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The A String

April 12, 2012 at 2:12 AM

I have not decided if there is a correlation between how well I practice on the morning of my lesson and how well my lesson goes. It seems that if I have trouble during practice, if my fingers are slow, my intonation is off, my bow is moving around and striking two strings, then my lesson is good. That is what happened today. I have been struggling daily with Sevcic. Each measure presents new challenges. I try to keep the bow moving at a constant speed and start with one note per bow, then two, then four, eight and sixteen. I am supposed to divide the bow evenly so I put a little sticker in the middle of the bow so I can see were half-way is. But often I run out of bow, or I just can’t get the 16th notes to come out even. Then I play at my lesson and with a pointer or two my teacher has me playing better. Usually it has to do with relaxing my left hand or relaxing my right shoulder. I try to remember these points and apply them when I practice, but I am only partially successful.

Then there is the Brahms Waltz, Suzuki book 2. I can hear it in my head, the even, flowing, danceable waltz, notes swelling here, a gentle crescendo here, pianissimo at then end. But when I try to play, it sounds out of tune (because it is) and the dynamics are hard. It seems like a simple piece and I have broken it down into measures, phrases, and practiced them. But I still find something difficult to grasp about playing it correctly, let alone playing it well. Again, a couple pointers from my teacher and things sound a little better, I feel that I am on my way. I guess that’s why she gets paid the big bucks!

This week, actually last week, I started a new Kayser etude, number 3. I said that I was getting burned out on the first one. I like it but it was getting to be too much to play over and over, even with different bowings. We agreed to return to it in the future. So we moved on to the challenge of #3. Lots of accidentals, slides from C to C# and F to F#. Reach from F# to E-flat. Lots of fun! And I can see the improvement when I just play a measure or two several times. I can improve the slide and improve the intonation.

So I think there is hope for the over-fifty group. I am benefiting from a teacher who is not too perfectionistic. I am not planning on being a concert violinist. I want to play for fun and I am happy to improve at whatever pace works. I figure that if I can enjoy practicing then everything is good. I enjoy practicing!

From Millie Bartlett
Posted on April 12, 2012 at 8:32 AM
Hi Dave, your experiences sound oh-so-like mine. I too am of the nearly 50's group and have and understanding with my teacher that it doesn't matter if it takes another 40 years for me to learn. Yes she does challenge me and gets me out of my comfort zone much more than I'd like, but that's only because she knows I can do what she wants me to, even if I don't. 'It's all in your mind, Millie,' I hear her say when she know's I'm about to protest. That shuts me up and gets me going. But her most comforting advice so far, is 'when you have very good days and very bad days with your practice, then you know you are a true violinist.'
So there you are, Dave, you're also a true violinist!
From Annette Brower
Posted on April 12, 2012 at 2:07 PM
A few thoughts:
1. You are right, tension is the enemy
2. Try hands seperately. Make sure each hand, independently, knows how and when to move.
3. Repeat one skill until is is easier and more relaxed before going on.
4. When trying to play many notes in one bow and divide it equally, playing stacatto is very helpful.
5. To save bow, play your phone number...meaning, if the first three numbers are 1,2,3, allow yourself one beat to go frog to tip on the first bow stroke, and then 2 beats to go up bow, etc. This will teach you a variety of bow speeds.
6. Another interesting excersize is to use a very small bow. I have a 1/32 to loan my students. You'll be forced to save bow because you don't have much of it. The "little bow" will also get you away from the tip if that is a challenge for you.
7. Welcome to the violin...
From Philip Novak
Posted on April 12, 2012 at 3:33 PM
Hi Dave, just wanted to say that you're working through the exact same material that I am on right now, too! And I'm having the same issues. I was just thinking the other day, how much more I wanted what I was playing to sound like "music." That's just what you were saying about hearing the waltz in your head, and wanting to get it out through your own playing. I think we're arriving at a post-beginner stage where we're starting to learn that there's another world of work ahead of us. But joyful work in extracting the soul from from the dots and lines on the page. Have fun! Great blog! Philip

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