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One of those lessons

April 8, 2010 at 12:03 PM

You know when you have one of those lessons, where you realise the importance of what you are learning?

Ok, so we started off the lesson with just an ordinary 3 octave C arpegio - he was satisfied with it.

Then I was told to play it as fast as possible.

I pause ... uh-oh, it made me almost nervous, I haven't tried to play it fast before; after I got in trouble of playing it out of tune while playing slow last month - I have been slow practicing it ever since.

I manage to cover 2 octaves in under a second (which suprised me - it was in tune also), then I have found I had a slight hesitance when going up to play the 3rd octave. It never seemed obvious to myself when I played it slowly though.

So he pulls me aside and tells me

"Ask yourself, whats going wrong here?"
"I don't know..."
"Watch me play it" - and then he plays the whole 3 octaves in a blink of an eye without any sign of effort.

I stare on and look "uh what?"

Then he gets me to try a couple more times, and then I realise "My shift onto E isn't very well", then he gets me to watch him again - and then he points out to me a concept that I knew from previous lessons, just out of bad habbit I went back to my wicked ways

"Your thumb is holding you back"

So then he gets me to practice a monstrous shift on the E string, from the low G up to the E, but instead of doing it slowly - he told me to do it fast (using Portamento); the first few tries were terrible and I kept stopping.

Then he looks at me sternly and says

"DON'T STOP. Keep playing" and gives me an encouraging smile

So I keep trying it, going from G to E, I manage to pivot my hand successfully to the side of violin each time, its just my thumb kept staying stuck to the neck... But I kept continuing, even though I was almost wanting to burst out from laughter from the horrid sound I was making - I kept going on, and eventually I realised I am getting the 'feel' for it, the pattern in my head suddenly made sense. I managed to let go of thinking and just do it

So I tried doing the 3 octave arpeggio again ... Thinking to myself,

Relax. Breath. Close your eyes.

And I nailed it! in tune at fast speed going both up and down for the first time ... of course the subsequent tries weren't as successful :) But after the 4th time trying (and failing, I stop)

Then he tells me again

"Don't stop Dimitri, I am not concerned about playing in tune. This lesson is more about flow."
I just look on again and nod and he tells me this
"Your intellect is holding you back. You keep thinking about whether you are playing in tune or not, you can play in tune fine, the chips and circuits are all working, but why do you keep failing? Its mostly because you keep thinking."

So, I repeat to myself Relax. Breath. Close your eyes.

And I manage to play the Arpeggio again, but this time I stayed in tune for 2 tries, then all the subsequent ones I lost my intonation on the shift onto the High E and back down... Of course I stopped again, because I was soo concerned with playing in tune (I can also justify it was nearing the end of the lesson hehe) ... But, letting go seems like a very important concept.

I've never ever practiced this way before. It gave me confidence when he said "I don't know where those intune arpegios came from but you did it"

Then he continued on.

"Everytime you have a problem, pause and ask yourself - where are you going wrong? What is getting in the way? Are you hitting your thumb against the back of the violin? Are you positioning your elbow too far out? Are thinking too much?"

Then he jokes

"See.. Women are lucky, they can multiprocess but Men can only focus on one thing at a time. You've got to remember to focus on other things, playing in-tune is one of them, but don't ignore the rest. Once you have it in your, just stop thinking"

I realise I have had plenty of hesitation issues, and that I think way too much while playing;

It was an important concept I picked up, since I can be a bit of a perfectionist at times; letting go and letting your body do it, pinpointing the source of the problem and not stopping. Sometimes things work out very well slowly, but fall apart when going fast.

I hope this entry made sense atleast :) It feels like a major discover for me anyhow and this is something I definatly do not want to forget.

From Theodor Taimla
Posted on April 8, 2010 at 5:54 PM

Wonderful article and it made perfect sense! Even as a beginner, I seem to have these moments. What I found useful is not to play notes alone but to find patterns of the notes and play those.


From Anne-Marie Proulx
Posted on April 8, 2010 at 10:32 PM

This is the beauty of beeing a late starter... you can use your adult thinking to apply the concepts, seeing them through many angles and catch yourself doing mistakes (every goos teachers also shows you how to teach yourself when he's not there...)  

You also understand the necessity of some "not so fun" stuff that a kid would avoid royally unless someone stays beside him/her...

The body awardness is one of the first things to learn too and overanalysing as underanalyzing are bad!  The key is to learn the balance between thinking and letting things go. Takes a lifetime...

Good luck,


From Samuel Thompson
Posted on April 9, 2010 at 12:28 AM

What a great entry and a great lesson to have!    Thank YOU for sharing, and also for the reminder of how to "get into the flow"...

From Casey Jefferson
Posted on April 9, 2010 at 3:25 AM

It reminds me when I'm doing a recording for my friend, playing Canon in D. It's a pretty simple piece and yet I just can't seems to play in tune, and I keep thinking to myself to play in tune because I'm doing recording!

So I said to myself three times "there's no recoding". And voila! It works!

From Dimitri Adamou
Posted on April 9, 2010 at 7:19 AM

@Theordor - ah thank you :) Yeah, practicing it similar to how you play Guitar using Chords seems to help a dramatic amount

@Anne-Marie I know what you mean, this balance game can be hard and unfair at times hahaha, usually is either too much or too little. But I think I am getting the hang of it now :) Time to focus on the bow now :D (btw bet you never felt this issue strong since you can multiprocess as a female :P hahahaa, how've you been anyhow?) 

