Looking for a bit of starting insight.

Sean O'Brien said: May 21, 2015
 3 posts

I’ve actually just made my account here—for the time being, the sole reason is to be able to post on the forum for the purpose of insight. I’m all for getting to know people here, of course.

There’s actually a lot I need to explain, though, as my lifestyle is anything but what you’d call “standard” or “conventional.”

I’ve had a long-time interest in classical strings—in particular, the violin and viola. However, I’ve never really had the opportunity to try either until now, really.. I did take piano lessons when I was 12 or so, but I didn’t like it—at this point, I understand my personal needs well enough to say that it was because I hated having to sit and do anything for extended periods of time. This being said, I’m 26 now, and I do understand my own needs to a far greater extent than I did back then.

I’ve actually adopted a nomadic lifestyle that revolves around benevolence and making a positive impact no matter where in the world I am—a choice I made after learning the hard way that a “normal” lifestyle isn’t for me (by enduring it for a while). For the sake of relevance, I can’t learn to play an instrument effectively (or learn anything effectively, for that matter) by taking “lessons,” per se, or otherwise being restricted by a set of “standards.” In order to learn effectively and enjoyably, I need to be able to learn on my own terms and at my own discretion, and I need to be able to make personal accommodations and adjustments in kind.

Put simply, I’d never be able to learn to play a violin or viola well if I’m taking lessons from someone else—in my case, it’s far more effective for an instructor or mentor to give me small things to start with and allow me to do the rest on my own, making those adjustments as necessary and learning from my own experience (and the mistakes I will make).

There are a few things I need to mention, though:

  1. I’m hypersensitive to sound…or, more precisely, my auditory sense is hypersensitive. Considering the posture in which many of the smaller classical strings are played and how close they would be to my head, I’m a little wary about a sensory overload because of the sound produced from the bow being drawn against the strings, as well as the pitch (I’d have to try both to be certain, but I’m guessing that I’d be able to handle an instrument more easily if it has a lower pitch range, as opposed to higher).

  2. I have far too much natural energy to play an instrument in a standing or otherwise “stationary” position. Even subtle body movements are not enough—in order for me to play an instrument comfortably, I’d need to make it into a full-body activity, which in my case equates to nothing less than “physical exercise.” I can’t do this with a piano or any other large instrument, and this is another reason the violin or viola would be best for me—it’s portable enough that I can easily make it into a full-body activity and enjoy it as such. Something else about me is that there are times when I’m practically brimming with that natural vigor, and if I can’t release it, I feel physical and emotional stress…so if the only moving part of my body is the arm and hand that control the bow, I’ll probably ruin the instrument’s strings because that’s where all my excess energy will go.

I spend a lot of time outdoors—it’s my outlet for stress in general, it’s where a lot of my insight and introspection take place, and it’s where I ponder practically everything, both past and present. Needless to say, I’d spend most of my practice time outdoors. Because I have a very deep connection with the living world in general—animals, both “human” and not, nature, all life, and the very planet itself—my surrounding environment would serve as a lot of my inspiration. I suppose if there’s anyone I can think of off the top of my head who’s most similar to me in these senses, it would be Lindsey Stirling.

That’s pretty much the gist of my topic. I figured this would be a good place to start, and I’ve read about Dr. Suzuki’s teaching method—though it’s different from what would work best for me, it shares more in common than the more “traditional” methods. Also, my reason for taking up an instrument is not to make any sort of “profit”—as per my lifestyle choice, I would use it for the purpose of making a positive impact in some way.

Libby Felts said: May 26, 2015
Libby FeltsSAA Staff
Forum Moderator
Suzuki Association Member
36 posts

Hi Sean,

It does sound like you have a very unique situation! You’re right, your reasons for wanting to play an instrument sound like they fit right in with Dr. Suzuki’s philosophy.

The teacher-student (and for children, -parent) relationship is very important in the Suzuki method (which is much more than the repertoire books). You may be able to find a Suzuki teacher who is willing and able to work with you to get you started, but that will be up to the individual teacher. It may also be that traditional Suzuki method lessons aren’t the right fit for you.

I don’t think, however, that this is the right place to ask about teaching yourself to play violin. That question is probably better suited for a more general online violin community or forum. But if you want to find a Suzuki teacher, try using this link: https://suzukiassociation.org/find-a-suzuki-teacher/ With the right teacher who is willing to make accommodations, you may also find this style of learning does suit you if you give it a try!

Good luck with your journey.

Sean O'Brien said: May 27, 2015
 3 posts

Thank you very much—for your response and the link! Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem that there’s a Suzuki teacher anywhere close to me—Gig Harbor, WA, is the closest place I’ll be able to find someone, according to my search results…and that’s 27 miles from where I am now.

I think the best way for me, personally, would be to find a music studio here in Olympia that has a violin and viola, and would allow me to try both to see which one suits me better. Learning on my own would probably be the best way, really.

