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Laurie Trlak

Developing Patience

January 14, 2010 at 4:14 PM

My last blog entry talked about how my teacher was pleased with my progress, especially the fact that my practice was more patient, and that I had determined that I was going to be more patient with myself. At least one response asked for tips on how to develop patience. I don't know that I can offer any magic words to say that will make you patient in an instant; that would run counter to the very definition of patience. Patience is a character trait that is learned, often through hard experience. Usually it comes when you've figured out that what you've been doing isn't working, and you slow down, step back, take a deep breath, and regroup., once you get tired of beating your head against the wall, that is! That's what I had to do last year. I decided that I was tired of spinning my tires, getting nowhere (and I know my teacher was tired of it too). I had to do some serious reassessment, sit down and analyze my own playing using the knowledge I have acquired over the past 15 years from some incredible teachers, assess my weaknesses as well as my strengths, and resolve to solve problems as they arise. That means taking each difficulty and focusing on it specifically. Spiccato? Slow it down, find out what's wrong, and fix it! Intonation? Listen carefully, and play the passage until it's in tune. String crossings not clean? Make sure fingers are left down, and your bow is straight. Do it again and again and again until you can do it right, and then do it some more. And do scales, scales, scales, every day, both one octave on a single string and three octaves on four strings, with arpeggios.

Nothing with playing the violin comes easily, unless one is a prodigy, and in order to advance to your best performance ability, you must be, above all, patient with yourself. If I've learned nothing else in 52 years of living, it is that, and it's a lesson I keep needing to have reinforced. As a wife, mother, grandmother, and a person with MS, everything I do requires a degree of patience. Just standing up takes me longer than it does most people; my legs don't cooperate all the time when I need to rise from a sitting position. Likewise, playing the violin presents challenges for me: my fingers aren't as dexterous on fast passages as I would like, in part because I don't have as much feeling in them as I should. So I have to play those passages a little slower than they would normally be played. So I have to make adjustments, and accept that there are some things that I probably will not be able to accomplish.

Every single one of us can benefit from learning the virtue of patience, regardless of his or her life's circumstances, not only as a violinist, but just as a human being. Life will be more pleasant, and every day annoyances - like the ridiculously long line at the gas station, or the interminable wait time to speak to "the next available representative" at the telephone company won't bother you nearly as much, and your blood pressure will be lower!


From Bart Meijer
Posted on January 15, 2010 at 5:36 AM

Laurie,

So true. Thank you.

Bart


From Marsha Weaver
Posted on January 15, 2010 at 5:32 PM

Hi, Laurie --

I appreciate your addressing the patience issue.  I'm finding that my violin is becoming my best teacher when it comes to patience -- and my biggest trial!!  :)

I was given an old violin -- greatly in need of repair -- seventeen years ago.  I had it repaired and began lessons.  Loved every minute of it!  Then, due to LOTS of overtime at work, I had to stop the lessons (and also found I wasn't having much time to practice).  I put my violin away, intending to start again when I had more time.  Somehow, that never happened until just a couple of weeks ago.  I kept thinking about it, and remembering how much I enjoyed playing.  I don't know why I kept putting it off.

I'm now unemployed, so time isn't the issue it once was.  But unemployment also brings the financial issue of not being able to pursue learning the violin with an actual teacher.  When I got my violin out a couple weeks ago, I couldn't even remember how to hold the bow!  Any technique I used to have seemed to have crawled off and gone into hiding.  So I'm now finding myself working with the book "Violin for Dummies".  It's a start.

I'm not as flexible in my fingers, hands and wrists as I was seventeen years ago.  I've discovered that another part of my problem is that my beloved old 4/4 violin is too large for me.  I recently tried a 3/4 size, and found it to be the perfect size!  I'm saving to buy one.  That's an exercise in patience on an entirely different (monumental!!!) level.  In the meantime, though, I'm doing lots and lots of scales.  It's a struggle to make myself slow down to maintain accuracy (and at this point, I'm sure that anything I do is going to be pretty agonizing for my listening family, bless their hearts!).  Sometimes I try to eke out the melody line of a song (mostly bits of Classical pieces and Irish folk tunes), but have to really put on the brakes to keep from trying to play it too fast until I've really learned it.  I think I'm going to print out what you wrote and keep it near my violin -- patience can be a valuable teacher right now, as long as I let it! 


From Laurie Trlak
Posted on January 17, 2010 at 7:39 PM

To Marsha Weaver:

I can appreciate the frustration you must be experiencing right now as you find that you have forgotten much of what you once knew. Until you are able to take lessons again, may I suggest ViolinMasterclass.com? The site is run by Professor Sassmanshaus of the University of Cincinnati, and you can watch videos on the site that will help with technique. Good luck, and happy practicing!

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