I always get discouraged when I pratice

December 22, 2007 at 06:57 AM · I have big goals for the violin. I plan on getting into the New York Philharmonic when i get older. However I only stared playing the violin a year ago and I'm also 15 years old who lives in a school district in Texas which the orchestra program is very competitive. I only have 3 1/2 more years until i have to play the some of the hardest music pieces ever created. I plan on getting into a great music school that could get me into a great professional Symphony. However, I always get discouraged when i pratice. I am always pressed for time no mater what. I've quit everything that i do outside school so I can focus on the violin. But then when practice time comes, I always get discouraged because I sound bad, not to add that in orchestra class im 6th chair 2nd violin in the Philharmonic (The lesser orchestra at my high school, Symphony is the highest) and my teacher dosen't believe that i can do anything because since I am in the lesser orchestra, everyone in the lesser orchestra is considered lazy, careless, etc. and I am not lazy or careless. The reason why Im in there is because of I have only been playing for a year and when she came to my old middle school for auditions for symphony I had only been playing for 3 months. She wanted us to play region music auditions (Super hard etudes!) which I was completely uncapbale of at that time. Anyways I only have 2 hours enough of pratice time and I usually end up falling asleep after the first hour because I don't get enough sleep everyday (5 hours) and the reason why I don't get enough sleep is because of family issues that never get solved. Then theres school homework. I can never get enough time to pratice and if I do, soemthing bad always happens. I feel the situation is hopeless. Is it still really hopeless? Do I even have a chance of becoming something great although I can only get 2 hours of pratice time in and I always feel stressed out and discouraged? And when Im not stressed out my family always gets in the way somehow. ive told them that I cant do everything in the fmaily and yet they continue to ignore me and my goals.

Replies (29)

December 21, 2007 at 09:24 PM · PS I am not looking for pity or encouragement. I am looking about how realistic my goals are even though my circumstances highly interfere with them.

December 22, 2007 at 07:28 AM · Well. I think that it is slightly possible that you get into a good conservatory. I do think your dreams of being in the New York Philharmonic are a bit extreme beign that you've been playing for 1.5 years(if i remeber correctly) althougth I think that it is highly possible that you could be in a smaller professional orchestra, or maybe you could be a teacher in the music school that you attend?

It's all a matter of how hard you try to reach your goals.

I mean heck if you try hard enought next year, maybe you could come live with me(don't worry I'm homosexual hah) and participate in the Juilliard Pre-College with me.

December 22, 2007 at 08:13 AM · You can let the music be what pulls you through the situation. It has that ability. Music was never meant to be a bunch of notes or the ability to play all of them with more authority than another person, music is healing.

December 22, 2007 at 09:50 AM · Well, you'll never live up on a rock cliff at fifteen--that's for sure. Just kidding.

But, you jumped into a pool, that feels deep and maybe cold at the same time discerning all your remarks. Life is surely a roller coaster sometimes?

So in the middle of that, consider stretching out your goals a little. One does not really learn patience at fifteen, but that's what I'm saying.

What if you waited until you were twenty-four or so to get into a good conservatory, because you have learned to be patient and relentless in your practice? Life and violin, can be confusing if you push too hard.

Maybe someone in your family, like a sister or your mother could be a sounding board for you as you face all the other things.

And learn to trust your instincts as you mature--that's for sure.

December 22, 2007 at 10:30 AM · Brooke,

Getting discouraged because you sound bad is a waste of time and energy. The negative self-talk ('I suck', 'I'll never have enough time to get what I want done') just convinces you that you do suck and you won't achieve what you want - even if you think you're being realistic by admitting it. (Speaking from experience here). If you really want to make a lot of progress fast, you're going to have to let that go, and yes, you're going to try to have to find a way to practice more (or at least more efficiently). Here are some things for you to try out:

For the discouragement/self-talk:

Write down every time you find yourself thinking negative thoughts. If they aren't expressed in words, make some kind of mark. This will help you realize just how often you have these thoughts. At the end of the day/week etc., destroy the paper - burn it, or tear it into lots of little pieces. Feels good!

Try to rephrase your criticism as constructive criticism - instead of saying 'that F# was out of tune', try thinking 'that F# needs to be a bit higher'. It's good to recognize your weaknesses, but if you see them as stumbling blocks, you'll have difficulty getting over them.

Along the same lines, try to establish some 'judgement-free-zones', where you play and notice what works and what doesn't, but where you refrain from judging it as 'good' or 'bad'. To fix an error, often all you have to do is recognize it. Branding it as 'bad' just sets you up for nerves and bad feelings afterwards (again, speaking from experience).

