Ever Feel good enough?

May 26, 2010 at 03:08 PM ·

Replies (47)

May 26, 2010 at 03:35 PM ·

Interesting post, Megan. I doubt that even top-notch solists are ever fully satisfied with their playing -- or if they are, that's probably the moment their career arc starts bending downward. Certainly I know my own experience as an amateur has been that the better I get, the more conscious I am of my deficiencies. There I times I wallow in self-pity over this -- why couldn't I have been born with talent?? -- or in self-recrimination -- all those lost years when I didn't work hard at the violin!! But in general, I just try view my abilties honestly, accept what I am, and focus on the process of getting better, continuously if sometimes very slowly. There's a lot of satisfaction to  be had in that, just like there is a lot of joy to be had in playing violin, at any level. I think the trick is to focus on those positive things and not let yourself get bogged down in comparisons to other musicians, or to some ideal sense of how good you "should" be. In other words, the question isn't so much how you rate your playing, which is always going to be potentially depressing, as it is how you respond to that assessment.

May 26, 2010 at 04:05 PM ·

Oh yeah, I feel that way all the time. But I feel that way with anything I do - I never feel as if anything is good enough. In school I was never satisfied unless I got a 100% on an exam, and I'm still that way today. Same with you? Maybe it's not a violin thing; maybe it's a perfectionist thing. I'm trying to learn to take it easier on myself though, and I think I'm gradually making progress. I had two great lessons with amazing teachers a few years ago. Both of them said the same thing to me right away, in very different ways. First one: "You care about this too much." Which was rather shocking to hear, but oh so true. I was treating my improvement as a matter of life and death, which ironically inhibited improvement. The second teacher said,"Stop thinking your playing sounds like s***! It's okay to sound s***** as long as you're trying not to sound s*****." I smile thinking back on that. And it's true. Maybe you ought to set some goals to yourself so that you have concrete things to achieve, that you can feel good about? I.e., a benefit recital - going to a nursing home a certain number of times - a new piece of repertoire - etc.

May 26, 2010 at 04:16 PM ·

The day I think I'm completely "good enough" is the day I should pack away my violin, and never open the case again!

May 26, 2010 at 04:46 PM ·

Yeah, welcome to life. My standards are always increasing about three steps ahead of my actual playing. I know on an intellectual level that I'm improving, but in the day-to-day of it I usually want to smash something (either my fiddle or my head, doesn't really matter) against a tree.

May 26, 2010 at 05:31 PM ·

Do you battle with a feeling that your violin playing is never quite good enough?

to put it mildly and honestly..................... YES!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

What Matt Pelikan stated is what my teacher (who had a rare oportunity) said he witnessed with Pearlman at a rehersal.  Pearlman would be playing and stop, mentioned some sugested changes he was going to do and he and the accompaniest were off again and he'd stop..... not satisified with his playing and just couldn't do what he wanted and was striving to do.  This went on for almost two hours until my teacher had to leave.  Said that the concert was stellar!  But that rehersal made a huge impression that we may never ever be satisfied totaly through out our playing days.

Have a great week!

May 26, 2010 at 06:21 PM ·

Yes, I agree it is pretty depressing when there are 8 year olds all over youtube that can play circles around me. 

Megan, I'm sure you are a far better violinist than I am, but like yourself, I consider myself to be a pretty advanced amateur.  My goal is to sound like a pro.  What I'm realizing is that final bit of polish requires thousands of hours of practice.  I think it is like any endeavor.  You can get to a fairly high level relatively quickly (within a few years), but that "pro" level, which seems deceptively close, is actually light years away.  As the saying goes, all great journeys begin with a single step.


May 26, 2010 at 06:46 PM ·

Hi Megan - congratulations on your musical successes. I suppose that it's natural for us to feel some friction as our efforts at improvement rub up against our need to accept and celebrate our present abilities. As I see it, such friction is a side-effect of living a creative life.

To help my students get through periods of self-doubt, I advise them to articulate specific areas of their playing that they'd like to improve, come up with achievable plans for addressing weaknesses, and then set several small practice goals that they attain in each practice session. I also encourage them to speak about their feelings, as you're doing here (brava!).

