, but I knew I needed someone watching and telling me what I was doing wrong ( and right). I found a “coach”, she is fun, but said she is not a teacher. Finally, 3 months ago I found a teacher…..what a difference that has made. Like many other of your adult students, I still use your lessons as my base for practice. I get frustrated that my fingers do not move fast enough to play jigs and reels up to speed like I hear on CDs, etc.
Are you planning to teach at the Wallowa Fiddle Camp in 2016? My friend (and coach) and I are planning to attend! I am hoping you will do another “beginners” class.
Thank you for all your positive words regarding “mature” beginners!
It is nice to hear from you! I am planning on teaching Wallowa next summer, but I don’t know what they will ask me to teach yet. I look forward to at least meeting you there!
I am very glad you have a coach for live, one on one feedback. I am also glad she is open to your taking my online lessons. The Suzuki Book 1 class is a CLASSIC which still teaches the best fundamentals available online today. Eventually, you will be ready for the fiddle class!
Nice to meet you, and I look forward to REALLY meeting you in Wallowa 2016!
I’m from Canada and may be interested in this camp you are discussing. Where is it held and when? Any information would be appreciated.
I too am an older student – 59. Your information is so very helpful. I nearly packed in my excellent teacher because of some messaging from her that was misinterpreted. Your communication regarding teacher student relationships came that same weekend and helped me salvage that relationship. You were right.
Wow, that is so nice to hear that my info on student/teacher relationships came at a serendipitous time. Thanks!
The camp: Not sure what camp you are referring to…..the one where I teach in the summers? If yes, then it is in July, lasts 1 week, is very affordable, and is located in beautiful Wallowa, Oregon.
Here is a link. They have not announced the dates for 2016 yet.
If you meant a different camp, please email me, and I will give you any info you need. (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Hope to hear from you!
My husband bought a violin at a yard sale thinking I would just pick it up and play either a fiddle tune or a concerto. I’m 68, with twisted fingers from arthritis, but I practice several hours a day. I’m disappointed with the slow improvement I’m making but I’m having fun and the neighbors are great about my loud practice sessions learning new songs, playing along with YOU TUBE. I love your help and will continue to twist my neck and hand and arm into a pretzel until it feels natural. Sure is an uncomfortable thing to play. Wouldn’t you think after all these years someone would invent an easier way to hold it into your neck? And let’s not even get started with vibrato!
Thank you for making me laugh! Hey…if you invent a new way to hold it….patent it and I can say I knew you before you were famous! 😉
But in all honesty there are little adjustments you can make to help you be more comfortable on the instrument, starting with shoulder rest but also learning to adapt the tilt and angle of the violins to suit your body type. My classes talk a lot about posture and getting comfortable on the instrument. I’m glad you’re enjoying the YouTube videos and hope you find them helpful.
PF next yard sale you go to see if you can find either a French horn or a oboe for your husband. those are equally as torturous to play. You can get your revenge!
I just started with violin and viola lessons 4 months ago. I am 53. I’m at a perfect time in my life, as my career is going very well, I work mostly from home, my children are grown, and so I’m able to devote time to practice.
I’ve always been a self-learner, but I realized I would need help learning the violin. I have a fantastic teacher I see once a week, and I am working through your lessons. My teacher can cover only so much in our 45 minute lessons. I have found your lessons provide additional information that is really helpful. I especially find all your advice about how we can catch ourselves making posture mistakes, bowing, etc.
I wish I had started learning the violin years ago, but there is no time like the present and I’m in a great place in life where I can enjoy the journey, the process of learning, and the value of practice. I can’t wait to pick up my violin at lunch time, and then at the end of my work day. I practice even more on weekends.
You made the comment above that adults can learn to play as well as children. Well, I’m hoping to play better than them one day:-) I am also learning to read music and have right from the start. I had no idea what an interesting language it is!
Thank you for your wonderful lessons. They are so helpful!
Thank you for this wonderful comment and feedback. You are right: there is no time better than the present! The past is gone, the future is not here yet.
I’m very glad to hear that you also have a private teacher for in-person check ups! Keep up the great work!
Hi Lora. I’m writing to tell you how happy I am with the program and how effective it is. I appreciate 3 things:
1. The course structure
2. The details you go into as if you were standing in front of me in person
3. The exercises that you do for building the music experience and that are not limited to violin (I.e ear training, etc). This really leads to a full fledged course as if we were at the conservatoire.
I am a 49 year old person with extensive travel schedule. I have always appreciated music and been close to it but never found the time to learn a specific instrument.
Last year I have moved to Riyadh (in Saudi Arabia) and as many know already that Riyadh is a very hot place with limited activities specially that my family have settled in Lebanon after living between Canada, Saudi Arabia and France.
Three months ago I decided to learn music and I had to decide which instrument to pick up. A piano would be too heavy to move and can’t take it with me when I travel almost every week. A guitar is good but doesn’t have he expressive feeling. Ah! Then it was the violin: it’s like a passionate lady – emotional yet intimidating if you mess with her 🙂
Since I’m living in hotels most of the time, I had bought a silent violin for practice ( Yamaha) and whenever I have the chance I use an acoustic student violin. I have also purchased an accoustic student violin for use when I’m at home where I practice on my terrace over looking the mountains of Lebanon and the beautiful Mediterranean.
Thank you for your help. I love the course and I would hope that you continue expanding the repertoire by adding more Suzuki books and other necessary subjects. This could turn into an online violin and music academy. Think about it!
It sounds like you chose the perfect instrument for you—violin is the most expressive instrument next to the human voice. It is also good for people who just want a hobby, or good as a life-long, serious pursuit, or both! It is perfect for travel too! You have solved the noise problem perfectly. The Yamahas are wonderful for silent practice!
If you ever want to bring your acoustic with you, consider this simple practice mute. These things make your violin as quiet as the Yamaha! They are amazing.
Also, have you ever heard of a Wiplstix? It is a special travel violin for when space is REALLY limited. I have a couple students who own one, and they take it on their international travels.
Anyway, thank you for your kind words, it is an honor to have a student from so far away! I’m glad you found me!
Being one of your adult beginners, I really do appreciate your sensitivity to our quirkiness it is not easy being an adult then being asked to assume the learning role is at times a bit strange. But learning is so much fun and the violin especially. Can’t add much to what has been posted, but I am ecstatic that you decided to undertake so large an endeavor as you have. I know you have a great support too staff because I have whined to them.
So, one more time, hip hip hooray, now we all can learn the mysteries of the language of music.
Thanks, Diana! I need to hear that! I am up to my eyeballs in Book 3 right now! 🙂
hi Lora you are wonderful.You give me a good feeling. I saw your excellent training video previously. Thank you for goodwill.
Hi Mahtab, what a beautiful name!
I wish you well on your violin path. Let me know if you have any questions about my classes.
Also, make sure to find me on YouTUbe…..I have lots of good free videos there!
Talk to you later!
hi LOra. i am a 31 years beginner violin student. I learn it too quick i think. but i want to have more motivation to learn. my teacher make me gray. he says me for example u are play not clean or your playing is like stumble.
i leave in a small town and unfortunately there is only one violin school what i do? i like violin too much.
Hi Mah! (sorry, didn’t see your whole name)
You are a perfect fit for my beginning violin lessons! They are WONDERFUL for adults!
Check out this information page:
Let me know what you think……I KNOW I CAN HELP YOU!!!
Talk to you soon
A possible word of warning for the future … maybe you should bar retired therapists and mental health counselors from signing up for on-line lessons or access to comments sections.
First a general comment … I love these lessons and the work you have put into this effort. I also applaud the way you make every effort to communicate with your students. Of course adults can learn to play the violin and even begin to have fun playing the violin. Hard work, regular practice, realistic expectations, and communication with the teacher are necessary. When there is a problem of any kind (that is relating to music, violin,practice, technique, progress, etc.) if you don’t communicate with the teacher why bother signing on? Last time I checked Lora never claimed to be a mind reader. She can’t help or get envolved with a student if she doesn’t know there is a problem. That part of the comment was easy! The really hard part of this entire learning process is understanding what we are or where doing when we decided to get a fiddle/violin and start lessons. What were our goals and expectations, were they commenicated to the teacher, did we listen to our own inner voice concerning these questions or the responses Lora provides us. What really “matters” in this process, after the hard work, etc. is the commitment to communicate and really listen, better, hear what we are trying to communicate and what our teacher is also trying to communicate to us in response to our questions or comments. If we really engage in this process we will make music. Sorry for the length of this comment.
LOL, thanks for the warning, Michael!
And you make some excellent points: communication is key, whether the lessons are private in person or online.
And while I place MUCH responsibility on TEACHERS to do their job well, it is true that it takes equal participation from the student.
Whenever someone sings my praises for the work I do….I always have to insist that half the credit goes to the STUDENT for working hard and engaging.
Thanks for the comment, Michael.
Great insight of yours Lora.Thanks so much for sharing your observations yesterday on your friend’s instinctive teaching methods.As a novice I know I’m one of those who sometimes needs to find another way to get to Point A etc.in my fiddle lessons and at 63 you don’t hold back any concerns or opinions,especially if you’re female!! I am very lucky to have a teacher who lets us go at our own pace and listens to our concerns .He’s also a pretty happy go-lucky kind of fella and can put one’s nerves at ease very quickly.We do have fun whether it’s with private lessons or a group session. I can see that you are that way too Lora.You are an excellent instructor and give considerable attention to detail,simple,easy to understand instructions. Patience is a virtue for certain.(I’m just glad the laptop screen is one way for now haha ,or is it! I swear you’re looking right at me!! I don’t think I could have done this at any other age!!Between you and Paul I hope to get the hang of this beautiful instrument..slowly but surely! I think I am becoming bilingual in violin music! Mississippi = 4 1/16th notes? Hotdog= 2 1/4 notes? or 2 1/8 th notes depending what the time signature is?(how fast can you say hotdog!!?) Apple pie = 2 1/8ths and a 1/4 note? grasshopper = 1/4 note and 2 1/8ths? cooool! I might be way out to lunch here and it might be as bad as my German or French haha! And a nose breath=rest? maybe not…good for the lungs during practise though as long as you don’t have too much rosin on your bow 🙂 Anyroads… I loved reading all the comments above .They are so very helpful as are you maestro! You are right ,there are oft times many challenges like muscle and bone aches,hearing,sight etc. but with extra TLC for ourselves it all comes out tickety boo! Learning new things keeps us younger for sure and more on our toes! Just ’cause you’re gray doesn’t mean you can’t play! (at anything!)
Thanks for your kind words.
LOL….I am like the portrait painting whose eyes follow you everywhere you go in the room….ever watching you!
The rhythm equivalencies are, as you said, dependent on the time signature, but generally, here’s how Suzuki treats them:
Mississippi= four 16th notes
Hot Dog= two 8th notes
Apple Pie= two quarter notes (apple) and 1 half note (pie)
Grasshopper= one 8th note (grass) and two 16ths (hopper)
There’s a great bumper sticker: “I may be gray, but I can still play!”
Thanks for your good thoughts about teaching violin to adults – they are spot-on. If someone is getting upset about something, it is time to ask why one is taking these lessons. This should all be fun, hard work, but still fun. You are doing a great job so don’t get too worried.
Thanks for your input, Richard.
Still, I feel that I should have been more aware of how my older student was perceiving the lessons, and I should have tailored the lessons to his stiff hands better. Live and learn! He taught me alot!
Lora- I am very thankful that you continue to help those of us who desire to master this rather tricky instrument, known as the violin. By example in the videos, and in answering our questions (even the poorly worded ones!) you have already helped me be less critical of my own nascent talents, and guided me to playing more musically, from the beginning. This series is a great gift to me, and I look forward to progressing further.
John, thank YOU. I appreciate your positive feedback. 🙂
I’m Heba from Egypt and I have 31 years old. I want to thank you because you are the reason in my sense of self – confidence to start learning violin for 4 months ago. I’m taking private lesson and start to take in a group also but when I started to play with them I felt ashamed and confusion especially they are all younger than me in age. What do you suggest for that? & Do you think can I play violin good in this age and play in concert?
I think we expect more from ourselves as an adult student. Probably take ourselves too seriously instead of enjoying the journey It’s not easy being humble or feeling humiliated. Your musical path wasn’t easy, Lora, but the Universe knew how to get you to your teacher mode. I think you’re a “natural” teacher. I like it that you share when we should be “picky”. I also like your smile and sense of humor, you even gently laugh at yourself sometimes! You seem authentic! Thanks, Sue
Yep, the Universe always prevails! And yes, I have no choice but to laugh at myself sometimes…..someday I’ll put out a video of bloopers….you have NO IDEA what gets cut out of these videos! (farting dogs, redneck neighbors, and much, much more!) Thanks for the kind words, Sue!
Slightly different issue for me. I am an adult student, I’ve been playing the violin for about 17 years, and had some occasions to play in local orchestras. I had a 3 year hiatus, and less than a year ago found a remarkable teacher. The only problem, was not that she was too tough, but rather this married woman had more than a crush on me (I’m married too) and it made it impossible to stay with her. I ended up leaving the orchestra RIGHT before the performance too! Taking lessons from her husband seems a bit awkward for my wife. So, I’m stuck in limbo! I had made excellent progress with this teacher.
Oh wow. That is a TOUGH situation…..and we aren’t just “robots” where we can say, “I will act this way, and everything will be normal”. Where the human heart is concerned, rules just don’t apply. I am tempted to tell you to just take lessons from her anyway, but be careful….but that probably isn’t possible. Surely you can find another teacher….keep looking! Check universities and professional (or semi-professional) orchestras….
Your lesson below on Common Causes of Unwanted Bouncing….I like my bouncing, as it’s the closest I will ever get to VIBRATO!
LOLOL….Pat, you are hilarious.
Actually, vibrato is another cause of unwanted bouncing bow, so your joke has some truth to it!
If people try vibrato with tension in their hand, particularly in the thumb, or squeezing, the violin will shake with the hand, and that will get the bow jumping!
I am chuckling at the Suzuki “see all, ignore much” from your email today. Yes, I did reply about Diane’s generous answer. Where that reply ended up, I’ve no idea. Unfortunately, there is no violin shop down here. I could go to DC or Baltimore, but that’s probably not going to happen!
Our small music store has teachers and things to buy, and my teacher there would order anything for me and try to help. I just still don’t know whether or not I am adjusting , and should probably wait a little before trying another shoulder rest.
Thanks for reminding me of that video, which I’ve seen, but I need to review it.
Hi Pat. I cannot remember what I posted before yesterday…but having the correct setup with your chin rest and shoulder rest are so important to your success with playing and progress…it’s like this. You would not want to drag up to the piano a low, chair with arms to play well…same goes for the violin. If you cannot get to a violin shop I would recommend getting in touch with Sharmusic.com or SouthwestStrings.com
Both of these on line stores have 800 phone numbers and can send you out both chin and shoulder rests to try in the comfort of your home…there you can select both a chin and shoulder rest more suited to your body build. As we get older we want to take care of your neck, shoulders and upper arms so we do not get an injury….any pain is NO GAIN.
Stay tuned. Diane in SoCal
PS: Lora explained to me how to post…I had forgotten..: >)!
Oops, forgot the final quotation mark.
Two things. I have a Kun shoulder rest. I think I expect too much of it. I still don’t feel comfortable holding the violin, and often it actually ends up poking me in the throat!
Second thing: I kind of take over my lesson, I realize, with all my questions etc. Also with sharing what I learn online, as from Loralyn. This probably doesn’t go over well, but at least I am realizing it and trying to tone it down. My teacher is 23!!!sigh….and I had 30 years of classroom teaching. Old habits…
I’m laughing out loud, Pat! I find it SO HARD to be a student after having been a teacher….but it is SO important that you step back and allow your teacher to teach you, whilst guiding and asking questions about things you really need to know, or would like to be taught. Good that you are aware of the need to strike a balance there.
