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Rizky Ramadhan

My Story as an Amateurish Self-Taught (I)

August 26, 2013 at 8:27 AM

Hello everyone!
Again, I want to introduce myself
I’m Riz, from Indonesia.

First of all, apologize me that this is a superlong post. This is like what I have been put in my head for years, and I just want to share this story to many people about what I have experienced.. alone.

I live in Makassar. it’s a big city, capital of South Sulawesi, one of province in Indonesia. As I said, it’s a big city, big enough that everything can get lost in it, like awareness, of some things, including of music, especially the classical music.

I’m not raised in a musical family. But all of my family enjoy singing, in bathroom, karaoke, or in relatives wedding occasion. Yep I know that’s not counted as ‘musical’. Lol

One day around nine years ago, my parents were surprised by me, asking them to buy me a violin for my 14th birthday. So, I got my very first real musical instrument. It was a cheap student violin, cost around US$70. Yes, it’s 70, not 700.. I was extremely happy. I didn’t know how and why I fell in love with music. I had never known what a symphony, a concerto, an overture is; who persons called Bach, Brahms or Bartok are. No one around me ever spoke about them.

So I began my first lesson 9 years ago when I got the violin. The violin and the lessons were given by my parents as my 14th birthday presents. I took the private class but the lessons only lasted for a month (four meetings, once in a week, each meeting is 30 minutes) because my parents could not set my lesson as primary need. I know we had a hard time in financial, but we’re still fine, without "additional" stuff like music lessons. In those short four lessons, what I got are just simply how to hold violin and how to draw bow straightly in each strings. That’s all. How could I expect more? I heard so many violin student gave up the lessons because they said the lessons were boring, or the lessons were superhard, etc. My teacher phoned me and asked why did I stop so early, and wondering if I were just the same like those kind of students. I said "sorry I just can’t do it anymore" then hung up the phone.

I didn’t stop there of course. I began to teach myself. I had two violin basics book. Those were the only two favorite things I used to bring with everywhere. However, you can Imagine how terrible my right hand was, how awful my left hand situated on fingerboard. I had ever recorded myself and about 5 years later I was feeling disgusted seeing it. Luckily the recording had gone..

So my lonely journey continued. Everytime I saw there were shows in TV featuring violinist or orchestra, I kept staring on it, visually paying attention to their gesture and their hand movements. Listening beautiful sounds they created. I really wanted to play like that. I started to move my hands (with or without my violin) in front of TV during those shows, imitating the violinist’s gesture, like silly kid. Yep, sounded like I’m pointing that I’m one of the additional character in Heroes (TV Series) whose superpower is a copycat, can copy doing anything she visually sees (I wish I could really do that).

I did those lunatic stuffs for about 4 years. I was getting used to ear-copying only. I never read music. I sight-read like a stutter, like a little infant wanted to say ma-ma or pa-pa.. But I enjoyed that. Until I finally met another teacher. He was a traditional fiddler, but can read music. So that was the first time I learned to read music properly. And I was very very excited that the teacher could give private lessons at my home and he asked for very low payment. Unfortunately, he only gave me 2 days of lessons (once in a week). In the 3rd week and next days he never came again. We contacted him but never got response. About a year later we finally found out that he passed away in an accident, in that 3rd week. I was totally shocked.

He gave me a book. A basic book of violin positions (guide to third and fifth positions). But he had not taught those to yet, due to we only had two meetings so far. He said someday he would teach me how to shift correctly.. But one never knows someone’s fate.. If he didn’t gave me that book, I would not have known that violin has those kind of positions, shifting, etc. If he was still here, I would never stop thanking him so much.

