A loss of inspiration.

August 24, 2009 at 08:08 PM ·

 Until recently the violin was the centre point of my life and indeed i took the decision to go to music college in London to study. Now i find the instrument infuriating and hateful and i no longer enjoy playing which has left quite a big hole in each day and causes problems for the remaining years at music college. Has anyone else experienced this and does anyone have any tips on how to rediscover my love of the instrument? I desperately want to find again what i have lost but i can't find anything that helps. 

Replies (25)

August 24, 2009 at 08:16 PM ·

Hey, Sam,

I go through periods like this very often (a few times a year). I do a few different things whenever I feel like this. First thing I do is I watch videos of my favorite violinist or I go to concerts with violin soloists. This usually inspires me enough to turn my mood around. Other times I do something unusual. I'll go back through all of the pieces that I've learned, as far back as I can remember. I'll play the simplest tunes. Usually, I'll go through the Suzuki books. I'll just play as beautifully as I can. Playing beautifully, not necessarily fast or with difficult technique, always makes me fall in love with my instrument.

There are many other things you can do, but these are what I do the most. I wish you the best. Don't give up!

August 25, 2009 at 01:18 AM ·

Any clue as to what caused the turn around in feeling?  Something to do with the school you're studying at?

August 25, 2009 at 12:55 PM ·

Hi:
The issue of intrinsic motivation is not only something I (like most people) have struggled with myself (and in more than violin playing), but also something which I as a psychologist have studied for decades. So, I have a couple of thoughts about this:

1.  There's an old saying that "familiarity breeds contempt." But I don't think so. I think that familiarity breeds meaninglessness. Just pick one word and say it to yourself over and over and over again for 5 or 10 minutes. After even just a few minutes, it is no longer a distinct word with a meaning, it is a meaningless jumble of sounds. So, too, anything that you do for hours and hours a day - especially if the music and the imagery related to playing are buzzing around in your head all day - it's bound to get boring or meaningless or in other ways simply a drag. What do you do about it? You've gotten a couple of good suggestions already. I think you may want to consider doing things very differently (fingerings, interpretation, tempo, loudness, bowing, etc.), just to get a chance to hear it differently. Your teachers may not consider it "kosher," but it may rejuvenate your interest. And do try other things.

2. As someone who has been happily married for over 40 years, and as someone who has counseled couples and people "un-coupling," I've come to the conclusion that in a relationship, either there is a basic bond between the two people or there isn't. If there is that bond, then it will survive the inevitable changes, challenges, and problems that come along in any relationship. If there isn't that bond, the relationship will crumble under the slightest stress. It's like trying to knock down a wall. If all it takes is a pop-gun, then the wall couldn't have been that strong. Your "bond" with your violin (and music) is now being tested. If that bond is strong enough, it will survive the test. If not, don't keep trying to beat a dead horse; commit to something else in life.

That's my two cents worth.
Sandy

August 25, 2009 at 01:26 PM ·

It's not surprising that you go through periods like this. What would be surprising is if you didn't. My between-the-lines reading of this, based on the years I disguised myself as a teacher, is that you've hit one of those seemingly insurmountable walls in your progress, and you are possibly feeling inadequate and frustrated. Sometimes trying harder in these cases only makes things worse. These blockage points come and go all through life. Try to relax, take some time off to recharge your batteries, put things in perspective, and then have at it again.

August 25, 2009 at 02:13 PM ·

This is just my two cents, may or may not help..... but how about looking up others to play with?  Classical or not?  Just open up all the options you have to use your talent.  Take it to the streets if you can and play publicly with an open case in a 'tourist' area.  I once did this with a fellow violinist and 'busked' in St. Augustine Florida.  It was great fun and also good to have someone there with me.  I often went alone as well. Something that inspired me, was learning Celtic fiddle and attending a summer camp, then adding folk-rock, improvising, composing.  Maybe you just need a challenge.  Others might be willing to help you learn a genre just to have you play with them. 

August 25, 2009 at 03:17 PM ·

Here's a thought.... take some time (an afternoon perhaps) and find some quite contemplative place to ponder deep thoughts

Imagine a world without music; then picture the most beautiful violin solo you can imagine, coming through the clouds. The sun beams through, the world warms, and life is invigorated.

Next, think of how you are part of the 'Big Scheme'; you are one of those lucky few chosen to carry music to the world.

Think of a bird song; it is merrily doing it's part to create beauty; then realize that overall, what you are bringing to the world is too important to not include.

Generally when I fall off on practice, it is because I start thinking mundane things in the world are more important for the moment; when I try and look at the big picture, I realize that music is what makes the rest of it more tolerable and enjoyable.

