How to Learn the Violin – Norman’s Story

Adult violin learners should be able to identify with the beginning violin player in this tale. Statistics show that for every 100 people who attempt to learn the violin only 46 will succeed in gaining any sort of fluency with the instrument.

Now take my friend Norman. Norman used to be a butcher’s apprentice and is now an excellent violinist with a fine appreciation for classical music and everything related to the violin. However, Norman did not get like this overnight. To begin with he flopped around, trying various tutors, online courses, books and DVDs. Finding suitable learning resources was something Norman spent a lot of time on. He spent lots of money and huge amounts of time before he finally made the breakthrough to being a fluent violin player.

I can personally testify that Norman’s effort was incredible. He was not what could be described as musically “gifted”, perhaps not even musically inclined. However one thing Norman did have on his side was a capacity for hard work and a willingness to do whatever it took to be successful at learning the violin. He would ask anyone for advice on how to improve, he would save money to invest in quality equipment including an expensive hand-crafted violin, and he would also watch numerous DVDs, read books and listen to CDs.

Norman told me that he really struggled to begin with and toyed with the idea of giving up a couple of times. However Norman demonstrated one of the key characteristics of a successful violinist and focused on his goal of becoming an accomplished violinist. At this point he also reminded himself of the effort he had already put in to learning the violin, and how he did not want it to be in vain.

When starting out learning the violin, remember the violin is not only about having a good teacher. You need to make good use of other resources. In fact with real determination it is possible to learn the violin without a teacher at all, if you utilize the online resources which are available. With hard effort and well chosen instruction you can attain near the level of a top violinist.

When I first began teaching Norman I gave him a drill about his use of the violins for sale and his posture while playing. A crucial but often overlooked aspect of playing the violin is forming an understanding with the instrument. As hokey as it may sound it is crucial to “become one” with the instrument; to reach the point where the violin almost feels like an extension of oneself. Playing a violin needs to become part of ones subconscious, kind of like driving a car; at first one weaves around and drives very slowly and deliberately, but as we become accustomed we no longer have to think: we drive the car correctly without even having to consciously think. Norman credits this insight as being one of the key stepping stones on his path to violin mastery.

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