What to do?

March 31, 2009 at 04:00 PM ·

 So basically(I'll admit it, I've not spent as much time this semester practicing my etudes as I should) my prof continually scolds me and talks to me about not putting in the time and effort.  Now, I spend on average 4-5 hours a day practicing, plus my other school work and I am pretty involved in church(she doesn't know that part)

She was telling me how all of these great violinists put in 8-10 hours of practicing every day, that they have no life, etc.   I know of all of that...but it's not as if I don't practice entirely! 

Perhaps I should not have done so much fiddle stuff this semester as I have done...she says that I'm not improving, etc.

She is probably right...I ought to spend more time practicing etudes.    But I am slowly starting to hate classical music, how do I tell her that???

I guess my question is:  How do you know when it's time to do something else?   (SOme back ground information:  I am in my first year at college, and really need a good grade in applied music this semester because I only got a B+ last semester, and my grad school options are going by the way side quickly.)


Replies (40)

March 31, 2009 at 04:19 PM ·


You've already admitted that your teacher is right in that you have not put in enough time as you should on you etudes. It's sounds like it's not only a matter of what you practice but how you practice. It's the effort. You can maximize the limited time you have to practice by practicing efficiently and goal-minded. Be honest with your teacher, and ask her to talk to you about HOW to practice, rather than how much hours you should put in.

Why are you slowly starting to hate classical music? is it because you genuinely hate listening to it, or because you attach the memory of your teacher's scolding and the frustration whenever you think of classical music?

We don't use music to play the violin. It's the exact opposite. The violin should be a means, a paint brush, to create the music we envision. Try to use your practice time to discover how you want some thing to sound. It's more exciting that way. :)

March 31, 2009 at 04:41 PM ·

Sounds to me like you need to either change teachers, schools or accept that you will have to make your Teacher's priorities your own priorities for the next 3.5 years.  You didn't mention where you are going to school or where you are from originally, but have you considered transferring home to a school with a less prestigious music department where you might have more flexibility to decide who and what you want to be when you grow up?  <G>


March 31, 2009 at 05:05 PM ·

Wow, Zachary, that's tough!  I had no idea a violin major was expected to practice 8-10 hours a day of classical music.  Yikes!  I can see my son would never be a violin major.  He also plays a lot of church related music in addition to teaching and getting paid as a freelance violinist.  He also enjoys playing his guitar and mandolin and definitely enjoys fiddling when he has the time. (He was working on making a recording of some Mark O'Connor songs with a couple of friends) 

 Whew!  I don't really have any advice for you but I think you need to follow your heart....maybe??  If church must is really important, it may be that you need to be at a Christian college where that has more value....

Maybe you need to change teachers?  Change the way you practice?  Do you have long term goals?  Do you want to be a professional violinist?  A church musician/director?  A community musician?  A teacher?  Maybe you can ask yourself some of these questions and once the answers become clearer, you might know what direction to take.

You also might talk with your teacher if she seems open to it and share your struggles...

Let us know how it goes, ok?

March 31, 2009 at 07:37 PM ·

Hi Zachary,


I think many of us go through a time period where we are totally disenchanted with the path we are on.  That can often happen during the first few years of college - especially when things aren't going the way you want them to!  If the thought of not having the violin as a major part of your life just leaves you feeling hollow and joyless then maybe this is just a dark spot in your life and things will get better.

Don't think that a B+ or even 2 will keep you out of graduate school!  You still have 3 years left and lots of upper-level courses to take - so the gates have not closed by a long shot! 

As far as getting along with your teacher - some teachers have a very hard teaching style (think Ivan Galamian) and they expect their students to put in a lot of time and effort.  They don't dole out praise lightly and really expect your priorities to match theirs.  I agree that practicing efficiently and what your teacher has asked you to practice will help your lessons.  You may want to keep a practice journal for yourself or as proof of what you have been doing.  Just write down every day what you intend to practice - and then write down what you practiced, how long, and any problems you need help with. 

