March 2015

The Wall

March 25, 2015 15:18

I read a blog earlier today posted by an individual who began taking violin lessons as an adult and succeeded to the point of being able to become a violin teacher. As I continue to struggle through the end of Suzuki book four I can’t help but wonder how that person did it. In the beginning, learning the violin was really easy for me. I learned my way through the first three books in an average of about six months per book. However, I have been stuck in book four for roughly 16 months. Have I hit the wall? Is this as far as I can get?

I ask these questions because it seems as if every tiny improvement has taken weeks to accomplish rather than hours. Going from learning two new pieces each week to spending 9 months and counting on a single piece has been more than a little bit bruising to the ego. Lately, I feel as if I spend more time perpetuating old bad habits than establishing new good ones. Granted, not much progress can be expected at this level on only 10 hours of practice time a week, but something should improve, right? How is it, with all the great practice techniques my teacher has given me, that it seems like I am going backwards?

Someone suggested that to feel better about my progress, I should go back to some earlier pieces so I could compare how far I have come since the beginning. Because my oldest son took up viola last month, I decided to play through Suzuki book 1 for him. What shocked me was not how easy the pieces seemed, but that every bad habit that I worked so hard to get rid of reemerged when playing them. Even though I have seemingly conquered things like raising my left shoulder, gripping the neck with my thumb, stiff bowing wrist, and twisted posture, every single one of those errors came right back when I played through the book.

You’d think that subsequently fixing those issues would stick around when revisiting old works. The fact that it did not makes me feel as if I will be unable to ever achieve my goals. It’s frustrating. It has been said by various individuals that hitting the wall means that a breakthrough is imminent. I’d like to believe that, but I’m losing the faith. My brain knows that I have to become more efficient at practice and skill building to get where I want to be; but my heart is tired and dejected. And frankly, there are so many things going wrong at once that I don’t know where to start fixing them.

The thing is that I still love what I am doing. The problem is that I can’t share it with anyone because I am too embarrassed at my lack of skill. It’s hard enough to be terrible at this without being compared to children with talent, skill, and gobs of time to practice. Sure, tiny Susie can play the Bruch from memory with virtuosity; but can she run a household, raise a family, do community service, and perform advanced financial calculations during a conference call while texting with a third party to get a better rate for a client? I think not. However, our shared audience doesn’t take the added adult-related stress into consideration when judging whether or not we are good violinists. Tiny Susie is a good violinist. I am, and feel as if I always will be, a terrible one.

Is it possible to be unable to make music? The prevailing thing I hear is that everyone is capable of it. I would like to believe that. Perhaps that’s what keeps me going - not skill, not talent, but hope.

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