Violinist.com members may keep personal journals on the website. Violinist.com's editor selects the best entries for the column below. Links to all other recent blog posts may be found in the column on the right.
By Brendan Booher
July 13, 2012 17:27
There is an incredible amount of joy that comes to any violinist/fiddler from playing a tune or piece well. Having it sing forth on your instrument, and bring joy even to others who might be listening. How can you beat that? And yet, there is still something that may be even better than that grand experience.
One word for it is “improvising.” Improvising is either adding a melodic expression/idea of your own invention into your perfected melody, or totally replacing your song with your own invention.If you have never tried this, I recommend it strongly. It is an experience you don’t want to miss out on, and I am confident that you won’t be disappointed for at least giving yourself a chance to take a swing at it!
I call improvising a need, because I believe that every violin player has to experience doing it in one form or another, in order to be really fulfilled. When you start improvising, you are really expressing yourself through your music more than you possibly could through performing someone else’s composition as it was written. I think that we should all learn to play in the same way that we creatively speak every moment that we converse. And the kind of playing that I’m suggesting might become just as natural (with a lot of practice, of course)!
What often keeps one from creative playing is fear. Fear of putting the wrong notes in the wrong places. This fear gradually goes away though as you continue, because you come to realize that you are going to put the wrong notes in the wrong places, but that’s all right! Because you are experimenting, just like a good inventor. Thomas Edison, in referring to his experience inventing the light bulb said, “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10000 ways that won’t work.” So please don’t look at messing up as failing, but rather as an opportunity to learn what not to play. Your mistakes just gain you more wisdom and valuable experience on your instrument.
In teaching the violin, I have often reminded my students that they should be mature perfectionists. A mature perfectionist is someone who strives for perfection, but allows himself to mess up without quitting or being discouraged, learning from his mistakes.
It’s a pity to see so many players who know their instruments so well through years of experience with even complex pieces, not use their knowledge and experience to be creative, and to even learn more by ear, which deserves another whole article.
The very first step on the road to improvisation on your violin is to obtain recordings of someone who is good at decorating the melody with nice, mature creative ideas, ideas that are pleasing to the ear and sound doable (or maybe kind of doable). The next step is to imitate what they are doing. many giants in the fiddling realm began as good imitators. Imitators of their heroes. Now they are someone else’s hero. To be a hero is not our goal (hopefully–although that does happen on rare occasions), but just to broaden our horizons on our instruments, and enjoy the experience. Maybe someone else will enjoy listening along the way, too.
Playing jazz also deserves an article all its own, and probably many more. But I hope that at least I have sparked a little interest for those who may not have spent enough time thinking about our topic. Or, maybe I have provided the last encouragement needed to get someone to step out and do the unthinkable. -Brendan BooherTweet
July 12, 2012 06:54
I am an adult beginner of the violin, and (probably) like many adult beginners out there, I picked up the violin because I’m really in love with its beautiful tone and the wide range of expressions it can produce. Second only to the human voice I’m told, and I don’t doubt it. At my age where I’ve got nothing to prove and nothing to lose, playing the violin is ultimately a fun hobby that I truly enjoy.
