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Nine months later and still going....


Karla
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Whew it is hard to believe that it was nine months ago that I first picked up a violin. It is also hard to believe that I still am as horrible as I am.... I am told that everyone sounds at least that bad at 9 months so I am tracking just fine in fact. Sheesh this is a tough instrument. Today my teacher said that in about 1 year I will be ready to audition for a small local orchestra. I could not believe my ears. I am thinking he is mad.

Is it realistic to believe that anyone can jump into this sort of thing in under 2 years?

Another thing that has me worried is my total disinterst in vibrato. It isn't that I don't want to learn it but I care more right now about getting a really clean sound out of my hands than any type of ornementation. I am not really motivated to practice vibrato when I am not hitting the notes 100% correctly and cleanly. I believe that as my left hand becomes more and more relaxed the work will make better sense.

I would appreciate any comments you might have on this. Should one do practice of vibrato before they feel ready to do so? Thanks.

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Hi Karla,

I won't pretend to be a violin teacher - just one who has travelled the road you are now on! And I say, "Bravo," to you for sticking with lessons on violin!!

You have the right attitude in my book about trying to get the best tone you can - at 9 months I wasn't working on vibrato either. Work on playing in-tune and on developing good bow control. Strive to make your violin ring as you hit tones related to the open strings. It is the neatest sound ever when that happens!! Violin is such a beautiful instrument - well worth the struggle.

My teacher, who I think the world of, always said to me, "I don't care if you use vibrato or not. Playing in-tune is so much more important."

Vibrato will come in its time. You'll know when you're ready. Perhaps some of the teachers on this board will suggest you begin some vibrato exercises. But don't neglect developing good in-tune work first - and good bow control.

And best of luck to you! After four and a half years of lessons, I finally joined a community orchestra this year!

And am having a great time doing that plus three chamber music groups. Keep practicing and you'll make your goals come true too!

Josie

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Wow. Thanks for replying and for sticking it out too! It is really sort of tough for an adult because I think we can't fool ourselves quite as easily into thinking that it is good that we can play "twinkle" in tune.

So 4 plus years before you joined a group? That seems about right to me with the way I am playing right now. I really like playing duets with my teacher because it gives me a chance to intonate correctly to him and quite recently I am taken with playing 2nd violin parts. Those are actually more fun to me because the melody is a bit trickier to figure out but the harmony is interesting. It is also fun to be the metronome of the piece. (Whoops I digress)

Anyway, when he said that by next year I could audition for a local orchestra I was thinking that he was perhaps a bit high. He mentioned then that I needed to develope my vibrato and I am just thinking that I need to develop a whole heck of a lot more than vibrato.

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Maybe your teacher is using the orchestra audition goal as a way to inspire and encourage you to achieve your best in the coming year?

Or maybe it is a realistic goal, since you have a mature attitude, previous musical experience, and are showing continued improvement, the ability to listen and react to another player and outside direction (i.e. in playing your duets), etc. Perfect vibrato isn't the only skill required in an amateur orchestra!

As I recall, you have a pretty demanding teacher. Even if his orchestra time estimate isn't exact, he's giving you a view of the direction he'd like to see you take, and what he believes you CAN accomplish. That's really cool.

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Oh yeah, he is pretty demanding but I am learning to step up.

Are there orchestras that exist that can use someone with so little playing time? I have only a tiny bit experience at all in this world and have only seen two orchestras play to date. I couldn't tell if there were easy parts or not for some of the violinists.

It's actually very exciting to even think it might be possible as I really like playing with people as opposed to by myself. My classical guitar I can play alone all day but the violin is not as much fun alone though it does have some mysterious pull to it that keeps me trying despite the hardships. I especially like it when I hit the notes just "so" as was earlier noted.

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Glad to hear you are still sticking it out. Your attitude towards vibrato is very mature, I wouldn't even be thinking about it at this stage. The odds are the violin and bow don't feel entirely natural in your hands yet. Even when your left hand starts to feel very relaxed, and it hits the notes more often then not, you still have to learn the various lower hand postions before thinking about vibrato. Unless you have a Heifetz like talent, this will take at least a year or two. Developing a higher degree of bow control, will take more time then learning the positions. This is just one more item much more important then vibrato. All in all, I would suggest holding off vibrato study for the next couple years.

It is amazing what todays baroque violinist can do with little or no vibrato in the way of musical expression. The reason is that it is nearly all in the bow technique, not the left hand.

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Hi again, Karla,

Yes, it is harder for we adults - but not impossible! I tend to think too much sometimes about the music instead of just playing it as a younger student would. And we are not as flexible.

