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Jerry Wright

I have what I think is a legitimate question.  What makes a violin "musician"? 49 years of life experience has taught me that I don't have a God given talent for music. All I have to do is watch a Youtube video of a 4 year old playing Vivaldi to prove that hypothesis.  Music continues to be a quandary to me.  Granted, I've only been pursuing it for a year, however, I am quite certain there aren't any 49 year old violin prodigies, and if there are, I'm not one of them. Can being a "musician" be a learned trait?  If so, what does that look like?  I picture a violin soloist standing on stage performing an emotionally driven performance of Czarda.

Jerry Wright
14 Responses
Posted: January 10, 2018
Last Comment: January 15, 2018
Replies

Barb Wimmer
Posted: January 15, 2018
I think it is when you know a song so well and you still play it passionately instead of getting bored with it. And always learning new things.

Ann Meeker
Posted: January 15, 2018
Reminds me of the story of a ardent fan coming up to Franz Liszt, saying "I would give my life to play as beautifully as you!!!".  To which Franz Liszt replied, "I did."

Ann Meeker
Posted: January 15, 2018
Jerry, I recently was watching Beth's video 560 (Stages of Learning a Piece of Music).  She brings out how there is months of practice on all the "nitty-gritty" parts of a piece, perfecting the technique/etc.  And then finally after all that there is the "polishing" stage, which is when you kindof ditch all that thought about bowing/etc to your subconscious and concentrate on the beauty & flow of the piece.  That video gave me hope.  It's only AFTER all the grunt work is done (I say grunt work, but really I do enjoy it, as long as I have Hope at the end of the tunnel!) that the performer can "abandon themselves" to the beauty of the piece.  So when we see folks play so gorgeously, we tend to think "they always do that", but they've put in their hundreds of hrs of practice.  It inspired me to try the same philosophy on my Tiny Little Learning pieces . . . don't expect to Play Gorgeous until After I have dealt faithfully with all the little seemingly numberless challenges. . . and then see if I can then experience the Nirvana of "forgetting it all to my subconscious" and "just let the music flow".  

Violin Claudia
Posted: January 12, 2018
Have a look at this. 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IbtnCUTiDYo&t=2s

The topic you're raising is on many people's minds. Even younger ones. The comment section underneath the video is also interesting to read.

Like you, when I see other peoples' (and ...good heavens.....children's) skills and compare them to mine, I also wonder sometimes whether there's any point in me continuing. I don't think I am entirely untalented but I guess starting in my late 40's wasn't a good recipe for reaching concert violinist heights by early 50's.

My perception is that unless a person has 2 left hands and cannot keep the beat or hear pitch hard work will account for a lot. I think that in the ratio > talent : hard work < the latter features with more than 50%. From what I can tell, the top performers have definitely put in the work. Years and years of it.

I started with my son (8yrs old at the time) and trundled along with his lessons and ended up taking lessons myself and bought my own violin. Some time last year I decided to not just trundle along anymore but to grab the bull by the horns. I increased my practise time, immersed myself in all kinds of different aspects of the violin topic via literature, watching online instructional videos and famous violinists performing (I find I can gather a lot of information just watching those guys play), hearing performers talk about their art, starting studies like Schradieck/ Kreutzer and generally thinking about it and getting a feeling for it etc..   I believe this has made a difference already. I really wish I could put in more practise time but as an adult with a family to run it's difficult. I also think that you have to get a sort of feeling for the art that translates into physical output. I think some of it can be cultivated.

I would really like to encourage you to keep going and getting into it more and more. It's a journey and I often ask myself....are we nearly there yet?....just to find there is lots more to go.. My skills are humble but I want to see how far I can get and would love to be able to join an orchestra one day.

On another note, I found that this new hobby of mine has enriched my life and broadened my horizon as I get to know the world of classical music and musical art in general and learn about composers, the historical context in which they lived etc.

Best wishes.

Jerry Wright
Posted: January 12, 2018
Great discussion.  I was really just curious about your thoughts on this subject.  Why did I start playing the violin? I have always wanted to learn a stringed instrument.  My grandfather was a magician on a 12 string guitar and I remember how amazing it was that be could captivate an audience.  Long story short, after 48 years I finally stopped coming up with excuses as to why it wasn't the right time or how I wasn't smart enough to learn the violin.  My violin dream? To one day play a song so well that it either captivates an audience or elicits an emotional reaction (like a tear) in someone.  I will then consider myself a musician.

Jim
Posted: January 11, 2018
Is there such a thing as a prodigy? All of us, on the individual level, have a  'tendency' to be geared toward something naturally. Call it DNA, genetic make-up or god given, it's in each of us. Also within is "drive", or a lack there of. Partially taught by parents, environment, and in our individual tendencies. 

Whether you're a box maker or musician, whatever the tendency, encouraged by your parents(or perhaps later in life, a supporting partner, teacher, friend), in an appropriate environment, and with a decent dose of drive, then you may very well be a prodigy[term used loosely].