August 25, 2009 at 06:21 PM ·

 Oh, ugh, poor you. The others have offered great advice. And you're in a great location to drop things (when schedule permits) and go take a road trip. Paris! Rome! Chaos! Get a slap in the face of foreign culture and flavor. Hopefully so much that you'll be desperately glad to return to some normalcy, et voilà, the violin and your practice will be what grounds you, welcomes you home, not what bores or stifles you.

Good luck. It's definitely one of those phases, like the others have said. Get used to them - they will come and go throughout your life, and if you can ride them out intelligently, you'll find good wisdom at the end.

August 26, 2009 at 10:37 AM ·

Hi Sam!

Sounds awful enough :)

Did you try to think in a way, that perhaps violin was not the center of your life back when you were happy, but it is now?

I actually also been abroad (or another city for that matter) for sime time studying, and I know too, that it is difficult to miss your friends and family, or just the life you had back at home.

Try to think it this way..

 

cheers,

k

 

August 26, 2009 at 01:44 PM ·

There seems to be at least a circumstantial connection between music college and finding the instrument infuriating and hateful.  Do you think there is an actual link?

Many people find that their interests alter during their college experience, as what passes in Academe for reality comes up against expectations. Could this be happening?

Taking a semester off from study and exploring your interior situation might be a viable idea, if circumstances permit.

August 26, 2009 at 01:55 PM ·

Great responses!

I've been there.  I know how frustrating it feels.  You work so hard to be immersed in music and then you start to feel suffocated.  It is a form of stress... the competition, the people around you doing the exact same thing, the pressure to practice, your teacher's expectations, it all gets to be too much after a while.  I wouldn't question your love of music and your instrument. 

I would compare playing the violin to looking at a painting.  But going to music school is like taking that painting, wrapping it around you, and trying to make sense of it.  No wonder you are frustrated.  That's how it feels to me anyway.

I would say make sure you don't spread yourself thin with violin playing.  Take up other activities.  At least one night a week you should try to hang out with people who know nothing about the violin/music.  Stepping away like this is bound to leave you feeling recharged and ready to get back into it again.

August 27, 2009 at 04:24 PM ·

Thanks to everyone for their ideas and support!

I think that i may just be in a plateau in terms of improvement in my playing and getting very frustrated with it. I shall definitely try anything and everything suggested by people here, especially as i have a couple of auditions within the next 2 weeks.

Thank you! 

August 27, 2009 at 11:13 PM ·

Sam, do let us know how it goes. We're pulling for you!

October 16, 2009 at 02:14 PM ·

Hi sam, I'm also at a music college in london and i'm going through the same thing. I'm finding my way around this but the truth is, its a vicious circle. You hate practising because you don't enjoy playing anymore but you'll only begin to enjoy it if you do a lot of practise. Instead of trying to brainwash myself or find some higher meaning in the violin world, i'm completely seperating practise from my emotions of frustration, worry and insecurity. I'm calling practise 'work' and I'm doing pedantic work on intonation and equally boring stuff. The idea is to not think of it as 'playing' but as a kind of physical exercise and gradually, as your technique starts improving again, opportunities will begin to appear and your violin life will get more exciting. Hope this helps...

October 16, 2009 at 05:26 PM ·

Hi, I think you can't lie to yourself.  Or you really like it or you try to force yourself to like something you really hate.  Everything must be clear. Just an example:  I like violin like a crazy but hate profoundly the natural narrow  "sound" I ecxel to produce.  In my head, I hear a totally different sound and it often makes me feel very bad as if I totally lost my interest. Then, I sit and ask myself the question, is it because I don't like the instrument anymore or is it because I hate the playing I produce.  All these things must be very clear. If you are not happy with your playing, you have two choices: quit of fight like a tiger. If you are not happy with you music genre, the sound of the instrument in general etc, then you can't torture yourself forever... (it would be very very harmful and could push one towards craziness, suicide or whatever)

Just my two cents. Good luck!

Anne-Marie 

October 16, 2009 at 05:35 PM ·

Hi again : )    Also be careful with a common (well I think) reaction of guilt.  Because we all have invested money since many years for lessons, instruments etc. Many have parents who have made big sacrifices... to allow them to play music... etc   Yes you must be thankful and greatful all your life for this but how many years do you still have to live...  It would be long (if ever you really hate music) to continu to "suffer" just because you feel guilty to quit.  I'm not saying it's your case. Just that it sometimes happen from stories I heard.

Anne-Marie

October 17, 2009 at 02:50 AM ·

Anne-Marie,

I would like to separate craziness and suicide; the first I embrace, the second I abhor. Crazy is a big part of my inspiration; sometimes I actually try and see how to look at the world different from anyone else.

