Self-delusion: the act of deluding oneself or the state of being deluded by oneself especially concerning one’s true nature, abilities, feelings, etc. “They know what they are doing is wrong. And it’s our job to remind them of it. Because when we don’t continually remind them, people devolve into self-delusion.” ¹
Doesn’t that sound like a perfect description of a violin teacher’s job?
As discussed in Part 1 of this post, self delusion is common to the whole human race. Some of us are more aware, or less self-deluded, than others. For example, there are people who sit on mediation cushions eight hours a day to see through the illusion that is life in general. Although a worthy occupation, most of us don’t, thank heavens, or very little would get done.
In fact, most of us can go through life very nicely without ever confronting our self-deluding optimism (see the previous post). But the study of the violin means we have to come face to face with and conquer this tendency if we want to learn to play well.
In the course of the study of the violin (or any musical instrument) there many concrete common misconceptions that lead to self delusion. And these are problems that we teachers can actively do something about without sending our students into the black hole of despair.
Here are a few of them:
TIME IS A CONSTANT
No it isn’t. Even physicists will tell you that time can be slowed down and sped up, if you’re going at the speed of light or close to it. But for our purposes, we’re talking about the clock ticking time we’re all used to. Even then time is a perception, not a reality – unless you’re looking at said clock. For example, when you’re having fun, time flies. When you’re not, any little thing seems to take forever. That’s proof enough. Same thing for when a student is playing – he may be convinced that he is not rushing when in fact he is. That is why teachers inflict metronomes on their students. It isn’t that students can’t count or don’t have a good sense of rhythm. It’s because they are doing something so complicated that involves total mental and body involvement, their perception of time is altered. (See Mount Rush-no-more…And How to Get There) So a student may think, or want to think, he is playing perfectly in time when in fact, he is constantly rushing. Self-delusion.
WHAT WE THINK WE HEAR IN PLAYING IS IN EFFECT WHAT IS ACTUALLY HAPPENING
Have you ever recorded yourself talking and then listened to the recording? Quite a shock, isn’t it? We hear our own voices when we talk from inside our heads but it’s quite a surprise to realize that others don’t hear what we hear. This is an understandable self-delusion that music students suffer from. That’s why we need teachers – and sometimes recording devices. The problem with playing the violin, or any instrument, is that we have to listen to what we want to do while actually listening to what we are actually doing. That means you’re doing two things at once, you might say. No, you’re doing one thing at a time but very quickly. We just have to realize that:.
- You have to know what you want to hear – most students don’t and we have to help them with this and
- You have to listen to hear if you are actually accomplishing it. This means training the brain to work even faster than usual – again they need our help.
In my opinion, the most difficult thing to teach students (I’m talking about beginners but lots of advanced students need help with this, too), is to listen to themselves. They can’t correct what they can’t or don’t want to hear. This is the biggest cause of self-delusion as far as I’m concerned. They don’t know how to listen to themselves, and/or they don’t care to. In the first case, the teacher bears some measure of responsibility. In the second, it’s much easier to think you’re doing fine instead of bothering to listen and correct.
I have a theory about prodigious children. The difference between them and others is not a good ear (intonation), sense of rhythm, or intelligence – or even facility. Someone is bound to disagree with me, but I have taught my fair share of them and this is what I have noticed: Continue reading