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Tips & Tricks: Paralyzed by Perfection

November 3rd, 2014 by Katherine Moller

medium_5430374530I was recently teaching one of my adult classes about playing double stops. My students told me that they were finding it difficult, and that they found that their violins did not sound very good. I asked them to play (together, not individually) while I listened. They looked panicked as they realized that I was not going to play too. The big issue they were all having? They were not using enough bow. Both were so worried about playing correctly, hitting both strings evenly, trying to make a pleasant sound that they were becoming paralyzed with the effort of playing perfectly.

Becoming paralyzed by the goal of perfection is something that I have seen in many of my students of all ages. This generally leads to not using enough bow and playing very slowly. The issue comes from the fact that if you use short bows and play very slowly, your violin will not sound very good, and in fact will have a scratchy, creaky kind of sound. This causes these same students who strive for perfection, to try even harder, use less bow, and sometimes add pressure to try to control their bow. All of this will not work, and indeed continue making the violin sound worse. Sometimes you just have to let go of the fear and use more bow!

In my group class I explained this to my students, and then played with them so they could feel more relaxed and like I wasn’t going to hear every single problem that they had. They were able to play their double stops much better and felt a sense of accomplishment.

It is important to try to play as well as you can, but you do have to let your hair down a bit, relax, have fun, and make sure to use more bow! Perfection is a great goal, but don’t let it weigh you down!

photo credit: AyrWaves via photopin cc

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