I don't like how I sound/play
I have a bit of an ongoing conundrum: I'm an adult returner as many of you know. With the insistence of my teacher and husband (and musician/musical friends) I am told I am making progress and sound "good"/"great" (sometimes even beautiful). But... I hate the way I sound when I hear a recording of myself, and I don't believe that I am any good. I think my playing is awful - everything about it - even when others (see above) comment to the contrary.
I don't know if it is that my violin and I are no longer a good match (my luthier said my violin is "good" and "weird"), but I remember when I was younger that I liked how my violin/I sounded together (I chose my violin/bow). Now, I don't like it.
I am hyper-critical of everything and it's really a beast of a problem because I cannot see the good in my playing.
On the topic of a possible instrument change: I'm not in a position to get a new violin/bow, and I doubt that a violin change will bring me what I am looking for even if I were in a position to change my setup.
My teacher says that it is "normal" for someone to not like hearing recordings of themselves, but is this really true?
What can one do to "get over" themselves and learn to love their sound?
Is this a learning curve thing?
I'm entering the "Bruch level" repertoire, and yes I do my scales and etudes (am working on Kreutzer, Schradieck, Sevick concurrently), and no my teacher does not let me move on from things just to push me along. Maybe I need to step back and play some music for tone/phrasing/musicality vs advancement? I also get really terrible performance anxiety - even in lesson with my teacher, though it is slowly improving.
It would be nice to fully embrace my sound just as it is and work towards making it better vs thinking everything is awful.
Looking to you v.com members for hopefully helpful advice.
We are our own worst critics. I hate hearing my self on recordings. If you trust those around you to be honest, then take their assessment as true.
We are indeed our worse critique at times, and it’s a good thing. Perhaps you know the answer already when yo say “Maybe I need to step back and play some music for tone/phrasing/musicality”. In your statement following you seem to imply that what you consider advancement is learning new repertoire. For me advancement is improving tone/phrasing/musicality first and foremost. If you feel the need to improvement on those, then indeed step back if that is what you need to do. Playing familiar repertoire should enable you to focus more on tone/phrasing/musicality.
Break it down to the most minute detail and start working on it systematically, through pieces that you know very well. I'd also pester your teacher more about this, when I think I have done something well, I'm proud to listen to the recording, despite what small faults it may have
Recording is incredibly ruthless and harsh. Don't overdo it and don't get too depressed.
My other piece of advice would be, simply, be patient. Adult musicians are usually not as patient as they need to be. Playing the violin is hard and most adults are not very far along the 10,000 hours. Even the basic building blocks -- playing in tune, good shifting, good bow control, sound production, rhythm -- take years and years to develop.
For the record, violin is one of the most difficult instruments to record well.
JI is correct about the importance of a quality playback setup. The cheapest way to achieve that is with decent headphones.
I'm probably at a similar level, and I know exactly what you are talking about. You have to keep a few things in mind:
In my experience the biggest problem with tone is lack of resonance.
I agree with Timothy. It is entirely possible that you are not happy with the actual recording. On a side note, we do sound deferent to ourselves when we listen to our speech from recording. Why? There is no "bone" (or internal) hearing, mostly air.... the same with violin. Lastly, perhaps you could quiet down an excessive critic and re-aproach the way you assess your abilities? Easier said than done, but you need a good feedback, including self-feedback in order to progress.
Post an audio clip and I'll tell you if everyone is lying to you about your sound being decent.
It's just like how everyone absolutely hates their own voice. I think I sound nasaly and small on recordings and video, but other people tell me I actually have quite a deep voice. Likewise for the violin.
No thanks Erik, I've seen what happens here with "feedback".
There have been times I became quite frustrated with my playing, then for some reason something would click and things would improve. I understand this is a common phenomenon. I believe it is just a matter of working as you have been and keeping up the process. It will pay off.
I think requests for feedback here have generally been responded to with fairness -- i.e., people are generally honest and not deliberately mean, even if they are critical. (Anyone asking for feedback should want, and be prepared for, criticism, though.)
"No thanks Erik, I've seen what happens here with "feedback"."
