From howard vandersluis
Posted August 19, 2007 at 05:49 PM
The only real obstacles I've seen other than my own inherent flaws, is stiffness, posture and flow. They have been brutal for me, and continue to compete for my focus. As an adult however, and having played many instruments leisurely, this focus thing, is even a good thing.
Violin on a moderately advanced level requires: intense focus. But the qualities of adult learning were only skimmed in my mind, as developed economies switched to services, under the guise of getting more non-traditional students back to lifelong learning. Some of these strengths however, have been published and are readily available, such as they are, for research.
I'm saying, that we barely understand adult learning at least from a generalist perspective, though I'm '''certain''' many adults have gone down the path and done the deal, though they remain part of the silent majority to some extent.
However, given what we do know, the strengths that adults bring to the learning environment are very significant. And, I know from personal experience that there are learning technologies available that I think mainly adults would benefit from, though they can be applied to children, as applied to 'this' discussion.
The reason older people don't is the youth orientation of our culture, which violin culture derives from. The theories about why you have to be a kid are really a manifestation. For interesting evidence, consider all the people who started at 7 and never got any better ;) Also, adults are capable of much more complex physical and mental tasks than kids. But you'll never see somebody from Earth starting at 19 and winning a major competition at 29. Maybe in the future. 7 and 17, no problemo.
I don't know how old you are, but do you remember the late 1980s and the "computer virtuoso kid" concept? People over 30 who weren't in the field assumed from the beginning they didn't have a chance of learning computers, at least never to a very useful extent, just too different, and they sent their kids to special schools at a young age so they could become computer virtuosos. People in the business, I was close to 30 and an electrical engineer designing computer hardware, mainly laughed and rolled their eyes. Although I remember a colleague or two who might have scratched their heads and mulled it over. And the demonstrations given by the kid computer virtuosos was less than peanuts. Eventually it evaporated. Not so with violin culture, so far. Earthlings are victims and beneficiaries of their culture. Can't escape it though. The reason it evaporated was evolution forced people of all ages to try their best at computers, via their jobs, and to a lesser degree everything like entertainment and communication becoming computer-based. Reality took charge.
But I think it's hard to get a grip on just how deeply these things are inculturated. It's trance-like.
I believe that this Critical Period theory applies to music, since music is a language in itself, as well as to skills in general. So it's easier for a child to learn it, because they're within that critical period where their minds are pliable and they're responsive to the environments they're put in.
But these are just the crackpot theories of a wannabe linguist. =) I think some of these other explanations are are lot better and more solid in their footing.
And the fact that starting from 7 might have bigger chance winning competition at 17 compare with starting from 19 and winning at 29 , had really nothing to do with wether an adult really can learn everything in these 10 years or not.
First, learning a thing needs support from friends and family. When you're 7, I bet everyone will encourage you to learn violin.
Now, how about if you're 19 and you start talking about winning a competition at age of 29 to your friend and family. What will their first instinct? They will try to stop you. Nobody close to you will encourage you.
Secondly, at 7, you're in elementry school. At 19, you're in universities or college... You have to think about calculus or Machiavelli, working part-time, managing your life, spending time with gf, and partying all nights... etc. How many hours can you spare on practice very focus without thinking about those things?
Giving all the same condition except ages, I think it will be no differences between learning from 7, or start from 17, or even 27... It is just the reality that it won't be the same condition anyhow. And of course, because of these reality, there won't be any proof to show that my theory is right or wrong.
Adults are more self-conscious.
Adults can't memorize worth diddly squat (and that goes for me too!).
Adults cancel lessons a lot more. Many of them have jobs...
Adults can suffer terribly from Heifetz Syndrome ("If it can't be perfect, I don't want to play at all.")
And...Adults can suffer from "Checkbookitis". "Checkbookitis" is the totally normal adult expectation of writing a check for a service, and expecting that service to be completed in a prompt and professional manner. However, learning music is different. You buy equipment, music, and lessons, but the work has just begun! Very unfair, yes?
