Some Violin Stuff, and My Ear

Now that I have journeyed through five Maia Bang theory books, my violin teacher is giving me a break of sorts. She told me to pick up a copy of some Junior Festival pieces (ordinarily played by five year olds) and we will now be concentrating on style.

I have to admit, my style is still stilted and stiff. I am not one with my instrument. This week marks the fourth year I’ve been attempting to play, and I still cannot vibrate. It’s the classic case of not being able to do several things at once, at least, not on the violin. Ask me to answer the phone, drive a stick shift and drink a cup of coffee while cruising FM radio and I can do that. Vibrate and play the correct notes while doing so – um, no.

The other thing she wants me to concentrate on is dynamics, or getting different sounds out of the instrument. I’m a weak player. My idea of dynamics is pianissimo and more pianissimo. (This means very quietly in music lingo) No matter what I do, I cannot play loud. I also cannot distinguish when I’m playing softly and more softly.

I think my problem stems from having a violin right next to my left ear. All of my noises sound the same. This might be why I can barely make out when I am playing sharp. I always play sharp, I never play flat. Unlike my son, the talented Mr. Demonic Jr., I am not blessed with perfect pitch. I can sing out the first couple of notes of Mendelssohn’s Wedding March and know that it’s G-G and C, but beyond that, I’m clueless. My electronic tuner gets a bigger work out than the violin does.

Since this is my four year anniversary, I’m trying to re-evaluate my goal. At first, it was to play with my family and others. My family dislikes playing with me (at least Mr. D does); and when I play with my son, he’s constantly correcting my sharps and counting. My teacher doesn’t think I’m ready to play with other people.

I might quit, but don’t think I will. My teacher is making plans. Her husband is older than just about anyone I know (she was a former student, and a child bride) and currently in a nursing home. When he is gone (which might be ten years from now when he’s 102), she is going to sell everything and move to Maine, where the rest of her family is. When she moves, I’ll look for a different teacher.

In the meantime, I will take one small step forward and slide back two steps. That’s how it is with me and violin.

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6 Responses

  1. Every worthwhile process is like that, I think. Three steps forward, two back … like a glacier.

  2. Pan, have you thought about trying other kinds of violin music? I got to attend a musicale where a young lady played, joyously — her mother said that she’d always been fond of music, but that her talent really blossomed when she discarded being a “violinist” and became a “fiddler”. She played waltzes and polkas and sad country songs, and she was just wonderful.

  3. I’d be looking for a new teacher now!

  4. Pande,

    There is an old bluegrass album titled ‘One step forward and two steps back.’ Regardless of genre, it is the way of a musician, huh?

    I bluegrass there is a saying that good fiddlers are old and ugly. This is not true (witness Alison Krauss and many others) but the stereotype comes from how long it takes to master the thing.

    Dr. B

  5. 🙂 I guess by the time I get “good” I will be old and ugly!

  6. Sorry, you lost me at “vibrate”. 🙂

    Okay, I’ll be good and go back and read.

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