Weekend vote (almost-Halloween edition): What do you find most scary?

October 23, 2020, 9:18 PM · The week before Halloween seems like a good time for a spoooky, silly vote. So here it goes: which of the following scenarios do you find most scary? Which give you a nice sense of foreboding and dread?

spooky violinist

Here are your options: Taking auditions (eeeeek!), performing in a recital (noooooo!), playing for a teacher (noooot reeeaaady!) facing a really difficult piece of music (tooo haard!) or flying with your instrument (caaaareful!) Or maybe it's....sooomething else!

I realize that this might all sound rather negative and overly-dramatic. But it can't be denied: some violin- or music-related situations tend to get the adrenaline flowing. So in the spirit of laughing a little at our fears, I ask you,
in my spookiest voice, what do you find most "scary" in your fiddle life, and why? Please pick the answer that best describes it, and if it's something else, please describe it in the comments. Also tell us about your "deepest fears" - let's get this on the table, sort it out, then eat a bunch of candy! (Or not, lol!) Happy almost-Halloween!


October 24, 2020 at 10:02 AM · I would have thought that learning difficult music was a hope, rather than a fear. Trying unsuccessfully to learn difficult music ... Now that IS a fear (that would be realised, were I to try to learn the outer movements of the Brahms or Sibelius, or play after half time of the Glazunov - and if lockdown continues, probably WILL be realised in the Bach Chaconne)!

On a more serious note: I find people trifling with Halloween scary.

October 24, 2020 at 12:09 PM · I’m never going to be good enough to audition for anything. I do do the nervous mistakes in front of the teacher thing, but I get over it by the end of the lesson.

I know I would never cope with a recital so I guess that’s the most appropriate vote.

I did sit for an exam when I was 12, which scarred me so much, I didn’t pluck up the courage to try again for 50+ years , so exams would have to count, or do they come under audition or rectal?

Travelling with my instrument is not likely.

Edit: I think I’ll leave that typo in there.....

October 24, 2020 at 02:50 PM · John wrote: " I find people trifling with Halloween scary." I wonder what he meant? I mean do you 'believe' in Halloween?

October 24, 2020 at 04:35 PM · I’m not in any sort of position to audition for anything with my violin. At this point, I'm not ready for prime time.

Actually, when it comes to any kind of audition, things haven't gone well. I was recently up for a “featured extra” roll for a tv show. They wanted to take a photo of me as an older version of one of the cast members. (ouch). I didn’t get the roll (probably don’t look old enough.)

Back to the violin.

Performing in a recital isn’t too bad.

I’ve never had any problem flying with my violin. Indeed, the violin usually flies in first class, while I’m back in some middle seat near the rear of the airplane.

I like to learn difficult music. Of course, “difficult” is a relative term.

However, playing for my teacher is my Achilles Heel. I can play something several times before the lesson and it sounds fine. When she’s on my computer, watching and listening to my every move, I come undone. I overthink the whole thing. I self-criticize on mistakes. I don’t listen to myself. It goes and on.

I’ve tried meditation, exercises, indifference, etc. It drives me bonkers.

Any suggestions?

October 24, 2020 at 10:11 PM · Another high-stress situation that is not on that list is the pro-level recording session. Most of the time the background charts are technically easy, but sometimes you get something that is really difficult. You are sight-reading under a mike, with no warning, no practice time, no rehearsal time. You have to get it it right every take, because the solo singer wants their best take, not yours.

October 25, 2020 at 02:12 AM · I voted audition. But in reality I find recording to be scarier than all of the above -- even if I'm giving myself multiple takes, and sometimes even if it's a practice recording that I know no one will hear except me. There's something about the quasi-permanence of it.

October 25, 2020 at 04:12 AM · "However, playing for my teacher is my Achilles Heel. I can play something several times before the lesson and it sounds fine. When she’s on my computer, watching and listening to my every move, I come undone. I overthink the whole thing. I self-criticize on mistakes. I don’t listen to myself. It goes and on.

I’ve tried meditation, exercises, indifference, etc. It drives me bonkers.

Any suggestions?"

You are going about this all wrong!! You are going into the lesson with the attitude that the teacher is testing you and you will get into trouble if you get it wrong. If that is the actual dynamic you really need to get a new teacher.

The solution (least it was for me) is to go into the lesson with the INTENTION of showing the teacher everything that goes wrong. Else how on earth are they going to teach you? Play and make mistakes, this should be the ultimate safe-house. You and your teacher are on the same team. If the teacher gives you a hard time for errors then, as said, get a new teacher.

October 25, 2020 at 06:52 AM · What a great way to think about it Elise!

I’ll try to look at it that way when I start lessons again.

However when I think about it, it’s also about trying not to disappoint the teacher.

