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New to violin

edited July 2014 in Violin Posts: 62
Hey folks, I picked up a violin a couple months ago and I was wondering if there are any gypsy jazz specific resources for beginning violin players. All I've seen on this forum is a post from Michael from 9 years ago and I was hoping there might be something new since then :)

Outside of resources, does anyone have any advice about how I should go about studying the violin? All the great gypsy players seem to have learned by ear. Should I just start trying to learn solos? That seems like it would be painfully slow-going since I'm new to the instrument. Any suggestions are welcome.



  • Joli GadjoJoli Gadjo Cardiff, UK✭✭✭✭ Derecho, Bumgarner - VSOP, AJL
    Posts: 542
    Tim Kliphuis is probably the best. Even as a guitar player, I got some his teaching material, and it's really great.
    Also I know Tim gives lessons, and of course there is the Grappelli camp.

    I am sure there is some great material from other great violinists, but unfortunately I dont know it.
    - JG
  • Al WatskyAl Watsky New JerseyVirtuoso
    Posts: 440
    Its a long story,but I was an adult beginner on violin at one point.
    I worked very hard at it for about 12 years and was OK, I played a few gigs as a violinist and doubled Guitar /Violin on most of my musical work.
    So I guess I'm qualified to reply.
    I have a background in music. I came to fiddle late, I was 45. I got the best fiddle I could afford set up by the best guy I could find at that moment , found a teacher who found me a bow and studied for several years. I practiced 3-5 hours a day .
    I would suggest you get an instructor of the highest level who will accept you as a student. Learn how to hold the fiddle and bow and do whatever they tell you to do.
    Don't worry about "style" yet. Just learn fiddle. While your learning how not to suck, you can be listening to all your favorite music and attempt to find that on your fiddle by ear, but your primary goal should be to learn fiddle. If you get the right teacher you should be OK.
    I found Julie Lyon Leiberman who was teaching in NYC at the time. She was cool and fun and very helpful. Then I had a guy in Jersey, Zoran Yokovcich. A good guy, but he didn't know any Roma music. Too bad for you Zoran ! Then I got Matty Braun from the New York Phil. to torture me for a few years.
    I could play a few legitimate things and a bunch of Yiddish music and Jazz. It was OK not great but OK, Oh and I could improvise, because thats what I do.
    If you really want it you can probably find a way to do it !
    Get a teacher. Learn fiddle. Get an iPod , listen to music. Once you put the two together you should be OK.
    Also don't go full bow all the time. Its easy to injure your bow arm. You want playing to be a pleasure not excruciating. So take it easy at first.
    Teachers love young students. They adapt very quickly if they have talent . Older students are a bit more set in their ways. Guitar players have a challenge as they are used to hitting the guitar with the pick or fingers. Theres not a whole lot of hitting going on with fiddle , so be prepared to retrain those muscles.
    Good Luck !
    (Thinking that people who play Roma music are self-taught is a mistake. They may not go to a school for music or pay a teacher but they are not self taught , they are taught by their family and friends . Especially in the last 60 years , people go to schools, get taught , learn things , know theory. Go to conservatories. Especially in Russia. So this whole idiot savant thing has got to go ! ) Sorry for the mini rant.
    Every possible scenario of learning and living is represented in every group.
  • Joli GadjoJoli Gadjo Cardiff, UK✭✭✭✭ Derecho, Bumgarner - VSOP, AJL
    Posts: 542
    That's probably a much better advice if you're a true beginner.
    - JG
  • MichaelHorowitzMichaelHorowitz SeattleAdministrator
    Posts: 5,991
    There are a number of gypsy jazz violin instruction books here:

