May 20, 2008 at 11:40 PMGreetings,
I have to stop here. This list took me about 2 minutes to write without any strenuous thought whatsoever and rather than just continue ad nauseam I have to ask what are the implications of this?
For me the meaning is simple. A smart and diligent NTL can avoid a lot of these problems. If they are very gifted, have had a lot of experience on another instrument and understand a lot about the use of the body (very rare indeed this latter as Alexander Lessons soon reveal) then they may avoid a lot of these problems but there is no way they are going to avoid or even be aware of these things when they are going wrong because of one fundamental principle we cannot escape from: WE CAN ONLY PAY ATTENTION TO ONE THING AT A TIME and it is the role of the teacher to structure an individuals path in such a way that nothing is missed out, nothing is learnt badly and that the information is presented in such a way that it can be systematically built upon and integrated. This often means making decisions about things that need correcting but may be best ignored at this time. On the whole, experience teaches that best to teachers.
I hope this does present a basic case for getting a teacher. My final word (for now;)) on the subject is to note that the greatest violinists of all time often went back to their teachers after touring or whenever they felt/feel the need for help in progressing or dealing with a problem they feel has surfaced. It is never possible to completely avoid doing something less than 100 percent efficiently but the degree of pleasure one can get from the violin depends on how close we get to this ideal and to not make use of a guide and friend in this process seems rather odd to me.
For me, website discussion with someone like that counts for way more than most things a middle-of-his-class average conservatory graduate would be able to present you with, even in person.
What I am saying is that I think I could eventually figure out "what to do" from this site as well as I could be taught by the teachers I had, which were probably not untypical.
Regarding problems being nipped in the bud, rather than at a later date, I'm aware that you spend time trying to undo some of those problems. I think it's possible those problems would have arisen under any circumstances, otherwise you would expect a product of one of those teachers to be problem-free. Unless you're going to say you're talking about certain species of problems, which is way to esoteric for me.
In my own personal experience, fixing problems at a latter date isn't a problem. The problem is running out of lifetime before the fix is presented ;) Just as you will run out of lifetime before you learn some things you might have learned. This is why I said something in another thread about a desirable trait for a teacher being efficiency, to be able to fix things fast, and for real. This not what I had in teachers, but have awareness of through master classes mainly.
Also, I still take lessons myself. It has been a most humbling experience to have a gifted communicator point out what I have missed. That is the whole point of teachers, yes? To catch what students are blind to? (For me, constantly shaking Pride off my back has been enormously beneficial). Anyhoo, I feel so great after a good lesson that I don't even need chocolate for the drive home!
Good point about the teacher can hold them back and insist on this or that better than a website. Although this website can be pretty insistent! Keep up the good work.
Even with a teacher, we are self-teaching between lessons, during which we need additional immediate support and this site provides this. But more importantly, this site keeps one’s mind working on violin and violin related matters. That’s what true learning is about!
It's very difficult to see in one's self. I'd even argue that it's almost impossible for students, especially beginning students, to see where they are, and which specific skills they need to work on now in order to create progress down the road. I was thinking about that at my son's piano lesson today. He is just learning to read music, and his teacher suddenly started going hard and heavy on the intervals. She explained how a 5-1 sounds like (and she sang) "The-end, 5-1" and then proceeded to show him all the endings of many songs he's played, to show him how you have five fingers, and look, it's a fifth, etc., etc. "Just intervals intervals intervals this week," she said to me.
Sure, I know you have to learn intervals in piano playing (in any playing), and that it helps to know them when reading music. But she knew, from 40 years of teaching, that the time is exactly now to drill heavy on this particular skill, which will set us up for the next step and the next progression.
That is the power of having a teacher. And also of not second-guessing the teacher. We'll just DO IT. I know she is taking him somewhere, and she's telling us what he needs to go there.
But I haven't loved all my teachers all the time, and sometimes it was for a good reason. I'm only concerned about the tone that the advice to "get a teacher" can sometimes take, not just in this forum but elsewhere.
There may also be situations when playing and learning by yourself is beneficial. In my opinion these situations are somewhat specialized and probably limited in both time and scope. They might relate to getting through a financial or personal crisis or recovering from a bad or harmful teaching experience. Or a learning style that needs to make its own mistakes in order for an important lesson to really sink in helpfully.
I think if students approach self-study from that point of view: with certain limited personal goals and objectives, and with knowing that the self-study period will be limited, they can benefit, and even possibly get more out of the teacher they eventually find than they would have otherwise. Know thyself. And don't let the perfect be the enemy of the good.
