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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Do you play the violin, viola or cello?

This thread could be of interest, and maybe also a go-to source of advice.

It would be nice to hear -

Your story - when and why you started playing.

Your progress - what difficulties do you face, and what's on your practice list?

Advice - how have you got on with learning vibrato or changing a string. How-to videos that you've found useful would be very helpful.

Equipment - what bows do you use? How did you find/ choose your instrument? Are you hoping to find a new one or improve an old one?

Your icons - whose playing do you find particularly inspiring?

Anecdotes - about orchestras, socials with fellow-musicians etc. Just Fiddle Chat.

I am not anticipating a huge response but this thread can hang around and be a useful resource to future members. I know of one or two who play the violin here, but it would be lovely to learn of more.

Happy playing! :tiphat:
 

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Discussion Starter · #2 · (Edited)
I started learning when I was nine or ten because York Education Committee provided free peripatetic teachers in the schools and you could buy a starter violin for £5. My parents put me in for this because my sisters both went riding but I didn't want to go - I was frightened of horses. I did like ballet, which was also on offer, but had been told I was too tall to be a ballerina so there seemed little point.

The £5 violin wasn't much cop, of course - on my first three-quarter violin, the bridge was too high, which meant you had to press down hard on the strings, which hardly helped a relaxed stance. There were no fine tuners and sometimes pegs kept slipping and strings were hard to tune. The E string regularly snapped while you were tuning. That string sounded dreadful. However, my first D and A strings were gut and did sound quite nice.

When I got older, I went on to the full size £5 violin that had belonged to my older brother. He'd also taken lessons but never really mastered the intonation. He wasn't 'tone deaf' as his violin teacher said (he can hold a tune when singing), but he had burst an ear drum when he was little and that could have affected him. He was happy to be allowed to give up.

When I first started I practised a lot and loved my violin. A visiting teacher came round and said I should join the York Schools Strings Orchestra, the junior branch, so I did. I found it very hard at first but grew into it. However, I never grew beyond it because as I got into my teens I did less and less practice. Eventually I felt silly being in the junior branch and Mr Easy (that was his real name - a lovely man & a York 'character') let me join the Senior section. I was hopelessly out of my depth and after coping badly with a concert at the Guildhall, I gave up, mortified.

However, when I was thirty, and into folk music and concerts, I took it up again and had six months of lessons concentrating on folk. I had a second hand fiddle from 19th century Budapest and it sounded quite nice. Then I took on my gran's old fiddle, which their lodger, 'Uncle Collins' had renovated in Victorian times - he gave my grandmother lessons when she was a girl. It had a label inside saying it was French, a Lupot, but he'd probably put that in himself.

All water under the bridge now, as I had to give up when I got a demanding teaching job again, and eventually sold both violins to a music shop to help us move house.

I've now been playing for almost ten years - took it up in retirement because my husband had returned to the piano and he wanted a musical companion. I started with a very cheap violin from China, but it sounds okay with dominant strings. I now also have a more expensive Chinese violin, an Arcadia, which makes a very nice mellow sound.

I've tried baroque and klezmer, but am now concentrating on Scottish, Irish and English traditional music. Probably as well as my vibrato never developed properly, and my three most recent teachers couldn't help me much there either, though they were good in other ways.

We've just moved to Yorkshire & I haven't yet found another teacher, but I think I will. I don't need the incentive to practise, but at my age I don't think I'll get much better unless a good teacher can give me some tips on how to improve.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 · (Edited)
I don't think I was taught very well in my school violin lessons - I was moving from junior school to high school, and the teachers also seemed to move on. I have a great affection for my first violin teacher, who was a Hungarian emigre after the 1956 uprising. He was a doctor of music, far too good for the job, and far too gentle with us. He couldn't keep us in order. I was usually a good pupil, but even I was naughty on occasion, I regret to say.

He also taught my brother at the boys' grammar school - my grandmother thought he was too lenient with my brother and characterised the teacher, in a phrase I've always remembered, as 'a wishy-washy milksop'! But this was unfair - he was simply a courteous and cultured man who'd fallen on hard times.

