January 4, 2012 at 03:12 AM · Help!

I had a horrid lesson and I am so discouraged with my lack of progress!!!!

I've been on the same song for a month now!

Replies (30)

January 4, 2012 at 03:50 AM · Hi,

wouldn't that depend on your skill level and the difficulty of your piece? You shouldn't feel discouraged by one bad lesson. No one can play great everyday so yea. I'd say don't worry about it

January 4, 2012 at 05:33 AM · We all have those days. You have my sympathy! One month is not that long. Try to set specific daily and weekly practice goals for improvement, and follow through. You will see progress!

January 4, 2012 at 06:38 AM · Hi Sara, I've been learning for around 3 years and I still have pieces that take me a couple of months to learn properly. And yes, I do have a horrid lesson from time to time too. As I am a perfectionist, I find it hard to take in my stride, but I'm getting better at using the 'horrid' lesson to my best advantage. One has to make mistakes so that the teacher knows where to correct you, and if you take from the lesson the very important comments your teacher made, you will progress far more quickly. Get determined and set to work on the parts your teacher mentioned, right from the start. Even if you have to use a lesson diary to write down things you feel you might forget. Paying attention during a tough lesson will make a huge difference. I promise you! Good Luck :)

January 4, 2012 at 12:48 PM · Sara --

As Joyce and others have said, a month isn't an unreasonable amount of time to be working on a piece. Some of my solo material has taken me three times as long to learn. There's evidently a challenging aspect in the particular material you're working on, and you just need to "chip away at it" -- it'll come eventually. There might even be tension from a part of your life that's totally unrelated to the violin that could be interfering with your concentration. Don't be discouraged. I've felt like I've absolutely "hit a wall" a few times, but then there will be a breakthrough -- something will just suddenly click.

I'm assuming that you're playing the violin because it brings you joy -- that no one is forcing you into a practice room with a gun. :) Just keep that in mind, relax, enjoy your time with your violin, and let things happen in their own time.

January 4, 2012 at 01:15 PM · Sara,

I've been working on the same piece for 2 years now -- still can't play it. Compared to me, you are a prodigy :-)

January 4, 2012 at 02:43 PM · I can easily top that. I'm working on the partita in E major right now, I started in 1984...

January 4, 2012 at 03:51 PM · I don't know what it is -- some days, I pick the instrument and everything seems effortless. The next day, the same piece is a struggle.

It's not sleep, or anything I can put my finger on (maybe biorhythms?).

However, on the "hard" days, if I keep plugging, and grind through the parts that seem hardest, the next day shows lots of progress. There's a lot to be said for persistence, especially when you have an occasional "off" day.

January 4, 2012 at 05:47 PM · Tobias, what date did you start do you still remember? I just want to know if it's before I was born or after :p

January 4, 2012 at 05:53 PM · Sara -

I've been working on the same piece for a while now, and my last practice session was so bad I swear I could hear my violin laughing when I wiped it down before putting it away.

---Ann Marie

January 4, 2012 at 06:42 PM · Shen-Han Lin,

I left school in june, went to the music academy in october, so it must have been november 1984.

January 4, 2012 at 07:46 PM · It is discouraging when you don't progress at an appreciable rate.

Maybe it's time to put that piece down, at least for a while, and move on to another...

If all you're doing is getting hung up on the same sections, or just 'perfecting' the bad parts, there's not much use in just playing it over and over...

You can always revisit it down the road.

January 4, 2012 at 10:27 PM · Well, oftentimes, "always darkest before the dawn" is very true of the violin. If you are not sure what your teacher wants you to DO with the piece you are working on, ask for specific input. Write it down. A month is not at all long unless you are a novice working on something like the little Suzuki Book 1 tunes, and even then, many Suzuki teachers keep students on the same piece for weeks (and weeks). Chin up! Sue

January 5, 2012 at 09:28 PM · Don't be discouraged. We all hit plateaus, where we can't seem to get anything right. It can go on for a month or more, and it feels like hell all that time. Then one day something happens, and off you go again.

Sometimes a bit of variety is all you need. Try different material, or play with other people. Others can sometimes spot something that will help you.

Last month I was in the same state as you. At two lessons in a row my intonation was dreadful, much worse than while practising at home. I couldn't seem to do anything right. Then one evening at a party I ran into a friend with whom I often play. There was no music that night, but he mentioned in passing that my intonation seemed to be off when playing from sheet music, while it was perfect when I played from memory.