A year later, I keep studying music, still alone. In my school, I used to get detention everytime I came late in the morning. I came late because I stayed up late practicing, watching and reading some classical music videos and reading materials that I got from Internet.. Yep, I’m crazy like hell. Only music rules my head. I also have enjoyed doing some arts like drawing and painting since I was a kid but music has defeated them all. It took the topmost part of my priority. So the school detention was done in the library. All late students were “prisoned” there for about two hours, not allowed to go to any places but toilet. We were all asked to find books to read to spend the hours. Well, I like to read. One day I went to art section and how surprised I was that I got a series of a very old music theory books. Those books looked like trash, never been cared, some pages were almost fully torn, and getting yellowish (and smells not good). I noticed that there were about three copies of all series and I saw the library-note of each book says the last date of borrowing is about 11 years ago, even the library ID numbers had gone. So I decided to “adopt” them home.. Yep, I literally stole them.. NO ONE has ever looked for those books since then... All I know is If they stayed there, I’m sure they’d be thrown away someday or just decayed in time.

I got almost everything I need to learn in those books, like basic music theories. In one of the book, for the first time I saw the thing called “orchestral score”. How amazed I was, seeing different staffs of various orchestral instruments. Don’t ask why on earth I had never seen an orchestral score. Yes, I already got access to internet but not at home. And I was one of that kinda person from Stone Age who didn’t know proper way to google, I even didn’t know that there are bunches of free violin instructions in internet (LOL.. but back in that time, of course, they were not as many and as accessible as nowadays). The score was Beethoven’s 2nd Symphony. I already got the recording (it was a pirated copy sold in market, I had no idea where to get original one that time, even if it existed in my city, I knew that the original one is superexpensive). Then I played the recording while seeing the score. Again I was like the person from Stone Age, seeing a fire for the first time..

That’s the first time I started to notice more musical signs I’ve never seen. Then one day when I (finally) could google some more scores and recordings, I began my “sight&hearing” study.. That’s the early way I found out more and more the musical signs and how they are sounding like.

A year later I began the internet journey, I signed up to several social network sites, I ‘met’ so many kindhearted people especially musicians around the world. They helped me A LOT. For example, there’s a friend, a professional violinist & teacher from New York, privately scanned and sent me her musics which you’ll never find free in internet.. I’m so grateful to know them.

The reasons why I’m still being a self-taught until now are, first: back in that time, after my second teacher passed away, I still couldn’t pay for lessons. In my city there were only two qualified violin teachers and they’re sort of expensive. Now they’re no longer teaching because both of them are medical doctors now and decided to move from the city and dedicate themselves most for medical world. They were teaching when they were still med students. Second reason is the only way I could get a teacher is I need to go to another city, which would cost more. Third, unfortunately I’m following those two previous teachers’ path---I’m going to be a doctor (this would be in another story). Fourth, about two years ago a violin teacher from another city came here and teach violin. He graduated from music university. I asked him to teach me, but he said I need to rebuild everything again IF I wanted to play PROPERLY. “You'd already been cooked, I can not recook you”, he said.

I'm still practicing until now, I dreamed to be professional musician, but I think it's too late now. So many other little stories among all of those above.. There’s still so many things I would like to tell about my lonely music life, but I realize this one is already LONG enough..So maybe in another post.

If you reached the end of this post, I thank you so very much for reading it :)

From N.A. Mohr
Posted on August 26, 2013 at 1:59 PM
All I can add is to tell you that there are several doctors in our community orchestra. You might not be able to realise your dream of becoming a professional musician, but you may still be able to incorporate 'serious' music into your life. Good luck.
From Terez Mertes
Posted on August 26, 2013 at 4:33 PM
You know you have my admiration and respect!
From Rizky Ramadhan
Posted on August 26, 2013 at 5:06 PM
dear N.A. Mohr and Terez, thanks a lot for your kind comments :)