But if you have the desire you can do it!! There may be easier orchestras in your area. I study at the Brattleboro Music Center, and they have different levels of orchestra for various players - kids and adults alike.

You might be able to start in one of those sooner. The music tends to be easier.

The group I'm in is a community orchestra sponsored by BMC. We don't play arrangements, but the original works. In November we did Beethoven's 4th, and a Brahms Serenade.

Though I am only on 2nd violin parts, the music was quite difficult at times - especially the speed. So I wouldn't rush to a group like this for at least 3 or 4 more years.

Great that you're doing duets with your teacher! Are there other students of your age and level you might play with in a chamber group?

Lots of luck to you!

Josie

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Oh goodie. There are different levels for adults too then! My teacher mentioned some specific group and said he'd give the concert master a call when it was time but I wasn't sure why he had picked that one. It is probably more of a beginner friendly group.

Okay now I feel really so clueless. I have a year to worry about all this at LEAST but your post has me wondering. I was thinking that I would try to get in an Orchestra type thing before a chamber orchestra. Ultimately I would probably more enjoy chamber setting but I thought that it might be more appropriate to sit with a larger group to start. Okay here is my reasoning on this... I was figuring because that way you could more easily hide mistakes. (Please don't shoot me) I know that you ultimately don't want to make them, but I am thinking the more people in a group the more boo-boos you could make before taking the whole piece down with you.

Is that totally irrational and/or bad thinking?

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Way to go, Karla...I too was an adult beginner, and my whole first year was spent wondering if I'd EVER be able to get a decent sound out of my cello!! As you said, adults tend to be harder on themselves because they know how the instrument is supposed to sound and can't derive the same satisfaction as a youngster from playing "twinkle" in tune! I just hit the 4-year mark, and I play in 2 cello quartets (doing a lot of the melody/solo work)(we play for weddings and also the occasional program at old-folks homes), as well as playing in two orchestras. One is a community orch that doesn't require auditions; those are a great way to get experience and just play what you can. You'll be suprised how quickly you find yourself playing more and more of the notes. Don't worry too much about vibrato until you're really secure on intonation and shifts; that was what my teacher waited for before getting me started in vibrato exercises. Once she did start me, it still took months before I could do a convincing vibrato!

Anyway, this one orchestra I'm in that requires no auditions just plays pops-type music for old-folks' homes, so it's a nice low-stress way to get some experience. My other orchestra, you do have to audition for (a college alumni orch) and I got into that after 20 months of lessons. That one plays concerts for the public; all classical music and some of it is quite difficult and really pushes me, but by concert time I can usually hold my own well enough to look like a seasoned cellist! (I still have to do some faking in the really fast parts though!) Nice thing about cello, though, it's a much lower pitched instrument and you don't stick out as much if you hit a wrong note as you probably do on the violin, so maybe I've got it a bit easier being a cellist. I'd really encourage you to join any group you can find, though! I don't know where you live, but there are a number of adult summer string camps around the U.S. that are geared for beginners and intermediates; those are a blast too. I've gone to the Blue Lake Fine Arts Camp here in Michigan the past 3 summers and had a great time...and really learned a lot in a short time.

Way to stick with it, girl! :-) Sounds like you have the passion to go a long ways with your playing.

Yo Ma-Ma

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THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU, for this post! You are giving me so much hope. The other week I just looked at my teacher and said, "When will I not be embarrassed to play this thing?" And he replied very honestly that for me it would be about the 2 year mark. He says I am very picky and hard on myself but he says I should continue to be that critical because it will utlimately make me a better player.

I can't honestly say why I stick with it. It is frustrating and yet it has this pull that I can't seem to let go of. I think I am in love even in the bad times. I can tell you that I do have a new found respect for any adult how makes it into the place where they are not embarrassed to play.

I looked at the Blue Lake camp just the other night believe it or not! I am really hoping to find opps to go out and sound bad with other adults and to learn in a more group setting. I am also very pleased to hear that other types of chamber and orchestra groups exist besides what I've been exposed to so far. I would be honored to sit in a less formal one that did charity type concerts.

So you fake it during the fast parts eh? ROTFLMAO. I did wonder if anyone did that but didn't figure anyone would fess up to it so I didn't bother to ask!

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Yup, I have to do a bit of faking at times! But way less often than I used to have to, so I can see progress! I too am very self-critical and perfectionistic, and really had to learn to cut myself some slack in the classical orchestra in order to keep from getting totally discouraged about my abilities. Everyone else had been playing since like fifth grade and I'd been playing 20 months...and I still expected myself to keep up with them and play every note. The day I play a concert with them and DO play every note, I'll feel like I've really accomplished something!!

