I’ve given myself one year to master the violin.

As an adult beginner, I should be playing Twinkle Twinkle; instead, I'm playing Paganini's 24th caprice.

Good first bad later

You know when you think you should work out but don’t you feel crappy afterwards, but when you do you feel great?  Why is everything like this?  After I practice for several hours I feel great (about practicing, not necessarily about my playing) but when I don’t practice enough I feel bad.  Why do I do this to myself?  And it’s not just violin.  I should work out more, practice more, play video games less, eat more salads and less cheeseburgers.

That’s one reason I’m terrible these days (at playing and blogging).  Simply not enough practice.  This isn’t to say that I’m not practicing – in the three months since I’ve started I’ve only gone two days without practicing and both were travel related.  I just haven’t had enough gargantuan several-hour practice days.

Practice isn’t the only reason though.  Another, and perhaps more important, reason is that I’m plateauing.  (I wasn’t even sure if plateauing was a word, but spellcheck didn’t flag it…although spell check did flag “spellcheck”)  Of course you could quickly counter that if I’m plateauing then I need to practice more to break through the plateau, but it’s hard because I’m plateauing!  It’s a vicious cycle.

Another reason is that my little experiment is catching up with itself.  So much of my time these days is spent on scales and intonation and exercises (Danielle has me doing this shifting exercise that I’ll play for you soon) and with much of that stuff, how many posts about scales can I really have?  At first, I was improving rapidly and it was fun to see my progress, but now I’m slowing down and it’s, I’ll just be honest, very frustrating.

What am I trying to say?  Well, that little goal of playing the theme and the first three variations might be temporarily put on hold.  Danielle thinks we should move on as far as the Paganini goes (obviously scales and such will still be here) because I’m just hitting my head against the wall with these.  Not that I think it gets any easier when we move on, but it is something new.

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7 Comments on “Good first bad later”

  1. rrvaughn says:

    Hey, just go with the flow, baby — just like you’re doing —

  2. curiouscellist says:

    Hi Ryan, I’ve been following your blog for quite some time now and first I wanted to congratulate you on your progress up to this point 🙂

    I think a possible reason towards your wall might be that perhaps you’ve practiced too much (only 2 days without practicing!) I think it’s Donald Weilerstein who tells his students to establish a 24-hour period every week where they don’t touch their instruments (http://www.bulletproofmusician.com/how-many-hours-a-day-should-you-practice/)

    • rrvaughn says:

      That’s a pretty good idea about the practicing. I still feel I should have more large practice days, as in several hours each, but perhaps I should also have a day a week with none at all. I’ll tell you how it turns out. 🙂

  3. Violin Teacher in VA says:

    I don’t know how you and/or Danielle will feel about this, but I’ve found that when one hits a plateau, a distraction of sorts can be very useful… perhaps another piece of music that you’ve always enjoyed, but which still (sneakily) works on building techniques that will directly apply to the Caprice. Or… if you are feeling particularly sadistic, you could always consider working on something which requires even more “discomfort” (ex. tenths instead of octaves) so that when you revert to the octaves, or whatever the technique, it feels like a relief compared to what you’ve been doing. Plateaus are often (though admittedly not always) mind related. Hang in there! You are still making progress … don’t give up, nor just resign yourself to just finishing the project. Believe in it and believe in yourself to achieve the greatest results.

    • rrvaughn says:

      I like this idea. I think we are going to start on tenths (since they’re also in the Paganini). The idea was to move on and stop banging my head against the wall, but I like the idea of going back to octaves and having them be easier in comparison!

      • saba says:

        You should practice every day, because every day you don’t practice you will feel as if you haven’t practice a week. But you can devide your practice times in short periods the day through. Even 5 minutes very concentrated praticing intonation or technic will bring you forward.

        The idea to start now with tens is not so good. Better start with vatiation 5: octaves in semi-tone-distances around the octave-flageolet and start with variation 9 in detache. Good luck!

        Besides, do some studies like Kayser or Wohlfahrt due to your level, and you will be proud of yourself. Also something easy has the challenge for you to speed it up and to improve your technic!

  4. lilibethdlc says:

    I understand what you are going through. Maybe not 100% because I haven’t tried to play Paganini yet and definitely not on a public forum, but about being a beginner and feeling like you are learning so much, so soon and doing great and suddenly feeling like you are not getting better as quickly as before.

    I don’t have any wise advise except that sometimes you need a break and just keep trying, don’t get discouraged. When I’m kind of on a slump (to call it something), I don’t feel as motivated to practice maybe because I feel it is not helping.

    Just wanted to say thank you for having the guts to go public with this experiment. I am learning so much from watching you and reading the comments more experienced musicians give you. Don’t give up, we are all rooting for you!! 🙂


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