Lilting Fiddle

Learning to Play Fiddle as an Adult

Progress Report: A Month of Violin

Posted on February 15, 2019

I’m proud to announce that as of this afternoon’s upcoming practice session, I will have been playing violin every day for exactly one month. Go me!

I set aside a small chunk of time every day after work — usually between 30-45 minutes. There were a few days that I did less, mostly due to the fact that I was frustrated with the quality of my cheap violin and it took Amazon two days to send the new one. But every day, I made an effort to pick up the instrument and do something with it.

The Adjustment Period

Some of that time was spend questioning things like: Do I have too much rosin on my bow? Why is this string squealing? Why are my strings buzzing when I pluck? Is this thing in tune? Am I holding the violin and bow right?

And while these things took away from actual playing time, I chalked it down to being part of the adjustment period. Unlike other instruments I’ve experimented with, violin actually has quite a large adjustment period where you’re just getting used to how things work. I’m not done with that yet. Not by far.

But I’ve seen improvements! When I first started practicing, I had terrible left arm strain. I could hardly play through one or two exercises before I had to drop my arm and shake it out. I questioned if this would keep me from learning, and did a bunch of research on it.

I found several causes of this:

  • incorrect shoulder rest and chin rest
  • practice needed relaxing and not tensing the arm
  • the arm just isn’t used to this posture and movement, and needs time.

I went and replaced the shoulder rest and chin rest, and am now just allowing my arm practice time to strengthen.

This seems to be working. I still have to take breaks, but now I can practice through an exercise many times before needing to pause to give my arm a rest. I’ve also learned to not push too hard and shake myself out when I feel I need it. Taking baby steps.

My Progress

I’m still practicing using the combination of the physical book and online resources provided by Essential Elements for Strings – Book 1 with EEi: Violin. This series has worked really well for me – I love all the online options, especially. The online tracks have sound (so you know what the note should sound like), a built-in metronome (you can turn it on and off), a repeat option, and the ability to slow it down to half speed. This is all very useful and what I focus on every day.

I am now bowing on two strings and am familiar with playing all of the notes in the D scale. I can play both half and eighth notes, understand rests, and it looks like I’ll be moving into playing things in 2/4 time in my next few lessons.

The past few days, I’ve really been focused on repeating exercise #73 Buckeye Salute, which is the most complex tune the series has given me so far. While I understand the tune pretty well, and play it by ear/memory now, I’m repeating it to focus on honing my bow hold and other bowing techniques, rather than moving forward with something new.

A learning video for this song, just to hear what it sounds like, played by a teacher:

Keep in mind that I have no teacher, so I’ve learned everything I know from the books and online resources!

At this point, I’m still excited about learning, I really love my better quality violin, and I’m figuring out something new all the time. It’s been a grand experience, and if this is the worst that it’ll ever be (I hear that the first few months are the toughest for violin), then there can only be good fun coming along!

Leave Your Thoughts!

Archived Comments

Jim - Friday, February 15, 2019

I'm coming up on the end of my second week. I too am struggling with getting my left arm and hand twisted in that so unnatural position. Who invented this torture piece? >:D After a minute or two, I have to relax them. I know some is just tension as I try to do 3 new things at once. Hopefully the new chinrest will help when it arrives. And, part of it is just old"er" age. I've started doing some forearm and hand stretching exercises to help. Keep the faith!

Aywren - Friday, February 15, 2019

Getting a better fit of shoulder rest and chin rest combo was a good first step in helping with this for me. I think a big part of it is also just being new to this position, and having to get my arm used to doing what I'm asking it to for a prolonged period of time. I've also taken to looking at flexibility exercises, and try to do them when I'm at work throughout the day.

Also, when I first started out on my cheap fiddle, the string action was significantly higher on it than on my new better-quality fiddle. That caused all sorts of trouble (hitting strings that I didn't mean to because they were improperly balanced) that I didn't understand until I saw the difference between instruments. So this, too, has made a difference for me.

Hope that chin rest helps you out!