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starise
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I hope I put this topic into the right place. The subject is finding a good teacher or a teacher that "fits". I will say up front I'm not especially keen on remote lessons.

I have about 7 years of violin training. I generally pick up music and instruments fairly easily. I'm not especially gifted but neither do I consider myself coming from the very beginning when it comes to music.

Back in the beginning of this the violin bug bit me and I decided to get into learning to play. I began learning from a violin major at a local university which was a pretty good experience. She graduated and moved away, so I had to find another teacher. During this time I was a fairly regular attender at Irish folk music sessions. My other opportunity to play in public is at my church, but for some reason they only tend to use another person there and seldom if ever consider me to play anything.

Right before COVID hit I found a teacher who was playing in the Irish sessions. A very good player who also teaches Suzuki methods. I took lessons from her for about two years. A great person who I trusted to teach me. Though she did her best, under her I felt myself wilting. We mainly worked in Suzuki. I would call her style repetitive. EVERY single week for two years we would play the same things. She would say things like , " Now play IN the string". I would put more pressure on my bow and do it again. She would repeat the same instructions, no IN!! the string.

I am at this point, internally shrugging to myself and I put so much pressure on the bow I am almost rubbing the wood shaft on the bow. She would then say, " You still aren't IN the strings". After two years of this I started to wonder if I could really play. If I would ever learn to play the right way. Even though I was playing, I seldom ever played to her satisfaction.

I found myself hating violin practice and hating my next lesson. I would still go thinking that maybe this week would be the final break through. Eventually though I just cut it off and didn't burn any bridges in case I needed to come back. The reason at the time was I was simply too busy and that wasn't a lie. I was lucky to get in 1/2 hour an evening.

In the beginning it was fun to play. I actually thought I could play until my last teacher who instilled in me I couldn't play. Up until I had this teacher I WAS playing in Irish sessions and by most accounts was good enough to hang with many of their tunes in a two hour session.

As of now I haven't touched the violin in a month and I am beginning to wonder if I should. Maybe I am just not ideally suited for this instrument? I made sure the violin and bow wasn't holding me back by buying a very nice violin from Fiddlerman. I am seriously wondering though if mandolin would be a better fit for me because I could transfer the fingerings from violin to it and it has frets.

I dunno* shrugging* I could go with one of those teaching services local to me. If I was really that bad I wish my last teacher would have saved us both a lot of time and just told me I wasn't working out on the instrument.

Any suggestions? I hate to scrap 7 years of effort.

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Gordon Shumway
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Why is it not obvious to you that your teacher was rubbish?

Go back to Irish jam sessions. Meet someone else.

Andrew

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starise
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Gordon Shumway said
Why is it not obvious to you that your teacher was rubbish?

Go back to Irish jam sessions. Meet someone else.

  

Well............she can really play at the high classical levels, so I guess that's why I didn't think that. She is past book 5 ,or is it 6 in Suzuki? The highest one. We are both left handed people playing an instrument that many people think is made for right handers. I had thought this was an added advantage for a teacher, so I dunno. I guess I held her in high regard.

But yes, maybe I made a big blunder here.

So far as the Irish sessions. I'm not a fan of bars, but maybe I'll try it again at some point. Presently I'm just sitting here wondering what my direction should be. If I don't have any inclination to know that, I suppose I can't expect anyone else to know either. I mean I'm still composing my own stuff for fun in the computer and I play the piano in church and sing in the choir. Do I really need to learn this instrument? 

Apparently I wasn't playing the Irish music correctly and to learn it her way with marked bow strokes all over the music took all pf the fun out of it. Now if I return to the sessions I will know I'm not doing it the right way and that bothers me. It's as if I sort of short circuited up stairs and I've put myself on idle lol.

