Category Archives: Fiddling Exploits

My latest attempt to be a talented violinist…

A Day Late & a Dollar Short

I’m a disgraceful violin student…and I’m inconsiderate, in general. This week I was bound and determined not to suck as badly as I had at my last lesson…and I suppose I got my wish. That’s what happens when you show up 25 minutes late for a 30 minute lesson. I didn’t have the opportunity to suck.

I stayed late at work tonight to get some things done for the big go-live tomorrow…and then I practiced just a bit so that I wouldn’t be so flippin’ awful when I had my lesson at 7:30…when I brought my violin down to glance at my watch I saw I had 10 minutes to spare before my lesson…holy crap, I was going to be late! Traffic hovered just at or below the speed limit, despite my exclamations of frustration…and of course Chicago St. was still under construction so I needed to park a block away from my lesson.

When I finally arrived and saw myself in through the tricky combination button lock exterior door and went downstairs, I saw that Bruce was waiting for me. He said, “Well, we could have a 5 minute lesson…Or we could just reschedule for next week.” What? I thought the lesson was at 7:30…I know I was late, but I didn’t think I was that late. Bruce appologized for the miss-communication, but I wouldn’t be suprized if it were my fault. I muttered, “I”m sorry” and “I’ll see you next week at 7:15, then” and lumbered back up the narrow stairway to exit that door that found such delight in causing me grief.

I’m such a pain in the ass.

Alright…let’s be fair…

Okay…regarding last night’s post and general frustration with playing the violin, I had not practiced what my instructor recommended. It’s my own damn fault I suck. I ordered new music and I neeeded to play it…and I didn’t really have a lot of time to practice early in the weekend so I spent a good amount of time on Sunday playing this new music…and not what the teacher told me to do. So…even though I played until my fingers were sore and my jaw felt bruised, I didn’t do anything to work on my weaknesses.

These are the things I should have been working on:

  1. Relax my grip on the bow.
    The bow should be held by a relaxed hand with the index, middle, and ring fingers resting over the top.
  2. Keep a loose wrist on the bow arm.
    Short, quick bow movements originating at the wrist will increase the speed of bow strokes and make playing very fast songs at tempo possible.
  3. Practice changing positions.
    Through repetition and practice, changes in position will become seamless. I’ll quickly be able to find the correct note and play it with the correct intonation.
  4. Work on dynamics.
    I’ve never been good at dynamics, but I should be aware of them and try to play them.

Bruce, my instructor, also recommended that I don’t rosin my bow as frequently as I do. Apparently, the excess of rosin creates a sort of harsh screaching noise. He told me he only rosins his bow about once a week…and for as frequently as he plays, I’m really amazed that he does it so little.

High Strung

I’m wallowing in self-pity right now…and the very realization of it not only make me feel worse, it disgusts me. My life is so rosey that the only thing I’ve got to worry about is my in-ability to play the violin with discipline. Of all of the adult things I could be preoccupied with, I’m questioning my value as a human being because I suck at my most recent less-than-worthwhile persuit.

Okay…so I enjoy playing, or rather totally sucking at playing the violin. I’m convinced that I know how to play the notes in tune…I know how to read the music and I’m fully capable of coaxing out the sweetest pianisimos or the boldest sfortzandos…but for some dumb reason as soon as I play, any imagined elegance, rhythm, or intonation evaporates…and I croak out the same pitchless notes I always have.
Yes, I’m dispicable…I sit here alone in my room with tears of frustration streaming down my blotchy cheeks (I never was a cute crier)   It’s very…erm…salty. I wonder if my private instructor dreads my lessons, “Oh crap…it’s Monday at 7:30 pm again!?” He tolerates my lessons for his love of making beautiful music…with the hope that my resounding screaches don’t damage his perfect ears.

He dissed my new bow…rightfully, so…I only paid $75 for it…what should I expect? During last week’s lesson I told him it was new and he responded laughingly that he supposed he shouldn’t say anything bad about it, then…so he saved it for today’s lesson. I’m making him out to sound like a jerk…he’s really very sweet and polite. He didn’t insult my bow…he just implied that a better quality bow would sound better, which is accurate. After finishing with the suzuki books, I told him that I had bought some new music…he suggested we play some of the Andrew Lloyd Webber music. My book, written to be played by beginning students, is ridiculously easy…only making me look that much more foolish when I screw up. When we played, just for kicks he began in third position and went on to play a full octive above me…all the while I had all I could do to play the correct key in first position. After that he told me how he marvelled at some other violinists and how they outplayed him. Great…I can’t imagine what that feels like.

Apparently I’m not practicing hard enough…whatever that’s supposed to mean. Maybe that’s my problem…practice hard…that’s not just practice a lot. It means, play the most mundane etudes for hours on end or the most brain-exerting passages in time with the throbbing of of my temples.

This isn’t making me feel any better.

My Latest Conquest

I’ve recently, with the support of my dear musically inclined friends, Andrew and Bridget, attempted to re-engross myself in the pursuit of becoming an able (and hopefully talented) violinist. Here’s the challenge: I played for 8.5 years committing neither the time nor the effort required to be a truly dedicated violin student. My form kinda blows, my familiarity with music theory absolutely sucks, and I no longer have the advantage of youth on my side…25 years of age now classifies me as a non-traditional student and I hope that my 8.5 years of “experience” (more accurately “poor form and general crappiness”) will not leave me irreparably ingrained in my bad habits. Aack…I haven’t been playing for 7 years…that’s very nearly as long as I have been playing.

So I’ve invested my time and money in getting my violin repaired and buying the resources I need to learn…a metronome, practice mute, rosin, spare strings, new pegs, new bow, new tailpiece, new chinrest, lessons…I’m certain I’ll have dropped at least $300 by the time my violins are in working condition again and I make it to my first lesson.