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Thread: Adult learning violin, teacher/inspiration problems

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    Question Adult learning violin, teacher/inspiration problems

    I'm 23 and I've been playing violin for two years, this is my 3rd year.
    I moved two months ago from a relatively small city to Moscow (I'm Russian).

    I got (by a pure accident) a rather famous and high-rank teacher. His way of teaching is really fast and he's got lots of his own unique methods and what not, so lots of his graduates become pretty famous (at least I know they are within our country).

    It's obvious that having started violin so late there's no way for me to go pro. But he told me that I need a higher goal than to just learn it for myself, he wants me to go to conservatory and stuff later since they accept people of all ages. But I just can't think of violin as a job for making a living anyway.

    And another thing is that he's really fast with teaching. Despite me being in the 3rd year of studying we've started right from the beginning and very fast. Unfortunately for now I can afford to take lessons only once a week because of my salary, but I'm gonna make it twice a week soon again, since I'm changing my job soon.

    Despite knowing that I work and obviously I come home late, he gives me mountains of homework (like learning an etude, 6 small pieces, 1 scale, and tons of exercises, that in general makes it around 10 pages to learn to play perfectly by heart and with an appropriate mood in a week. I honestly don't know if it's a lot or not, because back in my city I would study 4 pieces at the same time for around 2 months or so. But for me... I'm overwhelmed. I practiced 3 hours every day and still felt I didn't have enough time.

    He also teaches vibratto and the 1st and 3rd positions right in the first grade which also surprised me.

    The thing is, it IS too fast for me, but I don't want to give up and slow down, I want to seriously become good at playing, violin means a lot to me, I can't imagine dropping it. But despite practicing so much for the whole week, learning everything, playing everything to the point I got small corns on my left hand fingers, when we started playing everything in class, I tremendously failed. He picks up a quite fast tempo right from the beginning and I feel lost not being able to catch up. I almost feel ashamed that I make my violin sound like it sounds.

    I feel like I have no talent at all. I do understand that it's a bit harder for grown ups due to physique and all if they haven't studied it since childhood but still... He also told me that even if I were the 1st grade student, since I'm an adult, he demands more from me, demands more from an adult. But I'm just a student, despite being an adult, I can't just go ahead and learn everything at once... or am I wrong?

    I'm seriously at a loss. The original reason for playing violin for me was to be able to create music sounds from the bottom of my heart, but hearing my new teacher play violin (even the simpliest pieces) and then trying to play the same myself only makes me want to cry. Have I learned nothing in the past two years? Will I ever be able to play like he does, like other people do?

    How do I learn to convey the mood of the piece and my mood through my violin? The more I practice the more I become desperate. I'm afraid to lose inspiration. I'm afraid not to live up to my teacher's expectations. I'm afraid that if I don't live up to them, I can't play well, and if I can't play well, then it means I fail even at the thing I love the most and that means I won't succeed in anything else.

    I'm at a loss. What do I do? I had kind of a similar problem last year: for the whole year I've been trying to learn to play Rieding's concerto in B Minor, the first movement, but I just... couldn't learn to play it properly... not only would I stumble on the notes, but I'd also be out of tune and completely lose all the mood there... My teacher gave up on trying to make me learn it and we switched to other pieces.... Why did that happen...? Am I really so not talented?

    I'm at a loss. What to do? I'd really appreciate an advice, since I can't really talk to anyone about classical music here among my friends.


    P.S. My dream is to play Ravel's "Tzigane" one day. But I'm afraid that if I tell my teacher about it, he'll only laugh at me. I'm not as knowledgable about composers, music history and such as those who study at music schools (because I take only violin lessons, nothing else). I do read myself, but my teacher always asks me such difficult questions that only those that read only about it would be able to answer, and he always becomes vey disappointed when I'm unable to answer. I know it's my mistake here, but I can't catch up with everything so quickly, or am I just looking for excuses?
    Last edited by Kanade; Sep-28-2011 at 00:54.

