Put The Glass Down! (Getting Around Frustrations)

  1. Thom
  2. September 18, 2009 12:18 pm

I was teaching one of my students and noticed he had a habit of tensing up and making noise on his instrument every time he had made a mistake. Sometimes he would lose control in his playing, and he would respond by ultimately losing control of his temper!

I used to do this myself at a young age. I distinctly remember at age twelve having trouble learning a megaman song (playing by ear) and growing so frustrated that I swung my bow down at my clothes hamper. My composite bow sliced right through the plastic hamper, totaling it!

Another time, at age fifteen, I was working hard on audition music, Once again, I grew frustrated and this time took my violin, threw it into it’s case, and gave it a push. I popped the fingerboard RIGHT off the neck! Boy did I feel stupid! Had I just kept my cool everything would have been fine. I ended up having to spend five hours worth of my income on paying a luthier (violin maker) to properly sand and re-glue the fingerboard down.

Since then I learned that practice makes permanent, and what you do before, during, and after playing is all part of the pattern your brain will get used to running. This includes temper trantrums!

Here is a story I am across several months ago. I’m not sure who the originator is, or if there even is one on record.

“Professor began his class by holding up a glass with some water in it.
He held it up for all to see & asked the students,’ How much do you think this glass weighs?’
‘50gms!’ …. ‘100gms!’ …..’125gms’ …..the students answered.
‘I really don’t know unless I weigh it,’ said the professor, ‘but, my question is: What would happen if I held it up like this for a few minutes?’

‘Nothing’ the students said.
‘Ok what would happen if I held it up like this for an hour?’ the professor asked.
‘Your arm would begin to ache’ said one of the students.
‘You’re right, now what would happen if I held it for a day?’
‘Your arm could go numb, you might have severe muscle stress & paralysis & have to go to hospital for sure!’ ventured another student & all the students laughed.

‘Very good. But during all this, did the weight of the glass change?’ asked the professor.
‘Then what caused the arm ache & the muscle stress?’ The students were puzzled.
‘Put the glass down!’ said one of the students.

‘Exactly!’ said the professor.’ Life’s problems are something like this.

Hold it for a few minutes in your head & they seem OK. Think of them for a long time & they begin to ache. Hold it even longer & they begin to paralyze you. You will not be able to do anything. It’s important to think of the challenges (problems) in your life, but EVEN MORE IMPORTANT to ‘put them down’ at the end of every day before you go to sleep. That way, you are not stressed, you wake up every day fresh & strong & can handle any issue, any challenge that comes your way!’”

Sometimes we let frustrations and problems get the best of us. It can be a hard passage in our music, a particular technique, or it could be something completely unrelated to music but just a problem in our lives. There are two ways to handle these situations:

  1. Respond to the situation with tension, anger, and frustation
  2. Take a deep breath, walk away, or do something else to relieve the tension

Which way do you think will wield more positive results?

When I was very young, probably four or five years old, I would rent video games and then throw a fit when they were too hard! This continued as I grew older until I had discovered a secret technique at ten years of age while playing Cruisin’ USA or Mario Kart on the Nintendo 64. Sometimes I would run into the problem of being unable to win a particular race no matter how hard I tried. I would feel the anger and frustration well up inside me as I would shout “Why can’t I beat this level?”

It was then that I figured out that I could walk away and distract myself for a minutes with another activity. After I had calmed down I would return to the game and usually DESTROY the competition within the first or second attempt!

The professor in the story speaks of the long term effects of “holding onto” the glass, but even in the short term the weight can effect your mood and performance. When you feel yourself losing your cool, try putting down the glass. When you return to whatever it was that was affecting you, you may find that you are now in control of the situation rather than the other way around!

Have you found this to be something you need to work on? Feel free to share below!


  1. Melissa says:
    Posted October 27, 2009 at 8:35 pm | Permalink

    Ha! I was actually throwing a fit and pouting when I read this post! I am feeling sooo frustrated right now because I can’t seem to bring anything together. I have been trying to learn the basics for about a year and I can’t get it right…it’s just not coming together! I feel awkward and incapable of learning!!

    Is it possible that some people are just not meant to play the violin? HA!

    • Haha, I’ve thrown my fair share of fits! Have patience, take your time. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and no one became a virtuoso overnight! Take a second and think about what is lacking, whats giving you trouble. Once you have determined what the core problem is, THEN you can go about fixing it and bringing it together!

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