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Hi all!
Here's a summary video of my first four months of learning the violin.
I used violinlab.com as my main resource for videos and lessons, so I wanted to share this with you and say thank you! This website and its community has helped me a lot so far.

Of course I still have so much more to learn, and when I watch myself playing I can see so many errors that sometimes it's a bit discouraging (but that's why I started filming me once per month after all... just to spot these problems I mean). Overall is such a fun instrument to play that I really hope I will never quit practicing and getting better at it.

14 Responses
Posted: May 14, 2016
Last Comment: June 15, 2016

Posted: June 15, 2016
Andrea, in my experience, progress on the violin is measured in months, it may take several months to notice a small improvement in a particular technique. It's important not to become discouraged by a seemingly slow rate of progress or no apparent progress at all. As long as you're practising correctly, you are making progress.

Posted: June 15, 2016
Thanks so much to all of you, for all your feedback and precious suggestions!
Thanks also for all your encouragement, I though I did not improve too much in the last month so I was in need of some encouragement :)
...back to do some bow hand exercises now!

Posted: June 15, 2016

Hi Andrea,

I like your methodical approach to learning the violin - you’re making great progress (and I really like your videos - very slick productions!). You are not a tentative player and that's a good thing. You are giving good weight into the bow and producing a very nice tone as a result.

Your right hand (especially the pinky) has improved between videos, as has your bowing mechanics. I still notice a misaligned bow i.e. not parallel to the bridge at times (especially when playing faster pieces and closer to the heel/frog) so it would make sense to practise these pieces with full concentration on the bow (even if your intonation is off) to get that straight bowing motion cemented into your playing. Go all the way to the heel. This would mean more bend in the right wrist and a more pronounced curl in the pinky. Then work on correcting the intonation, which is bound to go awry as you focus on bowing. Your intonation currently is very good.

To build on your already confident tone – try and develop “reactive” fingers in your right hand. You already have “proactive” fingers in that you are balancing the bow well and applying pressure to the bow with the index finger but when you lift the bow, you need your fingers to ‘absorb’ some energy when landing on the string again (this goes for general bowing i.e. mid-stroke), your fingers need to be constantly assessing and reacting to the sound and sensation of what they are feeling in the bow. I am also working on this for my playing.

The best thing for this I have found, is doing the bow motion exercises (without the violin, just the bow). Do lateral raises, circles and ‘spider walk’ bow exercises. It's like a workout for the right hand. These help loosen up the wrist too. I can’t emphasise how important these exercises are to develop the right hand muscles and enable you to respond to the demands of the bow and to produce a good tone. I do them everyday. And of course, open string whole bowing! I used to downplay the importance of these basic exercises when I started. Initially, I thought they were exercises to ‘do and forget’ (like when you practise and ‘get’ the spicatto motion and have it figured out, there’s no need to practise it daily) but do these bow exercises regularly. When I started doing these exercises daily (after reading that Juilliard violinists are required to do them daily) I re-assessed my opinion on these very simple but important exercises and I noticed a big difference in my ability to control the bow.

Do a search for "bow hold exercises" on VL. Beth has a series of vids on these fundamental exercises. Well done so far and keep posting your videos!

Beth Blackerby
Posted: June 14, 2016
Hello Andrea, lots of improvement! What has improved the most is the quality of your tone. You are doing an excellent job of sustaining a good, consistent, healthy tone on your detaché stroke. You are getting that "scrubby" quality, especially noticeable in your Perpetual Motion because you are maintaining good connection by keeping pressure on the strings with your index finger..

 Yes, the issue of the stiff fingers is creating problems mainly when you lift the bow off the string and then place it down again. It is also noticeable in slow pieces like "the old castle" where you have smooth, legato bow changes.  The improvement in tone is huge though. So great work! I would advise incorporating the Daily Flexibility Exercises into your practice to start  working the muscles of your right hand.  If you are able to get those fingers working and bending at the right time in the bow stroke, you will have a wickedly awesome tone!

