Learning an instrument as an adult? 8 Month Update

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staythecourse
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Re: Learning an instrument as an adult? Almost Five Month Update

Post by staythecourse » Fri Jul 07, 2017 10:22 am

investingdad wrote:So I probably won't update this thread quite as frequently going forward. But I did want to mention that I've now been doing this violin thing for six months. I continue to do once a week lessons with a very nice teacher. And despite being a 40 something adult, I still get nervous when showing off a new skill or piece to her that I've managed to get the hang of. Good thing she's older than me.

It's funny how easily we slip into the student teacher relationship with the desire to show of what we've learned despite our age. :)

I'm now in the second Strings book and she's guiding me though some new sharps and flats in other keys. I've peeked at what's coming up and it appears third position is at the end of this book. Yikes! That will be my first attempt at anything other than first position.

I've also picked up Suzuki Book 2 at her recommendation. The first couple of exercises are awesome...focusing on notes that ring together. As my finger placement, intonation, and ear has improved, playing the exercises that focus on those lovely, ringing notes is amazing.

I'm still working on Gavotte, Happy Farmer, and Minuets in Book 1, but I can play them all. I even earned a, "wow, that was really nicely played" from my teacher on Minuet 2. Sweet!

And...I'm violin shopping this month. My rental is actually pretty good, but I'm going to buy my own from the local, well reputed luthier from whom I rent.

Seven to nine hours per week is my normal amount of practice. At some point in the future I'm going to see if I can find a group of fellow adult beginners to play with. Probably a little ways off, though...I suspect my teacher can probably point me in the right direction.
Kudos to you. It is not easy to change the way our brains operate as we age. It's called neuroplasticity. Congrats on not letting that prevent you from doing what you want to do. This experience and new skill can only add to your happiness now and in the future.

Good luck.
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investingdad
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Re: Learning an instrument as an adult? Six Months Progress

Post by investingdad » Fri Jul 07, 2017 9:01 pm

TSR wrote:
investingdad wrote:Oh, I won't be buying new. His hand crafted violins are way more than I want to spend. Instead I'll be looking at a used instrument. I'm going to try to focus on what sounds good to my ear and feels right when I play it. Once I've selected a violin, I'll look for a bow...otherwise I think it's too many variables at once.
Ah, got it. I didn't read closely enough. I don't play violin, but I bet that the new instrument will be a fun change, and then the bow will add a whole new dimension. That's going to be fun. I will say that I'm a bit of an acoustic guitar junkie, and there is a predictable let-down a few weeks after acquiring a new instrument where---like any major purchase---the thrill of the acquisition dies down as you get used to the new normal. Regardless, making sure you have a proper instrument that's your own ought to really open things up for you. Have fun!
Thanks. I know this is going to sound really dumb, but the reason I want to purchase my own violin rather than renting is that I'm sort of thinking of this as a journey meant to be taken by both the student (me) and the violin together. I can only really do that if I own the instrument.

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vinvedi
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Re: Learning an instrument as an adult? Six Months Progress

Post by vinvedi » Sat Jul 08, 2017 4:33 pm

Inspiring!! I hope that you are also documenting this journey audiovisually. It would make for an enjoyable YouTube upload when you decide that the time is right.

investingdad
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Re: Learning an instrument as an adult? Six Months Progress

Post by investingdad » Wed Jul 12, 2017 8:30 am

I just wanted to add one other thing I'm proud of.

When I first started, my teacher would play some of the pieces along with me. I had to politely ask her not to because it was too distracting.

I often ask her to play a practice piece for me when I'm having trouble. Usually after listening to her, I can replicate what she did as far as tempo and melody go. But playing along? No thanks.

So last lesson I asked her if we could play one or two pieces together and see how it went. It went great! Rather then feeling like a distraction, I was able to play along and rely on her to help keep me in time. Of course, all my out of tune notes were jumping out as a result, but when I was in tune with her...really cool. It was like the two instruments just merged for a few seconds and had a single, unique voice.

I didn't think too much of it at first, but she thought being able to make that jump was a sign of real progress.

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JupiterJones
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Re: Learning an instrument as an adult? Six Months Progress

Post by JupiterJones » Thu Jul 13, 2017 4:02 pm

investingdad wrote:she thought being able to make that jump was a sign of real progress.
It is! Being able to play along with an outside reference--whether it's a metronome, a recording, another violinist, or a whole ensemble--is a crucial part of musicianship.

Congrats. :sharebeer
Stay on target...

investingdad
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Re: Learning an instrument as an adult? Six Months Progress

Post by investingdad » Sat Jul 22, 2017 8:11 am

:(

I overdid the practice this week and now my wrist tendons and two little fingers hurt. Always the worst case scenario person, I assume this means I'm done for good.