Did you get the reply from Diane (another reader on this site) regarding finding the correct set-up? It was a great reply, but I don’t see it anywhere.
Anyway, keep working with the Kun, but also, Diane’s main point was GO TO A VIOLIN SHOP if at all possible, and try out lots of different set-ups. Take notes, and you will find the perfect rest for you.
Are you sure your Kun is on right? Have you seen This video of mine?
Check it out, and try my suggestions. If that doesn’t help your issues significantly, then the Kun may not be right for you.
First of all, you are such a great reply-er! Thanks so much for the wealth of info you give.
To the students above who can’t put down the violin, here is a quote from a poem by Mary Oliver,”…that greatest of love affairs, a violin/and a human body… in her book A Thousand Mornings.
I began violin lessons in September (age 80) but my teacher had a beginning 83 yo gentleman who took on both violin and cello.
I’ve done well in piano, all the usual show pieces, so know how to read music. It’s just finding those mysterious notes on strings!
Have had a big worry about left thumb, which has to be iced sometimes. A hand doctor said don’t be afraid to take Aleve daily, and go for it!
Actually, the thumb is getting better!
My goals are simple….just a few pieces that sound musical. At least that’s what I thought! Now I’m a little more ambitious.
WOW, that is WONDERFUL that you are taking up violin. Good news about the thumb, too. I’m glad the doc gave you the go-ahead! They say, “Move it or lose it”, meaning, even if it is SORE, it’s better to keep it moving and working than to pamper it too much.
Plus, the soreness should keep you from squeezing with the left hand! And added bonus! 🙂
Yes, Lora, I think you are right – I have a sound in my head that I compare my fiddle sounds to, and I have to sort of celebrate every small victory in getting closer to it in order to stay motivated. I don’t know about other adults, but I play for the sheer delight of it. So, a key for me is to be able to experience that delight enough to keep me moving. I find that delight in the small advances that allow me more ability to “fiddle around” with tunes that I love, and in occasional opportunities to jam with other folks. thanks for your reply.
Some thoughts about being an older-adult violin student. I started at about age 65 (I’m 70 now) and took lessons a couple of times a month for almost a year. I tried a few fiddle lessons, but dropped that quickly. I did not progress well, and attempts to play with others left me discouraged. My problem with the fiddle teacher was that he was not well organized and was not good at giving me the information I needed. My problem with the violin teacher was that he had very different goals for me than I had for myself. So those two factors, instructional ability and the program/goals of the lessons were not a good fit for me. Lora’s program and instructional abilities are at the other end of the spectrum. She has, and I use the term with deliberation, a genius for instruction.
One difference for adult learners: I think adults have clearer, more specific motivations/goals for studying fiddle than kids do, and the teacher has to match those motivations, and make accessible the goals that are implied in the motivations. They also have to respect the goals. Kids, on the other hand, tend to have rather undifferentiated motivations and goals, so the “program” can be more generalized.
Another difference is that, as adults, we have already had to learn many challenging things, and so we have developed a “learning-skill set” that works for us – again more differentiated than the kids’ skill sets. The teacher has to be able to work with that skill set, instead of insisting that we all learn in the same way.
Physical capabilities – both kids and older learners have physical limitations. Some of those limitations can be minimized or worked around. Some cannot. Perhaps the muscle make-up of adult and kids fibers differs (e.g., fast-twitch v. slow-twitch cells), but that should not be a problem for 95% of the music. Joint issues offer more of potential for limitations in older adults. In my case, due to a childhood eye injury, I cannot sight-read adequately to play “orchestra style,” and my violin teacher could not accept that. So most of the time, I just memorized pieces and “faked” sight-reading. One time, he restarted us in the middle of the double violin concerto, and pointed to the page/bar where we would start again. Oops, I had no idea where that was if I couldn’t hear the melody, and that was the beginning of the end for me because our ensuing discussion made me realize that he wasn’t going to adapt to my goals and circumstances.
A final thought on adult learning – adults have well-developed belief systems. Some of those beliefs are useful and some are counter-productive, but we have a lived with them for a long time (unlike kids). So the teacher has to be able to spot what ill-founded beliefs might be obstructing the learning, and help the learner develop more useful beliefs.
On the need for encouragement or incentives, I am not sure that the need differs as much between adults and younger learners, as it does between different people (so, not necessarily an age factor). Confidence is one of the variables here. For example, at work I have had to handle large rooms full of very angry people, and did it with confidence. But, if I know someone is listening to me fiddling, I choke, big-time :).
I’m not sure how many adult learners would agree with those observations, but there they are.
I agree with you, Jarl. (especially the part about my being a genius!) 🙂
No seriously, these are VERY good points and observations, and I have observed what you are saying first hand.
Also, Adults have a “sound” to which they aspire. They might have the sound of Itzahk Perlman in their ear, or the sound of Martin Hayes fiddling….and this is the standard they are comparing themselves to…..so they have a very mature sense of how their violin should sound. This can be frustrating! I have to convince my adult students to keep that mature, masterful sound as a goal, but to appreciate the improvements they are making in their own sound.
Also, many adult students are masters at other things…..successful in life, and respected by others for their abilities. How humbling it is to start an instrument where you are like a child again! But how honorable, and how brave!
I read this a while ago and finally have something to share on the topic. It’s a quote I saw from Confucuis that I think every beginning violin student might be encouraged by: It does not matter how slowly you go as long as you do not stop.
That is such an appropriate quote. Many students write to me, concerned that they are falling behind. I tell them their access to lessons will not be terminated as long as they keep trying, HOWEVER SLOWLY. (didn’t know I was being as profound as Confucuis!) Thanks for reading and posting on YouTube!
Hello again.. the Suzuki lessons haven’t eventuated yet so I’m still practising on my own. I’ve belatedly found a shop offering better quality violins from the usual selection available: they were from the equivalent of $200 to $700. However that is beyond my means at the moment: my violin was about $70 equivalent. I’ve got quite fond of it by now. I thought- if the world’s greatest violin is The Messiah, then what is my violin? To call it a devil would be unfair- it does its best. Some days it sounds really good, although some days it misbehaves. Let’s call it the ‘imp’ and leave it at that.
I got tired of plugging away in D, so I undertook to learn the sharp-side majors up to B, and the flat-side majors down to Ab, as well as the white-note natural minors. I also borrowed two hymn books from our church (since I play the piano there), which together give me a repertoire of some 1000 hymns minus overlap. I go through the books, looking for my favourite tunes, and undertake to play them in the key in which they are written. I find the Red Desert Exercises for left hand are invaluable here, as the 5 finger patterns are, of course, just scale fragments. So for example, to play in E major, I set my fingers on the D and A strings in the third finger pattern, play the scale, and some sequences to ‘lock in’ the feel of the finger pattern and the key, and then play the piece. To play in Eb, ditto with the 5th finger pattern on the D and A strings.
Each hymn book has a hymn set to Sibelius’ ‘Finlandia’ theme: in F in one book, and in Eb in another. So I learnt the piece in both keys, and then decided I might as well see if I could play the piece in all the keys I knew, as a transposition exercise. I can also ‘claim’ the piece as a classical piece rather than a hymn. On the piano, I can play Beethoven and Mozart sonates, Bach preludes and Chopin nocturns, and I’m impatient to be playing real classical compositions on the violin- although I enjoy playing folk tunes and hymns. The ABRSM Grade 1 book of violin exam pieces contains works by Brahms, Handel, Mozart and Janacek, but these have all been arranged by others for the grade 1 level.
(PS: it’s confusing how pianists number the fingers 1 to 5, and violinists number the fingers 1 to 4. When I see a 2 in violin music I still tend to think of the index finger, and so on. Also, (in first position, 2nd finger pattern) if you put down your pinky you get a note a 5th above the open string, and so on, which reinforces the piano numbering in my mind…)
I started violin when I was 40 and job stress was wearing me out. Practicing at the end of the day helped me make the transition from work to home (and generally a much pleasanter person!). I learned that if you are truly focused on practice, the other problems move into the background and process.
When I was 50, I went back to school and got my music degree and am now teaching, including a group of beginning adults (which is a blast!). As I turned 60, I played electric violin (including the opening solo) in the show Striking 12. Next step was . . . learning to fiddle, which is how I found you and Red Desert. I also enrolled in a Bluegrass Jam Class and am learning to play by ear and comp. And . . . am taking jazz theory. There’s always something interesting and fun to learn, I’ve met so many wonderful people and am having a great time!
My tips for adult learners . . . keep lots of small bags of frozen peas on hand and ice those joints after a long rehearsal. Warm up thoroughly. Buy a GOOD stand light, and use it. Get a seat “wedge” and take it with you every time you play . . . it will save your back and knees from all those awful chairs.
GREAT ideas, stand light, seat wedge, and frozen peas! Sounds like you have learned well from the school of hard knocks! Keep it up!
Wow, I am amazed at how you took your passion and took it to that next step. I just turned 47 and recently started to play the fiddle. I am having such a blast, although it definately is a challenge. I have been playing only a couple of months, but I can tell that this violin will be a huge part of my life from now on. I keep thinking that because I am an older music student that this somehow will limit what I can do with my new found love. Reading stories like yours makes me think that anything is possible. Thanks for sharing!!!!!!!!!!
It is definitely possible, and you have many decades of enjoyment of your violin ahead of you! 47 is still YOUNG!
Keep up this excellent pursuit!
Also remember the contract between you and a teacher goes both ways. As you expect them to teach you have to make time to practice every day. If you are NOT holding up your end that could cause your teach not to put their all into to teaching you.
You are a welcome voice of reason.
It is true. We must always remember our responsibility in this relationship (heck, in ANY relationship) and not default to blaming the teacher. We have to be honest, and call it like we see it, whether the finger points inwards or outwards, or both.
I started learning the violin at 55 after I retired. I doubt there are any violin teachers anywhere near my mountains. However, even teaching myself, I’m enjoying making music. Maybe when winter blows in and I have lots of spare time I will take some online lessons.
You got it right: enjoying the journey is what it’s all about!
Keep up the good work, and if you decide you need some extra help, you are welcome in my studio any time!
Thanks for the info. I’ve joined the group and they seem very friendly. It’s great to have contact with other adults learning to play the violin.
ps Having read my comment back it looks like I’m 14!! If only – I’m actually 56 years of age. So I’m in the ‘you are never too old’ camp.
I too sometimes feel like it’s one step forward and one back! I started re-learning violin (gave up aged 12) coming up for 2 years ago. I mostly play fiddle tunes which I enjoy but I still have to play them as a much slower pace than intended in order to get the intonation. However, my teacher is encouraging and says that precision with the notes is more important than rushing through the piece and making mistakes. So it calls for a lot of patience. Like you, I enjoy going back to other pieces that I can play reasonably well (most of the time !) – it does let you see that you’ve progressed. I had a break from playing recently because it was the summer holidays and my teacher wasn’t available – big mistake ! Only after a few weeks it was like I hadn’t held a violin or bow 🙁 so not doing that again! Just mentioned it as I know how easy it is to take a ‘break’ but it’s not worth it. Back fiddling again now and enjoying it.
I had your age pegged…you didn’t sound 14!
Thanks for your comment….it’s nice to know how others experience this phenomenon of learning violin as adults!
There is a really cool FAcebook group called, “Adult Starters” I think, and they are all adults who started violin in their adult years!
Anyway, keep up the great work!
I’m 66, retired and single. I took several years of lessons 20 years ago but eventually lost interest. Now, a year ago, I heard of an adult beginning fiddle class in my town, and the interest returned. It really does help to play with others who are learning. We don’t get much theory or one-on-one but we do learn fiddle tunes, and everyone progresses. Some are total beginners, others like me have played in the past, given it up, and want to try it again. I’m really enjoying it, and some of my old skills from many years ago are starting to come back. The teacher found Lora’s downloadable Left Hand Speed and Dexterity exercises and presented them–so now I add that to my practice.
I am so happy that other teachers are sharing my exercises. That is fantastic. I certainly borrow plenty from other teachers I know!
It’s great that you have a good social group to learn in! That helps SO MUCH to not be isolated.
However, the internet makes it so that NOBODY has to be totally isolated.
Keep up the great work! You will start to see results from those exercises in 3 weeks or less!
Thanks for the encouraging words. If I can can make this violin sing like Perlman, just think how I’ll sound when I buy a quality instrument.
It’s been a steep learning curve, if you’ll pardon the cliche. Not long ago I thought of the bridge as some sacred object which only the luthier should touch. But necessity makes one bold…When I leave Indonesia next year, it might not be worth taking this violin with me (depending on what the airlines charge me). But I’ll treat myself to an upgrade, if I find myself somewhere with ready access to a good luthier or violinist who can give me advice on purchasing a good violin, and help me to set it up.
I’ve found a music school not far from my home, where I can study the Suzuki Book 1 (and no doubt subsequent books if I wish), for a reasonable price. That will be rewarding, if I can persuade my violin to hold its tuning for half-an-hour. My first teacher in NZ was somewhat dismissive of the Suzuki method, but I see from the Red Desert website that there’s another side to the story.
Oh yes, Grant….many people are against the Suzuki method….but largely, their complaints are based on the Suzuki method that was taught poorly or wrong. That is like saying you hate Golf because of Tiger Woods….well, that’s a bad analogy, because I always liked Tiger….anyway…
If you leave your violin in Indonesia, you should find a needy kid or adult who longs for a violin, and just give it to them! Imagine the impact that could have on their life?! (and good Karma for you!)
Anyway, take care, safe travels, and do keep in touch!
Hello again…I see it’s been about ten months since I last posted. A belated thank-you to Catherine her advice to the lonely fiddle player.
I’ve been in Jakarta Indonesia since November, most of the time sans violin. (My brother reclaimed his violin, after not playing for many years. I wouldn’t have brought the heirloom to Jakarta anyway). However, even without searching out violins, I kept coming across them everywhere- there are music shops everywhere and the large multi-story chain bookstores generally contain a music department which, while mostly featuring guitars, invariably displays several cheap violins. (Cheap in dollar terms, but in terms of local currency, the price was still just enough to make me hesitate.) But last week, I finally bought a violin. ($US68, but more than my monthly rent, so it felt like a big purchase.) The guys at the counter, though on their own admission guitarists, not violinists, were very helpful. The junior assistant however did overtighten the bow, so it assumed a convex shape not seen since the eighteenth century…I had to point out that the G string is the first on the left, not first on the right. But between us, two guitarists and one beginning violinist, we somehow got the bridge set, the strings tuned and the bow rosined. It was a great moment when I put the bow to the strings, after a lapse of ten months, and squeakily at first, and then with better tone, began to play some of the tunes I still remembered. If I dare say so, the violin sounded amazingly good for a cheap instrument set up by three people who knew little about it, and played by a beginner who hadn’t practised for months.
Then I took stock of my resources: I had:
• The Red Desert exercises for LH speed and dexterity, and LH/RH co-ordination.
• Russian etudes given to me by my first teacher
• Some simple arrangements of hymns and carols
• The ABRSM book of Grade 1 violin pieces for 2012-2015
• Copies of Scottish and Irish fiddle tunes.
• A mental repertoire of tunes I had picked out by ear
After that I determined on a program something like this:
1. Physical warm up
2. Open strings- Tone, bow control, greasy elbow
3. String crossings
4. Scales and arpeggios as for ABRSM Grade 1 with attention to intonation. Grade 2 scales and arpeggios in due course, and so on.