The teacher I got at Grammar School made us 'go down' to Eta Cohen Book One, when we'd already progressed to Book Two. He probably had a point but he didn't really help us to better or consolidate our technique and so we resented it. He also had a really good player in our class who was his private pupil and he singled her out all the time in a teacher's-pettish sort of way.

After two years he left and we got a pleasant middle-aged woman who made lessons enjoyable but didn't make us work very hard.

More than the personalities of these teachers, it mattered that there was no continuity and particularly that we were not taken methodically through the scales and keys. I had no understanding of musical theory whatsoever. I have always had a good ear for a tune, but am not good at getting the correct time from sheet music when it's at all complicated. Bowing technique was hardly mentioned and we were left ignorant of the many different types of bowing. As soon as I thought I was developing vibrato, I was told that I'd got it all wrong - I lost confidence and in the end I gave up. And we only ever did third position - not fifth or anything higher. The favouritist teacher introduced us to second position but didn't make sure we grasped it.

As it happens, I'm in touch on Facebook with about ten old school-friends, most of whom also did violin lessons. But apart from the 'good pupil' whom the teacher favoured - who took a degree in music and taught violin as her career - I'm the only one who's returned to the violin. I think it's because of my liking for folk music.

One of my friends is convinced that if she'd been allowed to play pop or jazz, she'd have stuck with the fiddle. She just isn't into classical. But some of my friends love classical music - their reason for not playing the violin may be that they don't want to massacre the music they love. That is certainly why I've moved on to folk, after trying the classical repertoire when I returned to the violin. I love baroque violin music, but I don't love the sound of me trying to play it. :)
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
One way in which teaching of the violin is different now is that pupils can choose their own genre and even take an exam in that if they want. When I was young, the on-offer lessons in school were an extra and only private pupils took exams.

In general I am an excellent exam candidate, but maybe because I missed out on music exams when I was young, I get very very nervous, so much so that it mars my performance. I passed the two low-grade (3 & 4) exams that I took since returning to the fiddle in retirement, but I don't think in the second one that I did myself justice. They've also added a 'singing' test which I don't think is very fair really, even though that was the only part of the exam where I got full marks. But surely you might not have a good singing voice and still be a good player.

If you play violin, viola and cello, did you learn in childhood or take it up in later life? And what is your experience of music exams?
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
I've been putting it off, but as I'm going to a new violin teacher tomorrow, I think I'll change the A string on my violin. Here's a video to help me do it.


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

It's a good video - I slowed it down and kept putting it off while I puzzled what to do, breaking out in a muck sweat. I get so nervous about everything. Anyway, it's changed & I must order another A string. I may change the other strings after I've seen the new teacher.
 

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I've been putting it off, but as I'm going to a new violin teacher tomorrow, I think I'll change the A string on my violin. Here's a video to help me do it.


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

It's a good video - I slowed it down and kept putting it off while I puzzled what to do, breaking out in a muck sweat. I get so nervous about everything. Anyway, it's changed & I must order another A string. I may change the other strings after I've seen the new teacher.
What prompted the change to a new teacher Ingelou?...just curious.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 · (Edited)
We moved to Yorkshire so I couldn't continue with my former teacher, and first we had to rent for six months, then a few weeks after we moved to our new house came lockdown. John (Taggart) had found a piano teacher in Gemtown, but his lessons didn't take place for six months, then he 'skyped' for almost a year and is now back at his piano teacher's house.

I have kept practising, and the stimulus of the U3A folk session has restarted, but still, I think I need someone to keep me up to the mark. I was starting to think about finding a teacher & asked John to ask his piano teacher to recommend one, and it turned out there was a newly-retired colleague who lives in the same row of houses as the piano teacher - just up the road!

It seems Fate has ideas for me - but I have my first of two sample lessons tomorrow, so we will see how we suit each other.

I also need to do some hard thinking about what to do with the new teacher - the classical route or the folk route, the exam route or the topic-based approach.

