Last night I joined an orchestra, something that i have not done in the past 4 years. I play the violin, have done since year 4 which was '96, its something i have always really enjoyed.
We always had a violin in the family, which i think was the reason that I wanted to play but when my parents got it valued because i was interested in it they found that it was worth quite a bit of money so they sold it and bought me one worth £200. I still play this violin. I know that at my standard I should be playing something better but i love this violin.
To me playing in an orchestra is the whole reason for playing a violin, I myself am not a solo performer. I've done music at university and couldn't perform other peoples music so i decided to write my own meaning that i did not get violin lessons or any chances to play because my college of arts did not have an orchestra. I've been in quite a few orchestras over the years from school orchestras to the Dorset Youth Orchestra to Allington strings, there is this passion that you hold and all the other string players hold that just makes the music and makes you feel like a group, I just seem to fit in in a place where so many other people i know would never fit.
I'm 23 at the moment and in the more recent orchestra that I've joined I seem to be the youngest player by about 20/30 years, this kind of thing I've got used to most people in my town do not keep this instrument up. I went through secondary school and sixth form while playing in the west Dorset orchestra being the best younger violinist until i hit Dorset youth orchestra!
And now university is over I'm getting back into it again!
My favourite piece of music to play is 'Concerto No. 5 1st Movement' by F.Seitz. I also loved Elgar which made my teacher roll her eyes and tut that only the boys like to hammer away on a violin which such speed and intensity as I do and that it wasn't acceptable to her...and she did not 'grin and bear it' like most teachers would.
This review will seem a little jubbled - you might think that from the stories of my tuition, a ritualistic burning of my violin would be more apt than reviewing it, but no because I get far too much pleasure racing through the exciting parts with as much expression and flight as I can, and trust me, it doesn't sound half bad if I do say so myself.
****How it started****
I first asked my mother if I could play the violin when I was about 8 which in comparison to the other members of my violin group, was fairly old to begin to play and I was made very aware that I would struggle for being older (!). I watched a student at my primary school play and he was incredible, apparently dedicating 2-3 hours a day to practice. So I turned to him, my mother turned to the school and lessons were arranged.
I was taught the 'Suzuki' Method. Dr Shinichi Suzuki perceived music as a means of expression; of freedom through song and bringing beauty to a childs life and develop beautiful, sensitive human beings in the wake of World War II. I think my teacher had taken this initial idea and warped it to suit her. In a lot of ways she was an incredible teacher who produced some incredible students. In other ways she could be cruel and harsh; she had favourites, of which I was not one. She was demanding, not merely expecting one-on-one tuition, but also a dedication to a minimum number of 'concerts' and performances within a school term, extra group sessions at weekends which as I moved up to 'Master Class' moved to 3 hour evening sessions and the amount of in-school time taken to go to her lessons grew as I developed.
My first violin was a small cereal box with a 30cm ruler through it and garden cane with colourful stickers. My cereal box was renowned for years on as my mother opted to use textured wallpaper to decorate my box. People would laugh later, but I knew they were jealous really. My box rocked. My first actual wooden violin was 1/4 size Chinese tinny screech box. So was everyone else who had the county subsidised instrument. As I was a child at the time I never really got into the financial aspects, but I know it was costly and in a lot of ways I regret the effect that economic dent had on my parents.
So onwards I went - my 1/2 size was also a chinese screecher but my 3/4 was a beautiful deep dark brown/red French piece costing around £360 and a £50 bow. The instrument I have today is German, noted for its deep and loud tone in the region of £1000 these days and a £300 bow. Believe it or not that is fairly good for a decent violin. My teachers violin cost the same as a small house and had a few 100 years behind it with a flamed back and neck. Beautiful yes!
I am now 22. I stopped lessons at 14 before my GCSE's as I felt a lot of pressure to perform - to do concerts when I wanted to go out with my friends, to learn to read music and undertake examinations, to rehearse straight after school but without the the attentions of my mother who had been the one who would sit and listen to me rehearse and give a little applause or say what she thought might have gone wrong.
****What do you need?****
Dedication. This is meant to be the most difficult instrument to play and it is un-natural at first. I am lanky and stringy - I would have suited the larger viola in reality and I am double-jointed in my thumbs which meant that the strict structure of the Suzuki Method way of standing, holding and playing the violin is demanding and tiring at first. That particular method has strict expectations - a Suzuki violinist is an elegant instrumentalist who sways with the music, has perfect posture with flat knuckles, perfect foot spacing and never has a pointy thumb or elbows out. My teacher used to tie elastic bands to my elbows and thumbs to try and 'condition' them to stay in the required posture. This is not something ANY teacher should get a way with but I was young, she was old and demanding and there was no one to say that it wasn't inappropriate. It took 6 years for her to realise that my thumb naturally clunked out of place and I wasn't just being a pain in the ass...!
The teacher needs to be patient but not relaxed. If you/your child has not practiced it will show and you will be wasting both your time if you're not aspiring to the same goal with similar expecations. Ask around, ask to contact current students, find out who is taking lessons at your school and definitely meet the instructor if it is for your child. My lessons are all tape-recorded so I could practice the lesson at home and could play along to the exercises and songs I was rehearsing for that week.
Money - it's not cheap. For me there were tuition fees, instrument hire, the purchasing of CD's and books specific to the Suzuki method but similarly traditionally taught students will need resources to use. I inherited a music bag from a previous violin student. I have a metronome (counts the beat!), rosin which rarely runs out, extra strings, violin case. I also have a metal music stand. Sometimes you might need to restring your bow, your bridge might collapse (!) - a particularly expensive instrument will need insuring as violins are worth a lot of money - just check out ebay!
Motivation - if you want to take it up you need to be dedicated. If your child takes it up sit with them every time they rehearse. Make constructive comments, let them do mini-concerts. Encourage practice! My mum lost interest and would fall asleep listening to me because I had to practice for 1-2 hours at night and was used to the tunes. I wasn't amazing at reading music because my instructor didn't take a lot of time ensuring I understand. A wonderful man tutored me in sight-reading and I am now quite capable of reading most music. He also helped me 'changing positions' which is where you slide up and down the neck of the violin. All in all, you progress in major steps throughout your education and can only succeed with motivation and dedication.
****My Two Pence****
Yes my tuition was bad in terms of treatment - but I love the violin now. I never hated it as a child, I hated my teacher and cannot put enough emphasis on researching your teachers. She was strict but she was also OTT resulting in me crying the night before my lessons. Be supportive of your child if they take up the violin. With the Suzuki Method you have to learn every song off by heart. There's nothing more rewarding then performing a complex concerto - the adrenalin rush when you really love the music is amazing. But you have to love it, otherwise it will become a chore.
To end with Suzuki's original message, I think that learning any instrument can help your childs sensitivity in a lot of ways - develop their memory, their ability to multi-task and has been associated with a better understanding when learning different languages.
"I want to make good citizens. If a child hears fine music from the day of his birth and learns to play it himself, he develops sensitivity, discipline and endurance. He gets a beautiful heart."
Ahh, the good ol' violin. Before I get started, heres a quick intro about the violin if you don't really know much about it already...
The violin is a real family instrument - it has two bigger siblings, the viola and violincello (or the cello as it is more commonly known). There is a fourth instrument , the double bass. Strictly speaking it isn't a 'family' member, but the four instruments get on very well together!
The violin is the soprano member of the family, having the highest pitched strings. The violin is by far the more popular instrument and has perhaps the greatest musical repertoir of any instrument.
