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technique, or lack thereof [Apr. 11th, 2014|12:10 am]


I've been taking violin lessons for 15 months now. I had a lesson with a substitute teacher because my regular teacher was out. The sub was my first violin teacher. She's really sweet and we're the same age so we had stuff in common, but I had to switch to another teacher because the lesson time became inconvienent after a while.

I'm on the second Suzuki book, learning Judas Maccabeus. I'm pretty much done with it and I went over it with the sub. At the end of the lesson, the sub was having a bit of fun with the song and started trilling one of the notes. She asked if I wanted to try and I did, I pretty much nailed it right away which was awesome.

It got me to thinking...I haven't really learned any technique since I've started playing. I'm up to five note slurs with scales and four note slurred arpeggios, learned tenuto and a little staccato, and that's it.

I was wondering if it's very common to not know much for the first couple of years, or if it's the Suzuki book that's the problem. It does talk about third position at the end of the second book but my teacher is going to teach me second position first, then third.

I'm not saying I'm not learning anything, because I am and I think I've come far since my first lesson. It's just that there's so much to learn. Pizzicato, tremolo, vibrato, martele, double stops (I do think the second Suzuki book does introduce some double stop exercises), and so on. I know first position like the back of my hand, even the flats which I haven't formally learned yet. And my intonation is pretty damn good so I just feel like I should be doing exercises that are slightly more difficult than what I'm learning now, especially since I've been working on the same G maj scale and the same arpeggio variations for months now. I even go a step further and can play them with my eyes closed and keep good form, because that's what my teacher wants me to do. I work hard and just...want to do more I guess.

[User Picture]From: trouvera
2014-04-11 12:24 pm (UTC)
Because Suzuki intended his methodology and literature would be used with very young children, the books focus on using the literature itself to introduce technique, depending on the presence of a knowledgeable and thoughtful teacher to fill small gaps like scales. If you were a five or six year old child you wouldn't be worried about not doing scales, and wouldn't be shy about playing double stops on your own just for the fun of playing two strings at once. : )

It's not a problem so much as a slight misalignment of methodology and student. The Suzuki books are an excellent progression of tunes and I use them for almost all of my beginning students, but for an adult learner, who is capable of better physical coordination and cognitive understanding I do usually add a scale book of some sort (Flesch is a good beginner option) and a technique exercise book (Schradieck or Sevcik are commone for beginners).
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[User Picture]From: starrynight
2014-04-11 03:48 pm (UTC)
I've done double stops for fun on open strings at home. The hardest one for me is getting the A and E string, but I can get the other strings just fine, hehe. Maybe I'll explore it more at home.

I won't bash Suzuki, because I've learned a lot and the songs progress nicely (except for Gavotte at the end of book 1, because those 16th notes come out of nowhere), but I am not a child. I actually have a huge knack for music and studied music theory in school. I'm also left handed so I think I am at a huge advantage in some ways, hehe.

I do have a scale and arpeggio book based on Flesch's scales.I'm doing two octave slurred scales currently but it doesn't hurt to do more, imo. The book has one, two and three octave scales and arpeggios. I also have Wohlfarht's 60 studies, op 45 - book 1. I wonder if that would be good enough. Anything that helps with dexterity, I'm game for.
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[User Picture]From: trouvera
2014-04-11 04:00 pm (UTC)
Yeah, I figured you were at least a young adult, if not older.

Suzuki is a good system in many ways, but like any "program", it also has it's faults and flaws and isn't 100% perfect for everyone one in every learning situation.

Wolfhart is also a good entry level technique book. If you are looking for a good dexterity book a partner to Flesch's scale book is one called "Urstudien". It is finger exercised that you don't necessarily play, simply set the hand frame and follow the flexibility pattern.

I would suggest sharing you concerns with a teacher. As an adult learner, you ought to have a greater degree of input on your own learning than one might give a child or middle school student. Clearly you know what you're looking for in your musical experience, and have the knowledge and resources to pursue it. If your teacher isn't open to the conversation it might be time to look for a different teacher. And that's not a knock on your teacher per se, if she is more used to dealing with children and having complete control over the process co-creating a learning path with an adult can be a challenge. Also, it's not at all unusual for a student, especially an adult, to study a year or two with one teacher for foundation work and then move on to another when your interests, strengths, and challenges have been discovered.

