Learning to play the violin has its highs and lows, but sometimes, the journey has its plateaus. At this point, students find that their progress is not improving but at the same time, their skills are not getting worse. I have experienced this issue numerous times in the middle of learning a new piece and having to fix things I believed I already fixed. Also, as a teacher giving violin lessons in Atlanta, I find that after multiple weeks, my students would perform at the same level with little to no improvement in each lesson. This situation poses a challenge to both students and teachers, but as a violinist who has learned to overcome these plateaus, here are some pointers suitable for any student.
Recognize that you reached a high point
While nature’s plateaus are flat, they are at a raised level. This physical aspect of a plateau is often forgotten when compared to a violinist’s progress. I encourage my students to recognize that improvement has happened and if it happened before, it can happen again. Take time to reflect on your journey so far and all the valuable points you incorporated in your practice time to reach your current level of playing. Focusing on the highs are much more productive than being discouraged by the lows.
Focus on the enjoyable moments
What do you love most about playing the violin? Which pieces do you like to listen to? Who are your favorite violinists? Answering these questions can help fill your practice with more encouraging thoughts. Sometimes, I would take some time in my practice to analyze a recording of one of my favorite violinists – finding concrete things that make them so great. Other times, I figure out the tune to a pop song or only play things I like to play. Yes, your violin teacher in Atlanta might not favor your delay in progress learning your assigned music, but finding a pocket of motivation helps with approaching any task at hand.
Set a goal chart
Making set goals helps with finding practice aspirations. When I find myself in a plateau, I would set a challenge for myself, giving me something to work toward. If it is with a piece I am working on, I would aim to memorize and perform the piece with piano by the end of the month. For more specific details, I jot down exactly my goals for practice each week, each day, and each lesson. Technical and expressive goals could also be included to improve upon all elements of progress. Having these goals visibly marked down helps with creating a momentum for every practice session.
Express your concerns to your teacher
If you are in a plateau, trust me, your teacher has been through one as well. Your teacher will better be able to help you if you express your concerns. Take time to think about how you are feeling, what is not improving, and how you try to approach your struggles. For example, if I am struggling with a particular passage in an etude every week and my teacher is constantly pointing out the same problem, I will tell my teacher how I tried to practice each section or what might not be clear about what to fix. Is it the intonation, rhythm, sound, etc? Being specific with your problems make a big difference.
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