The four strings of the violin, G, D, A and E are tuned in intervals of a 5th and give the instrument a range of around 4 octaves. In western culture, violins form a major part of an orchestra, divided into two groups, the 'first' and 'second' violins. The first chair in the first violin section is known as the concertmaster. In the chamber music scene however (otherwise known as a 'string quartet'), you will commonly find the violin in an ensemble consisting of 2 violins, 1 viola and 1 cello.
Now, my experiences with the violin - excuse me if I seem to waffle on at this point. Learning how to play the violin can be a very difficult (and often a huge pain in the rear end!) but rewarding experience. I could go on and on about violins and all of my experiences from the 10 years I played, but I won't bore you with that - instead, I'll list 5 tips instead :o)
- TIP 1 - Get yourself a teacher
Make that a violin teacher. Umm, actually, make that the best violin teacher you can get access to! The thing that will make the single biggest difference in how fast and how well you learn how to play the violin is getting the best teacher you can. A good teacher will get you places much faster than an average teacher.
I started playing violin when I was still in primary school (probably around 8 years old). Word got round that the school was to start introducing music classes, with violin being the first. To be honest, I never really though much about playing the violin beforehand, but I begged my mum asking her whether I could start having lessons. Surprisingly, she agreed, and after a quick visit to the violin teacher, I was put into a small group with 3 of my other school chums and away it went! Month by month, my friends started to drop out of lessons (because they found the practising at home a bit hard, and realised that they didn't have any rhythm - whoops), and before I knew it I was all on my lonesome. Oh well. This was probably the period where I learnt the most and realised that this is what I loved doing the most! Teachers defiantly make or break you - if your teacher isn't enthusiastic and encouraging, then there is no way that they are going to convince you that playing the violin is worth your while.
- TIP 2 - Learn how to hold the violin and bow properly ASAP
Holding the violin properly is very important. If a violinist holds the instrument incorrectly, it will be uncomfortable and more difficult to play. I'm afraid that the saying, "No pain, no gain" applies in this instance. Yes, both your arms will hurt like hell after starting to play the violin on a regular basis (both your bowing arm and the arm holding up the violin), and your fingers will become sore and sensitive after holding them down on the violin strings after a while, but it is worth it in the end. Even after joining my very first and second orchestras ('The Sandwell Youth String Orchestra' and 'The Sandwell Youth Orchestra' in the West Midlands) I still went through a lot of pain - there is defiantly a difference playing songs that last 3 minutes in comparison to ones that last for 15 minutes long! Playing the violin can often be a 'love hate' relationship, as there are often days where you can't bear the though of practising, but yet others where you can't wait to pick it up and blast out a few tunes.
- TIP 3 - Buy yourself a decent violin when possible
I remember the first violin my parents bought me a few years after I had started playing violin properly - basically, once they knew that I was taking my lessons seriously and was getting good results! Before this period, however, I was using and playing violins which were the property of the council (i.e., they weren't the best violins around, but I could play it and take it home to practise for FREE). As I started playing at primary school, I had started using a 2/4 size violin and as I grew older and taller, I then eventually needed a 3/4 violin. Once I joined my first proper orchestra however, my olds decided to treat me to my first (and only) violin. It was a 4/4 (full) size Andreas Zeller violin, a gorgeous dark brown colour and had beautiful tones. I also remember getting very excited at the prospect of owning my own violin, and often dreamt of someday purchasing a black, sleek electric violin and sounding like Vanessa Mae - yeah, as if that was ever going to happen! The difference between a council-owned violin and your own violin was, well, unbelievable. I would fully recommend buying a good quality violin if you can afford it, as it will last you for years and years to come.
- TIP 4 - Gain as much experience with the violin as possible
I can safely say that if I hadn't played violin, I would never had learnt how to work with other people as a group, and it also boosted my confidence right up. Playing in orchestras and quartets made me realise how committed you have to be, and how serious I was about actually being in the orchestra in the first place. I made friends for life playing in concerts and the such likes, and experiencing that sort of atmosphere as well as feeling a huge sense of achievement at the end was worth all the blood, sweat and tears you put into practising! It was possibly the one experience that will continue to be with me for the rest of my life, and made my childhood that little bit more interesting. Talking about experience, violin exams aren't exactly pleasant to go through (in fact, they scared the hell out of me!) but I still say to this day that it was a shock tactic that I needed, and am thankful for.
- TIP 5 - Get acquainted with other instruments (if at all possible!)
Violin or viola? A lot of people ask this, not knowing what the differences between the two actually are. The viola plays a somewhat different role in the orchestra than the violins do, and there is some gentle and sometimes not-so-gentle teasing between the sections. The viola is a somewhat larger (longer, heavier) instrument and it is a fifth lower than the violin (five pitches, in other words). Many string players play both instruments, making their careers more flexible in terms of what they can offer. I would encourage anyone to play viola as well as violin; the music literature is a little different (viola uses an alto clef instead of a treble clef like the violin), but the viola has a deep, gorgeous tone and is quite as wonderful as the violin. In the long run, both violin and viola are perhaps the most difficult of all instruments, and they provide immense advantages in terms of physical and mental training. I was fortunate enough to be given the opportunity to learn how to play viola whilst in a string quartet, and my conductor in the youth orchestra thought that my long arms and other abilities would help. I didn't learn to a certain grade as such (I learnt enough to be able to play quartet tunes and to be able to read alto clef quite easily). The viola is such a beautiful instrument to play, and is a real shame that not many people take it up!
Once I got into high school and became more interesting in rock and indie music, I also decided that I wanted to play bass guitar and electric/acoustic guitar. Playing the violin made life a LOT easier, as the strings on the bass guitar were essentially the same as a violin (G, D, A and E, but in reverse order on the bass from the violin), and playing lead guitar stuff on guitar also became common sense and perhaps even easier than a violin, as a guitar has noticeable frets rather than the violin where you had to learn where certain notes were positioned on the fret board. I still find playing chords rather difficult, but lead and solo stuff are no longer a hassle :o)
I stopped playing violin when I was achieved my Grade 6, and was absolutely gutted, as I could no longer afford lessons due to moving away to university. I still wish that I could join an orchestra, which I may try in the near future once I finish my postgraduate studies (although I would be terrified to join...its been 6 years since I picked up my violin and played properly with a bunch of people!). Although playing the violin made my life for my parents a bit of a pain (i.e., they forever escorted me around the place, took me to endless rehearsals and concerts, listened to my constant screeching and not forgetting to mention paying for my violin lessons and other fees etc), they were glad of the experiences that I went through and realised that it taught me some very valuable lessons in life! Anyway, if you're willing to give yourself a challenge, then the violin is for you. In some respect, it is much easier to start playing the violin at a youngish age as you can 'sap up' more information, so if you have or know any young children interested in music, then suggest it to them! They'll either love it or they will hate it - but they (and you) won't know until they try it out...right?
I started to play the violin aged 14, as my third instrument, behind the flute and piano. Although I don't come from a musical family, I just knew I wanted to be able to play the violin! I couldn't get fitted into lessons at school as I was already being taught flute and there was a high demand for string lessons. My parents enrolled me into lessons with a private teacher, through a recommendation from a musician. At this time, it was my intention to become a musician.
I started off on a Stentor Student 2, costing around £100. These are mass produced and are not wonderful for taking past a certain level. Although I couldn't afford to purchase a new violin when I reached a certain level as I had brought a new flute for around £800, I continued with lessons. Eventually whilst taking AS levels, I had to stop violin lessons because I couldn't continue putting in enough practice.
I still love playing the violin, whether disney songs(!) or classical, and can't wait until I can afford a better instrument and bow.
When you are choosing a violin, you should take size into account. Technicians in stores can help you with this, especially regarding children, as all sorts of factors are taken into account. When first starting out, you can buy an outfit, containing the violin, bow and case. You need to buy resin for your violin bow, which helps it to grip the strings. But this should be cleaned off your strings after playing as part of essential violin maintenance!