Now, here comes the snag. In order to get anyway near playing the violin well enough to enjoy the sounds I’m making, I need to practise. Not convinced? Okay, hear me out. For the first 2½ years of my violin-playing journey, I must honestly say that I didn’t really practise. Not really. When I picked up the violin to “practise”, all I did was play all the pieces assigned to me top to bottom, rinse and repeat. If I’m bored, I just played other tunes that interest me – like the violin soundtrack from Angels and Demons (played by Joshua Bell by the way). In essence, I was noodling around, not concentrating on what I’m doing and taking shortcuts wherever I can. Thanks to my good grounding in classical music playing both the piano and the double bass as a child right up to pre-university, I could fake my way through most lessons and I don’t think my teacher quite realized that I was sight-reading my scales. Sure, intonation was sometimes off (can you say sneaky shifty fingers?), and the shifts could be smoother and more confident. Probably he just thought that it would get better with time. He’s probably right… IF I practise. That all changed about 6 months ago, when my teacher convinced me to take an ABRSM examination. I think he probably suggested it to give my lessons more direction. I agreed because I thought it might be interesting to work some repertoire to performance level, play them to a total stranger and get some honest feedback. Unfortunately, this deal involved scales – quite a few of them actually, and they came with tempo and bowing requirements. All of a sudden, my teacher was picking on them like no tomorrow – intonation, uncertain tone, no, I don’t want to hear your shifts, etc. All of a sudden, I found myself working on scales like no tomorrow. It wasn’t fun. It was work. One day at a lesson, my teacher suddenly asked, “Did you change your strings?” “No. Why do you ask?” “You sound different.” “Different? What do you mean different?” “Your tone’s less muddy. It’s more defined.” – I paraphrased this one, can’t remember the exact words, but the gist is there. “Well, I practiced scales all week” “Maybe that’s why.” Yup. Much as I hate scales and love noodling around, focused practice actually does get you somewhere. After just 2 weeks of furiously polishing scales with specific things to work on, they got better (obviously), but I realized that a lot of other things suddenly got easier as well. My shifting improved loads, and suddenly I was bang on intonation-wise (no more sneaky shifty fingers). Fast forward to after the examination. I celebrated not having to go through that self-imposed dogmatical scales routine anymore. And I admitted (albeit reluctantly) to my teacher that scales did a world of good to my playing. I think my teacher secretly celebrated for 10 seconds that I might actually start to do a lot more scales, until I informed him I had no intention of going through that routine again anytime soon. Despite saying that, I’ve gained a newfound respect for scales and focused practice. I now devote 15 minutes every day on scales. You might think, now that’s not so bad. But for me, yes it’s that bad. I’m currently working on double stop scales (thirds, sixths and octaves) and I have problems nailing intonation. This is what I have to do. Play the first note (or chord), think about the second note (chord), and I mean THINK. Play the second note, either it’s bang on or it’s not. If it’s not, (which right now is about 90% of the time) try again from the first note. Try doing that for 15 minutes working on just two notes. Not fun. Not even close. And I haven’t even started on what I need to do for the pieces yet. Thus, here lies my dilemma, do I play or practise? I play for the fun of it, and I need to practise in order to play but practising isn’t fun which then makes play-practising not so fun right now. Some weeks, I gave up on practising and just played (meaning noodled). When lesson time came, I just told my teacher, I didn’t practise this week and so my scales are atrocious. He agrees. Well, he didn’t exactly say that my scales was atrocious, he just said that they were “quite bad”.
Not convinced? Okay, hear me out. For the first 2½ years of my violin-playing journey, I must honestly say that I didn’t really practise. Not really. When I picked up the violin to “practise”, all I did was play all the pieces assigned to me top to bottom, rinse and repeat. If I’m bored, I just played other tunes that interest me – like the violin soundtrack from Angels and Demons (played by Joshua Bell by the way). In essence, I was noodling around, not concentrating on what I’m doing and taking shortcuts wherever I can. Thanks to my good grounding in classical music playing both the piano and the double bass as a child right up to pre-university, I could fake my way through most lessons and I don’t think my teacher quite realized that I was sight-reading my scales. Sure, intonation was sometimes off (can you say sneaky shifty fingers?), and the shifts could be smoother and more confident. Probably he just thought that it would get better with time. He’s probably right… IF I practise.
That all changed about 6 months ago, when my teacher convinced me to take an ABRSM examination. I think he probably suggested it to give my lessons more direction. I agreed because I thought it might be interesting to work some repertoire to performance level, play them to a total stranger and get some honest feedback. Unfortunately, this deal involved scales – quite a few of them actually, and they came with tempo and bowing requirements. All of a sudden, my teacher was picking on them like no tomorrow – intonation, uncertain tone, no, I don’t want to hear your shifts, etc. All of a sudden, I found myself working on scales like no tomorrow. It wasn’t fun. It was work.
One day at a lesson, my teacher suddenly asked,
“Did you change your strings?”
“No. Why do you ask?”
“You sound different.”
“Different? What do you mean different?”
“Your tone’s less muddy. It’s more defined.” – I paraphrased this one, can’t remember the exact words, but the gist is there.
“Well, I practiced scales all week”
“Maybe that’s why.”
