When you are tired of the piece you are working on...

January 22, 2011 at 07:28 PM ·

 my kid is saying she is getting tired of this tune,,,by now:)  (me too, esp when it does not sound like it should be:)

to stop beating the dead horse, or to find ways for the pony to march through the marshland?

how did you manage this problem when it happened to you?



Replies (32)

January 22, 2011 at 07:43 PM ·

Wow, she's always making so much progress! Bravo to her!   All I can tell at my poor level... ; ) is that to take a break for a few days, do easier or more "fun" peices, look at the greats performing that peice helped me when I was tired of my peices...


January 22, 2011 at 09:36 PM ·

I tihnk there is a limit that we can reach at any stage of our learning process for any particular piece.  Trying to perfect it beyond that limit will probably result in some further improvement of technique - but runs the danger of damaging one's interest in playing at all.

One of the great pleasures of returning to the violin, as compared to learning it as a child, is that I have control over what and when I play.  That means if I choose to play 30 different tunes one after the other instead of my main study piece - I can.  Obviously for a serious student it is important that they focus (and I am learning to go the other way - play less variety and more quality on single pieces) but NOT at the price of enjoyment or simply being able to play music.

I am not a teacher but from a student perspective it would seem timely to take a break - really let it be for a while until she is ready to return to it.  Let her have some fun so that the violin does not become a chore rather than a pleasure...


January 22, 2011 at 10:13 PM ·

anne-marie, thanks, but you can't say you play poorly since you have not seen me play:)

elise,  thanks to folks like you guys with your broader perspectives, i think my kid's inferior chinese father has been positively influenced.  as i see my kid growing up every day--faster each day, in a world that is spinning faster and faster--it really hits home what the long term effects of a music training can be.  i hope it can be for the better because of the message:  one has to enjoy the process...

since i posted the video, we have received quite a few helpful comments and suggestions also on youtube.  the cloud is lifting up a bit:)

January 22, 2011 at 10:47 PM ·


"The world is too much with us; late and soon,
Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers:
Little we see in Nature that is ours;
We have given our hearts away, a sordid boon!
This Sea that bares her bosom to the moon;
The winds that will be howling at all hours,
And are up-gathered now like sleeping flowers;
For this, for everything, we are out of tune,
It moves us not.--Great God! I'd rather be
A Pagan suckled in a creed outworn;
So might I, standing on this pleasant lea,
Have glimpses that would make me less forlorn;
Have sight of Proteus rising from the sea;
Or hear old Triton blow his wreathed horn"

And that was written in 1807 - by William Wordsworth.  I doubt he had any idea where it would all go...

January 22, 2011 at 11:51 PM ·

@ al:

i listened to the Youtube video. Your daughter displays such a huge talent...she has very good technique, a wonderful sound, and inner musicality. She is very young, and I feel her being a bit impatient when playing (one sees she enjoys playing very much, but I also get the impression slightly that the goal is to get to the end of the piece), which is maybe an indication she should not be too much pushed into practicing it over and over again. If she now is not ready to work it up, it does not mean she cannot come back to it later. Maybe, in 10 years, thanks to all the practice she already made, she will make an absolutely stunning Gypsy Airs? I think it is more important to stimulate the interest and the passion, than to create results in the improvement. Musicality is a fragile flower that cannot grow in a vase, but only on free mark where rain falls naturally.

Maybe some wonderful chamber music could encourage her a bit?

By the way, is it OK for her that you are discussing her playing with the Violinist.com and posting her videos?

