Losing interest...

December 10, 2005 at 12:35 AM · Lately whenever I try to practice it has been getting on my nerves. I sound horrible, and I know other people, whether they're my family or the neighbors, can hear how bad I am. So I really haven't been practicing. I'm almost getting to the point of losing interest. And I'm constanting being yelled at in the school orchestra for always doing something wrong.

Any advice?

Replies (15)

December 10, 2005 at 02:33 AM · Whatever you do, do not give up. That is not the solution. I always dwell upon other's opinions and am constantly afraid of performing in front of people, but giving up is not goign to make it better. There will be set-backs in your life, but what you need to do is learn from these mistakes. The orchestra that I am in is one of the best youth orchestras in NYC, and when I was accepted last year, I began doubting myself which caused me to not play the best I possibly could.I was yelled at by the conductor because he thought that I was not practicing, which was not true. I was just too paranoid and nervous that I broke down everytime I encountered the musicians and teachers in the orchestra. I know what it feels like to be put down and told that "your not good enough." You cannot give up. Use the negative comments that you receive and work them to your advantage. I'm positive that you are not as bad as you think you are. We are all hard on ourselves, but you most likely dwell upon the negatives and not the positives. Don't get caught up in your misery, because that will do you no good. You must always remember your love for the music and never let anything overcome that feeling.

December 10, 2005 at 03:50 AM · If sounding bad to your neighbors is the issue, then get a practice mute. I am acutely self-conscious about my practicing; I either use a practice mute, a very loud television set, or both to mask my sound.

To keep yourself motivated, find a piece of music you really like that you could play, and set out to learn it. I can't count how many times my interest in the violin was maintained by an enchanting piece. First, it was the Bach Double. Then, it was the Mendelssohn. Then the Chaconne. Then, the Glazunov. For me, I had to be chasing a light at the end of a tunnel to stay interested.

If people in the school orchestra yell at you, just laugh it off. I have been yelled at, singled out, and humiliated by aggressive conductors countless times. The odd thing was, if I played it off as if it were no big deal, people didn't treat me as though I *should* feel ashamed.

You might also consider playing with friends from orchestra in a little ensemble--a string quartet, perhaps. When I played in quartets in high school (I'm 25 now), nobody really cared about who was good, who was bad, etc. We just liked spending time with each other, and we'd laugh about the stupid mistakes we'd make.

You may be feeling a little discouraged now, but weather the storm for a bit longer. Things will turn up for you--just give it some time.

December 10, 2005 at 01:46 PM · If you are going to persist, your motivation to play has to be stronger than all of the de-motivators around you and within you (and there are plenty of both in each of us). If you can withstand boredom, the hostile and unsupportive attitudes of others, disappointment at not playing like Perlman, and overfamiliarity with the music, and still love to play, you'll probably keep playing. But if that inner core of motivation isn't there, almost any de-motivator will be enough to make you quit. It isn't a question of age, talent, or anything else; it's simply whether in your heart of hearts you really want to play.

Whichever you decide, be sure it's what you really want. Then don't waste your time looking back.

Cordially, Sandy Marcus

December 10, 2005 at 02:12 PM · There are musicians who play for others and obtain great satisfaction from sharing a part of their soul with an audience. And there are musicians who are content to play for their own satisfaction and fulfillment.

You must decide where you fit. The latter isn't going to be able to make a career at it but is not necessarily less a musician for it, it's just not their niche. And not all members of the former are going to have successful careers playing for others either.

If you are not looking for a career in music then find a way to make music satisfying to you. Play what feeds your soul and forget what everyone else thinks about your playing...it's not for them. If along the way you find people enjoy listening to you play and you have the desire to play for them, then realize that it is just as much a privelege for them to listen to you as it is for you to play for them. Those that don't realize that, forget about them.

I hope this might help a bit.


P.S. You say you sound awful. Well, remember that the moment you begin to think you don't need to improve anymore is the very moment you will actually stop improving.

December 11, 2005 at 12:44 PM · Hi,

Preston - nice post. Can you Email that P.S. to all my students. They don't seem to get that part of learning...


December 11, 2005 at 05:48 PM · Preston - isn't the first line of your post by Menuhin from "The Art of the Violin"? That's a great quote. Your PS is s true it's scary.

December 11, 2005 at 06:04 PM · reread preston's post. that is all.

December 11, 2005 at 07:46 PM · Practice intonation. That really cheers me up.

December 11, 2005 at 07:47 PM · it took me four years to really get excited about playing violin. keep w/ it though. be patient. A lot of times still i think ugh this is awful...but just keep practicing. honestly, who really likes practicing??

December 11, 2005 at 08:21 PM · George,

To be honest I have no idea if Menhuin said that. Perhaps I heard him say it at some point and integrated it into my own philosphy.


December 11, 2005 at 10:01 PM · Take time to play something fun. Do you enjoy the school orchestra? How much time do spend playing music you enjoy? I think if the only time you spend with the instrument is practice and playing at school you need to take some time to play for YOUR OWN enjoyment. Learn some folk tunes and go attend an open bluegrass jam. Even the simplest little beginning melodies are great fun when you have a guitars, banjos, mandolins and basses thumping along. Most bluegrass jams I attend love to have younger people show up. Usually, if something is missing it is a fiddle so you would be filling a void. Orchestras are not the only option.

December 13, 2005 at 07:32 PM · I've been playing a little over a year now, and even at my age (52) I can get impatient and frustrated with my progress/lack thereof.

I keep telling myself that I am a better player today than I was yesterday, and that, if I practice, I will be better tomorrow than today.

Small improvements, but I've come to the conclusion that baby-steps are better than none where the violin is concerned.

Even though I still sound awful, I enjoy practicing and look forward to it, so much so that I get really annoyed when my schedule does not permit me to practice.

The point is, stick with it! There are no quick and easy solutions, and anyone who tells you so is fooling both themseves and you.

Look for small improvements every time you practice. Say to fyourself "what sounded good today?" Chances are you will find something positive!

December 13, 2005 at 10:41 PM · Hey. I have to say it is sad to see someone lose heart in music...but I have many times in the past. All i can say is that don't worry what other think about your playing, it is you who is in the practice room, it is you who will know how much you have improved. Maybe you should take a break for a week or two, just to get your head around things. By the way, when you finish school and go to university or wherever you go, you won't even think back on the school orchestra. Sorry i can't help you any further, just know you arent alone and stick at it hey. Good luck

December 14, 2005 at 03:27 PM · As a lifelong amateur, I have had many periods where I didn't touch the violin for weeks, and others where I practiced religiously every day. This may not apply to anyone but me, but one of the biggest motivational roadblocks is when I have not been able to play well in tune (the other is playing cleanly).

I have found (for myself), that playing a passage super slowly, but putting down every finger exactly on the note and concentrating fully on intonation has really helped. When I do that, while the finger is down, I then simultaneously put down the next finger for the next note, so that I get used to not only where each finger is by itself, but where it is in relation to the next finger (note). I really linger on each note, making sure it is as exactly in tune as possible. I may lift the second finger up and place it down again, so it's not just the sound of getting it in tune, but the kinesthetic feedback of the placement of the fingers.

When I practice a passage over and over again that way, I find that my intonation not only gets much better, but that I'm hitting the core of the pitch at a professional level. Nothing more motivating than that.

Who needs frets?

December 14, 2005 at 10:04 PM · There have been times throughout my playing of the violin where i have thought i was losing interest... however, i found a new piece, looking at new instruments, getting a new instrument, talking with other violinists, just getting something new into your musical/'violinning' life can help so much with your confidence.

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