Julia said: Jun 6, 2015
Julia ProleikoViolin, Piano, Viola
Saint Louis, MO
22 posts

It’s good that you know yourself so well! Some people start lessons and have no idea any of the things you mention. That you are so in-tune with yourself will hopefully allow for more success. Let me see if I can try to help point by point:

Every teacher is different, but I view the Suzuki method less a set of standards than a series or progression of skills learned via songs rather than etudes or exercises. These skill are broken down by the teacher and prepped until ready to add to the song and then further practiced by playing and polishing the song, which in turn sets you up for more skills which all add together in such a way that allows you, the performer, to play anything you could possibly want to play on the instrument. In using the method with a great teacher, you are learning the foundation of technique whereby you can play anything. If you study on your own, or with a teacher who does not understand this (by, for example, simply using the books), then you may not end up where you want to be or have the technique to be able to play what you want to play. That is not so say that you cannot, but being able to break down skills and lay down a foundation is the point of having a teacher. (They do the dirty work.) Personally, I have had to do far too much of this on my own, not only because my parents did not want to or were unable to pay for lessons, but also because many of my teachers were point blank horrible. Saying that may get me banned from the site, but just because someone is a teacher, does not mean they will do you no harm. Search out the BEST possible teacher, no matter how far you have to drive or Skype! I wasted many years of my life by being forced into teaching myself—and it is something I wish I did not have to do. Relearning and recuperating from bad teaching is not something I would wish upon my worst enemy. If you can find yourself a teacher to eliminate that, I would highly suggest you do so!

With that said, I do play violin, viola, piano, guitar, flute and anything else I can get my hands on…and a lot of it has been on my own with lessons to support it. Violin and viola are by far the least DYI-friendly instrument. Having a good foundation is critical, unless you want to stay in first position and hear a lot of screeching. If you want a nomadic instrument, like strings and don’t want the instrument next to your ear (I wear ear protection when I play), I would highly suggest contemplating the guitar. You can put on a strap, walk around, and teach yourself. Of course, as with any instrument, there is technique, especially if you want to play Classical guitar, which I find to be absolutely, brilliantly amazing and something I really, really love listening to…it is made easier with a good teacher. I have found guitar teachers to also be, for the most part, more laid back. (We often joke about instrument personalities, but I think there’s a lot to be said about the connection between the instrument’s sound and the vibration of the person who chooses it!) Granted, there aren’t as many Suzuki guitar teachers, but a person can be of the philosophy and not use the books and be more “Suzuki” than a person who uses the books, but does not adhere to the philosophy.

Also, if you find success on the guitar, there are many hospitals, hospices and so forth that have both volunteers and paid professionals come to play for patients to ease their pain. I have a feeling you might be a great candidate for something like that!

Much luck, patience and success in your endeavors!

Sean O'Brien said: Jun 7, 2015
 3 posts

Hmmm…I get what you’re saying, yeah. However, something I do differently from, uh…pretty much everyone I’ve ever interacted with in any way whatsoever is—again—how I draw inspiration from everyone and everything around me, from ideas past and present, and from the world and all things that share it with me.

I do understand the purpose of teachers, but something I’ve seen is that most teachers wouldn’t be the sort to give the student something very basic to work with and then tell them to take it from there—the kind of learning method that’s most effective for me, personally. I need to be able to make mistakes, and I need to learn from them on my own with very little outside guidance. I need to figure things out on my own, and I need to do things my way to avoid stress and anxiety. I need all of this in order to learn effectively. For me, a great teacher would be someone who’d give me something to start with and tell me to do the rest from there; they’d be someone whom I could go to for a little bit of guidance when I get stuck, but would again give me a pointer and expect me to take it from there instead of “telling me what I need to do differently.”

You can probably already tell that I’m very good at doing things myself, but I’ve drawn countless bits of insight from differing perspectives and people who aren’t me. I can certainly understand your point about a foundation for technique, and that’s really the only reason I’d even go to a teacher at all: to get some “fundamental insight.” Having someone hold my hand through a process or even “break down the process” as you’ve described is restrictive and stressful for me, and a hindrance to my learning. I’ve heard quite a bit about the violin and viola being difficult, but yet another thing about me is how I gravitate toward finding ways to circumvent personal obstacles and experiment with various approaches to make difficult circumstances easier to handle.

Since you mentioned “driving,” well…I’m visually impaired to where I’m considered “legally blind,” and so I can’t ever get a license. I have four congenital conditions in each eye, and corrective surgery would be a waste, as some of them cannot be corrected. Part of the reason I’m outside all the time is because I circumvent the limitation posed by my vision by walking everywhere in almost every instance. It’s the main reason I have as much stamina and natural vigor as I do, and is why it’d be better for me to play an instrument outside (provided nature permits). Since I draw a lot of inspiration from my surroundings, being outside would facilitate my technique, along with my experimentation.

There’s a music place nearby, and I’ve already contacted them about walking in and trying one of their violins; they said it’s fine. I don’t believe they’ll have every answer or even “many” answers, but I do believe they’ll have some sort of basic starting insight. Considering how vastly different my lifestyle and general approach to things are, I wouldn’t be surprised if what fits me best is a custom-made instrument tailored to my approach.

I do appreciate the feedback I’m getting here, though—I’ll throw it in with the rest of the musical insight and see if I can’t come up with anything. Thank you for that~

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