If after showing that you have made a real effort to comply with your teacher's requests you are not improving or she still isn't giving you the support you need I would talk to someone in the music department privately and ask for advice. 

Ultimately, I think you will know whether this is the right path for you or not - for some, it's just a decision that comes on like a lightening bolt and for others it is a long process of discovery that this is not the path they want to take.  Be open minded, but not wishy-washy.  Since you are a man of faith, spend some time praying about it - I think you'll find the answer will come to you.

March 31, 2009 at 08:24 PM ·

sounds to me like you are looking for those here at V.com to enable you

March 31, 2009 at 08:30 PM ·

Zachary - you have received lots of good advice, but much of which appears to be based on what may or may not be implicit in your post.  You have not told us what your goal in music is.  Do you want to be the next Heifetz, play in an orchestra, teach, or something else entirely based in your church or somewhere else?  What is the structure of the music department/program/major at your college?  Is there some sort of violin music that interests you more than classical, e.g., jazz, Irish fiddle?  If you provide some more info, we may be able to better advise you.  Good luck in any case.

March 31, 2009 at 09:06 PM ·

Hi, it's hard to study something you hate.  I am now doing this (even if I have the heighest respect for scientists!).... and don't want to discuss the "why I chose to do this" again but since my passion was and will always be violin, I can say that I've learned some things in all this.

1- You can't do 9-10 hours a day of something you hate... even if you try.   As an example, I can get up without complaining at 2:00 am to practice.  I could never do this to do more science and maths homework...  I would be in depression if so...  

2- Or you study in what you are totally passionated in and don't ask yourself questions about futur job perspective at all or you study in something you like less for other reasons and try to do everything to keep your passion(s) a long with you as a "serious hobby" through your life.  I mean, some study what they like, some go in something else for other reasons.  I've noticed that these two student "types" are very frequent!  What do you want to do? It has to be clear in your head!  Don't stay in something you hate if you have no reason to be there

3-  It's never possible to be as perfect as your teacher would want you to be unless you have natural raw talent in many things...  Some teacher are extremists... Some music teachers are frustrated because they would have liked to teatch at Julliard or Curtis and didn't succed.  They thus never accept to have lesser "quality" studients that can not or don't want to give there all for sake of music...  Your teacher must know your goals.

4-  It's impossible to be Heifetz if you are implied in many things

5-  Really identify if you really don't like classical or if it is because you can't stand your teacher...  Having an teacher you dislike is a musical desire killer!   Finding a more appropriate can make the world's difference.

Good luck!  Having your age is not easy but you will get out of it! 

All the best,


March 31, 2009 at 09:27 PM ·

It is as others have said.  Your choices are either to move to another school, change majors, or agree to work in line with your teachers wishes.  Now, we have very little info to go on from your posting.  You do not tell us your major or rep....However are you playing 4-5 hours a day, or practicing 4-5 hours a day?  I ask as I am curious and suspicious.

I too was an undergrad music major,and with a typical undergrad course load, at a non-conservatory school, inding the energy and focus after a long day of classes can be difficult so that one can truely practice....and more often than not-I spent more hours playing than truely practicing.

You don't need 8-10 hours a day to get work done and progress. You need the right state of mind and focus to work.


The choice is yours, to either nose to the grindstone, or move on to somewhere or something else.  The best advice to give is to understand what you don't like about what you're going through now articulately.

March 31, 2009 at 10:09 PM ·

 It might not be that you're not lazy as much as your practice time isn't as effective.

March 31, 2009 at 10:49 PM ·

Sorry, I don't agree with the poster that said you should change teachers or schools. What will you do, search for a teacher with lower standards, one that will pat you on the head after every mediocre lesson? I don't know your teacher, but he/she possibly has your best interest at heart. The job market is ridiculous. 

Personally, I'm not convinced that anything more than 4-5 hours is productive, unless you're aiming for burnout, or physical injury.

March 31, 2009 at 11:23 PM ·

I believe that for any important goal we have in life, there are always going to be roadblocks (internal and external), and there are always going to be people around us who will try to discourage us. And if this is true for most things, it's even more true in the arts. And if it's even more true in the arts, it's incredibly true in learning an instrument like the violin.