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sorry to hear @starise .  Im still trying to figure out the IN the string comment.  sounds like a yodaism or something Mr. Miagi would say.  I cant see just quitting though.  I think Andrew has a good point in just going back to where you had most fun and exploring from there.  Not sure what Id do myself so anything Id say isnt tested.  I know you said youre not doing online but Ive seen alot of the biggest folk type players out there are doing online lessons right now.  Theyre expensive but with what youve done maybe one or two here and there may be an option.  It would be a hassel though.  webcams, zoom all that.  anyway, hope you find someone to jump into lessons with and for sure dont quit.  if nothing else just keep playing stuff you already know and be ready for an opportunity to open with another teacher.

I like the mandolin idea.  I mean a pick and frets make it totally different for sure but its close at least for an approximation.  It seems a little more relaxing to just noodle around in tunes with it.  I admit it may not transfer exact but keeps the fingers and brain engaged when I dont feel like fiddle..

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Gordon Shumway
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The problem is, ultimately you'll probably end up in bars with a mando.

I know what you mean - I'd be more than happy to stay teatotal (haven't drunk any alcohol in 18 months, i.e. since the lockdown), and the bar ethos annoys me, but plenty of women where I live manage to go in bars and not drink.

Nothing wrong with doing mando and violin, but I'd say stick with the violin.

The only guess I can make at the meaning of "play in the string" (see Benedetti on bow pressure; although there might also be an element of Zen in your teacher's tediousness) is something she should have explained to you in 30 seconds, which she clearly made no attempt to do. It's probably easier to say "always listen to the sound you make and always try to make it the best sound you can make."

Suzuki comes across as robotic to us Brits, and that view might be reinforced if you need special Suzki teacher training in it as well (which your teacher doesn't appear to have had). Whereas British training is about tehnique and musicality and it continues that way through college and tachers come out able to teach technique and musicality, no parallel track. Havingsaid that, I did once have an oboe teacher who was a Zen bore. I gave him up after two or three lessons.

Andrew

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ABitRusty
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Gordon Shumway said
The problem is, ultimately you'll probably end up in bars with a mando.

  

 

not sure thats a problem but yes its difficult to try and play anything other than violin when learning violin.  But for staying engaged in playing irish music.   Ive found, for myself, that when Ive felt umotivated to play it on violin..sometimes the other instument can get that fire back and I end up on the fiddle anyway.  

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Gordon Shumway
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ABitRusty said

Gordon Shumway said

The problem is, ultimately you'll probably end up in bars with a mando.

not sure thats a problem   

Starise said she's not a fan of bars.

Andrew

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ABitRusty
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Gordon Shumway said

ABitRusty said

Gordon Shumway said

The problem is, ultimately you'll probably end up in bars with a mando.

not sure thats a problem   

Starise said she's not a fan of bars.

  

I see can see that now...yes from that angle it wouldnt help.  

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starise
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Gordon Shumway said
The problem is, ultimately you'll probably end up in bars with a mando.

I know what you mean - I'd be more than happy to stay teatotal (haven't drunk any alcohol in 18 months, i.e. since the lockdown), and the bar ethos annoys me, but plenty of women where I live manage to go in bars and not drink.

Nothing wrong with doing mando and violin, but I'd say stick with the violin.

The only guess I can make at the meaning of "play in the string" (see Benedetti on bow pressure; although there might also be an element of Zen in your teacher's tediousness) is something she should have explained to you in 30 seconds, which she clearly made no attempt to do. It's probably easier to say "always listen to the sound you make and always try to make it the best sound you can make."

Suzuki comes across as robotic to us Brits, and that view might be reinforced if you need special Suzki teacher training in it as well (which your teacher doesn't appear to have had). Whereas British training is about tehnique and musicality and it continues that way through college and tachers come out able to teach technique and musicality, no parallel track. Havingsaid that, I did once have an oboe teacher who was a Zen bore. I gave him up after two or three lessons.

  

I'm not exactly sure what Zen is. I can tell you we bowed before each lesson and we always tuned the A string first. I just looked at it like it was her protocol. To say it was Suzuki inspired is probably an understatement. The old Grasshopper " wax on, wax off" thirty zillion times will make a better player idea I guess??? I hate to say it, but I believe maybe one underlying principle of it is to first break the player. She was very successful in that regard. My self confidence went from a 7 to a minus 3.