Regarding practice time:

Can you practice anywhere out of the house? Maybe for an hour in the orchestra room after school? Do you take lessons at a music school? This saved me when I was your age. I couldn't stand being at home because of my own family situation, and would go to the conservatory after school to practice - upped my hours a lot, and made me realize just how important violin was.

If you do manage to shed the negative talk, you may find you start to enjoy practicing a lot more right away. Something else that might help is learning how to break down big problems (INTONATION, MY BOW ARM SUCKS, I CAN'T PLAY FAST, etc.) into smaller, more manageable ones. Have a talk with your teacher about this, and feel free to send me a message if you want some ideas on how.

Good luck with everything!

December 22, 2007 at 11:46 AM · Megan, you've given very solid advice.... I would only add one other point beyond your very clear method of ridding one's practice and development of negative self-talk.

Sometimes, when you are practicing 'real' hard, you may feel tired; and, entice your way on through it with positive images... Don't always listen to these, and rather than being over relentless, take a break.

Along with positive reinforcement, comes perspective, where you are seeking a balance, in well, everything.

Learn to master that over the next few years--but still push yourself--your stamina will reach a level where you will know yourself once you start getting to that 'intense' period of Kretuzer and beyond.

Sometimes, when we are balancing negatives with positives, we become out of balance in another direction in development. This is fine of it's own and probably has made a few virtuosos in history.

When you start learning about some of the great's idiosyncrasies, you will understand better what I am talking about. So:

...do exactly as Megan suggests.

...when you get tired or messy--don't push..just rest.

...use your rest periods, to become loyal to yourself in your development and directions, by feeling that loyalty. (takes some practice)

...use some of your rests, to think about what you just learned, and relax with it.

Given the sort of mess you described, you'd have to use your 'you' time, to focus on other things as well. And use some of that time to as I wrote before, be patient with yourself.

December 22, 2007 at 01:47 PM · How about finding another teacher? It doesn't sound to me like the attitude of the one at your school is a very good fit. You need someone who believes in you and can take some time with you and doesn't label you or other students. I know professional private teachers can be expensive, but for now maybe you could find an advanced student at your school or at a local college or conservatory who could tutor you for a half hour a week who would be affordable.

December 22, 2007 at 02:10 PM · Buri often mentions the book by Burton Kaplan called "Practicing for Artistic Success." It's really excellent and worth every penny. There are threads on this book in the violinist.com archives - check them out. It has lots and lots of ideas about time management as it applies to music.

I will grant that I'm so busy with work, raising a child, and building a house that it's hard right now for me to possibly get bored.

But ever since picking up that book I have not yet found practicing discouraging. I do not have a teacher and have been using that book for 6 months.

December 22, 2007 at 02:25 PM · My viola teacher in college told me that sometimes you have to sound like s#!@* before you get better.

As simple as that sounds, it helped me a lot through college! heh.

Continuing with the great comments and advice...

check out The Art of Practicing the Violin by Robert Gerle

http://www.amazon.com/Art-Practicing-Violin-Useful-Players/dp/0852495064/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1198333609&sr=1-1

There's also things like the The Inner Game of Tennis, The Inner Game of Music...

http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=sr_kk_1?ie=UTF8&search-alias=stripbooks&field-keywords=inner%20game%20of%20music

I would say try and learn how to be efficient practicing. Take some time off to plan out a routine, plans of attacks, what you need to work on. Do some reflective exercises (journaling, blogging, or just jotting down notes of what you did and how you did and what you feel your next steps are after practicing).

I don't think your goals are impossible...but it will take a lot of dedication and creativity in how you attain them.

There's a Confucious quote I like a lot...

"When it is obvious that the goals cannot be reached, don't adjust the goals, adjust the action steps."

Try and see if you can get yourself to loosen up and not be so hard on your violin playing...and let that lead to other parts in your life...it seems like there's just a lot of stress, and it would be really beneficial for your health to find ways to overcome that.

I wish I learned earlier how to let things slide and help myself rather than tear myself down and apart on a frequent basis.

Good luck :) Human beings are resilient and almost anything is possible.

December 22, 2007 at 02:59 PM · I like Megan's advice. I almost always think that way, but I've been around a long time and been through "the wars". Learning to think that way has brought me peace.

The only thing that I might add is a note I have stuck to my wall:

"If your only goal is to be a violinist, you'll have a life of pain and frustration.

If your only goal is to learn the violin, you'll have loads of fun along the way."

