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This discussion includes members-only video content

Hi All!

My question is...How can it be smart to move on when I wouldn't be able to play the song through for a recital? Or do I not understand how a recital works?

I've been stuck on Minuet 2 for a few months now, and I'm just not happy with it. I decided to try to imagine myself performing at a recital with each of the songs I do, and with this one, I can't just get up and play it all the way through. I had to start over around 10 times before I got through it without making any mistakes. When I finally made it through, I stopped recording and posted it. I went back and practiced related finger and bowing exercises and worked on small parts at a time, but still can't quite get it. In any case, a recital seemed liked a good gauge for how I was progressing. Like I said, I'm feeling really stuck.

20 Responses
Posted: March 1, 2015
Last Comment: March 3, 2015

Posted: March 3, 2015
Regina, you did a lovely job on Min. 2.  That piece has been my biggest bug-a-boo lately and you make it look so easy.  If it were me, I'd move forward.

Beth, that was a fantastic video!  I learned so much from it, especially since I'm also working on the same piece.  I sometimes have to let it sit awhile and move on, or go back to earlier pieces and I believe that your words let me know that it's OK to do that.  Every time I go back to an older piece, I play it differently...usually better.  There's always something new to learn; a new technique to employ.  Thanks!

~ Cindy

Posted: March 2, 2015

Hi Regina, (here comes another long posting)...

I just got back, watched your video, and read your posting. As you now know, everyone thinks your playing is really good. And you got one of Beth's wonderful video responses that pinpoints and visually demonstrates more than a few fine points. (The response videos - detailed, focussed individually, public so everyone can learn from them -- this is Internet learning at its best, no doubt in my mind...)

After I watched and read your posting, I was left wondering, "So exactly why is she "just not happy with it" after 2 months?" You talk a bit about making mistakes and having to start over again, and having to do 10 takes to get a recording all the way through. (Haha, most of us video posters would say, "What??? She got away with only 10 takes, and not 40?? :-) She must be really good!)

So for my two bits on your video:

1. Separate the ideas of playing ability and what the video looks like. The main technical point of a video is to record your abilities on a particular song, on a particular day, when you're in a particular mood, etc. The video _is_ your recital. (It's a huge bonus that you can have us all post our two bits - and you're really lucky to get a response video from Beth (we can all learn from those)). So please be encouraged -- a video is just a snapshot of your playing ability on a particular song, at a particular point in time, etc.

2. The video is a snapshot of one step on your violin journey, nothing more. If you're not happy with it, it only means that there is a gap between your vision and your reality of playing ability -- maybe you expect too much too soon.

My way of thinking about it is that you have to go through a bunch of steps to get from where you start to where you're going. Every person's journey is different. So I try not to be unhappy with myself (or with my playing) if I can't play something that is at the edge of my abilities. (There will always be pieces at the edge of my abiliites, and beyond my abilites, so why should I worry about that?).

I liked Treble's comment about "fix it now or fix it later" -- it made me smile. The trick is to learn to enjoy the steps of your journey, whether they be large or small, fast or slow.

As long as you're making some progress (which you _obviously_ have done), then what journey could be better? For example, if you could suddenly jump to Beth's level, would you feel any different when you played a piece at the edge of your abilities? My guess is not -- if you made mistakes, and still couldn't play it through every time, and still had to do 10 takes (What?? Only 10 takes?? :-) to make a recital video, would you feel any different?

You get the idea -- enjoy the challenge of getting better, without letting the gap between your vision and your current abilities get you down. Rope in the vision until the gap is less bothersome. Violin is tough. I don't know why people let their gaps get too big, not only on the violin journey, but also on the life journey. Big gaps, when you focus or fixate on them, can create great dissatisfaction.

Specifically On Your Video

My two bits on your video are these: Obviously you play well, and have lots of basic techniques in place for further advancement.

My first sense of the video was on the bowing. To my eyes, you seemed to have long arms/forearms, and therefore you could bow straight and use up most of the bow without having to straighten your arm (and bend your wrist) as much as other people need to do. Accordingly, I think my eyeballs missed seeing some of the usual wrist-bending and impression of fluidity at the bow ends, esp on the down bows.

My second sense of the video was that you played well enough technically that my ears missed hearing some more smooth phrasing or dynamics -- some up and down, loud and soft, some fast and slow, some variation. Instead, the playing sounded fairly straight and controlled (which is what most playing sounds like when anyone is first struggling to put the whole song together for the first time in a snapshot video of one place in their journey).