At one point , very early on, when I was getting flustered, he actually said “it’s ok to make mistakes” which I remind myself of when I get frustrated.

October 25, 2020 at 02:10 PM · Elise,even if you go to a seance or play with an ouija board, some of the time nothing will happen, and this is probably more so with taking part in Halloween parties. But if something does happen, invariably it's occult forces at work.

Some years ago, my great nephew invited me to his Halloween party, and I couldn't really not go. I turned up in a tee-shirt (designed by myself, but without any drawings of mine, since I simply cannot draw - when I was told at school to draw a map of Africa, my first attempot was a triangle. Strangely, the rest of my family are quite gifted in terms of visual art) that had "Light Party Invader" on the front (with the official Light Party logo, there), and an internet graphic of Martin Luther in his cell on the back, and a spiel about the Reformation and his 95 Theses, which he nailed to the Wittenburg church door also on the 31st October. Somewhat unexpectedly the tee-shirt caused no offence at all, his father saying it was terrific. I don't know that they ever had another Halloween party - I never asked.

October 25, 2020 at 03:11 PM · "If that is the actual dynamic you really need to get a new teacher."

No. That ain't gonna happen. She is patient, encouraging, helpful, and always positive.

As Shakespeare wrote, "The problem is not in the stars. . . but in ourselves." I get a little nervous and the tends to get in the way. No more, no less. It does go away, after a while, but I find it frustrating.

So, let's not rush to judgement and blame my teacher, ok? I know good teaching when I see it. I was a teacher for 37 years, and I get tired of people who always presume the teacher is the genesis of any learning issue. That's a little too easy.

October 25, 2020 at 03:25 PM · I’d like to add one. Visiting a local violin shop. As an amateur and adult learner/beginner, I always feel self conscious about my playing. When I go to a shop, just to get my instrument adjusted or to get a new set of strings, I want to try an instrument to get a feel for how different instruments sound comparatively. I like to discover what sounds best under my ear so I can make an informed decision about what direction I want my playing and future instrument dreaming to go. But since I still have a long way to go in my learning, I feel like my mistakes are billboards in a shop since so many accomplished musicians are in there playing their magnum opus.

So for me it’s about feeling critical of my playing and having someone be ungracious about my level of playing. Since it is not my profession, it will take me longer to get to proficiency. I have to remind myself that it’s ok to be where I am at. The key is to keep persisting so I continue to progress.

But the short version is visiting violin shops scare me.!

October 25, 2020 at 07:24 PM · Great advice, Elise. Spot on.

October 25, 2020 at 07:24 PM · Great advice, Elise. Spot on.

October 25, 2020 at 07:24 PM · Great advice, Elise. Spot on.

October 25, 2020 at 07:35 PM · "Flying with my instrument:" This would be scary for me. I say would be because I don't fly anymore. I last flew well before 9/11, when security was non-intrusive and took only about 10 seconds. Instrument on board -- no hassle. I carried it regularly in my student days. In the years since then, I've heard and read many unhappy stories from musicians who fly with their instruments -- the hassles, mix-ups, damage incidents.

Regarding auditions, recitals, playing for the teacher: I don't remember ever being nervous when playing for my teacher. And I had six teachers from the time I was a kid till I finished school. Recitals and auditions got me keyed up, naturally enough, but not scared. I learned early how to deal with nerves. Playing often for others helped a lot. As long as I'd done my homework, I could deliver. Auditions actually were a strong suit of mine. I'm an introvert but also a fighter. There was always something of the little swashbuckler in me, and that helped me out-bully the nerves.

Difficult music doesn't scare me -- it's just that the first attempt at something new doesn't turn out to be quite what I'd like. But after identifying the hard parts and working them out, I can find the fun and make a "go" of it.

One other thought scares me: A room that's not warm enough to give the hands the grip and traction they need. I'm happy to play for anyone who asks me -- provided that I'm warmed up adequately and have the right conditions.

October 27, 2020 at 02:53 AM · I find playing difficult music terrifying. Playing for teachers is much simpler for me.

October 28, 2020 at 02:56 PM · I just started playing the violin, but I've been a dancer/singer/actress until I got my knee injury.

Auditions are definitely the most scary thing for me. Dancing is fine, I guess because I feel the least 'naked' being amongst 4/5 other dancers and my choreography memory is rock solid.

Singing (and perhaps playing the violin later on) or acting is a whole other thing. Perhaps because it's more fragile and the nervous muscle shaking is harder to hide without a physical effort and affects the voice.

Even if I'm so well-prepared, it's as if I forget everything I learned once I step into the room and see those jury eyes. I go into complete survival mode and hope for the best.

So I should be at 500% quality level, so with the nerves I'll still be at 200% ;)

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