When pinpointing our aims, though, I've learned that it's crucial for us to pursue objectives that challenge us a bit but not so much that we start feeling overwhelmed.

I've written more about this issue on The Musician's Way Blog in a piece titled "Countering Perfectionism" - http://musiciansway.com/blog/?p=1929

For me, the lifelong pursuit of musical refinement is a source of endless joy and fascination. The late cellist Jacqueline du Pre felt similarly: "Music making is a never ceasing process of change and progress. One never arrives at the perfect performance, but nevertheless draws increasing knowledge and insight and enthusiasm from every moment."

May 26, 2010 at 06:54 PM ·

Last week I had the occasion to play a brief unaccompanied program for a local Rotary club (I'm a Rotarian). I prefaced my little recital by saying (as I recall) something like the following:

"I feel kind of intimidated up here. After all, there is some wonderful music I'm going to play, and I'm just an amateur. I can hear the voices of my teachers (who were wonderful) - not to mention the ghosts of Heifetz and Stern and Paganini and all the rest - shouting at me, 'What do you think you're doing here?' Well, right now, up here, today, I'm it!! All that stands between you and this beautiful music is me. I'm going to do my best to narrow that gap."

When you get up in front of that audience, it's not about you. There's too much about the personality and talent of the performer today, in my opinion. Popular music has certainly become the cult of personality. It shouldn't be about that; it should be about the music. And if it's about the music, you and I - as amateurs with all of our flaws and inexperience and self-doubts - are the only ones there to play it. Heifetz and Stern and Paganini are dead. There's no chance for a re-take. You just have to give it your best, and keep your focus on the music. In the last analysis, isn't that really what makes for a memorable performance of anything?

So take heart, don't give up, and remember to rosin your bow with the cake side on the bow hairs.


May 26, 2010 at 07:33 PM ·


actually you are good enough.  In their own way, no-one is less than perfect.

My feeling is that what is bothering you is part of a rather wider pattern of thinking that is making your life harder than it needs to be.  I haven`t recommended Alexander lessons for a while so now seems like a very good opportunity;)   

Oddly enough,  considering how mainstream it is these days, AT is not particularly widely understood in depth.  It is -not - actually just a system in which one plays around with body mechanics until things work better and then one stops going ,  somewhat wiser and somewhat poorer.  Alexander was adamant that the divide between mind and body was/is one of the great errors of western (?) thinking and that any aspect of our being can be understood and improved though conscious control.   In your case you are doing what AT refers to as `endgaining.`  That is,  what you think you would like to be is setting up a false reality that is not quite in the present moement,  the only place where true joy in what we are doing is possible.  Its a state that most people are in most of the time `I wish I was thinner.  I wish I was happy.  If I take my shoes off without untying them I will save myself a lot of time......If I drive extremely fast I will get to where I want to be faster (no polce speed traps ofcourse).`

So, my two cents,  get into a good AT program, enjoy the physical release (also mental) and see if you can come back to using your whole self in a way that gives oyu more satisfaction in life.  You are after all, in the country that spawned AT.




May 26, 2010 at 09:23 PM ·

 I've been learning violin for just over 3 years and the more I learn the more I think I am rubbish!!! I really thought it was 'me' and was thinking of getting some hypnotherapy sessions to 'sort out' my 'negative thinking', but now thanks to this thread I can see it's not 'me going mad' but we are 'all going mad'!!! there is no saving us!!! 

May 26, 2010 at 10:19 PM ·

Wow, some brilliant and insightful posts so far.

The high-level pros I know are aware of major flaws almost every time they perform. It could be depressing, but they also know that there is no such thing as perfection, and the most they can do is have a level of assurance that their own acuity and ability is at a level that most listeners won't catch the flaws, real or imagined.

By "imagined", I mean that a technically perfect performance, while inspiring, can fail to communicate on a human level. Look at "snap to pitch" used on some modern popular music. The stuff winds up in tune, but it leaves me cold, and sounds phony. At the same time, emotion without enough technical skill to back it up can sound sappy.