January 23, 2011 at 01:19 AM ·

 lena, you have made a lot of good points,,,i agree with you that her playing in general has a sense of rush to the end:).  others have also sensed that as well.  i am not sure why.  is it a personality thing?   not taking it seriously?   i asked her before and she simply shrugs as if asking,,,hey, you try it? :)  well,,since i can't,  i wonder.  what is it like when you play a piece of intense music...how much do you control what you play and how much the music controls you,,,may be some of you can relate and blame it on the devil. :)

perhaps it is also a lack of a sense of the total structure of the piece, or a lack of patience (can't wait to tell the whole story including the ending right now!), or fatigue--physically even though she is not weak, playing a piece like that-which demands attention to every note-- can wear on you, both physically and emotionally.  could also be an age thing to not be able to pace it well.   

she is cool about having her videos on youtube and having me asking questions here and there. the experience has been helpful and fun.   since she is not interested in going into music (she dreams to go into computers, literally so it seems),  i have nothing to promote music-wise. i make a point of not having her name on the videos--just another kid on violin, suffering like the millions:).  they are for getting feedbacks from helpful commentors.   the last thing i want for my kid is to have a big head without any substance or a small head that require therapy later.  every time she looks at her older clips, she does cringe.  good,,,that will keep her honest! :)


elise, that perspective is refreshing indeed!

January 23, 2011 at 03:09 AM ·

Very impressive.  Enormous improvement in the right hand.  After she fixed her right index finger it really freed up her wrist.  And the violin sounds great; is that a new one?


January 23, 2011 at 03:26 AM ·

Wow!  Again, I'll say WOW!
Having studied a piece "to death" before, I can understand just wanting to move on.  Sometimes its not just the piece, but the style that gets stale.  When I did my Bach-athon I'd mix it up from time to time with a completely different rhythm (e.g. Jazz), or plug into an effects box and just horse around. 
That kept me going for years...

January 23, 2011 at 03:33 AM ·

 First of all you´re daughter is incredibly talented! I love her interpretation of the piece (particularly the fast section) and she displays great technique. 

Whenever I get bored of a piece I leave it to rest for a few days and begin playing something new and exciting. I take my time exploring new repetoire and playing around  with new pieces and after a few days rest I´m generally good to go.

I wish your daughter the best of luck. She´s clearly a wonderful violinist.

January 23, 2011 at 04:18 AM ·

May I suggest she is getting tired of that peice she's working on because she's too good at it?     ; ) 

It's very fluid and just falls in place so well.  Any teacher would (I think...) mostly work on final important details  (expression, articulation, dynamics etc) at that point and not the basic mechanics because they are already there.  Perhaps working on details can be more "boring" than when you have bigger technical/mecanical problems to fix or litterally fight to just play the peice?

I do not know how much time it takes to your daughter to learn such a peice (but you said she didn't usually practice like a crazy in another thread if I remember well)  If she has a gift by nature to learn all the basics and technique of a peice very fast and quickly is ready for learning "final details or final touch", she maybe gets boared faster than someone who needs 1 or 2 years (as in my case...) to play something in an "acceptable" way and litterally fight for months just to play some passages. From my experience, when you struggle to play something, you usually don't have time to get boared by "the tune".  You are rather like an obsess crazy scientist checking every mechanical part of your violin, bow and yourself to figure out how to do it and after thinking of intonation/fingerings etc   Of course, she surely does too, I'm not telling she isn't.  She's maybe just lucky to be able to "catch it" or "get it" more  quickly and efficiently than others?   Could this be a side effect of her impressing talent?  (just asking as a possibility : )  And if yes, possibly a side effect that everyone would like to have!

Anyway, still bravo to her!!!!!  btw technically speaking, I noticed that she seems to have big hands for her size.  That's really really nice and handy for a violinist... She has it all to do a wonderful player ; )    


January 23, 2011 at 04:50 AM ·

 thanks for the undeserved accolades,,, i will relate the msgs of kind and nice thoughts.

smiley,,,that right index finger will be forever linked to you:)   not a new violin, just a new set-up,,actually just a new bridge...a higher one,,,the opposite of where you are going:)

mendy,  with her limited time on violin and limited exposure to music outside her practice, it is a little tough to engage her more.  i really want to her to have more fun with it- the violin experience in general-but it is challenging to arrange it.  may be i should get her an electric violin, haha.  

anna, thanks.  actually i think her fast section needs a lot more work:)  more slow practice i say:)  which goes back to my original concern,,,how to introduce her to more slow practice when she is getting sick of it? :)

anne marie:   you raised more interesting points:

1. i know she is not obsessed with violin playing (as compared to computer gaming:), so at some level, i think she subconsciously gives only so much effort to fill her mental quota and after that her mind wonders off to other things.  to really deliver all the tiny details in this piece imo takes a lot more self driven desire.

