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Violin and Skiing: a Comparison

Laura Dalbey

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Published: November 27, 2013 at 3:24 PM [UTC]

It's that time again - ski season is just around the corner (this week here in Montana!). Every time I get ready for ski season, I start thinking about what violin playing and skiing have in common. Quite a lot, actually.

First of all, a ski is kind of like a bow. An arced piece of wood which has elasticity that we use to carve out something - in this case, carving turns in the snow. And skis do just that - by leaning on a certain edge, you cause your ski to curve and manipulate your turning direction. And on the violin, a bow carves out tone from a string, often in a rounded type of motion, through applying certain amounts of "tug" towards the fingerboard or bridge. I often think of bowing and skiing motions as very circular, both vertical and horizontal.

Secondly, I think of ski wax similar to rosin. While there are many different kinds of rosin and ski wax, for both it is about trying to get the right amount of grip and smoothness.

Thirdly, learning the skill of skiing is very similar to learning the skill of playing the violin. Small step-by-step progression, repetition, fine motor skills, very small details have very large consequences, constant refinement and renewal of technique, and learning from players/skiers who are better than you. There is specific skiing "pedagogy" that has been developed, similar to violin.

Skiing was made very popular in the US during WWII when Austrians, Germans, and Swiss skiers were fleeing to America to avoid the war. I would say similar things propelled violin playing in America, though not all because of the war. But it did greatly affect violining here.

And finally, the big picture. When you are comfortable on your skis, the actual skill is very similar to bowing. Small controlled motions, large sweeping motions, artistry of motion, rhythm and motion, horizontal and vertical arcs, staccato, legato, crescendos, decrescendos, weight and un-weight, and the list goes on. I am sure more eloquent writers could improve my post dramatically. But it is really fun to think about. Happy Thanksgiving!

Posted on November 27, 2013 at 7:09 PM
OK, I simply can't resist this one.
Another similarity between skiing and playing the violin:
- Sometimes no matter how much you practice, when it comes time for the performance, it's all downhill.
Cheers (and Happy Thanksgiving),
From Ray Randall
Posted on November 27, 2013 at 11:58 PM
I was fortunate to study briefly with Dorothy DeLay and study Skiing with the equivalent of Dorothy DeLay with a U.S. Ski Team instructor whose students stood on the Gold Medal Platforms frequently.
Ski instructors assign "etudes, scales, and rhythm and counting exercises," or their equivalents. We practiced going very fast very slowly.
One major difference, after screwing up a violin etude I never left the practice room soaking wet with cold snow soaking my skin and clothes. When are we going to get violin rosin that does as well on the bow as Cera-F does on skis?
Posted on November 30, 2013 at 8:53 AM
The idea about skiing and violin playing being "not that far" from each other is wonderful. I`ve looked at swimming (and the respective motions) in a similar way, but hadn`t got to the skiing idea so far. Thank you very much for sharing these thoughts!:)

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