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    Senior Member samurai's Avatar
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    Are you in a group setting with other students, or are these private lessons you're taking?
    Whatever floats your boat

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    Private. One lesson is 45 minutes. But we actually spent over 2 hours practicing last week and the week before last.

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    Senior Member samurai's Avatar
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    That sure sounds grueling! I really admire your tenacity in enduring this kind of training. Is there any way you could have a "heart to heart" talk with your teacher and explain to him/her the way you are feeling about things? Then, if he is not willing to change his methods, you might think about employing another instructor?
    Last edited by samurai; Sep-28-2011 at 03:22.
    Whatever floats your boat

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    Hmm, not really. We had only 3 lessons so far (This week's the fourth). You see, in Russia kids get to study music almost for free (you just pay 5 bucks a month or so), because the state pays for their education and it's like compulsory education for them if they enroll, but if an adult like me wants to study there, no one's gonna pay for me, so I fully pay for my lessons. So basically no one owes me anything, and I shouldn't be demanded anything from. So I really appreciate all the time my teacher devoted to me. But I still feel left out, especially since I'm the only grown up studying at my music school.

    My teacher is in his 60s, a conservatory graduate and so on, he's pretty stubborn and strict, yet his playing is absolutely amazing. I get this feeling he sees right through me, but I think he keeps quiet most of the time, because during our first meeting he told me that I'm super late to learn and that they actually don't teach violin to left-handed people (I am), but of course I shouldn't be sad about it (while he mentioned it a few times...)

    I don't really have a choice. He's the teacher who's closest to the place I live in, and here in Moscow distances are huge, so I can't change my school, and he's the only teacher in my school who agreed to teach an adult. And honestly speaking, for now I don't want to change my teacher. I want to see if I'll succeed with him as my instructor, but I do confess it's difficult for now.

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    Senior Member kv466's Avatar
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    Keep on truckin', man...it really seems like you have a strong passion for the violin and after having played guitar the first two years I made some horrific sounds on it as well that made me wonder the very same thing, "can I do this? is this for me?"...I hope the same comes for you that shortly after those first couple of years I began to learn things quite easily and then in my head without even needing the instrument nearby...20 some odd years later and one can hear anything new and learn it immediately in the head and play it instantly once behind the instrument.

    So, I wish you the best and hope that no matter what happens with this teacher...don't give up.

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    Senior Member hawk's Avatar
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    Finding a high ranked and famous teacher might be great but have you considered finding a teacher that will work with and for your lifes schedule...
    If what I read in your words here is exasperation and you find that you feel this way often you may consider finding a different teacher. Sometimes learning can be overwhelming and if you feel this way only at times then stick with the teacher you have now. Based on what you have written you seem to know what your goals are with regards to playing. If your teacher is assisting you to reach them then stick with him...
    Peace
    Hawk

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    Senior Member Lukecash12's Avatar
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    If your goal isn't to be a master of the art of playing the violin, then maybe you should consider learning from a teacher who doesn't intend you to throw away everything else and master the instrument. You are an adult, and shouldn't at all feel ashamed for not being educated enough to answer some hot shot teacher's question, because you have bills to pay and need time to rest, nor do you need the anxiety of that level of expectation.

    Music for an amateur ought to be wholly enjoyable, and it's frustration to goal ratio should be consistent with where that amateur is at in life. It should be left to professionals to regard music like your teacher suggests, because they can do so and still be happy, still have their livelihood and rest.

    Suffice to say, I mean what I've said here, if your story is consistent with what I've gleaned from your post, and you are exasperated, anxious, and pressed for time.
    Last edited by Lukecash12; Sep-29-2011 at 07:01.
    There is no wealth like knowledge, no poverty like ignorance.
    Nahj ul-Balāgha by Ali bin Abu-Talib

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  12. #9
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    Really? Being left-handed is bad?