5. Russian “Etudi”
6. Red Desert LH & LH/RH exercises.
7. Two or three tunes to polish.
8. “Hoe down” – general medley of whatever I liked to conclude.
– and I bought a notebook so I could keep track of all those exercises, etudes, scales and melodies.
Well, I guess the violin is a real cheapie, even allowing for the probablilty that markup on imported violins is less in Indonesia than in the West, so my $68 fiddle might sell for much more in the USA. And as promised, I have had the usual problems with slipping pegs and breaking strings etc. And it’s difficult for me to bring the violin to a real expert. I’m proud of the fact that I worked out on my own how to set the bridge so it stood upright when the strings were tightened- after much trial and error. At the moment I’m practising without an A string, which is a good challenge- I’m learning how to transpose songs down from D to C or G, and for the first time I’ve ventured into the third position on the D string to get those missing notes-I’ve only been in first position up to now. I also forbid myself to say “This is a cheap violin- it’s going to sound like rubbish.” I order myself to sound like Perlman or Heifetz or Menuhin- or failing that- as near as I can manage…
WOW! A new toy for you! I’m glad you were able to figure out the bridge and strings! Hopefully you got them in the right spot. Maybe when you can afford it, or next time you are at a shop where there is a real luthier, you could have him/her check it over. There’s a chance that if a professional tweaked it, it could sound 10x better! Wouldn’t that be nice?!
Sounds like your practice routine is a GREAT one….it includes some of the rudimentary exercises for technique, but most important, it includes time for music and pleasure and fun.
I like your attitude…don’t use the violin as an excuse…make it sing like Perlman!
Keep up the good work, and good luck to you!
I really want to thank you for posting your violin lessons online and having all these great resources available on your website. I am 26 and just started learning to play about 1 month and 1/2 ago and really enjoy it. Although I do have a great teacher I do like to go online and see how other people teach and get ideas about other exercises that I can try. Your videos also give me a “heads up” on what to expect to come up next in my lessons.
Also, I don’t know any other people that play violin (or more importantly, other adult beginners) so websites like where other members can post are the closest I can really get to hear the experiences of other beginners that are facing the same challenges that I am. Reading people’s posts about their issues (and improvements) and seeing your responses definitely helps me stay motivated when I am feeling a little bit discouraged or lost. Keep up the great work!
You have MANY MANY years to learn and enjoy the violin! You will get great satisfaction from it, I’m sure.
You are wise to seek out other information. I just had the thought the other day, “I should have taken my own violin education upon myself more, instead of just relying on my teachers…..if you only learn from your teacher, then you only learn what that teacher knows!”
So it is interesting that you posted this comment on the same day I had that thought.
You are welcome here, of course, but there is also a great community of adult beginners on violinist.com. It is free to set up an account there, and you will love the community and the resource.
Hope to hear from you often!
Honestly, having picked up the violin as my first musical instrument is one of the most challenging and rewarding things I’ve done.
Having begun at age 21, I do feel as though I really have to fight my body and muscles to get into proper position, hitting those low 2’s (especially coming from a 4th finger note). Some days I feel like I am making some great progress but other times I personally feel as though it’s my first lesson again – like I am taking a step forward and two back.
I’ve noticed that by going back and playing older songs can really cheer me up, especially when I can how much I have improved, and how easily I can play them now compared to when I first started. Seeing young children progress rapidly can be quite disheartening, but I am slowly learning that it is very important not to undersell your own achievements too!
21 is SOOOO young! You still have many advantages!
And I agree with you: watching children learn can be frustrating….but honestly….we adults have an ace or two up our sleeves….we have attention to detail, longer attention span, and discipline! Not to mention a “concept” of a beautifully played violin…..which guides our learning.
Keep up the great pursuit!
I just began violin at age 61 – still working full-time too. Putting learning and achievement in perspective is important I think.
If you go swimming (like me) or running, etc. then you don’t expect anyone else to be interested in watching – you do it for the enjoyment. You don’t expect to get to the Olympics either.
So in learning violin just be patient and take it step by enjoyable step. You won’t ever be Alina Ibragimova [see YouTube] but then you’re not Michael Phelps either: be yourself – the self that plays violin.
I like that perspective, Terence! I never thought to compare a musician to an athlete, but you are right: athletes are performers too….and they get the whole performance anxiety and the whole bit. Thanks for the insight! L
I started to play violin aged 55 years of age. I played for a couple of years as a kid and always regretted giving it up. It’s been about 18 months now since I started learning and I have a very good teacher who lets me pick my favourite musical pieces. Like the other post mentioned, playing alone at home can get a bit boring. It would be nice to meet fellow beginners for encouragement and to gauge how I’m doing compared with other adults.
You are not alone! There is a whole universe of adults just like you out there! Unfortunately, this comments area is not a very good place to interact with them, because they have moved on. But if you haven’t already found , I highly suggest you set up an account there. (it’s free)
You can ask questions, find other adults learning violin, it’s just a huge community.
Thanks for visiting my site, and I hope to see you around! Keep posting!
I think this has a lot to do with our motivation for playing. This is a really difficult and challenging instrument that we pick up for a lot of different reasons. Your videos have had a positive dramatic impact on my playing, thank you!
You are right about the motivation. I find that adults are motivated by many different things, but….the one thing they all have in common is that they are MOTIVATED! Usually by passion or a love for the instrument, or a childhood longing that had to be put aside!
I’m so glad to know the lessons are helping you. Keep up the great work!
I would say pay attention, practice, and don’t get in a hurry.
You summed it up very concisely, Jim. It’s all about FOCUS. Not the AMOUNT of practice time, but the intensity of focus. And patience!
Yes, I’m an adult beginner, although I have a performance degree in flute! 🙂 So to me, practicing means looking at a page with a lot of notes and figuring out the problems, doing some slow work to get over them, etc. Imagine my chagrin when I couldn’t play a “Twinkle” variation to suit my teacher!! I understand fully the humility involved in being on the other side of this delightful equation as a student and not a teacher. If I had one piece of advice, it would be to find “actual music” that might teach the same beginning concepts rather than a child’s song. Those were a tad demeaning, although I’ve read extensively about Suzuki’s orderly progression of things and the goals he was trying to accomplish. The same thing in a recognized “method book” or even the O’Connor stuff goes down a bit better. But maybe that’s because I’ve already got a musical education perspective. Anyway, it’s a lot of fun, and I can hardly keep my hands off the violin all day!
Yes, I tell all my adult beginners, “just swallow your pride….Suzuki Book 1 is the surest, shortest route to proficiency”.
I have explored the O’COnnor method, and didn’t think it hit the mark.
The thing is…..only the first 7 tunes are “children’s” tunes…..after that, you are playing Bach, Boccherini, Schumann, Beethoven, and onwards and upwards! Whereas in traditional methods of learning, that “elementary” phase continues WAAAAY longer.
Glad to meet you, Gigi. I’m glad you are a good sport!
Thanks for the encouragement. It’s true that I need to find some other real live violinists to practise and natter with- it’s getting a bit boring just playing alone in my room. After all, although I was enjoying the piano, I took up the fiddle so I would have at least one instrument I could carry with me from place to place- including to musical gatherings.
Someone on the ABRSM forum suggested I join their beginners’ orchestra, which sounded great fun- only they were in the UK, and I’m in NZ. That’s the trouble with the Interweb- it makes the whole Anglophone world seem like one village- then you suddenly find you’re very far apart!
I do want to join a group class, surround myself with other musicians and so forth. Still, as they say in “Airplane” “That’s not important right now.” I have so many other pressing issues to attend to, which I won’t go into here. But if things “settle down”, then I will find some fellow fiddlers, if time and money allow. (A constant balancing act indeed- I think “fiddler on the roof” is the traditional expression…)
Indeed! We are all fiddlers on a roof! I constantly have to choose: would I rather spend my time or my money? (and usually, both are in short supply)
And YES, the internet is a great social outlet….until you actually want to CONNECT with others….
But you might be surprised at how many people “pass through” your area, and it’s possible to jam with them. But, that doesn’t offer the same satisfaction as practicing, rehearsing, and performing with the SAME PEOPLE.
I think it would be worth the effort to find people near you, foster the relationship, and come up with some reasonable goals for performance….whether it’s in church, in a park, in a formal concert, or just regular jam sessions, or even if you don’t perform, having regular gatherings are worthwhile.
I remember my computer geek friend in college….he had a bunch of online friends who decided to meet in Kansas City, because it was a mid-point for all of them. When they got together, they all sat buried in their computers, choosing to remain disconnected from each other. My friend came back so disheartened….he had wanted to actually interact with his friends….but they seemed incapable of actual face-to-face interaction.
It’s a dying art….human interaction!
Grant, this is a reply from one of my colleagues. She accidentally sent it to my email. Incidentally….I’m sure I replied to you. Why isn’t it showing up here? 🙁 I am so bad at technology.
Hi Grant. I think your idea of finding other like minded musicians is a good one. There is a social net work where you can post a thread regarding finding a jam, teacher or group in your area.
Set up a home page on FiddleHangout.com It Free and very easy. People from all over the world are on the stie. Hope that helps….good luck. You might also contact your local music store or violin store in your area and ask if they know or any groups…you might even find a teacher there who could get you started with the basic…which I highly recommend.
Good luck and have fun.
Diane in SoCal
And to that, I would add that if you don’t find a beginning teacher that you are happy with, give Red Desert Violin a shot. Most people are amazed at how effective my lessons are. But regardless—you are welcome here, and I hope to hear from you! Keep it up!
Well, I’m still persevering, although I’ve dropped my violin lessons. The private lessons were really beyond my means, so I dropped from weekly to fortnightly to monthly, and finally, desperately trying to save up to go overseas, stopped the lessons altogether. The trouble is, I can’t resist picking up my violin now- I’m in love with it,although I fear that it’s dangerous to continue without a tutor- I’m liable to develop bad habits. Still, there seems to be an honorable tradition of self-taught fiddlers going back centuries. (I have a montage in my mind’s eye of fiddlers in Irish villages, East European Shtetls, Gypsy camps and the Appalacian mountains, all self-taught.)
I’m concentrating on playing simple folk and popular tunes with the cleanest tone and the most acurate intonation I can manage. To that end, I’m listening to myself with as critical an ear as I can manage. But I’m probably still missing stuff. I’m also re-connecting with my celtic roots by practising traditional Irish and Scottish melodies. Some of the music I play from sheet music, the rest I pick out by ear. Others in the place where I’m living right now compliment me on the sound of my playing.
My brother is now talking of reclaiming his violin after many decades, but I see that there are any number new violins available on Trade Me (local equivalent of eBay) for $NZ100 to $NZ300. Hopefully they are good enough for a beginner. Next year, depending on circumstances I may be able to take up lessons again (either privately or in a group.)
I hear you about balancing the shortage of time with the shortage of money! It’s a constant balancing act!
I also agree with you about the tradition of self-taught violinists and fiddlers. If they could do it, why can’t we? We CAN, we are just as smart and gifted as they were. I think our lives are just more chaotic, and we have less time to “sit on the porch” and swap tunes, or swap techniques. I don’t think they were self-taught at all….they taught each other.
I am amazed at people who are self-taught, both in the past, and in the present. It can be done! Just make sure you surround yourself with other musicians, whether they are trained or self-taught and learn from each other!
Keep in mind that if you get the time to focus on violin lessons, if you took just the first 3 months of my Suzuki Book 1 class, you would get a very solid foundation, and it would speed you along on your path. But I hope you keep checking in, and let us know how your quest is coming!
Tell your brother if he wants the violin, he has to challenge you to a “play-off”…and whoever gets the best applause wins the violin!
I am a 52 year-old and have been playing since March. I recently got a decent violin and have finally starting to get a decent tone! Except that now I’m starting double stops, so I’m sure my neighbors are rolling their eyes and pulling out their ear plugs again.
Like others in previous posts, sometimes I get so frustrated because it takes me so long to learn something –it could be to play in tune consistently, play clean double stops, or make slurs sound smooth (especially crossing strings), or anything else. It’s especially bad when the difficulties follow a good lesson; I don’t want to let my teacher down any more than I want to play poorly for myself. My teacher is awesome, though–she’s enthusiastic and “talks me down”.
What’s scaring me now is that my finger joints are getting really stiff—in the morning I can’t even make a fist with my left hand. My index finger is the worst, and it’s making playing notes on the E string really hard. It’s taken me three weeks to slur G-F sharp-E with 4th finger (an exercise book has that as part of an exercise), and it’s only decent when I go super slow. Charlie Daniels will never have any competition from me!
You’re right, being an adult student does take humility. I hate doing anything less than perfectly, so learning the violin has been a trial. But I’m hanging in there and hopefully, despite my uncooperative left hand finger joints, I will eventually become proficient enough to be able to play in a bluegrass group, which is the reason I took up the violin in the first place. This dream is the only thing keeping me going when things get tough.
Thanks so much for all you posts, in all their forms. They’re a godsend between lessons!
Thanks for your nice note.
I don’t have any magic cures for your joint stiffness, except the usual: supplements, warm-up and stretch before playing, ice afterwards if needed, and Ibuprofen when necessary….all stuff you probably already know!
The thing you especially need to keep in mind, is that the exercise you are talking about is very difficult even if your fingers ARE NOTE swollen! So, in a way, you are setting yourself up for failure by attempting them when you are swollen.
That’s ok, do the exercises anyway, because they are teaching you an important finger independence and coordination concept. But, try not to take it to heart and get frustrated if you can’t do it. It doesn’t mean you can’t still play a mean fiddle! It just means that you can’t do that one exercise very well.
When I broke my finger, it left my finger with a little “droop”. I thought all was doomed. But, all was not doomed. I know exactly what I CAN’T do, and I work around it. (I can’t play a Major 6th double stop with 2nd and 3rd finger above 3rd position) So, you know, I avoid situations where I would have to do that. No biggie. Just work around it, and keep improving in other areas. Don’t let your one weakness hold you back!
Ma’am Diane and Ma’am Lora, thank you so much for your words! I find them a BIG ENCOURAGEMENT. I am sending many WARM VIOLIN HUGS to you from my country; I hope they won’t get expired when they reach the US territory. 🙂
It is really great to have that topic opened up here, because I really want the message sent to others, teachers and students. I’ve been really thinking about it.
Firstly, in my experience, I think it would help more for beginning adult students to personally have a teacher first, rather than study alone. I chose to do so in my case because I studied the guitar on my own, with just the manual. But playing the violin is a lot more difficult than the guitar or the piano for any beginner. There are no frets, and you have to find the exact pitch, unlike with the guitar and piano or keyboard. It helps to have a teacher who could give us the basics and criteria of what a violin should really sound and how it should be played.
But when we have a teacher, this is one of the problems we might encounter: The teacher-student relationship we might be treasuring but needs a yanking.
I am putting much hope that this time things will greatly improve. The last incident was last month, when I really got so discouraged and thought of dropping out from our classes (i had two more classes left at the time). The next day I texted her about what happens to me whenever I get tensed up, so indirectly I told her it was because she was getting impatient and raising her voice, which she acknowledged that there are days when her patience is not that long. I apologized to her that I was the one who triggered it and was sad about it, and she also did the same and said because maybe she had high expectations from me.
After that, the two classes went well and she was back to her old cheerful self. I always open up because I want her to trust me, to feel that she could trust me, being about a few years younger like a sister. I value our relationship because not only did she open up a great world to me, but you see, I came to love the violin sound only after hearing her play her violin.