On Suggestions for Improvement

If you asked me for suggestions, I'd say try to work on some smooth phrasing and some dynamics, to get away from the straight playing. In order to pull that off, I think that you will have to get a little more fluid wrist-bending at the ends of your bowing, relax a bit more (which will only come from another 300? :-) focused repetitions of the song), and when you start injecting some Regina-feeling into the piece, to make your version of it your own.

On Treble's Comment - Take time now, or get stuck later

I read another comment the other day (maybe on the BulletProofMusician website?) that quoted an old music saying: "Practice not until you can do it right. Instead, practice until it's never wrong." (Wow, until it's never wrong -- now that's a high playing standard! :=) It seems to me that most of us post a video when we're close to getting it right after 50 takes (at least I found myself doing that).

So to combat my "50 takes" (a journey in itself, right?) thinking in my mind, I posted a "2015 Status video" in January of this year, where I did a little video recital and played the only five little pieces that I knew, playing them back to back, with no stopping, and limited retakes for the set, as if I was on stage.

I made up the "5 pieces, no stopping, no retakes" rules to force myself to face up to (and to accept) my current playing abilities. Rule: 5 songs, so I couldn't "cheat" by focusing on one at a time; 5 songs is a better statement of my average playing ability. Rule: Play them all back to back, so I couldn't focus on any one song. Rule: Limited retakes, so I wouldn't waste much time. I limited myself to 5 retakes for the whole set. If I wanted to do a retake, I had to retake the whole 5 songs, and risk making a different mistake in a different song. So you could see, I had to accept minor mistakes, and be happy with them.

Maybe you could set some rules and play a game like this for yourself. It made doing recital videos more fun and challenging for me, maybe it will work for someone else.

Good luck! (And we all look forward to your next video... :-)

Posted: March 2, 2015
Thank you for all the wonderful responses! Beth, your video response is extremely helpful and I can't thank you enough for taking the time to help me and I'm sure everyone else who has the same issues. I have been experimenting with dynamics but you hit the nail on the head...I am a perfectionist and it's hard to let go. I think learning the violin is going to be my 12 step program to break free! Back to practicing.... Thank you all again!

Posted: March 2, 2015
Beautiful playing. This has been a wonderful day to have all of these video responses from Beth.  I have learned so much today!

Posted: March 2, 2015
Regina, thanks for the post.  Beth's and everyone else's answers are good review for all of us. 

Beth Blackerby
Posted: March 2, 2015
This discussion includes members-only video content

Posted: March 2, 2015
Regina, I was not going to reply because I didn't want to make waves, but since Treble brought up some of my feelings I will add a few comments. If you can play a single piece from Suzuki (or any other source), that does not mean you are playing consistently at that level. In order to "master" a certain technique you have to make many repetitions of the bow up and down across the strings. This numbers in the thousands of repetitions. A youngster may be given the assignment to do a certain procedure 500 times and the child will do this if highly motivated or sternly supervised by an adult. 

Adults don't tend to learn this way. I think an adult has to play 12-15 hours per week to make good progress.I taught for many years in a community college and know something about how adult/part-time students proceed. Thinking that "going through the Suzuki course" will make you a violinist is somewhat naive. I don't follow a single "method" but I do have a number of books. At one point I decided that I had to get a good feeling for some basic concepts. I stopped thinking about any advanced techniques and decided to concentrate on the basics - intonation, bow-hold, left-had basic first position fingering. I do have a music background and that helps. For example I have "Best Loved Songs of the American People". That contains almost 200 songs that are fairly simple. The notation is for piano, but I can easily adapt for violin with my background. After 10 months of of violin playing I can now go to most of these songs and play them pretty well after 3 times through. I feel that gives me a certain level of mastery. I really enjoy hearing the music. I am not motivated by "keeping up" with anyone else. Another book I have is "Fiddle Time Scales". It is a children's book with appropriate pictures and songs like "Two Little Angles". But I am learning a lot about scales - major and minor, and some of the pieces do require some effort to do multiple string crossings, etc. Hey, besides I am 70 and going through my second childhood anyhow! I have more thoughts but I'll stop rambling on now. I know my method is working for me but I don't have the answer for how others should proceed. Anyhow, I just wanted to add my 2 cents worth.

Posted: March 2, 2015
Hi Regina,

If it helps at all, with deciding whether to move unto a new (or old) score Beth has developed a great chart to guide us along our collective journey.  It is called Rubric for Advancement and is found under Resouces: Songs, Sheets and Other Stuff (PDFs).  Hope that helps.