I've co-authored two books on academic underachievement. In spite of the great differences in why different students underachieve, there's one thing most of them have in common - they give up when they run into problems, rather than trying to find a way around the problems or a way to break through the problems.

If you don't have a true, inner, single-minded driving goal of learning to play this most demanding and elusive of instruments, the violin, then almost any discouraging word will be enough to stop you. You can't let it be up to ANYONE else's opinion. Just look at the negative opinions on this website of almost every noted violinist you can think of. If any one of them would have been stopped by opinions like this, they never would have gotten where the are. Whether your own teacher is right or not that you'll never make it just doesn't matter. If you want to achieve something, don't let anyone talk you out of it.

If you really deep inside want to learn it, then you do the work you need to do. Take advantage of the best advice and teaching you can get, regardless of what anyone else says or thinks, and that inner motivation will carry you to the limits of your God-given talent, whatever that might be. But if you really, deep down inside, don't want to do it, then give it up and do something else; don't waste your time, and don't look back. The point is that this decision ought to be up to you, not up to anyone else. Don't waffle; make a decision and follow through with it, one way or the other.


April 1, 2009 at 12:45 AM ·

Zachary, I'd like to qualify what I said earlier: you MAY actually need a new teacher and school. It depends, because we don't know your teacher. But my teacher at Big Conservatory, Mr. Famous, was a crappy teacher. He had no method, no prioritizing, no plan for me. He just told me every week that I was the worst in his studio. He was probably right, but it didn't help me. So I sought out a different teacher and realized that there were much better ones in the world. The question is, does your teacher help your learning process? Does he tell you exactly what to do to improve? Does he prioritize? Show you practice methods? If not, you may need to move on.


April 1, 2009 at 01:21 AM ·

I respect highly Sandy's advice because he really knows the topic as a psychologist!!! But can I just add a tiny tiny tiny thing on his post.  He is so right but I believe that in life, you also have to try to adapt to context a little.  If you want to be the next Heifetz, you must try and give your 100% and never let someone disturb you but if ever you see that you can't for some reason,  it is always good to be slightly realistic too.  I've known very stuburn people who failed and succed.  The incredible will someone can have is not always in a good match with one's body/abilities.  It is even more true for these who want to become wordclass soloists!  You also have to be able to put bread on your table. But you don't need to be a soloist for that :)   But I don't know you and surely don't want to influence you in the wrong direction!  Just wanted to tell that It's not healthy either to want something so hard to become sick, die or whatever  if it doesn't work the way you want...   But I don't want to interfere more because Sandy's ideas are great!   Just be careful to not fall in the other extreme.

Good luck


April 1, 2009 at 02:39 AM ·

 Thank's all for your responses...I've thought about it over the night...and I guess I just have to work harder.   Or....perhaps not harder, but definitely smarter.



April 1, 2009 at 02:47 AM ·

Just my two cents: 

Practicing 4 hours efficiently every day  should be enough.  However, that should not include orchestra or chamber music rehearsals or fiddling.  I have to play scales to clean up my ear after every orchestra rehearsal.  Practicing is like deposit money into your bank account and playing rehearsals, performing concerts is like withdraw funds out.  The more you put in, the more you can take out. 

17-22 years of age is probably the good time to develop your violin technique.  Past that age, learning new technique and developing your facility  become harder and harder.  Some people say if you cannot play Paganini by 22, you will never be able to do it. I don't agree, but there is some truth in that.  The things you learned in your  younger years tend to stick better with you.



April 1, 2009 at 12:35 PM ·

Thank you for your comments, Anne-Marie. I really respect your opinions, too, and of course you're right - we all live in the real world (hopefully), and we have to factor that in, too.

And, to add a further wrinkle to this discussion, if you really give it your all, you may very well indeed not become the next Heifetz, or even figure out how to make a living at the darned thing. But if you DON'T give it your all, you'll never know, and you'll never have the satisfaction of gaining even a modicum of mastery over it.

