Time to quit?

January 27, 2017 at 11:07 PM · I've been playing the violin for two and a half years and I am usually a pianist but the violin is my second favorite instrument. Up to this point I often asked myself if I should quit the violin. I can only cancel lessons once a year at the end of the school year so I have to decide in the next months.

I think I made a mistake. I chose a piece to play on which I'm working currently. But I can now confidentely say that trying to learn it is futile. It's the third movement of BWV 1014. But my teacher said ok so she should've sad no. At this point it would be easier to point at the things that I'm happy with but there are none. The shifts are always bad plus I've never shifted to 4th and 1/2 position before. The intonation is killing me too... Bow distribution is out of control and I can't vibrate in 3rd position without the violin shaking which makes vibrato impossible in the upper half of the bow near the frog. I'm in despair. I don't really want to quit but I think I need to go back 3 levels but apparently my teacher doesn't think so and she should know.

Replies (21)

January 28, 2017 at 12:42 AM · Talk to your teacher, and tell your teacher everything you just wrote. If that doesn't result in a change, look for a new teacher.

January 28, 2017 at 01:05 AM · No teacher you're paying is going to tell you to quit, unless there are exceptional circumstances, but quitting might be a prudent choice you make for yourself. The critical part is making the choice for yourself, and the primary driver might not be and need not be rational.

You wrote that the violin is your second favourite instrument -- that means to me that you've already made a choice in favour of piano, and the execution of that choice in putting the time and energy you're spending on the violin towards the piano might be prudent.

January 28, 2017 at 02:10 AM · Alexander, playing the violin at a high level is a set of continuing and never-ending challenges. Maybe you're willing to take that on, and maybe you're not. Some people consider the challenges to be stimulating, and others consider challenges to be defeating. So much depends on your mindset.

January 28, 2017 at 03:20 AM · Hi Alexander. Did the Bach seem to bring these feelings on, or have you been feeling this way for a while? It seems like you're in over your head. In reading your post, I see that you are frustrated, and most people will be able to sympathize. I've personally experienced feelings like this, and I know they are no fun.

If you try to take on too many new things, your mind will throw its hands in the air and surrender. At that point, you may feel really bad. Maybe this piece has just too many new challenges for you to tackle at once. Try another piece that doesn't stretch as many facets of your ability. Then see how you feel.

It always pays to break big challenges into smaller and more manageable parts. If you do this (in the BWV 1014 or otherwise) challenges seem less insurmountable.

You may want to continue with only piano, but sort out your feelings first. I never encourage a string player to quit, but if you love piano, that might be the thing for you.

Wishing you the best!

January 28, 2017 at 03:59 AM · A vital function of a good teacher is to help you choose pieces that are at the right levels for you. "Levels" is plural because some of your skills are undoubtedly more advanced than others. Ask your teacher what she would assign you if you came to her studio as a child who had just moved there from some other place. A good answer might include one piece, one study, and you probably are ready for Hrimaly scales if you are not doing them already.

Most of the time that I have chosen pieces for myself without asking my teacher's advice, I have regretted it.

BWV 1014 3rd movement is not an easy piece -- I can see where there are spots that will be hard to bring into tune. If you really must work on that piece, your next step is to make a concrete list of the tough spots and ask your teacher for advice on them, one by one. For example shifting up to the E toward the end of the movement is something she can show you how to do. From there you could finger E-D-C# as 4-3-3 and you're back in 3rd position. You could then shift back to 1st position on the G rather than crossing to the A string.

January 28, 2017 at 05:35 AM · It's likely that the teacher chose a piece that's too hard for you. Also, it is important that you get the foundational technique down.

January 28, 2017 at 10:55 AM · just ask for an easier piece, if piano is your primary intrument you have to be sensible witk the piece choises, not overdo and just keep it simple. Otherwise you wont have enough time for the piano.

January 28, 2017 at 11:01 AM · I think you need to split out the question of "am I playing the right piece?" from "do I have the right teacher?" and "should I quite playing entirely?"

Sometimes it's useful to work on a piece that is "slightly too hard" for a pupil as they can respond well to it, get their first grasp of more difficult techniques, and have fun getting to grips with it. However if it's only resulting in frustration, don't be afraid to tell your teacher that and suggest trying something that's less technical (or possibly something on the same technical level that's less musically demanding than Bach.)

Should you quit - well, what are you getting out of playing the violin, and what would you do with the time and money if you stopped? Ultimately, it's a question of what you want to get out of life. Personally I'll always play the violin; but my wife had a longstanding ambition to try to learn the saxophone - she tried for a year, didn't enjoy it too much, and decided to spend her time riding horses instead.

January 28, 2017 at 12:47 PM · Two and half years is way too soon for Bach 1014. SO don't quit, but tell your teacher he or she's going too fast.

January 28, 2017 at 12:58 PM · @Christian Lesniak: Yes, I will do this on monday. She will be very confused and unhappy with me.

@J Ray: Thats part of what I'm thinking. As long as she is paid, she is not going to be honest with me and will try to keep me enrolled.