Realize that a lot of things have to happen to play in the NY Phil, and that the odds are against it. The only way it has a chance to happen is if you put all the ambition and worry aside, and concentrate on learning the violin for its own sake. Learning the violin as a means to an end, rather than an end in itself is not a good strategy.

I LIKE playing scales. I like drills. I practice when I should be doing other things. I started way late, and the only way I will ever be a soloist is when I play alone, but I'm not bad, getting better, and enjoying every minute of it.

December 22, 2007 at 08:11 PM · "If your only goal is to be a violinist, you'll have a life of pain and frustration.

If your only goal is to learn the violin, you'll have loads of fun along the way."

I second that, and get a lot of comfort that many things, though I'll focus on as much theory and high tech. things as possible, is that I'll be playing with my own accompaniment a lot.

The point is that perfect counting and so on are important to the symphony bound, and I'm trying to do as well as I can, but I've just played in public too many years not to know how to make that extra beat or something sound like it was intended--that kind of thing.

December 22, 2007 at 09:11 PM · Megan, I am glad for the encouraging

feedback you have received;

when I was your age, having started the violin at 14, asking the same exact question as yourself, I received some negative remarks because of my "old age." But I learned to fight through those negative remarks and only allow myself to dictate what I would be able to accomplish. So, once you get pass what others think, you will find that your greatest enemy is your own mind which has a way of distorting self-preception quite resolutely. You will have to fight against the cloud in your mind and every word within it in order to reach the clearer part of intellect to decipher the truth of realistic success. In other words, you will have to realistically analyze what you can do, and then intelligently accept whatever you find out, however despairing or exciting it may be. So, as you should take every piece of advice to heart, your answer will solely come from you as to your future. Only your sweat, tears, and blood can answer your questions, not anyone else.

And that is all I will say for now!

December 23, 2007 at 04:39 AM · Brooke, what you really want out of life is probably broader than your stated goals, so maybe you can make your long-term goals more general.

If you do that you may realize that there are many paths to getting where you want to go. You might not get there as fast as you envision, and you may not get there the way others get there, but you can get there.

If you do that then maybe you can relax a bit and focus on how to solve the 'now' problems so that you can start making the kind of progress you want and need to make in order to make your dreams come true.

December 23, 2007 at 04:02 PM · If I may venture a suggestion? (By the way Brook, I lived not far from Willow Brook mall in Houston. I worked for H&H music on Old Katy Road, then the one in the Sharpstown Mall. I also worked for the Original Christmas Store")

I suggest make an appointment, if possible, with a school councilor/guidance councilor. You want to learn setting smaller acheivable goals towards a target/Large goal.

For now the only alternative is getting into private lessons (get into themstill, if you continue with your current orchestra class). An old saying goes, "Calm Seas do not make a sailor a skilled seaman." Life is tough and your's is no exception which you are well aware. Bare in mind that your current orchestra class 'is' teaching you that even though tough you are gaining the tools, strength to weather storms, patience towards discipline. Life does not care what our profession/passions are we still have to mow the grass, shovel the snow, meet with students we teach, shop for groceries, change the oil in the car, clean the crib/our home, eat, use the bathroom, do the laundry,etc and "STILL" practice upto four hours a day. So view today for what it is...training for your future buisy schedual as a musician. Continue practicing your violin outside of class for this is teaching you a needed good habit. Keep asking questions here on violinist.com.

Your goal for now is to graduate and either go to college or get a job that pays the bills as well as pay for a private teacher who will help you to grow towards being a performer. I/we do not know what your resources are either you can go straigt into college as a Music Major or have to work part time and go to a JR College. If all you can do is work a job to make a living and private lessons then accept it. It's a small goal achieved and you will be in a better position than were you are now. If a music major in "Some" college even if it's not julliard, it's better than nothing and you've stepped up another rung on the ladder towards your big goal.

If H&H Music is still around they will have plenty of teachers/coaches and I can say for a fact that if you request to speak with one of them regarding where you are and where you want to go they will be a tremendous help especially since you can talk about more elements in your life that you cannot convey in a simple paragraph here. And there are those here willing to help, many experienced teachers.

Best Wishes,

Royce

December 23, 2007 at 10:03 PM · I'm just wondering, why the NY Phil (and Juilliard) specifically? Have you ever been to New York? Or is it just "a good orchestra you've heard of"? I'm asking this in part because when I was your age they were one of the few professional orchestras I had heard of, even though I had never been to New York in my life. Later I did live in New York, for one year, and while I enjoyed that year I'm also glad I didn't settle there. New York isn't for everyone. They have good marketing, though.