Have a great day.

PS. Definition of a Clinical Psychologist: A person who can take a potentially very interesting topic - for example, sex - and make it dull and boring.


April 1, 2009 at 01:04 PM ·

Your bio shows you are involved in a lot of styles of music.  Perhaps since this is your first year, you are not exactly sure where you want your training to lead you.  Have you mapped out a course of study with your teacher? Perhaps there is an underlying skill that needs to be remediated in some way and is holding back some progress.  As others have said, 4 hours of smart practice plus all the other playing you are expected to do will add up to many hours of week.  8-10 hours of intense daily practicing is an open invitation for injury.  The relationship with your private teacher is very important and it could be a long unpleasant journey if it is not the right person for you. 

April 1, 2009 at 01:24 PM ·

I find it quite disturbing that your teacher would berate you for insufficient /amount/ of practicing when you're doing 4-5 hours daily. That's simply not good teaching. When your teacher says such things, is he/she saying that you, too, need to practice that many hours? Or merely that you need to be more disciplined? It is entirely possible to practice that much without accomplishing a whole lot, and you clearly need to make sure that those hours are well spent, but increasing time will not make you practice smarter, and yet more hours of ineffective practice will leave you only with a warped relationship with your violin and a tired-out body.

April 1, 2009 at 01:27 PM ·

sandy, good posts.

with your study and understanding of underperformers, are they  necessarily the polar opposite of overachievers in terms of habits/mentality, that is, just do the opposite of underperformers and you will be overachievers, or are the overachievers a different entity and to achieve that level, a different set of routines need to be in place?

April 1, 2009 at 02:10 PM ·

Sam, I don't think your comment was very helpful (I won't bother to link it here) and it was made worse by putting it in bold. How about some tactile words and feedback instead of terms like "enabling" that sounds nifty and shrink-like but probably don't help Zachary much? He posed a thoughtful, pertinent concern that merits a thoughtful reply. 

Zachary, good luck to you, and be honest with yourself. There were some good comments here about suggesting you ask yourself what you really want to do in your future, what music means to you, where your motivation is really coming from. Don't try and force a wrong fit - it will just leave you feeling dull and trapped. It's scary to say "maybe grad school and/or emphasis in classical music isn't what I really want out of playing the violin." It's scary to consider what might feel like a grand abyss (and I'm sure I'll offend someone here by saying this, but sometimes people use grad school as a way to defer more difficult decisions, such as "now that I'm out of school and need to work full time, what do I DO?). It seems to me this is a much bigger issue than "should I be practicing more?" 

Again, good luck to you. This is not an easy issue to confront.

April 1, 2009 at 06:22 PM ·

I agree - it's a tough situation to be in.  And that there are so many variables to consider doesn't help you make a decision either.

However, there are some certainties you need to take into consideration:

1.  Your teacher could be unreasonable.  He could be a bad teacher - if not for everyone, for you.  If you can't find another teacher, you need to come to terms with him.  Learn what you can, but don't let him stress you out about it.

I know of an ex-Olympic athlete who has her own gym and coaches.  She sucks as a coach.  She has what it takes to compete - that important single-mindedness and drive, but she's too egotistical to bring out the best in others.  There might be a couple of top-achievers that she does well with - but she doesn't do well with most students.

2.  Maybe the violin isn't the instrument for you.  Or, maybe training to be a sololist isn't for you. 

There's nothing wrong with NOT being the next headliner.  I really dislike this all-or-nothing sentiment that's so prevalent in the arts.  I'm not suggesting we lower standards - I'm suggesting that not everyone has the ability/desire to be 'great' and that we shouldn't expect it.  We need solid knowlegeable people in support roles.  I don't know why this has become a 2nd rate goal/acheivement.

3.  If you hate it - you will quit. 

I remember all the many 'perfect' piano players when my daughter was young and we'd sign up for music festivals.  Their technical skill was astonishing.  But most burned out early - as teenagers.  Some that we've run into have never touched a piano again.  What a pity.  I didn't push my daughter very hard when she was little - just enough to keep her engaged.  And she's still playing the piano - and loving it.  Will she continue?  I hope so - she enjoys teaching little children.  An admirable goal, IMO.

