January 7, 2012 at 03:12 AM · I've only played the violin for a year now and was curious whether I am a prodigy or not ( i don't know abilities you must have). I can right now play up to 5th position, I know ALL the scales, I have a very nice tone according to my teacher (a Juilliard grad), I can play Meditation from Thais. it takes me about a week to learn a position, I can play multiple 3 octave scales,etc.

Replies (36)

January 7, 2012 at 03:49 AM · Are you a prodigy? Is Sarah Chang a terrible violinist? Flat out, no, you are not a prodigy. There are six year olds that can play meditation and much harder repertoire. However, do not categorize yourself. You are a good player. Stick with that and do not do the mistake of playing repertoire that is imminently above your level, as I see so many other students do. But making music alone is something to be proud of, whether or not you are good. BTW, I started at age eight, I'm thirteen now. Music was always a big part of my life but I'm definitely not a prodigy, even though I may be treated that way. I still have trouble with rhythm and certain types of notation.

January 7, 2012 at 04:21 AM · -redacted-

January 7, 2012 at 05:14 AM · "Child prodigism," said Heifetz, " a disease that is generally fatal."

Try not to catch it.

A couple of thought, though:

-Why do you want to know? What would you do with this information if you found out that you indeed a prodigy? Smile at yourself in the mirror? Tweet it to your friends? There is a reason that schools don't give out the results of IQ tests to the students: Because knowing serves no purpose. If a child is a genius, there is no point to saying "guess what? We tested you and you're a genius!" Telling a student that they are a genius, or a prodigy, or even just really, really cool, is counterproductive and likely to ruin their personality.

-There is no objective standard for the label "prodigy." Obviously, it is a child who is precocious or advanced for their age. But in music, it is much more than that. It is more than just a technical ability. I think they have to demonstrate some innate musicality; they must not play like a child but like a short adult. They must grasp the style and play with authority. And they must demonstrate exactly zero technical limitations.

If you can already demonstrate all of the standard violin technique, including all the shades of spicatto, can play faultlessly by memory, and can do it in an eerily compelling fashion, and if your playing makes me want to quit, then you are a prodigy.

But I'd never tell you.

January 7, 2012 at 05:20 AM · Lets suppose that you are a 'prodigy'. Congrats.

Now what?

Its an empty term created more for external attention. It does not do you a hill of beans good. Indeed, once dubbed a 'prodigy' your life will probably be stressed to the limit. Better to be a highly talented youngster. You get the support without the kind of attention that has ruined so many promising kids either by too much attention or by simply forcing them onto a life track that they might never have chosen for themselves.

January 7, 2012 at 05:21 AM · [I think we agree Scott - you posted while I was writing the same sentiment!]

January 7, 2012 at 05:35 AM · I would have posted the same thing but I knew you would write it.


PS My cat is a prodigal. Does that count

January 7, 2012 at 05:55 AM · I would love to be at your cat's debut, Stephen!

January 7, 2012 at 06:01 AM · I'm not sure when it started but more and more young people are wanting to label themselves. I've seen a trend on this board of people of who have played for a few weeks or perhaps not at all, but are "musically gifted" so they'll probably be an advanced player within months, right? I'm a gen x-er and as a youth I looked at the world with skepticism, and sarcasm, with a chip on my shoulder. As I moved into my twenties I noticed such differences as the younger generation would begin sentences with, "Oh my God, she's aMAAAzing!", "He's like a total genius!," or "funniest story ever..." I'd always wonder how every story could be the funniest ever. I'd love to have some of this innate self-confidence, but that wasn't the world I grew up in. If you see one of the many talent shows on television, these kids are stunned, STUNNED to find out that they aren't the greatest singers in the world. As a youngster, I was glad, and a little embarrassed if someone called me talented, but never would I take it upon myself to brag about my abilities. Play the best that you can and don't worry about arbitrary labels.

January 7, 2012 at 06:18 AM · duplicate

January 7, 2012 at 06:21 AM · Parth, If you enjoy playing, that is what matters. You should aim to become a musician.

The word 'prodigy' means a person with exceptional talent or power--and, while you seem to have a fine talent because you've come a good distance for one year, where you are isn't exceptional in and of itself. Besides, racing through learning to play the violin (a position a week, etc.,) doesn't make you a musician, does it?

If you don't enjoy playing for its own sake, it doesn't matter if you are a prodigy or not. If you do, it doesn't matter whether you are a prodigy or not...see the point?

Enjoy your violin and making music.

January 7, 2012 at 06:28 AM · I don't knw about u, but I'ma freeking jeeenious.

January 7, 2012 at 07:41 AM · Thank you everyone for your responses!! Scott, no offense to the others, I found your review most constructive, thanks. Also, I didn't think I was a prodigy, but just a gifted player who loves music. The only thing that made me want to know was that my passion for music is much greater than my peers (thats normal) , but also that when I play many seem/act to be very moved by the way I play, which is a good thing?

PS: I knew I wasn't a prodigy. What I really wanted to ask was worded wrong.