Yup. Much as I hate scales and love noodling around, focused practice actually does get you somewhere. After just 2 weeks of furiously polishing scales with specific things to work on, they got better (obviously), but I realized that a lot of other things suddenly got easier as well. My shifting improved loads, and suddenly I was bang on intonation-wise (no more sneaky shifty fingers).
Fast forward to after the examination. I celebrated not having to go through that self-imposed dogmatical scales routine anymore. And I admitted (albeit reluctantly) to my teacher that scales did a world of good to my playing. I think my teacher secretly celebrated for 10 seconds that I might actually start to do a lot more scales, until I informed him I had no intention of going through that routine again anytime soon.
Despite saying that, I’ve gained a newfound respect for scales and focused practice. I now devote 15 minutes every day on scales. You might think, now that’s not so bad. But for me, yes it’s that bad. I’m currently working on double stop scales (thirds, sixths and octaves) and I have problems nailing intonation. This is what I have to do. Play the first note (or chord), think about the second note (chord), and I mean THINK. Play the second note, either it’s bang on or it’s not. If it’s not, (which right now is about 90% of the time) try again from the first note. Try doing that for 15 minutes working on just two notes. Not fun. Not even close. And I haven’t even started on what I need to do for the pieces yet.
Thus, here lies my dilemma, do I play or practise? I play for the fun of it, and I need to practise in order to play but practising isn’t fun which then makes play-practising not so fun right now. Some weeks, I gave up on practising and just played (meaning noodled). When lesson time came, I just told my teacher, I didn’t practise this week and so my scales are atrocious. He agrees. Well, he didn’t exactly say that my scales was atrocious, he just said that they were “quite bad”.Tweet
By Brendan Booher
July 11, 2012 11:40
It is often a question that students have in their minds, and I will answer it in short.
Doodling (playing around on your violin) is what often makes up a lot of any student’s practice time, but is this really quality practicing? Yes and no.
In my experience from watching a vast number of students develop their skill through the years, I have noticed that those who mix up their practice time with fundamental exercises, tunes and some goofing around are the most successful at obtaining their goals (written in order).
I recommend that immediately after picking up your fiddle (hopefully it is hanging on the wall. Seeing your instrument out where it will catch your eye encourages more time spent with it), you should get right down to the basics.
1. Bow exercises
2. Long slow bows on open strings, graduating to short fast bows
3. Your chromatic scale
4. Basic to complex major scales
5. Known (memorized) tunes
6. Tunes still in the learning process (you should always have something new to work on. Keep yourself challenged!)
7. Fiddling around with tunes adding in improvisational ideas.
8. Trying your hand at your own song creations.
Having goals is a good idea, and recording yourself every so often to see where you’re at will help you know more what you need to work on. You need to have a critical ear also, as you listen to yourself play. Also, obtaining recordings of fiddle and violin greats is an excellent way of getting inspired, and encouraging more effort. You will get out of your instrument the time that you spend playing it, and how you spend that time makes a whole lot of difference! Practice properly and you will play quality music. – Brendan BooherTweet
By christian howes
July 9, 2012 18:19
Recently I’ve had the opportunity to perform and teach in Asia, affording a view onto an industry landscape much different from the United States.
I met American musicians living like KINGS on the other side of the world. Some in the U.S. complain that they make things cheaper in Asia, making it hard for Americans to compete. It hurts our economy and limits the amount we can earn in America, because people work for and make things cheaper everywhere else. Maybe this has hurt the standard of living in the U.S. for musicians because people are spending less on entertainment, parties, CD’s, etc., due to the overall economic situation. In places like China, where there’s a growing upper class, American musicians can go over and make a killing.
Chinese can copy just about everything we make, but no one can copy American music, and even if they could, an authentically American musician is viewed as an exotic import with premium value (in many places this premium goes up considerably for African American musicians). In fact, the culture of these countries is such that you rarely hear of native musicians training for a career in pop music or jazz. Sure, there are classical career musicians, but in general, there are more gigs than musicians when it comes to functional (party/dance) music and creative music.
In Hong Kong or Shanghai there might be less than 5 players on each instrument who play at a high level in jazz and other popular styles. It’s a very small scene, and players make $300-600 a night doing corporate functions, often working every night of the week, and supplementing with jazz clubs, hotels, restaurants (often on longstanding contracts to play 5 nights or a week at a hotel, for example). In some cases rent is paid, plus overseas flight, but regardless, $50,000 a year in Shanghai is like making $150,000 a year in Chicago.