    We also have Tim Kliphuis' DVDs:
  • PerltonePerltone ✭✭✭
    Posts: 29
    Read Al's post carefully and follow it. I took up fiddle late to play bluegrass
    which you can play mostly in first position. GJ requires a nice vibrato and a
    real knowledge of the fingerboard . The violin is very challenging, but very
    rewarding also. Good luck.
  • MacKeaganMacKeagan
    Posts: 51
    Hi Perltone! Welcome. I start all my beginners, especially adults, on Essential Elements for Violin series. These books, designed for 2nd-graders, work really well to explain a bunch of stuff that it helps to know. You can work Essentials while you're reading Tim Kliphuis' books. I've decided the "Grappelli Licks" book is actually better than the first book, in that the "solos" or cadenzas are gone over piece-by-piece before playing through an example solo. The first book has actual transcriptions of Grappelli's solos, some of which are quite difficult. Better get them both, anyhow. One thing Kliphuis suggests, which seems to work for me, is to practice for 15-20 mins, then take a break for a bit to give the brain a chance to process this stuff.
    If you are having trouble improvising, Martin Norgaard's book is good, but you'd be better to work through Grappelli Licks first, as Martin's book requires a bit more doing and focus(I've put it aside for now, YMMV).
    As to positions, you will mostly need 3rd and 5th, and rarely 2nd pos. Look at Suzuki Book 4 for some help, or Essentials Book 3.
    There's some useful information to be found on FiddleHangout forums, but it's mostly geared to Old-Timey style.
    I'm still searching for the ideal jazz strings, but just now I'm still using Thomastik's Precisions mediums. I find the steel-core strings seem to work better with mics and pickups, again YMMV.
    Hope this helps!
  • MacKeaganMacKeagan
    Posts: 51
    D'oh! Sorry Hanear! I meant to address my post to you, the Original Poster :hmmm: Morning coffee has only just begun to kick in.
    Also re-read Al's post and caught the bit about the "idiot-savant" thing, totally agree. True idiot-savants are pretty rare, and these young folks who start at age 6 are going to easily out-do us old guys who started at 25 (or older). It is to sigh, and keep fiddling.
  • kevingcoxkevingcox Nova Scotia✭✭✭✭ Dupont MD50
    Posts: 298
    Listen to Al and get a teacher, it doesn't matter the style. Violin is a hundred times more technical than the guitar.
  • flacoflaco
    Posts: 50
    I am new to violin as well. I'm mainly focused on bluegrass but I'd eventually like to be able to play some swing as well. Thanks everyone for the info.

    Al, I'm curious as to why you quit playing violin. I'm starting at 40 - the tone I read from your post implies that violin was too hard and you have to start young to be really good. I've heard that sentiment before.
  • Al WatskyAl Watsky New JerseyVirtuoso
    edited July 2014 Posts: 440
    flaco wrote: »
    I am new to violin as well. I'm mainly focused on bluegrass but I'd eventually like to be able to play some swing as well. Thanks everyone for the info.

    Al, I'm curious as to why you quit playing violin. I'm starting at 40 - the tone I read from your post implies that violin was too hard and you have to start young to be really good. I've heard that sentiment before.

    I haven't stopped. Still play. I did stop for about 2 years . That was due to an injury sustained in a car crash to my right shoulder. I had damaged it but kept playing for a year with the injury. The pain became unbearable. So I finally had to put it down.
    Kept playing guitar as that was no problem.
    It is difficult or impossible to attain the highest level of proficiency starting late on fiddle.
    Some things will never be right. Some passages I have been told will never be correctly intonated unless mastered by the age of 12. Certain segments of Mozart concertos . The purity will be unattainable. That was the case for me and in fact its an axiom that seems to hold true. I was told that although I had the necessary talent and determination , it was a bit late in the day to hope for complete success in that arena. I don't resent that. In fact my body finally gave up before my mind did. Same thing happens to many professionals. Yahudi Menuhin's bow arm failed him in his early 50's and he never really fully recovered his earlier abilities. Things happen. Maxim Vengerov has also sustained a shoulder injury that has sidelined him, he now coaches and conducts.
    If your trying to play pop and country and jazz for your own pleasure its all fine. Enjoy your self, but be aware that people with a sophisticated ear will know that there is something amiss.
    I'm sure there have been exceptions to every rule and this fact does not imply that an older learner is talentless , only that the body and muscles will not allow the player to adapt to the needs of the task.
    Its best to be objective about such things to avoid raising unattainable expectations.
    When I was beginning friends of mine who were professional violinists warned me of the pitfalls,which I was happy ignore for the first several years.
    Finally most folks will hit the wall and simply ignore it.
    Play for pleasure and you'll have no problems, but if you hope to compete with professionals temper your enthusiasm or be prepared to face disappointment .
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