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There are some days when it feels like everything is wrong; the fingers hit the right notes, the instrument feels scratchy and unresponsive and completely foreign and any way you hold it, it feels wrong. Just like when your nose is blocked and you wonder if you ever were able to breathe normally, you start thinking whether your playing has always been this bad...

...Or at least this is what happens to me. Hopefully, I'm not alone. Does it happen to you? Why do you think it happens and what do you do about it? Put it back in the case for the day or plow through the practice, feeling disappointed?

I'm trying to understand whether its my psychology at that moment, or perhaps the humidity which affects my viola (and perhaps my bow as well?), or perhaps I put too much rosin on, in which case I wipe it, try again, nothing, wipe it, rosin again, play, same awful sound etc.... Sigh.

 

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I've had a similar thing, especially with scratchiness. I'm blaming it on the weather as we are transitioning to Spring at it's all over the place.

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5 minutes ago, vathek said:

I've had a similar thing, especially with scratchiness. I'm blaming it on the weather as we are transitioning to Spring at it's all over the place.

Yeah, that's one thing I've been considering... It happens really often lately.

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I am trying yet again to learn violin, after a very long gap since the last time I tried, so most sessions are that way for me. Really, it is more that it is rare when things fall into place, the clouds part, and the sun shines down on me, lol.

Your situation is probably very different, I am sure you are in general very accomplished, but in case it is any help, here is what I do: I try to take satisfaction in the parts that *do* do right, and if things are just not falling place at all, and I am getting tense ad frustrated, I take a couple of steps back and do some simpler stuff, that I can do pretty well even at times like that. I enjoy even playing scales, or very simple, slow, easy stuff, and I just focus on how much I like the sound, and how happy I am when my intonation is within a quarter step or so, really simple things.

Of course, I am not working to a goal, such as for a class or a recital or audition or anything, I can relax and go at my own pace, so again, this may be of no help whatsoever for you, but just in case. :)

If nothing else, I find your screenname intriguing! I have seen it a couple of times now, and every time I come up with all these ideas about what it could mean. :)

I hope you get back in the zone soon!

Carol :)

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1 hour ago, thirteenthsteph said:

1.  Does it happen to you?   1a   Why do you think it happens and what do you do about it? 

2.  I'm trying to understand whether its my psychology at that moment, or perhaps the humidity which affects my viola (and perhaps my bow as well?), 

1.  A few times a year with violin.

1a.   I think it happens because of not putting practice a main priority for the day, then the next day and the next day after that.   I read once where a pro player from days gone by mentioned that I will know if I don't practice for one day,  my friends will know if I haven't practiced for two days and everyone else will know if I haven't practiced in three days.

2.  The way I think firstly is let's face it, I haven't played all week long.  I'll only be fooling myself if I think I'll be at the level I was playing at a few days before.  So what I do is, even though I don't feel like it, is to start with De Beriot exercises 16 - 20 violin. Pretty elementary to me reading wise.  About half way through #18 I start feeling better and when #20 is finished it's either try again tomorrow or let's play some more for awhile.  Either way, I feel better afterwards about the violin than before I picked it up.  

On soupy, humid days I go with the flow and try not to fight the elements of the weather.  I know with real dry days I'll be sounding my best and on humid days not as good but good enough until the next time.  

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Oh sure. I imagine everyone experiences that...or something similar. The environment, changes such as new strings - and your own mood - can all conspire against you.

Just keep trucking! :)

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Yes, erratic weather and March cold bugs wreak havoc, as the clichè goes, with my violin, my bow, and my motivation.  This too shall pass. Just push through it all....:P

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I have been playing music for many decades, and done other difficult things requiring constant training, and I think I do have an insight on this sort of problem...

There is certainly work which you are conscious of, and you work at it and it gets better, but there's another kind of learning that goes on when you train, practice, etc.  You go through it and you struggle and you think--Why am I doing this?  I'm getting WORSE!  But there is training going on of which you are not conscious.  Even though you may sound worse, and you are struggling, there are things working behind the scene, deep in your mind and body, and you just keep going.

Once I was at a martial arts seminar with a very important sensei, and people loved to ask him questions.  Finally he said... "The answer to all of your questions is--train more!"

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1 hour ago, palousian said:

I was at a martial arts seminar with a very important sensei, and people loved to ask him questions.  Finally he said... "The answer to all of your questions is--train more!"

Yup.  I'd add, "Worry less".  Indulging in introspective woolgathering over one's shortcomings saps the will. :)

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17 hours ago, caerolle said:

I am trying yet again to learn violin, after a very long gap since the last time I tried, so most sessions are that way for me. Really, it is more that it is rare when things fall into place, the clouds part, and the sun shines down on me, lol.