And before everybody gives me a hard time about "Checkbookitis", I suffer from it too. As an adult, I am used to being very competant at everything I have to do, and what I can't do for myself, I write a check. Oil change? Check. Taxes? Check. Plumbing? Check. Electrical work? Definitely check. That is how the system works.
So in our service-oriented society, it is easy to have re-occurring bouts of this disease. Getting in a "learning" frame of mind is very difficult for most adults. And what was the thing that gave me the most empathy for my adult students? Learning this silly glorified typewriter.
This topic is a big one, but if there are people who started as adults and can actually get up and play advanced material well in front of an audience (Bach, Paganini or a Romantic concerto), I haven't seen them.
The money thing I never thought about--generous type, and 'I DO have the fire'--I'm sure.
The window of opportunity notion: Our linear child-development understanding again, is based on an average or mean. For example, language may begin at (x)months, but it only becomes sophisticated much much later; as does using it to underwrite critical thinking.
And the youth-oriented thing. I have suspicions it may be a 'truly' cultural thing, related to the world of music, but don't feel like proving them. Get'm in early and keep'm, more than ability I think.
The relationship between music and learning may well be, simply filling the child's mind with beautiful music I think. Nobody ever has really expounded for example, on the exact hows, of music's underwriting learning in a well done measurable manner that I've seen..
Soviet research actually counters the idea somewhat showing how language acquisition can be intensified at any age, using specific music.
My thinking says if they had the same passion, they would do as well as adults. In fact they don't. If you acknowledge that they don't, which you have to do, then you're saying they're physically incapable, a very good reason to not have passion about it :) That's basically why they don't have that all-consuming passion. At some level, they know the ceiling is low. But youngsters plan to fly into space. Perhaps not all kids (said to avoid getting into an internet-style exchange...)
Quit dreaming that it was your thought. And your elaboration on it is only self-projection. It isn't what I was saying.
And by the way, what the heck is "inculturated"? Maybe you should be a speech writer for our Dear Leader...
Boy, I said your not agreeing is validation. Stretch your lips around that.
Another thought about adult learners: I still have to say that I find them to be really similar to children. Since I do start beginners, I have the opportunity to get a good cross section. That is to say, not everyone comes to me after Book 5, already somewhat developed. And, last year I taught 55 beginning first-graders. I've currently got three adults students, and I have always had several adult students in my studio, beginning and advanced.
So here's what I've observed: some kids actually have a very hard time learning to play the violin. They can't figure it out physically, or they can't get interested in the details that are really required for learning to play, despite being enthusiastic about wanting to "play the violin." I show them something new, and once they finally get it, they say, "I got it, can we STOP now?"
Other kids take to the violin as if they've learned it in another life. They patiently learn some tiny new trick and then proceed to repeat it over and over, just to get it smooth, without any bidding from me. Then they are ready for more.
It's exactly the same with adults. Children are just little adults; they are as different from each other as adults are.
I'm sure there are some differences between an adult learner and a child, particularly in teacher/student communication and interaction, but for myself, I just want to learn.
wired here means both physically gifted and musically in tune. thus, the starting point is almost irrelevent in terms of music making. HOWEVER, as some have mentioned, if the narrow objective is to win competition if you have nothing else better to do, then the reality is simply against adult beginners. as with many other disciplines, starting early under the right supervision and leadership is an advantage over time, especially if the misguided endpoint seems to be in 20-30s. we are talking about the beauty pageant of violin performance here pal! yet, someone starting at 20 and peaking at 40 is possible imo with the right person and the right environment.
i think to compare kids vs adults in terms of having fire or not may not hold water because exceptions will pop up everywhere.
one thing i think adults often face is the lack of time and energy despite willingness to commit (opposite for kids). in other words, tough to fully commit because of other responsibilities. adults are often viewed as providers and not ones to indulge in ones' passion. i think every serious violin player may need to do some soul searching on this. what kind of relationship do you develop with violin? from casual hello to mating for life...
the other thing for adults is the downhill slope:). like it or not, after 30, physiology dictates and is often not your best friend. pain, swelling, stiffness, slower reaction time, poorer memory and to top it, the sight of kids playing well and winning competitions, lol.
face it, it is ALWAYS better to be kids.
but, between a kid playing the most mind blowing advanced piece and an adult beginner giving his or her best on a simpler piece, bringing beauty to life, i will take the latter any day!
