April 2010

New Instrument, New Troubles

April 28, 2010 04:21

Yikes! I'm not sure what it is, but it is a massive leap up from my ALDI violin. It draws a very strong sound out and plays very resonant ... My teacher says its a very fine crafted instrument.

But its brought its own issues, is this always expected on a new instrument?

I can't seem to play in-tune at all for the life of me, even in first position - everything is just soo different; i don't know if its due to the change in instrument, or the way I hold it now; I am looking foward instead of turning my head; so its almost like I am playing with my eyes closed (Unless I look sharply to the left then I can see my hand)

With my short journey on the violin, I have become very sight-dependant (I have a good sense of depth perception which has helped me play in tune in the past) - but now I have to depend solely on my ears ... and I just feel lost.

I tried walking while closing my eyes on the foot-path and I couldn't last 10 steps, haha :)

I am even struggling with playing very slowly, I am just massively out of tune - it is beggining to become disheartening...

So I'm trying to figure it out, started playing C Major in 3rd; seems to be helping slightly - but I am always expecting progress in a short amount of time, I suppose give it a week or two yeah?

Perhaps I need to go through the basics again. I am also becoming hooked onto the chromatic tuner also ... I just took out the batteries and hid them :) Haha. I'm waiting for my MIDI Keyboard to arrive; I think my issue is I need ear training (Which I am lacking with)

Though see how it goes; Suppose I need to talk a walk in the park? I'm mostly afraid of what my teacher may do to me Hahaha.

I am confused though, I was playing in-tune a couple of weeks ago (and I knew when I was intune or out of tune), where did it go all of a sudden? I have been sick the past few days also ... I hope my intonation comes back soon! Or maybe I messed myself up without realising?

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My Journey so far

April 14, 2010 20:40

Well, I feel inspired in sharing my journey ... because the more I think about it - the more I realise, how strange it has been. I'm sorry if my entry is unorderly, and a bit jumbled up (I often have troubles expressing things in my distant past, often missing key points)

Where to begin.. Well, at the time of writing this entry. I have been playing violin exactly 2 years and 4 months.

I first started violin on December 16th 2007 (A day after my 18th birthday) - I had planned to start much earlier, in fact I asked to learn Violin for Music Classes, but my High School Music Teacher said it was way too hard and I will have alot of difficulty. So I spent the time playing guitar (And oh boy... was I guitar-challenged hahaha); my heart wasn't with the guitar. My final years of music I wrote a Viva Voce on Violin (I remember the comments I recieved were 'you really light up when you speak about the Violin'), Michael Jackson and ... I forget the third one :) (And I really messed up my peformance with guitar haha)

Anyhow, a couple of weeks  before I bought Pippin, , I was talking to a friend about how I wanted to start playing violin since I am free and all ... then their mum chips in "I couldn't help but over hearing, but ALDI are selling Violins for a very cheap price!" (My initial reaction was a combination of what the hell, and this is too good to be true) .. so come time, 2 weeks later it was my 18th birthday. (Funny I don't remember much of my actual birthday)

Anyhow, the next day - using a small amount of birthday money (I was given a tons load!) I spent $130 at ALDI purchasing my first violin.

The amount of time I dedicated into it was a bit scary at first, I just couldn't put it down (Well I had just finished school, and had no immediate work lined up) - so at first, I practiced for a near insane amount of eight hours a day. With the aid of Professor V youtube lessons, I practiced as much as I could. Working on getting my bowing, holding the violin, playing in tune.. this went on for nearly 3 months.

Also, a few of my friends, being musicians themselves, tricked me into believing Paganini 24th Caprice was the easiest thing to do... So.. in fact I tried practicing it, after awhile I managed to play around the first four lines (Albiet, it was disgusting haha); I had aid from using computer software to help me with intonation. Of course I decided that it was too hard and just left it there and went onto other things.

