Lessons or self directed

May 27, 2017, 10:21 PM · I have been playing for decades now, have played with university symphonies, semi professionally with regional symphonies, and currently play just for myself until my schedule allows for me to return to an orchestra. However, violin is not my profession, it has always been a passionate avocation for me. This summer I've set a goal of making some breakthroughs in my skills, and would like to end the summer being able to play the Bach Chaconne (actually all of Partita No. 2 but the other movements except the Sarabande are all within my abilities) and the Beethoven violin concerto. The Chaconne is just a bit beyond my current level and I am not sure I have the technical knowledge needed to play it. So my question is should I get the help of a teacher or work on it on my own. I'm very dedicated and love the challenge of working out solutions and technique and frankly I'm worried that if I get the help of a teacher they might distract me from the goal. On the other hand, we're talking about the Bach Chaconne! Does anyone have advice on the technical issues of the piece, or more generally on the question of when does a violinist need to go back to taking lessons?

Replies (20)

May 28, 2017, 2:32 AM · I am self taught and I play some of the Bach solo violin. I could play the Chaconne too if I had enough time to devote to it.....
May 28, 2017, 3:51 AM · Hmm ... Well, to play the Chaconne properly you need to have spent some time perfecting chords and double stopping. It is actually quite a tough piece as is the rest of the D minor Partita.

If you go to a teacher you need a very, very good one. They would almost certainly charge top rates so it would not be cheap. Attempting it on your own may only get you so far, on the other hand, who knows. We can't really advise you without hearing you play and knowing at what level you have reached.

May 28, 2017, 1:43 PM · I think that no matter how good someone is, they always benefit from coaching from someone even more skilled and more experienced -- and conversations with people at a similar level to exchange ideas an tips.

So yes, I advocate a teacher, even if just for the occasional coaching session.

Edited: May 28, 2017, 2:00 PM · can't self coach. every coach will see or hear something of benefit that you have missed.

That said. Read and re-read everything you can on the subject. I just picked up the accompaniment in unaccompanied bach as a summer read.

May 28, 2017, 2:11 PM · If you can afford a teacher, by all means go that route, but be sure it is a teacher who can really guide you on these pieces and improve your overall technique while doing so. My violin lessons that started when I was 4 ended before I was 12 and everything I learned since was pretty much on my own (with a few coached sessions also) over the next 70 years (except for cello lessons from ages 14-16), including the two pieces you want to study, which I was devoted to for a long time in my youth.
May 28, 2017, 3:02 PM · Teacher highly recommended, but at that level the price comes usually at a premium (not to mention, it can be difficult to find this type of teacher, and that he/she is open to accommodate you.)

Granted endless amounts of time and money, I would love it if I could take weekly leasons forever. While true you can teach yourself the more advanced you are (and probably should), someone else that is smart and competent listening to your playing can only help, regardless of current level or repertoire.

May 28, 2017, 3:23 PM · Even as a full-time teacher and performer, I still find time to see other teachers to get feedback. If we actually believe in the concept of "lifelong learning" then we need to keep moving forward with instruction even when lack of time and resources make it difficult to achieve.

I'm with Adalberto here...given endless amounts of time and money I would love to take weekly lessons forever.

May 28, 2017, 4:49 PM · There is something in the original post that I find rather puzzling ... Mark wants to play the Chaconne but writes that the Sarabande is too hard.
May 28, 2017, 6:15 PM · Thanks everyone. I appreciate the advice. Paul Deck, sorry about the confusion. My meaning was that I can currently play the other three movements, though I'm still bringing the Gigue up to speed. I'm working on the Sarabande, but not surprisingly the double stops and chords are a bit challenging and require more time on my part. Same issue with the Chaconne but on a much greater scale. Does that clarify somewhat?

Again, I very much appreciate the help. I'll try to find someone to take some lessons with.

May 28, 2017, 6:24 PM · If Sarabande is somewhat challenging, then self-studying Chaconne in a reasonable time frame and reaching a level of proficiency (aka not cringe-worthy) is practically out of the question. Get a competent, experienced teacher and go from there. Otherwise it is very likely to be an exercise in frustration. You need all the help you can get.
May 29, 2017, 1:09 AM · @ Paul

There is something in the original post that I find rather puzzling ... Mark wants to play the Chaconne but writes that the Sarabande is too hard.

I can fully understand that comment. The sarabande is very hard, because the sustaining of the sostenuto line and the approach to the chords and double stopping make it as hard as the Chaconne - in my opinion.

Edited: May 29, 2017, 11:33 AM · @Peter I do see what you're saying. But first of all I think the chords in the Chaconne are mostly harder chords. Second, the Sarabande is less than one page of music. Surely that would be a good "study" for what comes three pages hence! It's a bit like saying Handel Sonatas are too hard but I want to play Mozart 4.
May 29, 2017, 7:40 PM · Im currently practicing the sarabande as a piece for my diploma and chaconne on the side and in my opinion sarabande is quite easy compared to chaconne. It doesnt require you to play those wierd D4 D3 A1 E2 finger combinations from chaconne and that for me is a sigh of relief.
Edited: May 30, 2017, 4:28 AM · Honestly? Self directed. Teachers should only be used to get the technical amount to play he piece. Never have a teacher help you with a piece. Then their expression goes onto yours. Making it truly not yours
Edited: May 30, 2017, 5:54 AM · I do not think most will agree with that, especially teachers. And lots of people, especially at the highest level, do get teachers opinions about their interpretations. At that level most performers will have their own ideas about the music, which may then become modified a little by the teacher. Often it's a question of choices about taste and more refined fingering.
May 30, 2017, 10:47 AM · Indeed, mature performers engage in a healthy dialogue with the teacher, and also, a good teacher doesn't necessarily enforce his/her interpretation or ideas. The players could do it by themselves, but they are paying for a professional, artistic "second opinion" about their current interpretation.
May 30, 2017, 8:00 PM · Refusing the help of a competent coach/teacher at any level seems short-sighted b/c no one can hear his/her playing the way another person can; no one can observe his/her own technique objectively. Simultaneously a good player can resist interpretive dictatorship, while benefiting from another's eyes, ears, & imagination.
Edited: May 31, 2017, 1:13 AM · Well said, Marjory.

How are the dogs by the way!

I'm about to take my Lurcher out to the country.

May 31, 2017, 5:56 AM · > Never have a teacher help you with a piece.

Even if we fundamentally agree that students need to eventually make interpretation decisions on their own, they don't just arrive at that point without skill development.

Our teachers pass onto us rich and varied performance practices and traditions that factor into our interpretations. That unique combination of influences along with other exposure to culture is what shapes our eventual approach.

May 31, 2017, 10:13 AM · In my opinion you should try learning it on your own first, and work thru the whole song. Mark the places that you cant figure out and then get a few lessons from someone that can play it. I learned the violin mostly by self-teaching and I do not believe you have to have a teacher to play something like that. What I usually do is look up the song on the internet and look for a video with closeups of the left hand to see the fingering and also to see different things they are doing different from what the sheet music says. It has helped me to learn pieces like that. I also suggest taking a video of yourself playing it after you learn it and see if you think you could improve on posture and expression. You could also do that and then compare your video to someone on the internet... someone that is very experienced. I wish you the best of luck. You can do it!!!

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