2.  you are right that she doesn't practice that much, just in the morning before school.  but in that limited time period,,i admit she gives good effort.  she is the type that can remember pieces quickly to an "acceptable", low level:),  then there seems to be resistance to climb higher, as you have pointed out.   fair to say, everyone has his/her own unique problems!  but over the years, i see changes, slow but steady, of being more conscientious.  to me that is rather gratifying, even more than the music part.

January 23, 2011 at 10:30 AM ·

@ al: i would bet it is just an age thing. when i were in that age,

i were mostly interested in violin for the show off part: showing a pretty tone and lots of impressive fast notes. of course, this was REALLY FUN.  in this age, the competition with other kids makes the show off part much more interesting. and your daughter plays with impressive technique. how long has she worked on this Gypsy Airs?

i would actually propose a long term solution. she needs to discover Brahms and thus another way of seeing music.

give her the d minor sonata, or the A major sonata, to learn AND perform. the musical difficulties of Brahms will initially cause lots of frustration, she might claim she hates playing it in the beginning. this is normal, it just means she has not figured out the phrasings. let her use this pieces to learn experimenting, so that she every day must discover one bar that sounds good if she does this or that way (and writes that up). when she will feel the musical progress, she will start loving those sonatas...its very emotionally satisfying to play them when you feel good abt yr phrasings. and one cannot play these pieces without patience...it would sound bad!

January 23, 2011 at 04:36 PM ·


on the Sassmannshaus website www.violinmasterclass.com you can go to the mastercalss section and click on putting it together.  This demonstrates different ways to add the finishing touches, e.g. intonation, rhythm then finally musicality its pretty good and will retain her attention for the final stages on the piece.

January 23, 2011 at 04:55 PM ·

al: I've no idea how things are with your daughter but I do know that while its great having a supportive parent its very easy to become an over bearing one too.  The simple fact that you asked the question does seem to indicate that the choice of what to do rests more with you than with your daughter.  She is obviously very accomplished on the instrument - is it possible you are a bit over the line and taking too much interest - to th epoint where its becoming controlling?  Again, this is said from the point of view of an aging student, not a teacher - perhaps one would like to contradict this - but at her stage it would seem to me that the decision whether to pursue the piecs or to move onto something else (or to play jazz) should be shifting to her and her teacher....

Maybe I'm projecting myself into this too much I don't know...  it would be great to hear directly from her ;)

January 23, 2011 at 06:38 PM ·

After her debut at Carnegie Hall AND winning her first tournament on the LPGA tour, Al can write a book to compete with Amy Chua:  Battle Hymn of the Tiger Dad.  :-)

January 23, 2011 at 07:02 PM ·

 lena,,, good point on a broader and longer perspective.  since she may soon look for another "piece" to work on, i will keep those deep sounding pieces in mind.  gosh, must be hard to learn/play them without piano!    

hannah, thanks for the suggestion, will check it out.

smiley,,,would you pen a chapter on the right index finger in the MEOW OF A PUSSYCAT? :)

elise, i consider myself overbearing enough and abnormal enough to help my kid to practice violin from day one and help her to get through the bumps that may even humble the grown-ups. the whole process is rather abnormal if we look at it from a "normal" angle.  why not just kick a soccer ball in the backyard when she feels like it?   like every young child starting on something that requires focus and discipline,  she has made sacrifices to learn the violin.  with kids of her age who have already made up their minds to go pro violin, i can only imagine. 

she is 10.  i have nightmares of seeing her expressing herself on the internet even if she is 18. old school?  nah,,,just being a chicken!:).  i may be overbearing on this, but  for the time being, i would like to be the buffer and filter.  so whatever i have related is from my observations and from our interactions.  

