Cami Shaskin

Violin Blog


About


This blog is about all things violin. It is meant to educate, inspire, and provide resources for parents, teachers, and students. The author takes full responsibility for the viewpoints expressed here. In instances where she quotes ideas from others, she pledges to cite her sources as fully, responsibly, and accurately as possible. Topics will include book reviews, technique tips, entertaining anecdotes, quotes, jokes, educational findings, instrument care suggestions, violin in the news, repertoire lists, etc.

Cami J. Shaskin graduated with her master's degree in Music Education in 2008. Violin has always been her primary instrument, since beginning private lessons at age five. See camishaskinviolin.com/info for her music résumé, or click on Spotlights for historical recordings. Cami has enjoyed an array of experiences in writing, from penning award-winning articles as a journalism staff writer in high school, tutoring peers at BYU's Writing Center, earning a Writing Fellows scholarship and a minor in Language and Computers, and later becoming a published author. She recently picked up web programming as a hobby, earning a certificate in Web Programming and Development from the local community college. This blog has been a collaborative effort between her and her husband, who is a Web Developer by profession. Together, they designed and coded this blog and its original content "from scratch."

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2021
    Jan
        16 - Welcome to My Blog
        23 - Violin Teaching Kits
        30 - The Power of Inspiration
    Feb
        06 - Valuable Techniques
        07 - From the Top
        13 - In Honor of Valentine's Day
        20 - Violin Jokes
        28 - Beginning Orchestra Teaching
    Mar
        06 - Singing in Orchestra
        13 - Nurtured by Love
        21 - Helpful Websites
        27 - Unique Case Uses
    Apr
        02 - Favorite Music Quotes
        10 - All About Tone
        17 - Unique Composer Stories
        24 - Teaching Values
    May
        02 - Believing Teachers?
        15 - Violin in Art & Architecture
        23 - A Solo Repertoire List
        29 - Our Quartet
    Jun
        20 - Theft and Other Lessons
        26 - Violin Bridge Tips
    Jul
        07 - Clever Violin Memes
        20 - Horses and Lions
    Aug
        04 - Music During Covid
        16 - Favorite Music
    Sep
        12 - Being There
    Oct
        16 - Sight Reading Tips
    Nov
        05 - Why It's the Frog
    Dec
        20 - Bach on the Brain
        30 - Impact for Life
2022
    Jan
        23 - Tendonitis Helps
    Feb
        21 - An Old Performance
    Mar
        23 - Cars3 & Coaching
    Apr
        28 - Buying a Violin for Dummies
        29 - Preferred Brands
    May
        27 - Love: A Calling
    Jun
        20 - Gratitude for Idaho Shop
    Jul
        19 - Violinist Interviews Books
    Aug
        08 - Music Opens Doors
        23 - Top Classical Tunes for Violin
    Sep
    Oct
        11 - 100 Days of Listening
    Nov
        27 - Useful Analogies
    Dec
        28 - A Humorous Anecdote
2023
    Jan
        14 - Favorite Concertos & Sonatas
    Feb
        15 - Our Commonality
    Mar
        10 - Extras
        18 - Autopilot
    Apr
    May
    Jun
        06 - Motivation
        07 - Starting Lessons Again
    Jul
        08 - A Tale of Three Cloths
    Aug
        26 - The Ink
    Sep
        23 - Raw and Real Recital Reactions
    Oct
        18 - In Honor of Halloween
    Nov
        26 - Music Copyright
    Dec
        13 - Memes: Fun Facebook Finds
2024
    Jan
        15 - Fame and Fortune
    Feb
        05 - Details and the Big Picture
    Mar
        14 - Intermission
    Apr
        18 - A Day in the Life
    May
        02 - Oops!
    Jun
        14 - A Science or an Art?
    Jul
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Posts


A Science or an Art?
14 Jun 2024

Is learning to play the violin a science or an art? Most people would probably give a quick, confident answer of “well, it’s both” and never give it a second thought. I would argue that even the question begs clarification, as in my mind, “learning the violin” is a different matter from really being able to “play the violin.” Though my answer to my own question does lean in a cumulative direction, I believe one of these categories clearly precedes the other. I hope I can create a convincing enough argument as to why.