Anyway, I would like to suggest subscribing to something like Strings magazine (only $10) or Teen Strings and just read for a few months about all the other fine orchestras and programs and opportunities that are out there for you to explore. Being "realistic" about your goals doesn't necessarily mean being negative, scaling "back", or giving up on a dream.

December 23, 2007 at 11:00 PM · Jasmine, you meant to address Brooke (the OP) in your post, not me, didn't you?

December 23, 2007 at 10:59 PM · "Being "realistic" about your goals doesn't necessarily mean being negative, scaling "back", or giving up on a dream."

That is so true Karen! For example, I knew that I would not be able to play in the Los Angeles Philharmonic by 18 like I originally planned. However, I have not given up on mastering the violin. I am focusing on honing my skills so that when I do get good enough I will accept wherever those skills will take me. I have not forsaken my ultimate dream (mastering the violin), even though the road on which I choose to travel to get there always changes and bends according to what my situation is.

December 24, 2007 at 02:39 AM · Wow, and the great advice continues :)

I really like what Royce said. One of my college professors who is an amazing violist held a lecture type event where he talked about practice routines. You don't have to go to Julliard to be successful.

What is important MOST OF ALL is consistent practice. An hour a day every day is better than 5 hours a day every three days.

Of course having a decent teacher is good too...but consistency is the most important over quantity.

December 24, 2007 at 02:43 AM · Yes, Megan. Thanks for the heads-up! I can not go back and change it. Sorry, Brooke. You were probably shaking your head in hopeless confusion!

December 24, 2007 at 01:44 PM · Thank you Jessie! :) And what Jessie wrote is so, so true. When I was in High School I was going to be a musician for the band RUSH playing violin! And Marry Joan Collins! Ha! Didn't happen. And all my grandparents could pay for was the Jr. College, "Del Mar in Corpus Christi". Well, I still get a thrill over the musicians I had the privilege to meet..There in Corpus! And preform before and with! I love music period, it's as much a part of me as my nose! I'm not at Carnagie Hall yet, but I do bring joy to children of my friends and you know, I think that... I'll treasure the most, more than Carnagie. I'm 42... and I'm not dead yet! So Carnagie, here I come... maybe not, but you know "maybe". And if I don't I learned the thrill of just chasing a dream! I chased a dream and my last words other than to my heavenly father I'll say...What a RUSH! Let's do it again!

December 24, 2007 at 03:28 PM · I will second - and third, and fourth - those who suggest that it is not the destination, but the journey that counts big in life. Goals are wonderful things to have, but sometimes they can weigh so heavy on our hearts and minds that the poor innocent daily practice time (which should always have some element of fun in it once you've gotten into the groove, and if it doesn't, change what it is you're practicing) buckles under the stress. Try this: every time that clenched feeling of "I HAVE to make it big" comes over, repeat in your mind "It's all about making music." Because that IS what it's all about. Musicians, and all other artists don't get paid enough to be working on their craft for any other reason. It's all about the art, and how it can nourish both you and those who listen.

Good luck to you! Most important thing is to find a way to have FUN with your work - today. The rest will all fall into place in due time.

December 25, 2007 at 05:46 PM · Megan Chapelas wrote: "Try to rephrase your criticism as constructive criticism - instead of saying 'that F# was out of tune', try thinking 'that F# needs to be a bit higher'."

Brava Megan!!

You understand, and have explained it clearly so that others may understand, that the brain needs to focus on the sound of a beautiful F# in order to produce one, and that negative statements are lapses from correct concentration, which serve only to prevent the beautiful note from being played!

If only all music teachers, in talking to their students, and all music students in their self-talk, would do what you say; If only they would take it upon themselves as a very serious responsibility to behave this way consistently, there would be many more beautiful performances and many more happy musicians and happy audiences in this world.

December 26, 2007 at 02:21 AM · I think your goals are awesome. If I were you (since you are already in high school and are still just beginning your study), I would apply to a liberal arts college as a music major, and study/practice your butt off for the rest of high school/college.

That way, you can really work on your musicianship and your playing and give yourself time to really find yourself as a player and as a musician in general. You may realize you really want to teach, or just perform, or compose or all of the above...its hard to know for sure, when you are still in high school and haven't been exposed to or trained in all aspects of music making. I mention this because I had been playing violin since I was very young, and I didn't completely figure out what I wanted to do as a musician until halfway through college (I was a music major at a liberal arts college in the NYC area). I knew I loved music and playing, but that was really all I knew for sure.