Having music lessons can teach a child an enourmous amount about sticking at something until not only you, but other people can see the improvement and the feelings of proudness that that brings people. Also, it provides massive enjoyment for people of all ages.
I saw the violin for the first time at a performance called shipwreck at the Anvil in Basingstoke, then I saw the violin again, the mellow sound tingled through my ears and seemed very relaxing and chilling. I soon began mimicking the violinist, my mum and dad noticed and asked whether I would like to play, just see how it goes, and if I didn?t like it I could quit. I went to our nearest music shop, Modern Music, www.modernmusic.co.uk, and asked to look at their list of violin teachers, then they recommended Kim Graham (water-witch is her username) Kim is an amazing music teacher, she has helped me the whole way, and I would definitely recommend her to anyone! I am now doing grade 6 and I enjoy the violin so much, I am participating in Basingstoke Area Youth Orchestra (BAYO) currently and I audition for the Hampshire County Youth Orchestra and I have been placed on the Reserve! *Auditions* At auditions do: Dress casually/smartly. This is because you want to present yourself nicely. Watch your technique and play to your best. This is because you want to get into what you?ve auditioned for and get a good place if you are auditioning for an Orchestra. Make sure your bow is rosined Make sure your violin is cleaned. At auditions don?t: Chew chewing gum Panic Be rude The Violin has many different parts: Tail button -: Is where you tighten the chin rest. Strings -: Is the sound source, where the bow string vibrates. F holes -: Holes carved into the violin in the shape of f (which stands for forte/loud) Nut -: At the top of the violin before the peg box. Bridge -: The strings run over the bridge, but don?t play behind the bridge because it sounds disgusting! Tail-piece -: Helps hold the strings in place and is connected to the ch
in rest. Finger Board -: The strings run up along the finger board and when you press down the strings to produce different notes, you push the strings onto the fingerboard Pegs -: Pegs hold the strings, and you can twist the pegs, to tighten the strings, to tune the violin. Peg box -: The end of the peg where the strings are attached is in the peg box. Scroll -: Is the very top of the violin (very pretty.) Shoulder -: The shoulder is part of the body of the violin. Chin Rest -: Where you place your chin when playing. Neck -: This leads to the Peg box, which leads to the scroll, and the fingerboard is placed on top of the neck. When you play the violin you need to attach a shoulder rest parallel with the chin rest (under side of violin.) But it is far better and is advised that you buy a proper chin rest not a sponge or cloth. There are a wide variety of books to start the violin from, one of them is called: Superstart Violin Level 1 by Mary Cohen, this book includes Challenges, Brain Teasers, Technical Tips and Fact Files, it also provides Beginners pieces to get off to a good start on the violin. As you learn you begin to take Exams. *Exams* At Exams Do: Be polite Once again, play to you max Try to stay calm Clean your violin Rosin your bow Practise then rest before your exam Thank your Examiner Put on a smile! Present yourself nicely At Exams Don?t: Rush Chew chewing gum Panic if you make a mistake When you are playing the violin, stand with your feet apart by about 15-30 cm to keep balance, don?t slouch and always put your head straight forward, otherwise you might start to get neck pains. When you start to become more advance the styles of m
usic become a wider variety, e.g. pop, Irish, Scottish, Classical etc. *Styles* With things like pop, you have to be more advanced although there is some beginners tunes, but with things like classical you can play at any grade or level, because Irish and Classical have beginners tunes and advanced tunes etc. for classical there is a book called: classical violinist, there is a couple of books called this but in different grades or levels. There are many more types of music, e.g. Jazz, Blues, and Baroque etc. All of these range in Levels and Grades from Beginners to Intermediate to Advance. The violin produces an amazing sound, mellow and soft and the type sound that could send you to sleep unless you are playing loud, fast and jiggy music. Since the violin was made; there has been a wide range of looks and styles for it: there is now electrical and even a half violin! *Size* There is a range of size?s depending on the length of your arms 1/4 - A very small violin 1/2 - Half size violin 3/4 -three quarter size violin And finally, a full size violin As you grow you will need bigger violins, and as they get bigger the prices grow, but the price would never match up to the beautiful pure sound that you gain. Also you get Bows to go with the violin they also start to cost more, but it?s definitely worth it! *Makes* There are different makes of violins: For beginners: Poller and Zeller priced about £280- £300 - from Eastern Europe More are: Normally German or French maybe which cost £300 - £1500 ? you have to buy the bow and case separately There is also a very nice English Violin called Maidstone for about £400 Another English one is called Wolff at about £800 - £1200 Eventually you can start spending up to a million on fine Italian Violins from Cremona There is a ver
y good, popular violin called Kloz ? from Germany worth about £5k There are also some very fine French violins *Bow Makes* As you buy better violin?s you need better bows Tubbs Dodd Preetzcchener paesold There are many more different bows as well and they are normally priced at 1/4 price of the fiddle *Lessons* Lessons cost about £27 per hour with a very good teacher But with unqualified teacher they cost about £12 per hour The violin means a lot to me and I wouldn?t trade it for any other musical instrument, its nice when your feeling relaxed to just pick it up and play, when I go on holiday most of the time I take it with me and I just play and it soothes me so much and its fun as well, with the orchestra we travel and do tours, we have been to France and Spain. The Violin is a dream come true, maybe you should give it a try, if you love relaxing and chilling or you like airy bouncy, fun music the violins for you! Well it?s for anyone, after all it?s the best instrument in the world.