"Here do that", STOP!!! You need to do it this way ok go ahead. STOP!! You need to do this and that. OK, I attempt it. STOP!!.................fast forward two years. Wash rinse and repeat.

I need to change my screen name and that flowery pic. I am Tim Smith a man lol.

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Jim Dunleavy
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I've heard the 'get into the string' thing before. I always assumed it meant to engage with the string i.e get a proper clean start to the note and a full sound, as opposed to letting the bow skate lightly over the string.

I could be wrong though (it's happened before lol).

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Gordon Shumway
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starise said

I'm not exactly sure what Zen is.  

Be the cloth the rosin is wrapped in, grasshopper!

Jim Dunleavy said
I've heard the 'get into the string' thing before. I always assumed it meant to engage with the string i.e get a proper clean start to the note and a full sound, as opposed to letting the bow skate lightly over the string.  

Yes, there are ways of interpreting it, but some of them risk insulting starise, who has 7 years of experience. So I choose to assume he knows how to make a good sound.

starise said

I need to change my screen name and that flowery pic. I am Tim Smith a man lol. 

The pic isn't a problem, but the screen name does seem feminine.

Andrew

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JohnG
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As a noob at this whole string thing, I can only say that my opinion (and probably worth less than 2 cents) is that the teacher may have been a good violinist, but was a terrible teacher and mentor. I had a boss like that at one time, they got me feeling that I was almost worthless, in less than a year. I managed to get transferred to another person that made all the difference. Overall, I had a very successful career in I.T., both before and after that "evil" boss.

So put them behind you and get back to what turned you on with the violin in the first place. Unless you have aspirations to be a professional, just worry about "getting your groove back in". Play with fun groups and practice what turns you on.

The old curmudgeon!

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@starise -

It's been quite a while, but I seem to remember you shared a video & you sounded just great! 

I'm with JohnG - chuck the lessons, play what tunes make you happy & find a nice group to play with, or just join us more here for right now - maybe in the Party Room! 

https://www.comicbookreligion.com/img/c/a/Cat_and_the_Fiddle.jpg

 

...if I had to play music over & over that I didn't really, REALLY like - I'd have thrown my fiddle out the window! 

- Emily

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Fiddlerman
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starise said ..........In the beginning it was fun to play. I actually thought I could play until my last teacher who instilled in me I couldn't play. Up until I had this teacher I WAS playing in Irish sessions and by most accounts was good enough to hang with many of their tunes in a two hour session.

As of now I haven't touched the violin in a month and I am beginning to wonder if I should. Maybe I am just not ideally suited for this instrument?.........

This gets me so sad. When you thought that you COULD play the violin, you actually could. Don't let others sway your thoughts. If you are content with anything that you can do, it's GREAT. Remember that you only need to play well enough to have fun and please yourself. Hopefully others too but that will come with time. What can seem to one person as inadequate playing will seem to another beginner as huge success. Some aspire to be able to play any tune what so ever, while others expect to play perfectly or effortlessly.

Any suggestions? I hate to scrap 7 years of effort.

Yes. Don't quit. Record yourself, listen and set goals for improvement. Improvement simply means that you want to improve yourself. Baby steps are positive. If you take enough baby steps, you'll ultimately be way better right?

Next, find someone with the right attitude to help you. Ask around before deciding on a teacher. Don't commit to a teacher just because you want it badly, make sure that they are appealing and that they sincerely care to help you. Sounds like your teacher was more concerned with impressing you on his or her playing rather than intent on helping you become the player that YOU want to be.

Set goals but not expectations. Play from time to time just to play. In other words, have fun. Perhaps turn on some pleasurable music and play along with it. Just have fun!!!! You and do it, I know that you can.

"The richest person is not the one who has the most,
but the one who needs the least."

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I took the liberty of looking at your last video post, couldnt remember if I had seen any of yours, must say I think there is nothing wrong with your playing, I would be perfectly happy with it, especially since you can play along at a session, which takes some doing.