Thanks for asking. :tiphat:
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 · (Edited)
We lived in East Anglia before and my former teacher, Fiddle Guru (an HIP baroque performer), was unconventional and inspirational. I had seven years of lessons with him, and have now been two years without a teacher. In December I shall have been ten years' returned to the fiddle - played the violin for about five years in childhood and then young adulthood. 15 years in all.

Here's one of Fiddle Guru's videos from YouTube:

 

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^^^ hilarious. Thank God we don't have to practise like that....:) I hope he didn't make you get on yer bike.
Folk and Classical couldn't be further from each other in technique I should imagine. The same could be said for my instrument, the piano, when playing jazz as opposed to classical.
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 · (Edited)
It didn't work out - my new teacher told me she'd not taught adults before, and that became obvious in a lesson in which she asked questions and ignored the answers, had me doing elementary exercises ('make a horrible noise on the G string with your bow!'), playing easy scales and shifting by sliding my finger, then set me homework of preparing a Vivaldi piece when we'd already agreed (in a phone conversation, and again at the beginning of the lesson) that she would teach me folk fiddle.

Hating aggro, I went along with it, kept quiet, did what she said - but after a sleepless night, I emailed to cancel the second trial lesson, making polite excuses and thanking her for her help.

I felt very upset. Better today after a good night's sleep. I can see now that it was a blessing - if she'd started on the folk, I might have felt obliged to continue for a while, but she obviously didn't know much about traditional Scottish music, and had even less enthusiasm.

If I use the time and money freed up to get the garden looking nice, that could be a good result. :)

Or I could see if I can get some Scottish masters like Rua MacMillan or Jenna Reid to give me online lessons.
 

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It didn't work out - my new teacher told me she'd not taught adults before, and that became obvious in a lesson in which she asked questions and ignored the answers, had me doing elementary exercises ('make a horrible noise on the G string with your bow!'), playing easy scales and shifting by sliding my finger, then set me homework of preparing a Vivaldi piece when we'd already agreed (in a phone conversation, and again at the beginning of the lesson) that she would teach me folk fiddle.

Hating aggro, I went along with it, kept quiet, did what she said - but after a sleepless night, I emailed to cancel the second trial lesson, making polite excuses and thanking her for her help.

I felt very upset. Better today after a good night's sleep. I can see now that it was a blessing - if she'd started on the folk, I might have felt obliged to continue for a while, but she obviously didn't know much about traditional Scottish music, and had even less enthusiasm.

If I use the time and money freed up to get the garden looking nice, that could be a good result. :)

Or I could see if I can get some Scottish masters like Rua MacMillan or Jenna Reid to give me online lessons.
Bad luck, it sounds like you made the right decision though Ingelou. Online lessons with somebody you respect would be a great motivator I'm sure.
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 · (Edited)
A couple of months ago we took the advice of our heating engineer and advertised on our local Facebook Forum to find people who'd like to play folk music with us. We got responses from two men - one who played harmonica and another who was a fiddler and mandolinist.

We asked them to our house. It soon became clear that the harmonica player didn't play or know about folk; his role had been to add pzazz to his friend's 'soft rock' group which had now disbanded; he knew nothing of keys either, it seemed. The other guest, who was very musical, challenged him (rather impolitely, I thought) but couldn't get through to him or put him off. As hostess, I kept trying to soften the blow while giving the harmonica player the option of deciding that folk music wasn't really his bag. We tried a few tunes together but the soft rock player wasn't on the same musical wavelength.

I felt dreadfully embarrassed at the time, but it would have made a good comedy sketch.

After the harmonica player went to pick up a grandchild from school, the guest fiddler said he didn't want to persist in a group with the harmonica player. However, he stayed for twenty minutes and we enjoyed playing some more complex tunes together. I fixed up another meeting for the next week, but then our builder rang out of the blue to say he could do the work we'd been waiting months for, so I had to put off the meeting till later.

The harmonica player finally bowed out when I rang to tell him. When I rang the fiddler, he seemed to be on board for coming to meetings, but then messaged me after a few days to say he'd too many commitments playing with a chamber group.

So - it's worse than before, when I hoped we might hook up with some local players. Now we've been rejected! :cry:

Still, upward and onward - off to Ripon this afternoon to play folk with the U3A. :)
 
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