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Jen McColley
Hi everyone,
I have some good news and some bad news that I would like to share with you.  I've only posted a couple times here, and I've only been playing for 6 months on an old violin that was found in the back of my grandfather's closet after he passed away.  No one in the family knew why he had it or where it came from.  About 2 years ago I took it to a local luthier for a new bridge and soundpost.  Anyway, lately I've been feeling like the sound was just "off" somehow, and of course I was blaming myself for it, thinking I was just doing something wrong.  Or maybe it was the strings.  The G string in particular sounded weird to me, even when it was in tune.  So I took it in today to a more reputable luthier, and boy did he have a lot to say!  For starters, there is a crack on the back from the soundpost.  He said not only is the soundpost in the wrong spot, but it's a viola soundpost!  He said that most definitely created the crack.  He said I shouldn't even be playing it like that.  He also said the bridge was horrible (which my teacher also told me), and pointed out how the G string was sunk way into the bridge.  I was simultaneously thrilled and sad.  Thrilled because it wasn't just me!  But of course, sad and mad that the prior luthier messed it up so badly.  He told me it's a German made violin, Glaesel is the name, and it is about 100 years old.  He said it would be worth around $5000 if not for the soundpost issue.  Can you believe that?  I don't know if I have any recourse with the original luthier, but I can certainly use word of mouth and trash them to pieces!  So I played on a couple of new violins while I was there, and could NOT believe the difference.  I almost cried.  I was close to giving up recently because I was so discouraged by the sound.  I decided not to have it fixed at this time (he said it would be at least $1500 to fix) and I ended up buying a new one.  It's a Snow, and I absolutely love it.  I also bought a new carbon fiber bow, which I also love.   So I am happy as a clam today, and driving the kids crazy with my practicing. 

I have a question for you.  Don't you think my teacher should have noticed the problems with the violin?  She did point out the crappy bridge, and said that was why I was having such trouble crossing strings.  But she has played it before, shouldn't she have noticed the G string issue?  I just find it strange that someone who has been playing the violin for 30 years and is in the local symphony wouldn't pick right up on that.  Or at least tell me to go get it fixed right away because it sounds awful!  It did cross my mind that maybe she was being nice and didn't want to say anything negative?  I get the sense from her that she is more hesitant with me than she would be with a child giving negative feed back.  I mean, don't get me wrong, she's a great teacher (not as great as Beth!) and we get along really well.  

Anyway, soon I am going to get up the courage to post a video of myself.  I have been absolutely obsessed with this site since I found it a week ago, I am just loving reading all the back posts, and watching peoples videos.  It was actually someone's post that got me thinking that it might be the violin and not me.  Someone talked about their violin being too loud, and one of the possible answers had to do with the soundpost being too high or something of that nature. 

So thanks to this site, I have a renewed passion for the violin and a brand new shiny instrument to play on!

Happy St Patrick's day everyone!


5 Responses
Posted: March 17, 2012

I have this piece of music on my ipod, itunes etc. and it always stops me in my tracks when it plays. Spiegel im Spiegel by Arvo Part. It is so stunning and haunting. I have the cello version by Sally Maer and Sally Whitwell - the cello version is extra spooky. I found this violin version played by Anne Akiki Meyers. Which version do you prefer, violin or cello?
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20 Responses
Posted: March 9, 2012


Here's a vote for sometimes starting over at the beginning.  I'm at one of those frustration points where I don't think I'm making any progress.  My intonation is really off due to concentrating on e flat and b flat.  It drags down my whole hand frame when I try to go back to the "simple" scales.  So I went back and watched some of the first videos.  It's amazing what you see differently from the first time you watch it.  Some of the words that didn't stand out as much the first time have more meaning the second time.  Probably because, in my case, I can only focus on a little at a time.  I must now be ready for the other part of that instruction.  Even the Suzuki songs that I thought were incredibly difficult seemed easier(though I may not still play that well.)  I may just go back and finish book 1. Those minuets were the devil to me.  I think I can do them now.  I'm so grateful for these videos. 

6 Responses
Posted: March 16, 2012

Jim Gross
I thought this was going to be easy.  first, my grandson says that camera will never do. Buy new camera.  Grandson says, sound won't do.  Buy a mic.  Now I'm horrified at my progress.  Well, we got to start somewhere.  So, this is the start.  Hopefully, some progress will be made before the workshop in July.  I'm having fun even if it doesn't look like it.  I started in the first week of January, so this is where I'm at at two and a half months.
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20 Responses
Posted: March 15, 2012

I'd like to share some recent observations about my progress over the past 6-8 months using Beth's lessons:

As an older adult with no history of playing an instrument, my brain had no frame of reference to use to organize new muscle actions.  Cognitive confusion was rampant, and without smooth cognitive functioning, there is no hope of getting the muscles sorted out.

