Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Violin Lessons

20+ years of taking violin lessons, plus the years I’ve taught—hopefully I’ve learned a few things. There are times, though, when I hear myself saying something to a student and think: Did you HEAR that life metaphor? If I could better apply that I’d be some sort of genius at my life! But the middle of a lesson is not quite the right time to ponder things like that, and the moment passes quietly.

I love those moments, though, so I thought I’d put them together into a neat little list, gleaned from all sorts of people and places and situations:

• What you hear under your ear and what you project to your audience are not always the same thing.

• If you want to learn that new technique, you have to be willing to risk failing. A lot.

• All happy, all sad, all exciting, all tranquil, = boring. Tension and release, going to or moving away from—that’s what pulls us in.

• No matter how many times you’ve played it, there is always something new to discover.

• Sometimes you hate a piece and you have to play it anyway. Playing it like you hate it, though, doesn’t really improve the experience for anyone.

• Practice does not make perfect. But striving for perfection will make you better so you make it your goal—and figure out some way to get comfortable with falling short.

• When you add a new skill, expect everything else to fall apart. You will eventually piece it together again and it will all be stronger.

• It’s hard to communicate anything when you haven’t considered what you’re trying to say.

• Learning is messy.

• Learning is often slow. (Those once-in-a-while times when you get to make a breathtaking leap in what you can do are usually proceeded by a long, hard climb.)

Please feel free to add to my list in the comments below. What have you learned?

Subscribe to Dreamer by Email


  1. Jason and I JUST finished a conversation about this in relationship to what we tell our kids daily. Like reminding Dalton that he needs to learn how to enjoy the good thing he did get and not focus on the other good things that were left on the shelf at the store. Focusing too much on what you don't have poisons the thankfulness you should have for the things you do have.

    And WHY can't I learn this myself???

    I love your first bullet point and the third one is along the lines of what I was thinking about when I wrote the guest post for you.

    1. "And WHY can't I learn this myself???" I ask myself that so often. Pretty much every time the words come out of my life.

      Bullet point number three is maybe one of the hardest for me. I know how that makes good art, but it can be so hard to want that for my life.

    2. What a strange typo--I have no idea where that came from. I meant to say "Pretty much every time the words come out of my mouth."

    3. That is a strange typo! And I didn't even see it til you pointed it out. My brain filled in "mouth." But either way works well...

  2. #3! #3! #3! Now I'm thinking about Keats' idea of negative capability, and how essential living that tension is, and how incredibly hard it is.

    "A diamond is a piece of coal that stuck with the job."

    "Write a little every day, without hope and without despair."

    I don't know where I got either of those, and neither of them really belong on your bullet list, but both of them took up residence as pieces of paper stuck to my laptop in years past, so I thought I'd write them down here anyway.

    xo, alison

    1. I had to look up negative capability--wow, there's a lot there! Thank you for another wonderful tangent to follow.

      I think those two quotes are perfect for the list, actually. There is a Suzuki quote I'm fond of that talks about working "without hurry, without rest" which sits beautifully alongside "without hope and without despair."


I love hearing from you!