That said, a lot of the better players I know came from harsh teaching regimens, where almost nothing they did was considered adequate at a lesson. "You practiced six hours every day? Maybe you need to practice 10." It broke some players, and moved others on to excellence.

Not knowing you, I can't say anything about where your threshold is..... whether it's hypercritical beyond usefulness, or can be used as a valuable tool to improve.

It's only in the last ten years or so that I've  learned to really appreciate amateurs and semi-pros. Fascinating people who have enriched my life, contributing a lot  of knowledge from their specialties.

May 27, 2010 at 03:01 AM ·

Hi all

Wow - what wonderful responses and so many of them! I really appreciate you all taking the time to reply and to share your thoughts. 

Whilst there are some great suggestions for managing perfectionist tendencies (Buri - your AT suggestion is a good one and one I will without doubt pursue) what I think is coming through the most in the various posts is the idea, often forgotten, of why we are pursuing our violin playing: namely, to of convey/express/share musical ideas and feelings. It is so easy, for high-achievers and perfectionists (which, lets face it, musos tend to be!), to get caught up in the desire to improve and achieve what is ultimately unachievable - perfection - rather than the communication of musical ideas. 

It reminds me of my sister, a one-time high-achieving cellist who is now a full-time mum. She quit pursuing a professional career well before she had kids, for a number of reasons which ultimately boiled down to a lack of ambition to become a successful professional musician. She stopped playing cello regularly more than 8 years ago. Since then, she doesn't often pick up the cello but when she does, I am blown away by how relaxed and musical her playing is, and how good her technique still is after all that time away from the instrument. More interesting is her comment that because she now doesn't care so much about it, she feels so much more relaxed and happy with her playing.

Food for thought. David, your comments about different teaching styles and practice regimens are very interesting. I suspect you're right, and that different styles suit different people (and that different teaching styles may be appropriate at different stages in a musician's development). I suspect I that I would not flourish under the hyper-critical regimen, and in fact, I chose my last teacher precisely because I had heard what an encouraging teacher he was - which he certainly proved to be and I think that was right for me at the time. 

Gerald - your article was also extremely interesting and I see you have written a book on exactly this topic! I will definitely look it up and have a read :)

Cheers from Sunny Brissy


May 27, 2010 at 05:40 AM ·


what was it Heifetz said?

`You think you`ve got problems.  I have to be Heifetz everyday!`



May 27, 2010 at 05:47 AM ·

 I think what David said is true:

That said, a lot of the better players I know came from harsh teaching regimens, where almost nothing they did was considered adequate at a lesson. "You practiced six hours every day? Maybe you need to practice 10." It broke some players, and moved others on to excellence.

I have changed teachers last year and my new teacher is extremely 'strict', most of what I do in a lesson is 'not right' be it intonation/rythm/musicality/bowing arm/shape of left hand/whatever, there is the occasional 'that's right' but that's not very often and I have to say I think it's because we are in the year 2010 and I am not at conservatory that I do get the 'that's right' moment once a lesson or so....

My teacher also teaches teachers and I have befriended another student who has been a violin teacher for over 20 years and takes lessons from him.  She said she had a VERY strict teacher at conservatory, she never said once that she played something well enough for years and years, until one day she played a piece in her lesson and her teacher just leaned back in her armchair and sighed a 'sigh of relief', that moment she knew she played well and was the happiest person ever!  She said her 'old' teacher was a bit 'extreme' and many students up and left, but those who stayed really grew into good players! And now years on that is why she likes our present teacher, because he pushes us to do better and better all the time!

Some people think my teacher is a 'bit too much' when I tell them he stops me every few seconds to correct a million things, they imagine this stern/stubborn/unpleasant teacher, but we have many laughs in lesson and he's a great person, he just loves teaching and wants us to strive towards improving all the time and like I said, he does 'occasionally' say 'that is right' :)

May 27, 2010 at 06:41 AM ·

Jo, it's very interesting isn't it. However, I believe that it's possible for a teacher to be both sufficiently detailed in their approach to working on and correcting all aspects of playing, and encouraging at the same time. I guess not all teacher's approaches will suit all students - it's a matter of matching us up!