January 7, 2012 at 07:49 AM · Scott,

in this politically correct era you really -cannot- say `short adult.`

The correct term is `vertically challenged person of more rather than less years.`

In the case of short soloists such as Ricci and Francescatti the term is `vertically challenged virtuosi.`

However in the case of prodigies this is actually a little more complex because the player in question is only simulating `vsv,` thus one labels them `atavaric vertically challenged virtuosi.`

If there is anything else I can help you with don`t hesitate to let me know.

mata ne


January 7, 2012 at 08:19 AM · Parth is not "vertically challenged". She is a child! Scott was correct in saying that she would have to play like an adult who is short. Or child equals short adult.

January 7, 2012 at 08:23 AM · Kevin.

you need to analyse my letter in much greater depth, preferably when you are not sipping a brew. I was pointing out to Scott that the term simply cannot be used in this day and age. It is epiphenominal to any issues concerning the stature (either violinistic or distance from the earth) of either the writer or any other person of less rather than more years.

You are with all due respect `Buri challenged.`


January 7, 2012 at 08:24 AM · Anyway,

Parth appears to be on the right path.

Apparently, alas, we are not.

Let`s Occupy Wally Street.

January 7, 2012 at 12:32 PM · Buri:

Is your real name Violindhu? And do you sit on a mountain top with your legs crossed, recieving gifts of flowers, trays of delectable foods and prunes while meting out your wisdom and patiently humming through the entire violin canon:

Om om om om-om OOOm om, Om om om on-om oommmm...

Just wonderin'...

January 7, 2012 at 01:28 PM · Buri

I was short changed the other day so I suppose that is being financially challenged ...

By the way, your cat can only count if it can do 7/4 for at least 10 bars ... in which case he/she will be a qualified conductor.

January 7, 2012 at 01:39 PM · Good one Scott!

Buri - "in this politically correct era you really -cannot- say `short adult.`

The correct term is `vertically challenged person of more rather than less years."

I admire your political correctness. Now, to be gramatically correct, it should be "FEWER years", and I should probably use fewer commas!`

Peter - just by virtue of meowing, using the litter box and knocking things over, most cats should qualify as acceptable conductors!

January 7, 2012 at 04:53 PM · ...and the commas should be inside the quotation marks...

January 7, 2012 at 05:30 PM · FYI I am a boy.

January 7, 2012 at 05:55 PM · I also forgot to mention I know a boy (a full of himself basketball jock) who thinks he is a prodigy. He has the most terrible vibrato, shrill tone, and he thinks he's a prodigy. When practicing the mendelssohn concerto, he'll come up to me and start playing the piece terribly out of tune and using the totally wrong fingering. He is always trying to impress non experienced players with terribly played pieces above his level. His solo last year was some Suzuki étude. Now he asks for help from me on the Sibelius violin concerto. Once again, the Sibelius! My private teacher has me practice passages from many concerti, including Sibelius, but I've yet to learn the entire piece. This just goes to show you how bad for your technique it can be to be wasting your time on pieces that are above your level.

P.S: He's thirteen and no, he's not playing around.

January 7, 2012 at 06:28 PM · Today's prodigies are 3-year-old Chinese girls playing Sarasate. Prodigies from the past were people like Mozart. You're not, and aren't you glad?

January 7, 2012 at 07:16 PM · Greetingss,

Scott, you, may have your comas inside bars, but I wait till I get,home.




January 7, 2012 at 08:40 PM · Parth,

Please don't take offence - with the 'P' word you just stepped on a verbal minefield here. I'm sorry, you were not to know what would happen.

Best thing is to just ignore it - its definitely NOT about you any more. I think everyone understands. OK?

Besides, I'm started the violin again three years ago after over 30 yrs off and I just got appointed as an concertmaster.* I definitely qualify as a poridgy... wait what was that word again?

*true story, but wait till you hear the REST of the story....

January 7, 2012 at 10:57 PM · We're waiting...

January 8, 2012 at 01:50 AM · I got it Elise. :) We are waiting... haha

January 8, 2012 at 01:54 AM · how about that for a teaser - I can't finish the story because I don't know the ending myself yet... stay tuned! I mean really, stay tuned ;)

January 8, 2012 at 06:00 AM · Well, if it's YOUR story then I think you should know it right?

January 8, 2012 at 07:56 AM · I heard something about porridge, and now I'm starving and want breakfast.

Incidentally, I was a prodigy: aged just four, I could bite my own toenails.

January 23, 2012 at 04:28 PM · Parth, there is nothing unhealthy in wanting to shine when you are lucky enough to have some inner light! Some of us have a genuine soloist's temperament; others like me are (very) pleased to be appreciated, but basically just love music, and sharing it.

If you play the Thaïs Meditation as well as you say, then your progress is remarkable. I started at 14 and progressed very fast at first, but I never tried the virtuoso road as I had doubts about my physical reflexes and stamina. In any case I love nurturing talent in others, especially when it is potentially greater than my own...

Early gifts do not always survive a growing body and mind, to which practice methods have to adapt.

But once again, there is nothing wrong with ambition!!!


January 23, 2012 at 04:52 PM · You are probably not a prodigy - so you have avoided that particular disease.

Just be normal.

January 23, 2012 at 05:00 PM · One thing that is constant:

The more talent you have, the more work you can and must do to develop it.

January 23, 2012 at 05:08 PM · Daniel - I love that!! Although it is said that Kreisler did as little as possible :) But who knows if was really telling the trugh...

January 23, 2012 at 07:42 PM · Isn't 13 too old to be a prodigy anyway? I thought if you hadn't made your concerto debut with the NY Phil by about 8 you were all washed up.

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