The fastest way to make progress playing the violin is to stop looking for shortcuts. That said, there is a difference between looking for shortcuts and looking toward a goal.
I've noticed that this topic has come up in several ways over the last few weeks on Violinist.com. Some are puzzled by Ryan Vaughn's ambition to learn Paganini 24 in one year. Is this possible? Is it healthy? Is it okay to encourage this?
Another V.com member wonders how fast one can rip through the violin repertoire? This seems to pose the question, if you are going to rip through, what is your motivation? Are you in it for the music?
And speaking of motivation, another member related that his teacher suggested jumping straight in and learning pieces instead of spending so much time on foundation-building. But what about that foundation-building?
There is nothing wrong with any of these impulses: having a big goal, finding the most efficient way to learn, making sure your focus is on the music and not just on scales.
Sometimes having a big goal -- a special piece to work toward -- is the very thing that illuminates the path towards achieving it. For example, if you want to play a certain piece, you'll need to figure out where to put your fingers on the violin. If you want to move those fingers quickly, you'll have to find the hand and arm position that allows you to do so. If you want to play with vibrato, you may need to stop clenching that left thumb. If you want to play martele in that passage, you'll have to learn to draw a straight bow, frog to tip. The list goes on and on.
But if you wish to achieve your goal, you will need to tackle each step with focus and patience. You'll need to seek good guidance along the way and trust your teacher. If your teacher tells you that this week, you need to focus on a special exercise to build flexibility in your bow fingers, you'd best do that all week, not spend all your practice time learning the next un-assigned 10 measures of the piece you want to play. Why? Because you will continue to slam into the brick wall of your technical problems, until you address them. Sure, you can try to solve them by playing the 8-measure passage in your goal-piece that requires that technique. But there is a reason why brilliant pedagogues composed hundreds of studies, methods, scalebooks and exercises that take the violinist through a progression of technique-building. The reason: it works.
Ryan is fortunate enough to have a brilliant teacher as his wife; his progress will be fun to watch, as she can guide him very efficiently to the right technical exercise to accomplish his goals. I think our friend who was wondering about "ripping through the rep" really just needed some encouragement. And when it comes to jumping in and learning a piece, if you have a good teacher to guide you, you can learn something.
But the best-of-the-best violinists all sing the same chorus, if you ask them the secret to their amazing playing: it's the fact that they built a solid technical foundation and they work every day to maintain it. They play their scales and arpeggios and exercises religiously, and that is what enables them to play everything else with ease and spontaneity. What better goal could there be, than that?Tweet
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