Don't make me play it again!

November 18, 2008 at 01:42 AM ·

Know what I mean? Have you ever felt so disgusted with the amount of time you put into a piece, only to reach a point where you never want to play it again?

How do you deal with that? I've reached a point of "BLAH" about the stuff I've learned.

I just want to get playing the good stuff that I want to learn, but I can't yet - so I over-practise until I get sick of my pieces of music.

Obviously, someday I will get to play the beautiful stuff that I want to...but it seems so far away....

Replies (28)

November 18, 2008 at 01:48 AM ·

Greetings,

I sympathize.

But,   the beauty is in you not the notes on the page.   If you are not creating beauty with imacculate intonation,  a beautiful singing sound and phrasing that emulates your singing then something is not quite right. Thinking that playing `beautiful` or more `real` music will change things may be a red herring.

Cheers,

Buri

November 18, 2008 at 03:45 AM ·

 Hi Julianna,

I am puzzled why you cannot move on.

Often we grow further and faster as we move ahead and later review an old piece like meeting an old friend. Then we realize how far we have come.

To remain on the same repertoire for an eternity is deadly unless there is a specific and focused task to accomplish. Accomplish it and push on!

Keep your passion to progress.

Drew

November 18, 2008 at 04:13 AM ·

"How do you deal with that?"

Very simple, really. Don't bang your had against a wall. Move on.

When I feel I have had enough, I move on to something new, and at some point later I will come back to pieces I played months earlier, at which point I have meanwhile developed more skill which then helps me to play the earlier pieces much better than before, which makes them enjoyable again and allows me to see them in a new light. I find this to be a great motivator all by itself.

November 18, 2008 at 01:30 PM ·

I know this feeling - you're burnt out.  I'm no fan of suzuki and it must be awful to be stuck in suzuki longer than necessary.  I'm assuming it's your teacher that won't let you move on.  Hopefully you can talk to him/her and ask them if you can play a different piece just for a while and then come back to suzuki later. 

November 18, 2008 at 01:30 PM ·

This is what worked with my daughter. She would practice a piece until it was ready to memorize (correct bow and fingers) then she would get a new piece. So while she was memorizing one piece, she would start something new. That really worked for her. Something new with something older.. it kept it fresh.

November 18, 2008 at 02:36 PM ·

Hi, I don't know your age, how strictly you are following a Suzuki regimen, or your advancement. I use the Suzuki books as core literature with my private students, having spent many years running a Suzuki-based program in a public school. The needs of American kids, with the availability of so many community & school orchestras,  music camps, etc., are quite different than those of Japanese ones, so I always supplement and modify. I don't require complete memorization of every piece by every kid, for instance. I understand the reasoning behind this Suzuki component, but also recognize that there is a certain amount of innate "talent" for memorizing in some and not in others, and that it is important to take this into account. I believe it is very important to expand to other styles & centuries of western music than represented, plus folk/ethnic musics where I have enough input to teach. Dr.Suzuki was a child of his times, and the pieces follow what European string teaching & playing were like in the early 1900's. If you are dedicated to sticking with the Suzuki regimen, you should be aware that the middle books are all about the same level of advancement,  unlike Book 1, 2 & 3 which have a more-noticeable slow, sequential rise. So if you're sick of Book 4, say, have done as much as you can, get a Book  5 or 6. I'd say get a Book 6 first, since there are more composers represented, and skip Book 5, with ANOTHER big ol' Baroque concerto. Or move on! A month of playing scales, arpeggios, shifting exercises, harmonics and vibrato notes could be a welcome change that improves how everything you know sounds. Sue

November 18, 2008 at 03:06 PM ·

there are already great suggestions or concerns from good teachers above.  my question, really to myself, is:  what is your own assessment of your strengths and weaknesses?  and if you have a teacher, what is the teacher's summary on that? 

being able to go through suzuki books is not descriptive enough because it does not reveal how well you can incorporate good techniques into simpler pieces.

with the help of a good teacher, may be the process will be less tedious, but the truth is, the process of acquiring, maintaining and owning basic fundamentals is very tedious to start with.

wish i can be more supportive and encouraging when someone is down with frustration over things.  but i think in the long term, until we calmly, clearly and honestly  go over the tiny details of  "things",  we waste more time agonzing over the lack of progress.