YES, the first year or two can be VERY frustrating. I remember being all paranoid about whether the neighbors could hear me practicing in the summertime, and took to practicing in a closed room in the basement! VERY self-conscious about my tone (or lack thereof), fingering accuracy, etc. Like you, as frustrating as it got from time to time, something still kept me going. String instruments do have a real pull, don't they! They're tough to learn to play well, and just that toughness and challenge, I think, is what "throws down the gauntlet" and keeps you driving so hard for improvement. Eventually, though, you hit a breakthrough where things start feeling really comfortable and natural, your instrument becomes an extension of yourself, your vibrato starts happening, and you start getting some real satisfaction from your playing. Keep living for that day! I've got years to go before I'll even approach the sound that the "good" players get out of their cellos, but I at least feel fairly-competent now and don't cringe when I hear the sound come out of my cello.

One thing that helps you really see your progress is to review stuff that you found difficult a few weeks or months ago...you'll probably be pleasantly surprised and wonder why you thought that stuff was so hard!

You're welcome, for the encouragement. I've been there recently myself and it's SO hard to keep the faith and not get down on yourself.

Side note: after about 6 months of playing I developed a very sore right shoulder from bowing (tendonitis, I guess) and suffered with that for three years---until I read a post of yours a few months ago in which you mentioned being a student of the Alexander Technique. I read more about it online, found a teacher, and have been taking lessons ever since. I've found it helps my shoulder quite a bit and I can finally play without much pain. For a while there I could only play 1 or 2 lines of music before I had to stop and rest my bow arm. So, Thank YOU for being the catalyst that got me interested in the Alexander Technique! Well, that's a little off-topic, but I had to share that little tidbit since you thanked me so much for my earlier post!

All the best,

Yo

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Wow.... That is a cool side note. I'm glad that you had the foresight and open mindeness to go ahead and try it. I know without a doubt that playing the violin would have killed my shoulder and perhaps other parts had it not been for AT training. We tend to have so much silly bad posture as adults too don't we?

This has been a very uplifting exchange for me. I am feeling a bit more like I am going to make it now. Thank you one and all. I will go back into quiet mode again for awhile until I work my way through this time or until I get totally frustrated again.

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Karla - I've missed your posts! Trust your teacher, no matter what you think. Your recorded playing when you first began was amazing! Everyone was pulling for you, and I am so glad you are still at it. (Actually, I'm glad I'm still at it (viola) too - for two years now. So I feel your pain. Sometimes I think I can't stand to hear another second of my tone.)

I understand that playing in orchestras can wreck your intonation, since the average pitch is by definiton composed of some not-so-in-tune notes. But it is fun. Playing with a few good players is the best way to improve your intonation - as you noticed, playing with your teacher.

Continued good luck, and Yo Ma-Ma (besides having the best nom de plume I've come across!) is a marvelously informed and encouraging correspondent. My best to you. Shirley

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Hey Shirl... Thanks for the note. I never gave up I just got busy with it. You know there is a time to ask a bunch of beginner question and then there is a time to just do the work and finally a time to help others. I find that I cannot often contribute yet in a very meaningful way to many of the threads. I have faith that one day I'll be there though! Until then I have my head down and am just doing the work.

Austen... I never said I was worse than I should be. It is probably the case that I am tracking ahead of most adults who do this at 9 months. It is just that it is astounding to me how bloody hard it is to make a nice sound even after 9 months.

Since you started as a child and played happily and proudly out of tune for the first years, you never had to go through this pain really. You were proud of your bad playing 'cause you didn't really know better so much. That isn't the case with me at all. I am deadly honest about the sound I make. I even record it to critique it in better detail. None of this is bad, it is just hard work and even frustrating to have so little return on my investment at this stage.

It ain't like the guitar or piano that is for sure. The notes sort of just happen in those instruments. Of course the concept of playing in more than one voice is WAY harder than the violin so I guess one day I will surpass my guitar skills on the violin even though I play it ultimately for less time. We'll see.

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I know, and I never implied that you did.

Oh yes, I had to go through the pain...in fact I am tempted to say that the frusteration I endured is equal to, or greater then what you are experiencing. Because I played so....wrong, for the first year of my playing I never devloped a sense of what is in and out of tune. I grew ver acoustomed to not even hearing myself play, when one day all of a sudden I was expected to play in tune with correct form, when i knew what neither was. Therefore I had to basically relearn how to play the viola. But now, all is great and I have made progress in one year that the greatest young violinist I know would make in three years.

I can definetly understand how you feel about not getting what you feel you should be getting out of the violin, it can really suck, the violin is a harsh master.