Posted: June 11, 2016
Nice playing! Yes, you want to keep the bowing shoulder down and it should feel heavy, and use the shoulder muscles to raise the arm, and keep good weight into the string, adjusting the weight as necessary. If you watch Beth's videos on bowing, you can see her arm is folded like a wing on the E string as she approaches the frog, then the arm level changes as you bow each of the other strings. Arm level should match the string level, but always with a heavy shoulder. Just by dropping your shoulder, your arm level will be better I think.

For your left hand, maybe try and feel the movement of the fingers from the base knuckles versus reaching for the notes with your fingers, which tends to pronate the wrist. You want to maintain a straight left wrist. This is not easy to do because you will need to spend time again on your intonation, but it is worth it.

These are best guesses, and as always, I await Beth's comments to keep you on track!

Posted: June 11, 2016
This discussion includes members-only video content

5th month video
Hi all,

Here's an update on my progress... 5th month video :)

A few quick notes after having watched the video myself:
  • Looks like I still have to fix my two main problems: left hand angle/position and bow hold. I hoped I was doing better now compared to what shows in the video (and sometimes hopefully I do... recording a video is always a challenging task that makes me more nervous :) ). Anyway, looks a bit better than the 4th month at least.
  • About the bow hold: the last two fingers still look a bit stiff and not bent/curved. Strange enough since I don't have the sensation of having a rigid bow hold. It's just that those fingers are not really bent, so now I am trying to keep the bow closer to the palm of the hand a bit more, so to get a more curved shape of the fingers (hopefully still keeping a relaxed hand)
  • During the first exercise (very slow open strings with full bow), which by the way I think it's a very useful exercise for warming up even after 5 months, my elbow goes up in an awful way when playing at the frog, instead of compensating flexing the wrist. Even in this case I did not realise I was doing so until having seen the video. It's happening less often when I play a song (and so when I am using less bow of course), but still it's a problem I am now trying to fix during my daily practice after the recording (and hopefully it's already not happening anymore!)
  • Playing more on the D string (ie: Allegretto) I realised I am often accidentally hitting other strings (A and G). This never happens to me while playing on the other strings, so I wonder if it has to do with my "inexperience" in playing on that particular string (compared for example with the A string) or if I am doing something wrong. I am now really careful in not moving my elbow too much, and so in keeping my right arm at the same level for a certain string, but still that problem happens quite often, especially on full bow strokes. Seems to be slowly getting better with practice though, so I hope it's just a matter of time.

Posted: May 17, 2016
Thank you everyone for all your great feedback, it has already helped me a lot!
(amazing to have received a tailored video to address my issues... thank you so much Beth :) )

Hopefully I'll post another video in a month or so.

Beth Blackerby
Posted: May 16, 2016
This discussion includes members-only video content

Elke Meier
Posted: May 16, 2016
Haha, Gammaw - that is exactly one point why I love this video so much: it does not feel like an exercise, it is just balm to the soul with the beautiful music :)

Posted: May 16, 2016
Elke, I get so lost in the beauty of Cannon in D that I have to really focus when I watch this video! (And I really don't want to turn the sound off) Sorry, I know this is off topic!

Beth Blackerby
Posted: May 15, 2016
That was interesting and very informative to see your time lapsed record of progress. I enjoyed it. I love how you've used all available tools and resources to maximize progress.  I'll be making response videos on Monday. All the new "posters" will receive a video response, so stay tuned.