May 27, 2010 at 07:41 AM ·

I agree Megan, and I believe my teacher  (to me at least) 'is' encouraging as he's such a pleasure to have lessons with.  It took me a bit to get used to him as I had a teacher before him who was totally the opposite in every way, a teacher who never made me work at things, never taught me any technique, just made me play through pieces and moved me along when I knew how to play the notes (never mind I was out of tune etc!), so to come over to this teacher was a bit of a shock but a VERY NICE shock! I used to come out of lessons feeling physically and mentally exhausted as I never had to work at anything before and he makes me work hard every second of the lesson! (apart from when we stop for a minute for a giggle and a joke...)

I love the fact that he won't let me get away with anything which is not 'perfect' (I put perfect in inverted comas as there is no such thing really, but he teaches me to strive to get as good as I can 'and more'!).  I still feel exhausted after lesson sometimes but not all the time anymore, I'm 'used to him' now :)

And so true that different teachers will suit different people but whatever approach a teacher takes I think they have to try to get you to aim at improving all the time (unlike my previous teacher's approach! who knows, maybe because I am a 'late starter' he never thought to take me 'seriously'? I should go back and ask him really......)

May 27, 2010 at 12:25 PM ·

That's cute, Buri. :-)

Teaching styles...    I knew a couple of kids who got major symphony jobs right out of school at Indiana University (one hadn't even graduated yet, both Gingold students, I think). They both were really surprised at getting the positions, and said something like, "I had no idea I was good. My teacher never told me. "

On the other hand, Richard Aaron (cello, commutes between teaching at Juilliard and University of Michigan, formerly taught at the Cleveland Institute) seems to crank out stellar players like clockwork. I don't know what he's like in the studio, but outside, he's a very warm and profusely complementary person.

May 27, 2010 at 06:35 PM ·

"I had no idea I was good. My teacher never told me."

*sigh* This exact quote came out of my mother's mouth about her violin teacher that taught her for YEARS, the guy who trained several generations of violinists in Philadelphia, Frank Costanzo.  She was a real prodigy and he was planning to get her into Phila via a bank-shot off of Cleveland.

He never told her any of this.

But he wanted to send her to a big camp in Colorado that I now think was probably Aspen.  She couldn't imagine how her mother was going to pay for it since their family was working-class and one step above poor; her mom worked as a seamstress in the neighborhood.  She turned it down, and Costanzo never spoke to her again.

Please, whether you are teaching kids or adults, let them in on any plans you may have for them okay?  Don't just think that the best of them know they are the best, and don't make the mistake of thinking that even a young player, no matter how good, doesn't also have life and money concerns that you'd normally associate with an adult.

It still bugs me that I've never heard my mom play, and if Costanzo had actually opened his mouth a few times, and realized that a girl from a poorer family would be more aware of just how hard her mother worked than some of his other students, and more unwilling to ask her to work even harder, I might have.  It's not a therapy session, but just be aware of your students as people.

May 27, 2010 at 06:55 PM ·

As with most endeavors, the more you learn, the more you realize what you don't know.  There's a fine line between knowing where you want to go next and beating yourself up because you're not there yet.  Most of us have one foot on either side of that line a lot of the time.

May 27, 2010 at 10:28 PM ·

 This is what My mother has to say regarding this thread:

 I read all the feed back, including yours.  Very interesting and so very true on each and every one.  If people would only stop for a minute and think of ALL the people who can't play ANYTHING at ANY quality, but wish they could, then those of you who are fortunate to play a musical instrument would feel blessed and feel soooo good about their abilities!!!!!  To someone who doesn't play an instrument, every body who does, sounds PERFECT to us!!!!!!!!!!!!  AND we wish we could play that good.  Be glad you (people in general)can play something and enjoy playing it, don't worry about PRO status.  In my eyes, anybody who can play anything IS a Pro!!!!  When I hear you play the violin, it is so beautiful and I think "he is SO great at playing".  I tell others the same.  Yet, you and the others are always nit picking yourselves to death.  What a waste of time to nit pick!!!!!!!!!!!!!  Just enjoy the show!!!!

May 28, 2010 at 02:22 AM ·

Haha, I love it - in other words, get over yourselves. Touche!