Let me tell you at the outset that I have never, ever, considered myself as 'musical' in as much as I have never played an instrument in my life and now I am 'n' years old that is a considerable long time. I do love music however, classical, opera, (in fact I am going to see my favourite in October in Halifax, Aida) rock and roll (again I am going to see my favourite Lonnie Donegan in Leeds in November) and above all I love folk music. We, my wife and I, go to all the folk festival we can and steward at most. Three week ago we were stewarding at the brilliant Saddleworth festival and I was on duty at the young musicians event. My wife wanted to see the fabulous MUNDY/TURNER and as she wasn't down for duties at that time, off she went. Not many came to the young musicians event partly, I think, because it was early Sunday morning and there were also other events on that people wanted to visit or take part in ie. there was a simply stupendous Gospel Sing in the local Ebeneezer Church with everyone welcome. Among the singers were FIRM FRIENDS, MUNDY/TURNER, TANGLEFOOT from Canada, JOHN PRENTICE and many many more. However, I digress. The young musicians venue is where a group of talented musicians host and provide just about every instrument you can imagine (bear in mind it is a folk music festival so rule out that Grand Piano). After five minutes or so there was only one young girl came along and the room was sort of ... empty .... quiet .... still. The man in charge, the organiser I suppose, looked accross at me and said "Well, why don't you make the most of it and pick out an instrument then"? "Cant play anything" I replied, "No ear for music, can't play anything". "Give it a try" he encouraged. "I wish I could" I said, "But I can't". THAT WAS IT "There is no such word as can't and the
re is never a wish without the dream of making it come true". I tried to make sense of the Bodran because I have always been amazed when I see MAGGIE BOYLE of GRACE NOTES play it. I did make a little progress but was soon directed over to the VIOLIN. "OHH! now that I cannot play, no chance at all, never in this world, much too difficult, can't even hold it". My words did not cut ice with the lady who placed one VIOLIN in my left hand and a bow in the right hand. Still trying to explain my utter lack of musical prowess, I ran the bow over the strings as she directed and low and behold! a sound, musical sound, and it shut my protesting up forthwith. She showed me how to hold the VIOLIN correctly, how to hold the bow, and she carefully explained the strings as I played each in turn. Wonderful, I did this for some time and then she placed my fingers over the strings. This I found difficult to start with because I couldn't separate my index finger and forefinger easily, but I did eventually. She explained how to get different notes by lifting or lowering the fingers and WONDERFUL, even more music. By now (some hour or so later) I was realy deeply engrossed in the VIOLIN and she then said it was time to play a tune. I did little bits at a time until I felt sort of confident and said. "OK I will try to play it through". Oh, all this time the others in the room were all involved with playing other instruments and talking to each other, they were quite oblivious to me and my violin tutor. There was, as you can imagine, nouse all around BUT. Suddenly the room went dead quiet and everyone stopped in their tracks as they looked on in utter astonishment and awe as they saw ME, yes ME with the violin and as the tune 'Twinkle, twinkle little star filled the air everyone cheered and clapped. FABULOUS FEELING, I JUST CAN NOT DESCRIBE IT. I repeated it a second ti
me to make sure I wasn't dreaming the whole thing, but I wasn't. IT WAS ME!!!!!!. Five minutes and I had to leave to catch the last fifteen minutes of the Gospel Sing and meet up with my wife. I did not tell her a thing about this, I guess I was still in shock. Sunday evening we were looking after the CD sales in the main concert hall foyer. My wife was by my side and I couldn't believe it. As guests arrived, top folk stars I may add, they made a bee line to where we were. Shook my hand and congratulated my on my success with the violin. One came up to us and said I was famous and that the word was out all over the festival. I had some explaining to do to my bewildered wife. The best was when the man in charge of the young musicians event came to me and said "It was a moment for me playng the violin but even more so it was a moment for him". I am hooked on the violin now and my wife's violin which has been unused for decades has a new lease of life. However, I treat it with respect, it is a Paolo Maggini dated 1480 and signed, the bow is a genuine DODD (What all this means I do not know but it is important I am told. THANK YOU SADDLEWORTH FESTIVAL Update Sorry, I got the date wrong on the Maggini, it is 1680 and was renovated at some time by C W STORY 26 Central St., BOSTON MASS You can read a label through the f holes giving the C W STORY data and the Maggini bit reads: Paolo Maggini me fecil Bretia anno 1680 It is hand written (Beautiful writing) in ink and legible though faded. And for those who think I am romancing a little I AM NOT This is a perfectly true story and I feel hurt that even one person doesn't believe me. I didn't say I was good at the violin, only that I think it is a fabulous instrument and I want to do more. Oh! an
d the violin again. I have been told it has a genuine DODD bow, we let our daughter use the violin for practice at school when she was about 11 years old and couldn't understand why the music teacher went in raptures every music lesson. The violin belonged to my father in law who was a realy good violinist and played in various orchestras in Staffordshire. He had also a conductors baton passed down by his father, it was ebony with silver inlay but he trew it away saying it was clutter. Bless him.
The Violin has been thought of as a wimpy instrument. It is thought of when you think of an Orchestra, where you get a lot of violins playing something. This is not what it only does. Sure, it IS a classical instrument, but it can be used in a lot of different genres. For example, some modern pop bands, soloists, Rock bands, etc, do use violins, depending on the mood you need. It all depends on what the player can do, and what type of tune it is. You wouldnt want the violin playing over a distortion guitar, or something similar. People also think that the violin is hard to use and play. I must admit it is hard to play, as unlike the keyboard, or a wind instrument, you have to make the notes. But with plenty of practice and a lot of patience, you will be able to play almost anything you put your mind to. I personaly play the violin, and find it easy now, as I have been playing it for at least 5 years. I am at grade 3 and am doing GCSE music. I also play the Keyboard, but that has nothing (much) to do with it. The violin, overall, is a very powerful instrument, if used correctly, and played by a competent player. It isnt the best instrument to start off in music with, as it is quite hard to get to grips with. I recomend that you start with a simple istrument, like the Recorder (i quit when i started violin though), and work onj frome there!!!
Whilst on my daily 25 minute dawdle home from school the other day, thoughts were flying through my head as to just what my next opinion could possibly be on. I wanted to pick something I've still yet to write on, but something that would be interesting and a real passion of my life. I chose the category ‘Violin’ because, unsurprisingly enough, I play violin. Being an A-level Music student, and Grade 8 violinist, as well as choral director and singer in multitudes of choirs, I do tend to spend a rather large proportion of my life based around music and composing, playing, singing and breathing it. Although I can play Grade 3-4 piano and sing at a professional level (head inflating, sorry), it’s only the violin that is my one true musical passion, and the only one I’ve had private lessons for. I’ve played the violin for around 10 years now, and I’ve gone through a number of different love-hate phases. To begin with, and this would apply to the majority of people, the violin is one of the most frustrating things you can ever decide to do. Whether you can read music or not, most teachers decide that you need to go through it all from the start, just so the other students can go at the same speed as you. This makes the whole process extremely tedious, since tunes are very basic and extremely boring, both to listen to and to play to. The violin isn’t a difficult instrument to get a noise out of, simply by bowing with your right arm, and placing fingers with your left, you can get a sound. However, unlike with other instruments, where there are definite notes or keys to play in order to get one note, there is no sign of where you have to place your fingers to get a note. Hence, you have to commit all the gaps and spaces between each finger to heart just to make the notes in tune, which takes a long time. The quality of sound is also a key issue. For those of you who aren’t musical, vibrato is
a term used to slightly alter the pitch of the note in order to make it more pleasant to the ear (why it makes it sound more pleasant, I’m not too sure). Vibrato is a difficult thing to perfect on the violin, it involves remembering the gaps and moving your hand whilst trying to change notes. Hence, quality of sound takes time to perfect, several years even. All of these problems are why people tend to give up on the violin almost as soon as they’ve started. A large percentage of people who take up the violin drop it within a year or two. Lessons are expensive, and without one-to-one tuition, there’s very little chance of improving quality of sound in a short amount of time. People (usually parents) get fed up paying out masses of money each week for lessons, music, strings, and instrument hire, and the players (usually kids) get frustrated. About four or five years after you take up the instrument initially, the magic starts to work its way into the heart. Pieces suddenly sound more professional, and, however hard the piece is, you can generally sight-read it with next to no difficulty. You learn to adapt more to the style of the piece, and the period of the music, and, as with any instrument, your appreciation of the music helps you to develop your individuality as a performer. It’s unbelievably satisfying to be able to play a piece of professional music, especially when people believe that pieces are too hard for you to play. However, there comes a stage where, either the music gets so tough that you need a couple of hours on each bar to work it through thoroughly, or the music requires too much concentration, because it’s so fast and you lose interest. The pendulum swings. There are some pieces that are too quick for the eye, and have to be learnt off by heart before you can even attempt them. Such is the piece I am trying at the moment, the famous ‘Flight of the Bumble-Bee’ by Rimsky-Korsa
kov. However, I will persist, even if it does take me hours just to learn the damn thing. Playing in orchestras with violins is rather fun. Violinists are generally regarded as big-headed (I think I’ve already won you over on that one), not only because their music is so challenging, but also because they are the leaders of the orchestra, quite literally. They rarely have anything other than the melody, (unless it’s a piece that has been specifically written for another instrument,) and they are an essential part of any orchestral mix. Orchestral music is therefore a lot of fun to play, it’s difficult, but rewarding work. As some general advice, I would make sure that the violin is the right instrument for your child or for yourself before indulging your life-savings, but quality of instruments (violins can cost from £150 right up into the thousands), strings (about £40 for a good set), bow and case are all important. They don’t, as you can see, come cheap. Also consider the music; at around £8 per piece, you may soon see the need to start up a fund, or why the lottery spends so much money on helping people learn instruments. I would also recommend private lessons. These can cost substantially more (it’s usually around £10/half hour for a private lesson, but only around £4 for a lesson with other students), but it’s well worth the extra money. The attention and focus that you receive helps to improve your playing substantially, and your individual playing needs are catered for as well. Private lessons become essential after you reach Grade 3-4 standard, but are a good idea even before then. The main thing is to persist with it. It can become tedious, it can become tiring, and it can be very very expensive. But there is nothing like being able to indulge in a little Vivaldi after a hard day at work or school, or being able to play along to Czardas with Nigel Kennedy on the TV, even if he does
play very unprofessionally… And when new music arrives, you find yourself fully living the music as opposed to simply playing it, as soon as you get it out of the packet, incorporating the tone that the composer wants, and playing with the passion that fills all violinists for their beloved wood, horse-hair and sheep-gut. Giving the child the gift of learning any instrument is rewarding, but violins are something special. The most respected of all instruments, the simplest to pick up, the hardest to perfect. Who said the Italians weren’t geniuses?
