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Taking up the violin again--for dummies


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#31 OlderAussie

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Posted 27 February 2016 - 04:17

Dear me, there does seem to be some interest here!  :o  You know I'm not a professional --  and now the pressure is on to say something intelligent about violin strings. I said I'd got you all set up, but maybe you need to put one or more new strings on your instrument before we talk about practising? 

 

Yes, I'm still learning myself and have newly-acquired knowledge in this area since I went ahead and changed my E string.  On Wolfy the Warchal Amethyst E string often sounded harsh and metallic, plus it was so thin and sharp it wasn't nice to play on up high. So I put his former hardly-used Obligato E string back on.  I didn't think it would wake up nasty Mr Wolf because actually the Pirastro Obligato E string in itself has a lower tension than my Warchal string, according to charts on the website ViolinStringReview.com.

 

 I had a good look at how the luthier had put the strings on and discovered something. I shouldn't use tweezers and pull some of the string through the peg!  :huh:  :duh:

There were in fact no string ends in sight!  To reach the E string peg hole (with the A string already in place) I just pulled the peg out further.  Then I just poked the string straight ahead right into the hole and started twirling the peg while pushing it gradually back in.  I found the string wrapped very neatly in place and seems fine. 

 

Of course I had already secured the ball end of the string in the adjuster on the tailpiece and while tightening had to reposition the string in the groove on the bridge. (If there had been a little bridge protector on the string it had been lost at this stage but my bridge has a reinforcement on it for the E string in any case). Tuning of course was done very gradually with a few cracking noises as the ball end popped in snugly. While tightening the peg I kept a finger lightly about in the middle of the string in case it snapped in my face (my Mum told me to do that one long ago).

 

Now there are some good demonstrations and advice on changing strings on YouTube and I later found useful advice on the blog at Masterhandviolins.com.  This one describes a method of crossing the string over itself when first winding and in fact my other strings do have this cross-over.   On checking, I found my E string had (perhaps luckily) crossed over by itself. So good advice is out there.   However there is one very important tip that I should draw your attention to:

 

 

Tip #16:  When putting on a new set of strings, replace one at a time, and check the bridge doesn't tilt over.

 

Keeping tension on the bridge not only keeps it in position, it importantly guards against the sound-post inside the violin collapsing. Also keeping some tension on strings stops the tailpiece from falling and scratching your violin.

 

Well I am happy that I changed my string. I think it does sound better and is certainly better on my fingers when playing up very high (now I actually press my finger down to the fingerboard :lol:)

 

 

Tip #17:  It's worth experimenting with different strings -- you may find your instrument sounds best with a mix of brands.

 

So many brands, gauges etc. and so many pretty colours in their silk wrapped ends!

 

Before posting I wanted to check my former strings were in fact Obligato because Wolfgang has had 3 different brand strings since I first met him.  I noticed on ViolinStringReview.com that the web can help us identify strings from their colours, though I did find some websites dealing with this rather confusing.  My strings were however very clearly identified on the site rdebey.com which has excellent well-lit photos.   That site unfortunately does not include the Warchal brand and probably some others.

 

 

Now we have strings we really DO need to get onto the practising advice.  If you are starting out again after quite a break there is one important bit of advice I can give:

 

 

Tip #18:  Rome wasn't built in a day (don't practise too hard too soon).

 

For the full gory details on why I say this,  read my "Education on hand injuries" thread under ABRSM's General Music Forum.

 

That will keep you going...  till next time. :)


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#32 Tenor Viol

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Posted 27 February 2016 - 08:18

Handy post. Unfortunately for us cellists, experimenting with strings is excruciatingly expensive. A decent basic set of Jargar strings is about £140. My cello has Larson AD strings at about £80 and Spirocore GC at about £190.

 

Handy tip when changing or re-seating strings, rub some pencil into the groove on the bridge - the graphite acts as a dry lubricant and helps to stop the string binding on the bridge.


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#33 Misterioso

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Posted 28 February 2016 - 13:14

Handy post. Unfortunately for us cellists, experimenting with strings is excruciatingly expensive. A decent basic set of Jargar strings is about £140. My cello has Larson AD strings at about £80 and Spirocore GC at about £190.

 

Handy tip when changing or re-seating strings, rub some pencil into the groove on the bridge - the graphite acts as a dry lubricant and helps to stop the string binding on the bridge.

 

Ouch, the cost of cello strings sounds painful, TV!

 

Yes - agree about the graphite tip, and it can also be used on the groove in the nut.

 

One teacher I know who had been seeing one of my pupils in a school music group used chalk (as a peg lubricant) which caused my pupil a few problems, but without resolving the issue! I find the Hidersine peg paste and the lubricant adequate in most cases. (Sorry - off-topic.)