If you're questioning what you're doing - you need to change something.  Your approach to music is likely the easiest change to start with.  There's nothing at all wrong with that - we change as life changes.



April 1, 2009 at 08:25 PM ·

Really well-put, N.A., all of it (and not just the part where you agree with me!). : )

April 1, 2009 at 09:30 PM ·

Thank you!  Being agreed with is also one my favourite things! ;)

April 1, 2009 at 11:22 PM ·

N. A. Wow!!! So true!


April 2, 2009 at 03:26 AM ·

This is pretty brutal for a teacher, but if you think it is the truth then be greatful he is not humoring you along. He definitely did not sugar coat it. If you persevere in your studies you will be better for it. Your teacher sounds like he wants his students to be the best. Who can fault him in that? If you decide to change and take his advice, in my opinion, he will respect you for it assuming he things you have what it takes which is a different issue altogether. He has to believe you can do it to be the right teacher for you. He might just be giving you a little tough love here, or else he really thinks you are not cut out for it. Only you can know this. If it is worth having it is worth working for or so I have been told my entire life and I find that the measure of a teacher and student is how they react when things don't go so smooth. Everything is perfect when things are going well. One thing to think about. What do you do with your time when you know you are suppose to be practicing? Are you trying to cure diseases or watching TV and texting friends? This simple excercies will reveal much about what you think is more important than violin practice.  Maybe you need a vacation on a warm beach.

That being said, don't underestimate how burn out can make you hear things in a way that sounds very negative. Everything is overwhelming and very dramatic when you are tired. Rest up and then talk to him. Music and the arts are like marriage. Decide your staying and it works out. If you are not decided, eventually you will move on because the decision to stay is very important. You must be causal in the outcome not buffeted by peoples opinions this day/week or the next.

The only advice I can give any young person is to take good advice when someone offers it. I know I made very poor choices when I was in college, but not due to lack of fine advice from people who cared and were much more intelligent than I. Decide how hard you want to make it for yourself and then if you choose to hang in there with music, decide you are not messing around and give it 100% with no looking back. The world is full of angry people with unfullfilled dreams. They are on the news every day. Happiness is very important, so hard work and the rewards it brings must make you happy if you pursue art as a career. If your teacher shocked you, remember most people are pretty great and usually will help you if they think they can. Maybe your teacher just feels disappointed, that's all.

April 2, 2009 at 04:00 AM ·

Let's think about this logically. 

If you get 8 hours of sleep you have 16 hours left in a day.  Let's put aside 3 for eating and using the bathroom (the latter of which takes a surprising amount if time from the average person's day).  That leaves 13.  Now assume a conservatory student is taking Theory, Musicianship, and Music History for a total of 2 hours a day of class (on week days).  That leaves 11.  Now assume that each hour of class has two hours of homework.  That leaves 7 hours a day.  Now assume 6 hours a week of orchestra.  That leaves about 6 hours a day for week days.  Now assume the student has chamber music 6 hours a week and has lessons/studio class/scale-paganini-bach-dont-sevcik-whatever class for a total of three hours.  That leaves about 4 hours a day on week days. 

Of course in reality you can usually do much of your homework over the weekend and no theory or musicianship class has 2 hours of homework for every hour in class.  Call it 1 for both and you get a little under 7 hours a day to practice.  Now, most students here at Oberlin, quite wisely I think, like to go to the gym a few days a week and often take a foreign language (German, French, Chinese, and Japanese are popular choices).  They might go to church, or spend an hour reading before bed (not to mention showering).  That also reduces the time to practice.  I would say the typical student here probably has around 5 hours a day to practice with more time over the weekend if they need to practice more and that they only get that much time by reducing how much they sleep, which I find does horrible things for how productive my practice time is (personally). 