Now, as you see, I am looking around beyond my instructor for information, and I use YouTube and this site, and a succession of books I see recommended. But I don't think you could get everything you need without some face to face instruction. In particular, I think Jim is not exactly correct that you could learn everything you needed from this site. A major problem with doing that is one that many of you will simply not have - and it is understanding what people are saying. I am well-educated, highly motivated, and good at figuring out what is going on in written texts in languages I have minimal experience of. But I not infrequently cannot tell what someone is talking about on this site. There is a specialized vocabulary which belongs to experienced violinists which many folks on this site use without a second thought. And then there is a shared language which the online group has developed which includes abbreviations, acronyms, in-jokes, offhand slang references, and so on. This is a natural situation for a community - but you really cannot learn some of things you need because the way they are presented is utterly opaque if you lack the background of the folks doing the presenting.
For example, I do not think I have understood a single thing I have read on this site about scales. I am currently doing the (one-, sometimes two- octave) scales my teacher suggests, but there does not seem to be any overlap between that exercise and what folks mean when they talk about scales here. There is a blog on technique written by a poster whom I understand to be expert and who is often singled out for praise by other v.commers - I have yet to know what he means beyond the second paragraph of any posting. I'm sure it's reasonable and useful info - I just can't tell what he's saying.
I truly do not think that someone coming new to the site could figure out enough that a teacher would not be a good idea. It's a welcoming enough community and free with a lot of advice - it's just that the technical advice is written for people who already know what they need to do, not for complete novices.
If someone is fine but isn't using (isn't ready for) vibrato yet, his problem is he isn't ready for vibrato yet. If another guy can't play in tune yet his problem is he can't play in tune yet. Or some interpretation or mindset. And all are liable to discover the solution to their problem in various ways I think. Hopefully, he's very very lucky, and it won't take 50 years, or never :)
That`s fair. But level, for me, has a much broader meaning than your literla interpreratation. No reaosn why you should know that...
When I use the term I am looking at aspects such as length of study and current repertoire and maybe some other stuff I can`t articulate right now. I know roughly where someone should be after one yera of regular practice for example, and if they are not there becaued they have managed to acquire many bad habits then they are not playing at an appropriate level for their talent.
>If someone is fine but isn't using (isn't ready for) vibrato yet, his problem is he isn't ready for vibrato yet.
It`s not a problem. There is no error. Nothing is badly leanred.
>If another guy can't play in tune yet his problem is he can't play in tune yet.
We may have to beg to differ on this. If someone cnanot play in tune it is because they are either without a teacher or the teacher is no good. As you pointed out earlier there are problems with a lot of teachers. One cannot just say this is lack of a teacher. However, this is a completley differnet issue to the timing of vibrato introduction.
I think it's a unfortunate if somebody does something wrong for some time, but I don't think it's an insurmountable thing. But the task of becoming aware of that thing or finding the information or person that can actually fix it may be insurmountable, though. Same whether someone suffers from lack of learning or poor learning.
I certainly agree strongly with everything you wrote, but a few caveats:
1: One has to take into account the level any given NTL (is that now an official term?) wants to reach.
It is likely impossible to be self-taught for the first 3-5 years, then go on (with lessons or no) to becom a top soloist. However, take my case as an example:
All I want / need to do is play simple, flowing lines, with excellent pitch & vibrato. Granted, that still takes lots of work and self-scrutiny, but I assure you, I accomplished this goal in less than two years.
I will never Play Paganini, and I will never do all those fancy bow thingies (I don't even know what they're called) and I don't care. I will be even better in a few years, because I'm very self critical, and I keep using the modern resources you mention. I also know enough to be aware of any physical pains, balnce problems, etc.
Having a strong backround in cello, voice, Yoga, & physiology probably didn't hurt, either. -And I think I've studied "The Art Of Violin" about 2,000 times.
2: A teacher is certainly important, but so is finding the RIGHT teacher, and that's not always easy. Besides the existence of a plethora of teachers who are just plain BAD, there is also the problem of different schools. Bow holds, shifting methods, and Lord knows the SR thing!
i can just imagine where I'd be right now if I continued with my first (one whole lesson) teacher who insisted I use a shoulder rest, -Or the second one who thought my bow hold was scandalous, even though it works great, and I know know it's just like Heifetz.
You see my point.
-But a great topic and a very fair look at the modern situation. I would never ever ever ever suggest to ANYONE to do it my way, (the NTL way) but it is absolutely working for me.
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