You must know by now that the vast majority of fiddle players, Irish ones anyway, never had a teacher at all.

Bit more, bit more, snap #*÷?×?@?#?@

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AndrewH
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It sounds like your teacher may be repeating ideas she's heard, and that make sense to her, but isn't doing a very good job of communicating what she's really asking for. All the playing ability in the world doesn't make a good teacher without the ability to explain it effectively and adapt to different learning styles.

As for self-doubt: it happens at any time. To be perfectly honest, I've had many thoughts in the last two or three weeks of just selling all my musical instruments and giving up on music, because of a combination of things: hyperextending a finger and having to sit out of orchestra rehearsals for a week, playing in a university orchestra alongside younger musicians who have been playing since they were in preschool (and especially hearing about their youth orchestra experiences), and generally feeling like I'm regressing on the Bach suite I've been working on. But I've also had a bunch of periods of self-doubt over the last 21 years, so I know it's not going to last forever. This is the kind of time where having fun is more important than anything else.

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ABitRusty said
sorry to hear @starise .  Im still trying to figure out the IN the string comment.  sounds like a yodaism or something Mr. Miagi would say.  I cant see just quitting though.  I think Andrew has a good point in just going back to where you had most fun and exploring from there.  Not sure what Id do myself so anything Id say isnt tested.  I know you said youre not doing online but Ive seen alot of the biggest folk type players out there are doing online lessons right now.  Theyre expensive but with what youve done maybe one or two here and there may be an option.  It would be a hassel though.  webcams, zoom all that.  anyway, hope you find someone to jump into lessons with and for sure dont quit.  if nothing else just keep playing stuff you already know and be ready for an opportunity to open with another teacher.

I like the mandolin idea.  I mean a pick and frets make it totally different for sure but its close at least for an approximation.  It seems a little more relaxing to just noodle around in tunes with it.  I admit it may not transfer exact but keeps the fingers and brain engaged when I dont feel like fiddle..

  

I appreciate your thoughts and the thoughts of others. The way the hand leverages force on the strings is a little odd to start with. The arm itself is used to apply the force on the bow, but the hand seems to be also at times adding some. I always looked at playing the violin like I was learning 4 different instruments in one because each string is a different diameter and must be examined individually. What works for the G string doesn't work for the E string and so forth. In comparing  to a guitar which also has different sized strings, one can apply a similar technique  across all strings and not hear a huge difference or worry about doing something that will affect the sound in the extreme. The positioning is  not as extreme where the G string is a totally different arm posture compared to the E string. The violin is really a study in physics and it can be difficult to gain familiarity between strings in automatic mode. The brain doesn't often have the time to think, " I'm on the A string and it is played this way, now I'm in the D string so I play it this way." The brain makes these calculations without much thought if done properly. To make matters worse, we have famous players who say they just let the bow lay on the string and barely put any thing into it.

What I think my teacher might have been trying to convey was the string needs to "bite". IOW playing each note with a definite start. The bow doesn't do this for us and a constant applied pressure  sometimes tends to run the notes together or loose the focus of the notes. No matter how many bows I tried and different techniques I tried it was never totally to her liking. I'm not quite a whipped puppy yet, but close lol.

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JohnG said
As a noob at this whole string thing, I can only say that my opinion (and probably worth less than 2 cents) is that the teacher may have been a good violinist, but was a terrible teacher and mentor. I had a boss like that at one time, they got me feeling that I was almost worthless, in less than a year. I managed to get transferred to another person that made all the difference. Overall, I had a very successful career in I.T., both before and after that "evil" boss.

So put them behind you and get back to what turned you on with the violin in the first place. Unless you have aspirations to be a professional, just worry about "getting your groove back in". Play with fun groups and practice what turns you on.

  

John G, well she mainly teaches children and in hindsight maybe I should have looked for someone who teaches adults. I maybe falsely assumed she would change her curriculum slightly for someone like me. I rather expected she would but no major changes were forthcoming, and maybe I was expecting too much in thinking I was supposed to have different training as an adult. In her world Suzuki works...for everyone all day every day. And maybe it does. Maybe the problem is the student?