Back at home the next day, I picked up my violin and read a measure of an etude that was giving me trouble. Then I closed my eyes and played that measure from memory. I repeated the process measure by measure through the entire piece. My intonation was almost perfect.

The secret, I realized, was that I was concentrating so much on the music on the page that I was forgetting about the instrument itself. Once I transferred my concentration back into the violin - except for just enough to read the music - my playing improved.

Now I'm off the plateau and moving forward again. It'll happen for you too - probably when you find a different way of looking at the problem that gives you a flash of insight.

Hang in there. Keep grinding away at it, but read lots, talk to other people, play with them. Soon something will click, and you'll be on your way.

January 5, 2012 at 11:01 PM · If you can identify what is holding you back on that piece, it's worthwhile practicing that item/technique, whatever, on something else. Then when you return to your over-chewed piece, it will be fresh, and you will have advanced. Variety keeps everything fresh--and the same issues will show up, regardless what notes you are fingering.

January 6, 2012 at 12:21 AM · I am one of those people who has been on the last few pieces in Suzuki 1 for several months. I definitely get frustrated, but I know that once I get it I'll have that knowledge for good. Something to look forward to I guess.

January 6, 2012 at 07:36 AM · John- I find EXACTLY the same. I'll repeat and repeat a bar, metronome on, over and over like a good girl and get nowhere. Violin in case, gloom and despondency. However, the next day when I come to the same spot I can totally hear the difference.

It can be a bit 'nyeh' to work really hard at one small thing (spent a lot of time recently- hours and hours for days- just trying to get the bow to sync with my fingers for about a four bar phrase) only to have it blend in seamlessly with the rest of the piece. I mean, it's meant to! That was the whole point of practicing it- so that a listener wouldn't be able to pick out the difficult bar from any other. But it would be nice if it stood out, y'know, sounded a *little* bit flash.

I'm reminded of a VERY motivated Uni friend of mine who is one of those people who just seems to be able to excel at everything. His motto? "Effortlessness takes work." Also, I was particularly inspired by something Scott put on here- that there are many walls in between here and greatness, and those who get to the top are the ones who doggedly climb those walls. I'm at the bottom of one right now, in fact- haven't really got anywhere noticeable for weeks- so putting it like that has really helped. Remember, if you plotted progress on a chart, it wouldn't be linear. There are ups, flat bits, even downs. But ultimately the net effect is one big up, if you can just look away from the bit you're on and see the whole graph.

Finally, remember in life not every day can be the BEST day. But you can still be a happy person. Violin lessons are the same- it's how you ride out the 'stinkers' that determine what your final progress graph would look like.

Failing all that, just come on here and have a good vent about it. It does wonders! :-D

January 6, 2012 at 06:14 PM · My record is a year, and I never did finish that piece to my satisfaction. I am about to go back to it, just as part of my routine review, but I hope now that I've left the frustration behind me it will go better.

My best example though, is with Andantino in Book 1 of Suzuki. It took me six months. For some reason, I just had real trouble with the quarter note staccatos. But once I did get it, I really got it and ultimately was s worth the time to learn what I needed to learn.

But the frustration is real and unpleasant. In addition to trying to find what is causing you the trouble and how to fix it, you may want to also try playing something new, so that you can feel excited about the music again.

January 6, 2012 at 06:47 PM · @Lila: I don't get frustrated with "off" days, I just find the phenomenon interesting. There's no way to tell beforehand.

Sometimes I feel tired, but the fiddle's just golden. Other days, I have a musical mindset and and raring to go, but when I play the first note, it's mud.

No matter: stick with it, and practice does a world of good.

January 8, 2012 at 01:53 AM · Sara, I don't know what level you're at, but as a recent joiner I'd take a guess at you being quite young. I remember back when I was at about Associated Board Grade 4/5 level, I nearly gave up. That's the sort of transition period where your expectations start really rising - you're trying to play music rather than notes, maybe get a vibrato and play "off the string". I felt I was working hard and getting nowhere. In fact, I think it was only that we had to give a term's notice of stopping lessons at school that kept me going that bit longer - and suddenly I started making a noise I could listen to. Now 40+ years later, I'm probably enjoying playing more than ever. If that is the stage you're at, it's worth persevering. You will come through it - and hopefully never look back.

