Friday, 26 June 2015

Confessions of a frustrated violinist

This afternoon Danella and I played a few pieces on our various instruments for Grandma and Grandad, who are staying with us at the moment.

It was going beautifully. For most of the pieces, my fingers were doing what I wanted them to, my bow was going where I wanted it to go and my violin was sounding how I wanted it to sound. Then it happened.

I was rapidly playing a set of jigs on my violin, accompanied by Danella on the piano, when I suddenly stopped playing. It wasn't working. It just wasn't working.

No non-violinist will ever be able to understand the frustration. Maybe you violinists won't be able to either, because I'm not sure if it's just a Bonnie-and-her-violin frustration or a violin thing in general. It's where your fingers are doing the right thing, but you just can't seem to get the beat of the music and it sounds bad and you begin to make a whole series of silly mistakes. It frustrates me no end.

So  I stopped playing, and Mum and Grandma immediately want to know what's wrong. I reply, annoyed, "It's just not doing what I want it to do!!" and get asked to persevere because as awful as I thought it sounded, actually apparently it was "beautiful". So we continue, with me stuffing it up heaps and making it really hard for my longsuffering accompanist, Danella.

At the end I get told by my lovely relatives that my playing is beautiful and I'm just being silly. But I'm not. I know I'm not. I know that my playing was bad (or at best, average) and that frustrated me because it had been going so well up until those rascally jigs!

I am a violinist. I know when my playing is terrible.

The thing is, my expectations are colossal!! And my playing virtually never pleases me.

It doesn't please me because I have such high expectations. I want each note to be perfect. I want it to sound beautiful, pleasing to the ear. I want my violin to behave itself (and it often doesn't to my standards, being only a cheap violin). I want my fingers to move dexterously and at the right time. I just want it to sound nice.

And it never pleases me. Sure, it does, when I play for myself. When I play for my own enjoyment my playing pleases me. Because although I still make mistakes, and am not happy with myself, I know it doesn't matter, because there's no one to hear. And I just play for the love of my music and my violin. And it makes me happy. :)

But when I play for others I get really annoyed at myself. Because it just doesn't sound as good as I want it to

I've been playing the violin for three and a half years now. It's a tricky instrument. I've read articles that claim that the violin is the most difficult instrument around. But because I'm 17, and because I'm proud, and know that others expect me to be better than I am, I dislike playing in front of others.

I said it. I'm proud.

That's my problem. I can't cope with failure. I can't look bad in front of other people.

Do you know, two days ago I played for the first time for people who weren't my family, very close friends or my teacher (not counting orchestra performances... I'm in a group so that doesn't count.)?

Danella and I were invited to play some harp and violin duets for a church senior's lunch. That was so freaky for me. I've been invited to play for other things before, but never done them, because I was so scared people would see me, an older girl, and expect incredible music to flow from my fingers. And I know I can't provide that.

That concert Danella and I played two days ago was liberating for me. I didn't play perfectly. I know I didn't. But all the old ladies and men cheered for us, and we got lots of lovely comments. (Even if it had been absolutely awful we still would have got lovely comments, because our church seniors are so encouraging and sweet!)

I thought to myself, "Finally! After all these years I can now be happy enough with my playing to play for other people!"

And then I blew it. This afternoon I was SO disappointed with how bad my playing sounded to me. I felt that I had let my parents down, for buying lessons for me these three and a half years. I always feel overshadowed by my incredibly talented younger sister Danella on her harp (she's been playing substantially longer than I have, too).

Why am I telling you this?

Because I'm disappointed with myself. And I'm disappointed with myself that I'm disappointed with myself.
(Which actually makes sense if you think about it for a while.)

What I'd really like to be able to do is play difficult pieces perfectly. So everyone would look at me and think I'm a wonderful person because I play so beautifully. (Can you see why God didn't allow me to start learning the violin earlier?!)

If I can't play perfectly, I'd like to be able to be happy with how I play. To come to the place where I don't feel embarrassed to play my average pieces in front of others. To just enjoy my music.

Because I do enjoy playing for myself. But the instant I play for others, I feel so bad.

And that's my pride....

Silly, silly pride, why do you care what others think about you?
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  1. I gradually got better at playing for an audience when I realised they always enjoy it. They don't know what I wanted it to sound like, or how great it went yesterday. They just hear what I play, and it's good music!

    1. This is true. Mum always tells me that they can't tell if I make a mistake, because they don't know what it was supposed to sound like!
      But I still feel annoyed at myself if I don't sound how I want to.


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