My brain loves Beth's mini lessons showing how a particular skill is executed.  Actually, my brain catches on very quickly once I can watch the mechanics and hear Beth's explanation of the sequence of movements and what to listen for. 

I had a horrible, horrible left hand Death Grip.  People said inane things like "just relax".  It was so frustrating;  if I could "just relax", I wouldn't have been using a Death Grip. I do  know they were trying to be helpful though.

Beth's video explanation of why Death Grip's develop provided the explanation of what muscles needed to activate and what muscles needed to be quieted.  That was so helpful. Now I understood why "just relax" wasn't at all accurate.  I had a plan and specific exercises.

In addition, about 6 months ago, I started doing Yoga  4-6 times a week.  I use  a very simple routine in the morning,  gentle stretching is a great way to start the day.  But the biggest reward has been training my mind and body to notice the sensation of being really relaxed.  This has transferred to my violin playing.

Knowing what muscles to activate, which muscles to quiet, and targeted exercises to mindfully practice these skills are making a huge difference in my playing.   I find myself surreptitiously doing knuckle and finger independence exercises all the time at work or when waiting at a traffic light. 

Thank you, Beth!

1 Responses
Posted: March 17, 2012

Jenn A

I think it is time for new strings. It looks like two of my strings are beginning to unwind (I think?) They have a funny shiny spot, almost looks like a kink so I suppose that is what I am looking at.

I tried a search on the community here about string suggestions.  I currently am using Dominants, I do not have a gripe with them however many of you noticed such a huge difference with Obligato that I am curious to plunk down the extra $25 to try them.
What are your suggestions for the D string?  Aluminum or silver?  And I saw that some of you had trouble with the e string, I do not currently have that with the Dominant and do not want to encounter that, would you suggest I get the Kaplan and not the Obligato e string to be on the safe side?

Sorry for all the questions, I did see Dominants on sale too and almost want to get them because I haven't had trouble with them, but I am so tempted to try the better string if that improves tone that would be fantastic!

3 Responses
Posted: March 17, 2012

Jennifer Nankey
Hi everyone, just a questions/thought. I have 4 or 5 bows at home and sometimes I'll kind of use them all, just to compare. I have not decided on my favorite yet which I will ultimately use most of the time. The thing that is wierd though is that the cheap Glasser bow, which is not even horse hair - it is only synthetic hair (and the bow is not even wood! it's fiberglass I believe), seems to give the BEST response, even when I play ever so lightly. All of the horse hair bows do not have this same level of response, and they are rosined just fine. I really do like the great responsiveness but I don't exactly want to be using what's probably a student bow and what definitely LOOKS like a student bow. Thoughts or comments?

4 Responses
Posted: March 14, 2012


Hi Beth,

When I mark a song's sheet music for a taper, would I use an acsent mark on the the note before or is there an actual symbol?  Right now I'm writing taper under the two notes.



3 Responses
Posted: March 14, 2012

Being careful not to let "fiddle" take over at the possibly for those late night sessions this would be a fun tune I think for a couple folks to take on and play around with.

It's called "Growling Old Man and Woman" and it's basically an argument between this old man and his wife I suppose.   It's pretty simple but I can imagine a couple of good fiddlers could get a lot of fun playing around with the as the old man, the other as the woman.....adjusting the argument and the tone throughout, answering one another.  

Anyway, thought I'd post it   :-) 

4 Responses
Posted: March 13, 2012

Angelo Buonicore
HI everyone. With  a past experience studying piano and composition when I was younger age (and then doing a completely different job in life while keeping listening and playing music an enjoyable background) I decided at 47 to learn violin. I always loved the depth in harmonic "color" you can reach with this instruments and finally I broke the ice and bought myself a study violin to start.
I know I have a long long journey in front of me (in 2 weeks I learnt to play the first scale in a major and the very simple little twinkle tune) but the challenge is largely counterbalanced from the joy of playing this beautiful instrument.

What is a good progression of exercise/method to start getting a good articulation of the left hand on the fingerboard ?

Thank Beth and your ViolinLab site for the excellent guidance you provide


12 Responses
Posted: March 11, 2012

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