Your situation is probably very different, I am sure you are in general very accomplished, but in case it is any help, here is what I do: I try to take satisfaction in the parts that *do* do right, and if things are just not falling place at all, and I am getting tense ad frustrated, I take a couple of steps back and do some simpler stuff, that I can do pretty well even at times like that. I enjoy even playing scales, or very simple, slow, easy stuff, and I just focus on how much I like the sound, and how happy I am when my intonation is within a quarter step or so, really simple things.

Of course, I am not working to a goal, such as for a class or a recital or audition or anything, I can relax and go at my own pace, so again, this may be of no help whatsoever for you, but just in case. :)

If nothing else, I find your screenname intriguing! I have seen it a couple of times now, and every time I come up with all these ideas about what it could mean. :)

I hope you get back in the zone soon!

Carol :)

You've got me wrong, I'm a beginner too. It's only been less than two years since I started. Focusing on simpler stuff sounds good as a method.

If I tell you how unimaginative my screen-name is, the spell will be undone, so I won't! :)

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17 hours ago, uncle duke said:

1.  A few times a year with violin.

1a.   I think it happens because of not putting practice a main priority for the day, then the next day and the next day after that.   I read once where a pro player from days gone by mentioned that I will know if I don't practice for one day,  my friends will know if I haven't practiced for two days and everyone else will know if I haven't practiced in three days.

2.  The way I think firstly is let's face it, I haven't played all week long.  I'll only be fooling myself if I think I'll be at the level I was playing at a few days before.  So what I do is, even though I don't feel like it, is to start with De Beriot exercises 16 - 20 violin. Pretty elementary to me reading wise.  About half way through #18 I start feeling better and when #20 is finished it's either try again tomorrow or let's play some more for awhile.  Either way, I feel better afterwards about the violin than before I picked it up.  

On soupy, humid days I go with the flow and try not to fight the elements of the weather.  I know with real dry days I'll be sounding my best and on humid days not as good but good enough until the next time.  

I agree, but I am not talking about practicing after days of not doing so. That is different in my mind and I understand in those cases what the reason is. What I meant is that this sometimes happens even when I practice every day.

As a side note, what is supposed to be the best humidity level for an instrument in general (if one can make that general assumption)?

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12 hours ago, palousian said:

I have been playing music for many decades, and done other difficult things requiring constant training, and I think I do have an insight on this sort of problem...

There is certainly work which you are conscious of, and you work at it and it gets better, but there's another kind of learning that goes on when you train, practice, etc.  You go through it and you struggle and you think--Why am I doing this?  I'm getting WORSE!  But there is training going on of which you are not conscious.  Even though you may sound worse, and you are struggling, there are things working behind the scene, deep in your mind and body, and you just keep going.

Once I was at a martial arts seminar with a very important sensei, and people loved to ask him questions.  Finally he said... "The answer to all of your questions is--train more!"

That's also what my exact thoughts are every time, so I keep on playing. But, even with that mindset, the perceived result does not change at that moment, so I am trying to understand why that is, because if it's something like, say, too much rosin then I can fix it by finding what works and sticking to it (so far my experiments have not yielded lasting results)! But if it's nothing like that, then, of course, the solution is to just train more, as you say.

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10 hours ago, Violadamore said:

Yup.  I'd add, "Worry less".  Indulging in introspective woolgathering over one's shortcomings saps the will. :)

I try not to let that happen, but it is a challenge not to be even slightly disappointed. :)

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Sometimes we are very focused and sometimes we are distracted and less focused. When we are less focused we think we are concentrating on the task in hand, but we aren't. Hopefully the distractions will go away in a few minutes or hours. I find that if I can't play well straight away, listening to music helps regain the focus. I don't try to force it, that just leads to frustration and less enjoyment.

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4 minutes ago, sospiri said:

Sometimes we are very focused and sometimes we are distracted and less focused. When we are less focused we think we are concentrating on the task in hand, but we aren't. Hopefully the distractions will go away in a few minutes or hours. I find that if I can't play well straight away, listening to music helps regain the focus. I don't try to force it, that just leads to frustration and less enjoyment.

That does happen sometimes, it's true. I am not sure if I can always tell. Most of the time I think I've become focused enough, but it still sounds scratchy and not behaving normally. On the other hand, maybe that thought alone is enough to distract me... 

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2 hours ago, thirteenthsteph said:

That does happen sometimes, it's true. I am not sure if I can always tell. Most of the time I think I've become focused enough, but it still sounds scratchy and not behaving normally. On the other hand, maybe that thought alone is enough to distract me... 