Of course the situation is different if you're a performance diploma student because you won't have all the theory or history courses eating up time.  If that's what you're doing then basically you're expected to spend all your time practicing, but if you're a BM student, 10 hours a day is not a reasonable expectation.  In fact, there was a teacher (I forget who) who once said "A student who practices 3 hours every day is a good student, one who practices 5 hours is a bad student, and one who needs more than five needs another carrer".   I doubt anybody would agree that 3 hours a day makes a "good" student, but basically I think he's saying if you can't get a reasonable amount done in 5 hours then you'll never be able to function as a professional. 

If you have 4-5 hours that you can really focus in, that should be enough time to get a surprising amount done.  If you find that you don't get to anything, there are practicing coaches who can help you.  Also, you should talk to your professor about practicing techniques.  If he says things like "practice the right and left hand separately in a passage that's very hard for both, use rhythms, gradually speed things up, sing pitches before playing them, practice SLOW" or something along those lines then you should do it.  If he says "PRACTICE 10 HOURS A DAY!!" I would seriously consider changing teachers. 

April 2, 2009 at 04:56 AM ·

...the equation for Joseph's practice time today was just skewed by how long it took him to write that reply. ;-)

The way I see it, a good teacher will say "You're doing that wrong! Here's how to do it right." and a bad teacher will say "You're doing that wrong! What a waste of my time." That is to say, if your teacher is actually TEACHING you along with berating and scolding you, then you might be well-advised to stick it out. If he/she is just complaining about your lack of progress without really teaching you ways TO progress, then ditch.

April 2, 2009 at 05:33 AM ·

Are you a square peg trying to fit in a round hole? Maybe you need a different program, or a different college.  What inspires you?

April 2, 2009 at 08:43 AM ·

How do you know when it's time to do something else?  

This question poses a great deal of thought for anyone, particularly many persons of your age group. Many of the responses have already pointed out the obvious (and some possible)solutions to what may be more of a personal soul searching process than a problem, respectively. Bear in mind that you are just starting out in life, and college is basically a time where one learns many things along the way. New doors will always be opening, but if you do not favor the look of the room then there is always a back way out and no one will stop you except yourself.

If you are considering a career in music, I would highly suggest that you apply your self wholeheartedly , without distubing your peace of mind along the way. This is achieved best through the art of resignation. If you are lacking in certain qualities that are required to be successful in the business, than be honest with youself and find a road that leads to that which you have a great interest in. The music business itself is not for the squeemish or the easily perturbed. Bear in mind that most of the persons you will encounter in the business are only in it for the money to be made. They care little for emotions or artistic eccentricities. Present yourself with confidence and then back up that confidence with example. Make yourself indispensable by solid and unwavering confidence. This is a cardinal rule of all good business and success in any endevour in life. There are going to be failures, but a wise person learns from these failures the same way a scientist does.  

 From the negative aspects you claim your teacher is presenting, I would see an opportunity to learn to bear with patience, which is a skill that will come in handy throughout your entire life involving decision making and social interactions. If it is a trial to deal with the professor, than nothing positive can be achieved in the association. I had to go through 3 violin professors in my first year of college, due to their lack of attention, and sometimes knowledge of certain technical points I expected them to have known. Never fail to remind them of who pays their salary and you will achieve dramatic changes in attitude from them almost immediately. Some professors are just bored with their job, and often need some prompting (or reassurance) to remind them of their postion in the scope of things. Despite the rumors you may have heard from the other students, they are really  human beings. You be the boss, but let them share what knowledge they can offer with respect , attention and consideration. Remember the point I made about being confident? This is a situation where you will be required to "prove yourself" without being egotistical or beligerent to them, which will require you possess patience. Give them a little time to prove they are not wasting your time. It would seem that time is a problem in your schedule. Use it wisely.

How do you know when it's time to do something else? As logic would dictate in any situation, the best possible time make a transition is when all other options have been exhausted. The key word here is "transition". Some will say "quit", but a quitter will always know that they could have done better and will always be plagued with that nagging feeling of "what if", possibly for the rest of their life. Don't fall into that trap. Prayer will do wonders in your situation here, and you will notice that answers and opportunities will make themselves available. Be not anxious, as I am confident that all will turn out well for you. You just need to be more patient and never stop praying. God Bless You in your future.