May 28, 2010 at 02:54 AM ·

What a great message, Royce!! Love it! I think I'll tape that on my stand at my next recital. "Get over yourself." Ha!

May 28, 2010 at 03:02 AM ·

The feeling of being no good is, sometimes,  exacerbated when, at a recital, the person ahead of you has flawlessly played some virtuoso stuff and you get on  stage asking yourself, "Now, does the audience really want to hear me play the equivalent of, 'Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star' ?"

May 28, 2010 at 06:06 AM ·

Having seen the marvellous results obtained by the man who bred our 2 German Shepherds I can see that praise and encouragement is much more potent than punishment/shouting with them. I have also practised this with people I interface with to great effect.

If pain (punishment) worked well as a training aid I would not continue to stubb my toe on a particular piece of furniture like I have off and on for the past 20 years! 

May 28, 2010 at 06:33 AM ·



>"Now, does the audience really want to hear me play the equivalent of, 'Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star' ?"

The basic answer is usually yes.  However, it depends on teh attitude with which you perform.  There is rerally only one way to think about perfroming and that is playing every piece of music you play =at any level= as though it were a gift you are presenting to the audience.  The feelign you prject while doing this is so universally appreciated that that fundamental part of human nature is touched and readily accepts what you are doing.



May 28, 2010 at 08:25 AM ·

I know more about ballroom dance than violin - but the following holds.  The then world champion ballroom dancer once commented that every day he practises the feather step in foxtrot (the first step a beginner learns) - and one day he hopes to get it right.

The point is obvious: Perfection is a goal and not an end.  I am just an intermediate student and the path is very daunting indeed.  Its so easy to feel incompetent if you spend all your playing time working on the pieces and studies that are your current challenge.  I think its important to once in a while play the lovely earlier pieces I have learned on my own violin journey where I can get the real sense of achievement  (albeit not perfection of course). 

May 28, 2010 at 03:00 PM ·

Seeing things through my Mom's perspective it real, realy impacted me.  I remember neil peart of RUSH writting, "I learned the hard way to never publicly criticize anything I write, especially after someone called me on it, "What do you mean by, blah, blah, blah?!?!"  Because your listeners as Buri put it take what you give them as a gift and in someway though it was in a lesser light too you, just touched someone's heart & soul!  And now [we] trash that gift that we just handed?

From now on, I'll keep my critiquing of myself... too myself!  If something I do I think was bad but it honestly touched someone in a positive and good way I will also say to myself, "Hey! what do you know? Nice Job anyways Royce!  now let's iron out that [whatever] for next time and personal best."

May 28, 2010 at 05:22 PM ·

I certainly feel that way sometimes. It sounds like we're around the same level of playing, though I could be wrong. But here's the thing - comparing oneself to others never did anybody any good. You do what you do, and when it works out the way you want it to, awesome. If it doesn't the first time, then good, you're human, keep working at it til you get it where you want it to be. Perfection is impossible, and if you hold yourself to that ideal, you're bound to let yourself down. Since I imagine you're playing for your own personal fulfillment, just keep on doing what you're doing. How do you define being "good enough"? Good enough to make an audience happy? I'd imagine you've done that more than a few times. Good enough to make yourself happy? It can happen, just don't try to be perfect. Personally, I feel great about my playing as long as I play long enough in a session to get that awesome feeling in my fingers, if you know what I mean.

May 28, 2010 at 06:19 PM ·

I think I've shared the following quote somewhere on this website before, but....here goes again -

Vince Lombardi (legendary coach of the Green Bay Packers in their glory days): "We will chase perfection. While perfection cannot be attained, we will catch excellence."

May 28, 2010 at 07:42 PM ·

It's strange - as your standards go up, so do your expectations. If they didn't, you'd never develop!

It was really brought home to me years ago. I had passed grade VIII while I was at school, and had thought that while I was at university, I hadn't improved. Until I went back to a school concert, and heard a pupil who was probably at the standard I'd been at performing - and I realised that I wouldn't have been satisfied with that performance. Yes, I had improved, but my expectations had stayed sufficiently in advance of my capabilities that I felt just as inadequate. 40 years on, I still feel the same, so hopefully I'm still improving. I'm sure even the greatest players are never totally satisfied, but what they do achieve is so far ahead of us ordinary mortals that we don't notice anything lacking.