Maybe I am reluctant to accept that I wasted two years and it's my fault because I didn't clue myself into what was going on.

Fiddlerman said

starise said ..........In the beginning it was fun to play. I actually thought I could play until my last teacher who instilled in me I couldn't play. Up until I had this teacher I WAS playing in Irish sessions and by most accounts was good enough to hang with many of their tunes in a two hour session.

As of now I haven't touched the violin in a month and I am beginning to wonder if I should. Maybe I am just not ideally suited for this instrument?.........

This gets me so sad. When you thought that you COULD play the violin, you actually could. Don't let others sway your thoughts. If you are content with anything that you can do, it's GREAT. Remember that you only need to play well enough to have fun and please yourself. Hopefully others too but that will come with time. What can seem to one person as inadequate playing will seem to another beginner as huge success. Some aspire to be able to play any tune what so ever, while others expect to play perfectly or effortlessly.

Any suggestions? I hate to scrap 7 years of effort.

Yes. Don't quit. Record yourself, listen and set goals for improvement. Improvement simply means that you want to improve yourself. Baby steps are positive. If you take enough baby steps, you'll ultimately be way better right?

Next, find someone with the right attitude to help you. Ask around before deciding on a teacher. Don't commit to a teacher just because you want it badly, make sure that they are appealing and that they sincerely care to help you. Sounds like your teacher was more concerned with impressing you on his or her playing rather than intent on helping you become the player that YOU want to be.

Set goals but not expectations. Play from time to time just to play. In other words, have fun. Perhaps turn on some pleasurable music and play along with it. Just have fun!!!! You and do it, I know that you can.

  

Thanks so much for these thoughts Fiddlerman and for taking the time to write this. I know you're a busy guy. I will take all of this to heart and see what can be done to move forward.

@stringy, thank you for your comments. I have a ways to go, but sometimes looking at how far we've come helps.

AndrewH said
It sounds like your teacher may be repeating ideas she's heard, and that make sense to her, but isn't doing a very good job of communicating what she's really asking for. All the playing ability in the world doesn't make a good teacher without the ability to explain it effectively and adapt to different learning styles.

As for self-doubt: it happens at any time. To be perfectly honest, I've had many thoughts in the last two or three weeks of just selling all my musical instruments and giving up on music, because of a combination of things: hyperextending a finger and having to sit out of orchestra rehearsals for a week, playing in a university orchestra alongside younger musicians who have been playing since they were in preschool (and especially hearing about their youth orchestra experiences), and generally feeling like I'm regressing on the Bach suite I've been working on. But I've also had a bunch of periods of self-doubt over the last 21 years, so I know it's not going to last forever. This is the kind of time where having fun is more important than anything else.

  

Good to hear from you AndrewH,

I see we are all in this together and sometimes have similar thought. I sincerely hope you can continue to do what you love. I can certainly resonate with your sentiments.

My teacher had a physics professor for a father. I had heard and believed leftys were more creative and less analytical but I think she inherited this from her father. I even told her this and she agreed saying it takes both parts of the brain to play. I can see that especially with the violin and viola one needs a highly technical side to play everything necessary. This isn't like the uke we might pull out to strum on for kicks. It goes way deeper as you know. In more cases than not it seems we need to let the creative side go and only use that analytical side in those early years of playing. Maybe when we are better we can let some of that go.

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ELCBK
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@starise - 

NEVER LET GO OF YOUR CREATIVE SIDE! 

 

Tim, I've been thinking about trying to get you to look at your situation differently - figure I have nothing to lose in trying, but you might gain something. 

You just lost a very special means of expressing every emotion you are capable of, because of an accumulation of terrible experiences. 😖

 

🤔 Your reaction was to set aside your violin. 

 

 

There is magic locked away in your violin

- in all bowed instruments. 

The BOW is the key to unlocking that magic. 

You won't find this in any other acoustic string instruments. 

...your last teacher (an oxymoron?) caused you to loose sight of that. 