my line of work requires me to make judgments based on new info from all sources constantly. perhaps that is the reason i enjoy learning from many others, instead of just one source.  in one hour per week, a lot can be accomplished, but often, only a little may get through to a young child.  thus the burden falls on my shoulders in my house (we divide the work in my house: my wife does the school front, i do the extracurricular).  more often than not, imo, at least 50% of things covered by the teacher is not solidly absorbed after the class.  so i help out.  

from day one, my goal is to help her become a well rounded person with music. to become a better musician is secondary and really a natural outcome if anyone keeps at it.   there is no goal, no timeline.  just do it and enjoy the process.  we find it to be fun to find new paths together as a team each day with her violin study and with her other activities.  further,   a lot of the stuff that i work with her is not covered in the music books, nor covered by the teacher, but synthesized and developed based on my understanding of her through out the years.  i think every kid needs a specialized and individualized plan consisting of the child, the teacher and the parent.  my job is to make the teacher's job easier and help to get the student ready.

it is difficult to measure the effect of my role in her violin study.  my faith is that  with the constant efflux and influx of info,  with her well being as my ultimate goal,  i may get better with time:).

January 23, 2011 at 07:35 PM ·

It's common in the human condition to get tired of something you can do well and to move away from it, possibly seeking new challenges, and then return to it a while later, refreshed.

I read a story about Nigel Kennedy who put his concert career on hold for a few years while he went away and played other kinds of music, because, as he put it, he couldn't face the thought of playing the Mendelssohn 20 times in the next 6 months and finding something new to say each time. He eventually returned to the concert platform, refreshed.

January 24, 2011 at 09:56 AM ·

@ al: good work! i am still a bit with Elise on that maybe you should not push the girl too much with this particular piece. On the other hand ,even if she plays this well at age of 10 (I thought she was 15-16 somewhere judging from the videos) one cannot now say whether she will aim or not to become professional. She is far too young to make any decisions about her life, and yes, I agree with you on that its better if she does not use the Internet for making connections and asking people these kind of questions, she is far too young for that. You rather do it for her.

Keep on stimulating her with practice in the same great way as you have been doing! But give her still some rest and some new pieces. She is not feeling ready to take Aires Gitanos to next musical level yet. I don't agree with others calling the adding of soem phrasings "the final touch", because I personally think that work is the most important part of the music, that can take long time to work through, why I think its not just a couple of extra things to implement...she will learn most on it, when she will feel that she wants to do it, and will insist on doing it on her own.

Focus on keeping her interested and motivated, rather than keeping her progressing efficiently. (Keeping her interested will automatically make her progress anyway.) Let her use her advantage of age to create neurons, and give her perhaps the Lalo, Symphonie Espagnole, and some nice concerto, like Wieniawski to learn. Or a big bunch of etudes... :)

January 24, 2011 at 12:10 PM ·

 lena, thanks for your concern, but you have to believe me when i say that i have zero say in her musical direction where clearly the teacher leads.  as i said, i just try to make sure that if the teacher says to cross 3 tees and dot 4 eyes on this line, for 2 weeks in a roll now,  we'd better try to find ways to remember them, or the teacher may get mad! :0 actually the teacher is such a sweetheart.  never yelled ,,,scratch that,,never ever raised the voice in a negative tone,,,not even once.  and always chocolate to choose after the class...

my kid has a big heart and a strong personality.  she tends to roll over me like a tank.  where do inferior chinese fathers go to get sympathy and care? :)  is my pleading for help really like a tiny fern falling in the forest?  :)

the pieces you mentioned,,,she may have tried them before.

john,,,you are trying to turn me into an internet pusher, one that stands on the corner of the information highway. :)

January 24, 2011 at 12:21 PM ·

@ al: I do believe you! (i just missed that point before.) well, then...what can one do? she can always learn Brahms sonatas without telling the teacher too? :) (i believe in secrets. its good learning to keep them!)

i got a different idea how to deal with the problem of not enough patience while playing a piece. maybe you should download some mp3-files of piano accompaniments? they are typically very helpful to get a feeling of the piano part, and thus the rhytmic limitations. of course, aires gitanos is a very free music, but it can still be helpful to learn to feel the piano at many places. i learnt recently gluck's melodie this way, by always practicing and hearing the piano part in my head to keep me from rushing.