Can musicianship be a learned trait? If you are taking the notion, putting in the time to learn, then yes. Since you took the notion, how be it later in life, perhaps you have had the tendency since day 1, it just took you a little time to get to it.

Now my old brain hurts so I'm going to practice before my class.





Maria
Posted: January 11, 2018
If in your heart of heart you love and sincerely passionate about music 🎶 then yes, you call yourself a musician at whatever level you are at!

Violin Claudia
Posted: January 11, 2018
May I ask why you started to learn the violin? What were your expectations?

Dianne
Posted: January 11, 2018
I think I know what you mean, Jerry. It must be because of spending so much time with the instrument, and getting the techniques down, so that they can get to that point. It's definitely a goal to have that kind of facility. I also think that some of the children just have terrific technique beyond their years, such as terrific bow arms early on. They end up in advanced programs to further bring them along. It's all good, because it get the stringed instrument performances out there to introduce even more people to it, let alone the enjoyment of listening to their performances as they progress. It's kind of exciting to have that kind of high bar set. My goals are not that lofty, but I am going to take it as far as I possible can, just for the sheer enjoyment of even practicing, let alone performing, although today's practice was pretty rough!

Jerry Wright
Posted: January 10, 2018
I don't know what I mean by musician, I have my own vision.  I see these  magnificent performers with eyes closed, body movements that appear to me as a symbiotic relationship with their instrument.  They make intonation,  tone,  and rhythm an almost effortless and unatainable dream.  

Dianne
Posted: January 10, 2018
Hi Jerry, are you asking "Can anyone learn to play music, or do you have to have a talent for it?" I think musician implies a profession. But you can be a violinist, a person who plays the violin. A couple of decades of focused practice will pay off in dividends to be able to perform very advanced classical music, with good training. We have had some players on here that do that. I think it's all what we are willing to put into it. I think it takes a lot of patience to play the violin well, and this community really helps!

Inge Black
Posted: January 10, 2018
I may have missed the gist of it.

Asking: Is the 4 year old playing an accurate Vivaldi a musician?  Or someone who can play an accurate series of notes with correct timing and the rest?  When you, at 49 (or I at older than that) can get a handle at those skills, you will be putting your life experiences into it as well.  That gives the music .... heart?

Inge Black
Posted: January 10, 2018
I have no answers, but I'll share some of my thoughts.
Some 12 years ago I pondered the question of "musicianship", and what really goes into music study.  I'd had several years of the usual assigned grade-level material: pieces, scales, etudes.  As I started asking, new dimensions popped up.  Unfortunately everything had to stop suddenly some time after.  I'm restarting violin now from scratch; the question was taken up with my piano -plus teacher in between.
As I understand it, there is some degree of inner feeling that can be involved, but also a large proportion of applied skill and knowledge, which the trained musician balances out. Understanding: I recognize two phrases, that they interrelate and I want to shape that.  I know I want to build a crescendo here, and why; emphasize certain notes by making them louder, or delaying their entry, or giving a sharper attack. ... Or I know a waltz goes loud-soft-soft to make the dancers' feet swing.  Feeling Maybe there is a feeling of a passionate poignant growing plea.  How do I express it?  Maybe through crescendo and speeding up, with a sudden drop (understanding).  Skills:  So I want to do that crescendo?  First I need to learn to handle my bow in a basic way cleanly.  How do I play loudly, quietly - which sounding point - with pressure or weight or speed?  Can I experiment just with what sounds I can make?  So I want to do rubato (delayed entry etc.) - Can I play with even timing first?  Do I know how to count?  If I want to interpret the music, can I read notes?  Do I need to?
I concluded that these were the three essential elements.  For "understanding" there is music theory, music history - these tie in with the skills.  It also seems that the very basic things learned as a beginner are the most profound things that will carry you to all levels and keep growing.  They hold the key to everything else.  That there is nothing humble about being a beginner.
Meanwhile, the professional musician making you feel the Czardas that day, may not be at all in a Czardas mood that day, but he knows how to apply his skill and knowledge to make you feel it.
I am a late learner, so these are only impressions.

One afterthought: Pavarotti at the end of his life said "I am still only a student."  Menuhin wrote that the violin is impossible to learn in a lifetime, because the discoveries and learning are limitless.  (I see this as a positive thing).

Christopher Sinkule
Posted: January 10, 2018
I think everyone has the innate talent of musicianship. Being a prodigy is not a god given talent, in my opinion. The little 5 and 6 year old virtuoso's live, sleep, breath, and eat violin. I don't think they are born with the talent, they are born with the drive, passion and dedication (or very pushy parents). They also have the luxury of being able to live, sleep, breath, and eat violin. I'm sure you could be just as good as they are in a few years if you practiced 8-9 hours a day under top level instruction. Being able to recognize a great musician means that you know what makes great music, the only difference between them and us is they have the technique behind them to make it happen. And that technique is most definitely learned, they aren't born with it, at least I don't believe they are.