I recently announced that I will be taking a hiatus from teaching for the first time this Fall. This is kind of a big deal. I started teaching when I was 17 years old; in fact, I have never known what prolonged adult life is like without a studio. Even though I was a nomad in my twenties, I always had students when I lived anywhere longer than six months. I taught out of music stores. So, even when my local housing situations changed, as they often did as a renter, my studio location would remain intact.

During this time of transition, when I anticipate ending my private studio for a time (I’ll probably come back to it, as I have truly enjoyed it), I’ve had chances to reflect on the type of teacher I have been over the past couple of decades. Some teachers, my childhood teachers included, are very good at teaching technique—at teaching the how. I admire that greatly. For that’s really what’s going to make you a good player: just do what the experts tell you to do and you’ll succeed. But is playing well really your only goal? Or do you want to understand what makes everything tick? The complication is, for those with inquisitive minds, we don’t want to just take others’ word for it. We don’t just want to be good players, we want to be good thinkers. We don’t only want the how, we want the why.

I always appreciated learning the why, so that’s the way I teach. I frequently have adult students, so I know they can handle learning the reasons behind what they do. Plus, that’s the part that fascinates me. I’m good at teaching the why, each and every week—to get my students to think about what they’re doing. In fact, it’s not uncommon for me to explain something and then say, “Do you know why that is?”

It’s not just, “put your finger here” or “move your bow like this.” Granted, explaining why takes more time. But it’s time well spent. I like that I know reasons behind why vibrato should be done with a backward hand motion only, why it benefits you to keep a curled bow hand pinky, why it’s easier to crescendo on an up-bow, etc. And I like to explain the background information and philosophies to my students.

My personal experience colors my next argument: I would argue that learning to play the violin is, pretty much always, first a science, and then an art. In that specific order. And here’s why.

Think about what the connotation in your brain is when you hear the word “science.” I think of words like “hypothesis” and “experiment” and “study.” Art, on the other hand, connotes words like “beauty” and “masterpiece.” When someone sees an Olympic figure skater and perhaps is led to comment, “he makes it look like such an art,” they mean it’s something they can’t quite put their finger on as to how it happens. When you’re an artist, we think it means you are doing something done with finesse and polish, born of a natural sense of intuition. (Of course, all of this comes from extensive training, but I’m getting ahead of myself here.)

Basically, when something is an art, it just seems to come naturally, with beauty and talent to the wielder. Now, any artist with any sense is going to know they’re not going to be able to naturally “feel” what to do in the moment, particularly in regard to their own weaknesses, until they’ve tried out different methods that lead them to succeed—or fail—and learn from that.

You have to have the confidence to experiment. In regards to learning the violin, you probably won’t figure out on your own when to be in the lower half of the bow until you’ve had some experience doing a similar passage in a less-effective way and thought about why it didn’t work. Some of that experience comes from others telling you. Some of it comes from simply watching what the masters do. Some of it comes from experimentation; from trial and error. And the dreaded word, practice. Over decades. Then, after you are making an informed decision, you can forget about the reasons and method in the moment. This hearkens back to another post I wrote. But exploring this topic further belongs to the future.

I seriously didn’t have the confidence that I knew what to do with the bow (in terms of placement on the string, or in what part of the bow itself) in most situations, independent of what others were doing, for a long time. And I mean a very long time. I mention the phrase “independent of what others [are] doing” because sometimes others are wrong!

It’s ok to realize that if you don’t know everything, chances are, your neighbor doesn’t know everything either. You know more than you think you know. Believe that! Ironically, this can give you the confidence to admit what you don’t know and go back to the basics of experimentation and study and asking questions (science) until you graduate to the level where playing the violin truly feels like a natural and beautiful art.

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