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#34 OlderAussie

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Posted 28 February 2016 - 21:49

No, not off-topic Misterioso. Tips like this are great. Yes I did see advice that using chalk on pegs isn't the best idea as it's abrasive. Also thanks for your valuable advice TV. I hadn't heard of using graphite on the bridge.

Wow I see those cellos can be expensive to run, do you ever fly with it and book it a seat?
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#35 jim palmer

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Posted 28 February 2016 - 23:29

Folding travel cello :)

http://travelcello.net/

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#36 Tenor Viol

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Posted 01 March 2016 - 07:55

No, I have not yet had the 'pleasure' of trying to take the cello travelling by air...

 

Whilst you can get cheaper 'cheese-wire' strings for cellos, a set of decent string is typically in the £140 to £240 range. It does tend to discourage experimentation...


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#37 OlderAussie

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Posted 02 March 2016 - 00:52

Wow Jim, the travel cello looks like a brilliant idea!  You do come up with some interesting information!   I see that if there's enough interest they might also make practice violins. 

 

While obviously we wouldn't want one of those as our main practice instrument because an important part of learning to play is controlling the tone and while travelling with a violin is relatively easy compared to a cello,  I can see a definite place for such a simple and quiet practice instrument!   Some examples:  your violin is in having triple (wolf) bypass surgery,  you are taking a bunch of rowdy children to camp at the beach but want to keep your practice up, or you need to stay with someone with advancing dementia who is becoming increasingly intolerant of your practice (even though she was your teacher. :()

 

Tenor Viol, with the cost of your cello strings, you have put things in perspective cost-wise if I decide to go ahead and have more work done on Wolfy such as lowering the bridge and maybe also the fingerboard as an alternative way to overcome his wolf tones (because his general tone isn't as good as it was and because I've been thinking that might make my still troublesome double-stopped thirds easier to reach as well).

 

And Misterioso your information about troublesome pegs reminds me that I've written a poem  :D  which touches on the subject!  It's about my old 7/8 size violin, Madame.

 

Madame

 

If she's from the workshop of Chanot

Is something we never can know

Her label fell off -- that's no need to scoff

She came with a silver-tipped bow!

 

She had a full orchestral life

and with me been in even more strife

But battered and bruised,

she's sure been well-used

At dances she seemed quite revived! 

:happyviolin: :flute: :guitar:  :musicMakers:

 

(Hey, we had a bush bass and lagerphone not a drum kit!)

 

 

When I think of her I get a-mooning,

Her velvety tone sets me swooning

An Amati copy?

Not common Stradivari?

and well-tamed she hardly needs tuning!

 

Has imagining just run amok?

One luthier said I'd no luck

Her set-up all wrong,

she'd go for a song

Trade fiddle with pegs that are stuck!

 

But still I think she's a keeper

though my new violin was no cheaper

I'll get her set up,

so she'll strut her stuff

Those folk songs will make you a weeper!


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#38 Tenor Viol

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Posted 02 March 2016 - 06:47

My cello when I got it needed a new bridge making and fitting £150 and a new end-pin unit and spike £100 and a decent clean £200. I may put a decent tailpiece on which will be another £200...
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#39 OlderAussie

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Posted 05 March 2016 - 08:32

Well, so... Dummies!   On to exercising our fingers.  Of course we need to gradually rebuild our technique starting from basics.  We need some sort of program to give us discipline and help us progress. 

 

Should we seek a teacher's help?  This will depend on many things:

 

How many years' lessons have we already had?  What level did we attain and for how many years did we continue to play?  Are we confident of correct posture and holding the violin and bow correctly?  Have we kept in touch with reading music and with music theory through playing another instrument or singing in a choir? 

 

Whether we should seek a teacher also depends on our ambitions and whether we have the self-discipline, good materials and method for working steadily towards them by ourselves. 

 

Realistically, our level of ambition may be modified by our age, especially if  we are taking up the violin again in retirement.  On the other hand our awareness of ageing gives us a great incentive to live life to the fullest while we can and tackle those things we've always wanted to do!  We don't have to agree with one of my OH's friends, known for his cynicism, who says that in retirement we should:

 

forget about all that self-improvement stuff and just go straight to "nothing matters". :blink:

 

Though that does take the pressure off doesn't it?

 

Of course our finances come into it as well.  Some of us may feel confident we could regain a certain level of skill by ourselves and perhaps seek a teacher later on.

As well as their actual tuition, teachers are great for general advice, but of course these days we also have the web, including YouTube which is very useful.  Amateur orchestras can also put us in contact with helpful people. 

 

A teacher is pretty crucial if we want to do exams. Even if we don't, we should consider that as we progress they can fulfil the important role of "agent", putting us in touch with decent accompanists or perhaps even accompanying us themselves.   You must remember that for violin solos,  the violin part is nearly always only half of the music and to get the full enjoyment of our art we need a good pianist.   In time a teacher should bring us opportunities to perform solos  :piano:  :happyviolin: if that is what we would like.