I used to love the Chinese flute’s sound; I chose the violin only because of inner feelings I couldn’t explain. Back then, every time I see a violin at any music shop, it seems like I feel a sense of belonging, like it was calling out to me. How could I take notice of it, when I don’t even appreciate its sound that much–just a simple appreciation as I have for any instrument?
So I regard my teacher as the one who really made me passionate about the violin. I want to make the same sound she makes on her violin; I want to have a similar violin that I even asked her once if her violin had any sister I could purchase for myself!
We will start our next batch of classes on the last week of this month. I will keep your words in mind as I hope for a better violin future and relationship with my teacher. I expect some changes, but I will definitely open up the issue to her if we ever get to that discouraging point again. We are now in Suzuki Book 3, Gavotte in D major by Bach; she is even excited that soon we can play the concertos in Book 4. I really look forward to it–no more voice-raising, just pure enjoyment of playing together and making beautiful music.
Like what Ma’am Lora said, I also used to buy the myth that you have to endure verbal abuse from great teachers, like in Medieval times when apprentices endure their (well-known and well-respected) master’s harsh words, as it would be “for their own good.” But experience has also taught me, you will be a lot happier and at peace if you treat others the way you would want to be treated. So, I also give second chances to others, as I would also want to be given second chances to improve and change for the better.
Thanks so much for taking time to listen to my story and giving me such PRICELESS ADVICE. I am so happy and grateful that there are teachers like you. Your words energized me so much!
PS. To all violin teachers who love to teach adult students like us, May God ever bless you and reward you richly for the violin love you share with us!
Ma’am Diane, how I would love to give you a hug too (like what your student did)!
I sometimes feel like I wanted to hug my own teacher out of much gratitude, but I study in a somewhat traditional school where students are students and teachers are teachers. I think it’s not easy to be expressive here of your appreciation and gratitude and love. But I do give her a thank-you letter after each semester, and sometimes include some funny stories about my childhood. She has her own little way of responding to my being open to her.
I know she loves her students, too, but despite my being very open to her I couldn’t tell her that it scares me every time she gets frustrated and raises her voice, and the thundering sounds get transferred to my violin and are converted to some enigmatic form of kinetic energy:
1) Little Pinkie trips and falls more often and would have been shot by cruel border guards if it were a refugee stepping beyond the line;
2) My bow gets so nervous that it does more somersaults and squeals louder than a cornered cat;
3) My brain forgets the names of the notes I’m reading, and my left fingers– trained to follow after its reading–nervously yell, “Oh, please, Melisa, don’t just stand there and stare at those notes!”
4) My sensitive ears start to panic–they would have left my head if they could exist on their own;
5) My heart beats wildly, praying in haste, “Oh God, oh God, please rush the minutes, I want to go home now!”;
6) At home, I tire my tear glands out, but at the end of the day my inner self somewhat says, “You should apologize to her. Didn’t you know, it’s very tiresome for a person to raise their voice a thousand decibels higher than usual?! If you did your homework, you wouldn’t have pushed the emergency alarm button!” 🙂
I also don’t believe in raising your voice when correcting students, unless the words are said in a comical way–which is sometimes the way my teacher corrects me. Amusingly, her favorite expression is, “Oh, goodness, Melisa!” Mine is, “Oh, got it wrong, sorry!”
I think those few (scary, not comical) voice-raising incidents have taught both of us something. It was really hard for me because I love, admire, and respect my teacher so much. But I have learned to be more patient, and I have also noticed she’s more patient with me now. Like I said, I treat her as if she’s my elder sister–so I try to bear with that weak spot in her personality, as I know she also tries to bear with mine (too many!). But I do wish the situation would improve.
Your students are very lucky to have someone like you (and Ma’am Lora). I really appreciate the way you both value your students. I count myself lucky, too, despite the sad episodes–as I also am part of the reason why I was losing interest in my studies (under a teacher). I’m way too sensitive. 🙁 I know I can find someone else to replace her, but I don’t know why, despite those sad incidents, having known her for two years, it makes me cry to think I would never hear her voice and her violin again. It’s like having a mom who sometimes nags at you and you resent it, yet when you think of losing her you couldn’t bear it.
So I just encourage myself by looking at it positively. Like, you know, when I get older (I hope way before I reach the ancient age) and can play the violin well, I can tell little stories to children about the violin. Like, they’d ask how I learned to play it, and I’d say, “Well, in the beginning I was a very impatient student. Then I got a few word-beatings from my teacher, so I did my best to stretch my Patience from here to past the moon and the stars! I even think it’s still roaming the galaxies, you know. So you must do your homework if you don’t want to see your kind, sweet Mama teacher turn into a growling Mama bear!” 🙂
But of course, if she were like Luiza’s former teacher (June 4, 2012 comment) and would tell me, “I can teach technique, but not talent. SO, MELISA, YOU BETTER GIVE UP,” I will definitely drop out from our classes!!!
But I think I’ll first make a drama out of it and give her AN EXPERIENCE SHE WOULD NEVER FORGET– I’ll cry my heart out in front of her, kneeling helplessly, sobbing, “Oh, how cruel! Oh, how indifferent and inhuman! Why didn’t you tell me right from the beginning?! Didn’t you know, I had to live like a miserable miser just to attend our classes?! Oh, oh, my poor violin! In an instant we’ve become homeless!” Just kidding. 🙂
In real life I will just pack up my things and walk away silently, while tears rush down my cheeks. I’ll hug my violin case and tell my beloved violin, “It’s okay. We’ll find a home somewhere.” Imagine a clumsy-looking old countrygirl, coming out of our class like a poor orphan, walking aimlessly as she hugged close the only home she ever had.
It’s heartbreaking when you value somebody so much but to that somebody you are just a nobody. 🙁
Hi Melisa….I’m sending you a big VIOLIN TEACHER HUG today from San Diego, Ca. Thanks for your thought-provoking reply. Both your postings have brought up some very interesting thoughts and I need to reply as both a teacher and a counselor …I am a trained RN for the past 30 years (before I became a violin teacher) in relationship abuse. I see in your posts some stuff that is a red-flag and need to reply and hope that Lora will allow this on her website.
One thing I need to caution you on is this: In any relationship, be it parents/kids, husband/wife, boss/employee, stranger/stranger and teacher/student there is a word that has all kinds of connotations and that word is Abuse. Abuse can be presented in many forms. In your case it’s verbal abuse: A teacher who “raises her voice” gives her students a “word beating” or presents as a “growling Mama bear” (your words from the text) this is a subtle from of teacher abuse passed on to you, the student. You may be in denial here, as you indicate in your text above by saying: In many words above , “I know she loves her students, too, but despite my being very open to her I couldn’t tell her that it scares me every time she gets frustrated and raises her voice” and another example, “So I just encourage myself by looking at it positively”. These are all forms of denial.
You will need to decide whether you will continue to accept this abuse and feel the way you do towards yourself and your violin or break that chain… By allowing this teacher to perpetuate her moods and verbal abuse towards you is only giving her the freedom (not respect) to continue with you and maybe other students at your school. By telling yourself that “she loves her students” and writing about what you could do, but have not…allows the situation Melisa to continue. As a caring and thoughtful violin teacher (and a retired RN) I need to mention this to you. Again, you need Melisa, (and as Lora has subtly stated in her posts to you)…come to terms with this verbally abuse, unprofessional teacher. Some decisions on your part will need to be made.
Think of the situation that your in with this teacher as a perpetual ball that rolls down a gentle slope with a few hard, rocky bumps in it’s path…your the ball trying to move forward with your violin and playing….this teacher is the rock in the pathway that keeps you off your course and enjoyment to full learning and true self respect. I care enough about you as a student, not personally because I don’t work with you please understand, but as a violin teacher I needed to point out the above and in hopes that you will come to understand what it is your involved with here.
I wish your journey as a violin student will be like a happy, bouncy ball that will continue to grow with finding a teacher who has total respect for you, does not take advantage of you and that you will find the violin to be a “spirit” and a “vehicle” of growth both as an individual and a musician. Fiddle hugs to you. Diane in SoCal
Thank you for your input!
This is an IMPORTANT topic, and a COMMON problem in the music world, as well as gymnastics and other activities which require great discipline and long years of training.
Some people say this “abuse” motivates students.
Some say it gives them “mental toughness”.
Many people believe that if you want a great teacher, you must endure this abuse.
I am guilty of some of these beliefs…..I admit it. (although I have never been abusive toward my students….I have bought into the myths above)
And yes, I have endured abuse from a couple of teachers.
I would love to hear from anyone else on this topic.
Thank you Melissa and Diane, for opening up this dialogue!
You are a VERY expressive writer! You have real talent for painting a picture with your words!
I love your attitude, and I totally respect your desire to “toughen up”, and try to take things less personally.
I also see that you have a wickedly fun sense of humor…..and humor will ALWAYS help you!
Diane has given you a really loving lecture.
You have some thinking to do.
Don’t feel like you MUST do one thing or another.
Just think about the situation.
Think about what powers you have to deal with it.
1) You can choose to continue or discontinue. The power is all yours.
2) You can use your humor and wonderful sense of drama to help you cope.
3) You can communicate with your teacher and help her to understand your tender heart and your desire to simply ENJOY violin.
You have alot of power!
Please continue to visit and post here! We enjoy you!
Melisa, how far we are!
I hope that we continue together in classes Loralyn.
I’m in the last lesson of the Suzuki n. 1. I’ll do with her other courses. I love it.
I wish I were living nearby! That would be fun–learning under one teacher! But for now I use Teacher Lora’s Red Desert Violin and YouTube videos and newsletter as reference.
Keep on enjoying your lessons with Teacher Lora. You are adorable–you are studying English and the violin! Just keep it up, you can do it! I love English too. It’s a beautiful language.
The last piece of the Suzuki book 1 has a charming melody. Your family will be delighted to hear you play it.
Thank you for the wonderful advice, Ma’am Lora! I feel I’m beginning to get excited again. 🙂 I also feel that that is why she’s frustrated at times, that she cares, esp. about my progress. It’s just that sometimes I am in a low mood and too sensitive when it happens that I forget all the wonderful moments we’ve had, as well as my thinking that my teacher does care. 🙁
I will definitely remember your words. Happy and grateful to hear from you!
I had a teacher who told me:
I can teach technique, but not talent. You better give up.
You know what I did? I gave the teacher.
Do not give up the violin!
I began to learn much later than you.
And now with the teacher Loralyn I’m having so much fun.
São Paulo, Brasil
Hi from the Philippines, Luiza!
Thanks very much for making me smile and excited! Yes, I will never give up the violin! Let’s keep on learning and enjoying it!
Dear Melisa. This is Diane (the teacher with the moody teenage student). I read your post with interest and it became apparent that you are somewhat sad, discouraged and a bit confused if I might say that. And I can tell that your young and venerable.
I also see in your post a passion to want to learn, but at your speed. There is nothing wrong with that, it’s a good thing that a student has that wisdom to say, ” I can learn what I can with the time available. It’s like the old saying: “I can only do so much!” I only wish your moody teacher could see the value of that! I have to absolutely agree with Lora….your teacher is not the one for you. She doesn’t deserve to teach you. No matter how you turn the events around and try and rationalize her moods you are doing yourself a disfavor. Please don’t think it’s ok for ANY teacher to raise her voice or speak to you in a tone that is hurtful and think it’s ok, it is NOT! I would personally not give her another chance. As teachers, we need to help students and discover creative ways that we can truly reach out to them. By doing this we give them “tools” to help them discover the joys of music, be it at the moment or for life. There is no reason for a teacher to act this way, it’s unprofessional and off line totally!!! You need to find a teacher who real cares about her students and their progress. Call the teacher and tell her you will not be coming back. You don’t even have to give a reason. I hope this helps in some small way. Like Lora stated: we as teachers would love to have a student like yourself. You will need to stick up for yourself and fine a teacher who laughs and is creative.
Please let us know how you are doing. Thanks for your nice comments too. I would love to be able to teach you : >) ..stay tuned. Diane in SoCal
Nice to hear from you, Diane. I agree with you. Thanks for weighing in on this emotional topic! –Lora
Ha! I LOVE that! When a teacher tells you to give up, it’s time to give up the teacher!
That’s a good one!
Thanks so much, Ma’am Lora, for all the free violin time you share with us online.
I am also an adult beginner violin student, started two weeks before turning 34, but I’ve been playing the guitar since teenage years. I began in the summer of 2010 with zero knowledge of the violin and reading music notes, so I felt overwhelmed when I was made to study to read music at the start, and play the notes without looking at my left fingers. My teacher also did not put finger tapes, but I met another student of hers and we both wondered why she put violin finger tapes on this student’s violin, but not on mine.
In the beginning I was very excited. My violin was my only destressor. I know where I have been, I know what kind of playing I was doing back then, and I know I was making some progress, no matter how slow. I highly appreciate all my teacher’s efforts and patience, and she’s very strict with intonation since Day 1.
But lately I was feeling overwhelmed and I felt she was frustrated with the kind of progress I was making. I have already told her at the beginning that I am not in a hurry to advance in my playing, I just wanted to enjoy the learning process. I have also twice declined to participate in the school’s recitals (maybe later, when I can really share beautiful violin music). I am also a sensitive person, and I have to muster enough self-motivation and patience every time she gets so frustrated and raises her voice. This has always been my only problem with our lessons, though this does not happen most of the time, just at times. We’ve had so many enjoyable, happy moments together, but I want to share with you my sentiments.
I know that teachers can be frustrated with their students, esp. the slow ones like myself, but I hope they would try to find a way where we could somehow grasp what they’re trying to teach us. In my case, even if I have problems with finding enough time to practice where I don’t disturb neighbors taking a nap or sleeping, I love practicing. I love to get lost in my violin world and get excited at having even a little improvement.
But last summer, I took an additional course (solfege), so my practice time was affected, and I knew I did poorly. I know that if I do poorly in our class, I can receive those ear-stinging remarks when she happens to be not in the mood. The problem with sensitive me, I began to remember more those voice-raising incidents since the beginning, every time she gets in that mode. While we have talked about it and asked apologies for what had happened, I am now beginning to lose interest in my studies. If my violin is just causing me stress instead of relaxation from my routine job…I hope teachers would see this side of the equation.
Diane was successful enough in dealing with the moody teenage student [July 23, 2011 comment]. I don’t know what made the girl change her attitude towards her teacher and began to really study. But you know, if it were me, it was because Diane, the teacher, cared enough to let me know that she wanted me “TO BE THE BEST MUSICIAN” I could be. As a student, such an email could really boost my self-confidence, knowing what my teacher thinks of me, what she wants me to accomplish. It helps when we students know why we’re being made to do something which we may find boring, instead of being left to think of the why’s only to come up with our maybe’s. Certainty is a great thing.
I believe, in this setting, always, the teacher is the one who inherently has the power or control. The teacher initiates, the student follows; the teacher has concern for the student, the student has respect for the teacher. In my experience, while I have some ideas as to which things could possibly help me improve better and faster, I realized that my teacher was right all along (and that’s what made me appreciate her more). But in any relationship, the emotional side should always be considered.
We students need balanced motivation from our teachers. Occasional voice-raising is okay (at least with me, as I treat my teacher as if she’s my dear elder sister), but, like what you said, in reverse, please give us a “spoonful of sugar” next so we don’t go home emotionally depleted and dread going back next week.
I thank you so much, as well as all the violin teachers who teach adult students, for having the heart to teach students like us. We study, despite our late age, because the violin is Forever and the violin is a beautiful way of Life.
You are still VERY young, and you have many many years to learn violin and to enjoy this instrument. Not only that, but guitar gave you a head-start. Please don’t let a grumpy teacher ruin it for you!