November 18, 2008 at 05:19 PM ·

I happen to love classical music, so the Suzuki material doesn't bother me at all. But for variety's sake, I have a few music books with piano accompaniment CD's, that are just for me to have fun with. One of my books has Christmas tunes, and another has simplified arrangements of popular rock & roll songs. There are books like these available for all playing levels. Since the supplemental music books are "just for fun", playing them doesn't seem like work but they are still an aid in developing my sight-reading skills.

November 18, 2008 at 05:41 PM ·

Julianna,

Does your Suzuki lesson require you to practice EVERY suzuki peace? I remember those days. My daughter was 4 and she was required to practice 38 songs.... um yeah flipping insane. I put my foot down and made her practice blocks of 3 or 4 songs, maybe twice a day. It has been a long time.... believe me I was a suzuki rebel :)  Of course, every teacher is different.

If your teacher is making you practice EVERY song in the literature, I would suggest to you that you NOT do every single piece but practice some songs at a time.

I don't know how old you are, but you may want to ask for other method books and supplement solo work with suzuki.

Just some more suggestions... best of luck to you.

Jodi

November 19, 2008 at 04:30 AM ·

Hi guys :) thanks for the responses :)

Well I'm on number 6 - I'm in my twenties and I'd really love to do nothing more than play music all day long, but the reality is that because i am such a perfectionist (and i haven't been playing music very long) I am actually getting obsessed over these suzuki pieces to the point where I spend hours and hours trying to make it sound as beautiful as I would like it to sound. I really want to play them all, but what i want is to be able to play them - and then move on and get the heck outta there *sigh* so its frustrating at times.

i guess i'm still waiting for that light at the end of the tunnel lol

November 19, 2008 at 04:32 AM ·

....not to mention the fact that i really don't want to wreak these pieces of music for future enjoyment either...

...but you know when you've heard it10,000 times, played 10,000 times, and then even heard it in you sleep at night.. LOL...you just get a *tad* sick of having anything to do with them

November 19, 2008 at 04:33 AM ·

Jodi....

 

38 SONGS????!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

November 19, 2008 at 05:06 AM ·

Greetings,

clearly you are a smart and dedicated violinist. (actually that is always true of v.commies),  but it seems like you have a bad case of `newbies disease.`   That is you get caught in this ever tightening circle of frustration and nothing seems to be getting where you wnat to be.  Soooooo,   relax and take a deep breath.   Now spend some time reflecting on the following if you wish.

1)  The purpose of practice is to work on that which is ugly or we cannot do.  Many players work on what they can do because it is easier.

2)  The master violinist Nathan Milstein often told people that it is a waste of time repeating things without changing anything.

3)  Liszt once said `Think ten times.  Play once.`

4)   Unles s your practice identifies the specific kind of problem it is not practice. The problem may be tone,  rythm,  expression or intonation.   Do you know which one you are working on when you keep playing stuf fthrough?

5)  Even if you decide that the problem is intonation do you know exactly which not is out,  is it sharp or flat,   how sharp or flat is it?    Knowing exactly the location of the problem is central to the art of practicing.  If you are not precise about this from the beignning you may,  like many,  actually achieve a hgh level of istrumental competence whiile persisting with very wasteful practice.

6)   Practice does not serve the fucntin of making you better or worse so much as -enshrining- precisly what you are doing FOR BETTER OR WORSE.

How doe sany of this affect you,  if at all?

Curious,

Buri

November 19, 2008 at 05:19 AM ·

 Buri, these are amazing comments. 

 

1)  The purpose of practice is to work on that which is ugly or we cannot do.  Many players work on what they can do because it is easier.

 

I do this ALOT.  I always (I know it's bad bad bad) begin a piece from the beginning.  I love playing the easy part because it's easy and it sounds good!

2)  The master violinist Nathan Milstein often told people that it is a waste of time repeating things without changing anything.

3)  Liszt once said `Think ten times.  Play once.`

GREAT advise!!

4)   Unles s your practice identifies the specific kind of problem it is not practice. The problem may be tone,  rythm,  expression or intonation.   Do you know which one you are working on when you keep playing stuf fthrough?

 

I can't even tell you how much time i waste by blindly repeated what i did wrong!

November 19, 2008 at 05:31 AM ·

Greetings,

we all do! Don`t sweat it. But it`s from here the frustration begins to set in.  Violin playing is a journey not a finished edifice.

Cheers,

Buri

November 19, 2008 at 12:04 PM ·

if you love to play music, like you said all day long... then do that. Nobody said it had to be a suzuki song.