The musicians I encountered all told me the same story – eat out (the food is awesome in China) every meal, take cabs everywhere, frequent massages, and saving money in the bank. Oh, and they can buy all the equipment they want, dirt cheap. Some of the musicians I worked with were sub-standard to the level of players I would expect to call for gigs in the U.S., but even these players were raking it in.
I’ve seen this before, to a lesser degree, in places like Madrid, Spain, where there’s a bigger scene and a higher level of musicianship than Hong Kong or Shanghai, but even if relatively developed scenes the standard of American musicianship and professionalism is still seen in the same way. Our musicians are seen as valuable commodities in most places around the world. The musicians I’ve met abroad who happened to land in some foreign city are living at a very high standard and they have their pick of the best gigs in town.
It’s up to you to go out and make the most of all this opportunity.
1) Research musicians in your niche or stylistic interest on google such as “shanghai jazz” or “celtic music, Barcelona” and find some players on MySpace – listen to their stuff, check their schedules online. Contact them via a personalized mass email (or hire someone overseas for cheap to do some of this work for you – you can find a virtual assistant in India or Phillipines for between $2-6 per hour.)? I would let them know that you’re planning on coming over to do some playing and you’re looking for local players that you can hire – everyone’s interested in a gig – or just let them know that you like their music and ask if you can call them to talk about the local music scene. Maybe you can establish a rapport with someone who would even be willing to hire you tentatively to play on some gigs if you were to make it over.
2) Call agencies and tell them you’d like to move there and want to know if they would have interest in booking you.
3) Save some money and just go! Once you get there, hit the places where musicians play and meet the ex-pats. You’ll quickly get networked if you’ve got the goods musically.
I’m not saying that this is right for everyone, or that you absolutely should do this. But please don’t tell me there isn’t enough opportunity in this world for someone to make a living doing music :) If you’d like my help establishing your international career, feel free to shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org It never hurts to network and share ideas, and I’m always fascinated to see people carev out their own paths in the music industry. (As a jazz violinist, I never had the luxury of having a clear path laid out, and the necessity of creating my own path ultimately has led to my having a career which I really enjoy!)
By Arashi Lilith
July 8, 2012 00:38
Reading the study on http://www.violinistinbalance.nl was rather satisfying for me. As a violinist with severe back problems and chronic pain, an ergonomic setup is a playing vs crippling myself for life issue. Thankfully, this study confirms pretty much every suspicion I've had concerning violin ergonomics, through 6 months of trial and error.
I started out restless, and am still quite comfortable that way. If I were to join one of those early music performance groups (which would be a dream!) I would only have to raise my chin rest with some cork. Ever since I started my body seemed to know how to balance the violin using chin and arm equally, which along with the higher chin rest is the secret to restless playing if you ask me. However, when I started my chin rest was side mounted, causing me to put my chin on the tailpiece, and was low enough to cramp my neck anyway.
My teacher was concerned with the violin's stability restless and suggested I try shoulder rests. Her's is one of those metal bendy ones that hooks over the shoulder a bit. At first I rubber-banded some cloth to the back, but it always slipped anyway. I spent a lot of time trying different models, especially Wolf and said bendy one I forget the name of. The metal near my violin's precious varnish scared me to death, though, and it felt so darned high.
Meanwhile, I changed my chin rest to a center mounted one that flares to the left a bit. It fit my jaw much better, for the unflared ones forced my jaw into odd positions. Recently I raised the very low cork a bit, and may raise it a bit more in the future.
The final piece of the puzzle came in when I bought some foam rests. As the study described (though before I had read about it) I cut the foam so that it was thin near my collar bone and neck, and thicker where is pointed towards my shoulder. I secure it with a rubber band configuration.
My set up feels perfect now, and my trial and error saved me from even more trouble later when I acquired a viola. My viola is so thick I laugh at the idea of a shoulder rest, a fact that may have eluded me and cause quite a bit more issues due to the size magnifying everything. However, I still need that new chin rest for it though, my neck hurts like heck right now. Hopefully on Tuesday I can get it.
