Today I moved forward 3 measures. I played these over about ten times in a row correctly. Was aware of a strange "after ring" that sounded like my cell phone ringing. It wasn't. i have had the sensation where i thought that I heard this ringing sound and it has disturbed my practice before. I shut the phone off and made sure all phones and radios were off. Puzzling. I know that a house has it's normal sounds and vibrations so I will try to block this out and concentrate.
I am going to write notes that i would be writing in my note book and I will call these notes Lessons Notes. Not too creative or catchy but for me I am starting a new direction with my lesson and I promised myself to keep track of what I plan to do and then do it.
Instead of zipping through the Suzuki books as fast as I can, I am going to take what time is necessary to memorize 4 or 5 measures at a time and then when I have the entire piece committed to memory I am going to work on other refinements.
This week I was given the added incentive that I could possibly--in the future--play in an actual community orchestra. This to me was a carrot--or a Snickers--or a 75% Dark Chocolate bar! I remember the fun of playing in a small high school orchestra and thinking that there was nothing better than to be part of a bunch of musicians who as soloists were not remarkable but sitting side by side we had the power to produce some really great sounds.
So to get to that point, my plan for this week is to concentrate on bow direction,
rhythm and memorization of the entire piece. A suggestion from my instructor is to get it right 5 times in a row and move on. (We are talking real basic stuff so those of you who are not beginners you may want to pass these "Notes" up.)
If you want to sing and have a voice that would make Simon Cowl throw up his hands the violin is a wonderful thing to grab when you NEED to sing!
This blog is in response to a friend who had a lesson that was less than "inspirational" and was thinking of switching teachers. She is a beginning student. I will call her Susie. This is my response to her with more than nod to my teacher who gave me his best advice when I needed it.
"I have got to share my successful and joyful feeling with you. I am either doing much better myself or the use of a better bow is working--or both in combination. Thank you for loaning me your 3 bows.
Now let's concentrate on you. I have to tell you that learning bowing technique is paramont to getting farther along with your violin. Once that is in place the world opens up. I know that you are light years away from me in so far as you knowledge of notes, finger placement , chord construction etc. The difficult pieces are coming to you thick and fast but in my opinion you need to investigate what is going on with your right hand. You can learn more and more difficult pieces but learning what exercises you need to do with the right hand is very important. Bill told me once that the bow hand is like the "paint brush" I think that he was trying to find a metaphor for me since I used to study art.
Computer art programs like "Fractal Paint" that try to simulate different brush strokes and different strokes created by different medium--chalk, conte crayon, watercolor do a nice job but the muscles that you develop and the lyrical quality that only the human hand can create are missing. You have to teach your mind and your muscles to work in concert--to get that great "make me weep" sound.
Did you ever do a "paint by number?" All the colors are there. If you stand away from the painting it looks ok but what is missing? I think that you can hold the original painting next to it and count all the colors--check--ok---Count all the figures, check, ok--look at the placement-composition--amount of cool colors vs. warm colors--check--ok but the brush strokes are missing. That is what I think is missing for you. Better to have a beautifully done little simple picture than the whole Sistine Ceiling in Paint by Number."
Today I was writing my sister, who plays the bowed psaltry, an e-mail about my practice today and it seemed to turn into a violinist blog. Here is a part of my e-mail to my older (intelligent and prettier sister):
"Actually, I have to be careful where I spend my time. I just finished a 20 minute practice of "Danny Boy". I had the sheet music in the key of C. The intro starts on b natural--and the melody starts on b as well-(below middle C) I rewrote it up one octave. that really high note--" 'tis I'll be there" that note for the word "there" is a high, high E.
I think it is in third or 4th position--I have only learned first position so I had to quick look it up and LEARN it. It is a good thing that you and I have an idea what notes are supposed to sound like because I can adjust my fingers--you know "fudge" a little to nail that note--It is a little tricky starting from measure 29 to 33. After that it is smooth sailing to the end of the piece. If I am going to make a fool of myself again at the St Patrick's dinner party again I have to nail this and even though I have not learned vibrato yet. I don't want to jar these dinner guests with horrible wrong notes.
I have the old standbys that I can play-Wild Irish Rose and that fairy thing but this is one that I botched up in the lower octave last year and if the same people come--and they are all boomers like us--I need to get it right.
These are the people who lived in that house without running water but raised 3 kids who all graduated top of their class--dancer/ballet, academics, librarian/poet. Super creative family. Mom taught drums father played guitar and has been an actor. They had two weddings one with the horses and animals all decorated with flowers and the other in a church. Remember them?
When they throw a party they invite actors, teachers, artists and musicians and everyone has a wonderful time. This time--I am not going to be a guest. I am going as a "featured soloist" along with a poetry reading and a few other assorted instrumentalists. Should be fun."