Elke Meier
Posted: May 15, 2016
Congratulation, Andrea, to a great first 4 months! I would echo some of what Dianne said. But I would also add another comment: don't wait another four months to post the next video. To me it was interesting to see improvement in the first weeks/months - but then came the point where the wrist angle of your left hand started to become rather unhealthy (like it is in the end). It should be a straight line from the elbow to the knuckles. Anything else will eventually cause you pain. As I was watching, I kept thinking: oh no, he still practices with this unhealthy angle. If only he had posted a video earlier! It is much easier to correct something before it has become ingrained and a habit.
And about bowing: do you practice open string bowing with looong bow strokes - meaning from the frog to the tip? I think that would help your bow hand a lot. At the moment you play rather forcefully - which I think is better than too cautiously. You get a strong tone. But when you listen to your tone you will hear that while it has a clear beginning, it does not seem to have a clear ending (I am talking about some of your Suzuki pieces toward the end, e.g. Allegro). Rather it seems like you pull the bow down forcefully (I could say: with a sudden jerk, but that would be exaggerated) and at the sudden stop there is a kind of a rebound before the upbow. I do not know exactly why that is (I am not a very experienced player myself), but I somehow have a hunch that it has to do with the bow grip. Your index finger looked loose, but the other fingers look rather stiff. Video #81 really, really helped me in the beginning to get a feel for what the fingers of the bow hand do. I started all my practice with that one. Also check out Professor V's third video on the bow hand. He has some exercises also.

Posted: May 15, 2016
Thanks Dianne for all your amazing feedback, much appreciated!
You have been very encouraging and I will try to apply for sure all of your suggestions.

About the left hand, on the fourth month I changed its grip/position almost completely since I tried to apply all the "don't squeeze" methods of videos like #85 and #86 (I was really resting the violin neck on my left hand "cradle" before... much more comfortable somehow but wrong).
From the video it looks like that since then I have an odd angle between the arm and the wrist. Not sure if it's the camera angle or if I am doing something wrong, but I am quite sure that some of your suggestions are addressing that as well.

Posted: May 14, 2016
Welcome to Violin Lab! Great video production and interesting sound studio behind you! For 46 hours of practice, you have made remarkable progress. Below are just random thoughts. I kept stopping the video to jot them down, and I had to delete some things as they definitely got better. You memorized everything! Do you read the music at the speed you are playing as well?
  • Violin position: You might want to bring the violin slightly more in front of you @ around 45 degrees depending on the length of your arms (Please let Beth inform you of this to be sure)
  • Bowing: Try to have your bow pinky curled and the 2nd and 3rd fingers wrapped just a little more onto the stick. This will give you better control with flexible fingers. Index finger looks perfect.
  • Bowing: You always maintained a good sounding point, playing in the middle of the bow, and by month 4 your down bows were very straight. But having a flexible bow wrist will help you keep the up bows straight as well. Try to work on getting flexibility in the bow wrist. There are some good videos here on developing a relaxed, flexible bow hand. #72, #78, #79(my favorite), #80, #81.
  • Bowing: Good scrubby sound into the string! Good scrubby sound on the E string as well- not easy to do! Nice relaxed right shoulder.
  • Left wrist: When you have just a 1st finger down in months 1-3, the angle of your left hand looked like it needed to come in toward the fingerboard to be able to get the next finger down faster, eventually hovering over the fingerboard. In month 4 your left wrist was extended out so couldn't be sure. In months 1-3 you only had a sightly pronated wrist when playing a 4th finger, but in month 4 your wrist was pretty much extended out. It might help to loosen the left hand on the neck and allow the elbow to hang freely under the instrument. This will really help when playing on the lower strings. With a relaxed left hand and arm, try bringing your hand in slightly toward the fingerboard and balance the hand on the middle two fingers, or a place that feels comfortable for your hand to be able to reach all 4 fingers without pronating the wrist. If you are trying to play on the tips of your fingers, that may also be why the wrist is extended out. Bring your wrist in only until straight and this will cause you to play a little more on the pads of the fingers.
  • Left hand: You have a very strong and curved 4th left hand finger! All your fingers seem to have good strength, this is going to be very helpful going forward, but watch out for pressing down too hard with your left hand fingers.
  • Intonation: was great. Watch your 3rd fingers on the D string as they sometimes are a little flat. I think this may be related to the pronated left wrist though and may take care of itself with the straightening of the left wrist.
  • Tone & Expression: In your 4th month I heard some expressive playing and use of dynamics. This was awesome @ 4 months! That last line of 8 notes in May song that finished @ 13:34 had gorgeous tone! See if you can reproduce what you were doing. It sounded almost like an echo, and you had everything spot on (sounding point, weight, speed).
Great job and thanks for sharing!