Can you learn to play the violin without reading a book or practicing on your instrument, and without being able to visualize an accompaniment?
I think not. If I could go back in time and spend a few minutes practicing with an excellent teacher, that would have the added benefit of improving my ability to actually visualize the accompaniment, which would be an effective way of improving every other ability that I have. If you could, I’d definitely want to learn to play. I would want to become an amateur jazz violinist, for example; that would be the most important thing I could have accomplished in my life, and so I might want to try that if the opportunity presents itself. But if you cannot, you can never learn enough to get near to the very end of the road, so I’m not saying don’t try this. Just understand that there’s a limit to what you can achieve, and that’s what it really comes down to.
In closing, I think it’s important to know when you are at a specific point in your development and develop strategies as you go through this process. As you develop these skills, you should be guided by these principles to a certain point in your development by which you can get to a point where you will be able to get a piece well. But I’m not saying don’t try to accomplish those things when you have the opportunity; I’m just saying think carefully about when you can attain the stage of being able to do that, for you should never say “I can’t, I just can’t.” There must always be a balance in all life’s decisions; for instance, if a young adult says to himself, “I can’t,” there’s a certain truth in that; that’s his limit, and he is going to reach that limit. But in other areas, where something like this has to happen, “I am so good at this,” with all due respect, you should not have it said to you that you are so good, because there really isn’t any such thing as being so good at anything.
So I think there’s a very fine line between knowing when you can be an artist on your own time, and being able to develop your skill at the required point with a teacher, and when you have the opportunity with a good teacher, then maybe you should seriously pursue it. I think you should do both, and the more you can do on both, the less I think people will say “I can’t become an artist on my
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