As I read your message, I was thinking, “The teacher is getting upset with Melissa because she cares, and because she sees potential in Melissa.” What’s really bad is when the teacher doesn’t care at all, so they are just flat, emotionless, they go through the motions, and could care less about the outcome. However, this teacher is TOO emotional, and it sounds like her personal moods impact the way she treats you.
I dealt with a musician (violin maker) who was this way, he was sweet to me at times, but abusive at other times. Then, he mistreated one of my students….and that was it. I went and confronted him on his behavior…..and his response was very enlightening. He confessed that he is dealing with depression, and going through a tough period of trying to find the right medication, and every time he changes, he goes through a roller-coaster.
I’m not saying this excused his behavior, but it helped me to validate how I felt abused, and yet I took it less personally.
So, even if your teacher isn’t clinically depressed, in my opinion, she is letting her emotions over-flow into your lessons. And, if she has apologized to you, then obviously it was bad enough to be inappropriate. AND, after she apologized, if it is STILL happening, then she does not have the ability, or possibly does not have the DESIRE to control her emotions.
At some point, a teacher’s sternness and strictness crosses a line where it is abusive, and is no longer acceptable.
Melissa, talk to her one more time, and draw the line. Let her know that you are in this for FUN and de-stressing, and that she does not have to stress out about your progress. Maybe she is holding herself accountable for keeping you on pace. Maybe she feels guilty taking your money if she is not keeping you on schedule.
After this talk, if the anger and irritable comments continue, find another teacher. There are plenty of teachers who would LOVE to teach someone like you. Someone who truly loves the instrument, is not under pressure, and is in it for the pure joy of learning. That is the ideal student!
So, I encourage you to draw a line, and then remove yourself from the situation if that line gets crossed.
Keep on loving the violin, Melissa! Good luck!
When you’ve got 30 minutes, read this : )
Our 7 y.o. & I began Suzuki 3 years ago, after she asked to take lessons. I knew the only way to insure perseverance was to lead by example. I must admit I sometimes felt/feel silly sitting with the chidlren at group but the upside is our youngest was desperate to begin violin after watching her sister and I. She loves playing. All 3 of us played @ our spring recital last night. Our 5 year old played almost all of the group pieces too!
We found our teacher, ME, via kindermusik. The class met @ her studio which was decorated w/ beautiful violins. Our relationship is fascinating. ME has known our children since they were babies and watched me grow as a parent. She’s seen our struggles and is willing to share some of her own – priceless, she is. Some insight to ME, she was an American raised in Japan, her dad was principal of new American school. Her mother was a concert pianist. When she was 4 or so, her mom took her to a suzuki concert. ME wished she was on the stage too! Her mother though was not impressed and remarked the Suzuki children were like little robots with no real understanding of music. ME went on to major in piano at San Diego State all the while wanting to play violin. I think this is why ME so embraces the Suzuki philsophy. AND why she is so incredibly patient with us : )
The first of your videos I watched was “Bouncing Bow.” I LOVED playing my violin upside down. Our 7 year old said “it wouldn’t be safe” cause all the blood would rush to her head. I cracked up. I showed our instructor and she thought it was a little wacky, which made me laugh harder! I’m happy to say, my bow doesn’t bounce so much. I’m learning to shift the weight of my bow hand fingers, it’s subtle but needed attention.
We 3 enjoyed your Twinkle Buzz but I haven’t shared our teacher cause I think it will throw her off. She is brilliant and patient but beginning to have some cognitive issues, sadly. She has teamed up w/a young, enthusiastic and highly talented violinist in our area that i’m sure will one day be our instructor. It was a good move, group classes are more fun w/ book 1 & 2 students.
After book 1 I’ll work in book 2 but want to work on ensemble pieces w/ our church’s praise band. Learning to play as an “echo” instead of playing the melody is a real shift for me but i’m excited to be a part of it and to work with other adults. As for our children, they’ll continue through the Suzuki books, I hope. SADLY, our public school has no orchestra. I’m not sure what I’ll do about that besides hound the board of education and county commissioners. Private school is not in our current household budget so, we’ll see.
thanks for offering a venue or “vent”ue – hah! love your videos, intensity and honesty. I’m going to recommend your site to the other adult violinist in our studio.
thanks again! Amy
I think the most wonderful thing about the Suzuki method is the teamwork and companionship that develops between the parent and child. When you work TOGETHER as a loving team, it is such a privilege to watch! Talk about quality time!
Yet some parents don’t quite get it, and practice time becomes contentious and stressful. It’s all about gently guiding with laughter and play, not work or stress. It sounds like you are in the right spirit!
So, I wonder if you will continue into Book 2 with your girls, or focus more on church music and just continue to be your girls’ coach?
You might consider my fiddle class for yourself, as it teaches skills on the “pop” side of music, like simple improvisation, how to play “back-up”, how to read a chord chart, how to play with a band, etc. It’s a thought, but I don’t know what your plans are.
Anyway, thanks for sharing your wonderful story! You keep it up, Mom! You are giving your girls something they will treasure for their entire lives…..not just the ability to play an instrument, but the memory of playing and practicing with mom.
Happy Mother’s Day!
I teach myself. The main reason for this is that with a teacher I often get to spend time learning tunes and playing exercises that might or might not solve my technical issues.
I don´t have time for that. When I play a tune I quickly discover that there are things I cannot do, and then I break down the problem and solve it. It could be a question of coordination in my left hand fingering, string crossing or whatever.
Too much of the traditional learning is based on the teacher giving the student homework and when the student shows up next week he or she gets criticism.
But what happens during the time the student practices at home? Does he have the skill or ability to discover, analyze and fix his own technical issues? I don’t think so.
In my opinion the teacher should teach how to discover, break down and fix technical issues found in a peace. It saves time and the student can much faster move to issues where the teacher can help with the really fun and important stuff: musical expression, interpretation, variations in rythm, speed etc.
I sure do need a teacher – but as a student I seldom have any influence in my own learning process and too often I find that the teachers is handing me exercices on my level of skill – but not adapted to my personal violin problems.
You have made some EXCELLENT points!
The goal of a teacher should be helping the student to be his/her own teacher.
That is something that one of my teachers did very very well….I hated it, because he always put me on the spot, and if I didn’t know the answer, he would NOT let me off the hook…..he would keep asking questions until I finally started on the right path of answering the question. I do appreciate him for that.
It sounds like you are very analytical, Stefan, and that is a huge advantage.
Keep up the detective work!
I really enjoy your style of teaching on the web. I am just finishing my first year of violin lessons. I am 56 years old and find the violin to be both stimulating and extremely challenging. I am encouraged that after a year I am still enthusiastic to continue.
Here is how I ended up giving the violin a try. I have long had a casual interest in the violin thinking I’d just like to pick one up and try to work through a scale. I have some music background, having learned trombone through the public school route along with private lessons. I can’t imagine what growing up would have been without the music aspect of school. I was able to get competent enough to be in many “honor” groups in SoCal and was accepted as a music major at a State university. My life took a different direction, and music took a backseat. I continued to play trombone casually, mostly in church. Up to the present, a little over a year ago my wife and I were visiting our daughter and her family who live overseas. Our son-in-law is a competent amateur violinist having studied as a child in soviet and post-soviet Ukraine. Our two older grandsons, 10 and 8 years old, are both taking violin lessons. While talking about violin learning with them over a meal I declared “when I get home I will get hold of a violin and give it a try!” committing to a minimum of 3 months. My thought was that I would just get hold of a cheap instrument and a method book to work through on my own (what was I thinking?!?). A month or so after returning home I was one click away from ordering a $100 violin from Amazon.com when I thought I should check on renting one first. The next day I called a local music store and happened to get owner. He has an infectious enthusiasm for music learning. He suggested that to give it a fair chance I rent a decent violin and take lessons. I had to agree with him. The teacher he recommended is a seriously talented Cellist that also plays violin and viola, and uses the Suzuki method. So far the learning journey has been a real challenge, and extremely humbling… but I am making progress! At one year I am on the 5th song in Suzuki book 2. One of the odd aspects is that my student peers are all little kids. The group class happens to follow my private lesson, so I have been staying for it to get as much benefit as I can. While the group class can be kind of strange, being the only adult student amongst the kids, it has been beneficial. It is a good chance to play my violin in front of others. So a few weeks ago during our group lesson our teacher was introducing us to “Boiling the Cabbage Down”, all done verbally, so of course by the time I got home I could not remember all she had shown us. I got on the internet and found Red Dessert Violin with you teaching “Boiling the Cabbage Down”, that was a great help. I even got the ‘edge’ on my little kid peers. My teacher had not shown us the backup double stop part that you had included. If I switch from having an in person teacher I will definitely consider you for my online instructor. Thanks for the good articles and videos.
What a story! That is so cool that your son in law and grandchildren inspired you to learn! Do you ever play for them on web-cam??? If not, I seriously encourage you to interact with them in that way. Skype is an amazing tool for connecting people over long distances! You guys could have a little Skype recital!
Thanks for the kind words. Please do take advantage of all my resources…..my web page, the newsletter, and both my YouTube channels, “RedDesertViolin”, and “RedDesertFiddle”.
Keep practicing! The more you give, the more you get! –Lora
Hi–Just wanted to say that I am an adult beginning violinist…wish I had had parents who believed in music…but I didn’t. I have a fabulous instructor who treats me like an adult, offers me challenge, both personally and musically (and sometimes it is the same!) I have really enjoyed your site as I profit from the systematic, progressive, detailed lesson. As a pretty detail focused and analytical person I find it very useful to break down tasks to minute detail to analyze what is going wrong. I much prefer doing this with your site than at the cost of my lesson! It really allows me to make the most of my lesson, though, when I can tell my teacher what has been happening, where I think the problem is (based on what I have found in your lessons) and really make the most out of my lessons. You are a great enhancement, and my progress has been sped up since discovering your site. Thanks!
Nice to meet you…..I’m glad that you are finally able to pursue music. There are so many other adults like you, who for various reasons were not allowed to pursue music in their childhood. You are fortunate to have access to a good teacher. I’m happy for you. And I’m very glad that you are benefiting from my blog! I hope to add more new content…but I’m pretty tied up right now filming my fiddle class. Make sure you are subscribed to my newsletter. People really like the informative articles.
Keep pursuing that dream!
I am a violin teacher in southern IL. This is neat stuff to read – how Cat is interacting with her strict, traditional teacher – Lora’s advice and encouragement. Great stuff! Now I’m going back to Sevcik to see how I can use it with some of my students. Haven’t thought about that for years but remember having it as a kid.
I work with a director, who is also a violin teacher. I am down-to-business; she is all theatrical and full of images. Both ways have value. I can’t be her and don’t want to. She wants me to do things her way at times – I cannot. For example, the latest issue: she has a practice book which she has used forever. I’ve had a different format in the past and have downloaded Lora’s. PM’s format doesn’t work for me, but she wants to implement it for all teachers right now and revise it later… I don’t want to ask all my students to buy that thing in mid-term for $10. They already have notebooks. I’ve started them on a different system for accountability. Yes, they should have stuff written down & should give feedback about practice patterns. PM is so busy with administrative stuff, meetings, promoting, etc… she hasn’t taken time in months for faculty meetings. Communication is almost exclusively by text or email. I’ ve gotten myself in trouble by email a couple times, so have learned to wait till I can talk to her in person. Occasionally we are in the same place teaching groups with minimal chance to talk over issues. Trying to do the best for my students, I now tend to do what seems right and pretty much ignore PM, keeping interactions brief & concise. Not a good relationship with a director who is the other violin teacher in the program. I feel that being from Mars, communication with this woman from Venus will be extremely challenging at best. Fortunately I have a wonderful wife who is able to be a buffer. She is PM’s administrative assistant and speaks the same language. I don’t want to be around their all-girl meetings, though I sometimes am, and it’s not easy to get my 2 cents in, but I do need to assert my needs for my studio one way or another… Another issue: our styles of teaching are quite different. I insist on particular bowings & style in Bk 1. In recitals, the difference is obvious between her & my students’ bowing. We ought to agree on how to teach Bk 1. I itch to teach my own bk 2 & 3 students in group, but my group assignment is always pre-Twinkle. All groups are done in 1 hour on Saturdays. PM has many assistants. There are lots of public school kids who are not in private lessons but only have huge groups a couple times a week. Those who have private lessons are also there and far ahead of the rest. 100 kids are in groups within that one hour – not ideal. I am concerned about my 30 students, that they are getting a good group experience. I think there is too much extra stuff going on in group – reading, music theory games – all good, but not enough reviewing & refining of repertoire. I have my ideas about how to do it better and have brought it up in the past, but there is no willingness to change. It’s not all doom & gloom. PM is great at what she does as a promoter, speaker, spokesperson. We need that. I get some very good students through this university program – some internationals. But I get frustrated trying to teach WITH PM, and she doesn’t seem to care about my input. I’m afraid it may eventually come to a parting of ways. I’m weighing the pros & cons.
Thanks for weighing in!
I do not envy your situation. PM has all the power….and it sounds as if she places you slightly beneath her, in the teaching realm….instead of mutual respect, and appreciating your differences. You are absolutely right…..BOTH approaches have value. Some kids need one way, others need the other. And sometimes, a kid grows our of one approach, and starts to crave something more like your style.
Your description of group classes hit a NERVE for me. I hate those super-classes. They don’t benefit anyone, because there are too many kids, and too many “activities”. It’s just taking up time. I think group classes should teach musicality, chamber music, listening to others as you play, help you review your repertoire, and of course, be SOCIAL. But once a class exceeds 30 kids….I just don’t see the value, unless they are all SAME LEVEL, SAME TEACHER (or same teaching approach/discipline)
I have to agree with you on most of it.
Bowings…..sorry, but it is the “Suzuki Way” to do all uniform bowings. It’s part of the discipline….part of the group experience. Of course, I don’t get NEUROTIC about it, because some of Suzuki’s bowings are horrid……but it’s the spirit of the thing…..togetherness. (plus it prepares kids for orchestra!)
Forcing other teachers to use MY forms or MY publications? Only if the other teachers’ forms weren’t effective or maybe the teachers weren’t being held accountable for certain things….then I could see it. I guess I can sort of see why she would want EVERYONE using the same practice book…..she feels there is not enough tracking and accountability going on…..and she feels that her way is best. (well, she is the Director…..) I don’t know what to tell you on that one….except I’m curious if you have ever looked at her book or tried it on a student.
I know that if you can find a GREAT way of making students practice more effectively, and track their progress, then your student is going to be successful. Practicing properly, and seeing your progress is one of the main keys for violin.
Last of all….Sevcik…..WOW. It’s a GREAT book even for beginners! (all you need is exercise 1-4…..in all keys….) I am working on a simplification of Sevcik and how to apply it for beginners, and I’ll be sure to share it with you when it is ready. I’m so excited about it…..I think I’ll offer it for free, of course.
Good luck with your conundrum, Ken. I respect and value your teaching style….I’m sure you and I would get along just fine! 🙂 –Lora
Hi Lora! I’ve got 2 good news…
First, your message came in an hour before I was headed to music school for my 4th session. It really helped restore some order in my head. Thank you for that. I really appreciate your comments. I love your newsletters, by the way. Thank you for writing them.
Second, and most importantly, you were absolutely right–on both points! (i.e. why he brought it up thru text and why he didn’t reply). I was reading into it too much and needed a third person–even better–a violin teacher’s POV to yank me out of my nebulous one. Perhaps my text reply was enough assurance for him that he didn’t ask/allude to “a change of teacher” again. He resumed our 4th session with consideration to our last.
