Unable to Focus While Playing/Practicing
So I recently returned to learning the violin and taking classes(stopped like 2yrs. ago for various reasons) and so far everything's going okay, better than my previous experience.
Until one time during class.
My teacher brought up a new piece to study and it's not particularly complicated or challenging. I've played more difficult ones before.
Just, this time, I can't really seem to focus well.
I mean it's just a piece with three flats in its key signature and a few accidentals in the piece itself.
But I just can't play it straight.
I stop and look and play one bar over and over again. A bar that contains the simplest of notes.
It's like it's not registering in my head anymore or my brain's just panicking and not sending any signals to my fingers.
Or it could be a fear of mistake?
I've never had one this.. crippling, in a way.
I recently had a successful(one of my first ones ever, in my opinion) recital and my whole family watched, etc. and my teacher was proud.
I guess after all that I unconsciously feel that there's some deep, heavy pressure that now I have to do everything well. And each note could possibly be a mistake so I look back on it and hesitate everytime.
I just need to know if this is normal or something 'cause even my teacher's starting to notice how I stumble on a simple bar and I'm starting to get frustrated and the more frustrated I get the tenser I become during practice.
It's a bit unnerving..
How old are you, if you don't mind me asking?
I'm 21 years old.
Yeah, that etude is a step up in difficulty due to the key.
It just seems so easy at first glance.. So I sort of just skip through the notes? I know I shouldn't. Pay attention and importance to every note and such.. But I feel like I'm always running out of time or something.
I certainly don't want to contradict your teacher. I'm sure they have their own plan.
Not just in Wohlfahrt etudes though. She usually has me play other pieces too that will sharpen some of my edges. Like she gives me emotional pieces or slow ones, I guess to help me learn how to convey emotion properly when playing.
You should always use as much bow - AS YOU CAN. That can mean using 3 inches instead of 2.
Problem is I often tense up too much making my bow movement a bit rigid and sometimes "flies off." Hitting the edge of the violin and cutting off the note. And I admit my arm needs to be a bit more loose. It often feels too heavy for me to move properly.
For every etude you do, you should make sure that you understand the core point of the etude -- the particular skill or set of skills that the etude is trying to teach.
"not registering in the brain" At risk of practicing medicine without a license; I had this problem at the day job; I am right eye dominant but the left eye is better at reading distance. So small type would look clear but did not register in the correct part of the brain; I made mistakes until I got glasses. Quick check; sight read something with one eye closed, then the other, see if there is a difference. Note; Reading distance is rather far for orchestra musicians; easily 2-3 feet. My only other trick for improving sight-reading is to train yourself to look ahead of where you are playing. Otherwise everything slightly difficult catches you by surprise. I know it's difficult. Our thought follows our eyes. Too many musicians are stuck in the present tense.
Lydia Leong - Thank you so much for the detailed assistance. I think it's time to bring out my inner perfectionist and be more meticulous when practicing. Too often I just go with the, "That'll do," approach. I need to take it more seriously now. Thank you for reminding me.
I find I have the same problem if I don't listen to a performance of it. And I don't connect to some pieces, anyway. Certain ones just aren't my style. And other pieces that are fairly simple have taken me forever to memorize. Have you listened to a performance of the etude?
I do that too! I feel disconnected from the piece until I hear a performance of it. Only then can I go, "Ah, this is how it's supposed to feel."
Aha. You prefer to hear the piece first. You may be more sound-oriented than visual. That is very common, and not really a problem.
We are all wired a little differently. I can identify with some of what you say.
Try this: Pretend the key signature is four sharps instead. Play through it a few times. (You'll have to deal with some accidentals but it's fun to figure that out too.) Then go back to three flats.
Have you played a scale that has 3 flats before?
Curiously, no one has mentioned that when you come up against a single set of notes that gives you problems, the cure is to grind them out over and over again, at whatever slowness you require to play with 100% accuracy, until the passage is engraved in your mind and represents no problem at all. This might require literally dozens of repetitions of one measure, which then gets extended and spread outwards in each direction until the playing flows through it. It was also suggested to me (but I don't have the patience) to play problems in different rhythms, syncopated, etc, and then backwards until muscle memory cuts a path in your brain that your fingers will inevitably follow flawlessly. Performances are built up of such units (the reason for practicing scales and arpeggios is because those sequences are so often found as short bits in pieces).
Thanks to all who have contributed to this discussion so far, especially of course Jaya, but also especially Ryan and Lydia, and really...everyone, I read it all carefully. As someone beginning my 4th year of self-taught violin journey, these discussions (and the concerts I attend) are my lessons, and I learn a lot about how to think and listen from the experiences you each have shared.
Wow I wake up and there are like 6 new people advising me this is fascinating, haha. Especially since I have no one to talk to about violin issues. Thank you so much everyone.
My son's teacher says from time to time that it's OK to write the fingerings on the notes. So it's OK; it's a rule. You could extend this by writing out all the details that will help you identify the notes for a new piece and especially key signature that you don't know well combined with apparently random accidentals, and use that to help you until you no longer need it.
J Ray, et al.,
Write in fingerings and bowings when there are real choices, options. In general, mark only what is necessary, to avoid visual clutter. I never write a circle around anything. I once played in an orchestra seated well behind a first-rate Russian immigrant violinist. He was warming up back stage on the Prokofiev concerto #2. I looked at his part and was amazed that there were no markings at all. Was he doing it exactly like Oistrakh's edition ?-not likely. Did he improvise the details each time or just not need them -a scary thought. Whatever the explanation, he was out my league.
Very good discussion all around.