October 2015

It's Not You. It's Me.

October 16, 2015 18:43

I have been increasingly frustrated about my playing lately. My left hand has fallen into some bad habits, vibrato is only a sometimes thing (like my memorization skills), and my bow hold and bow arm are desperately behind the rest of my playing.

With all of these things going wrong, it gets hard to actually play anything because I know that I look awful when I do. I know this because people are constantly trying to correct my form. I'm sure it's with the best of intentions, but it still bothers me. Trying to concentrate on learning a piece, fixing my bow hold, and everything else seems next to impossible. After this much time, I should have fixed these issues by now, right? Right? Bueller?

My teacher continues to patiently repeat his corrections, but I feel I must be a huge disappointment to him. After all, I'm pretty disappointed in myself. I've missed every goal that has been set for me this year, and I feel my anger with my inability to improve grow with each practice session.

I read Laurie's blog Student, Have Patience With Yourself and vowed to follow that instruction, but I can't seem to. As a result, I'm less and less inclined to practice. Why bother, if it doesn't get me anywhere? This, of course, is a self-fulfilling prophecy.

After tonight's lesson my son pointed out that I was combative at the beginning. "Why do you keep saying you can't and refusing to follow directions?" he asked. "If I had done that, you would be lecturing me right now instead of the other way around. You owe our teacher an apology."

Of course, I had to admit he was right. When I got home, I sent the teacher an email apologizing for my behavior. It's tough when your teenager points out how childish you can be.

I need to learn to be patient with the process and not try to fix everything at one time. I also need to be grateful for even tiny improvements and trust that they will add up to something good eventually.

6 replies

The T-rex and the Viola

October 5, 2015 12:12

My eldest son began learning the viola in February of this year. Now, having spent the last three point five years as a Suzuki student myself I figured I was up to the challenge. No problem, right? Wrong.

First off, I’m a violinist. Sure I can play the pieces in SB1, but I don’t read alto clef. So every practice session starts off with me asking what note the piece starts on. It necessitates that I play it in the viola key-which is often not the one I learned it in. Furthermore, I’m not really going through Suzuki the same way a kid does, even though we have the same teacher. As a result, I never memorized anything until the Vivaldi (except Two Grenadiers – which is another story) so half the time I’m trying to play it from the violin book while transposing it in my head. And lastly, not having a C string is a barrier.

More and more I’m feeling, maybe not a true need, but a desire to do viola things with a viola. It would just make everything easier. With that thought in my mind, my son and I trotted down to our local string shop and blithely asked to try some violas. Knowing that I play on a fractional violin, they first let me try a 15 inch viola. I can play it, but it’s a struggle and my arm is nearly straight. After a bit of measuring, they felt I should probably play 13 inch, but if I was careful with tension, a 14 inch would work.

Once again my stupid T-rex arms prevent me from playing a size that sounds real. They had no rental 14 inch instruments in stock because of the recent flurry of rentals by returning students; and the for-sale beginner instrument was not one I liked the sound of. The owner offered to contact their distributor to see if he had anything suitable in an intermediate range. I will try what shows up and see how I feel about it. If it’s just a violin strung up as a viola, I could just do that with one of my spares. That cheap campfire fiddle would do if I moved all the strings down one and added a C string.

Part of me thinks I am being silly wanting a real viola. Plenty of people do the violin-strung-as-a-viola thing. But I think that it’s bad enough to have to play a tiny instrument without having to compromise on whether I can have one at all. And why aren’t there any 14 inch viola cases? Do I really have to have the boring, black, kiddie rental case? Also, if it’s the same size as a full size violin, why do I have to buy a viola bow? Won’t my violin bow work? It’s enough to make a person crazy. This should be easier.

We ended up leaving with a pricey new permanbuco bow for the boy, and nothing for me. Part of me wishes I had bought the bow for myself, but he simply can’t keep using that cheapo Glasser thing that came with his rental. If I have to buy a viola bow, it won’t be nearly as nice as his, and definitely not anywhere near my violin bow. But hey, viola is his thing. It’s hard to get teenagers interested in anything academic. If he’s into it, then I’ll support that, even if it means I have to swim in the kiddie pool.

5 replies

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