I came to an amazing setup so quickly because I have had enough problems with my body to respond quickly to a problem. Also, my boyfriend has carpal tunnel or tendonitis from coding all day for work and school, so he gave me quite the scoldings for any procrastination in finding a way to play without pain. However, one shouldn't need either of those to be motivated to spend a few hours in the violin shop trying out every possible setup and then some. We need to remember how the violin is supposed to sit, scroll parallel to the floor, balancing on the collar bone and supported by the chin and hand evenly, so that one can easily support it more with one or the other when needed. Our necks should be straight, and often a higher chin rest is so much more necessary than a higher shoulder rest that lifts the violin off the collarbone where it doesn't belong. Center mounts tend to be best for most, though try everything, including adding or removing cork. Find or modify or make a shoulder rest that make sense, instead of settling for one that is not meant for your body type. We are all different and we must remember to take the care to set up our instruments properly and customized to our bodies just as we take care to select the perfect instrument, case, and bow. How can we remember those things, but forget or refuse to select the one thing that will insure our playing for years to come? It makes no sense at all.
So please, do your body good, don't ignore what it's trying to tell you about your setup. Even if the prospect of pain can't motivate you, your playing will improve tremendously. I know mine did!Tweet
By Mendy Smith
July 6, 2012 19:38
It started with a "would you like to play the Serioso on Friday night after the concert?". "Sure!" I replied. A few days later was a request to play with another group for coaching, music TBD. I like playing with these folks, so I agreed, and discovered later that we were going to work on Britten and the Grosse Fugue. A week or so later, I found myself agreeing to play the Brahms Sextets - 1st viola part, and not shortly afterwards a Brahms Quintet. Oh, and somewhere along the way, agreed to play Beethoven's Op. 132 at another after-concert jam.
Um, ok. So now I have about an inch thick stack of music to learn in the next 2 months, none of it easy. And to make it more interesting, no lessons until AFTER Interlochen. I may have bitten a bit more off than I can chew, but look forward to it all. I have the luxury of exploring this music with friends without any performance pressure looming over my head. The only pressure is having it ready enough to play well with others. Granted, that's asking alot given what I signed up for.
As my previous teacher said, "You're crazy, but we already know that! Bartok the next year."
Now that's an idea! Maybe I'll start a little sooner.
By Laurie Niles
July 6, 2012 16:07
Greetings everyone, from London! I flew here from Los Angeles with my husband and daughter, so we could visit this wonderful city that, until now, I'd never seen! It's high time, clearly, and I will share a few pictures and experiences as we make our way through London and next week, Paris. Here are a few things I saw today and yesterday (through a fog of jet lag!):
This evening we happened upon this violinist and cellist, who were busking at Covent Garden, playing the Handel-Halvorsen Passacaglia. Pretty spiffy piece to be playing from memory, in the street, I think they must be conservatory students:
Earlier in the day, a soprano sang "Ave Maria" for the lunch crowd in the Covent Garden Market:
Here is the Church of St. Martin-in-the-Fields, after which the Academy of St Martin in the Fields was named. Speaking of which, what famous violinist just took leadership of that orchestra? I'll make this interesting: post the correct answer, I'll enter you to win a V.com tote bag!
Here I am, with my daughter, Natalie on the left and my good friend, pianist Gina Kruger of London, on the right. We are standing in front of Shakespeare's Globe, the modern reconstruction of the Globe Theatre on the River Thames.
And how can I not provide you a picture of the Big Ben clock tower? Not bad for a cell phone shot, from the window of the cab, eh?
By Jonathan Hai
July 6, 2012 06:04
Post no. 20
Quartet newsflash – in addition to the cello and the viola, work on the soundboard and "f's" of one of the violins has been completed and Yonatan fitted the bass-bar and closed it a couple of days ago. As he is now doing the same thing, for the fourth time, on the last violin, I decided to dedicate this post to a story about a-hundred-years-old, run-down, broken double-bass Yonatan restored and brought back to life a couple of years ago.
It all started with Guy, an artists whose workshop is located behind that of Yonatan's, and who creates furniture, home decorations and even showers from various pieces of… well…junk, that he collects. One day he came into Yonatan's workshop and said he had found an old cello, and was thinking of turning it into a lamp. They often consult with each other – Yonatan and the other artisans – about woodwork, tools, varnish etc. So Yonatan said "sure, bring the cello over". However, when Guy came back, it turned out that he was in possession not of a cello but of a double-bass… well, something that once upon a time, probably around the time the T-Rex walked the earth, was a double-bass…. What it really was at that point was a real piece of junk – a wrecked, worm-eaten, moldy, broken, cracked piece of wood that had the general shape of an instrument.
