Hi all, I strongly believe that talent is earned, not gifted. I have taught the Suzuki method for over 30 years, and taught students from 2 years old to 65 years old. In every case, if a student doesn’t thrive and progress, I believe it is a teacher’s failure, not a student’s failure. When a student is very young and up to about age 10, the parent must be the home teacher, and guide the practice. Depending on the maturity of the student, they can begin to take responsibility for guiding their own practice around age 10.
No matter what the age, though, the practice must be correct. So when you ask whether someone can become a good player in a couple months, I would have to take into consideration the age and maturity of the student, and whether they were practicing effectively. No matter how ‘good’ a student is, you will find as Christie said, you can always play better! But we have to accept that we are individuals, and will have individual paces of mastery and achievement.
So here are some tips on making sure you have the best chances of reaching your full playing potential.
1. Practice what your teacher tells you.
Very often beginning students practice more on what they like and less on trying to improve technically. It’s more fun to practice new pieces than it is to refine older pieces. It’s more fun to spend most of your practice playing what you already feel you play well than to explore a deeper, more challenging level of performance. It’s easier to skip over problem areas than to stop and work out the kinks. Let your teacher write your assignment in a notebook and follow the instructions carefully, making your practice time focused on issues he/she has pointed out to you. You’ll notice improvement comes more quickly if you follow your guide.
2. If you are self taught, develop effective practice habits.
It’s important to practice, but be sure you’re spending your playing time effectively. I wrote a blog piece on effective strategies for practicing. Please check it in the blog.
3. Practice regularly and set small, short term goals.
It will be much more rewarding to set goals you can achieve in one or two practice sessions than looking at the big picture. So while your dream may be to play the Mendelssohn Concerto in E minor, it will be more reasonable to do one line of Schradieck Violin Technique and work on intonation and tone production. It will have better pay offs and sooner, than reading through an extremely difficult piece that is still technically out of reach. There are no short cuts. So do the ‘woodshedding’ practice for small amounts of time, rather than bumping your way through music you haven’t really worked up to yet.
4. Listen to good examples, then listen again.
Listen to good players play. Listen to the masters play what you’re studying. Listen to and watch your peers play. Listening to good examples of music train the ear for intonation, and tone quality, vibrato, musical expression and so much more. When you advance in your playing, going back and listening again, you gain deeper understanding and hear with more nuance, aspects that you didn’t and couldn’t catch before. When you listen, you don’t even have to be paying attention. Turn the music on. Have it just at hearing level, then do what you want. You can even be asleep and you gain the benefits of listening to good music.
5. Don’t be afraid to ask questions here!
Use this website, and this forum to discuss problems and ask questions. Submit videos and talk to other players who can share their experiences with you. Having a community, some of us professionals, some of us are beginners but all of us love violin and strings music and all kinds of styles of playing, so share with us and learn from us!