Whenever I ask my students to record themselves, I warn them that chances are that if they think they played well, they'll probably be disappointed with the recording, but if they think they played badly, they'll probably be pleasantly surprised. Why? Because it's very hard to be an accurate judge of your own playing while you are playing--and that is true for pros as well as amateurs.
The violin is the hardest of instruments to make a really good sound on. Previous generations of amateurs had no convenient means of recording themselves and played on in blissful ignorance. To be brutal, I really wouldn't want to listen to most of my friends and colleagues playing solo, and although I think I make a pretty decent noise I'm hardly ever "happy" with what I hear. Today's social media have also made many of us us much more self-conscious and inclined to worry about the face we present to the world.
Pamela, I think the sensible thing to do is to pinpoint some concrete aspects of what you hate in your sound and work focused in these issues. Drop the Bruch for the moment and work on your sound for a few months.
The original post could have been written by just about every adult student I've ever had. I've always felt that half of my role with them has been as a therapist. I've seen many adult returners become frustrated because for them, learning was easy when they were young.
One thing that helps when watching and listening, be analytical about it. I find that I can watch myself or listen to myself on recordings when I have the score and a set of colored pencils. When my bow stops being parallel, I mark it on the score in colored pencil. Then I watch/listen again for intonation, and mark in a different color. I might go through multiple passes of the piece listening and watching for different things. Posture goes bad on measure X, mark it! Then I sit back and look at that color-annotate score and see what notes/passages are causing me trouble. I find I always lose parallel bowing when I am going fast on the g string, so I work on that specific problem. It takes the edge off of recordings.
I would recommend that you keep recording yourself. You need to determine if your rhythm is absolutely precise. Rhythm should be the foundation of everything else.
I disagree slightly with Scott. Pamela has said she plays at least an hour a day, and much more on the weekends (
Well, that might be enough for superficial familiarity, but it's not really enough to make good progress on a Romantic concerto. Unless you have a well-honed and efficient practice routine.
I suspect that depends on what you mean by "good progress". It probably means a concerto a year, rather than a concerto every 3 months or so, the way that a conservatory student would progress.
Lydia, I think part of your belief about how much progress should be able to occur as a result of "x" amount of practice is partially based on your personal experience with the violin. I would just like to mention that you made extraordinary progress in the past (based on what you've mentioned before in other threads) considering you were only practicing one hour per day throughout your childhood/teens. That level of improvement is SO far from average, even with efficient practice habits.
It is very difficult to separate emotion from logic. If a student is not critical enough, they will not improve. There is no problem being too objectively critical. The problem arises when one brings emotions into the mix...
I agree, Erik, but there are plenty of kids who make decent progress on an hour a day, and similarly there are plenty of adult amateurs who can progress well also.
I'm going to explore a different path, different from the ones already uncharted above by fellow colleagues.
"Could it be that you don't like yourself? And that therefore you don't like your sound, which is a reflection of your self?"
Scott, clearly your chakras are closed up. I find that raising my vibration had a beneficial effect on my vibrato.
One observation that has not yet been made in this thread: I recommend you go back to recordings of yours that you made some time ago. Listen and you'll probably find them not as awful as you remember finding them right after recording them. This has happened to me anyway.
Laugh however much you want, but this is a very true phenomenon.
"Why do you think it is almost impossible to find two violin players who sound alike?"
"I personally have never met a person who was deeply depressed, or ‘broken’ in some other mental way, who also had a beautiful sound."
Tim Smith is right.
Two words regarding depression, mental trauma, and a beautiful sound:
Yes - I am still practicing an hour a day, more if I can fit it in, and I spend about a half hour on scales/etudes/exercises then the remaining time on the repertoire. I switched from the Bruch to the Lalo (which is likely going to raise many a skeptical eyebrow here).
I just saw this thread and I'm going to add my quirky 2-cents. I restarted playing the violin about 12 years ago, as an adult, after a long gap while I was in graduate school and my kids were babies and toddlers.
Karen, this is great. Thank you!
I have made a few recordings of myself including a few embarrassing ones on YouTube. I haven't taken them down because I wanted to track my progress.