I personally thought that even a lamp is a way-too-optimistic outlook for this piece of wood, and that it would best serve as bonfire material…. But Yonatan immediately saw the potential of this instrument, and convinced Guy to sell (!!) it to him.
Let me tell you, for the next few months, whenever Yonatan had a quiet moment – between building a viola and a cello and doing various restoration jobs – he invested dozens, and dozens….and dozens… of hours to turn this wreck back into a playing instrument. Upon opening it he found a label that said the bass was produced around 1900 by Karl Hoffner, a company that still exists and is mostly known for its bass guitars, but still to this day produces serially made stringed instruments. The bass, as it turned out, was of a decent quality, better than those being serially made today.
So Yonatan started working on it, both to restore it and, in the process, to upgrade the instrument's qualities, by working on the thicknesses of the sound board, creating and fitting a new bass bar and so forth.
To make a really, really long process short, Yonatan found that he was implementing every single restoration process, methodology and step he had ever learned or heard of. The soundboard required the greatest amount of work: first of all the contours of the instruments, where the purfling should be, were all rotten and eaten away, and had to be redone. This was amazing to watch as Yonatan has a special method of inserting new pieces of wood into the old ones as you can see here:
Many of the same processes had to be implemented on the sides and on the back, and then the entire instrument was glued back together. If you think that was it – well, forget it!
The neck of the double bass was broken in numerous places and apparently was fixed in the past by an amateur who caused even more harm to the peg box (where the tuning machine with which you tune the instrument is located). The easiest thing would probably have been for Yonatan to make a brand new peg box, but if you have been following this blog you know that's not who he is. He worked for ten years in restoration of old buildings in Tel-Aviv and medieval castles in Italy – remember? So he took this broken, rotten, mutilated neck and peg box, inserted new wood – and new life – into them, and wrapped it up by performing one of the more labor-intensive procedures in violin restoration called "neck graft" in which a new neck is perfectly implanted into the old peg box.
Then, after he inserted the new neck into the closed instrument, he had to varnish the double bass as all the old varnish was long gone. Wait, not so fast. The new varnish needed to be put in a way that would completely hide the differences between the old, spotted, brown wood and the new, much lighter one. This meant that on each area of the instrument, a different color was used and a different number of layers of varnish was painted… until the entire instrument had the same tonality and you really couldn't tell old from new.
Believe it or not, at the end of this amazingly laborious process, based as much on Yonatan's faith as on his violin-building abilities, the double bass looked and played like a king. As Yonatan said, "it was sheer satisfaction to hear the instrument has come back to life and, when it played, it seemed to thank me for the work I invested and trust I had in it". No wonder – the double bass now was way more Hai than Hoffner:)
To end this 20th post, as one of my readers wrote to me, I never actually introduced myself… so maybe now's the time to do so: My name is Avivit – nice to meet you!!
Here's the time also to ask you, what d'you think so far? Anything you especially like? Anything missing or annoying so far? I'll be more than happy to know. Honestly :)
By Gerald Klickstein
July 5, 2012 08:57
“At each concert, music is created anew,
Whenever we perform, we aim for that “in-the-moment” feeling. We strive to immerse ourselves and our listeners in the emotion of the music.
Yet although we aspire to be freely creative on stage, we also need to be consistently accurate.
How can we unite spontaneous creativity with technical security? Here are 4 ways.
1. Practice Spontaneity
Still, because practice involves repetition, staleness can easily creep in.
One way to vaccinate against staleness is to playfully vary any repetition.
For instance, after one clean run of solo passage, upon repeating it, we might tweak our tone and timing. In this way, we open ourselves to impromptu insights.
“Always try to find variety,” urged cellist Pablo Casals; “it is the secret of music.” (Casals and the Art of Interpretation, p. 161)
2. Feel Every Phrase
The trick is to make the problem-solving process as emotionally vibrant as it is intellectually engaging.
