June 8, 2007 at 8:59 AM"Could you play that again, and this time just a little slower?"
They pause, find the place in the music, and begin again. I’ve said this enough times to enough students that by now it shouldn’t surprise me, what happens next.
They play again, at exactly the same speed, more relaxed, with less mistakes.
Yixi, it sounds like your teacher was setting you up to be stressed out, which is too bad. I could never play well for a teacher who yells.
This reminds me another issue: how much a student can take from an instruction, how much the effect immediately shows and how long the effect will last?
Tempo and shift are two examples. Students have bad habits in these area aren’t going to respond the same way as the students who start with a clean slate. I had teachers frequently dealt with my bad habit as though I forgot their instructions or that something I just don’t know how to do right. So they get visually upset when the same problems were recurring. For me as a student, the hardest part is not knowing the right way of doing something or how to do something right, but it is to be able to quickly replace wrong habits with the right ones while dealing with 100 other issues. Simply assuming that the student is forgetful rather than designing a special program to deal with bad habits is quite unproductive.
What do my teacher-V.commies think?
As far as breaking old habits goes, I have taught long enough to realise that undoing an old habit may require several weeks of focusing on only that one habit. Say, you want to correct something in your shifting technique. Then you would spend as long as it takes just shifting. Any time you try to do other things at the same time, you risk falling back into that old habit, which will undo all that you've already accomplished. You have to practice your new habit until you've forgotten what your old habit felt like. This takes a long time, and most violinists either don't want to spend months in isolation like that, or their schedule won't allow it (i.e. upcoming competitions, concerts, etc.).
The funny thing is, when you are fixing the habit, you may actually practice less in order to improve. For instance, last summer when I focused on shifting, I only practiced 30 minutes a day. The entire 30 minutes, I concentrated on shifting exercises. At the end of the summer, I noticed a huge difference.
What you said about breaking bad habits really helps me to regroup. I’m working on shifting these days. My major problem is not that I don’t know the correct ways of different shifting; I learned that a long time ago when I was a kid, but over the years I got into the habit of shifting by ear rather than by plan. That is, if my finger hit the right note, I didn’t care how it jumped there nor the relationship between it and other fingers. Now I’m putting “sh” everywhere on the music to emphasis all the shifts and to remind myself of planning. It really calms me down a great deal to learn that you had spent the whole summer just working on shifting.
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