All this years I've always found myself in optimistic mind. (Though I also have been through lots of up and down, especially because I was mostly working alone). For nearly past two years I have approach myself doing community things. I am now trying to plunge myself into teaching world (I do this with LOTS of consideration), I also gathered with teacher friends (piano, singing, and the violin teacher I mentioned at the end of my post) doing junior ensemble projects (with students we got). But we haven't reached many meaningful goal yet but at least I still got some hope in expanding and incorporating classical ('serious') music interest in my city. There are sort of little problems also, which including the existence of other 'projects' done by local musicians, but they tend to form kind of thing like commercial performance which is NOT considering the accustomed technical approach (e.g. they just play in "free-style"; simply, what they care is as long as their instruments sounded in tune and got some popularity, no more other things are important for them..and they proudly said they do perform "classical music"). So, they are sort of having so contrast & different vision and mission with us (I actually wish I could have been worked with them to blaze abroad many real aspects of doing music). And so many audiences in my city have not been aware enough, or if I can say, not "smart" enough to identify quality of music. We're still in progress of struggling with those. I'm planning to write more about this soon.
I'm also still searching my colleagues in med whom really got same interest, or at least same awareness.

Again, thanks so much! :)

From Anne-Marie Proulx
Posted on August 26, 2013 at 5:55 PM
Hello Riz, I've read your two blogs and they are very interesting.

I only wanted to say that these things that professional musicians often say to late starters who lack some good technique or learned by themselves (ie: that it's impossible or very difficult to relearn the basics again) is ABSOLUNTLY not true with SOME type of people.

I beleive you are in these exceptions who would be able to learn a complex task as violin playing very well and even better than many kids at a late age. And who knows, maybe become a professional for weddings, teaching, chamber music etc.

First of all you are very musical, have a good ear and are clever. I saw all this in your playing and the way you search activly for info etc. Really your playing sounds very decent and so surprizingly excellent (for someone with only 4 lessons) despite what that teacher said.

Second of all, you seem flexible minded and easilly adaptable to new situations with a lot of will.

Thirdly, you are an adult and adults can focus and work way harder than the averga kid who follow lessons.

It's true that when one has learned things (especially bad motor skills and patterns) previously, it can take a little time to undo. But not that much if you are bright and practice much. You only have to accept to do baby things for a while with your teacher and in 2-3 years, you could be about at a pre-universitary level. (maybe more if you are extremely talented.)

If I can only take myself as an example (I'm no pro but I started at 16 at the conservatory with a very good teacher there. She undid all of my previous technique and bad habits that she didn't like. At first, she said I could never play like her students who started young with her... But she kept me because I was kind, a good worker and musically clever (good ear). I surprised everyone, including myslef, by reaching my peers who started younger at the conservatory in only two years. None of my peers are prodigies but they still are very good amateurs that could play in weddings or teach kids etc. I would not teach kids because I think they deserve better than me (lol)but some would do at my level.

Pls, keep hope that when you'll find a very good teacher that will accept to teach you, you should be able to progress very much in a few years and eventually become good ennough for some sort of musical career. But I suggest to keep music as a sideline sinde it's not very paying and with no money = no good violin, no lessons, no money to raise kids etc.

Anyway, good luck!

From Terez Mertes
Posted on August 27, 2013 at 1:11 AM
Anne-Marie, I love your comments!
From Timothy James Dimacali
Posted on August 27, 2013 at 1:48 AM
I haven't logged into the website for over a year, but I felt compelled to do so just to say: Well done! :D
From Christian Lesniak
Posted on August 27, 2013 at 2:15 AM
I agree with Anne-Marie. It's important that you find a teacher who believes in you. A teacher who does not believe in you is admitting that that teacher does not know how to teach you. It's important that you find a teacher that you like and who believes in you.

That teacher is right about one thing - you are going to have to go back to the beginning and let go of anything that holds you back. I found a teacher that I really connect with about a year ago, and in that time, I've made progress that puts to shame the other 18 years, but I have had to work very hard on many very basic things.

Keep fighting the good fight!