Personally, I bring a living quality to every sound I make, even when I’m unraveling technical snags. In so doing, my technical command serves my expressive notions.
Then, on stage, my practice habits empower me to give myself over to the music.
3. Embrace Possibility
For that reason, I ceaselessly look for new ways to shape the music I play. I never stop exploring, so I discover freshness everywhere.
In The Art of Possibility, the authors write that when we forsake this open mindset, we constrict into a sense of scarcity – we stop seeing options and opportunities.
But when we embrace possibility, there’s no limit to what we might come up with.
4. Savor the Moment
When we savor the temporality of our art, we stop trying to over-control the future and, instead, celebrate each moment, whatever it brings.
This savoring quality is especially crucial when we practice or perform repertoire that we’ve known for ages.
Singer Tony Bennett encapsulated this concept in a 2005 interview. Speaking of his signature song, I Left My Heart in San Francisco, he said, “That song made me a world citizen. And when I do it, it always feels like the first time.”
© 2012 Gerald KlicksteinTweet
By Arashi Lilith
July 3, 2012 21:16
I'm in a string orchestra (boot)camp this term at my community college, which means I'm currently in freaking-out-exhausted-will-I-ever-play-this-right mode. I'm glad to play with kids, if only because they're much more polite and much less scream-y than the kids I used to work with back when I was a teacher's aid for emotionally disturbed kids. But really the best part is I'm on a similar level to them, and they don't take things seriously enough to give me dirty looks (or allow my paranoia to imagine said looks) when my poor sightreading leaves me bow still, silently trying to catch up with my eyes. Technically I think I have some advantage, but they have fluency and I just gotta catch up quickly. It helps that the teachers also have to explain things simply, which is a breath of fresh air in the classical world of music if you ask me.
I'm the principal violist in this string orchestra, which is to say, I'm the only one save for an instructor who seems more inclined to share a stand with the cellos. That may change... After all, it's only the second day.
I'm a violinist generally speaking; I received the viola for my 20th birthday, to mark a year of violin and to help with the technical milestones to come. However, a lack of time and sheet music has left it unloved until I needed it, with the exception of a little bit of scales and general fiddling around, and that one time a string broke as I was busking with a friend. Now I must play it day in and day out, for our concert is next Thursday.
Though I'm still a little unsteady on viola, I kinda have to do this. It's not that I'm being made to; it's that I have realized that I only ever get good at something with some serious immersion and pressure. I am good at deadlines, in a weird way, and I go a bit crazy without one. Still, I'm more than a bit crazy on a good day, and I want to be equally competent on viola, because, well who wouldn't? It's pretty, and I like pretty things. However, my determination has set me up for wading through sheets of alto clef an inch thick; not to mention my muscles screaming for explanation as to why the violin grew in their language of soreness and exhaustion. It'll pass, it always does eventually, and as someone with 19 screws in their spine a little soreness is nothing. It's just strange to feel that feeling again, like when your pinkie is mad about having to reach allll the way to the C-string and wants you to feel it's suffering, for instance. The real price is getting up at 5am to commute to school, making me scary-diurnal and so separating me mentally from my nocturnal-working programmer boyfriend.
It'll all be worth it I hope! My fingers get mad stage fright, yet my mind is unaffected, does this happen to others? Either way I know no matter how immersed in the sea of viola the challenge will always be playing in front of others and trying to get my muscle memory to cooperate in doing so. I have anxiety disorder to the point where I'm kind of surprised that a doctor hasn't suggested beta-blockers before, not just for performance but for not panicking in school. Meh, may as well see if I really need them, I guess.
I must forever challenge myself, always playing just a bit above my level, or I will not improve. This is my mantra through these two weeks. Tomorrow I have an extra lesson with my violin teacher to help me understand how to play everything. After that, I honestly have no excuse to not be practicing from sunup to sundown. I'm hoping to convince my dad to let me go to my favorite violinist Emilie Autumn's album release party after, and it's in Chicago, so I have a lot of impressing to do. Not to mention, sleep is for the weak. Or is it week? Whatever, I can always sleep when I'm dead.
Wish me luck!
P.S. One of the kids called my viola a muddy sounding weird looking violin. I'm gonna count that as my first viola joke received, which I know must count somewhere as an achievement in a video game version of my life.
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