Last time, he had me try exercise/numbers 5 and 11 of Sevcik. 5 was a little off-putting for me as I got so used to the first few bars of numbers 1, 2, 3 and 4. T’was a little hard to shake off counting in groups of four in my head. As for 11, I was having some difficulty with my bowing. Even as I practiced at home, I can still hear an extra note whenever I tried shifting to the next string (as I’m about to go up-bow).
At the start of our 4th session, he had me concentrate on my bowing–on open strings, shifting from Re and La, back and forth; first with longer bows and gradually moving faster. The latter half of the session was a continuation of number 5 and a short exercise from a music notebook he wrote on to acquaint me with the first, second and third positions on the G string. I’ve yet to memorize the sounds. He suggested I practice it using my ProTuner iPhone app, so I can verify if I am hitting the same (correct) note with my other finger. Very exciting stuff for me.
I am so relieved I got that bit of confusion in the clear! Then, right before he ended the session, he mentioned he doesn’t like having too many students at one time and added, “somehow I think it was destiny that I ended up being your teacher”. I don’t think I even want to try reading into that! Best thing I like about learning the violin is it provides me that little bubble I can step into where everything is all straightforward/technical at the same time fills my heart with “rainbows and ponies” so to speak.
I got a kick out of your response, and I’m glad my reply reached you in time. I also took the liberty to change your text to BOLD where you proclaim that I was absolutely right. I’ll have to point people to your comment whenever they challenge me!
I’m so glad to hear everything you wrote. It sounds to me that you have a really unique, VERY good teacher. I find it extremely ODD that he is teaching you shifting, and 2nd/3rd position ALREADY!!! This is exciting to hear.
And finally……I’m going to borrow your little quote, “Fills my heart with rainbows and ponies”….that is TOO FUNNY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Keep working hard, Cat, and keep COMMUNICATING with your teacher…..and always assume that when you are freaking out or assuming the worst…..always assume that at least half of it is in your head, or else is based on some insecurity of yours or his. (we all let our insecurities cause us to make bad decisions) Keep me posted on your progress! I’d love to hear what he has you learning by lesson 10!!!
I just came back from my 3rd session (of 12) for beginner violin lessons. I got acquainted with my teacher through my search for a proper violin set up. He was the only one available who was based near the city I live in. We met up at a music school that just opened a month ago. During the setup, he mentioned he teaches the violin so I asked him if he could teach me. He didn’t decline my request; he just primed me that it will not be an easy road with him. I’m an absolute beginner, so being warned that I will be “having a hard time” didn’t faze me as I expect it to be hard. Honestly, I was thrilled to have him as my teacher as I really have no good connections and he seemed to be really passionate about the instrument and well exposed to other violinists–and perhaps because of this, he has a habit of name-dropping famous people’s names whom he has met–it feels a little weird to hear sometimes when it had no connection to our previous topic of discussion, but most of the names just flew over my head as I really am not familiar with them.
I’m 31 years old. I can read notes but still slow at it. Definitely no child prodigy either when it comes to playing the violin. Am still at that stage where it’s like you’re walking on heeled shoes for the very first time. Feels a little awkward. Every movement or position has to be consciously calculated for me to do it properly.
My teacher is using Sevcik’s School of Violin Techniques Op 1 Book 1 for my lessons and assignments. I have no previous learning experience with the violin so everything he is showing/telling me is really interesting and new to my mind, despite his occasional comments about other people finding this approach “boring”, “hard work”, etc. I actually appreciate the learning process–there’s some new little thing to learn everyday. Plus I really enjoy the improved left-hand dexterity. I’m a right-handed graphic designer/illustrator. Since buying my first violin last December, my left hand is in better shape now to relieve my right hand off of mouse-clicking duties; I just can’t draw comic strips on my left as well as on my right.
Back to my violin teacher and lessons… I got this text message from him after our 3rd session (yesterday):
“How’s your music regimen? I hope I am reaching your guidelines. Should you feel any uncomfortable, you can request for [a] change of teacher [at the] school. Don’t forget your assignments.”
I replied saying I am fine with having him as my teacher and mentioned how I really appreciate the assignments and techniques he has introduced me to so far. And even mentioned that I am in no hurry to play a whole song. I am just being a sponge right now and want to get comfortable with the instrument. And told him I allot at least 1 hour of practice every day.
I still haven’t received a reply from him since last night. Made me think “I hope he is not passively ‘writing me off’?” It just felt kinda odd that he brought up the choice to change teacher, when my mind was far from considering it. And he brought it up thru text (I reckon it be better brought up in person, since we do meet in person). This made me recall one of his asides, where he mentioned he passed one of his students to another teacher because he said “the student was not doing his assignments.”
I’m confused, like “what-just-happened?” kind of confused. We were just on our 3rd session. It’s like having a new healthy, playful puppy at home; then 3 days in, your Vet says “you should start thinking about where to bury your pooch when he dies”. I should be seeing my teacher tomorrow again for our 4th session. I hope he shows up so we can talk more (his message above suddenly makes me doubt). Do you think I am reading in to this too much or overlooking a huge blind spot somewhere?
UGH………..by now you have already gone to your 4th lesson, and I had some reassuring words for you!!!
First of all….any teacher who is willing to do Sevcik Op. 1 with a student gets the stamp of approval in my book! Sevcik is BORING…but there is NOTHING BETTER for the left hand!
Second of all: I believe his intent behind his text message to you was to give you absolute freedom to choose the teacher you prefer. He is showing you that you are not trapped or obligated to him. Of course, to you it probably felt horrible….but I believe his is letting you know that you are free to choose. I think some teachers (myself included) sometimes feel a little insecure, and we sometimes feel that for whatever reason a student doesn’t like our style……and some of us want our students to be happy, so we make it easy for you to “leave us”…..
All he needs is reassurance from you that he is giving you what you want and need.
I believe he did it in text, because it’s less confrontational, and to give you time to think about it without puitting you on the spot.
Why he didn’t reply: He is probably busy, and he doesn’t think it’s a big deal. He has no idea that the text was a slap in your face.
I think he sounds like a decent guy, with a little insecurity.
Let us all know how Lesson #4 went! I’m dying to hear the next installment…….and to know if I am right. 😉
My brother took violin lessons as a boy, but hasn’t played for many years now. For ages the violin (unknown provenance, fake Strad sticker) sat in the bottom of my wardrobe. From time to time I’d look at it and resolve to take violin lessons one day, but never did for a long while. Then last month I suddenly took the plunge ( in the time-honoured tradition of distracting oneself from upsetting personal events by taking up new hobbies).
So now at the age of 54 I have a kind but meticulous teacher (Ukrainian-born) who is putting me through Russian exercises and full-bow work. For fun, I try to pick out simple tunes I like the sound of (usually in D or G at present). For example I worked out “Auld Lang Syne” for New Year’s Eve.
My daughter said (in a nice way) “Dad, your piano playing sounds better than your violin playing.” I pointed out that I’d been playing the piano for 40 years, and the violin for only 40 days; so naturally the piano playing was 365 times better than the violin playing. I remind myself it’s early days yet, not to get frustrated and to take it slowly and steadily, putting in the proper foundation.
Good points you bring up, Grant. (Kids can say the darndest things!!! “out of the mouth of babes” comes the truth, like a slap in the face!)
Also, I firmly believe it is easier to sound good as a beginner on the piano than it EVER is to sound good on the violin. I mean…..violins have such a WIDE RANGE of HORRIBLE NOISES we can make!!! Pianos only have 1) wrong notes……and 2) wrong rhythms. Oh heck, I know there’s more to it than that…..but the fact remains…..violin has much greater potential to offend the ear than piano! But…..when you learn to get the touch JUST RIGHT……you just won’t ever stop! I remember finally being able to play the “Little Wooden Bachses” solo off of the Mannheim Steamroller Fresh Aire III album……I played it until my sister paid me to stop.
I should have demanded more money. 😉
Hi, I am 67 years old and retired for a few years from being a deputy sheriff. I have always wanted to learn the violin, but everytime I said something about it I was told that it is the hardest thing to learn to play. But I have always been told I couldnt do something. Anyway I bought a violin about 5 months ago and have been searching the web to get information about how to play the violin. I am not very good yet but I can play some songs with a few squeeks and moans but I think I will someday be good enough to satisfy my self. I have had no teacher except the web, and determination, which I have alot of.
Thanks for your website and other like it.
Hi Bill! Good for you for not listening to the “nay-sayers”! What do they know?!
There is ALOT of good information on YouTube and other websites. The only problem is…..it’s not always in the best order for a beginner.
I would pick 1 or maybe 2 reliable sources, and stick with them until you get your fingers about you!
(Professor V on YouTube is FANTASTIC as well as free. He is a friend of mine, and I have alot of respect for him)
Then of course there is my Suzuki Book 1 class for beginners, which I think is the best money can buy!
Feel free to stop in ANY TIME, ask a question, poke around, download the free stuff. I”m not gonna try to sell you anything!
Lora, no final do seu curso de violino, de quebra, vou acabar aprendendo Inglês.
Lora at the end of their course of violin break, I’ll eventually learn English.
I LOVE Google Translator!!! It is AMAZING!
Luiza– I have heard that Portuguese is one of the most difficult languages to learn, and English is also difficult. You will know 2 of the most difficult languages!
I do have plans to translate my lessons into Portuguese, Spanish, and French, hopefully in 2012, before the end of the world. 😉
So let’s keep in touch!
Lora, é muito engraçado ! Toda vez que um adulto depois dos 40 anos, afirma que quer aprender algo novo, ele é olhado com um E.T. Não precisa ser um violino ou outro instrumento, basta ser algo novo.
Acho que é porque estamos indo contra a ordem natural das coisas. Deveríamos estar tricotando meias em frente á lareira ( No Brasil isso é impossível, não temos muitas lareiras ! ) .Somos muito corajosos e merecemos os aplausos !
Meu marido está encantado com a sua preocupação com seus alunos on-line.
Ele achou que eu compraria um pacote e pronto , mas ele está vendo que estamos sempre nos comunicando como aluno-professor tradicional.
Estou amando o seu curso !
Luiza–I am pasting the translation from “Google Translator” here, so others can read our conversation:
Lora, it is very funny! Whenever an adult after 40 years, says he wants to learn something new, he is regarded with ET did not need to be a violin or other instrument, just be something new.
I think because we are going against the natural order of things. We should be knitting socks in front of the fireplace (In Brazil this is impossible, do not have many fireplaces!). We are very brave and deserve the applause!
My husband is delighted with your concern for your students online.
He thought I would buy one package and ready, but he is seeing that we are always communicating as a traditional teacher-student.
I love your course!
Luiza–I’m so glad your husband is starting to see the value of your violin lessons! Just WAIT until you can play Minuet 1 for him! (Or MOZART!)
Merry Christmas! Talk to you soon!
I am very impressed with your internet lessons & communication skills. I’m a violin teacher in southern IL. I have a couple adult students now. A) One is a retired elementary school teacher. B) Another is a middle aged geology professor with teenage daughters who are both studying violin – not with me but with my colleague. C) And there is a mom with her two sons who have been learning from me for 3 years, always together as a group. D) A 57-yr-old psycho-therapist started studying with me a few months ago, with great enthusiasm and lots of intuitive talent – there’s a story. He & I quickly became friends, but work & schedules have gotten in the way. I’m sure he’ll be back… A & B are showing consistent, if slow, progress. In Fall we formed the “Senior Group” for just those two in our large ‘SIUC Community Outreach Program.’ They each have a private lesson plus the group each week. Others flow in & out of that group, but it was formed for A & B. They both resist memorization, so we do something more ‘traditional.’ In large group recitals, they specialize in harmony parts; the Suzuki Duet book is part of their study. At the beginning I loaded them up with: Delightful Duets (Starr,) Easy Baroque Duets, Suzuki Duet Book, Pachelbel Canon, Jesu Joy, Lovers Waltz (Unger,) Amazing Grace, Simple Gifts. That’s about it for now. Some of this is quite accessible, some is very challenging. Shifting, transposing, scales, resonance are all incorporated. Lora said her 3 priorities are Tone, Intonation and Posture. I totally agree. Every lesson, no matter what the repertoire, is about posture, tone, resonance, intonation, maybe rhythm… When these are settled and internalized, the music comes out! I believe in inspiration. The other violin teacher in our program is way different than me. Paula is demonstrative, bodacious, theatrical, affectionate, super-sweet & encouraging – she is a mom. I appreciate all of that, but I’m more down-to-business, task & goal oriented, demanding. My favorite of 9 teachers in my life was the last one as a grad student. In 2-1/2 years he never said encouraging words, only fixing what was wrong. But he did it with respect & affection. I knew he cared about us students. I still keep in touch with him; he’s 87. Teaching styles are so different, and learning styles are also different, so Paula and I are a good team. I can’t emote like she does, but my students know I care. I insist on results, and they like it when they see progress. Adult C is an MBA mom with two pre-teen boys. They have been very faithful for three years, and have progressed very slowly. They are closing in on the end of Book 1 now. But they do play everything from Twinkle to Minuet 3, quite well. Adult D, Eric, is a fascinating person who grew up in NYC of musician parents. He & his sister were taken to concerts their whole life, so Eric is a music junkie. He is my source for what’s going on in our area in the late night venues. He is learning Suzuki / classical style and loves it, but he and his folk singer wife listen to everything under the sun every weekend. I am comfortable doing fiddle styles and will do that with most everyone in Spring to get ready for fiddle contests in Summer. The adults don’t want to be in the spotlight, but they love to get involved in group events. Adult students tend to follow a pattern of dropping out & disappearing after awhile, in my 30 years of experience. I think they finally succumb to the million demands on their lives, and violin has to go. A couple success stories from my past teaching: Mark came to me where I taught at a music store in Milwaukee. He was a young fireman with a wife and baby daughter. He was a great student for a couple years. I think we were about through Book 2 when he quit. They moved to a new house, had another child or two. I thought he was gone, but in less than a year he called and wanted to resume lessons. We started by playing form the very beginning of Suzuki Bk 1 to review teaching points. I was blown away. He had learned thoroughly enough that he breezed all the way through book 1 & 2 to where he had left off, so we just resumed. Finally I moved away from Milwaukee. He dropped away from violin but still plays guitar. His two oldest kids are married with kids now. Mark is retired from the fire department. Each of his 5 kids learned different instruments, and all are quite accomplished. The middle child is a violist and won a music scholarship to UW-Milwaukee. He is an architect now. More recently I had an adult beginner, Bill, who is a highly organized, opinionated ex-airline pilot. He was my student for 1-1/2 year. Then we moved. When we left he was just about at the beginning of Book 4. He worked very hard and also learned from every fiddler in the region. He has become a real expert on Old Time and other fiddle styles. He does a lot of playing at dances, festivals & contests. His playing is a little ‘ugly’ but he is satisfied that it is consistent with Old Time style… His young daughters have been saturated with his music since they were born, and the older one is showing great natural ability on banjo. I have a ‘new’ adult student, Jared, who was my beginning student 10 years ago. He is a pharmacist. I had taken a different job for 9 years and have returned to teaching last March. Jared has kept fiddling and had lessons with a couple other teachers. Lately he asked me to help him prepare “Lovers Waltz.” He plans to play it at his wedding in June. We’ve met a couple times so far, and I’ve globalized that piece to other students in the hopes Jared will let us participate as well in his wedding. It would be a much more impressive presentation. I love teaching adults. Adults rarely want to learn by rote and memory along with the kids. They want notes, methods, reasoning, explanations, understanding. It takes them longer than the kids to find good intonation in 3rd position or to play a piece fluently, but they do get there. When they join in group performance they are encouraged part , being part of the lovely total sound.