 

Not that we are all exhibitionists.... :D


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#40 OlderAussie

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Posted 09 March 2016 - 07:05

I need to summarise the above points:

 

Tip #19:  Gradually rebuild your skills and musical knowledge starting from basics

 

Tip #20:  Make sure you are not practising bad habits! :angry:

 

Tip #21:  A teacher can help you with the two points above and prepare you for any exams you may wish to take.  Importantly they can also introduce you to fellow musicians, including an accompanist and -- when you are ready -- to an audience.

 

Ah! A good accompanist :wub:  makes all the difference.  A good teacher too of course...

 

When my mum was young she had two teachers and has recounted an interesting story about each.  The first, in her country town, Mr B... was primarily a pianist though he did play the viola and coach a small orchestra.  He was a colourful character and his approach to his pupils' failings may seem a little unusual.  He often told my poor little mother that she would fail her exam and when she made a mistake in something she had been practising he would start loudly whizzing up and down his piano scales and saying "Stupid girl!  You stupid, stupid girl" over and over. 

 

He was still doing this late in one lesson when Mum realised her time was well and truly up, her mother was expecting her home for tea. So she quietly packed up her violin and tip-toed down the stairs.  A few minutes later Mr B. could be heard yelling her surname out the window "Come back!  Come back!" as she hurried down the main street. Of course she pretended not to hear.

 

Yes, my Mum did have some pluck and though she was far from a star pupil of Mr B, she had the passion to pursue her violin studies in our largest city when she left home.  She had a teacher arranged but soon after she arrived that teacher passed away suddenly, leaving his pupils to be "farmed out" among other teachers.  So, my mum found herself unexpectedly in a meeting with a very highly regarded teacher, Mr G...  This was some sort of unusual audition!

 

Mr G... seemed very nice and asked her if she could play.  "Well I can...but I can't"

This was apparently the right answer.  He then asked her to play one note and make it as beautiful as she could.

 

Then he said "I'll take you on Sunday afternoons at my home".

 

It should be noted that with his being Jewish, Sunday was not Mr Jascha Gopinko's day of rest.

 

 

(And yes, you can google Mr Gopinko, who is one teacher far from forgotten in this part of the world)


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#41 OlderAussie

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Posted 13 March 2016 - 05:38

It seems you are enjoying this story, so I'll continue...

 

So, for whatever reason, Mr Gopinko decided to take on the challenge.   I wish I could tell you more about his teaching method but I know my Mum had to work really hard practising lots and lots of studies (also known as etudes). She also had to really listen to the sound she was making. 

 

With that and Mr Gopinko's coaching on interpreting music, within four years the "stupid girl"  had improved so much that before she left Sydney she had gained a Certificate of Merit in the city's open violin championship and passed her A.T.C.L. performance diploma with no problems. However she had to do that exam work simultaneously through a convent -- Mr Gopinko didn't believe in exams!

 

So, can you guess what my next tip is?

 

Tip #22:  Studies are your buddies!

 

They really get your fingers and your brain going and can even be fun!  I also find most to have quite a lot of musical appeal...others that seem a hard slog are hard precisely because they are working on an aspect of your technique that is poor, so they are good medicine.  Yes, for the amount of time practising, studies give a lot of "bang for your buck".  They help you steadily improve your technique and still have time for other things in your life.

 

Which reminds me - we can talk more about studies and violin tutor books next time.  I can't stay here prattling away... have to go practice.  It's a very big Girls Day Out tomorrow! ;) 


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#42 OlderAussie

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Posted 20 March 2016 - 07:38

Goodness me, it seems I've almost gone viral here  :o

 

How embarrassing.  I told you I'd discuss violin tutor books, but apart from a general idea that they are important, I know nothing about what is out there today.  I myself was taken through the Honeyman Young Violinist Tutor and Duet Book from the age of 7.  I wasn't allowed to start learning before my 7th birthday and then had to do nothing but bow open strings -- with different lengths and speeds of  bow -- for six weeks! I was pretty good at basic bowing by then though, could make an acceptable sound and could then concentrate on playing in tune.  (Yes, I know - a hopelessly old-fashioned and inhibiting approach).

 

While the Honeyman Tutor was very good for me I think it's true to say that, while apparently still available, it is rather dated now and of course, geared to children. 

As I was curious, I read some of Mr Honeyman's opinions from an ancient book by him archived on the web and found him discussing the eminent suitability of violins for young ladies rather than them wasting time learning... well, I won't tell you what he thought :sick: of pianos!