    The only difference in my violin playing from other students in my studio is incredible left-hand agility (I'm left-handed). I'm not saying this to be arrogant, but my teacher has noticed several times that excerpts that are rapid scales and awkward fingerings don't hinder me, but my bowing arm lags behind. Don't be discouraged!

    Back to the main issue. This is a very late post!

    Violin should never be learned because you feel like you have to do so. Although I had a period in my life where I hated music, it was only a rut and I quickly picked up my enthusiasm again. If you really feel like this teacher is driving you to a point where you practice for the teacher's sake, stop! Go to a different one, or tell him that you need to slow down.

    I learned vibrato in my first year. Vibrato doesn't mess with your technique per se; the incorrect and constant use of vibrato while practicing does. In that regard, don't practice with vibrato until you're polishing. I find that pieces sound much better sometimes without vibrato, and tend to be more musical. Playing without vibrato: 1) improves intonation, 2) improves agility, 3) improves rhythm, and 4) trains your musical sense. Constant vibrato is tiring, and performance consists of a balance between vibrato and clean sections.

    Also, judging by the tone of your original post, you lack confidence in your playing. Welcome to musicianship. All of us are insecure in some way--some more than others, and some overcompensate by being huge a$$holes. Being a good musicians means that you accept there is always going to be someone better than you and that there is always room to improve. When you reflect on your performance in violin lessons, don't look at other students and think "they're so much better than me." You should be thinking "they're better than me, but only in this regard." You'll find that this not only improves your self-esteem, but it helps focus your practicing.

    Speaking of practicing, you say you spend 3+ hours per day practicing and claim that is not enough. Is it really not enough? Sure, talent plays into it--those who are more talented don't need to practice as much as those who aren't as talented to reach the same skill level--but practice is about practicing "smart", not practicing lots. I could play a piece over and over again for 5 hours straight and not learn anything (even regress in my playing), while someone else can play for 45 minutes and stop. Consult with your teacher about what you should be practicing each week, and make sure you use your own judgment as well. Practice small chunks of music at a time (preferably no more than 30 measures) and hone in on the exact skill that you're lacking in. Is it spiccato? Intonation? A particular chord? Evenness? Rhythm? Be sure that your practice is not measured in terms of time but in terms of objectives. Practice only until you have achieved your objectives for the day, no more, no less. Those professionals who practice 8 hours+ per day have many more objectives than you do, due to more pieces, harder pieces, and more competition.

    In addition to practice and lessons, you need to listen. No player ever matures in a "musical vacuum". You need to communicate with other musicians in your studio and community. Chamber groups are a wonderful way to connect with others. Not only this, but listening online to pieces that you're working on is a basic requirement to success. When you're listening, you'll consciously and subconsciously absorb the good parts of their playing into your own style, and it makes musical expression a lot easier. Know that when you're playing a piece, you will most likely always have a reference to fall back on. Although music is a "creative" and "organic" art, much of the work is already done for you. You don't have to come up with entirely new ways of playing an old piece--that's not what performers do! Performers instead create their own styles by taking parts of those that they like and rejecting parts that they don't. In that regard musicians are some of the biggest thieves of intellectual property.

    In today's technology of YouTube, Spotify and iTunes, almost every piece in the repertoire has been recorded. Listen often, listen lots, and listen carefully. I find it useful to have a score by myself to mark certain features to practice/perform. Additionally, listening keeps up your inspiration meter, and helps you stay motivated throughout your practice sessions.

    I hope this advice helps (if it still is relevant). Feel free to ask me any more questions.

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    Senior Member Ingélou's Avatar
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    The OP seems to have popped on to TC and then off again. Pity - I'm dying to know what happened.
    I imagine that the strain of keeping up with the exorbitant demands of his ex-performer teacher got too much for him and he stopped his lessons. But I do hope that he didn't give up the violin, and that he found another more understanding teacher.

    Teachers, like Crunchy Nut Cornflakes, can be too good!
    Last edited by Ingélou; May-15-2014 at 11:08.
    My fiddle my joy.

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