Good luck!
I know a few people in the LINY area if you would like some resources.
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[User Picture]From: starrynight
2014-04-11 04:47 pm (UTC)
I'm going to be 30 soon, so I'm quite an adult. I've wanted to learn the violin all my life and I'm glad I am doing it now. It's not easy, but it's rewarding.

Thanks for the rec, I'll try to get my hands on a copy of the book.

Good point about changing teachers as you grow, I didn't really think about that but it makes a lot of sense. It's certainly something to think about.

Any leads or resources would be pretty great, I can always keep it in the back of my mind for the future, in case I do end up outgrowing my teacher.
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[User Picture]From: scordata
2014-04-11 12:27 pm (UTC)
Suzuki past book one is basically mulling things over and over, not letting you explore possibilities out there. You need to supplement with a lot of other things especially if technique is your focus: scales, exercises, etudes, larger pieces. Your teacher is probably a product of the same system, so you might eventually need to face a challenge. Where are you located?
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[User Picture]From: starrynight
2014-04-11 03:42 pm (UTC)
I live on Long Island, new York.

Even though I am way too old to be a professional, my goal is to still be up there in skill eventually. So yes, I would very much like to focus on technique and etudes and learn pretty much everything there is to learn about the violin.

I do not know which method my teacher is trained in, but she comes from Japan and is very familiar with Suzuki.

I wasn't sure if it was me, or the books that were problematic. Now I am leaning toward the book. I have Wohlfahrt's 60 studies, Op 45 - Book 1 as well as a book that was based on Flesch's scales. It's scales and arpeggios in 1, 2 and 3 octaves. Maybe if I showed them to my teacher, she would incorporate it into exercises that I do at home.
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[User Picture]From: dinogrrl
2014-04-11 10:46 pm (UTC)
Too old to be a professional musician? Have you seen how old some professional musicians are? :p I assume you mean 'too old to start playing professionally', which is also not true! My dad basically became a professional musician after retiring from his (non-musical) career. (True, he'd been playing on and off the whole time, but my point remains.) If playing professionally is something that interests you, go for it.

Otherwise, I agree with what the other commenters said. I went through book 6 of Suzuki, but by the time I was in book 3, my teacher was giving me supplemental work. Scales, etudes, easier concertos, etc. That was also about the time I started playing in a junior youth orchestra, so I had that music to work on too; you could ask your instructor for some orchestral excerpts to try. I would definitely talk with your teacher about this. It is never too early to start on the scales and etudes. I wish my first teacher had pushed it more, but she was more interested in churning out kids who could screech out notes on stringed instruments than musicians.
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[User Picture]From: starrynight
2014-04-12 03:44 am (UTC)
I think my ultimate goal is to play in a community orchestra. There is one around and they take musicians of all levels, but I'm pregnant so I'm putting that on hold for a bit, because infants are work. I want to do really, really well. I am sure a lot of adults are satisfied with just learning whatever gets thrown their way, but not me. I want to be a great musician.

Did you like the Suzuki books? So far, they're not bad, but there's not a lot of exercises in book two. There's really not much happening in the first half except maybe some intro to double stops and then at the end of the book, there's an intro to third position.

I'll talk to my teacher. I have a book based on Flesch's scales and it's arpeggios and scales in one, two, and three octaves. And I have Wohlfarht's 60 studies, op 45 - book 1. I also did get Flesch's Urstudien as a previous commented recommended. I want to work on my left hand and try to get more dexterous.

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[User Picture]From: dinogrrl
2014-04-12 05:24 pm (UTC)
Community orchestras are fun! Once I get my violin fixed I'm going to see if I can get back in the local one. I do best when I have a group to play in, that's how I encourage myself to play better.

I liked the Suzuki books, in that they're a good guide to work from, but they definitely aren't the be-all, end-all. And, at least the editions I have, they edited some of the concerto movements, so learning the unedited versions later was interesting, and frankly a bit aggravating because I had to unlearn things. (And now, I'm like really? You're editing Vivaldi? 8| why)
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[User Picture]From: starrynight
2014-04-12 05:56 pm (UTC)
I have the old Suzuki books as well as the new ones. It's interesting to compare the two. For one, there's really no exercises at all in the older editions, and pretty much every note is labeled.

I do think the biggest issue with Suzuki is that it doesn't start off with learning how to read music. Then again, most children are 3,4 and 5 when they start out on the violin. There's also some issues with Suzuki leaving things out. Gavotte at the end of book one has a bunch of 16th notes that come out of nowhere. There is no preparation for the song, and no exercises.

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