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Laurie Niles

Falling Down

January 10, 2011 at 8:49 PM

"If you're not falling down, you're not learning," said my friend Linda, an expert skier, as we rode the ski lift up the mountain. She was quoting an instructor who had taught her well.

I spent part of last week up at Mammoth Mountain in northern California, hitting the slopes with my children and with good friends. I'm not an expert skier, though I'm reasonably competent. But I'm also not too fond of falling down! I tended toward the slopes with names like "Sleepy Hollow" -- not so much the ones with names like "Death-Trap Gulch."



But I did understand what she meant. I had been using the excuse of hanging out with my kids, who have been skiing just twice, to avoid trying anything that was very difficult for me. The thing is, my kids keep improving! Finally, on my last day, I mustered the nerve to try a few little treks through the trees and to ride through the bumpy-steep "Alligator Pit."

Now that was fun! The adrenaline kicked in, and I had to use all my powers of concentration before that "Alligator Pit" spit me out, way too fast, back on the beaten trail. Again! I went back and did it three times, it was so fun.

This is not to say that I did not need to put in plenty of time on the beaten trail, I've still not reached my 10,000 hours there, not even close! But the side-trip into more difficult territory gave me a thrill and motivated me.

The same is true for the violin. Have you been playing tunes called "Meditation," and avoiding "Devil's Double-Stop Trill Ride"?

Of course, it's important to clock the hours, playing familiar pieces and scales well. It's important to play slow tunes and achieve beautiful tone. But you also have to challenge yourself and push your technique. Are you getting too comfortable? Have you tried it faster? Could you play it in a higher position? Could you try a new technique? Have you tried playing that thrill piece that impressed you, that made you want to play in the first place?

Take a risk, do it!

From marjory lange
Posted on January 11, 2011 at 2:54 AM

 Laurie, for me, a most well-timed post.  Thank you!

From Jo Parker
Posted on January 11, 2011 at 10:08 AM

thank you for this post, it is SO SO TRUE and now I also understand 'where my teacher is coming from'!

my teacher has always insisted I learn 'fast pieces', he always tells me I am getting 'too comfortable in my comfort zone', too comfortable with my 'meditation and schindler's list theme', I am too scared to learn the vivaldi four seasons, I think I will never be able to learn the winter 3rd movement and now he is going to make me learn all of the four seasons!!  I keep thinking why? I am not a professional violinist, I can avoid the fast things hehehehe, now I know why, he is right! YOU are right Laurie :) I need to push/challenge myself that's why, and I think just like you said I may even end up enjoying myself and will come out a much better violinist as well at the end :)

From Ann Miller
Posted on January 11, 2011 at 4:27 PM

I am an adult beginner, working on the Vivaldi A minor concerto, 1st movement, in Suzuki Book 4.  Any suggestions for that more challenging piece, especially if I think the current piece is challenging enough?



From Charlie Gibbs
Posted on January 11, 2011 at 9:26 PM

How about the Bach A-minor concerto?  My teacher seems to be giving me a repertoire of A-minor concerti; my latest "alligator pit" is the one by Telemann.  Excuse my while I go off and lick my wounds (and maybe play a bit of "Meditation")...

From Pamela Moore
Posted on January 12, 2011 at 7:35 AM

My teacher has plunged me into material I NEVER thought I could handle.  Lately I've been working on Bach's Partita in E major (working from the last movement forward), and I've gotten into the Preludio. 

However, I think that playing in an orchestra is the ultimate "push one's comfort zone". 

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