I am one in a long line of a VERY musical family so I count myself lucky that I could have help from my mother (who is a very respected teacher of violin, piano, singing and theory lessons in Basingstoke and surrounding areas). I first started to learn at the age of 3 but after a few lessons of me hiding under a chair and refusing to come out whilst sitting on my hands my mum decided to take matters into her own hands and teach me herself. I have always been encouraged greatly by both my parents, my uncle and aunt and my grandparents and my "talents" are still being pursued. One of the things that parents start to worry about when their child/children start to show a certain "attachment" to playing a musical instrument such as the violin is that every so often you have to purchase a new one due to the size of your child. I started on the smallest size possible due to being so young. This was a 32nd violin which is 12 inches from the scroll (the top of the violin) to the chin rest (the bottom of the violin). I am now on a full size violin and starting to work for my "performer's certificate". I have achieved grades 1-8 with high marks and have won a large amount of medals, trophies and cups from various music and arts festivals all over the place and awards from the local mayor. I find playing musical instruments fun and exciting and I hugely enjoy performing. Winning all these things has given me a great sense of achievement and it definitely makes it all worth while. There are several different sizes of violin. There are 32nd, 16th, 10th, 8th, 1/4, 1/2 and full size. Sometimes you can get 7/8 but they are quite rare. It is hugely important that you get the right size otherwise it could make playing rather difficult. Unfortunately if your child requires a 32nd violin you can only rent them from a certain shop in London. Should you need this the address is: Chas E Foote Golden
Square London WC1 Although if you don't live near London they have a very good postal service. Most parents worry that they will have to go through the awful screeching sounds when their child starts to learn but this is not always the case. Some people take to it immediately but you should always encourage any musicality that your child may show. They might not always like to practice but it if you take them to see someone in concert such as Nigel Kennedy or Maxim Vengerov then they might see that one day their practice will pay off. I know it has for me! I have been kindly taken by a friend of mine to see Nigel Kennedy twice and I travelled to London to see Maxim Vengerov, with a friend, in the BBC Proms last year. I feel children/young adults also benefit from playing in orchestras. You can find out which orchestras are close to you by going on a search engine and typing "youth orchestras" and you can also get information from the local education authority. Most areas have a local schools orchestra or a youth orchestra. I myself also play with two orchestras and used to be in the NCO (National Children Orchestra. I am currently in the Hampshire County Youth Orchestra and have recently returned from a 3 and a half week tour to Chile. When I was in the String Orchestra we went on a tour to Poland. Last year with the local orchestra we went to Paris and Barcelona. These are some of the great opportunities you can get from being in an orchestra. Costs can be a bit high but you can sometimes get bursaries if your child shows a certain amount of musical ability. You don't always require a musical background either (as other DooYoo members have proved). I have several musical friends whose parents (and other family members) wouldn't have a clue when it comes to playing an instrument. If you practice regularly and have lessons with a good teacher then you could turn
out to be one of the great musicians. Even if you aren't a great musician you can still get a lot of fun out of playing. I would reccomend playing the violin to anyone who wants to gain a sense of achievement and have fun at the same time.
I admit it- I am one of those responsible for teaching those little blighters to play the violin! The violin, it must be said has an unfortunate reputation. There are all those violin jokes about cats, earplugs etc. It is a shame. I actively encourage yougsters to try the violin. I always give a suitability assessment, and to be honest it is only very rarely that I find a child totally unsuitable.Most children can manage to achieve something if a few criteria are followed: 1: THE INSTRUMENT: Buy the best instrument you can afford. No, don't take out a loan on a strad- find out if your child is the next Nigel Kennedy first! However, there are some grim kits around for about £70. I refuse to teach on them. The bows don't play properly and they often break. The violins themselves mostly sound foul and are not properly set up.You are far better off to spend about £170 on something like a Poller or a Zeller. There are others similar too which are very good. These are good quality starter violins from Eastern Europe. They also have much better quality cases- useful if little Johnny has to take it into school- on the bus etc. If you can get one of these from a proper violin shop rather than a straightforward music shop, so much the better. A luthier (violin maker) will set it up properly with good strings decent bridge etc. All this makes a HUGE difference to the sound. Those cheap violins are best for matchwood and are the reason so many parents do not encourage the children to practice. Let's face it, I can't make them sound good, and I am a professional. What hope does the child have?! The way I look at it, parents often buy these ghastly Chinese instruments because they are there. If you had to buy a beginner flute you would be looking at least £200. An oboe starts at about £1000. Why only pay £70 for a violin? It is one of the most difficult instruments to play- why compound the difficulty by providing
a sub standard instrument. 2: STRINGS. Make sure that there are good quality strings on the instrument. You want it to sound "nice" don't you?! There are many different makes of string and there are 3 main types. Covered Gut, synthetic core or metal.I personally use covered gut, but they are more for advanced players and can be expensive. I would suggest Thomastik Dominant's for a student. . They even come in short lengths for the smaller violins.They are a wound string with a synthetic core. This has several benefits. They sound MUCH better. They are thicker than the cheap metal ones usually found on children's violins which makes them more comfortable to play. we don't want sore fingers do we? 3: THE PARENT Please, please, support your child. YOU DO NOT HAVE TO BE MUSICAL TO HELP!!! You would be amazed to hear that over the years I have had several children come and say that they have been told by the parents to stop practising because they don't like it. Very encouraging, I must say! Why pay for the instrument and lessons and then actively stop them playing? If you have followed the steps above and found a good teacher, (by the way make sure that the teacher is a good player and that they demonstrate themselves in lessons) the "scrapy" bit should be done with in a flash! How can you help? Try to find a few times a week to listen to them. DO NOT PULL A FACE when they are playing. If they are not keen o practise, don't moan. No yelling- we have all been there! Try a different approach, such as " I haven't heard you play for a while, it would be lovely if you could play me something whilst I have a cup of tea". Then, if you are not musical yourself ask to see the music and notebook. Good teachers usually write in the notebook what is supposed to be done each week. See if there are any recognisable tunes- most of us know Twinkle, twinkle et
c. Ask them to play it- at least you will know if they are getting it right or not! If they don't have a recognisable tune listen anyway. Praise and encourage them. The pupils of mine who do the best are, without exception, the ones whose parents take an interest. Let's face it, at this stage how do you know your child isn't a budding Vanessa Mae or Nigel Kennedy? If you think your child is struggling with anything, please contact the teacher. Mine often write notes to me in the notebook. I have a special place in my notebooks for parents comments. Even if you never see the teacher due to lessons being in school do try to make contact with the teacher. Most welcome it- if not why not? Finally- who thinks gut comes from cats? I can reassure you that no part of a cat has ever been used in string making- it is actually sheep gut.This is a famous misnomer and I will tell you where it comes from: Strings have not always come in little packets or tubes. They used to come in reels which had to be cut to length. See- CUT GUT! Over the years a Chinese Whisper happened. Cut became Cat.Now you know, you don't have to hide your cat from the violin teacher! I hope this has been of some help- oh, I forgot- do encourage them to join an orchestra or small group as soon as they are ready. I look forward to hearing all your budding proteges in the future.