My wife & I are teaching the bowed psaltery to 3 senior citizens plus a couple kids & moms at a restaurant on Wed mornings. It started with just the seniors & the kids were added a little later. This is a very positive & fun time! Our elder friends really struggle with rhythm & ensemble. But with some work, they get it. We are using Suzuki Violin Bk 1 pieces up to Perpetual Motion. All the words are written out, plus large ‘noted note’ format in C:. The note names are printed in the center of each large note-head, so we sing note names, words & play. They have learned “Jesu Joy” – the simple tenor solo part. They will combine with violins on the moving part in a Christmas recital at a retirement village. Recitals are great goals. Everyone is excited getting ready for it.
I love your observations about adult students, how they don’t really enjoy the spotlight, but they do like group activities. I have observed that as well….or else they are content to work alone, for their own satisfaction. You have done an outstanding job creating opportunities for your students to perform, and play together. It is a huge rush for a student (and for myself!) to play a beautiful harmony with someone else. To this day, any time I play Schubert String Quintet in C Major, (the stunning 2-violin harmony) or Bach Aire in G, or Pachelbel, I get that SAME rush, and I know my students experience it too.
I find that my adults can learn 3rd position as easily as the kids, but vibrato is tough, because it requires relaxation and flexibility. BUT, the adults have a clear sound in their head that they emulate….because they have done more listening to the masters than most kids have. I find that for every disadvantage an adult has, they have an advantage to off-set it. It’s pretty cool!
Thanks for your input. It sounds like you do a FANTASTIC job. I’m impressed. Keep in touch! –Lora
I fully agree with you. When teaching adults, the teacher needs to be more patient and the communication style should be different. Teaching an adult is like teaching a teacher. The adults may not be willing to accept unproven /un-logical theories. There can many ‘HOWs & WHYs’. Where the kids are concern, They will just do it . As you have mention the age is not a barrier for learning but health would be. Once you grease the elbows and joints you will be as good as a kid
Thanks for that, Mike!
I am a 63 year old woman who started playing fiddle about a year and a half ago. I took some lessons from a young woman who was classically trained and now plays in a bluegrass band. She and I had this discussion. She thinks children are less inhibited and don’t worry as much about making mistakes. I think it is an individual thing but she has seen more children students and has a better take on the situation.
She was was really willing to be open to answering all my questions and we got along very well.
I learn a lot from the internet. I am motivated by learning a song I really like, and I will learn the scales that go with the key I am playing in because it helps me play the song better.
The first year was very frustrating. I figured out that if I play or practice just a little each day, I progressed faster than trying to power through the frustration of playing for longer periods of time.
I finally learned the middle of Ashokan Farewell by watching your videos. I had figured out the first part on my own and just couldn’t get the rest of it. Thank you.
How inspiring! And great advice to us all….sometimes “little bites” are more effective than one big bite. It’s like my favorite steak analogy. If you are served a great big steak, and you really like steak, how would you eat it? You might WANT to take a great big giant bite….but chances are you’d choke…..so you take small, manageable bites….etc. etc.! Thanks for your comment! –Lora
I love your thoughts. Through the years I have taught many people 30 years old and up, including an 80 year old man, that lived in an old age home. Currently, I teach in Sudbury, Canada. A third of my students are 20 and up. Many started with no previous musical experience.
We reach the students where they are at, not where we want them to be. Our passion can not take the student further than their own could for very long without exhausting ours. Respect, friendship, guidance, and motivation, appear to be the qualities that I have been able to use to maximum effectiveness.
Please keep up the great work. Thank you for input. Feel free to share my email with potential students in my area, though I generally only have room for one or two more.
have a great day.
Thanks for introducing yourself. It sounds like you love teaching adult students like I do. It is refreshing to hear from another teacher who cares about the relationship with their students.
I recently ran into (figuratively speaking) one of my old teachers on Facebook, and I sent her a friend invite…..along with a long message about how I was doing….and she accepted my friend invitation, but wrote nothing in return. Her indifference was like a slap in the face, and I realized for the first time that I never meant anything to her, and that my progress meant NOTHING to her. I haven’t seen her for 15 years, but teachers are a SIGNIFICANT part of a student’s life, but often the reverse isn’t true.
Keep up the great work you do, Phil! –Lora
Glad to find this site, I play piano, accordion, and harmonica with a gospel band
and last month decided I needed to buy a fiddle and learn. Well through ignorance I bought a $59.00 fiddle at a pawn shop, didnt know a thing about them, and found out it’s a 3/4 size. now I lust for a better instrument. Such is life, I am making progress
self teaching, and love my “little fiddle” . Maybe a new one is in the schedule for Christmas.
Great site Lora, ….thanks for all your tips
You know what would be FUNNY? Make a little christmas stocking in the exact shape of a violin and hang it up early….like on THANKSGIVING. That will give Santa’s elves plenty of time to read up on 4/4 violin dimensions.
Sorry about the 3/4. But for that price, you didn’t waste your money at all!!! You could probably re-sell it on Ebay or something for a little more than you paid.
Plenty of people out there need 3/4 violins.
I’m glad you like the site. Thanks for your comment! –Lora
I do not have a teacher and proably won’t. I am 57 now bought my violin from Playmusic123.com in january 2011 when i was still 56 the violin seams ok realitive to all the information i could get online i have made some progress since january in march when my daughter bought me essential elements 2000 for strings book 1 I have learned the D major scale trying to teach my self cole bowing among other things I try to practice every night but not always.
I love the “Essential Elements 2000” books. I like how they are laid out. They are a GREAT system to use. (I like Suzuki better, but the Essential Elements is easier to do without a teacher) As for Colle’ bowing, I would highly recommend that you wait on the colle’. Just work on getting your bow to travel STRAIGHT, with a proper bow hold, and staying on the right sounding point. That’s enough for a beginner to tackle without worrying about the fancy schmancy colle’ finger motion!
But hey…you’re the boss! Thanks for checking in!
I am an adult student, I started when I was 47 and have been playing for about 1.5 years. I still make squeaks, hit wrong notes and in general, do not pick up concepts as quickly as the children. Still, I don’t hurry myself. Sometimes, it seems like I won’t make any progress for a few months and then something will click and I get it and then progession happens quite rapidly. Then, a new concept, no real progress,. I think this is normal. My instructor is great, very patient and not pushy (she’s 28).
Hi Michelle! thanks for sharing your experience. Guess what, I still make squeaks and hit wrong notes and I’ve been playing since the 5th grade! and you’re right–what you describe is normal. And it’s one of the things that makes working with adult beginners so rewarding. When something clicks, they REALLY get it, they know that they’ve had a breakthrough, and it’s a great experience. I’m glad you have a good teacher, too. Welcome to Red Desert Violin–I hope to see you around.
I am so impressed with your practice guide and the video lessons. I am 64 years old. I hold a B. Mus. Ed from 1968. Wow that was a long time ago. I have been a pianist since I was 11. The first time I heard a violin up close and personal was in college and I fell in love with that sound. I studied for about 3 years and was able to be a student member of the local symphony for a short time before I graduated. (I played the zup zups in the classical symphonies.) I taught music for 1 year – met my husband and started a family. From the time I graduated I had not played and when I rediscovered my violin 2 years agi it needed to be refurbished. To my great surprise when I went to play it I’d lost ALL skills. I was just like a beginner – fumbling to hold the instrument and use the bow as well. I was heartbroken. But I persisted and got the basic skills back. Recently I found your site with the video lessons and I am so happy to have a “teacher” again. I know how to read music but there was so much to learn about the violin beyond reading music. I spend a lot of my free time practicing and hope to develop a really nice vibrato and some fancy bowing skills – just for myself. I can’t really afford lessons – but I am really enjoying myself – using your practice guidelines. Thanks for your support. Reading other comments is wonderful. Best to all of you on “the path.”
Thanks for stopping in and introducing yourself! How inspiring that you are picking up the instrument again after all those years. In a way, it’s good that you forgot everything….otherwise, you would probably have all kinds of bad habits to break! Now, you can re-establish your skills, while forming GOOD habits! Welcome!
I’m playing my father’s violin (it was silent for 70 years, but that is another story). I’ve been playing for one year and I’m 56. I was very fortunate to find an excellent teacher who is also a gifted musician. I am self employed and my schedule is very fluid. Some weeks my practice is sporadic. Some weeks I’m lucky if I don’t lose ground. He is very understanding, in fact he warned me when we began that adult life would get in the way sometimes. He was right.
I recently purchased a viola and now am a student of both instruments. My instructor uses the Suzuki method but injects things that aren’t in the book at every lesson. I don’t expect to become a soloist. If I am able to play duets and play in an amateur group I will be quite pleased. To those above who emphasized the pleasure to be derived as an amateur musician from simply playing, I add my sincere agreement.
Thanks for your input, Dale.
It sounds like you have a decent teacher. More importantly, it sounds like you APPRECIATE him! Keep up the great work!
An overa-chiever who just made an understatement! LOL
Over-achievers rock. That’s all I gotta say.
Wow. You really deliver!
Cool, Mary! You really know how to find stuff! I checked those charts out, and they are great. Nothing fancy, plus one version gives the “answer” and the other version is blank, to test your skills. The only thing I would have added is the NAMES of the sharps or flats….but I guess if you know WHICH ORDER the sharps and flats come in, you can figure it out from there.
The order of the Sharps can be easily memorized by using any number of funny neumonic devices. (wow….how do you spell that???)
I created my own little sentence for the sharps:
“Fred Can Go Down And Eat Breakfast” Here’s another cutie:
“Fat Cats Get Drunk And Eat Bananas”
So, the order the sharps appear in is F,C,G,D,A,E,B…..NO EXCEPTIONS. You can count on it.
So if you see 3 sharps, they will be F, C, and G.
FLATS appear in the following order: BEADGCF.
Notice anything? It’s the SHARPS BACKWARDS!!!!
My nmeumonic device (spelling is getting worse) is really dumb, but it got me through school!
Spell the word “Bead” ……then “Grandpa Can Fiddle”
How about a better pneumonic device for the flats….and the correct spelling?! 🙂
What does it mean to “practice your key signatures”? I know what key signatures are, but I don’t understand what it means to practice them?
(sorry for my slow response….but I’m creating AWESOME LESSONS….it just takes over my whole brain)
GREAT question! I love how people just sorta casually say, “Yeah, practice your key signatures”. That doesn’t make sense to me, either. I believe that what they mean when they say that, they mean a couple things:
1) Learn how many sharps and flats are in each major and minor key…..so memorize your key signatures. (I have some cool tricks for that…..you just gave me the next topic of my next newsletter……I’ll dedicate that one to you!)
2) Learn how to play in all the different keys
Ok. Great…so how do you do THOSE things?
1) Well, for #1, I’m sure there are zillions of “cheat sheets” or “Flash cards” out there to help a person to memorize the key signatures, and to learn that there are 3 sharps in the key of A Major, and also 3 sharps in the key of F#-minor…..because they are RELATIVES…..(you will love my next newsletter….I’ll explain ALL of that) IF you find some good, free, downloadable flash cards, PLEASE SHARE THEM with this forum. If you CAN’T find them, please let me know!!!! I’d love to be the first to offer them!
2) And for #2, it’s important that you start noticing “patterns” on your fingerboard. You will notice that whenever you start a major scale with an OPEN STRING, you will have a half step between your 2nd and 3rd finger, because you use high 2. And if you start a scale on your 3rd finger, you will have a half step between 1st and 2nd finger. (low 2) If you start to notice these patterns, you will be able to plug these patterns in, and the cool thing is….these patterns apply to EVERY POSITION ON THE FINGERBOARD!!!!
So, yes, it’s alot of work to figure out these patterns and memorize them….but they pay off FOREVER, no matter how advanced you get, you will always use these patterns!
I know this may not make alot of sense to you now, but I’ll write up a nice article in my newsletter which lays it out better.
For now, Susan….I would start by learning ALL your major scales and arpeggios…..JUST ONE OCTAVE. (we can add octaves later, after you have learned all the finger patterns, of which there are only 4 basic patterns) So learn all your 1-octave scales and arpeggios, and memorize which keys have which sharps and flats.
And if you search for them, let me know if there are flashcards available for this!!! You have me very excited about this topic….because it’s one of those “mysteries” that doesn’t need to be a mystery at all.
Please ask a follow-up question if you have any!
Boy this is so great that I am not the only adult student out there. I am now 60 years old and started lesson when I was 54. I have really enjoyed playing the violin and can spend 2 hours practicing without even knowing I’ve been at it that long ,time goes so fast. I work full time, but my practicing in the evening actually energizes me.
I started with a teacher who is a member of our symphony, who is probably a very good player but he was very poor teacher. I then switch to a young teacher who taught Susuki and I stayed with her for the last 5 years. At times she was very slow in bringing me along and I felt that I would be telling her what we should tackle in our next class. I must of stayed in Book 1 for a year. If anything the violin teaches you patience. I now have a new teacher that doesn’t teach that method. It should be interesting. But the biggest event that has excelled my progress, is playing in a civic orchestra. I am in the back of the 2nd violin section and sometimes I air bow but I still love it! And yes there are times where I don’t sound as well as other but hey, I just say that I am blending with the rest of the orchestra. You can’t take it to serious, or as a beginner you would never play to a audiance. Playing in the orchestra, has made me a much better player, it gives you direction and purpose in learning the next piece of music and I always learn something new, either reading music, bowing etc etc. I either work with my teacher on the new music and she gives me direction or I also network with some of the orchestra members for addition help. Only advice I can give, is practice your key signatures, listen to a recording of the music you are learning, practice, practice, practice, have fun while your practicing and join a local civic orchestra. Thanks Lora, I love your website. Keep your bows up adult students 🙂
Hi Becky! I agree with you whole-heartedly. It is a HUGE boost to play in a group of some sort, whether it’s orchestra, a band of mixed instruments, or duets with a friend! It improves our rhythm, our listening skills, and “ensemble skills”, which involve knowing whether you have the melody or if you need to just “blend” into the background, matching bow styles with those around you, playing the right bowings, not to mention all the etiquette involved in orchestras! (that would be a good idea for an article!!!) But joining an orchestra or an ensemble of some sort does more than improve our musicianship…..it gives us a network of other musicians, with whom we can exchange ideas, ask questions, and just enjoy the social network of people with music as the common link.
Also agree with you about key signatures….although I cover those in Book 2, when we focus on note-reading.
If you have a community orchestra, as soon as you have the capacity to read music, join orchestra!
If you can join a band, do it!
If you have a friend and the two of you can play duets, do it!
If you know a guitar or piano player, and they are willing to jam with you, do it!
It may not go so well at first…..but KEEP AT IT! It takes awhile to get the concept of “ensemble”. Most important……LISTEN TO THE OTHER PLAYERS. Do NOT play in a bubble!!!! Quiz yourself……ask yourself if you can sing the other instruments part…..or at least describe what kind of stuff they were just playing. IT IS NOT EASY!!! (but it’s worth the trouble)
Thanks for your comment, Becky. See you around! —Lora
Excellent advice, Becky! Practice, listen to recordings, learn your key signatures, and join an orchestra! FABULOUS advice, all of it!
It’s truly unbelievable that this message came today. Last night in my Gregorian chant class, I mentioned that I am a beginner violinist and the teacher got on a rant, which he claimed afterwards was all in jest, saying that it was a waste of time, that I would never be a virtuoso, that any other instrument would have more results, that my age was against me, I would be in physical pain…. it went on and on! How I would advance in my voice development much further than with violin….Then today on the community page of ViolinLab, somebody posted almost exactly the same message! “Why should we bother with violin when we will never play well enough for an audience?”
At this point I wanted to scream!
Then your message came, Lora, and I could kiss you!!! Thank you for the positive message and encouragement. I play for me, myself, and I. And I enjoy it!