Also, choose one day a week and play whatever YOU want to play; maybe another etude book, grab some show tunes or church music... whatever YOU want. Start playing by ear, songs from the radio... really it doesn't matter you are treating yourself.

I have to do this with my daughter. It is called practice whatever you want for how long you want. This gives the brain a break and allows you to be calm for the next practice.

November 20, 2008 at 02:14 AM ·

Buri, you have very insightful knowledge !

I definitely would say that a lot of the time I practise the stuff I know... sometimes I stop practising and then i realise that i accomplished nothing new that day except for repeating what i played yesterday., mistakes and all. i have thought that by going through the music it will get better on its own - but now i think i will think much more about smart practising.

i've stopped practising sometimes and felt totally exhausted and bored.. but there have been times too where i've stopped practising and although it might have been tiring, I feel excited because i actually worked through a problem.

so i suppose 15 minutes of smart practise is worth more than 2 hours of dumb practise, huh?

November 20, 2008 at 04:05 AM ·

Greetings,

glad you feel some new avenues turning up.   The absolute difficulty of practice is that if you are passionate about the insturment it is almost impossible to stop and take stock.

One way of intensifying your practice you might find useful is to actually limit your practice time to fve minutes a day for a week. Set a timer and be strict.   Perhspa increase it to ten the next.  Force yourself to think more carefully about what you hope to achive and how to achive it through sheer rage and frustration with your timer ;)

Cheers,

Buri

November 21, 2008 at 05:22 AM ·

 Buri,

Your tips and references are really quite incredible. 

Cheers,

Drew

November 21, 2008 at 05:51 AM ·

Not too long ago, I practiced ONE piece, and one alone very intensly for a concerto competition.  Before then, I had never stayed focused for so long.  By the time the competition was over, I was so incredibly ready to move on to something new and completely different for many months.  If I never played a romantic piece again, I would have been delighted.

Avoid burn-out.  Mix in something completly different once in awhile just for the fun of it, even if it is past your abilities by a few notches.  After doing this a few times, sit back and look at the challenges you have on what you want to play and find the links to what you are learning now in lessons.  Intonation?  Shifting? Dynamics? Bow Control? Vibrato?  Then go back to the pieces that you have been assigned in lessons and work through the exercises and techniques.  Periodically jump forward to your "wish list" piece and see how it improved.

This  works for me to keep me motivated.

November 21, 2008 at 08:22 AM ·

Can you get rid of some of the pieces by performing them?

 I find I just want to go over and over my favourites, there's always something more to improve while I am learning, but if I can perform a piece then I feel I have marked it off for the time being and not get so obsessed with it, and it creates room in my brain to allow a start on a new piece.  I think I have difficulty moving on to new pieces because of my attachment to the old, but this is one way I can overcome that. 

November 21, 2008 at 10:54 AM ·

Mendy and Sharelle, good point, an exam, competition or public performance is a good way to find a closure and start something new, with renewed motivation.

I just had an exam for which I practised very hard, so much so that my fingertips hurt most of the time during the last few weeks. But instead of feeling burnt out, I am really looking forward to next week's lesson because I plan to do some real fun pieces now.

November 21, 2008 at 03:52 PM ·

Speaking as a violin teacher for beginners, I don't understand how you got into this mess.  I always give my students something to practice in addition to Suzuki.  I try to create a smorgasbord effect, with sampling of different genres or different pieces of classical music to help them find what they really like.  My adult beginners usually know what they want to learn, and we jointly decide what to work on outside of Suzuki.  Since you're up to Suzuki Book 6, you certainly have the skills to play other things.  I assume that you have a teacher.  If so, you can discuss the issue with your teacher.  If your teacher really says "no" to anything but Suzuki, I suggest that you do it clandestinely.  Look for someting you like and practice it .  You can get free downloads from lots of sites on the Internet, including virtualsheetmusic.com

November 22, 2008 at 03:19 PM ·

 Julianna, forgive me if this comes off as inaccurate or condescending, but I feel compelled to say that it should be the journey, not the destination, that is important, particularly for an adult beginner. I almost sense you dislike the process and only are using it as a means to get better faster and start sounding more like the violinists in the recordings and/or performances you've heard. Are you enjoying your daily practice? The lessons? My teacher uses a mix of books, and some of them have included the Suzuki pieces, which I enjoyed. Ironically, sometimes I feel like she moves me on to something new before I’ve had my fill of playing a certain piece, and I’ll play it for myself at home as a warm up or “comfort music” when I’m practicing. Sure, I’ve gotten burnt out on a piece, and I’ve hated some pieces and hated it when she says, “I think it needs another week,” but in general, I love the process. And, as an adult beginner, I’ve had to quell some of my frustration, my ambition, this urge to play better faster. The violin just won’t cooperate. I think piano and/or guitar is a better way to “sound good fast.” These are realities of the violin that an adult beginner needs to be aware of.

