Lex Carter


May 30, 2010 23:12


It's a lot of things ..... the farmhand/lumberjack stuff I'm doing these days isn't great for fine muscle control. I'm worried sick about an instrument as delicate as a violin surviving the way I live, and the way I travel, by motorcycle. On an income of about $4k a year, yes that's year not month, I'm beginning to realize a violin is a constant money drain - lessons, strings, luthier help, etc. And I've gotten run this whole farm/junkyard on my own, and a violin isn't something you just grab and play in odd moments. 

I got a trumpet today. From some kid who claims his uncle left it to him. Do I believe him? Maybe. It seems a hybrid of two different Holton horns, maybe ol' Uncle had it extensively rebuilt. The silver solder looks good, and the one part that's broken is decorative and I don't care about. I can use the same oil I use on my motorcycle cables on its valves, musical plumbing. I can lip-buzz anywhere, and grab the horn or just mouthpiece and play/practice anytime. 

A couple of winters ago I taught myself to play one of these musical pieces of pipe, good enough to play "Yackety Sax" which many of you know as the Benny Hill theme. it takes time to build range, even the great, as I refer to him, Saint Armstrong gained about a whole note a year - he just had the advantage of starting very young. I don't care, I'll get range in time. 

It's a much more suitable instrument for a motorcycle-driving, tree-sawing, black belt in hoe 'n' shovel type like me. You gotta have an ear, which I seem to have. And you gotta have chops (trained lips) which thankfully don't get tired out like my arms/fingers do by the work around here. 

So I bid Adios to the fine violin folks here, great people and a great instrument. I only wish to become good enough to play with some of you someday, and to be able to tell "noodling around" from Dvorak. 

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Second lesson

May 23, 2010 00:29

 Second lesson. Trying the violin case down on the motorcycle works better than letting it fly, the trick is to not tie it too tight, but then we bikers know a ton - or else! - about securing cargo. 

Sigh. I'd not really practiced, because we've got county inspectors on us for all the high grass and weeds, so I asked for, and got, money to buy my own weed wacker, and this one does the job. It sounds, and smells, like one of my mopeds from long ago lol. The thing is, while it takes some strength to use, mostly it takes unusual muscles so I get fatigued pretty quick, Imagine putting in 4 hours a day sawing, raking, throwing branches, etc nonstop, and being exhausted at the end of the day, for a few days. Result: I didn't practice and my small muscle control isn't too great. 


So, I showed up at the lesson, my teacher emailed me and moved the time up a couple of hours so it was "ride it like I stole it" time, but I got there well ahead of time, and had time to get a tuner. I had a tuner, which it looked like I was going to have a hate-hate relationship with lol. I returned that and got half credit for it, and got a good old Korg. With a metronome built in, teachers like metronomes. But I'd already tried to tune the violin with the first tuner, and I'm not sure I had it right. My teacher tuned it right up of course. To me, the violin's tuning sounds funny. I'm sure I"ll get good at it over time. 


So, we played some stuff,, I'd gotten the Mel Bay book he wanted me to get, and the usual, notes, measures, counting. And my old habit of playing by ear and not looking at the notes bit me again - not everyone writes down the same version of a song. The main thing is, I need lots of repetition of very basic stuff, same as with most things worth doing well. 

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First Lesson

May 16, 2010 00:53

 The lesson went great!! My teacher is a nice guy, and the photo on his card doesn't indicate that that smiling face is part of a 6'2" body, he sure doesn't LOOK like a violin teacher. Of course I probably don't look like a violin player, lol. He teaches kids violin mostly, and teaches 4th grade so he said, "I hope you don't mind if I use kid type terms for stuff". I said, "No problem, I'm just a big kid anyway, heck I live like one, almost no money, scooting around on a motorcycle normally only a beginner or highschooler has, heck this shirt I'm wearing belonged to a teenager until his Mom sold it to me for 50c at a garage sale this morning". 


About scooting, with the violin case ..... using both straps doesn't work because it blocks the back of my helmet and I can't move my head back. One strap, bicycle messenger style, kinds works but .... in the wind the violin case  thinks it's the Flying Nun and becomes weightless, it's not going anywhere because of the strap but it does float around. I don't want to strap it down on the back of the bike since the strap pressure may harm something. 


So, I need to work on really basic stuff, my bow arm has to make a little triangle, then a square, then a big triangle, And he lent me one of his books to work in, lots of basic exercises like This is the note on the first string, This is the one on the second, then start mixing 'em up, you know the usual stuff. He wants me to get the Mel Bay violin method book ASAP so I had a friend order it for me on Amazon. (When I really need something online, I have a friend order it and I pay him cash right there. I don't have a credit card or bank account right now.) 


So, that was Lesson One. 

2 replies | Archive link

Adult Beginner in his 40s writes about learning violin in the middle of nowhere, which is Gilroy, California.

May 15, 2010 02:23

 It's 2AM. I'm keyed up I guess. My first lesson is tomorrow, 4PM. I have to get up early though, since on Saturdays we go around to the garage sales and buy stuff. Useful stuff for the coming times; gardening tools, tools of all types, first aid stuff, clothes. If it's useful, it's cool. I got an aluminum fuel bottle for a camping stove for 25c last time. Yeah, in these times, I'm the kid who'd love to get sox and underwear for Xmas. 

I have a violin rented from Heaney Violins, who rented me one for the glorious 2 months I was learning violin just before my business, and life crashed. I have Suzuki I. And a tuner. I also have an Incredibow but I'm saving that goodie for later, maybe much later. 

I'd been learning violin after a long wandering path through parents pushing me to play uke, my getting, and finding out I hated, guitar - a bigger and therefore better uke, right? Flute and clarinet and even a Theremin, which I built from a kit and really only added one improvement to. It drifted a lot and well .... the Theremin is a hard instrument to play. Virtuosos tend to be violin aces and they still will get a sour note or two in their best performances. Since my business was electronics I found the Theremin interesting, and I could actually be musical on it. Then I realized that by its nature, requiring electrical power for it and its amp, and the sheer clumsiness of it, it'd be a hard push to play this thing at the coffee shops and well, around. And geez ... my ear tells me where I am so I don't get lost but .... this thing really is hard work to play. Hmm ... what's the one instrument that I've been told all my life is hard, too hard, to play? That's scariest? Well, the violin of course! It doesn't even have any frets! Well, it can't be harder than wafting my fingers through electromagnetic fields that keep annoyingly changing (drift) maybe I ought to give .... it  ... a ... try? 

So, I found the amazing (amazingly nice) Mr. Heaney and got a rental fiddle, and a teacher, and started in. And I was going along fine, Aaron even had me reading the "bugs" (notes) and was good at catching me at playing by ear. Playing by ear is fine, it's great, but I gotta learn to read the bugs too. 

Then: meltdown. I went from small business owner to well, kinda ... homeless. The lessons stopped, the rental fiddle went back, and survival became priority one. 

Now I am safe, secure, sound. Too much to write about in this first post, but it's about 3 years on and I'm ready to do this again. I'm in Gilroy, California, back in my home state, state of my birth. And I'll never leave. There's one violin teacher here. This is about 30 miles outside the Real Bay Area apparently, and thus I might as well be in deepest "flyover" country. No matter, one violin teacher is all I need. And Suzuki I. 

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