I jumped around from piece to piece, brutally murdering the beautiful classics. Vivaldi's Four Seasons (I made a 5th Season known as Screaching Fear), Devils Trill, Monti Csardas, Paganini (again, this time #5) - I just had a habbit of aiming for things out of my league, but eventually I came across a website - Violinmasterclass.com, where I followed the instructional videos there and became aware of a thing known as 'Scales'

Anyhow - that was just the first three months, after that I decided I had to get a job. So I started working with my brother doing Painting, for a megre $50 a day; though surpisingly after working a hard day I still had the energy to practice (but time would only permit me to do 2-3 hrs); so my weekdays consisted of waking up around 4am, brother picks me up around 4:30, 5am - I work until 5-6pm, come home practice then go to bed.... that went on for 5-6 months.

Then after that, I quit painting and decided 'Well ... I should probably focus on my future to, I need to get a job' so I went to College studying I.T (Here is where I am fortunante, computers are my natural talent, I taught myself how to program from the age of 10 - according to my family I was reading out of Microsoft Books when I was 6); anyhow College was one of the easiest things ever, I never needed to put any attention into the classes since I was learning pretty much everything I knew, though it helped me refine some parts :)

Around 3 months into College, I got my first violin teacher - she was close to home and it was convenient - when I met her she asked me to demostrate what I knew, so I thought ok and I played a 3 octave Arpeggio in A minor (I found it easier because I realised the sound produced matched the string lower on some key parts; natural harmonics). I'm not sure if it was in tune or not (I doubt it was) and my rhythm was way off, but I heard that she told the other teachers she finally found a student with talent. She asked me who were my previous teachers and I said 'I have none, I've been teaching myself', and she seemed genuinly suprised; which gave me a ego boost, or maybe I was reading into something that wasn't there I don't know. But I did feel good!

My college course ended 3 months later, and I got a job in Telemarketing (which only lasted for 6 months); But a problem was occuring in me. My elbows would feel shocks. I would feel extreme pains from being touched on my arms... I thought I was breaking down, didn't know what was going on, so I visisted the doctors. I was told I had epicondilitis in both elbows (It was a mixture from bad posture at work; I would lean on my elbows almost all day, and bad violin technique)

I was scared when I was told this.. I thought I would have to quit the violin, I was almost in tears and in fear. My physician told me if I don't look after myself it could develop into a Ulnar problem (Nerve on the elbow) - so I followed what he told me exactly, all the stretchs and exercises .. anyhow with time, everything was better again.

One day at work I made a little program to help assist me with my calls and data entry, my boss spun out saying 'Why are you even working here?' then she refered me to a friend of hers and I got my first job in programming.

Unfortunately I don't remember the specfics of what I practiced with my first teacher, I remember she had me bowing on open strings and practicing out of the Suzuki books - working on correcting my faulty technique and intonation from bad faults, and practicing shifting. She would make me practice something until she thought it was satisfactory. Eventually after a few months (After completing book #3), she put me onto - Allegro Fiocco (Since I tried learning this on my own before so she thought we could work on fixing some of the issues). I did it for a fair bit and feel I got to a comfortable stage (Though I don't have the fingerings in my hands now, but I could play it at around 86 bpm) so after that she thought I would be able to pull off the Grade 4 Exam. Then she had me start Vivaldi In A Minor Mvt 1, Kruezter #2 and Sonata #5 in E-Major (Correli)

Vivaldi was a bit of a challenge for me, the shifting, tone production, and keeping in tune; sometimes I go back and play it once in a blue moon just to hear how I've progressed; (at one stage she said I played it perfectly and as is written, but recently she is saying that I've changed styles and I am sounding more Baroque/Romantic now; and that I have troubles when I have to jump from E string to the G string)

So progress was up and down, but she thought I would be able to pull of Grade 4 exam, I felt a bit iffy though - I didn't think I could do it, I felt Grade 3 I could pass easily but Grade 4 I would need more time ... though in the end I decided to not go ahead with Grade 4, because I felt like there were other things I needed to focus on.