May 28, 2010 at 11:37 PM ·

This thread reminds me of a study that was done a while back regarding people's salaries.  They asked a bunch of people how much money they would like to make and the response was nearly the same, regardless of their current salary.  Everyone wanted to make 40% more than what they were currently making.  It didn't matter if they were making $50,000/yr or $500,000/yr, they all wanted 40% more.

While Royce's mom has a valid point, it is important that we musicians have a degree of that "not good enough" attitude, just like with salaries.  It is that attitude that drives us to work hard and improve.  Without it, we would all be destined for mediocrity, or even worse, we would lose interest altogether.  So for those of us that have a feeling of inadequacy, I say be happy for it and keep practicing.



May 29, 2010 at 12:20 AM ·

And she does understand what we honestly mean as so aptly put by Sandy!  But there are times that I, and I am sure many others, become so, so obsessed with what we cannot do that it's ridiculous and we appear to have lost our joy....... We all do reach a point that we need to back up and see it through the non-players ears & eyes and pat ourselves on the back and see good for what we have accomplished enjoying the best me that I am at that moment.  

Seize the day!

October 28, 2010 at 11:58 AM ·

 I don't battle with it. My violin playing really isn't that great. I use that fact as motivation to practice regularly.

October 28, 2010 at 07:18 PM ·

If you are contributing to the world with your music then in one sense you are 'good enough'.  In another breath though, I always tell myself I can do more, I can be better. 

October 28, 2010 at 08:45 PM ·

 The words of a Zen master come to mind: "My students are perfect. And what I love most about them is that each of them has so much room for improvement."

October 28, 2010 at 09:12 PM ·

"Now, does the audience really want to hear me play the equivalent of, 'Twinkle, Twinkle, Little

Star' ?"  (after a high level performance...)


The audience of non musicians very often prefer easier music with a clear melody and rythm than a virtuosic stream of speed, harmonics, pizzicattos, notes flying all over (even if well executed.)  

The audience of musicians will respect anything that is delivered will soul and passion (and a minimum of precision required to achieve that...)  and real musicians who are not caught up in their ego will appreciate anyone who makes an effort to go onstage and even feel sorry for you if something wrong happens (remembering when they once did the same thing publically...)   


I agree that we always want more but we also have to look back to see what we've acheived... 

I attended last week a masterclass with Vengerov and wonderful students about my age who just played so difficult things...   I then felt like a baby playing baby things...   (this alone is already wrong because for the short time I've played compared to them and the poor practices I had due to my non-musical education field, I'm maybe as good "proportionally"... ; o )    But, when I listen to my "baby peices" played by professionnal soloists, I tell to myself that just playing these (even if it is less perfect than them) is already something to be proud of...  I tell to myself that if Mr or Mrs x soloist value that peice ennough to make a recording of it, I should no longer think I am a baby and play baby things just because I don't play the Brahms Concerto ; )  One will never play a peice well if one thinks he or she is a baby playing baby things! Of course, too much of the contrary is bad too... 

Perhaps another way to see it! 

Good luck!





October 28, 2010 at 11:03 PM ·

I like listening to anything that highlights the way strings sound like voices.  Music that is overly technically demanding often highlights the device nature of the instrument and not the vocal nature.  It can be nice -- I still love Hilary Hahn's version of Caprice 24, but she plays it like just a pretty, light, engaging scrap of song ... that just so happens to be insanely hard.

In general, super technically demanding pieces of string music remind me of the guy who used to do the Federal Express commercials who talked crazy-fast.  Impressive, but not what you'd call moving oratory.

I'm a musician, so I'm not sure how that influences my opinion.  I can certainly appreciate technical virtuosity, but if it doesn't lead to someplace musically meaningful, it feels like empty musical calories.

In terms of "never feeling good enough," that's probably the best part of playing music.  You never finish.  There's no ceiling and always more to learn.  It's like the everlasting gobstopper -- suck on it all you want, it never gets smaller.  Studying an instrument is a surefire cure for boredom for an entire human lifetime.