April 2, 2009 at 11:21 AM ·

I'm really enthusiastic about the book, The Practice Revolution, that I started reading based on a recommendation from Buri a few weeks ago on this site.  The author is big on counting goals achieved rather than time spent.  He also claims to have been kicked out by 6 violin teachers when he was a child, so I'm assuming he writes from experience. 

The book has a lot of advice about how to practice and different techniques to use, if you're not getting that from your teacher.  My practicing has become much more goal-oriented these days anyway and my teacher and I were generally on the same page before I started reading the book, but I feel like the book has given me a bigger vocabulary so if the topic of ineffective practice were to come up, I could talk with my teacher usefully about it, rather than feeling beaten down by criticism the way I often did in the past when I was more of a "drifter" type of practicer.

April 2, 2009 at 01:32 PM ·

The responses I'm reading are so disenchanting.  "Maybe it's time to move on?"  "Maybe violin isn't right for you?"  "Maybe you should work harder?"  What a way to empower a v.commer.... into quitting!

Listen my friend, you love the violin, do not doubt that.  Devoting 4-5 hours a day to it does not indicate any will to quit.  What you should do is quit your teacher.  Teachers are there to teach and inspire, not bully and threaten.  I've never had a teacher worth their salt bully me into practicing 8 hours a day.  In fact, a smart teacher knows that it would be a waste of time unless you plan on being Midori when you grow up.  If I wanted a job punching a time card I wouldn't have picked music.  Work smart, not long hard hours.

The only thing you need to do is change it up a little.  You do not hate classical music.  You're bored, bullied, and you don't see the value in it now.  Step away from it and believe me you will grow to love it again.  Follow your instincts, don't follow a cookie cutter career.  I only WISH I had followed my instincts to branch out into other music when I was younger instead of "following the sacred path in the practice cubicle."  Now I have a lot of catching up to do in the area of fun music!

April 2, 2009 at 01:32 PM ·

IMO 8-10 hours of practice a day is over the top. (Mindless?) repetition of etudes? There are some etudes that I thought were bears to learn and then the particular skill/goal never turned up again in solo or orchestral lit. What was that for? Does your teacher have a prejudice against fiddle music? Can she verbalize why particular items are useful & necessary? Pushing you to excel is one thing, belaboring you for ego/control is another.  

April 2, 2009 at 01:40 PM ·

" I only WISH I had followed my instincts to branch out into other music when I was younger instead of "following the sacred path in the practice cubicle."  Now I have a lot of catching up to do in the area of fun music!"

marina, that sounds interesting.  can you elaborate on that? thanks

from sue "Does your teacher have a prejudice against fiddle music?"

i have a vision that the teacher may turn violent:)


April 2, 2009 at 01:48 PM ·

Al, I'm a classical violinist.  It's what I do... I do it well and make my living from it. 

There are 3 other violin personalities in me.  First, I am greek, from the island of Krete.  The folk music there resonates in me like no other - but I can't play it and it's driving me nuts!  I'm also in harmony with arabic music, have taken a few lessons but have a really hard time improvising taxims.  Will come back to that one.

The third is baroque music.  Thankfully I'm doing something about that and it's working out better than I could've hoped for.

April 2, 2009 at 01:59 PM ·

neat.  a raging melting pot:)

April 2, 2009 at 03:25 PM ·

What our culture says about "quitters" makes quitting a very hard thing to do.  It's failure.

But making a breathtaking turn is highly valued.  They put them on TV ;)  Although it amounts to the same thing. Ponder what your very earliest interests were.  That's were your true talents and great instincts are.  Take that turn and get used to being at the head of the class.

April 2, 2009 at 03:36 PM ·

>What our culture says about "quitters" makes quitting a very hard thing to do.  It's failure. But making a breathtaking turn is highly valued.  They put them on TV ;)  Although it amounts to the same thing. 