Ok...in reality I'm going to force myself to rest my hand. I can practice open strings and work on smooth bow technique for awhile. It needs work anyway. Boring though.

I know what did it...piece 2 in Suzuki Book 2, Bach's Musica. My fourth finger was strained.

Call it beginner's over exuberance.

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Jazztonight
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Re: Learning an instrument as an adult? Six Months Progress

Post by Jazztonight » Sat Jul 22, 2017 10:33 am

investingdad wrote: :( I overdid the practice this week and now my wrist tendons and two little fingers hurt. Always the worst case scenario person, I assume this means I'm done for good.

Ok...in reality I'm going to force myself to rest my hand. I can practice open strings and work on smooth bow technique for awhile. It needs work anyway. Boring though. I know what did it...piece 2 in Suzuki Book 2, Bach's Musica. My fourth finger was strained.

Call it beginner's over exuberance.
This is an occupational hazard, particularly for older learners. When I was 55 I went back to music school and had a saxophone teacher who was an obsessive practicer and expected his students to follow his example. After a couple of months I developed tendonitis in both hands, and he had no sympathy whatsoever. I only had him for one year, but it took several years for the pain to lessen. Fifteen years later, I no longer play the sax, but I still play piano & flute and experience occasional hand pain. I have one of these, which helps: https://www.bedbathandbeyond.com/store/ ... roEALw_wcB
Last edited by Jazztonight on Sat Jul 22, 2017 10:35 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Fallible
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Re: Learning an instrument as an adult? Six Months Progress

Post by Fallible » Sat Jul 22, 2017 10:35 am

investingdad wrote::(

I overdid the practice this week and now my wrist tendons and two little fingers hurt. Always the worst case scenario person, I assume this means I'm done for good.

Ok...in reality I'm going to force myself to rest my hand. I can practice open strings and work on smooth bow technique for awhile. It needs work anyway. Boring though.

I know what did it...piece 2 in Suzuki Book 2, Bach's Musica. My fourth finger was strained.

Call it beginner's over exuberance.
Check with your teacher about your injuries as they probably are common. If it's repetitive stress, the injured areas may need complete rest for awhile.
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aquamarine
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Re: Learning an instrument as an adult? Six Months Progress

Post by aquamarine » Sat Jul 22, 2017 10:36 pm

I'm sorry about your injuries. Ouch! I hope you feel better soon.

I did want to say I loved this thread. I thought it was really great that you are learning an instrument and I thought it was inspiring. I hope you recover soon and wish you much joy in your continued pursuit of music.

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JupiterJones
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Re: Learning an instrument as an adult? Six Months Progress

Post by JupiterJones » Tue Jul 25, 2017 3:54 pm

investingdad wrote:Ok...in reality I'm going to force myself to rest my hand. I can practice open strings and work on smooth bow technique for awhile. It needs work anyway. Boring though.
Perhaps, but crucial. Waaaaay better to take some time off now than to have to take years (or forever) off later due to overdoing it.

And while I'm giving unsolicited advice, here are some other things you can do during your "practice time" to develop your musicianship (that don't involve your left hand much):


Listen to great violin playing

Listening counts as practice if you actually listen. Having it on in the background while you make dinner doesn't count. :D

Sit down with a good-quality recording of a great violinist and pay close, deep attention to it. Notice to intonation, timing, dynamics. What are they doing that sounds particularly good? How do you think they're doing it? What don't you like? If they're playing something you have the score for (check out IMSLP), then maybe follow along on occasion.

And don't only just listen to the style of violin you're accustomed to. Mostly into classical? Why not also check out some Stephan Grappelli, or Natalie MacMaster, or Aly Bain, or Jean Luc Ponty? Or heck, why not throw some cellists and violists into the mix?


Work on ear training

Practice identifying intervals by ear (you might need software for this if you don't have a willing partner). Practice notating various rhythmic figures you hear. Pull up random songs on the radio or YouTube or whatever and identify time signatures and/or song form.


Work on your keyboarding skills

If you have access to some sort of keyboard and don't yet have much of a facility in playing it, you could work on that with one hand.


Study theory

Don't even know what intervals are? Shaky on how scales and/or chords are built? Mixed up about mixolydian mode? This might be a good time to rectify that.


Study notation

Do you know what the "imaginary barline" is? When do stems go up and when do they go down? This might be a great time to learn the nuances of writing notation by hand--assuming you're right handed. :-) Or you could download and install MuseScore and learn how to use it.
Stay on target...

investingdad
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Re: Learning an instrument as an adult? Six Months Progress

Post by investingdad » Tue Jul 25, 2017 9:51 pm

Thanks, JJ.

My fear is almost seven months of daily practice is going to be for naught if I have to take weeks off to let my strained tendons heal. One week of vacation in June took three or four days to get back to where I was.

I also fear this will keep coming back preventing me from pursuing this.