I get those days, and luckily I don't have a schedule I have to meet for anyone else. When I do, I simply try and remember what i love about life, and somewhere fairly early in the list, I will find music.

October 19, 2009 at 01:14 AM ·

I see I'm not the only one to compare life with a violin to a marriage.  Sometimes you will have your champagne and roses, other times it will be quite mundane.  Continue practicing but don't try to force things or get preoccupied with worry.

October 19, 2009 at 11:56 PM ·

Roland, your surely not crazy like what I meant : )  Perhaps there are many different ways to be crazy. Just a few examples: you can scream and harm yourself in an asilum, hear voices that tell you to kill x or y person or be crazy in the way some very creative people and even geniuses were (Positive way!)  Trying to see the world in another way would usually fit much better in the last category I mentionned in this post!!!  

I am all for the good "craziness"!

Anne-Marie

 

October 20, 2009 at 03:54 AM ·

Anne-Marie,

As long as I still get the chance to have sword fights with my 6 year old grandson, and show him how to roast marshmallows so they are golden brown on all sides; as long as I get to talk to my puppies like they are kids, and as long as I get to go wading in the creek with both grandson and puppies,  I'll stick with that kind of craziness.

As a side note, the puppies are 9 & 11, so they aren't all that young.

More pictures of the kid & puppies can be found at www.mccullyviewtf.com; just go to the 'Images' tab.

October 20, 2009 at 02:43 PM ·

Nice grandchildren and puppies!  Dogs are always puppies in their heads and we should take examples on them!    BTW I have a tradition of naming my cactus (I love cactus) names of famous violinist.  My nicest one that grows the fastest is called Oistrakh lol   I advised my mom (since we take turns to water the plants in the house) to pay special attention to never kill or dammage  "Oistrakh"!   Everyone has bits of craziness...  

Anne-Marie

October 21, 2009 at 03:20 AM ·

After a 15 year hiatus from the violin, I have finally picked it back up...and now I can't put it down.  Obviously, I went through quite a spell of not wanting to play.  I am so thrilled to finally be playing again!!!  Give it time, I believe that sometimes we all go through periods like that...some longer than others.

October 21, 2009 at 09:07 AM ·

I just got a very nice french bow and it's actually way more inspiring than ever. When playing on this bow, I feel that it's trying to tell me "see, you can do it all now! you're not that bad afterall!", it's like I have a new partner or something. Truely inspiring and making practice sessions so much fun.

Not sure if this is even relevant to the problem, but that's how it does for me. I've been through this situation to the extent that I want to stop playing the violin. I spent quite a lot on a supposely fine violin, did not impress me much until a proper setup has been done. I can't put it down now, a big contrast of how it inspire me compared to the previous days where I don't even like what I'm hearing whenver I play the violin (well, partly because of the money I spent, I eventually give up because I don't want to spend anymore money). The bow I mentioned inspire me even further, and now I'm fully ready for advanced level pieces.

It's very difficult to make music without a suitable partner - including musicians and instruments.

October 21, 2009 at 09:54 AM · Your reply is very interesting casey. I'm also currently looking for a new bow as i'm finding my current one truly horrible to play which may account for part of my lack of inspiration. finding "the bow" is hard though, at least without completely breaking the bank!

October 21, 2009 at 10:05 AM ·

Hi Sam,

I consider myself lucky, because it's an unstamped older french bow without any certificate, and sold from a seller without a shop to run hence lower price tag.

The sound I'm getting out of this bow is another step closer to what I hear from professional violinists with their prized instruments and bow. I believe big part of their fantastic sound is contributed by the fine bows they used - of course the player matters, doesn't mean the bow isn't doing anything.

November 19, 2009 at 02:40 AM ·

I would 'break the bank'! it's actually worth it. I spent all my uni savings on a new bow and it makes my life so much better despite being slightly poorer than i would have been before. New instruments give you motivation!

Also rests give you motivation. I tried something, take a week off and do literally nothing. No lessons/lectures and no practise. And whilst you have nothing to do, think about why you don't enjoy playing. I found out that the main reason i didn't want to play was because i had never been playing for my own enjoyment- so of course i wasn't enjoying it at all! I then discovered that it was possible to play for my own enjoyment and that changed everything. (So many tension problems have disappeared too)

Now i only play when i want to, but because i'm enjoying it when i play, I want to play more often so i practise more. It's nice. Also, my lessons are 400% more enjoyable now too because i'm only thinking about my own development and not about the pressures coming from my teacher.

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