All the torment I feel from you in this thread, could be released -

by playing and composing for, the very instrument you set aside. 

 

🤗 You can reconnect with your violin - and all of us here think it's worth trying!   

Give yourself an hour... or days, if you'd like to try this.

  • Take your violin out of the case or room you are storing it. 
  • Place it where you can't avoid seeing it, but it MUST be where you normally sit down to relax every day. 
  • Maybe just look at it for a couple days and listen to a cd or streamed music you really enjoy.  Do you think any of that music could possibly sound good on a violin? 
  • Pick up your violin when you can imagine 'YES', but don't play any music. 
  • If you want to unlock the magic in your violin, you'll have to 1st realize that by all the 'pressing down' your teacher led you into with your bow - it was actually an attempt to KILL your violin!  Your bow became a murder weapon.

Positive association - you might benefit from listening to soft background music while doing this, or even try having something nearby that smells good to you:

  • With all your fingers relaxed on the bow (you ARE sitting down, right?), take all the time you need, NO PRESSURE WITH YOUR BOW HAND/ARM - you can start to slowly explore the many sounds you can get from one bow 'stroke'. 
  • START by trying to play very softly - think, "how do I get a tone I really want to embrace?"  Play each stroke with one different speed. 
  • Then, try each bow stroke with consistent bow hair contact, but a different angle, e. g., full hair or just the edge.  Spend all the time you need here to find something you are really happy with. 
  • If you can't produce a sound you absolutely love here - too much rosin, maybe try a different rosin?  ...could you try new/different strings? 
  • NEXT - explore ways to change your speed within each bow stroke, e. g., just at the tip, in the middle, etc.  Do the same with bow hair contact - change it within one stroke.  Explore to get a consistent tone you love. 
  • NOW, can you picture yourself floating on warm water?  A small wave comes along.  How does your whole body react as you float on top of it?  A couple more small waves come along, then a larger one.  Can you feel this?  Try to make your bow float on the water - each wave that comes along will make it slow down, then speed up. 
  • Finally - play one of your favorite tunes, that you have memorized (no sheet music for distraction).  A simple Irish tune - SLOWLY, softly.  A wave comes along, then another.  How does your bow react?  Where do you add a little burst of speed?  NO extra pressure. 
  • Weight (not pressure) and Lifting (not off the string).  Too much weight ALL the time will KILL your violin.  Playing too light ALL the time sounds wispy and makes it too easy for the bow to slide around.   Best to be gently in control.  Think: "my hand and arm are heavy like a small bag of cat food" (I almost said cat litter, but WAY too heavy 🙀) and "my hand and arm are light as cat hair floating around, after I pet the cat".  These are tools you want to use just like punctuation in a sentence, e. g., use a little weight when you do a roll, or when you play fast notes on the G string, or as you start on the 1st beat of a bar, then release.  Lighten your hand for crossing over a string, to end a phrase, or take a breath, etc...  Lots of room to experiment/explore here! 😊

You said you compose music, so you already know that imagery and emotion is everything!  Your violin can allow you a wonderful way to express what you feel that maybe other instruments can't - but, I don't think it will be easy to get the image and feeling of using so much force (pressure) on your bow out of your mind.

Do something wonderful, just for yourself, EVERYDAY! 🤗

If that can't happen with playing the violin... then look to something else for today!  This whole experience will effect other aspects of your life - frustration, remorse, guilt or depression can make you forget you have many options. 

It's okay to take a little time to grieve over your experience with that "teacher".

Maybe this was all necessary to fuel a creative break-though! 

 

 

You CAN find a new way to come up with a

POSITIVE outlook from what you've learned! 

Creative people just need this sometimes. 🥰

- Emily

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Fashionandfiddle
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November 19, 2021 - 11:33 am
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@starise 

Don't give up, one persons opinion is just that - one opinion. The world has some people who want to put others down instead of being kind and encouraging, I have had that experience on another online violin platform (not this lovely forum).  You have come so far with your playing already. Don't doubt yourself.

 

"It is not the mountain we conquer but ourselves" - Sir Edmund Hillary

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