If behaving normally was one of my major concerns, I wouldn't be on MN........... oh, you mean the violin. ;)   Violins are not digital synthesizers, they are hand made wooden art objects, and no two are alike.  Being wooden, it's going to react to climate.  Add in the uncertainties of set up, and of string choice in particular, followed by the questionable contributions of the bow, and it's probably a miracle that we get any pleasing sounds out of them at all.  That said, it's a given that we do, because we are all here discussing how to do it better.

Given, again, that all of us here have been at this long enough that we have accumulated a working set of violin and bow that at least occasionally make violin sounds, ignore the darned things, and concentrate on playing them instead.  Once it's tuned, let the chips scatter where they may.  Using one of my cheap-as-dirt eBay specials, I actually earned some extra money a few days ago, by playing the thing.  It must have been behaving normally, at least in the opinions of the audience. :lol::)

I guess that my message is that to persevere in this business/hobby/whatever-it-is, you've gotta cultivate chutzpah, and ignore minor irritants.  [Returns to scraping overripe tomatoes off her strapless gown, and depositing the puree in a freezer bag].  Oooooo, these will go great in my spaghetti sauce.  Added bonus! :ph34r:

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1 hour ago, Violadamore said:

If behaving normally was one of my major concerns, I wouldn't be on MN........... oh, you mean the violin. ;)   Violins are not digital synthesizers, they are hand made wooden art objects, and no two are alike.  Being wooden, it's going to react to climate.  Add in the uncertainties of set up, and of string choice in particular, followed by the questionable contributions of the bow, and it's probably a miracle that we get any pleasing sounds out of them at all.  That said, it's a given that we do, because we are all here discussing how to do it better.

Given, again, that all of us here have been at this long enough that we have accumulated a working set of violin and bow that at least occasionally make violin sounds, ignore the darned things, and concentrate on playing them instead.  Once it's tuned, let the chips scatter where they may.  Using one of my cheap-as-dirt eBay specials, I actually earned some extra money a few days ago, by playing the thing.  It must have been behaving normally, at least in the opinions of the audience. :lol::)

I guess that my message is that to persevere in this business/hobby/whatever-it-is, you've gotta cultivate chutzpah, and ignore minor irritants.  [Returns to scraping overripe tomatoes off her strapless gown, and depositing the puree in a freezer bag].  Oooooo, these will go great in my spaghetti sauce.  Added bonus! :ph34r:

Well, perseverance, I agree. It was more about solving it if it is solvable, but at some point this just becomes excuses and time wasting. So, perseverance.

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We all have up and down days, in any endeavor.  Natural biorhythms, nutrition, sleep, etc.  However, working through these presents an opportunity to make a breakthrough.  Often the most frustrating days are those right before a breakthrough.

 

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23 hours ago, thirteenthsteph said:

There are some days when it feels like everything is wrong;

 

Those are the reality days. You are beginning to get better at something and now have more brain capacity to spear and as a result, you sense and hear more.

It'll pass.. :)

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Reality days, huh? Well then there's lots more work to be done... Hoping there is actually a breakthrough approaching. :D 

A week ago I had the chance to do a sort of masterclass and play with the top violist and rest of the quartet of our capital's orchestra. It was enlightening, and although I felt like it was the first time I was holding the viola when he showed me a couple of things I did wrong, I'm beginning to reap the rewards. Plus, I got to play on his Ludwig Neuner viola with his amazing bow, supposedly Peccatte school. The bow seriously made a difference instantly (on my viola as well); it was obvious to everyone in the room!

Anyway, end of irrelevant rant. 

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From all the above, one might get the impression that only violin players have bad days.  How about violin makers?  My violin-playing days are essentially over except for keeping my instruments alive.  Everyday that I can work and play with instruments is a good day.  Bad days come with repairing bows.  Then for sure I have "bad hair" days.

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Just now, Trenchworker said:

From all the above, one might get the impression that only violin players have bad days.  How about violin makers?  My violin-playing days are essentially over except for keeping my instruments alive.  Everyday that I can work and play with instruments is a good day.  Bad days come with repairing bows.  Then for sure I have "bad hair" days.

Violin makers' bad day stories are very welcome here! I'd love to read them. :)

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13 minutes ago, thirteenthsteph said:

Reality days, huh? Well then there's lots more work to be done...

Sure, but that's the sign things are falling into place and now you are becoming more perceptive. You're doing great. And stay away from "magic bows", it's not where it is. The more you get involved with the tools the less your sense of control develops. Mustn't be junk but needs not be "special" either.

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Just now, carl stross said:

Sure, but that's the sign things are falling into place and now you are becoming more perceptive. You're doing great. And stay away from "magic bows", it's not where it is. The more you get involved with the tools the less your sense of control develops. Mustn't be junk but needs not be "special" either.

Glad to hear that. I am seeing progress, don't get me wrong... 

About the bow... I'm satisfied with the one I have, it was just an interesting experience. The most exciting part was the lesson!

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