January 8, 2012 at 09:15 AM · isn't it really normal, Sara?

don't be discouraged and keep practicing.

if you keep going, you can do it! :)

Shasha, 13, Indonesia

January 11, 2012 at 07:21 AM · When I'm feeling like a really terrible violinist making no progress, I tend to like moral boosters. Perhaps my favorite one is playing a slow and melodic piece (second movement of Tchaik's violin concerto, ave maria, vitali chaconne, etc) in a room with tons of reverb, such as a bathroom.

For me at least, it's quite enchanting.

January 11, 2012 at 07:41 AM · Totally agree. When the Man and I moved into this place, we were a bit freaked out by the bigger bedroom so we set ourselves up in the small one. Then we had to get rid of all the rotten carpets, and the floorboards were so nice we sanded them and didn't bother with new carpets. Also we were skint so didn't have any furniture! The bigger bedroom was empty with bare boards.

THEN one day I happened to take my oboe in there...

It's now empty apart from a small sofa (the reverb was too much, if anything!), the piano, a bookcase for music and a mirror. It's like singing in the shower! I'm glad we can't afford a spare bed- I don't want another thing in there.

Problem is, playing anywhere else is a bit of a come-down...

January 12, 2012 at 03:08 PM · The thing is Sara, that all of your violin playing career will be full of setbacks and discouraging moments. But moments is all they are, and they are good and useful, because you can stop and think why it may be going badly, or not progressing.

It happens to me about twice a week, and I've been playing for well over 50 years.

You have to grab the opportunity, that moment, and ask lots of questions of yourself. Why? Then you can work around the problem and put it right.

It may be difficult in these very early stages of learning, but if you remember this then one day you will look forward to a bad day, just so you can put it right. Sometimes no matter how advanced we may be, we have to go back to stage one and just settle those problems that may have crept in. Remember you have to be a bit special to play a stringed instrument - so don't let it get you down, and treat it as a challenge.

January 12, 2012 at 03:42 PM · @Peter "The thing is Sara, that all of your violin playing career will be full of setbacks and discouraging moments."

Every other career is the same way, in fact it is true of any human endeavor that might ultimately result in real achievement.

On learns to respond to setbacks with determination. Not in the way Santayana once described ("a fanatic is someone who redoubles his efforts upon losing sight of his goals") but in the thoughtful way -- finding new paths, setting not necessarily lower but different goals, and asking for help from your friends.

January 12, 2012 at 06:59 PM · Sara, Peter's so right. Like him, I've been playing a LONG time. Last summer, I was doing the Dvorak Serenade, and found I couldn't really get that filthy bit in the last movement. So I had to think about it - my hand had become too open, so my 4th finger (in particular) was too far away and taking too long to move. So - back to the drawing board.

At Xmas, my daughter bought me Simon Fischer's "Warming Up" - and one of the exercises there is to pull the back of the hand towards the neck. So this old dog is still trying to learn new tricks (or relearn the same tricks).

January 12, 2012 at 08:18 PM · A quotation comes to mind: "Success is going from failure to failure without losing your enthusiasm." - Winston Churchill

January 13, 2012 at 11:48 AM · I remember those days! It is an interesting thing the way the brain/ear works!! My mom used to have to explain this one to me, I'd get sooo discouraged! Everyone comes to a point where they 'plateau' for a little while. It often happens around the second year, then again around the fourth or fifth. You just stick it out and you WILL get past it, I garuntee it! For a while, you are cruising along doing great, then you hold steady for a while. Your ear develops but technique does not, and you get frustrated. Hang in there, pretty soon you will move forward again and catch up to your ear! You didn't mention what piece you are on, so I can't help you with tricky parts there. Pick a couple measures you are having problems with, practice slowwwwly on them. Try playing them 25 times in a row slowly and correctly. Then begin adding a measure on either side until you have the line down, then put it all together. A month is not a problem, it is very short. First concerto will take 1 year for just one movement!! Just don't quit!!

January 13, 2012 at 07:04 PM · Just had to say I love this thread! And hang in there Sara - we're right there with you. You've gotten great advice.

January 22, 2012 at 04:03 AM · Josh Bell in a recent interview said something like, (and I paraphrase), "Those moments of sudden musical growth often happen after periods of stagnation."

January 22, 2012 at 02:39 PM · Cool! There's hope for me yet. Looking forward to seeing what's up tomorrow! ;)

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