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Restarting the Violin after ~ 2 years. Any tips??


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Hi, I am new to this board. I've been playing the violin since I was 7. I played all the way up until my junior year in college. I also started the viola around my junior year. Unfortunately, My senior year and first year in grad school were so busy that I stopped playing all together.When I stopped, I was learning to play the 1st movement of the Symphonie Espanole. Before that, I played Mendelssohn. Although I(or more correctly my muscles) may have forgot some skills, but I am optimistic that I also forgot some of my bad habits too (like being tense when I play). Does anybody have any tips on how to properly "restart" violin playing. I do intend to find a good teacher and hopefully, I will continue to improve. I live in Baltimore. If you have any suggestions on a good teacher please Email me at JL@JHU.edu.

Thanks a lot


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I started when I was 4, quit when I was 12, and restarted at 13 - and have continued to play for the ensuing 54 years (adding cello and just a hint of viola).

To restart after a year, I just went back to the last of the music I had played and played it - and then moved on to what I wanted to play - trying to catch up with Heifetz recordings - never made it! But it's been a wonderful life.

In retirement, I now consider myself a "professional amateur musician."

I'd suggest you find a community orchestra to play with as soon as you can - and from that also try to get some chamber music connections.


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I never stopped for a full year, but I once took three months away from the viola for physical reasons and had a lot to relearn. In my opinion, you have a great opportunity here. Like you said, you've forgotten a lot of bad habits with the good ones, and it's a matter of resurrecting only the ones you want. It's important to be very conscious of tension when you play now, because if you set it as a habit now it'll be permanent, for good or bad.

Specific troubles I'd think you'd be likely to encounter? I noticed vibrato problems from lack of finger strength; I think we use our fingers to refine the larger vibration produced by arm or wrist, and weak fingers can't do this as well. Trying to compensate for this by tensing the fingers can lead to a poor vibrato after strength returns. Another problem is that you've lost your callouses, if you ever had them. Your new, soft fingertips will damp the vibration of the strings, and that may sound like your fingers aren't solidly on the fingerboard. If you correct for that by pressing harder, you'll inhibit your agility. I think this danger can be avoided by consciously releasing pressure after the finger strikes the board to the very minimum of pressure necessary to hold the string on the board. It may sound rough at first, but as the skin of your fingers toughens, it'll clear up.

Basically all the problems I remember and expect come from correcting temporary problems in ways that cause permanent tension.

Good luck,

Jason R. Fruit.

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I played for seven years, quit for eight, the played for a year, quit for a year, played for five years, quit for six months and have been playing for three years now, so I have some experience in starting and stopping.

What I've found is that the brain remembers but the body doesn't. You know what has to be done but the fingers and arms just won't comply. I'd estimate that skills are lost at about the same rate as they are gained. If you took of two years then your skills are probably close to where they were two years before you quit.

I think you are being overly optimistic in thinking that you have forgotten the bad habits at an equal rate as the good habits. A general observation on life is that people slip back into bad habits far more easily and frequently than into good habits. I'd be careful in restarting to do everything by the book with no slop allowed.

Good luck and welcome back to the community.

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Glad to hear your taking it up again! I've been playing the violin since age 8, left off at 12, started again at 14, and I've kept at it in one way or another ever since. My best advice is take it slow and start from first pprinciples (and yes, i do mean Suzuki book 1! Twinkle 'til your sick of it!). Start with scale exercises and simpler pieces until you've built your strength back up in the fine-control muscles. I bet any teacher you pick won't let you plunge straight into Lalo (not if they're any good, anyway.) As far as tension goes, a good teacher's you're best help but there are excellent books available that can show you how to set yourself up properly. The Compleat Violinist by Yehudi Menuhin is one, maybe try The Inner Game of Music (I think it's by Greenberg?) is excellent also. Yoga, of course. Maybe also look into the Alexander method to help your posture and balance. Anyway, glad to kibbitz. I gotta go. 'ciao,

Marc Rodvien

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Most encouraging to me when I rejoined the ranks of the viola squad was finding a good ensemble. Although my first rehearsals were sad for me, having lost practically all the technique I ever had, it was quickly inspiring to find that my reading and interpretive skills were still intact. So I suggest playing with a group, becoming very aware of strengths as well as weaknesses, and DON'T LOOK BACK!

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I have played the violin for only 1 and a half years. I'm only in middle school so I don't have much experiance, but I've just started playing the cello too. I almost quit at the begining of this school year for the same reason. If I were you I would back up a little bit. See what you can play best and work your way back to the top; where you were when you quit. Good luck to you!

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I played for twelve years, quit for nine, picked it back up. I figure I backslid a couple of years in terms of technique and I still don't feel like I've completely recovered (almost two years later now) but that's probably just a function of practice time.

I found that patiently rebuilding my basics, being careful not to play too long (can't demand the same amount from one's muscles), proved a pretty good route. Single-position finger exercises to build strength and agility and accuracy in the fingers. Shifting exercises (Sevcik op. 8 is good) to methodically rebuild a sense of the fingerboard. Bowing basics (Casorti is good) to rebuild obedience of the right hand. Intonation exercises (from Fischer's "Basics") and scales to retrain the ear to hear fine gradations of pitch and to solidify the fingerboard sense.

I suspect that if you put in some solid practice time, you'll probably recover enough technique to resume where you left off in three to six months -- you haven't taken that much time off.

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