Anyhow skipping a bit (I can't remember much of what happened .. everything seems to blur into one moment in the past), but I recall seeing an advertisement on this website for the Michael Hegeman Contest, so I thought - I might aswell enter, I have nothing to lose and everything to gain.

At first I thought I would go in with something like Allegro Fiocco, but Jasmine said 'You should use that as your backup and go with something different'; so then I thought I could give the Devils Trill a try! ... Then, out of no where I heard the Mendelssohn for the first time, I don't know if everyone gets that way. But I got utterly obsessed with it.. it just felt soo colourful and it spoke to me

I spent a month practicing the first page. I recorded it and gave it in; I think deadline was end of August 2009 (Also! After watching my video recently, I cringed soo bad. Did not realise how bad my technique was [I also deleted it haha; I felt too embarrased to keep it up]), anyhow I got a message a few days later saying I have made it to round two for the Interview.

So I was nervous, and very jumpy ... haha. I hit my music stand a few times while playing (I did Vivaldi 1st Mvt), after a few passages he just told me. Stop. Fear struck me pretty hard at that point... I thought oh well I had nothing to lose I guess.

Then it suddenly turned into a lesson, he taught me a different shifting motion and explained to me that currently I playing with a 'ping' in my shift, very similar to an elastic band but full of tension - Instead I should have a nice smooth movement in my shift ... and it just went on from there!

Then he said, Well Dimitri - will you be happy to have lessons from me? I felt utter amazement and just really lucky at that stage; I said Yes. (Containing my excitement); He kept his opinions to himself .. after I was alone I was like 'whoaaaaaaaaaaaaaa... this feels amazing.', and I genuinely felt like the luckiest person alive at that point.

Lessons with Michael have been great, Its been only around 6 months and I feel with him I have made dramatic progress with him, he seems to know how to push me in the right direction and what needs attention.

Although I have not touched much repertoire yet, We've mostly been focusing on the technical side of playing - Scales/Arpeggios, working on bowing, dynamics, intensity of the bow, vibrato, playing with flow. All the nuts and bolts. I think that if I were given to practice a piece thats within my level now (Maybe I am at Grade 4 playing? I really don't know atm); I would be able to learn it very easily, since I finally understand the value of slow practice, and I have gained the ability to analyse any mechanical issues I may have (If I notice I am having trouble in a passage then I do a gazzillion things like a science experiment, testing out - why?), and then working on solving them.

Though he gives me small exerpts of pieces to practice here and there (Sometimes I don't even know what they are), to put the 'theory' into practice. Just a few days ago he gave me a really challenging one (One to focus on the flow of playing) - it was an exerpt from a Paganini Caprice; Allegretto (Sulla tastiera imitando il Flauto) and just focusing on the last line of the first page and the first few lines after that... So far I've only practiced it for one day, though I can do the first run of those 32nd notes at only around 38~42 bpm; I realise that my main concern is to become more comfortable with the fingerboard at the higher positions. So slow repetition is to do its job! But I feel like I have hit a brick-wall at this stage, if I go up around 60bpm (In the exerpt) my fingers seem to be sloppy.

So by the looks of it - I need to go back on my scales and work on playing them all with more confidence at slightly higher tempos; also for some reason I find playing Arpeggios easier than the full scale, so that is also something to work with.

I think he gave me this challenge to try gauge my fingers at this stage, I'm sure he knows full well that I will have trouble with it.

I guess if I start a proper piece, I do intend on giving that a recording; I am feeling more confident in my abilities atleast.

So yeah, hopefully I didn't trail off too far.. I feel I have missed something vital, but I am not sure what it is yet. I've never been one to talk about past-experiences in full detail before, haha :) ~ Everything in the past (Anything thats like +4 months and older) ends up blending into one moment so it gets confusing to go through things sometimes [tbh I got a bit sleepy while writing this blog..I won't blame you if you got sleepy reading it all haha]  As you can tell from the poor mix-ups I have just displayed.

I just hope that as a player, I will become as good as I am aiming to be. I guess only time and practice will tell.