Like I said, forgive me if I’m off the mark here. It just seems like such a shame, this frustration of yours. Have you thought of getting a different teacher? It seems to me a smart teacher would adapt to your needs. And I must say, I don’t think pure Suzuki is the way for an adult to go. It’s just too constraining.

Okay, purely my opinion, and I’ll shut up now.

November 22, 2008 at 04:25 PM ·

Playing from Suzuki Book 6 means that you have been playing some really good stuff.  My violin learning occurred before Suzuki teaching ever left Japan, but my playing really took off in the late 1940s when I bought the book "Everybody's Favorite Violin Solos" (still available, even from Amazon.com). There was also another great book at the time "Standard Violin Concertos" that contained 10 of the most famous and most often performed concertos. I used these two books so much during my teen years that I actually had to replace them.

This was back in the days of 78 rpm recordings, so I had never heard anyone else perform much of the music I was reading and playing.

There is plenty of music to read and play.

Andy

November 22, 2008 at 05:15 PM ·

Julianna,

You said you were on "Suzuki Number 6."  Now, to help us out a bit, do you mean the sixth song in volume 1 (I think that's May Song) or the sixth volume of the Suzuki literature?

November 22, 2008 at 07:12 PM ·

In addition to the many good suggestions already offered, I'll add a story a very good clarinetist once told me. When he began study with a certain teacher (whose name I can't remember), he began working on one piece, and when he was close to sounding good on it, the teacher gave him a different, more difficult piece to play. When he was close to sounding good on the second piece, the teacher once again told him to stop and gave him a third, even more difficult piece. This went on for months, until the student couldn't take it any more and told his teacher "Every piece I play sounds awful! You keep giving me new stuff and I never get any better! I've had it!". The teacher listened patiently, and then told him to now play the first piece he had been given. The student played it perfectly. Then teacher told him to play the second piece. Again, the student played it perfectly. He was astounded. And he realized that he had learned how to learn, a lesson he carried not just into his clarinet studies but into his whole life.

We "perfectionists" always think we sound bad. They key to practicing, as this teacher no doubt had mastered, is in focusing on specific technical challenges, one building on the next, with concentration and relaxation simultaneously. How you feel while you practice is just as important as what your hands are doing; if you're tense while trying to "overcome" a difficulty, it will always be difficult!

No doubt you, too, can play pieces you learned very early on in your violin studies just fine. Relax, and enjoy the process. When I warm up, I play just very slow legato notes, listening and relaxing into them, just enjoying the sound and connecting with this instrument I love playing. Once I get into this "space", it's much easier and more productive to take on technical challenges I'm working on.

November 22, 2008 at 11:57 PM ·

Terez, I guess I do not like the immediate process of learning it, but I do enjoy practising because I know I will get to the difficult stuff later. And that, I guess makes me happy. But yeah, I do love violin. I do love to practise and go to lessons. I don’t think I could switch teachers. Mine is pretty wonderful J I just get frustrated and impatient with myself a lot more than I probably should.

I know it’s a good idea to branch out from Suzuki, and I want to learn different stuff - but at the same time I sort of think to myself that if I go purchase other stuff then it will take away from my pushing through Suzuki faster. Does that make sense or is it weird and confusing?

I feel like I won’t be able to truly call myself a violinist until I’ve finished all of the books…I know its kind of not true - but that’s how I’ve been feeling about it.

Jenna, Yeah I am referring to the sixth book from Suzuki. Not the first book anymore J

Michael, I loved your post ! And its definitely true. I’ve gone back to my early stuff and almost convinced myself I could play twinkle as good hilary Hahn (lol…I am kidding) but the stuff I started with and have done months back do sound “better” for the most part. And that is good to know. But at the same time I hear of people who do constantly review the pieces they have done (like every one) and I just don’t go back and play them again. And that’s obviously because I feel like “well, good, you can be shelved now and I don’t have to deal with you again,” idea. Ah well…

Its true, I agree - the journey is very important. But the destination is so much more interesting to me . I feel a bit like someone treking through the desert in search of an oasis, and they keep seeing a mirage of the real thing, but it keeps getting further away from them…

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