January 24, 2011 at 12:40 PM ·

 lena, which site do you use to get the piano parts?  

so she was about to play the piece again today just now.  i asked her to do something differently,,,play the entire piece, every note, at a speed twice as slow,,,every note.  and if she could do that,,,she could put down the violin and spend the rest of the time watching spongbob. and i reminded that don't be alarmed that all of a sudden, intonation became worse; it was just that during slower play she finally heard previous missed intonation problems.

with that much incentive,,,come on, we are talking about spongbob here--she forgot about 20 times about playing 2 x slower:).

no love lost,,,just no tv then:)  a bet is a bet.

she did say afterwards, it sounded quite interesting to play at that speed, that it helped capture her attention this time.

January 24, 2011 at 02:41 PM ·

Hmm, could this be a good site?


Also, does your daughter play together with recordings? In slower parties, thsi could help! Brilliant idea by the way, to ask her to play twice as slow.

January 24, 2011 at 03:41 PM ·

"You should get Dad of the Year awards for your care and attention."

I'll second that. 

January 24, 2011 at 05:08 PM ·

 lena, thanks for that.  will check it out.  for some reasons, my kid has not developed a habit of listening to others much.  at least not yet.   when she was first introduced to the violin, i got pbs tapes on andre rieu (please, no egg throwing at me:).  she had a good time:  the colors and customs were very appealing to her.  then came vengerov:  i think as a kid, she had a strong reaction-loud giggles- to his facial impressions during playing, hehe.   i think for the first time, she felt that there can be electricity in music.

i want to respond to a point you made earlier that perhaps my kid will change her mind and take classical music seriously.   i actually asked once, that would she be comfortable making a living on stage?  she said, no.  she said she would feel more comfortable being a behind- the- stage person.  to me that is enough of a signal where her comfort zone is.  you must admit that with classical music there has always been the 2 sides of reality:  the side that develops inner beauty and appreciation off stage and the side where ponies are thrown into the race on stage  (well some ponies jump on their own).  IF she had said she was interested in pursuing a stage life,  i might have given in to the track leading to the horse race to take the chances.  after all, if teachers insist, how do i resist?  but reality has taken it easy on me in that regard since she has no interest.  what is left is to do it for the heck of it, or youtube as the case may be :)   i highly doubt she will change her mind considering the number of other interests out there these days.  i simply don't know enough to dictate.   and if she does want to pursue classical music one day,,i can see me having a massive heart attack right there so i don't have to deal with it anyway:)

my wife is in the medical profession and she deals with people on daily basis that face end of life decision makings,,,trying her best to add quality to the days left when the romance of the music is about to end.  my kid's idol is my wife (i am about 32nd on the list, after some kois in the backyard. ) my kid grew up listening to mommy answering calls with details of the harsh reality, about how lives have been lived by others, some fuller than others, about how all lives eventually come to an end, often at the most unexpected, most inconvenient moments.  i assume this experience has some impact on my kid and she seems to have no problem treasuring each moment with the task at hand.      

smiley,  since i am standing on thin ice, just wave from far, far away:)

January 28, 2011 at 07:30 PM ·

 hello john, but safer ground is never safe though:)   life is always throwing things at ya.

problem with that suggestion is the issue of time. last winter for some reason she wanted a dvd set of a cooking show called elton brown something (?spelling) (a food network show in the usa).  the guy is like a mad scientist in the kitchen,  quite witty and entertaining.  she is currently addicted to watching how food is made,,,and she shares with me some french terms here and there,,, so we are now sophisticated.

it is amazing how people can even make cooking this interesting and entertaining.  yes, i am talking to you guys, the violin teachers! haha

ps.  i enjoy watching people using blow torch to make little custards...