I originally got this video out of the library when I first decided that I wanted to be a musical genius (ha ha). I am a huge fan of 'teach yourself' products of this kind as I feel that many people would love to learn to play a musical instrument, but cannot afford lessons or simply feel too intimidated. I certainly fitted into this category and my confidence was crushed further when I visited a few violin message boards on the Internet. There does seem to be a (very vocal) minority of people out there who claim that (i) if you aren't prepared to pay £1000 for a violin you shouldn't even bother learning and (ii) it is impossible to teach yourself to play the violin (despite the fact that there are some very talented self-taught fiddlers out there). I am not saying that lessons are pointless as I would love to have lessons if I could afford them. I just feel that people should be encouraged to get involved with music and videos and books are a great learning aid. Enough of me waffling and more about the video! The video is part of a "Music Makers" series presented by Jools Holland (there are also videos about other instruments). The videos are still available to buy, but you might need to order a copy. The actual teaching part of the video is presented by Ric Sanders (a likeable nutter if ever I saw one). I really loved the fact that Ric does not come from a classical music background as I am not particularly interested in playing classical music. Most violin books I have looked at are very classical music orientated. Ric Sanders comes from a folk background, but he does not focus only on folk. He plays a few samples of different styles of music (folk, classical, jazz etc.) to show you what can be achieved once you have mastered your instrument! The video begins with advice on choosing your violin. Basic information on caring for your violin is also covered in some depth. The majority of the video deals with the basics of
holding, tuning and playing the violin, although you do get to learn some simple tunes. I liked the fact that Ric Sanders does explain everything slowly and practical examples are often repeated twice so that you can play along the second time. There are lots of close-up shots of Ric's hands so you do get a very clear idea about where you should put your own hands. I know the pro-lesson brigade worry that people may get into bad habits re: holding the violin incorrectly if they try to teach themselves to play. I don't think that could actually happen with this video unless you aren't paying attention! Learning to play scales takes up a large part of this video as it should as that is that is the most important thing the beginner has to learn. During the practical examples the notes will appear on screen so you can play along and this also helps anyone who is learning to read music. Of course this video will not teach you everything you need to know, but it will teach you the basics. Hopefully this will give you the confidence to join a local fiddler's group or sign up for an evening class. The only slightly off-putting aspect of the video is that Ric Sanders does go a bit mental with an electric violin to show you what can be achieved. This may inspire you, but it just made me feel very untalented indeed!
Hi Dooyoo users. This opinion is about the well-known violin. As this is the case I will now talk you through the instrument itself. Well, first of all the bow, the part that you actually bow with is made of horsehair and if a hair is ever to brake of from the bow at one end, then you must quickly pull it to the other end and snap it off. Then there is the part that you hold when bowing. In first school I was told that when you put your violin away you must always loosen your bow by turning the little silver thing at the bottom of the bow and then I was told to do the opposite when getting it out. Next there are the strings, this is a very delicate part of the instrument and so you must never press too hard on them when playing. If you don’t press hard then it also prevents a horrible screeching sound (well pretty much anyway!!! ) . After that there is the bridge. This holds up the strings which then follow down to the tuners, these are little ‘ things ’ that you twist to tune you’re violin. While on that subject if you cannot tune it from the bottom then you move up to the top and gently turn the forks. I think that everyone has seen a violin and so I don’t think that I need to tell you what that is like. DOO I ????? My Story Well, when I was in first school I suddenly realised that the same 3 or 4 children were going out of lessons every week and, after close inspection I realised that the school had introduced violin lessons. I went home that day and as soon as I saw my mum I asked her if there were any chance that I could take violin lessons. She soon disappointed me by saying that you had to actually have a violin in order to PLAY one!!!!!! Then when looking around some charity shops she noticed a violin for £20.oo in the window. And for a 100-year-old violin I reckon that that is pretty cheap, so I took up the violin and am now going
for a level 3. Both at school and out of school. I have been playing for at least four years and i thouroughly enjoy it. I hope that you have enjoyed my opinion on the violin as much as I enjoy playing it.
Let me start by saying that neither myself, nor Heather (the wife) received any musical education at all. Born in the 1940?s, money was too scarce in our families for such 'fripperies' in the 1950?s and thank goodness those times of shortages and (for many families), real hardship are over. We were thus not particularly ambitious for any of our three children to learn to play any musical instrument. However, we were settled in Edinburgh and our children firmly in the state school sector when our elder daughter showed 'musical aptitude' in Primary 2/3 with teaching herself to play the recorder. She had been given the instrument by an Aunt (who is a Brass Band instrument teacher) and she was 'inspired' by an older daughter of a close neighbour who was considered 'quite a good player' Naturally, we encouraged this, by dutifully praising her first tentative warblings at home and applauding politely at later school 'events' featuring the recorder group (which she had joined). Then, when she was in Primary 4 (for the first time in that school), the children were all tested for musical 'ability' to select just six pupils (three from Primary 4 and three from Primary 5) to be provided with violin lessons at the school. I can?t honestly say that I was particularly thrilled at the time when our daughter was one of those selected. With several months' experience of the recorder phase having passed, I anticipated a long period of intense screechings, floods of tears (when things went wrong) and possibly a lot of potential expense in the future. The violin lessons would be at no expense to us, and it cost what seemed a very reasonable £35 to buy a suitable (subsidised) ¾ size violin 'kit' (including bow and case), the cost of replacement strings and 'rosin' for the bow. The body of the first one of these 'Chinese violins was cracked and was re
turned to the Education Department, so that her first violin proper was 'selected' by her teacher out of a new batch of 2 dozen or so "fresh in from China" just before her first lesson. He obviously had chosen this violin with care and we have now carefully stored it away for possible use by grandchildren. This first teacher is a well-respected local musician/teacher and we still enjoy meeting him and listening to him (playing the harpsichord and/or violin) when he performs in Edinburgh Festival 'Fringe' events. As we anticipated, the initial 'groanings' were terrible, but within a matter of weeks, recognisable music was emanating from this instrument e.g. ?Twinkle Twinkle Little Star? ("AWW!", as granny said) and then "The Skye Boat Song". There was drama when the bow was broken. I have never found out why, but strongly believe that it was used in a 'sword fight' with her young brother. I soon found out that my old trusted friends, the 'Araldite' tubes (that had mended so many other childhood 'treasures'), did not mend the wood of a violin bow so that it could still be used to produce an acceptable sound from a violin. Thus, at the vast expense of £10 (YES, TEN POONDS !!!), a replacement was bought. For comparison, the last bow that we purchased cost £1,600 !! Similarly, the violin ?bridge' became fractured (and ?Araldite? did, on this occasion, effect a temporary repair) but a visit to an old music shop in East Lothian brought back 3 'rough' bridges of suitable size, one of which I was able to trim and ?mould? to a similar profile to the one that was broken with my trusty Stanley Knife. Thus I could add the term "Luthier" to my long list of "aka" job titles. A real 'magical moment' occurred one Thursday evening when on returning from work, I could hear music that I had never hea
