“Give it Stick”

An article on “Violin Teacher’s Blog” discusses the connection between “nice” children not playing out, not interpreting a piece for its music but instead being so focused on their own technique that they play “in”, softly, for their own ears only.

The argument the article makes is the following:  While it may or may not be perceived as “selfish” to be so focused on one’s own abilities that one is paralysed into playing timidly, is regardless – it is however self-centered, in the sense that the centre of the player’s focus is herself, rather than the music.

I’ll leave you with that thought to ponder without going too deeply into its philosophy.  What I observe is the following:

You play timidly (for your own ear) when:

  • you haven’t practiced enough and don’t really know the piece well, therefore are unsure of what you are playing
  • you have no faith in your own abilities (too much criticism without anything constructive)
  • you have no strength in your bow arm (this is a physical matter)
  • you are so focused on what people may think of your play that you forget to think of what the music is trying to say
  • you are so focused on left-hand technique that you forget about your bow arm (this ties in with the first bullet-point – not knowing the piece well enough)

How to remedy this?

There are various ways, but the most obvious, most simple is this:


It’s not comfortable yet?  Practice more!

There are very few problems in violin that will fail to dissolve into nothing under persistent, dogged, diligent, unrelenting, unforgiving practice.  Mistakes are very scared of practice because they know it’s their nemesis.  If mistakes are monsters, practice is Chuck Norris.

Once you have practiced a piece so well that you can play it backwards in your sleep, it becomes easy.  When a piece is easy, it becomes a show-off piece.  And when it’s a show-off piece, guess what – you’ll play it with all the expression you want to give it, because after all, you are showing it off.  Is this selfish?  Well, maybe; you may catch accolades and applause, but more importantly, you are bringing an experience to your listener, so no – it isn’t so much selfish as generous.  You are giving joy or sharing your joy with others.

If you’re playing only for your own ears, you’re not sharing.

I taught my children when they were three that they don’t have to share.  When it comes to food etc, sure, we must share, especially if it is scarce.  But if you have something gorgeous, you don’t have to share it with every child on the block just because they also want a piece of it.

So, there’s basically nothing wrong with playing only for yourself, not sharing your music…  you’ll still have its benefit.  But in the case of music, sharing it is increasing it.  If you share your music, more people will have fun, and that means you’ll have more fun.  If you are really a selfless, caring, giving character, play so that their feet want to dance!

And enjoy!


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