@David Burgess: I know and I'm willing to work and the subject for at least the next ten years. My current piece is 'only' rated as grade 5 tough. It is however very clear that I cannot play it with any kind of beauty.

@Gregory Glessner: Yes, the Bach is causing this. I feel like I'm 20 meters under water and won't be able to get up before I drown. Quite dramatic, I know. I was never satisfied with my pieces but with this one it is very clearly not going anywhere and frankly wasting anyones time. Reading the internet I have the impression that up to this point, people have played volumes and volumes of etudes so that intonation and bow control are much much better developed than mine.

@Paul Deck: I will ask her that at monday's lesson, thank you.

@Elly Yu: No, I chose it... I'm so used to chosing my own repertoire that I did'nt thought anything about it. I asked her and she said sth along the lines of 'yeah, sure, we can do that'.

I'm sorry to bother you all but I don't really have anybody to whom I can talk about this stuff.

January 28, 2017 at 02:53 PM · I think it's OK to take on a piece and then decide to drop it. Life may be long, but it's still too short to spend it treading water.

I was a sloppy violin student who quit just before age 13 (after almost 8 years). I resumed a year later with no teacher (although my father would answer my questions, when I asked (which was as rare as possible). So, from age 14, I was self-taught. I became a very good sight reader and could judge pretty well whether it was "safe" for me to undertake a particular piece - all this was 68 years ago -- I'm still playing.

I did not have to please any other person with my playing. But neither do you, whatever you think now! You have hired the teacher - your employee! One thing about teachers, if you are able to impress them, you probably need a different teacher.

I was never completely satisfied with my musical abilities but they have been good to me in my life nevertheless. Several of my musical (violin or violin & viola) colleagues are also excellent pianists - I wish I could do that too.

January 30, 2017 at 04:57 AM · It's different, of course, if the student is a minor child. Then the teacher is not the student's employee. The teacher is the student's parents' employee, a non-trivial distinction.

February 1, 2017 at 05:34 PM · This piece you're working on seems very ambitious for 2 years. Can you tell us what your previous pieces were? How did you do with them?

February 2, 2017 at 11:27 AM · @Michael Pub: I can only remember the last two: a concerto by K├╝chler and 'the infant paganini' but I think there were a few in between.

February 3, 2017 at 07:36 PM · The first time I took piano lessons, I had the following difficulty: because I was already accomplished on the violin, the teacher assumed that he should just fast-track me on the piano. So I was playing Chopin, in my first six months of piano, without any kind of foundational work with technique or reading music. I was able to do it, but it was extremely stressful and always felt uncomfortable. I yearned to start at the beginning and lay the strong foundation that I had on the violin, on the piano. Many years later, I finally found a teacher that agreed to start me at the beginning so that I could go incrementally and build overall skill! I wonder if your problem is similar.

February 3, 2017 at 09:26 PM · Haha, Laurie! Back to the Clementi Sonatinas, eh?

February 3, 2017 at 10:29 PM · I can only speak from my own experience, but as a teacher I can tell you that I would take it seriously if one of my students asked me to go back a level (or more). Rather than being upset, I would feel really glad that my student cared enough about correct technique to go back to an easier song. (Although I hope I wouldn't let a student get to the difficult point you're at right now).

If your teacher gets upset or tries to push you through harder repetoire when you clearly aren't ready for it, you should consider getting a new teacher. If your teacher isn't concerned about you laying a foundation and playing things well, I would say it's time for a change.

Don't be afraid to take the grueling hours you need to work out those technical issues. (Hopefully guided by a competent teacher.) Years down the road, if you choose to continue with violin, you'll be grateful you put in the effort.

Best of luck!

February 6, 2017 at 01:39 PM · Hi, so I calmed down a bit. Apparently I have too high standards, my teacher said. Something along the lines of 'you have to aquire technique with something' has been uttered. But she agreed to put the piece on hold and we moved to 'ballade' by Dancla but she rewrote some fingerings so I can practice shifting.

The new piece is very similar in tone character altough in a minor key and romantic, but much much easier and I'm happy with it. I still hear every minor intonation error. Slow movements are much more difficult than originally anticipated.

@Laurie Niles: That's exactly what I asked her to do with me. I'm now refusing to pick my own repertoire until I have much more insight.

@Paul Deck: Please, no. I'd give someone a few Kuhlau movements instead of Clementi.

@Luci A: She wasn't upset. She just said, that my expecations are too high. It was my fault, really. I thought because of my musical experience it would be possible to move faster through the repertoire. I've given up on this idea and am planning for the long run (another 7+ years).

Thanks to you all!

February 7, 2017 at 05:11 PM · That's great to hear Alexander! Hearing every intonation error is very important. You can easily get into pretty advanced repertoire with poor intonation if you don't pay careful attention, so doing the work from the beginning will pay dividends.

Does your teacher have you working through a book of etudes, and are you practicing scales regularly? Doing that will allow you to build your technique without having to feel like you are butchering masterpieces.

February 7, 2017 at 08:27 PM · Nope, she never assignes any etudes and I practice scales on my own because I'm used to doing so from piano. But she never brought it up herself.

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