Kids can, perhaps, learn to read music more easily, but adults have much more life experience under their belts, and this experience will quickly translate to much more complex music, including various interpretations that will help keep the adult student motivated.
Also, there's the whole doing-it-because-your-parents-are-making-you vs. doing-it-because-you-truly-want-to aspect of learning to play an instrument. If you do it because you truly want to, and not just because someone's making you do it, you're much more likely to stick to a practice schedule/routine and much less likely to get burned out on it.
I think, perhaps, the biggest obstacle an adult will run into, besides full schedules and life, in general, is a tendency to expect rather immediate results, and you might find yourself feeling discouraged a bit more often than a child might. However, I think, in the long run, an adult just might make quicker progress, though there might be a lower ceiling for what that adult will ultimately be able to learn/accomplish.
As a photographer, there's something I've learned just to accept as a fact of the universe: the laws of reciprocity...everything's a trade-off. ;)
One adult student took lessons from me along with her son. For a while, they seemed to progress at a similar pace, but then the son really took off and his mother started to get discouraged that she couldn't keep up with him. While she knew exactly what to do mentally, her muscles/joints wouldn't allow her to progress as quickly.
My adult students who have done the best are those who have had previous experience playing other musical instruments.
One other point--the student who begins at 19 and wants to compete at 29 will have limited options as far as competitions go!
I stopped playing in college. Then, 20 years later, I got an instrument and just played fiddle tunes for a couple of years, without lessons or any attempt to improve technique.
After another 20-yr. hiatus, I started again last March at the age of 61. I put in 30-90 minutes almost every day. My teacher is impressed by how much more motivated I am compared to her child students.
I also think I now have much more motivation, as well as much clearer goals. A lifetime of listening to all kinds of music for hours a day has given me a far superior sense of intonation, rhythm, and interpretation than I ever had as a kid or teen.
What I find is the greatest limitation at my age is a reduced energy level. My body just tires more quickly, and it’s hard to play late in the evening without aches and discomfort. Right now, at 9 PM, I wanted to continue practicing, but I’ve stopped because I didn’t have the energy to play comfortably. Mornings are much better practice times for me now.
i would think, in your line of thinking, in order to have adults gain access to that "forge" you may need to have some conditions met:
1. excellent/great teacher: one that has been there and done that, one that can teach each individual individually because the teacher, through experience/insight, has a vast pool of knowledge to draw from, one that take the adult beginner seriously...
2. student's complete faith in that teacher: i think adults, being more developed and around the block longer, tend to waste time trying to outsmart themselves. it is great to be inquisitive; it is another thing to be easily distracted. if the teacher suggests one type of bow hold, one type of violin shoulder support, one type of vibrato exercise, etc, children rarely question and pretty much dive into it. adults on the other hand often window shop a bit, being philosophical about it a bit, come and chat up online a bit and before you know it, the basic required due diligence was never taken care of, giving the children the lead. i see this phenom all the time, across all fields: the smartest people achieve the least because they tend to spend way too much time complaining about this and that, finding justification on this and fairness on that, doing the dumbest, laziest thing because they simply see through it, with it being i'd rather not do the hard work if there is a choice. kids do not have a choice.
3. talent: some adults are fanatically crazy about violin but are not physically built to go as far as they aspire to, thus the agony. it is unreasonable to compare an "average" adult beginner with a highly "talented" kid. the chronological age difference means nothing. rather it is the musical quotient that matters, or more precisely, VQ.
Kids have it, adults don't.
On focus: the young Terez wouldn't have accomplished a fraction of what the adult Terez has learned in two years, due to lack of focus, lack of true motivation. I was too busy dreaming the day away. I'm glad I didn't try to tackle this instrument until now.