January 28, 2011 at 08:20 PM ·

@ al:

its not only kids. when my pianist for the first time showed me Vengerov playing Bazzini's "Dance of Goblins" (video), we were both lying on his office floor, trying to breath between all laughter. since then, we cannot watch him a single time, it kills of us directly. maybe we have young souls :D

btw, the habit of listening comes when one dates boys via chamber music :)

February 3, 2011 at 03:39 PM ·

 john, did you go time travel again? :)

funny you mentioned benny.  you see, i had my secondary school in hong kong as a fellow colonist of yours:)  and i remember flipping through the channels (only ?4,,2 in cantonese and 2 in english) and i had my first exposure to western comedy-well, british humor--and sexual content thanks to benny.  my english was limited to abcd, but his shows transcended any language barrier.   i have enjoyed watching those little chases out of a barn or down the meadow...  it was a good time.

yup, now any show on tv is following this "contest" formula.  after a while, it gets tiring.  but it is capitalism at work....when ad revs are down, they will find another hot area.

February 3, 2011 at 06:38 PM ·

Yes, I know Bridalplasty is not the end of the line...although a show that provides plastic surgery for competing brides does seem like it's scraping the bottom of the cultural barrel.... I'm still waiting for IRON LUTHIER....quick, you have 30 minutes to cut and fit this bridge....ahh...I think I'll be waiting a long while before I see IRON LUTHIER DAVID BURGESS (with sawzall at his side) in televised competition.... ...

February 3, 2011 at 06:47 PM ·

sean, you really dived deep:)  

i think maestro david can actually be casted as a judge of some sort.  seeing his delivery on youtube, i think he could have been a character playing himself on seinfeld.  but i still wonder what kinda moisturizer he uses... i am about to develop cracks on my facial plate.

another violin related reality show could be iron sight reading contest of the allegro kind.  with a backup orchestra of course. and a conductor who does not want to be there.  i would watch that! :0   the winner will be crowned as the fastest fiddler,, the real type, haha.

john, do they allow you to watch jerry seinfeld in uk?

sean, in the iron luthier show,,,is crazy glue allowed in the interest of time?

February 3, 2011 at 07:09 PM ·

Yeah, I'd watch a sightreading competition...actually, I'd watch any competition involving classical music....actually, i think there was one once, in England if I recall...it was probably on PBS though...

...a few years ago, there was actually a reality based show here in the States about kids at a performing arts high school in Los Angeles...showed kids competing for chairs in orchestra, concerto competitions, etc.....my daughter LOVED it....of course, it disappeared rather quickly...



February 3, 2011 at 08:59 PM ·

@ al

i was thinking a bit about the problem. a thought occurred to me. can't it be that actually you are at least as talented as your daughter (or maybe even more?), but just not putting enough effort into learning the violin yourself, and instead focusing on her progress instead? maybe, what you should do, that would also inspire her interest, is to start focusing mainly on your own playing? the only problem might be that your daughter will get anxious once you start getting too good, and she might start practicing too much.

February 3, 2011 at 10:10 PM ·

 "once you start getting too good,"  now you are turning into an extremist:), but thanks for the thought.  

not that i am complaining or finding an excuse, or something,,,i just find playing violin for me, beyond certain level,,,to be too much of a struggle.  i really believe so because i tried and failed:).  i did play with her in her beginning years as a company so we go through tough spots together.  after couple years, i could not keep up with her anymore because she sightread much faster, and that double stops became a pain:),,,hideous sounds:):).  so i asked myself,,,dude, get real ok?  find something else to do!

so i found an easier job after that:  i sat on the sofa and became a critic simply because i could.  i know i am not doing a good job because often i doze off when she started going with it.  but more often than that, i offer random but invaluable!:) opinions, like i do here.  

my favorite line:  hey, stop, if that part sounds bad to me,,,then you know something is really bad.

her reply:  dad,,,you should not talk to your daughter like that!

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