Last time I went there I had only been taking violin for one year. This time--I have another year under my belt and a new bow which is delivering a more consistent tone. Let you know how it goes--
The "Thrill of a New Reed" was something that I said to my music friend Mike K. when I was trying to "teach" him how to play the clarinet in Junior High. It would always make us both laugh! We were great pals and for us--that new reed was very costly, very special, taste great and of course we could both play 100 times better! (Mike was a child prodigy on any instrument especially piano)
I am using a very different bow that was loaned to me and I don't know if I am playing better because I have a better bow or if I am playing more carefully because I am using a bow more expensive than the pile of bows I have. (Did you read my previous blog where I was ready to start a fire with the lot of them?)
I think that it is a little of both!
Half the fun of the violin is it's mystique, it's artistry and it's romance. Picking up the old plastic electric violin is not much fun. It is easier to play because it takes away all the nuances--and you can just practice fingering. When I switch back to the real violin I am again faced with all those special little things I have to do to craft and color a good sound.
This Thrill of a New Reed feeling is still rolling around in my brain. Mike K. If you are out there and I know that you have added violin to your long list of instruments by now--I want you to know that this new bow is doing it for me today. I am enjoying my practice time more than ever.
As a new violinist i need to get my required musical selection into my head so I have been using a CD player to play back the recording. I enjoy listening to all violin music and this seems like a logical way to start out. Eventually I figure out the fingering, the bowing, phrasing and other dynamics of the piece and as I work my way through it I rely less and less on the recording.
My question to you (if anyone is reading this) is what is your feeling about practicing a duet with the second person absent and a recording played on a CD as a substitute? Here is the rub. What if that recording were to be slowed down while keeping the pitch just for practice? The prerecorded person is of course the more proficient of the two.
Should a duet always be practiced as a duet with both parties present?
Why Blog? I considered all that is good and bad about writing a journal for all the world to see. I remembered traveling to France for a 16 day tour where we went around the country clockwise and how we were advised to keep a journal or else we would forget where we were because the tour would be moving at a fast clip. Paris, Lyon, Nice--sometimes 2 cities in one day and castles, wine, perfume--we got it all at breakneck speed. I have looked back on my journal and matched the 15 rolls of film that I took. My sketches, photographs and journal entries are a source of delight and inspiration for me now.
This is why I have decided to blog. i want to have a record of this mentally taxing journey. I want to know where I am going with this and to see if any progress is being made.
Today I am going to record one of the worst practices. I have never played this piece this poorly with such bad tone, screechy sound, bowing all falling apart.
At my lesson I played the piece a notch down from my best effort so my teacher told me to e-mail him an mp3 of my best effort sometime this week and start on a new piece. I have had the camera running-(it has the best microphone that I own) and I cannot play at all.
I took a shower and concluded that i should burn all my bows in the fireplace and hang the violin up as a towel rack in the bathroom.
I will also note that the temperature is above the teens and the sky is without sun as if that should make any difference. I am so discouraged that I don't have the energy to start a fire in the fireplace so for now my assortment of bows are safe--(although they would burn like pinecones with all the rosin.)
Tomorrow I will set out again.
Today I had a successful practice. I completed the same piece of music three times. I counted 3 different errors but my goal was to complete the piece all the way through keeping consistent timing. (If you are not a beginning student this may be boring for you)
I thought that once I attained a nice tone i would be in Heaven--Not so-rhythm is more important because a note played at the wrong time is a wrong note--I have heard that lecture one million times from every music teacher i have ever had--so my focus for this practice was to keep the beat going and to go as slow as I can to get all the notes in.
My "magic box' is my Tascam music and voice trainer that slows down the music CD without changing the pitch.
For fun I have been teaching myself "Apres Un Reve" by Gabriel Faure.
Josh Bell plays it on his CD "Voice of the Violin" and Barbra Streisand sings it on her "Classical Barbra" CD. I found sheet music in the same key as the Josh Bell cut. Great fun to play along with J.B.! Like catching the trophy catfish!
At the advice of my own conscience and with the blessing of my teacher I am going back to the gym. I enjoy how difficult this instrument is yet how light it is to carry around. My sister, a former body builder and guitar player is studying to be a nurse and she gives me more advise than I will ever need in this direction.
I am trying to establish some muscle memory in the correct way so that bowing will soon be second nature. Is there hope for me? I am not in a rocking chair yet but the fingers do not respond as fast as i would like them to.
This is it. I am officially launching myself into the violin community. I can make a sound out of this instrument that does not require earplugs so I think that i can associate with the basement crowd now.
My first public performance was at a friend's "Irish Party." I played My Wild Irish Rose and Si Bheag, Si Mhor. Next I played at a Thanksgiving gathering of 3 and played a variety of Christmas Carols with a piano and a bowed psaltry. I guess that could have been called a little trio. Such a thrill.
I am finishing up my second year of study and if my teacher can stand it I will push forward on year 3.
More entries: March 2008
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