One size doesn’t always fit all

In today’s media we are bombard with the latest and greatest ways to things fast without any work. Want to lose weight without exercises? There’s something for that. Learn to speak a language fast? Also something for that. Believe it or not this mentality has creeped over teaching music. Want to straigthen your bow stroke magically with no work? There are several contraptions for that. Or how to keep your wrist straight while playing? Or the perfect bow hold? There are things for those too. It seems that every where there are people pushing things to make your life better without any work. It’s the reason why I don’t take many young students. Parents want me to teach them, but they don’t realize that a 3 year old can’t play the violin right by themselves at home. They need a parent to help them practice.

I see all kinds of technique walk into my door at my violin studio. Some from other teachers, and some from my own students. For a long time I was taught to play the way my teachers played. In the end I got injured. While having good technique and form is important in anything you do trying to force yourself into “the box” isn’t always helpful. I see it all of the time with beginning Suzuki students. They get 2 inches of bow to use, often in the wrong part of the bow, to play Twinkle when in reality what the teacher is trying to do is completely missing the intent of the exercise. The point isn’t to use little bows. The point is introduce an easy way to move the bow that has a high success rate.

Lately my big thing in teaching has been to make sure each student’s technique is right for them. While there are general points that should be similar in everyone’s technique each individual is quite different. I remember watching a lesson during my graduate school observations, and the teacher would get quite upset with the student when the left wrist wasn’t straight. The problem wasn’t that the wrist wasn’t straight. The teacher was actually over correcting the issue, which is why the student would complain that it hurt and not do it the same way. While the teacher was tall and limber, the student was not the same shape or size. Her wrist was different. So were her fingers and hand. Each person has a slightly different shape, but so many people insist on putting things in the box of “straight wrist” or “small bows” without listening or watching the student. The student is actually much happier when you listen, and help. It requires more work on the teacher’s part, but the end result should be what’s best for the student, and not what fits in the box.

I remember one time when a teacher couldn’t figure out why my bow wasn’t straight and wanted to use one of those bow straightening gadgets on me. It wasn’t that I couldn’t move the bow straight. The problem was no one taught me how to use my arm to make the bow go staright. Take the gadget it off, and the old habit comes back because unless you’re thinking about it and actively trying to change the habit it will stay the same once you take the “helper” off. To be a good teacher you have observe and correct where needed. You can’t assume because something was right one week that it will continue over to the next. You need to look, and feel with your hands that things are in the right place, and that students aren’t squeezing. Sitting back and observing may be easy but being active, and using your hands to help the student will produce greater results.

The search for a new violin begins

My parents decided to buy me a new violin as a middle school graduation present. I had been playing on my grandmother’s violin since the 4th grade and they thought it was time that I had a good violin going into high school and for my new violin teacher that I was about to start studying from. We got a beautiful violin for a great price (it’s actually worth about $1000 more than what we paid). I love that violin. In fact it’s the header picture for the blog. It’s beautiful!

I used that violin all through college, and graduate school. I knew that some day I would need a new one, but I was encouraged by former teacher (who is a trusted mentor) that I should start with a new bow. So, I searched and tried bows and found a fabulous gold wound violin bow by Michael Taylor that I love (honestly, I can’t wait to buy another from him some day). About a year after that I came to the point where my beautiful violin simply couldn’t give me the sound I was asking of it. I had out grown it. Thankfully my teacher had a spare violin that I could borrow. We had a rocky start to say the least. In fact I couldn’t stand the violin to start with. Over the past couple of years we’ve gotten to know each other, and get along pretty well. But now I’ve out grown it as well. I knew this day was coming. It was time to seriously get down to saving for a violin.

But where in the world do you start? I sent an e-mail to that same teacher/mentor explaining what was going on. The fact that someone mentioned their desire to sell a violin in my price range and was willing to work on a repayment plan made my head go into over drive! The e-mail that I got back was just what I needed. Now I had a list of things to think about. Buying a violin isn’t just an emotional purchase, but one that has to be carefully considered, researched, and thought out. After all I am looking for “the” violin. The first thought was I need to get a notebook to keep this all organized!

So, now I have a place to keep thoughts, and research about each violin that I try. I don’t know how long it will take, but the purpose now is to research what’s available in my price range, and discover what I’m looking for in a fiddle. Buckle up kids. It’s going to be a crazy ride!!


Well, gum surgery turned out to be about as fun as it sounds. The actual procedure itself wasn’t bad thanks to lots of Novocaine, and noise canceling headphones that they had. I could choose any sirus radio station I wanted! I ended up listening to the classical station (shocking I know) and tried really hard not to bob my head along to the beat. The hard part has been not being able to chew. As someone who likes to eat it’s not easy being limited in what I can eat. It seems like i’m always hungry. Plus my jaw has been pretty swollen. Thursday was pretty rough, but I’ve been able to eat more each day. Monday is going to be interesting. I haven’t touched my violin since Wednesday. I even had to cancel my own lesson because my jaw is still swollen. However, I haven’t had to take my pain meds for a day now. Just some Advil if I need it. Now I just need to survive 7 more days of salt water rinses.

There are so many things going on right now. Exciting things, although somewhat overwhelming.

  • my student loans from grad school are gone! I can’t even begin to say how exciting that is. Such a nice burden to have gone!
  • I’ve declared 2012 the year I get out of debt. I was doing pretty good until my car got really needy and ended up needing $1100 in repairs. So, I’m not as far along as I would like right now, but I’m slowly getting rid of it all. I’m getting this whole budget thing down. It’s not always super fun, but honestly I would rather be done with debt!
  • I’m finally getting down to business and seriously saving up for a new violin. It’s going to cost more than my car did, but it needs to happen. There’s a whole blog post coming. It may end up being a series…
  • After a rough patch teaching wise I’ve gotten back in a nice grove by going back to basics. My mantra for spring lessons is fun and easy. There have been a lot of smiling kids leaving my studio lately, which makes me very happy. There may be some blog posts coming about that too
  • I haven’t written much about races lately because most of them have been short and fast. So far this year I’ve set 3 new personal best.