I should know better. I had a massive groin tendon tear on the tennis court a year and a half ago. I couldn't walk for two days. About five months of rest and I was back on the court at full strength. Right arm tendinitis from tennis in my 20s eventually healed with rest...that took a long time because I kept playing when I shouldn't have.

I need to be patient I guess and let the body heal itself.

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Jazztonight
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Re: Learning an instrument as an adult? Six Months Progress

Post by Jazztonight » Tue Jul 25, 2017 11:04 pm

investingdad wrote:Thanks, JJ.

My fear is almost seven months of daily practice is going to be for naught if I have to take weeks off to let my strained tendons heal. One week of vacation in June took three or four days to get back to where I was.

I also fear this will keep coming back preventing me from pursuing this.

I should know better. I had a massive groin tendon tear on the tennis court a year and a half ago. I couldn't walk for two days. About five months of rest and I was back on the court at full strength. Right arm tendinitis from tennis in my 20s eventually healed with rest...that took a long time because I kept playing when I shouldn't have.

I need to be patient I guess and let the body heal itself.
Don't over-worry the weeks off to heal. I recently went from practicing the flute every day for an hour or more to NO practicing while I walked through California and Arizona for 40+ days. When I returned, I resumed my daily practice routine (as well as my physical exercise regimen), albeit slowly, and within 2 weeks I was back to where I'd left off.

There is even some evidence that laying off a routine and then returning to it might be beneficial. In other words, don't beat yourself up too much; think positive!
"What does not destroy me, makes me stronger." Nietzsche

investingdad
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Re: Learning an instrument as an adult? Six Months Progress

Post by investingdad » Tue Aug 08, 2017 9:49 am

Injury Update

So I cautiously started playing again about a week ago. Kept each practice short. Happily everything was feeling good...until last night. Of all the things it was chopping up beef for dinner that restrained my wrist. :oops:

So as frustrating as that was, I found that rest, stretching, and smart practicing seemed to do the trick. But I have to start over again...food processor from here on out.

The silver lining is that I'm now focused on a lighter touch on the finger board. And miracle of miracles, whatever part of my brain responsible for learning to play cut me a break and retained everything. I'm even willing to say there was some consolidation because I'm playing some finger positions with better intonation than before the unplanned interruption. My teacher backed me up on that, not just my imagination.

Also..I took the suggestion above on downtime and did some study. Guess what? I finally recognized the pattern of note changes and finger positions for some of the major keys! This means I'm not playing "by feel" but actually understand the fingering changes for G and D keys. Sweet.

It's a pretty basic thing, but it finally clicked.

Onward.

investingdad
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Re: Learning an instrument as an adult? 8 Month Update

Post by investingdad » Tue Aug 22, 2017 9:12 am

I wasn't planning to update for a little while but decided to after watching a video I recorded of myself after five weeks of playing versus a video I recorded at eight months of playing this weekend.

Wow.

Doesn't even sound like the same instrument. At five weeks, the sound was pretty lifeless and flat. Even when the notes were in tune, they had nothing in them.

While I'm not suggesting I'm suddenly playing well, the difference in my intonation is remarkable. The violin is starting to come to life as I play and I think I understand what is meant by the instrument's "voice". There is clearly a warm, rich tone that is starting to make itself heard. Improved resonance, sympathetic string vibrations, and a richer sound. Rather than cringing as I did with my five week recording, I could listen to myself at eight months and say, "Yes, that is starting to sound like a violin."

Playing with my teacher is becoming comfortable and last night we tried playing in rounds. It sounded really nice and she complemented my progress on keeping time with her. Actual music!

I am really pleased.

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JupiterJones
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Re: Learning an instrument as an adult? 8 Month Update

Post by JupiterJones » Tue Aug 22, 2017 1:16 pm

Awesome! Thanks for the updates. :sharebeer
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investingdad
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Re: Learning an instrument as an adult? 8 Month Update

Post by investingdad » Thu Oct 05, 2017 9:39 am

So as we move into October it's now month ten of my learning to play music and the violin.

My teacher has introduced me to third position and it feels as awkward as when I first picked up the instrument. The silver lining is that my ears have been improving all along and I can tell by sound when my hand isn't where it's supposed to be. But I can at least slide my hand up and down and roughly find the correct position.

The last few lessons we've been playing a lovely duet arrangement of Ode to Joy. As I listen to what we're playing, I cannot help but smile at the actual music I'm producing. Playing with such a talented teacher really helps me stay grounded on keeping time and in tune.

I think it also boosts my self confidence which in turn lets me play more confidently, which is a great feedback loop.

I enjoy practicing on my own, but I'm now finding myself wanting to play with others. My teacher had told me she has a group of amateur adults that would be a good fit when I'm ready. So I'm making it a goal to increase my ability and self confidence to the point where I can be comfortable joining in.

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