I realized that I actually love teaching, so I got my masters in music ed. You might not love teaching, and might want to go on and get a masters in performance or something completely different- who knows!

I am not trying to discourage your goals. I think goals that are set high are wonderful. I am suggesting that you give yourself a little more time. Getting into a top conservatory is very difficult- even for someone who has been playing since elementary school.

There are plenty of schools in and around NYC that could be a good fit for someone like you, if nyc is where you see yourself...

I really admire your ambition! :)

December 26, 2007 at 02:33 AM · Crudely simple advice: scales and etudes. Truckloads of them.

(off to go practice what I preach now...God, I'm such a bloody hypocrite...) ;-)

December 26, 2007 at 02:36 AM · ya....that too :)

December 26, 2007 at 04:54 AM · I second Mara but add one thing: keep checking the open strings and use double stops to make sure you are playing in tune. Playing scale and etudes without much care (many of us do or did) will do you more harm than good, as eventually the body will remember the wrong things and it'll take twice as much to correct what we've learned incorrectly.

“I feel the situation is hopeless. ... I can only get 2 hours of pratice time in and I always feel stressed out and discouraged? And when Im not stressed out my family always gets in the way somehow...”

Brooke, it seems to me that the real issue may not be practice or whether you’ll be successful as a violinist regardless of your dream or the years of your training. Something else big is going on and I’m not sure if we can help without knowing you and your situation more. One thing I can tell you is that, violin playing is very personal in that if other aspect of life is not going right, it’ll affect your practice and to make you feel as though it was about not being able to play well. It's tough, but you may want to examine other aspects of your life and talk it over with your parents or someone knows you well that can offer help.

December 27, 2007 at 03:38 AM · mmm, Etudes and Scales...I like to have those every day like I love oatmeal for breakfast (I joke with some students that those are like your Wheaties!)

A couple great teachers I know said that a top-notch violinist will have played not just a dozen etudes, but HUNDREDS of them...and not just a few from each book, but go through the books, like Kreutzer, and sometimes go through them a second time.

And Jennifer Delaney is right...if you go to a liberal arts school, that has a decent violin teacher for you, that can be just as great. Just buckle down from day one getting your consistent practice.

If you're looking for NY in general, there are TONS of schools...SUNY Stonybrook, SUNY Purchase, CUNY Aaron Copland School of Music (Queens College), Julliard, NYU, Columbia, Mannes, Manhattan School of Music...not to mention tons I don't know that well.

If you'd look outside of NYC a bit, there are some other decent ones you might consider in NY.

SUNY Potsdam, SUNY Fredonia, check around the Albany area, SUNY Binghamton, Syracuse University, Eastman, Ithaca College...I've even heard good things about SUNY Geneseo.

It might be a good idea to go to a smaller school, like Potsdam (where I went)...practice your butt off...save lots of money from not paying private tuition...and then aim for some place like Julliard for post-graduate work if after four years you decide that's what you want.

December 27, 2007 at 08:56 AM · I started very, very, very late at studying the violin and my goal is to play for fun in ensemble and perhaps one of the budding adult amateur orchestras. You are venturing into a field that is extremely competitive at the elite level and you must be very careful how you measure your success or you will drive yourself crazy. In addition to everything mentioned in this discussion thread, another valuable asset to a musician is a thick skin: As an older novice, I get no encouragement from the world around me to continue studying the violin, in fact, I mostly get questioned about my priorities. So, when that weighs heavily on me, I play along with SmartMusic or one of the Music Minus One compilations, using every little bit of newbie skill I have to play along with the professionals (albeit, digitized, but I do occasionally hire live musicians for sessions and what a treat that is!) and that reminds me of why I started in the first place - I love to play music. Dear child, study hard, dream big and heed the advice of the wonderful folks who contribute to this forum.

December 30, 2007 at 05:20 PM · Is there some place you can go to practise undisturbed by your family issues? If you talk to your teacher about that maybe she can help arrange something,besides it would show her you are serious about your violin playing.

About the "monsters in your head" telling you you are bad. Like the others tell you,stop beating on yourself for making mistakes,just focus your energy on how to do right.You have a lot of things to handle and you cannot afford wasting your energy on self-hate.

Try sometimes practising reeeally slowly,so slowly you can do it perfectly before you speed up.

And about your family issues,whatever they may be:you are a teenager and your first priority is studying and preparing for your own future,so try not to get sucked into the problems of others.

If there is some way to catch up on that lost sleep, do. If you don´t sleep enough you get too tired to learn properly, and it can also make a person depressed and paranoid.

all luck to you

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