From Rizky Ramadhan
Posted on August 27, 2013 at 5:26 AM
dear Christian, Timothy, and Terez, thanks so much for your comments!
especially Anne-Marie, yours is so much so uplifting me :)

yes, restarting physical behaviour is extremely hard. I have been through bunches of the restarting thing (although until now I'm STILL not even good enough). The teacher who came here, often tells me "this arm supposed to be like this, this gesture supposed to be like that, etc" but he said that with a little "distrust", I can really feel it. But I'm not giving up. I am trying harder (even though I realize that I won't reach 100% doing the undo). I practice at least 2-3 hours a day. I wish I could do it until 7 or 8 hours but I'm in a college and so MANY obligations to do.

"find a teacher who believes in you"
I've been dreaming this for over 9 years, like for my entire life. I truly realize I NEED teacher. I'm CRAVING to have one.. But.. When will I find them, When will they find me?
I am NEVER PROUD or even glad to be a self-taught.. never ever..

From Terez Mertes
Posted on August 27, 2013 at 3:11 PM
V.commers are very pro-teacher, and I'll bet if you posted a discussion thread over at the main forum about "Can you help me find a teacher?" you might get a lot of really helpful replies, and creative options you might not have considered. Further, there's every chance that someone closer to you (geographically), a violin teacher and/or professional, might contact you upon reading the post. You never know. gets lots and lots of readers and with your request forever archived, they might read it a month from now, a year from now, or whatever. Or know someone who might know someone who could help you.

As they say "ask and you shall receive." And members love to help others. It really is a generous, sharing community. And the more people who know your situation, your desire to grow as a violinist, the better.

Wishing you good luck!

From Rizky Ramadhan
Posted on August 28, 2013 at 6:12 AM
dear Terez, thanks for your suggestion & advice

I already have known some great teachers in my country but as I told above, they are in another city. If I wanted to be taught by them, of course I would have had to go there at least twice a month for scheduled lessons, and that would cost A LOT.. (especially the plane tickets.....) I can not move to other city, I can not leave the college now...

But again, thank you so much, I really appreciate your kind attention :-)

From Aki Utoslahti
Posted on August 29, 2013 at 1:55 PM
Hello Riz,

I found your blog post so awesome that I had to register to 48h to make this post :) ).

Your story inspired me greatly. I found your dedication and passion towards music really motivating. I also watched your Beau Soir video and it was awesome. Your music is full of feeling.

I am myself a late starter to violin. I am now 23 years old and I have been practicing violin now for 8 months. My dream is to hone my skills to a level which allows me to participate in even a small local orchestra. I want to be able to play music with other people to enjoyment of mine and theirs.

Thanks for inspiring me on my own violin journey!

From Anne-Marie Proulx
Posted on August 29, 2013 at 2:01 PM
Hi, hadn't return here for a while. Thanks :) but I'm only saying what has been told to me by others and has proven to be successful not only with me but with many other students as well...

And Riz, btw, I think you have way more playing potential than me because I did this progress with like the worst violinist shortcommings one couldn't have (small cold hands, long neck, poor general body coordination in sports etc.) I always look somehow silly saying this but at a good intermediate or advanced level, it shows and it's real hard work to overcome.

I think you won't have these problems as much. Maybe you'll have some opposite difficulties (tucking these fingers closely to each other on the fingerboard) but once you'll figure out, there are plenty of things you will be able to do naturally such as blocking two strings with 1 finger or make big stretches etc. which is so present in the advanced repertoire.

Just to tell that this in addition to all the other points posters here have told about you would surely make you an interesting student for a teacher. Here, teachers are so sick of having non motivated and non talented (not even just a minimum) students. Not all students are like this, but what I'm saying is that they are delighted when they can have willing, hardworking and talented students (even if they are amateurs) with whom they really have the impression of discussing the art of violin. So I can return you the comment and say that you'll surely be a very uplifting student for the teacher who will accept you in his(her) studio/class!

Good luck again,
ps: musical progress is slower during college/university non musical studies but these studies is investing more musical "fun" later on when you'll be able to pay yourself good instruments and teachers and the violin progress you make during these years (even if not as big as if you had 3-5 hours a day...) will always be kept if you do a minimum. It's better to do a bit each day (even if 30 minutes) than 5 hours on sunday... Just saying...

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