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Danielle Gomez

Allowing Yourself Time to Learn

August 17, 2012 at 7:40 PM

Playing a musical instrument is an all-encompassing activity that can become therapeutic for people just by its very nature. It forces the student to take time to examine himself or herself in a way that our culture does not normally require. Oftentimes the difference between a beautiful sound and squeaks on the violin is just taking a moment to ensure that your bow is on the right part of the instrument. The student may know where the bow goes; it’s that taking a moment to both physically and mentally check that must be trained.

With so many things going on in our lives (jobs, families, social activities, extra activities, etc.), private music lessons are a good way to press the “reset button.” In a world where instant knowledge is widespread, learning a slow, difficult task will make you revisit your concept of time.

Much of a student’s success with an instrument will depend on whether they allow themselves the time to learn. Starting something new is exciting but eventually this excitement ends and the real work sets in. As I teach, I see this same sense of frustration in four-year-old students and seventy-four-year-old students.

Young students will not understand why they do not get to play the violin instantly and adult students will berate themselves by saying, “Oh, I started too late so of course I’ll never be any good.” To both of them I say, “Well, you’ve only been playing for six months; what did you expect?”

At this point it is important to examine your musical journey as a whole. Perhaps you did play “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star” worse this week in your lesson than you did at your last lesson. But were you even playing “Twinkle” one year ago?

Even the most accomplished of musicians had, at some point, to be at the same stage you are on right now. One does not go from never playing an instrument to being highly proficient without first allowing oneself the time to learn.

Rethinking Genius

From Diana Rumrill
Posted on August 17, 2012 at 9:46 PM
Yes! So true. So much time spent being hard on ourselves for not learning things instantly instead of allowing ourselves to just be in and have fun with the process!
From Krista Moyer
Posted on August 17, 2012 at 10:40 PM
An excellent point. It is easy to wish we were better, when what we should be doing is marveling at how far we have come. Thanks for the perspective.
From David Rowland
Posted on August 17, 2012 at 11:31 PM
Excellent post, and the comments are right on too!

Learning an instrument is a life long process. It stops when we give it up or die, which ever comes first.

From Anne-Marie Proulx
Posted on August 18, 2012 at 1:27 AM
That's true! I also complain often about my issues but when I think about it, I've already played a few of my favorite peices and had nice occasions to play.

One in many examples of how one thinks at the begining:

When I started playing the violin and saw a vidéo of two of my soloist idols playing the Bach Double Concerto, I though OMG, will I ever play this one day (as if it was the Tchaikovsky VC... :) Not saying it's a baby peice...especially if you want to play it seriously. Just that every student will be able to play this quite decently with a bit of work (at least 1st and 2nd mvt) one day, I think.

The same with playing somehow decently in student solo gigs or in an orchestra... it's acheivable with some work! But when we start, we think we'll always be terrible.

Great blog!

From Danielle Gomez
Posted on August 18, 2012 at 2:03 AM
What's also funny to me is how we forget about the "intermediate" stage. Like, students assume they should go from beginner to advanced. There's absolutely nothing wrong with being intermediate for awhile. Just because you can't play everything doesn't mean you can't play SOME things.
From Thomas Gregory
Posted on August 18, 2012 at 10:26 AM
A lovely post. I sometimes wonder if some teachers artificially create a sense of 'beginner' and 'intermediate' by focusing too much on technical detail rather than musical imagination. This can be encouraged by following prescribed teaching 'methods' where teachers are less encouraged to explore material that better suit their pupils' personality. People will always enjoy learning music they love more than music that bores them. Sometimes it's the only way to get youngsters to practise.

Focus on the moment, there is no need to suffer until we are good enough to play the Brahms Concerto. We should enjoy the process at every stage otherwise what on earth is the point. At all levels, we are effectively in the same boat.

From jean dubuisson
Posted on August 18, 2012 at 12:36 PM
"Even the most accomplished of musicians had, at some point, to be at the same stage you are on right now."

that's right, when they were about 6 years old (speaking for myself ;-)

From Danielle Gomez
Posted on August 18, 2012 at 9:53 PM
@Thomas: Creativity should certainly always be encouraged but not for the sake of technical skill. If a student is not given proper groundwork it would only hold them back in the end.

It would be like giving someone who couldn't read a copy of War and Peace. Even if the subject material interests them, the basics must still be in place to get through the book. Which means, yes, some tedious work will have to take place. But for the greater goal of giving them the tools to enjoy any book they read .

From Man Wong
Posted on August 20, 2012 at 10:27 AM
Great post! Kinda relates well w/ the weekend poll post about rigorous violin training and creativity (at least for me anyway).

Gonna share this w/ my daughter on FB. :-)


From Cecille Gove
Posted on August 21, 2012 at 12:40 AM
This was a great informative article !
From Charlie Gibbs
Posted on August 21, 2012 at 6:50 PM
As a long-time computer programmer I've developed the technique of "demand learning". That is, if I need to handle a new machine, operating system, or programming language, I hit the books, pick up the bits of knowledge I need, and continue on my way.

The violin changed my whole outlook on learning. I soon realized that unlike other areas in which I've become proficient, the violin has no quick solutions, even in specific areas of technique. You just have to keep working at it day after day and the knowledge slowly comes to you.

In this age of instant gratification, I can understand why the violin isn't too popular. But for those who have the patience, it offers a lifetime of achievement. After three years of study, I feel I'm starting to be somewhat competent. At least in some aspects; I'm far from ready to tackle the Tchaikovsky, for instance (although I might take a run at the second movement).

From Danielle Gomez
Posted on August 21, 2012 at 8:35 PM
@Charlie I like that. "On demand learning" lol. What you pointed out was very true. I had to do that all the time in school. It's only only way to cope with being presented large amounts of information and then having to become an expert on whatever subject.

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