V.com weekend vote: Do you consider yourself a perfectionist?

January 15, 2016, 3:44 PM · Are you a perfectionist?

The definition of a perfectionist is: "a person who refuses to accept any standard short of perfection."

Though perfectionism can be helpful during practice, it can actually be a hindrance in performance -- and in normal life! During a practice session, the idea is to take a series of notes, learn to play them correctly, then reinforce that accuracy of execution. However, after the technical practice is done and it's time to play for musicality, or to play for other people, you have to be able to enjoy the performance, focus on communicating and let go of perfectionism.

warped fiddle

Not an easy trick, and I think that the very act of being a violinist can set people up for an almost destructive level of perfectionism, whereby it's difficult to let go of those "perfect" standards in violin-playing, and in other areas of life. We tend to push very hard.

Do you consider yourself a perfectionist? (Check out this article if you still want more of a definition, or even take a quiz!) And what are you thoughts about perfectionism, in relation to the violin, or to life in general? Do your high standards on the violin affect other areas of your life?

Replies

January 15, 2016 at 11:44 PM · I try not to be a perfectionist, but I hear every error I make and just *know* that everyone else can too!

January 16, 2016 at 01:01 AM · I'm with Steve on that, word for word!

I'll just add that life is too short to be a 100% perfectionist.

January 16, 2016 at 01:05 AM · ...my quirky Virgo violinist self has often pondered the chicken-egg question: are we detail-oriented, perfectionist people who therefore become accomplished violinists, &/or does playing violin push us in all those directions?? The lifelong overlap of the whole complex makes control of variables and answer of question impossible... Humans!! ...I'll be interested in results of the current poll...

;-)

January 16, 2016 at 03:47 AM · Nope. I know I have played every note in every piece perfectly...at least once...but I don't expect I'll play them all perfectly at one time ever; that doesn't mean I don't keep on perfect-ing, but that's not the same thing.

January 16, 2016 at 04:54 AM · I was 4 1/2 yo when I started to play the violin. I wanted to be a concert violinist, because in the 1940's and 50's women were not accepted into major symphonies and chamber music was something only a few major quartets performed, otherwise it was confined to the studio and the living-room. I was taught that "the audience doesn't want to know about your problems". And since all my teachers and coaches demanded perfection (old European tradition), that's what I strived for.

I was a child prodigy, and later in life, when the reality of a being a working professional set in, the same perfection, either for an audition or in performance, was expected of me. Frankly, the law of supply and demand for performing artists is "for every job opening there are hundreds of excellent players". So you see, there really wasn't much choice then, still isn't.

In my private life, the habit of trying to eliminate errors has continued, although as a teacher I have had to learn to be a lot more tolerant than my own teachers were!

January 16, 2016 at 06:28 AM · I was interested in Bernice's comments because my own teacher's professional life was just getting going in the 40's and 50's. From what I was told, my teacher's successful career playing in various symphonies was attributed to her being the consummate professional. In my experience, she was also a perfectionist. She taught me to be a perfectionist. Even though she passed away a little over a year ago, I still hear her voice in my head telling me how to approach new pieces. But outside of the violin I'm a mixed bag. I try to be realistic about what I can accomplish but if I really care about something, I strive for perfection.

January 16, 2016 at 02:42 PM · I always do my best. With the violin however...at some point I very clearly realized that no matter what I do - I'll never be 'good' (by professional standards) and I have relaxed. In relaxing about it ... I think I've actually become better.

So I do have high goals...but I'm easy going about it...

In general terms though, I am definitely not a perfectionist. That added 5 -10% (or however you'd like to quantify it) effort, IMO, is rarely worth it at the end of the day and I'll save that level of energy and/or commitment for when it's truly required.

January 16, 2016 at 06:03 PM · If I'm in a groove, I'm cool . . .

January 16, 2016 at 11:24 PM · How about a category for folks who don't think they're perfectionists when everyone else in their life things they are.

January 17, 2016 at 04:09 AM · But is it the inherent perfectionist who is attracted to the violin, or the violin playing that creates the perfectionist?

January 17, 2016 at 06:55 AM · Perfectionism is, according to research, a common trait among musicians. However, it is important to understand why one seeks perfection and if that quest is actually helping you excel or not. Here more thoughts on the subject: http://www.violinist.com/blog/TizianaPintus/20161/17300/

January 17, 2016 at 07:48 PM · Hi Laurie,

For me there is no conflict between perfectionism and musicality (but I understand, what You mean): the perfect techique for me is just the base to work out the piece in musical way! And working on musicality needs a lot of technical work, needs perfectionism! So finally I don't separate technical and musical practise, and being perfectionist in this way fulfills me more than anything else!

Greetings from snowy Black forest in Germany

Ingo

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