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Violinist on a bike

June 8, 2009 at 4:55 AM


Since I started serious biking and touring a couple of years back (with time off for pneumonia) I was wondering what could be learnt from this experience that applies to violin playing.   Here is a tentative list.
Bike-   Train for a tour or the tour trains you.
Violin-   Don’t learn  the Tchaikovsky concerto until you can play it.
Bike-  One day off a week from training will leave you refreshed and stronger.
Violin-   One day off a week from practiicng will increase your learning and help prevent burn out.
Bike-   Mountain bikes are for mountains. Roadbikes are not the same thing.
Violin- Always use the instrument and bow that suits you .
Bike-  A commuting cyclist is actually exposed to less air pollution than a commuting motorist.
Violin-  Don`t accept a job in a chamber group called the `Farting Quartet.`
Bike-  Distribute the weight in the panniers evenly.
Violin- Make sure the second violin section has some good players.
Bike-   Protect the family jewels with padded shorts.
Violin- Ditto in Bruckner symphonies.
Bike-   Always carry a couple of spare inner tubes.
Violin- There is no excuse for no spare strings.
Bike- Yes you can go at 40 mph but the chance  of even just a small stone throwing you off is  really high.
Violin- Don’t play faster than you can control. The audience can’t hear fast passage work anyway.
Bike- Be polite and helpful to other bikers and pedestrians.
Violin- Cooperate with your desk partner.
Bike- Don’t give truck drivers the finger.
Violin- Don’t give the conductor the finger.
Bike- Stretching after a ride is vital.
Violin- Stretching after practicing is vital.
Bike- Don’t assume it is easy or you are doing it right.  Seek expert instruction.
Violin- Get a teacher.
Bike- yes, you should pedal going down hill.
Violin- Rigidity is death.
Bike-   Proper nutrition is vital. In particular keep hydrated.
Violin- Stop drinking that Starbucks and get some water in.
Bike- Don’t wear biker shorts to a funeral. (Long story)
Violin- Appropriate dress is important.
Bike- Toe clips or bike shoes are essential.
Violin-  Pay attention to the up bow in spiccato passages.
Hope this provides some food for thought,

From Pauline Lerner
Posted on June 8, 2009 at 5:01 AM

My favorite is the one about Bruckner, but they're all clever.  You have an interesting perspective.

From Stephen Brivati
Posted on June 8, 2009 at 6:11 AM


thanks. i added one I just thought of...



Posted on June 8, 2009 at 9:51 AM

BURI, I'd be very cautious if I were you...It is illegal to peddle your a** around town

From Karen Allendoerfer
Posted on June 8, 2009 at 11:29 AM

I like it! 

Except, the last thing I want is to have to get instruction from some expert on how to ride my bike.  I had bike-riding instruction when I was 6 in order to take off the training wheels, and that was enough.  I just ride to work (when the weather is nice), I'm not racing or anything. 

I don't feel this way about violin (and I love my violin teacher), but it's nice when there are some things in the world that you can just do yourself.

From Stephen Brivati
Posted on June 8, 2009 at 8:18 PM


I wish biking was like that but there is a surprisng amount of stuff to learn for basic safety once you get on a mountian or a busy road.  Even simple things like keeping your thumbs under the handles at all times,   watch the ground not the back wheel of the perosn in front  or relaxz to absorb the bumps in the arms and shoulders rather than tense u.



From Tess Z
Posted on June 8, 2009 at 9:06 PM

Even more important than those points, is being able to repair your bike should a flat tire or some other malfunction occur when you're 20 miles from your car.

Cycling for sport does require a certain skill set much like playing an instrument.

From Stephen Brivati
Posted on June 8, 2009 at 10:17 PM


Right. there shoudl be one that reads `Change a tub, change a string`



From Ray Randall
Posted on June 9, 2009 at 3:32 PM

When we lived in Steamboat Springs, Colorado my wife and I bought superb mountain bikes. Steamboat is jam packed with quality amateur and professional riders so getting a Dorothy DeLay quality mountain bike instructor was no problem. Comparing lessons to violin lessons is easy. The first lesson was how to tune the bike. There is an art to it we learned. Lesson two was scales, riding slowly in the parking lot and staying on track. Lesson three was playing the Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto. He took me up to a gnarly downhill path full of rocks, logs, loose gravel and proclaimed as we started down, Speed is your friend." Hah! It was terror in triplicate.True, the speed helped my balance, but the rough course was brutal. Even with padded bike shorts the family jewels were now glass. With padded gloves my hands were now bruised and buzzards were circling me overhead waiting for the inevitible.

Etudes were riding down the same trail several times in a row, but on the right side, middle, then left side of the sometimes very narrow trails and at different speeds. Kreutzer #1 was seeing how slowly I could come down a twisty steep narrow trail full of boulders and snakes. Oh, yes, forgot the snakes. Rattlers usually. There speed is your friend. The experts jump over the snakes, I would round a turn at speed right into a rattlesnake and have to run over those big monsters. Get your weight back and centered so you don't fall off on top of the snake. That does NOT work with a porcupine. Don't ask.

The final performance is being asked to ride down the mountain with some quality amateurs and professional riders. There I played second violin.....last stand.....inside chair....behind the curtains.....bow all soaped up.....told to play ppp while the rest play fff.  My sort of redemption came a few days later when I saw the "concertmaster" all bandaged up and a cast on his leg. He claimed he played the minute waltz in three minutes instead of one, thus causing the fall over the handlebars where the trail suddenly steepens. It's an advanced beginner's trail and it's so easy at his level he let his mind wander he said. As my teacher said a few years ago, "be damn sure to practice the very easy parts also, don't ask."



From Royce Faina
Posted on June 9, 2009 at 5:06 PM

Something I learned from both are, "Work with it it can reward you, work against it it can punish you!"

From Tom Holzman
Posted on June 9, 2009 at 7:33 PM

Another one is:  if you are the soloist, you need a good team supporting you.  Applies equally to Lance Armstrong and Hilary Hahn.

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