How dare someone try to put a limit or judgement on another person’s dream? They have their priorities in the wrong place, and they talk as if they have the one truth that everyone else should adhere to! I have seen too many people beat the odds, and learn to become very proficient violinists in their adult years. Sure, there are some challenges that come with it, but adults also have certain advantages over children. We have focus, longer attention spans, and we are doing this because we want to. Many children do it because they HAVE to, and most children have shorter attention spans than adults, so they can’t “triple” their practice time on days when they have more time.
I have also noticed 2 things lately. My adult students are SO DILIGENT in paying attention to detail, they nail things much more quickly than kids do. Also, they don’t need the high number of repetitions that kids need, because their intellectual involvement is much higher than most kids. So really, adults can advance as quickly, or MORE quickly than kids. Everything is individual!
Don’t let anyone put limitations on your dreams! When passion is involved, great things happen!
i am adult violin student.
I love violin since i was young age. I started my lesson last year, i pretty much enjoy at beginning, but when i learnt E minor melodic, i totally felt down and pissed off, because my finger can’t do descending pattern.
So, i asked for help from online violin forum, asking how to ‘slide’ the finger when doing descending, also, i was texting my teacher to get answer when i was in doubt.
Now, i am playing Kayser Op20 Etude No 1.
Everyday after working, i practice at least 2 hours.
In between, i also look for music sheet to play, as Colors of The Wind, Lullaby, Moon River, & etc, to make my practice more interesting.
I know that doing scale-practice is bored & bored.
But self-motivate is very important.
During weekend, which day off, i’ll practice whole day.
First of all – DO NOT PRACTICE if u feel not in the mood.
Learning is joyable.
Great advice, Ko Chi Soon. If we FORCE ourselves to practice when we aren’t in the mood, we’ll learn to hate practicing. However, practicing isn’t always “fun”. If a person has a goal to “go professional” or to “advance quickly”….then we have to learn to discipline ourselves to practice even when we don’t want to. But we have to learn to “motivate” ourselves in positive ways, like by rewarding ourself, or tracking and recognizing our progress to help to encourage ourselves. Oh Yes….I LOVE the days when practicing is “just fun”….but who has the secret to making this happen every time? I think it’s more important to learn WHAT motivates us, to set some goals, and to understand VERY CLEARLY what we want personally to achieve on the violin.
I began learning the violin at 25 and have been playing for a few months now. I have a wonderful teacher and consider myself very lucky to be taught by her.
I have had a lot of experience with one on one teaching in sports with a fantastic and very picky coach. A lot of students didn’t like him as he was very eager to point out mistakes and correct them.
I and a few others appreciated his honesty and realised he was doing his job and trying to help us improve. He himself being an eternal student also knew when we had had bad days and compensated for this.
I think adults place a great deal of pressure on themselves to succeed and in doing so can become disappointed and lose motivation when they reach a steep hill.
I think the biggest hurdle for me as an adult learner was the psychological side of starting to play.Initially I was very aware of the myths, stigmas and stereotypes attached to adult learners and found this all very discouraging.
I was very nervous when I entered the local string specialist to buy a violin but was treated with a great deal of respect. I won’t forget the last thing the owner of the establishment said to me
“I hope you take great pleasure in learning to play the violin”
I believe what he said that day was very important. Learning to play the violin can definitely be a struggle but it’s also something to be treasured and enjoyed at any age or ability.
Great site by the way Lora!
Thanks for your comment, James. It is amazing how such a simple statement can have such a profound effect on someone. That violin specialist said exactly what you needed to hear. And it’s a wonderful thing for us all to be reminded of…..we ARE doing this for our own enjoyment, after all! Let’s not get bogged down with frustration and expectations!
Lora, I started serious violin lessons in college when I was 45 years old. I have a degree in music ed and am a middle school teacher. I also play 2nd violin now in the local symphony. I have played piano practically all of my life but have found that my technique on the violin will not allow me to play the rhythms the way I need to. I become soooooooo frustrated when I have to play with the professionals from surrounding towns. I really appreciate reading about adult learners and studying your on line classes. I really wish that I could have an understanding and knowledgable teacher here. I think I could then get over my nerves and feel confident in what I do. Thanks for the comments.
Although I replied to you via e-mail, I also want to reply publicly. If you’ve played piano all your life, then you have a very advanced knowledge of music and rhythms. You just have to learn to apply them to the violin! (that is harder than it sounds….but you do have an advantage!) I know how intimidating it can be to be surrounded by confident, cocky professional violinists. They can play one note, beautifully placed and with gorgeous sound, and it can just remind us of how inferior we are! (I have experienced both sides of the coin….actually, I think most of us have….we’ve all been the “Big Fish” somewhere, and then we get put into a bigger pond, and suddenly we are the “bottom feeders”….it’s just life!) Try to keep things in perspective….and try not to internalize the feelings of inferiority. It’s just the pecking order…it happens in EVERY aspect of life….music just happens to be a more emotional atmosphere, so we feel it more profoundly. It’s just nature. Keep swimming, keep growing!
I’m 68yrs young. I ran a music shop for 32yrs and teach classical guitar for nearly 40yrs. In 2010 I began violin lessons with a local teacher and I just love it. The violin teacher now has classical guitar lessons from me. We both swap from teacher to student a great learning process and good for the grey matter at any age.
That is a fabulous arrangement, Jack!
Yes I too have traded violin lessons for swimming lessons and Chemistry tutoring. It is really a funny feeling to swap roles with my students….and have them be the teacher and me be the student. It reminds me of how humbling it is to be the student…and it reminds me of how I like to be spoken to, and how I hate to be spoken to. I also learned that I’m not the best student. I have a really hard time relaxing and absorbing from someone else. I tend to interfere with my own learning. But….good teachers can still get in there and teach me despite myself! (my students turned out to be AWESOME teachers!)
I’m a new learner on Red Desert Violin’s first Online Violin Course and as the course is all on the internet, the chance for miscommunication or frustration is potentially greater.
However, I’ve thus far found that there seems to be at least 3 different Lora’s as she seems to be able to answer emails or comment almost instantly. That – and the nature of her replies – has really helped ease that sense of isolation and frustration.
I am struggling somewhat being a novice but Lora has come across as someone who really cares about her students and who is aware that they are all coming from different backgrounds and abilities. As importantly, she realises we are adults and we have lives and committments.
I had thought that I would never be able to play the violin, but with Lora’s guidance (and patience!) I might just make it yet. What also helps is the feedback from the other adult learners. It makes me realise I’m not alone and its not just me! They also ask some of the questions I’ve been too reticent to.
So its going well and I will work harder on my side of the deal (besides doing pushups (New Years resolution) is dull, so that frees up more violin time!)
I started violin lessons 6years ago,due to beautiful melodic sound and a challenge as a posture to play this instrument,compared with other instruments.As a physician I am very busy mentally and physically,but I found as the best therapy for me after work.I do practice 1 -1/12 hour per day.I fell in love with the violin and the viola,that actually I am a violin maker,been my Master Luthier Agapito Acosta,and I have done one violin Guarnerius style,an stradivarius style violin and now a viola 16 3/8 inches.As a matter of fact seems that I am better with the viola playing compared. With the violin.This instruments you should transport yourself in the moment you are playing with your instrument.Get in control with your violin is get in control with yourself.
Thanks for your insight, Dr. Violin Man. I’m impressed that you find time to practice medicine and the instrument AND somehow work as a luthier. Do you play on one of your instruments? 90 minutes a day is GREAT…what pieces are you currently working on?
Well said, Mary! Comparing ourselves to ANYONE else is fruitless…I still compare myself to others and it never makes me happy…we all have such different histories, there are no two alike!
I think the main limiting factor to learning something as complicated as violin as an adult is that we can become frustrated more easily – spend any time at all on YouTube and the violin prodigies come up and who can compete with those adorable, tiny children? How hard can this violin thing be, anyway – I mean, I have socks older than those little virtuosos!
I can do many things that require complex physical steps very well and I tend to forget that it took time to learn those things, and that is the key, I think – take the time it takes and don’t worry about the timeline of anyone else. Take a step back, break the problem down into baby steps, find someone who speaks your language who can paint a word picture that sparks that “aha!” moment – those little kids never experience the joy that we adults do when at last we “get it” and reach our goal and that’s what it’s really about! 🙂
I find that my interest and commitment ebbs and flows. Sometimes, I am twisting my arm to practice and I don’t feel like I want to learn anything new and other times it’s like I can’t get enough new techniques or music to play. I have talked about this with my teacher and she understands this as a learning style and goes along with it.
She also is the one who told me about your site and encourages me to learn from any resource I feel is helpful. Thanks for your site!
Louise–I think this issue with adult motivation is one of the biggest stumbling blocks for adult students. Our lives are complicated, busy, with a million demands on our time, and NO ONE there to send us to our room to make us practice! (kids don’t know how lucky they are!) You know, practice time is YOUR TIME….it is a luxury that you need to appreciate and enjoy…..and also make it happen daily.
Like the financial guru’s say…”Pay yourself first”…meaning, put some money in savings BEFORE paying any bills….well, when you are structuring your day, make your violin time a priority, and when that time rolls around, try to approach it like a luxury instead of a chore.
Also, pick your dream song and work towards that! Even if it’s way out of reach….it gives you the gold at the end of the rainbow to keep you striving!
Playing with others can be motivational….in a community orchestra, a quartet, trio, duet, ANYTHING!
Finally, schedule a performance! Offer to play in church, or at a retirement home, or SOMEWHERE that you will be appreciated….and work toward that date! (this adds pressure to your practice….so only use this motivational technique if you respond positively to pressure!)
Good luck! Your teacher sounds like a good one. –Lora
hi dear teacher. that’s great. i want.
Thanks, Robyn….but you ain’t seen nothin’ yet! I’m still organizing and adding material. I hope it will knock your socks off when it’s all said and done. You are experiencing the “construction phase!”
Just to add that yours is the only site I’ve found that is actually organised, and systematic. And friendly, informative … etc etc …
Robyn– Thank you SO MUCH for the feedback. These lessons were designed with rural folk in mind, and people like Karen who, admittedly, like the anonymity of online lessons.
There is another objective I have in creating my online lessons: I am attempting to create an ORGANIZED, SYSTEMATIC program that students can work through without all the skips and jumps of YouTube. (they can skip and jump if the WANT to, but they will always know where they are in the lesson plan)
Keep the feedback coming. It’s very helpful! –Lora
Thanks again Lora for your communication, and so much useful information. I’m with Karen a bit, in that I like to be able to prioritise my busy life myself and my violin is for my own pleasure only. I don’t have a teacher, can’t find one in this rural area, so online lessons are such a bonus. Having said that, I also think it’s essential to find someone for guidance, especially when you think you’ve hit a brick wall. There’s an answer, but if you don’t know where to look for it you won’t find it. I also think it’s important for teachers to ask ‘where are you going with this?’ … if it’s only for personal pleasure, the student should set the pace. If they really want to be a concert musician, then they’ll need to face the music and expect to listen to their teacher. ‘Face the music’ … lol
Thanks for the input! And yes, I needed to just stop “teaching” for awhile, and just let the music happen, even with his flaws. I think it was Suzuki who said, “See all, ignore much.” Meaning, let the student PLAY, and fix one thing at a time! Otherwise, it sucks all the joy out of it and becomes work. I can’t wait for you to start with my video lessons. Aiming to start in late June. I think you will be able to catch up, even if you start in July.
This is just why I love the anonymity (spelling?) of taking online lessons. I can practice as much or as little as I have time for without the embarrassment of being chastised. I have a life that some weeks I have lots of time and others none at all for myself. I can move at my own pace and do it for my enjoyment. I’ve read how any new thing we learn actually creates new nerve connections in the brain so I expect violin lessons to be a great brain exercise! At this time of my life (I’m 51) I am doing this only for myself and my enjoyment, not because anyone makes me. I can understand where your adult student was coming from. I get frustrated and angry with myself when I have a hard time doing something. I think you handled it well going back to familiar and comfortable music for awhile. After he as some more successes he may be ready to try the other again. I have known many older adults who have taken up an instrument for the first time and gotten so much joy out of it. I can’t wait to get started!!!!
I’m a little frustrated today. I just taught one of my older adult students. Last week, his lesson was full of smiles, and his progress had taken a giant leap. This week, I asked him how his week went, and he said, “I want to throw this thing under a semi!” But he really meant it. I had started him on a particularly fun and impressive fiddle tune last week, and this week he was cursing the song, saying he didn’t see the point, he didn’t see where this was all going….I mean, he had done such a 180, I was flaberghasted. Honestly, I didn’t know quite what to do! I tried some humor, and some encouragement, neither of those helped….only made his attitude worse. I’m wondering if I need to back off, or push harder. I’m wondering if this is my responsibility to fix it, or does he need to change his attitude!
I tried practicing what I preached, but this student does not communicate to me AT ALL what his wants and desires are. I asked him if the fiddle tune sounded like something he would like to be able to play, and he acted excited.
My Plan: I’m going to back off the technique for awhile, and allow him to work through his favorite book of folk tunes, focusing on my top 3 priorities, and nothing else: Tone, Intonation, and Posture. I will see all, and ignore much, and try to allow him some enjoyment. I’ll let you know how it turns out.
Hi. I had to do the same thing with one of my teenage students that I have just taken on a month ago from another teacher. The parents have moved the student to my studio after seeing me interact with their daughter at our youth/community chamber orchestra. The student is moody (what teenage girl isn’t) and is very resistant to my trying all kinds of ways to reach out to her in the past 2 lessons we have had together. Finally, she came to her 3rd lesson an announced to me that she did not bring her strings workbook, had not completed it and she only wanted to work on the pieces from her orchestra rep. She didn’t want anything to do with technique…although she needs it very much. I said fine and we did the lesson her way. Afterward, I gave it some serious thought …here’s a young gal who has taken lessons for about 6 years on and off and does not really know alot about music theory, sight-reading skills are very poor on the bass string, does not know her major keys or the finger patterns, is uncertain on note values and her rhythm is off.
I handled the situation by sending an email to both the student and her mother 3 days after that lesson. In the email I explained my method for wanting the student to be the best musician she could be and I set down three priorities that I want her to consider before she came for her next lesson. She had to do her strings workbook, practice her intonation with the scales she’s working on at lease 4 times a week (this had to be written down in her lesson workbook) and organize her notebook with her orchestra pieces and separate them from her lesson material. I did not hear back from her (the student). So, in 4 days when she showed up for her next lesson…everything was in order…she came to the lesson on time and with a big smile; we had a fun and productive lesson and she gave me a hug when she left….the workbook was done with assigned pages, the notebook had an organized beginning..we did more at the lesson with it…and her intonation had improved on one scale that she had practiced each day…she decided to pick one…Key of D. I think she needed to have time and she needed someone with a bit of authority…I stated in the email that if she did not have the workbook done that she was to cancel the lesson and not reschedule until she could have the workbook done!! I think she respected my three things rule and now we have a great student/teacher relationship. She knows I care and really want to help her…perhaps your student needs the same. As teachers we need to come half way (some times a bit more :>)…and yes…”we see all and ignore much” and try to allow for lots of fun with the violin. I hope my little story helps…I think your on the right note here!
Diane in SoCal
Wow, Diane—GREAT story! Absolutely, I agree. Teachers have to meet students half way and be flexible, but then, when push comes to shove, when we know what is best for the student, we have to INSIST on it firmly and not back down. It would have been just as easy for you to just let that student do whatever she wanted, and just take her money anyway…..but you couldn’t ignore what you knew she needed! Thanks for sharing this story! –Lora