Anyhow...how to end this thing? 

Atë Logo!

*edited to add*



So I did have a journal entry! My, what a big change...

After reading through my past blogs, it just makes you wonder how much a person can change in such a short time. I am soo very glad I have been given this chance to blog and read the past :) I had forgotten about all of this.

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One of those lessons

April 8, 2010 05:03

You know when you have one of those lessons, where you realise the importance of what you are learning?

Ok, so we started off the lesson with just an ordinary 3 octave C arpegio - he was satisfied with it.

Then I was told to play it as fast as possible.

I pause ... uh-oh, it made me almost nervous, I haven't tried to play it fast before; after I got in trouble of playing it out of tune while playing slow last month - I have been slow practicing it ever since.

I manage to cover 2 octaves in under a second (which suprised me - it was in tune also), then I have found I had a slight hesitance when going up to play the 3rd octave. It never seemed obvious to myself when I played it slowly though.

So he pulls me aside and tells me

"Ask yourself, whats going wrong here?"
"I don't know..."
"Watch me play it" - and then he plays the whole 3 octaves in a blink of an eye without any sign of effort.

I stare on and look "uh what?"

Then he gets me to try a couple more times, and then I realise "My shift onto E isn't very well", then he gets me to watch him again - and then he points out to me a concept that I knew from previous lessons, just out of bad habbit I went back to my wicked ways

"Your thumb is holding you back"

So then he gets me to practice a monstrous shift on the E string, from the low G up to the E, but instead of doing it slowly - he told me to do it fast (using Portamento); the first few tries were terrible and I kept stopping.

Then he looks at me sternly and says

"DON'T STOP. Keep playing" and gives me an encouraging smile

So I keep trying it, going from G to E, I manage to pivot my hand successfully to the side of violin each time, its just my thumb kept staying stuck to the neck... But I kept continuing, even though I was almost wanting to burst out from laughter from the horrid sound I was making - I kept going on, and eventually I realised I am getting the 'feel' for it, the pattern in my head suddenly made sense. I managed to let go of thinking and just do it

So I tried doing the 3 octave arpeggio again ... Thinking to myself,

Relax. Breath. Close your eyes.

And I nailed it! in tune at fast speed going both up and down for the first time ... of course the subsequent tries weren't as successful :) But after the 4th time trying (and failing, I stop)

Then he tells me again

"Don't stop Dimitri, I am not concerned about playing in tune. This lesson is more about flow."
I just look on again and nod and he tells me this
"Your intellect is holding you back. You keep thinking about whether you are playing in tune or not, you can play in tune fine, the chips and circuits are all working, but why do you keep failing? Its mostly because you keep thinking."

So, I repeat to myself Relax. Breath. Close your eyes.

And I manage to play the Arpeggio again, but this time I stayed in tune for 2 tries, then all the subsequent ones I lost my intonation on the shift onto the High E and back down... Of course I stopped again, because I was soo concerned with playing in tune (I can also justify it was nearing the end of the lesson hehe) ... But, letting go seems like a very important concept.

I've never ever practiced this way before. It gave me confidence when he said "I don't know where those intune arpegios came from but you did it"

Then he continued on.

"Everytime you have a problem, pause and ask yourself - where are you going wrong? What is getting in the way? Are you hitting your thumb against the back of the violin? Are you positioning your elbow too far out? Are thinking too much?"

Then he jokes

"See.. Women are lucky, they can multiprocess but Men can only focus on one thing at a time. You've got to remember to focus on other things, playing in-tune is one of them, but don't ignore the rest. Once you have it in your, just stop thinking"

I realise I have had plenty of hesitation issues, and that I think way too much while playing;

It was an important concept I picked up, since I can be a bit of a perfectionist at times; letting go and letting your body do it, pinpointing the source of the problem and not stopping. Sometimes things work out very well slowly, but fall apart when going fast.

I hope this entry made sense atleast :) It feels like a major discover for me anyhow and this is something I definatly do not want to forget.

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