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Claire Allen

Impatience Is Only Resistance

September 29, 2013 at 2:39 PM

I stumbled across the following quote while scrolling through my Facebook news feed and I think it fits the process of learning a musical instrument perfectly.

"Impatience is only resistance to learning. It means we want the goal without going through the process. We need to let ourselves learn, step by step. It will get easier as we go along."
- Louise Hay

(Side note: Louise Hay is a wonderful author and an incredibly inspirational person whose works have had - and are still having - a great impact on my life. I highly recommend her!)

Let's read that quote again. Read it slowly to yourself. Read it out loud. See if anything speaks to you in particular or jumps out.

"Impatience is only resistance to learning. It means we want the goal without going through the process. We need to let ourselves learn, step by step. It will get easier as we go along."

Often, as violinists and as people, we want to rush to the end result. We have an image in our imagination of us standing in front of an orchestra playing our favorite concerto, or sitting in the concertmaster seat of a professional orchestra. And that image doesn't fit with our reality, which is that our teacher has asked us to play a G Major scale three times a day, with a tall violin and a curved bow thumb. Right? We want to play the Tchaikovsky (or Mendelssohn, or Brahms, or Sibelius, or Beethoven...or all of them) concerto, but we don't want to put in three or four hours of practice every day for ten years. We want the goal, but we have neglected to factor in the process that will lead us to our goal.

When we are impatient, and we think more about getting to the next step or to our ultimate goal rather than focusing on what we are accomplishing in the present moment, we actually hinder our own learning. Someone who talks about how much they want to get to the next piece in the Suzuki book but who has neglected to learn the correct bowings or to memorize the final piece in the book they're in is actually making it harder for themselves! Someone who persists in playing through the next piece in the book without fixing their bowhold is only teaching themselves bad bow habits. We might get depressed because we're not "there" yet, wherever "there" is. We might spend time talking about how much we want to be a violin soloist - and spend more time talking and thinking about it than actually practicing!

The truth is that the path to any one of those major concertos, or to being a successful soloist, or concertmaster, or to being a fulfilled and happy amateur musician, or to doing anything that involves playing the violin starts with that first violin lesson, and learning to name the parts of the instrument. It starts with learning how to hold the violin, and practicing that over and over, every day, until it is natural and balanced and free.

The fastest way to get to where you want to go is to live fully in each moment of your practice sessions. Be aware of those little (or big) adjustments your teacher is making in your playing. My students always have exercises to help develop some skill or another. Practice your exercises consciously and consistently. Talk to your teacher about your goals and ask them to work with you to create a plan to reach them. And then live fully in each step of that plan, mastering the violin one small step at a time.

"Impatience is only resistance to learning. It means we want the goal without going through the process. We need to let ourselves learn, step by step. It will get easier as we go along."

Originally posted on my website,

From Randy Walton
Posted on September 29, 2013 at 5:34 PM
I think that sometimes I resist learning patience! :)
From Anne-Marie Proulx
Posted on September 29, 2013 at 7:30 PM
Interesting but Hum? Not sure... Sometimes we are impatient because we really love something (a musical peice...) and look forward to playing it well because playing well is fun! We know that it's going to happen overnight but we can't wait for that day and that's what keep us going... We are naturally program to love everything that is fun.

If we would run Halloween (as kids) and not have the candies at the end, we wouldn't like it as much...

The other day, I climbed a challenging mountain and when I arrived on top, the top was only big ennough for like 3 families and we were crowarded as in a subway at rush hour because we were many hickers there... Not even ennough place to sit down and eat lunch. Must I say that it was slightly turn off and that I felt it didn't quite worth the tought run... because I like to sit, relax and eat lunch in front of a nice view when I arrive on a mountain top... Anyway, I still was happy but it was not as nice as I would have thought (to put it this way).

The "enjoy the journey" stuff is necessary as a life skill to learn (because life cannot always be easy) and it's important to use humour or any means to make the journey better but, I beleive it is not totally natural (it is socially learned) and therefore, deep inside. we still do it to arrive to something (as kids...) Well, just my opinion. I respect other's too of course!

All I can say is that Perlman hated to practice and this didn't prevent him from playing very very well (as an example.) Didn't mean he was lazy either... :) But, sure, at some point he surely enjoyed the journey (at least a little)or he would have quit...

But I like to see many ways to view a situation or behaviour. It's interesting to see how different people interpret the same thing in different ways... and that is what makes us grow!

From Claire Allen
Posted on September 29, 2013 at 8:22 PM
I'm not at all opposed to having goals or looking forward to being able to play pieces you love!

My point is that this is an issue with students who really obsess with the "next" thing. They play through pieces very quickly and sloppily because they are anxious to get to the next piece, but they don't pay attention to the details of the current piece. I've seen this a lot in students over the years, particularly with students in the Suzuki books. They always want to get to the next piece in the book, so instead of working to develop their bow technique or focus on the goals of the current piece, they skip ahead.

This also happens with parents who want to know when their child will get to the next Suzuki book when they still have pieces left in the current one. It's great to have goals and things to look forward to, but there are some people who become so frantic with moving ahead that they don't learn what they need to in the moment.

From Laurie Niles
Posted on September 29, 2013 at 9:03 PM
Many of the most "impatient" students are the most talented and driven, it's true! Yet I do agree with Claire: they are still resisting learning, or I might say it another way, they are resisting the work part of learning!
From Anne-Marie Proulx
Posted on September 30, 2013 at 5:11 PM
Claire and Laurie, what you say makes total sense for a lot of younger students (that I see around me)...

Usually, (if I'm not mistaken), I think motivated adults want to sound well, pay attention to detail and know that just going through a peice doesn't mean that it's well played. They know it will take some work and efforts...

I did my first adult recital last spring and I was striked with how "professional and mature acting" the other adult amateur musicians were. Very serious about their performance, so calm and self managed (nerves...) They obviously seemed to take a big joy in playing music well (or at least the best they could) and share it with the public. Some played as well as professionals. I didn't feel the show off aspect as much as with kids concerts.

Could it have a link with maturity? Perhaps they learned to be patient to acheive such good results...

There has to be something good of becoming older or beeing an adult student :)

At first I was slightly shocked that beeing impatient was linked with resistance when it can be for other reasons such as the love of music or a certain peice. But, now, I understand to which situation you were refering!

From Laurie Niles
Posted on October 1, 2013 at 6:18 AM
I would say it is just as true with adults as it is with children, and maybe more so! Children are used to having to learn things; adults are used to knowing how to do things. Very often, it is the adults who don't trust the process and want the shortcut!
From Claire Allen
Posted on October 1, 2013 at 9:03 PM
I completely agree, Laurie! With adult students you don't have the tactic of "Well, when you're older, you can play that" that you can use with little kids who look up to the older students in the studio.
From Anne-Marie Proulx
Posted on October 1, 2013 at 10:29 PM
Maybe the adults I saw are the exception then (i.e. the serious ones who dare to enter the recital...) :)

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