 

So, leaving Mr Honeyman for now -- I've done some homework and looked up what some of you ABRSM folk and others have recommended by way of tutors and other helpful books. Most recently, there was some discussion of these in the ABRSM Teachers forum in May last year.  By "tutor" I mean a book which introduces in a logical way points of technique or of music theory, gives a short exercise or a scale and then one or more little studies or pieces in which it is applied - so progressing through the book should build up both knowledge and skill.  Well, my poor brain has got rather muddled with all the names and opinions, whether the books come with CDs etc. so if you are interested you will need to suss these out for yourself.  See which might appeal and suit your particular circumstances:

 

The Doflein Method for Violin (various volumes). 

...... includes duets and technical exercises and covers a wide range of musical styles.  Apparently Vol. 1 moves forward pretty quickly.

Some discussion of this method also on Violinist.com (March 2005) and on maestronet.com back in 2000.

 

Robert Trory: Violin Playing

..... 5 books covering "from first notes to 8th grade and beyond" plus a "Concert Pieces" series.

 

The Eta Cohen Violin Method

I'm not sure to what level of advancement these books go but I see there is a Volume 4 which covers 2nd, 4th and 5th positions and various bowing methods.

 

All for Strings (for violin)

said to be a comprehensive 3 volume method from beginnings through intermediate.  An American publication it uses American terms such as "quarter notes" rather than "crotchets"

 

Some people have also found the following publications useful (apart from ABRSM publications of course!):

Fiddle Time series:  Fiddle Time Runners, Fiddle Time Joggers, Fiddle Time Sprinters and Fiddle Time Wagon Wheels  (books of pieces)

Violin Star Books 1 to 3 by Edward Huys Jones (from beginner to Grade 2)

 

Do you enjoy folk music?  A couple of people have recommended having some fun while improving your technique with these in conjunction with more serious study:

 

BadStrad enjoys The American Fiddle Method (published by Mel Bay) which  "aims to do for fiddlers what Suzuki Violin has done for violin playing". 

Misterioso has found a use for "Folk Fiddle Tutor"  (Is that The Scottish Folk Fiddle Tutor Misterioso?)

I myself enjoy tunes from my old  O'Neill's Music of Ireland (Oak Publications) which includes jigs, reels, hornpipes etc and soulful O'Carolan compositions.

 

Now, if I've got any of this wrong or you'd like to comment on any of the above please DO add your comment.  Perhaps you know of other great materials?

 

Next time I'll give my views on "technical work" and perhaps also even attempt to advise on studies.  Actually I found some serious-looking handwritten advice (mentioning my dear Mr Honeyman and other pedagogues) about which studies to tackle and when. 

 

You can't wait, can you? :D


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#43 Misterioso

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Posted 20 March 2016 - 20:44

All for Strings (for violin)

said to be a comprehensive 3 volume method from beginnings through intermediate.  An American publication it uses American terms such as "quarter notes" rather than "crotchets"

 

BadStrad enjoys The American Fiddle Method (published by Mel Bay) which  "aims to do for fiddlers what Suzuki Violin has done for violin playing". 

Misterioso has found a use for "Folk Fiddle Tutor"  (Is that The Scottish Folk Fiddle Tutor Misterioso?)

 

 

All for Strings: It's a good, solid method for older learners or adults, with plenty of variety of material, a smattering of duets, lots of technical exercises, and enough consolidation at every stage for slow learners, whereas faster learners can leave some out.

 

Folk Fiddle Tutor: Yes, it is. I like the sound of BadStrad's find, though, and will have to investigate for some of my pupils.  :D


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#44 OlderAussie

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Posted 21 March 2016 - 01:35

Thanks for that Misterioso.

 

Thinking, fellow violinists, you are busy people and I should have made sure you realised just what a vastly SUPERIOR instrument you are tackling by actually sharing the thoughts of the revered Mr Honeyman.  

 

I still can't manage to insert links, but you will surely be rewarded by googling "Honeyman Violin How to Master" and go into the archive.org site, click on the icon for full screen view, click on each page to turn them, go to Chapter II under "The Violin and Pianoforte Contrasted", use the zoom icon if necessary then click on the down arrow at bottom right to turn off the navigation bar.

 

Classic!

 

:rofl:


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#45 chaia

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Posted 21 March 2016 - 22:20

I started out on the honeyman tutor book when I started just under 2 years ago. It was recommended by my tutor and I found a very battered copy online and went from there, it's no longer in print but I it's possible to find a 2ND hand copy or online if you know where to look.

I actually preferred it to modern books! I enjoyed the tunes and progressed quickly with it, I found modern books more childish and too simple, and I would have given up long ago if I had repetitions of twinkle twinkle! Other books I tried on the side was eta Cohen, all for strings and fiddle time joggers. I still go back to the honeyman on occasion even though I completed it ages ago :)
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