May 1, 2009 at 3:18 AM
Very curious times we’re living in. So many potent and unfortunate agendas being pursued in the world, and the majority of us caught in the middle just wanting to ‘live, and let live.’
In any case, thanks be to violin playing. It is to me as the harp was to King Solomon.
This morning I realized something on a pretty profound level – over my lifetime of playing I have wasted a great deal of time. Yep, and the reason for this is simple. In the past I did not understand the following concept near fully enough.
One must change one’s thinking in order to change one’s playing.
Bearing this in mind, I shudder to think how common it was for me, in my earlier days, to repeat and repeat passages with little or no change in what was going on between my ears.
Mind you, I did have SOME idea how to do things back then. And my body, being younger, was more willing to deal with what inefficiencies – bad habits – I was blind to. Bottom line, I managed to get along fairly successfully, by most standards.
Yet I always had the sense I was coming up a little short. And my way of addressing this feeling was frequently by turning to more repetition. More practice time.
In recent years I’ve gotten a little smarter. Like surface rainwater filtering through layers of soil to a great under ground aquifer, this concept Milstein raised with me many years ago has slowly but steadily sunk in.
Today I feel as though I’ve reached the aquifer laying deep beneath the parched land.
And it all rests with our power to visualize. Improvement is about casting the net of visualization on new waters.
What a teacher can do is give you some useful ideas. He or she will point you in specific directions that are likely to bear fruit.
In my courses this is what I have sought to do - for beginners, intermediate, and advanced players. At the very least they stimulate your thinking. At best they lead the way to quantum leaps in your effectiveness on the instrument.
All the best,
How youth can waste time, but I guess that is part of development—excepting those incredible few who just get it.
Great post Clayton.
how true. But i think Milstein also went through this process at a very high level. In his memoirs he describes asking Auer how to practice and receiving the answer `with your head, not your fingers.` Misltein said it took him years to get to grips with this. Fortunately hehad good fingers I suppose...
Very true and well put. And it applies to so many endeavors in life (which also turns out to be the best teacher for that hard stuff one resists learning).
I would still like to know what the top players do that we do not. One example; a top player's fourth finger in a higher positions sounds really good. Watching slow motion films of these players it "appears" that my fourth finger is doing the same thing as theirs. Their tone with the fourth is superb, my fourth finger higher up sounds like a weak cat with its tail under the rocking chair.
Clayton - please say more about visualization, with some examples.
Ray - maybe it's your bow, not your fingers. If you are pressing hard with your pinky, you may also be pressing with your bow and choking the vibration of the string. Try a lighter bow, and perhaps a little closer to the bridge. Apply Clayton's principle and change your thinking by being aware of being able to manifest right vs. left independence.
As a teacher, I try very hard to help my students set goals for themselves in their practice sessions. (See my blog of March 14, 2009). It can be very hard to do this with kids, but adult beginners usually pick it up well. I'm sometimes surprised by the large number of people, including adults, who believe that simply playing pieces from start to finish constitutes useful practice. It is certainly true that people should practice with their brains.
My teacher in High School, Craig Jones, was big on vissualization(s), and this included us visualizing us reaching our goals and succeeding what we wished to acomplish. He said that this is what Martial Artis do. I don't know if this is the same as you have mentioned, but we would vissualize getting the notes with our ears and seeing us achieve the correct mechanics. We also would repeat positive affirmations, "I am a unique person, my best is all that matters, I will achieve my goals, etc., etc."
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