Zero to Vibrato, Case Study: Derek

Is it possible for a relatively new player to learn vibrato in a matter of weeks?

I wasn't totally sure two weeks ago, but now I know.

Say hi to Derek!

He's a of father of three (all boys, 5 years old and under!) and works as a Nuclear Equipment Operator at a plant in Illinois. The schedule is grueling. Nights one week. Days the next. Alternating.

Average overtime is 650 hours per year. When the plant goes on “outage” he works 12 hour shifts racking up 72 hour work weeks.

When not on outage schedule he's taking a licensing class to become a Nuclear Reactor Operator. (He told me same job as Homer Simpson!) That's 60 hours per week of on the job training and study time.

AND……. he's been cursed with a love of the sound of the violin.

“In my teens and while I was in the Navy I was into Final Fantasy. At its peak of popularity they would use a real orchestra to record the music.  I loved the music and especially the violin. I remember during this scene in Final Fantasy 8 where you play a violin, and I thought how cool would that be?!”

(By the way, Derek served in the US Navy 1999-2005. He spent 4.5 years on the USS Carl Vinson Aircraft Carrier and operated one of two nuclear power plants on the ship that supplied fuel to the jets. He served 3 tours including being part of the First Strike during Operation Enduring Freedom after 9/11. He later said he regrets watching so many movies instead of practicing an instrument on those ships!)

He always wished he had played an instrument he liked as a kid instead of trumpet or baritone. And wanted something more unusual than a guitar.

He shopped for an accordion in about 2010.

“I never made the jump. I thought I was too old.”

Derek always had a thing for holiday music. One day the YouTube rabbit hole brought him to Lindsay Sterling and Taylor Davis playing a bunch of holiday tunes.

“I became obsessed. I kept telling the wife I want to learn the violin.”

She said, with what time?? ​

“I already had too many hobbies and with two then three little kids I knew she was right. My obsession grew and grew.”

Then Derek's grandmother passed away and left him $600.

“It was so important to her to pass that money on to me. I wanted to do something with it that would be memorable. So it hit me, I could buy a violin with it. I told the wife I'd give up my bowling hobby for violin. Whether it's a success or I totally flop, I would remember that her money went on to teach me violin. Or at least attempt it.”

He happened upon my exploding kale video last Spring, but didn't sign up for ViolinWOD because he had just found a local teacher. Then shortly after enrollment closing, the teacher left town without much warning.

I squeezed him in at the last minute, and he began the 5 min a day program in March.

Three weeks ago, Derek and his classmates started on my new vibrato program.

I remember thinking that there are two possible outcomes:

1) These students apply the movement practices and break through on vibrato in unprecedented record time.


2) This totally frustrates them. I stand by my belief that it's good to know where you're headed… But they may not be actually doing vibrato any time super soon.

So…. what has happened??

I thought I'd show you instead of tell you. Here's a little video montage of his journey up to this point.

That sound at the end… that is a proper vibrato.

[WOOOOOHEEEEEEEEEEE! That's my inner teacher monologue here lately….]

Everyone who has tried this knows it's impossible to fake this skill and get away with it.

Sure, we will fine tune over the next month or two, but he's already doing it. And already enjoying it.

At the 2.5 week vibrato mark he said,

“This has been fun and I feel like my violin is alive now.”

Derek has been playing for a total of about 8 months. I asked him what his wife thinks of his playing now.

“When I brought her down to the basement to play Canon in D with my new vibrato abilities she was quite impressed.”

I'll keep you posted on his progress from here!

If you wanna join Derek on this vibrato adventure, click here to check out Vibrato in 3 Steps. Enrollment closes Wednesday Nov 22, at 11:59 pm. 

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