I never left, but I am trying to focus; might need a teacher. (learning near 40)

November 15, 2018, 2:49 AM · I played violin growing up... well enough to get an MA in music, but not well enough for that to be a performance major. I didn't even try. I graduated 10 years ago. I didn't stop playing, but without guidance... yeah... ya know? I teach classical violin and Irish and Bluegrass fiddle, but something recently has made me really want to focus and actually get better. I have started to practive for a couple hours a day which is obviously a good start. I live in a relatively small town, Park City, UT, where even my mediocre skill puts me in the upper level of local violinists. I am sure there are better players though.

Finding a teacher is SOOOO difficult when I had such a high level of instruction in college. As a teacher, I understand the need for guided practice, but how does one go about finding instruction in a small town that will probably not be of the caliber that I had at UCSC, and no, I can't drive to Salt Lake City. And on a musician's wages in a 1%er neighborhood?!? No car, by the way... Thoughts? Secondarily, if you know any beginning to upper intermediate students who need an instructor in Park City, I have been doing this for a while.

On the topic of independent study, what are some tips on focus. I just love playing my old rep, and learning a new Biber Rosary Sonata or something, but where is the motivation for Kreutzer etudes and chromatic thirds exercises? I TRULY want to get better, fast, and at the ripe, but obviously not yet old age of 37. The neuroplasticity decreases, but I feel like I have a strong enough background to improve. I would say I am strongest in the Baroque era, but would love to tackle some seriously technical Romantic repertoire. This is not purely for self enjoyment, or self improvement. I am thinking of relocating eventually and pursuing a doctorate, let's say in performance, just to kick my butt in gear.

Things I am currently trying to work on are vibrato, tone, especially on the fourth finger, and efficient shifting, particularly at tempo.

Replies (10)

November 15, 2018, 2:38 PM · Guided instruction is irreplaceable, to be sure. Even an occasional lesson from a good teacher can be valuable. I've found that if I take careful notes, or videotape the lesson, I have months worth of work ahead of me as I integrate, correct, polish and absorb as much as I can from that lesson. So, perhaps a regular drive to SLC isn't an option, but what about once per quarter?

On the subject of focus, I agree it is very difficult. You have good instincts already in that you probably know you're in a rut and need to work on new things. Again, a teacher can help. Books like Simon Fisher's "Basics", the Galaminan book, and "Practicing the Violin, Mentally and Physically" by Kievman has some specific daily exercises that will likely help. I suggest limiting practice time per "session" to only what you can do while concentrating. If that is 5 or 10 minutes only, OK, then take a break, do something else, and come back to it. I typically practice "only" 45 minutes per session, and perhaps 2 or 3 times in a day if I have the time. Use a mirror, and/or record yourself. Lessons over Skype or Zoom can be helpful as well.

November 15, 2018, 4:25 PM · Thanks! Good feedback. It is kind of funny how these are some of the same things I tell my 'once in a while' adult guitar students! And I encourage my regular students to take 30 second videos all the time! A masterclass every two to three months might be a great compromise for me.

I tend to practice skills for a short time, 10-15 minutes, then launch into two hours of repertoire! Also I practice at my office after work hours since I live in a thin walled apartment building. Some more aggressive insulation or a really effective practice mute might be on the chopin liszt so I can practice during work hours without driving everyone int he building nuts.

November 15, 2018, 4:56 PM · I agree with the suggestion for periodic in-person lessons -- perhaps once a month. If you can only do once a quarter, I'd suggest taking lessons via Skype.

Did you study with Roy Malan at UCSC? If so, I'd suggest you reach out to him and ask for suggestions as to who to study with more locally as well as who might teach via Skype.

November 15, 2018, 6:49 PM · I did, and I did! Although in my recollection, he was never a big emailer... ;)
November 17, 2018, 12:01 PM · I am not quite sure what is your motivating factor. Does motivation for self-actualisation come from inside or it is a different kind and driven by outside factors? I guess that if you set a more objective goals instead of general one, you would be able to track your progress and know if you achieved your goals.
For example: I want to perform 1st violin section in Beethoven C-minor op. 18 no. 4 in 3 months
or
I want to perform Beethoven violin concerto in 3 years
or
I want to have a recital of violin solo works for my friends and family in 1 year.
or
...
November 17, 2018, 4:34 PM · I agree with Lydia that you probably don't need a lesson every week. Once a month might do considering your level. You said you can't get to SLC and I get that, but if you're only going so often you might consider Uber or Lyft. And maybe there is a symphony player who lives in your direction from SLC, such that you might be able to borrow a car for that purpose, or rent one from Enterprise. Yeah all that costs money. But you already know that studying the violin is an expensive hobby.
November 17, 2018, 7:18 PM · I have made contact with a teacher from the University! I am looking forward to that. It would be interesting if a symphony member lived up here though. Hmmmm...

Now the point that Rocky makes is a total can of worms, and one that is making my head spin.
What is my motivation? Part of the reason for picking up on my practice is because I have moved back into a house after traveling a lot. And I can practice, so when I can practice, I remember I enjoy practicing and playing, which is s chicken and the egg sort of thing... Part is wanting to improve so I will be more ready for further graduate school, or some super secret project I haven't told anyone about yet; so secret in fact, I don't even know what it is. Part is wanting to play CLASSICAL music more. I play a ton of bluegrass, because it pays! I find myself chomping at the bit for academia and things my friends would roll their eyes at... conversations about microtonal pitch adjustments in Muffat's Violin Sonata, scordatura in Biber sonatas, theory, analysis.

It is all very vague, and I will have to search for more concrete goals. Thank you all for the support! It took a while to finally join this community. It is awesome to be surrounded, in a way, by some many violinists!

November 20, 2018, 5:26 PM · If you have someone you really trust to give you the unvarnished truth, then maybe sharing your playing with them could replace some of the components of a good teacher, and if you tape yourself and can be super objective, then maybe you can do a lot of that, but there are limits to our own objectivity. A good teacher is going to notice minute things that we don't ourselves, and will keep you honest in ways that can be hard to do yourself.

But I think everyone's goal is to eventually gain the self-awareness to teach themselves. Professionals essentially become their own teachers at some point, but I bet a lot of pros stop in for coaching once in a while, because bad habits can creep into even the most polished technique.

Maybe you can ask Lindsay Stirling for lessons!

Edited: November 20, 2018, 6:05 PM · Two thoughts: I do think it would help you to clarify those goals and break them down into steps.

Also: I am 67 and I practice alone. Even so I find I make progress once in a while. You are 37. Don't worry about your neuroplasticity yet!

November 20, 2018, 8:18 PM · A can of worms comes handy when you go fishing.


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