There are dreamy adults and focused kids and and 100 reasons for either one to be picking up the violin. I think internal motivation is a big factor - good thing it comes in all sizes.
I agree with the first completely, but numbers two and three I feel are so relative and variable as to not only the student but the quality of the teacher as to be only answerable on a case by case basis.
The same qualities that make one easily distracted are true across the board as one example. And listening to young students trying this and then that I hear almost daily, as they are most often pointed back towards their teacher for the solution as another example--so philosophy and such is pretty general as well.
And attaching VQ to physical limitations though partly true, is a little misleading in my mind as well. But your points are well taken.
I agree with the incredibly self-conscious behavior of adult beginners. Things I can play well at home fly to pieces in front of my teacher because I am so ill at ease playing in front of another adult. Stage fright doesn't begin to cover it at all. If my teacher ever wanted me to play publicly at a recital she had better dart me with Valium blow-darts first.
I practice 1-2 hours a day, at least three hours each Saturday and Sunday, mainly because I am impatient and want to get past "I suck so bad" stage to the point where I am not embarrassed by the strange sounds I make. I am very driven to improve on violin. As I do not have children this works for me, it wouldn't work at all with kids.
I've been playing since the 25th of June 2007 and my teacher has put me on Canon in D, as the main work piece, plus I have several others I switch too when I get too frustrated (Today, by Sparks, Amazing Grace ... blues rendition ... Adeste Fideles, etc..) I also work scales and arpeggios, review prior works etc. This includes me learning to sight read as I do play other insturments (winds) but only by ear.
Work does interfere from time to time, but we work around that as best we can. Since I work in a high school, my boss is incredibly supportive of me taking lessons (so are my colleagues) and they try to take my Thursday lessons into account when scheduling meetings I have to be at. I also have practiced with students, all of whom have been playing years and they think its very cool an adult is willing to make a fool of themselves being an utter newb at something.
I have a very good relationship with my teacher, and feel I can email about issues throughout the week and she gets back to me as she can. She tells me she is in "uncharted" territory with me because I am progressing so fast (according to her) she lets me find the music that interests me, provides a solid foundation, and basically gives me the reins to explore music knowing I know very well when I am in over my head. I started 30 mins a week, the second week I went to twice a week, now I do 45 minute lessons.
I pay my teacher to be my expert. I do not try and second guess her. I follow her directions and instructions. To do anything else would be like tossing money out of my car window.
Arthitsis isn't an issue yet for me (in my hands, do have it in my neck,) but I have cut my left index finger in half three times, so I have to work really hard on F-sharp (its the hardest note for me to play because that finger doesn't want to close tighly, even warmed up.) I work around it, I warm up with scales, and if its cold I warm up my hands before playing.
I took about 18 months of violin lessons when I was 18 year old, then life got in the way and I put my violin away for 20+ years. About 2 years ago my daughter expressed interest in learning the violin and we made a deal, if she would take lessons and stick with them, so would I. Well, I'd forgotten how much I loved the violin. Practicing is a joy, not a chore. The difference between this mid-forties Forestry Professor and his 9-year-old daughter...we are progressing at approximately the same rate (I've kept my 18-month lead on her), but she picks up things with relative ease whereas I've got to work much harder. She practices about 20 minutes a day with varying levels of concentration; I practice 1 1/2 to 2 hours a day and am totally immersed. Sometimes I get jealous of the ease she picks things up, but I pray she sticks with it and playing becomes a lifelong love for her so that when I'm in my dottage, she will visit the old man and play for me.
I will try and remember this later when I go into technical things. At least I understand the concepts well. But in focusing on every single note in music on violin, it is like running a marathon or something--so yes, we do like the details. So part of the thing adults should remember is that like on no other instrument, focus must accompany technique on violin.
I think, we get to a point where we can think on our feet--I did this last night in town on a fiddler's fiddle--and express familiar things on the fly. But, it sure does take time to get to that point. And, I personally, am just getting there.
I couldn't believe that I played a couple requests decently, and also shared my arrangement: "Appalachian Sorrow". I was moved, that they were moved.
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