I’ve given myself one year to master the violin.

As an adult beginner, I should be playing Twinkle Twinkle; instead, I'm playing Paganini's 24th caprice.

A Word from Danielle

Ryan is a good student.  Mostly.  He practices everyday and remembers all the assignments that I give him.  He is enthusiastic, has a surprisingly good ear, and is developing his coordination.  That’s more than I could typically ask of a beginning student.  With that said, it’s his behavior DURING lessons that makes me want to pull out my hair.

Yes, we have a unique situation, being husband and wife.  Obviously our lessons might be a bit more, how should I put it, dynamic than the usual student/teacher relationship.  The biggest issue, though, with my dear, sweet student is that he’s a chronic chatterbox during our lessons!  Don’t get me wrong; I love a student that is inquisitive.  Ryan, however, will not play more than 5 consecutive notes without stopping to ask a question!

Repetition is key for a beginner and while I would normally insist on perfection, please remember we are trying to learn the mothership of all virtuoso pieces–in one year!  Time is definitely not on our side.  Our lessons need to operate like a well oiled, fine tuned machine.  This is where some whip-cracking must take place.  “RYAaaAN!!  Do not take your bow off the string between repetitions!”  “Seriously, do you need to crack your knuckles again?”  “No, sweetie, you don’t look fat when you hold the violin under your chin.”  “I promise, the tapes on your violin are not making your bow squeak.”  Easily distracted, yes.  But then again, so is another one of my students.  She’s 9.  Ouch.

Now to address what Ryan wrote in his last entry “Minor Successes” about how he finally got me to answer his question and instruct him on string crossings.  He thinks I am just leaving him hanging when I don’t fully answer each and every question and tell him he needs to trust me and repeat the measure again.  There are about a hundred reasons that I could stop him each time he plays anything, but if I bombard him with too many tools too early, it would simply be overwhelming.  At his level we need to concentrate on a specific thing at a time, so I have to carefully pick each battle.  String crossings weren’t my battle at the beginning of that lesson.  That obviously changed, but sometimes things change for the best.  Ever flexible.

As far as the string crossings go, they sounded much better after we worked on them directly and after he practiced them on his own.  I’m happy to report that there is hope.  Quite a bit of it, actually.


4 Comments on “A Word from Danielle”

  1. JRV says:

    See what I mean about beautiful, talented, kind, and perceptive?

  2. Gail says:

    Ryan, when you aren’t practicing violin I recommend reading, “The Talent Code” by Daniel
    Coyle (Bantam). Excellent book about how our
    brains work and store information and how to
    develop talent! Must-read for every student and
    teacher! The link is for a “Cliffs Note” summary of the book:

  3. Jasmine says:


    Would you mind posting accompanying tutorials on youtube along with your husbands uploads? I am desperate to also complete this challenge to learn the Paganini Caprice no. 24. I have been playing a little bit longer than your husband. I started when I was 14. I am now 22. However, I have so very little challenging repertoire under my belt. When I was 14, I swore that I’d be playing Paganini Caprices by the time I was 18. Here it is 4 years later, and I am still not doing that. Well, I am going to start them regardless of being ready or not. If your husband, a complete beginner is inclined to do so (and BTW, he’s doing a great job), then why can’t I? However, I’d like to know that I am learning it correctly and not developing any bad habits. So, tutorials would be great. BTW, I think it’s awesome that you have so much faith in late starters. Starting at 14, I was always so self-conscious about starting later in life, in comparison to my peers that is. I felt regret at not starting at 3 or 5 years old. So, your husband is great inspiration to me and no doubt countless others.

    Thank you,

    • rrvaughn says:

      Hi Jasmine,
      Thanks for the kind words, and I really appreciate your support. As for the tutorial videos, Danielle probably won’t post any dedicated videos about a specific teaching thing, but as time goes on, we will post videos of our lessons here and there. Hopefully those will have some helpful hints!

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