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Quote:

I Because I played so....wrong, for the first year of my playing I never devloped a sense of what is in and out of tune. I grew ver acoustomed to not even hearing myself play, when one day all of a sudden I was expected to play in tune with correct form, when i knew what neither was.


Ah yes... the transision from child to adult starts with the "awakening" as it were. You start playing wrong and it is fine because you know no other way. Then you one day are faced with the truth that what you had been doing was wrong. Now what do you do? Of course the true musician must accept their plight and humbly relearn. So in that respect it is harder to learn as a child. As an adult we have more "honesty" up front about how bad we play so we never (hopefully) get into the habit of not listening when we practice.

The interesting thing about this is that even as an adult our realities of how we are doing seem to change again and again and we are faced with the same situation again and again. In guitar, I quite quickly was able to play well enough to impress 80 percent of the people who heard me play. It wasn't until I started watching true masters and servents of the instrument that I began to realize the truth about playing an instrument. Now I seek to serve the music through the instrument and I could care less if anyone is impressed. A very different and much harder ball game btw.

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Karla, that violin playing is my life, just sit there after dinner, practice and practice, through scales and on to Bach. It is another joyful night. Keep you head up, play with your heart and you will get into a chamber group soon. I started in my college days, never have a teacher until 10 years ago when my son start his first lesson. All those lessons got paid off, I now could play some(not all though) Bach Partitas beautifully. Keep on, and you will be there.

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Karla,

I fake too in fast orchestra parts! In fact, my teacher gave me a lesson in how to fake effectively!

Also when I suggested a chamber group, I didn't mean an orchestra, but rather more of a trio or quartet. No, you don't have others on your own part, but the music can be a whole lot easier than real orchestra parts. (Though there are difficult chamber pieces too).

Brattleboro Music Center (in Brattleboro, VT) also runs a one-week camp for adults called Camp Andantino. It's in August, and is a lovely way to grow in a non-treatening way. I think there's an adult camp in Rochester, NY as well.

Josie

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Well, when I first started violin lessons about 4 years ago my teacher also told me I would probably be able to play in a local orchestra in about a year or so, but I think that's because I had played several other instruments prior to the violin, and had a good understanding of a lot of the musical concepts as opposed to someone who was a beginner in every way. I advanced rapidly to Suzuki book 4 level. Due to things that happened in my life I had to quit lessons after a year and a half, then didn't play for some time due to an injury, and have just gotten back into it in this past year, but I have turned to Irish fiddle music instead of classical so I don't think I'll be doing the orchestra thing. As far as vibratto goes, I agree that you shouldn't rush it as it will throw off your intonation, which at this point you still haven't mastered, but I would recommend you find a book titled Viva Vibratto and try some of the exersises that don't involve using the bow. If you spend just a few minutes a day on these exersises you will find that your vibratto will come a whole lot easier when you do finally start to work on it. Good luck, and keep sluggin' along with the rest of us beginners!

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Two nights in a row now with sweeter notes than ever before. I don't know what happened except maybe I just got more relaxed about it after reading your experiences and realizing that I am not alone!

I can't believe your teacher gave you lessons in how to FAKE IT!!! That is too funny. I can't wait for that day. I cannot imagaine that my teacher would allow it let alone teach it but this world surprises me all the time so we'll see. I will most definately let you know if it does happen!!

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I started playing about 18 months ago. I'm through the Suzuki Book 1 and am now in a Mel Bay Solo Book. I started at the age of 46. It was the best thing I ever did. It's been frustrating at times, but the joy is great.

I have a goal to someday play in a community orchestra also and this thread has been wonderful to read. In order to help me feel a little comfortable about this idea my teacher told me there is a lot of faking in community orchestras as newbies learn. She laughed and said, "the only thing to really never do is play through a rest". LOL

Go for it, Karla!

I'm looking forward to enjoying Maestronet.

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Hey, faking it is a valuable skill!! You have to understand the music, the bowings & fingerings and the expressive elements in order to pull it off successfully. If you're a beginner in an adult amateur orchestra, a little judicious faking is no sin if you've practiced your material inside and out but there are still a couple of spots that are a wee bit over your head, technically speaking. Better to fake it a little than squawk it in a public performance!

Besides, if faking were easy, Hollywood actors wouldn't make us laugh in their attempts at playing the violin on the big screen. When I see actors play, I always imagine that in order to do the filming they must be putting bow to string and actually making some sorts of sounds. How does the film crew stand it--do they wear earplugs??? How do the actors keep from laughing (or crying!) at what they hear? They must have to overdub the speech later, after erasing the "music".

Anyway, just think-- your playing has already far surpassed that of the average Hollywood actor!

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