October 29, 2010 at 12:03 AM ·



October 29, 2010 at 12:09 AM ·

My violin playing is either good at one point or not so good at another point, but the last time when I thought it was good enough, I got myself in trouble.  In my book, "good enough" is an attitude, which may gives me comfort but does not inform me how I'm actually doing and what are my next steps.

October 29, 2010 at 01:12 AM ·

Janis, I agree too...  I am also not a fond of sheer virtuosity...   I just like virtuosical peices when they do sound musical...   I guess this is because I have been a non-musician for the first 14 years of my life and can still see the music as when i was a little girl knowing nothing about music and just appreciating beautiful fast or slow melodius music when I heard some!   If I was born listening to pure virtuosity since day one in a musical family, maybe my views would be different... 

Yixi... very true!

Have a nice day,


October 29, 2010 at 02:03 AM ·


October 29, 2010 at 12:39 PM ·

 I've been finding it very helpful to separate the feeling from the thinking.  The feeling of not being good enough is, to me, depressing and de-motivating.  But the intellectual analysis of what needs to be improved is important and useful.  So, intellectually, I know, or if I don't I strive to find/figure out, what I need to do to get better on various aspects.  But at the same time I step back, take a breath, and think about all that in a way that is detached from how I *feel* about my playing.  Then I usually feel happy about my playing, and feel that it is good enough.  That feeling allows me to tackle the long list of intellectual tasks that will (I hope) lead to improvement, without becoming intimidated and discouraged.

October 29, 2010 at 07:54 PM ·

Ultimately, I think it's a matter of approach -- whether you think, "I'll never be good enough" or "AWESOME!  There's always more to learn!"  It's not just a half-empty/half-full thing; I'm a hardened cynic and pessimist.  However, I also chew on the table legs if I start to get bored.

If you were ever "good enough," why would you keep going?  It'd get boring.  Instruments and music are like a neverending lifetime banquet where the plates always hold stuff you love and refill automatically as you eat, and there's no cholesterol, fat, or calories.  You can shovel it in as fast as you want, pause when you want, and you'll never get full.  That's a great way to spend a couple decades.

There's a great little bit of film with the concertmaster of the Philadelphia Orchestra David Kim in a doco movie about the orchestra called Music from the Inside Out that's awesome, where he says something like, "There have been so many times in my life where I've come home and thought, 'All right!  You're good now!' and then the violin gods just punish me ... " *mimes a bolt of lightning*

If the concertmaster of the freaking Philadelphia Orchestra thinks that, don't worry about it too much.  Don't run away from the fact that you're not good now.  Just run toward the better you that's waiting.  Meanwhile, you're doing something fun, right?

October 30, 2010 at 10:10 AM ·

Last spring I fell into the trap of thinking I was good enough, needless to say  I managed to fail an important audition shortly afterwards. It was not fun but it directed my fcus and my way of thinking. I know I´m a good violinist but I´m never good enough, I always gotta keep going going going and push myself to get better.

October 30, 2010 at 10:28 AM ·

Anna: to quote the great Dylan

"There's no success like failure and failure is no success at all."


October 30, 2010 at 12:12 PM ·

After a performance of say some chamber music I might think about how the others have played, and then about myself I nearly always think "it never gets any easier, but that may have been 1% better." But then I think of all the stupid things I did and think "back to the drawing board."

I sometimes say to the others "we just about got away with that performance, but it has to be better next time."

The day I think i've made it I will open the lid and step into my coffin. It might not be too far off either!! (Not the making it, but the coffin ...)

October 30, 2010 at 12:19 PM ·

"If you were ever "good enough," why would you keep going?  It'd get boring. "

I'd keep going because I would still want to get better.  Again, it's a feeling vs. thinking distinction.  I feel okay, "good enough," about my current progress.  But I still know in my mind that there's more to learn, and that's good too.  It's getting from either/or to both/and.

I don't really get bored.  The only things that bore me are things that I'm doing because someone else told me that I should do them to keep from getting bored.

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