Jaime - Orlando , Fl
Posted: March 2, 2015
Perfect intonation, straight bow, impecable tempo, good shoulder arm bow motion. Many attributes that i think indicate your are more than ready to move on! :0)
I hope Beth gets to hear you and see you play... i am sure she will agree.

I think you have the same predicament i have with every single piece i do...striving for complete perfection, time after time Beth have commented when she is "grading" a student to determine whether she/he is ready to move along to the next step what she looks for is for the attributes above: intonation, bowing, posture, tempo.... She also have commented that one can always go back to the prior pieces as one moves along and  you know what?... as we keep gaining knowledge and better technique, going back to the prior songs is actually easier!

From november to february i was stuck on Gavotte... each time a little bolder with the tempo and the bowing...each time a little easier on the eights notes... NEVER able to achieve what in my mind would be adequate... but even to this date, as i decided to move along, i go back to it...and each time a little easier and i know... i will get it eventually!

So, do not get fustrated, keep getting INSPIRED! Your performance of Minuet 2 is OUTSTANDING! Its time for minuet 3! :0)

Posted: March 2, 2015
( TREBLE, WELL THOUGHT OUT AND SAID..I AGREE..) is that a Kevlar jacket ?  LOL

Posted: March 2, 2015
So there was a similar discussion in a Suzuki forum several years ago (about a kid, of course). At that time I expressed the view as others have done here, that the child should move on. The teachers all wrote otherwise. Since then I've changed my view. It's either take time now or get stuck later, at least if you are planning on continuing with the Suzuki books, whether it's at Gossec Gavotte or the Vvaldi in Book 4. 

You are right in that if you cannot play the piece smoothly in a recital by the time you complete all the pieces in a given book then you have not mastered the technique necessary to move on. I think that if you move to the next piece the the preceding pieces need to be reviewed until they are recital ready.

OK I've donned my flak jacket. Fire away!

Hélène Mathers
Posted: March 2, 2015
Regina, if I could play it that well, I'd move on!

Daniel Gheorghian
Posted: March 2, 2015
I agree with the others, you should move on. The playing was clean and the rhythm was good, it sounded minuety :). Try the next piece, or take a break from Suzuki and work on something else; you'll be amazed how much better it will sound when you come back to it.

Elke, made a good note of your violin hold, it does look that it's slanted too much. You may want to fiddle with the shoulder rest so that it gives you enough support that you can freely swing you left elbow when going from string to string.

Elke Meier
Posted: March 2, 2015
Hello Regina, I agree with the others. It sounds beautiful! I put down minuet2 long before I was at this stage, because I realized I was going in circles: one day this little detail would be better, the next day another one, but the first one was bad again. Then, after a few weeks of something else I went back to it and noticed that things started to come together much better.

One thing I noticed (however, I am not an expert, so you need to confirm it or not...) has to do with your violin hold. You seemed to play kind of downward, with the scroll pointing down. At the very end, when you put down the violin, all of a sudden, your posture opened up :). Connected with this (or as a result of this?) your left elbow seems kind of "glued" to your side without the ability to swing freely when you change strings.

Posted: March 2, 2015
Move on, by all means, Regina! That was awesome, imo. I'll be interested to hear what Beth says, but I think she'll encourage you to go on to a new piece.

Posted: March 1, 2015
Regina, That was very nice. M2 is currently my nemesis. You seem to have it well tamed. I was particularly impressed by your command of the triplet on the E string. 
I can relate to your frustration, though. It seems like at least once a week I want to use my violin to start a nice cozy fire. Then I push through and get one or two notes a little better. It can seem like trying to turn a desert into a lake one drop of water at a time. Perhaps in a few more weeks I will try to video my playing. Right now even that level of online recital is too daunting Congratulations. 

Posted: March 1, 2015

Posted: March 1, 2015


you did a great job and it's time to learn another piece...well done!

Posted: March 1, 2015
Regina, it sounds very solid to me. But soon you will have to take off those fingerboard tapes and then you will be dealing with finding the notes without looking. That will take some practice. I found the D'Addario tuner very useful for that.

Posted: March 1, 2015

I just watched a recital for a Suzuki studio of a dozen or more kids.  They played this one.  You played it just as well if not better.  What are you seeing that is not ready.  I thought this was great- definitely ready to move on IMHO.