Great point, Jim. 

It's all in the phrasing, isn't it? Politicians and PR folks are great at that.

April 7, 2009 at 06:03 PM ·

Howdy Do, just kidding. I don't speak that way,lol.

Hi Zachary,

I had to be a little humerous with such a serious situation. I hope it has gotten better since you first wrote your message.

First, I would like to say, a teacher should talk to a student in a way that discourages the student. With that being said, I believe it is time for a new violin instructor. Your teacher is frustrated with you and does not believe in you (probably doesn't believe due to your lack of progress from your lack of practice! still your teachers feelings are real)so why continue to study with him/her?

When to know its time to change:

Personally, your path is your choice. As a young adult, you are use to others having made choices for you, BUT it is time for you to begin to make your own. Yes, seek advice from others who have experience in your field/life, who know you, and who care about you as a student/person. You know your comitment level to music and why you are involved, so if you want to pursue it DO SO. Do not let what has happened make you consider  change. You will not make a RATIONAL DECISION when your emotions are involved. Think about it clear headed and then make a choice. You already started off on a good foot by seeking some advice first. Your career is a serious big choice to make.

Do not let people discourage you but learn to know what you want , who you are, and your own competencies. Make your choice off of this.


Do not listen to your professor about practice time. It is not about how many hours but about how you use your time in the practice room. Your professor sounds like he/she has a certain mentality that is old school. You can be successful without 8 hours a day. I have a very wholistic approach to teaching and believe which is healthier. You should make good use of your time, bottom line. PLUS, you do not have that type of time as a college student!!!! Adults with children and other obligations do not have that time, people with a balanced life do not have that time!! Do you really believe every symphony musician practices eight hours a day???You are not a slave to music. You cannot make music if you are frustrated, but hey, you can be a technique machine... lol:)


Play for fun right now ,something on the side, maybe in church or play some old songs from earlier years. Why?  to place the flame back in to your musical life. You are playing for a reason...Yeah?  Pray! Reveal your heart  to God. AND.... GET A NEW INSTRUCTOR:) You do not have good chemistry, which is really really bad. I cannot say that enough. How can you express yourself musically or open up over your personal battles with college to someone is not in your corner?


The first year of college is difficult. Keep that in mind. You can grow. Your prof. may feel he/she is giving you a "dose of the real world". Do not expect people to hand you anything in school. Look around, listen, ask, and learn:) Everyone isn't nice or helpful.

Best Wishes and Blessing to you Sir. I'd love to hear what you decided. Until next time...


April 7, 2009 at 08:40 PM ·

While your teacher might be a bit rough there, I think there is a point being driven home: no one cares how long you practice.

My older students are reminded of this. While they need to practice every day, I really do not care how long it takes them to accomplish the work they are given each week at their lesson. Their job, with my support, is to discover how to accomplish that work in as efficient a manner as possible, Some kids do it on two hours a day. Others take four. Some don't figure it out without a lot of hand holding.

If you're putting in as much time every day as you say, and aren't getting the work done, I echo what others have said in this thread: you need to figure out how to practice more efficiently rather than just punching in hours on the clock.

April 9, 2009 at 01:35 PM ·

Here's a question, and doesn't apply just to violin, but to anything and everything that you might get good at and enjoy.

Do you enjoy it? What do you enjoy? Do you enjoy having no life, but being really good at practicing violin? Or would you rather progress at a more leisurely pace, get to where you want with violin later in life than expected, yet still have a life?

I'm sure lots of people will probably tell you that you should totally sacrifice all of the other things that you get any enjoyment out of, but why? What's the point of perfecting one thing if you're going to be miserable with the rest?

I wouldn't suggest that you should quit altogether, but I know for sure that if it was me in that situation, were I a violin major, I would switch majors and get a private instructor. Then you could do your other school work, have some semblance of a life, and still practice probably as much as you do now, and not feel horrible for not dedicating your life to what is essentially (no offense to anyone, but really) an inanimate object that happens to produce sound and not getting any enjoyment out of it.

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