@Samuel - Ah thank you very much :) .. Yes, I think this will be a lesson I can never forget... I feel my entry will be something I can go over in the future if I ever need to recapture thte ideas again

@Casey - It is a bit funny like that isn't it??? I was playing along with some friends and I knew I was being recorded .. so I started to try show off and played way too fast out of tempo; it was horible lol never want to see that recording again... Maybe this time around I will stay calm :) [I am easily excitable!]

From Anne-Marie Proulx
Posted on April 9, 2010 at 12:10 PM

"@Anne-Marie I know what you mean, this balance game can be hard and unfair at times hahaha, usually is either too much or too little. But I think I am getting the hang of it now :) Time to focus on the bow now :D (btw bet you never felt this issue strong since you can multiprocess as a female :P hahahaa, how've you been anyhow?)"

I really don't think this multi process thing is that true!  (perhaps I'm wrong?) I just think it comes from the stereotypes of mothers who work at the same time...  I know men "at home" (working at home too) that do just find!   I actually did had the issue you refer alot since I'm way too "mental" and overanalysing things. Perhaps this came since I have a terrible body spatial coordination. (I can't do flips, or even throw a ball in straigh line, always bumping in everything and am supposly funny to see go down the stairs.)  But my teachers and I worked really hard on this and I seem to be able to overcome these in violin (but just in violin weirdly) I don't have a motion or flow awarness in any other areas.  (well, false I draw and paint well but these are fine motor skills. Not full body motor skill)  

I applied in OT, so I'll understand all this even better if they accept me haha ; )

And if ever I'm wrong and this multi-process thing is true, then, don't worry, you have other things to compensate!   (as more pads at the finger tips and bigger hand extension gap)

Have a nice day,




From Pauline Lerner
Posted on April 10, 2010 at 2:36 AM

Thanks so much for the fascinating blog.  I never would have "thought" of this approach myself.  I "think" hard about everything I do, and I rarely give myself permission to make mistakes.  I will try the approach you described on myself and my students.

BTW, I like what your teacher said about the superiority of women in the field of mult-tasking.  I'll tell my students about that.

From sharelle taylor
Posted on April 10, 2010 at 4:51 AM

 Good luck with your OT application, AnneMarie.

From Anne-Marie Proulx
Posted on April 10, 2010 at 2:48 PM

Thanks!  Maybe I'll be able to help musicians one day!   Would also love to explore AT as a complement if ever I'm accepted. I think OT and AT (from what I heard here) must complete themselves so well.  Still hope to be able to practice a little too though... ; )

Good luck in your things too!


From Dimitri Adamou
Posted on April 11, 2010 at 12:07 AM

@Anne-Marie All my female friends can do a gazillion things at the same time and I'm always struggling to keep up :( Hahaha. What is OT however? Though good luck to you! Wow it must be alot of work to study health (Assuming from your other post) I do not know how you cope ... You always sound like you have soo much work on your plate! Haha, guess this proves females can multitask :P

@Pauline Haha, thinking.. who needs it? XD Striving for that balance between analysing and just doing seems to need to be reached.


I have made some dramatic progress these few days, I could not stop doing it, I have been playing the Argpeggio non-stop now, what I find fascinating is; I could NEVER DO DIFFERENT KINDS OF BOWINGS, but all of a sudden I can split up the bowings in many different variations, also I instinctively pick up when I am out of tune now, then on the next run I just keep a single thought to fix up that particular note; it seems alot of brain resources have been freed up when I don't have to think about the next note (After practicing for awhile knowing what the next note will be)

This definatly has given me a very strong perspective!

From Anne-Marie Proulx
Posted on April 11, 2010 at 12:45 AM

Very happy for your arpeggios improvments!  I have also notice that progress is often none for a pretty long time and all of the sudden a "jump" and this is how it goes...  Sometimes too it's after you've left something who was not that good.. and take it back a while after when you've done other exercises to get better in the meantime.  

It's funny what you tell about multi-processing. I haven't notice this that much around me but if you tell it ; )  Actually, I don't like to be that busy and hate too much intellectualism for nothing. I am just lucky to be able to go to university and feel I have to???   OT seems to be a good compromise (very practical and useful).  This is a baccelar-master course that allows you to help people with physical and mental handicaps to adapt to their new condition and be the most auto-sufficient possible, illness (blinds, accidents, autism, cerebralparalysis, ACV, old folks, motion and coordination problems, etc )   You can help them by exercises, adapting special devices, evaluate driving abilities, imagery, beeing the dispacher to send them to all the good services they need, finding the posture issue that causes the pain and fix it, helping people to understand how their brain work to learn better etc.   It,s not easy to explain. Even on the net, I find many OT videos on youtube look like if it's a kindergarden. with no good description ; )  But readaptation is way more than this! 

Anyway, still many hills to climbs (isn't it like this for everybody afterall?) and nothing is sure yet. But I won't accept anything that will make me stop violin completely this is sure ; )

Tell us more about your lessons when you'll be able! 

Good luck,


From Federico Piantini
Posted on April 12, 2010 at 3:08 PM


That was my expression back then when practicing scales!!!!!

"I have to do them fast as well?"

"What are you talking about?"

I like this, I had a very similar experience back in 1982. Yes it is not worthy to practice slow if when we need to do the passages (scales or not) faster they just fall apart.

Great article, thank you for sharing it with all of us!


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