William Fitzpatrick - violin expert

Why what worked in front of my teacher doesn't work any more at home?

Learn how to be consistent in your violin learning

In this video, Prof. Fitzpatrick teaches you an easy way to repeat at home what you learn at your violin lesson.

Released on September 5, 2018

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DISCLAIMER: The views and the opinions expressed in this video are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Virtual Sheet Music and its employees.

Video Transcription

Okay. So you work on a passage in your lesson and what your teacher tells you to do works. You're pleased. You go home and you're full of confidence and exuberance. You can't wait to do it again now that you're home. Then you're practicing and little by little it doesn't work any more. You did exactly what the teacher said, but it just doesn't work any more. Sad moment.

So let me share with you a memory, a story. You see I remember walking down the street with my violin in Aspen at the music festival and running into Mr. Perlman. Since we knew each other he asked me what I was working on and I said, "The Bartok Concerto." To my utter surprise he then asked me if I wanted to play it for him. Side note: Always be ready.

And of course I said, "Yes," and we walked up to his apartment. And so, he worked me hard and I go so, so much better. The encounter/lesson lasted about an hour and a half, and I was so thrilled with the results that I immediately went back to my apartment to practice some more, as I did not want to lose it. I did not want to lose what I had learned, to lose how great I sounded.

So I practiced and practiced, till about three hours later I stopped and went to the living room totally despondent as it was all gone. All that I was told to do was gone. It was very depressing. I had lost it. I did not sound the same any more. It took me quite a while to understand, to wrap my head around what had happened, but finally I did. I followed what Perlman had told me to do to a T, but I did not try to understand how I was doing it. I just did it. I just did what he said to do.

You see I had not questioned the difference between what I was doing and what he asked me to do. I just did it and, voilà, the result. Well, I lost it. My tuning out of my awareness had led to my inability to recall what I had been told in that one-and-a-half-hour encounter.

As I've said before in other videos, one's ability to recall what has been learned is totally reliant on the way in which it was put into one's long-time memory. In this case, I did not have enough information to later remember just what I was doing and so it became lost. Sadly.

Okay. So, what exactly do I mean? Well for example, let's say you're studying "Thaïs," Massenet's "Thaïs." That "Thaïs" and your teacher explains how to do the slide at the end of the piece, you know, the... That slide. Your teacher says that you need to slide up from the harmonic that you're doing with your fourth finger, and with your third finger, like that, you need to arrive, she says, or he says. You need to slide very carefully, not too fast, not too slow.

So you do it and then you put it in the context. You know, the... And it works. You're so happy. So, you've done what your teacher said, but, hunh, you don't allow yourself to be aware of what it feels like, where the gesture originates from. This lack of information gathering can lead you to not being able to do the slide later in the same way, as you in effect don't really "know" what you did. Because of this, you could encounter difficulties doing it again, recreating the slide.

Still not sure what I mean? Well, Ms. DeLay once told me in a lesson that this passage in Bartok's Second Violin Concerto, the... was not clean, not coordinated. So she suggested that I stop the bow between each note... as a way to fix the alignment. And so, I practiced it like this and the results were very good, as one might have expected, because she said to do it.

But what I did as well was to ask myself, "What does it feel like? Where is my finger? Where is my shoulder? Where is my elbow?" I asked myself... I just asked myself all of these questions. I wanted to use the least amount of muscle that I possibly could, because I figured that would make it more effective and more efficient. But to do that I really, really, really needed to be able to zoom in, understand, feel what I was doing.

So you see I tried to understand as much as I possibly could. And because of this I was accomplishing my goal of understanding what I was doing, understanding what Ms. DeLay had told me to do. So with that, I guess the bottom line is to never just simply follow what your teacher says, never blindly follow what your teacher is telling you to do.

You need to question, become aware, so that you will be able to recall it later, understand what you did later when you are alone in that practice room. You need to turn your awareness on full blast so that you can understand as much as you can about what you are doing, how you are doing it. You need to try to understand what you have been told to do, because if you don't, well, you risk losing it, just like I did, which again, was not one of my happiest memories.
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Comments, Questions, Requests:

Tina Renschen on January 2, 2019 @5:36 pm PST
This is so very helpful. Thank you.
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