rd before coming from my daughter's bedroom. It was her playing, and obviously playing badly, but within the few 'bum' notes and unsteady time-keeping, on a very basic instrument, there was an unmistakable melody that was to become one of my favourite pieces. It was Bach?s Double Violin Concerto (first violin part) the manuscript of which, daughter had 'borrowed' from the heap of Music that Mr O (as she called him) had 'left behind' in the school until he returned the next day (to teach the Primary 5 pupils). "But surely you can?t read music yet !", I cried ? "you?ve only been learning for 6 months!". "Well I can read only some of it" she admitted "but it?s lovely music isn?t it ?". A tear still comes to my (usually very cynical and curmudgeonly) eye when I think of that moment. A Classical music CD collection was soon started. There followed so many really idyllic Sunday afternoons spent at the Queens Hall Edinburgh for Chamber Music performances, and Friday evenings at the Usher Hall enjoying the Royal Scottish Orchestra or the Scottish Chamber Orchestra under some of the great conductors (Rattle, Jaeve, Gibson, Mackerras) and with great soloists (Kennedy, Tortellier, Haendle, Ma, Sokolov, and so on), first with the one daughter and eventually with all three children. Her younger sister was not attracted to music so much (and was not selected at the end of Primary 3) but later took up classical guitar playing in Primary 6, again with free tuition from the school. Our son showed no interest at all as his time for assessment at the school approached. His elder sister tried to 'coach' him and I (very unkindly) told him that she had said : "He doesn?t stand a chance - all he is interested in is Nintendo". Seeing that he was annoyed at this presumption, I am ashamed to say that I also p
roffered a secret cash ?bribe? if he was selected. These factors certainly ?concentrated? his mind and he was selected for violin tuition. Now if we had sent our children to the next nearest Primary School (slightly more 'snooty'), then they would have been offered viola lessons, rather than the violin. Those of you familiar with viola jokes will know the sighs of relief that are made, frequently! He inherited the ¾ size violin that his sister had outgrown and I had (with no knowledge and a lot of luck) bought a second hand "100 year old" violin, case and bow for £85 for her from an advertisement in the local free newspaper. It was a German factory-made instrument, with an honest label and generally in good condition. It was sold by an old gentleman who had given up playing because of arthritis. Six years? later (after it was used by both daughter and son), I sold it for £345 (and wish that I hadn?t, since it is this type of instrument ? very popular in the mid to late 19th century ? that is now much sought after for students). ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Oh yes, orchestras and ensembles followed, which meant a great deal of transporting of children and instruments. There were Concerts to be dutifully attended (as ?doting parents?), but I shall draw a polite veil over that part of it. There were also music exams, those of the Associate Board of the Royal School of Music. Not all were taken - Grade 1, then Grade 3 or Grade 4, and then so on as described below. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ With all 3 of them showing an interest in music, we decided to buy a new piano, and arranged piano lessons. We were again lucky with our choice of teacher. She was a bit of a 'battleaxe', but very selective as regards who she took on and was obviously impressed that we had invested in a good new piano (a 'Marshall Rose' upright bought from a piano shop in Edinburgh that
had gone bankrupt - we bought cheaply from the Receiver). Apart from teaching them to play the piano, she also insisted that they should be taught music theory. The piano and theory lessons were a great investment, since they could all learn the music theory together and sat the Royal School of Music Theory examinations at the same time. Grade 1 soon became Grade 5 and I can remember their collective feeling of accomplishment when they all managed to pass their Grade 5 Theory papers at the first attempt - the elder daughter with a 'distinction'. This was accomplished at the ages of 14/13/11, so that meant that they would not have this trauma at the time of other school examinations. Without this pass, they could not progress beyond the RSM Grade 5 playing examinations. This was, in fact one of the few criticisms I have with the musical tuition in the State school system in Edinburgh. Very little was done as regards the Music Theory, so that most pupils, without the advantage of private lessons in the Theory, stopped their playing exams at Grade 5. The attitude of the Education Authority was (perhaps rightly) that if you wanted your child to study music seriously, there was a specialist music school (Broughton Road) that you could opt for. For the Gee family, this was not an option. It would have meant significant travel problems and, arguably, also an inferior standard of education in many other subjects. All our children went on to at least Grade 7 in at least one instrument; the eldest to Grade 8 (merit) violin and Grade 7 (merit) piano; the younger daughter to Grade 7 (merit) guitar and Grade 5 piano. Our son, after a shakey start, went on to achieve a (rare for a pupil not attending the specialist music school) Grade 8 (Distinction) in violin, and to Grade 5 piano. Both the violin players in the family became members of the Lothian Schools Strathspey & Reel Society Orchestra (LSSRSC, w
hich was organised by their Secondary school violin teacher) when they went on to the local Secondary (High) School and both became very enthusiastic with playing traditional Scottish music. This orchestra took them both on a tour of Argentina in 1994 and our son also went to Canada in 1997. He also went to Paris in 1999 with the school Stathspey & Reel orchestra. They also both performed with the LSSRSC at the Edinburgh Military Tattoo in 1993 (a marvellous and unique experience for them both), and our elder daughter also played at the Tattoo in 1999, as a member of the Scottish Fiddle Orchestra. All 3 entered competitions at various times. This is where stress levels rise dramatically. We have 'hosted' a number of cups and shields over the years, mainly won by our son. They were competed for and won by our son in the room where - local legend has it - the actual, famous ?Ball? was held !! - I even had my photograph taken on the famous 'stairs' (which had obvioulsy been well-cleaned since the Ball). There was one specific way in which we encouraged them all in their efforts. Whenever they got some 'new' music (particularly for examinations or orchestral performances) I would buy a CD with that music on. It always helped them to be able to hear what it was supposed to sound like - simple and very effective. As a result, our son developed a very good ear for music (he has, and can sing in, 'perfect pitch'). I am convinced that the reason for achieving the Grade 8 distinction was probably because he developed a good approach to the (difficult) Bartok piece which had the examiner 'ecstatic'. OK he also played the other 2 pieces well and the sight reading, but his Bartok playing - which often 'screeches' without good bowing - was really professional. Our son had 'cleverly' melded parts of the style of Menuhin and Kennedy into his interp
retation of the piece. It is still one of his 'party pieces', but even he admits that he could not have achieved so much without my buying the only two CD's that were then available with that piece. Conclusions. If I could have extracted, bottled and sold that initial enthusiasm which shone out of our elder daughter when ?murdering? Bach?s Double Violin Concerto as a soloist, I would now be a very rich man. That is the first time that I was able to see the value of music in education. Another abiding memory is the look on our son's face (at 10 years' old) after his first performance at a large venue (The Town Hall, Falkirk) with the Strathspey & Reel Orchestra, when he then asked if he could possibly have a kilt (since he was one of the very players few without one). Instrument lessons required self discipline to practice whilst their friends were playing computer games (or, perhaps watching ?Neighbours?!); orchestras involved them in team work and again a measure of commitment, particularly when they became the 'Leader' of an orchestra or an ensemble; and school concerts allowed them to show teachers that, whilst they might have "no time" for modern studies homework, they did have some special skills and could show commitment. Music examinations tackled early gave them all good practice for revision techniques that came in useful at Scottish Standard Grade and Highers examinations. On reflection, considering the current employment and university situation with our children, I am thankful that we did not live nearer to the specialist music school in Edinburgh. There is no doubt that they would have been 'encouraged' to enrol there, and we would have been unlikely to have been able to resist the pressure. In spite of the complaints to the contrary that might come from certain corners of the Dooyoo establishment, I am happy that this did not occur. I
