Cami Shaskin

Violin Blog



Post Highlight:

Violin Jokes
20 FEB 2021

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
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Posts


Autopilot
18 Mar 2023
Establishing some context: I was a complete bookworm as a child. Now I prefer to write. Maybe it’s because I also spend a lot of time thinking and feel I have so much to share. Maybe it’s because I’m used to social media, where I get almost instant feedback from people “liking” what I have to say. Or maybe it’s the opposite: perhaps I value the anonymity of an audience which I of course imagine to be incredibly receptive and eager. I take comfort in the fact that in writing, I can combine thought with carefully chosen words and share things on my own timetable, letting others react when and how they may without any negative consequence to myself. It’s almost scary the power words can have! But empowering, all the same.

I was reading a new book, a #1 New York Times Bestseller, Atomic Habits by James Clear, tonight. After reading a couple of pages, I found my thoughts wandering and—surprise, surprise—comparing what I read to teaching and playing the violin.

When the author talked about a paramedic being able to predict a heart attack or a military strategist being able to identify an enemy ship despite every sign pointing to the ship being one of their own (at least to a less-expert observer), or a hairdresser being able to guess at pregnancy based solely on the feel of a female client's hair, my thoughts turned to my studio. I realized that my training from teaching for over 20 years typically enables me to predict a beginning transfer student's current level of ability, even after simply asking them to play eight notes of a D Major scale, knowing very little of their previous background, or if they'd played for three months or two years.

In fact, I was willing to bet on it recently, by assigning such a student two pieces for an upcoming studio recital and typing it up in the program, even before informing the student, and before we had a second lesson. Luckily, I don’t make a habit of doing that, but this was a biweekly student, and I was under a time crunch to get the recital music to the accompanist. I think he'll be able to do a good job on the songs I assigned without feeling like his ability is insulted. We'll see if I'm right. If not, thank goodness we have the benefit of word processors rather than typewriters, and I can edit the program later if I have to, LOL!

But this ability of quickly assessing violin skill has come through study and experience. I can predict from a student’s current posture habits—which influence technique—how easy it will be for them to achieve certain outcomes on the violin, and how quickly; whereas a non-musician parent might not even know if something is out of tune or why.

Clear's point in his book was that becoming an expert means getting to the point where critical decisions are made subconsciously, almost imperceptibly. Similarly, according to Clear, creating habits is helpful, and the less we have to think about making the same decisions over and over again, the more brain cells we have at our disposal.

From Atomic Habits: "We underestimate how much our brains and bodies can do without thinking. You do not tell your hair to grow, your heart to pump, your lungs to breathe, or your stomach to digest. And yet your body handles all this and more on autopilot. You are much more than your conscious self." (p. 61)

Clearly, an application of this "autopilot" principle can be made in learning the violin. In fact, the only point I remember disagreeing with my first violin teacher on (internally, of course), was when she reprimanded me once for playing on autopilot.

I can’t blame her for being frustrated. Of course, my teacher’s point was likely that I was missing a critical detail due to lack of focus, or that it sounded expressionless because my mind wasn’t thinking about the notes I was playing. Since I had practiced the notes so many times, I didn’t have to.

But I actually tend to think of accurate autopilot as a good thing. Starting with "playing on autopilot" is more of a foundation you can build on. And it means you’ve put in your practice time.

When I notice a student automatically playing a song well, even if their mind is clearly elsewhere, I point out their good habit and celebrate it with them! I might say, "See? You didn’t even have to think about what your fingers were doing. They knew exactly what they were supposed to do. That’s great!” Then I’ll add, “Now that you don’t have to worry about them, can you add more expression to this passage?" Or I might say, "Good for you. You know this song so well, playing the notes is an automatic habit for you. But instead of looking around the room while you play, if you look at your left hand, you’ll help guide the audience to know where to look, too. Let’s try that. Can you start it again?"

I’ve discovered the value of autopilot and found a bestselling author who agrees with me. Now, if I can only remind my brain of the benefit of reading good books, and turn regular reading back into a habit!
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