would argue that qualifications in accountancy, biotechnology and mechanical engineering are so much more useful than degrees in music - the most likely result being a career in teaching. A good teacher requires a certain temperament which neither Heather nor I have, and I do not feel that our children possess this gift. As it is, two of them enjoy their music - meeting people through their interest and giving them a real 'outside interest' to put on their CV's. Current situation So where does that leave us now ? Well, (thankfully) neither daughter ever wanted to take up music as a career. Our son has made no secret that he would love to make his career in music, but certainly not as a teacher. He was very interested in studying traditional Scottish Music at the Royal Scottish Academy of Music & Drama, but the syllabus there is very much pointed towards teaching as a career, with a compulsory course in the Gaelic language. He realises (reluctantly) that he would be unlikely to make a very good living as a professional fiddler but, fortuntaely he was also (almost as) enthusiastic about mechanical engineering and is now in his 4th year of an Honours B.Eng course. He does say that he may consider moving to the USA when he graduates, and perhaps try his luck as a professional full time musician there (with his engineering degree and training to fall back on). Our elder daughter still plays her violin regularly for pleasure and is a regular playing member of both The Scottish Fiddle Orchestra and another traditional Scottish Orchestra called ?The Keltic Fiddlers?. Over the past year or so, she has performed at the Royal Albert Hall, the Barbican, and the Waterfront Hall in Belfast with these orchestras. She still loves classical music and we still attend occasional concerts together. Our younger daughter, unfortunately, now does not bother very much with her
guitar. Whilst at Oxford, she did sing with the college choir, but now that she is working, any musical involvement has taken a back seat. However, she has just started playing her guitar again, and is considering taking further lessons. Our son currently performs most weeks with a choice of 3 groups. In effect, he is now a semi-professional musician, and earns enough from this to avoid having to do bar work or supermarket shelf stacking to provide enough money to run his car and keep him topped up with beer when he is not driving. One of the Groups, which he leads - 'Celtica' - a folk-rock group, managed to get into the BBC Radio 2 Young Folk Award Finals in December 2001. They did not win the final - another Edinburgh traditional group did - but they are still together and getting bookings. So has it all been worthwhile ? Well, the piano is now rarely played, although we keep it tuned, ?just in case?. Our expenditure on instruments is difficult to calculate since we have sold three violins at a profit but we now possess 5 violins and 2 electric fiddles which with bows and cases are insured for over £8,000. We now have two guitars that cost about £1,200 in total. Cost of ?hardware? we have probably laid out (net) must be approaching £10,000, but if the instruments were sold then the piano, guitars, violins and bows would probably fetch almost that amount back. Our son 'treated himself' to a very nice 80 year old violin at a cost in excess of £2,000 from his own savings (but valued independently at £3,000). However, in 10 years' time it will no doubt be worth more, as long as he takes care of it. This purchase may allow me to sell one or possibly two of the violins we already own, and recover some of that capital. We must also include the cost of piano lessons for 3 years and the transport to and from orchestra rehearsals. Well, in total musical education for our 3 children ha
s certainly cost us less overall than it would have cost to take them to a decent resort in Spain for 2 weeks for just one summer. Well, so has it been all worthwhile ? Has it, heck !!! Definitely, Oh what a bargain !!! If you ever get the chance with your children - grab it with both hands. Post script In the Times Magazine on 25 January 2003, there was a very cynical piece, in effect against getting your child to take violin lessons, on account of the costs and the family anguish. Yes, I would agree with that ... it is the child who has to WANT to do it ... - all a parent can do is guide their children and put their hand into the pocket when necessary. I am soooo pleased that we were (partly by accident) in JUST the right place (with the children at the right school in Edinburgh) at JUST the right time. Sooo much pleasure. © Sidneygee 2001/2003
My parents presented me with my first violin at the age of eight. I soon learnt to cause the maximum level of disruption by deliberately screeching the bow along the strings. At this point I was still enjoying playing the instrument in my own natural way and actually managing to play my own music. What ruined my natural enthusiasm for the instrument was the discipline of formal lessons. I grew to hate it. Now that I am much older I understand that the object of this was to give me a sound foundation on which to build my skills. The trouble is that I grew to hate the instrument and had to be forced to practise. The violin is usually one of the first orchestral instruments a child learn to play. If you have a child who shows a natural ability in music be careful not to turn what is a pleasure into a chore. Practise is essential but this should always be mixed with 'fun' and a sense of achievement. Formal violin lessons delivered in a very serious manner turned my natural ability into a dread of the next week's lesson. I still believe that I could have played well with the right kind of instruction..I might even have been famous, who knows? LOL
The humble fiddle - possibly the most popular orchestral instrument, the instrument of choice for many a beginner musician. The violin is made up of a wooden body, strings, bridge, finger board, tuning pegs, and of course, the bow, made of horse hair strung along a thin wooden stick. Violins can be plucked (known as pizzicato) as well as bowed. Bowing methods vary across regions and styles, particularly in Scottish folk fiddling, or other traditional folk fiddling, e.g. Hungarian gypsy music. The violin is notable in that it gains value with age, unlike almost all other instruments. Thus, the most expensive violins are often a few hundred years old, fetching up to half a million pounds for the much sought after Stradivarius model. Violins take a lot of practice to produce a satisfying sound. Because there is so much leeway in positioning the fingers, there is an equal possibility of playing out of tune - the most common problem with learning to play. Violins have a wide range of notes, from the low G string to the highest squeaks when you slide your finger all the way up the E string. Now I'm about to make a confession. The sound of violins playing upsets me. It makes me cringe. Professional virtuosos bowing 19 to the dozen make other music lovers close their eyes in rapturous admiration and think of all that is wonderful about life. Yet I sit here, flinching and gritting my teeth at the very thought. There are a few reasons for my seemingly unreasonable response to the sound of the violin. The first is that I have grown up with a father and brother who both play the violin. They both play it well, but it has haunted me through all the years I lived at home - throughout sleepovers, exam study, early nights, watching TV... in fact, anything I did inside the house during my years living with my family are inseparable from fervent violin playing in the background. Lovely for when you want background music, but
when it is thrust upon you from an early age, and you have little choice in the matter it's quite a different thing - believe me. A second reason for the unfavourable light under which I see the violin, is that I played the violin as a child - for nearly five years. In those five years I was continually made to stand up on the primary school stage and scrape out "By the Bonny Banks of Loch Lomond". I could only just make out my audiences grimaces through my own at the horrendous sound I was making. Aged twelve, I thankfully put down my poor punished bow for the last time, and took up the clarinet. A much more satisfying choice. Finally, I think it is important to say that everyone prefers one instrument sound to another - Jaqueline du Prey was drawn to the sound of the cello as soon as she heard it. I know an excellent trumpet player, who cannot bear the sound of the oboe. Everyone has preferences in sound, and my dislike happens to be violins. You may agree or disagree. It's like having a favourite singer or band. Before I finish, here are some important things to consider if you are thinking of taking up the violin: First, it takes a lot of practice. If you don't have the motivation to practice - and hard - you won't get very far. Secondly, very few violinists make it to a proficient or advanced level. This is partly due to the number of people who take up the violin as "the obvious choice" without thinking it through. Thirdly, the violin can be extremely rewarding to play - but to get to this level will take a lot of hard work. If you stick at it, there are numerous opportunities for violin players to use their talent to the full - orchestras, chamber groups, string quartets, solo playing, the list of music groups which include violinists is very long. Also, since most groups use more violinists than anything else, if you play well you have a better chance
of getting into an orchestra etc than any other instrumentalists. Finally, I hope I haven't put you off playing if you're thinking about it. Just be warned that you have a lot of hard work ahead of you, with a most rewarding outcome if you can stick to it - just remember your friends and family, and don't practice too close too often!