A Mental Leap

February 14, 2013, 4:07 PM ·

Source: thegrowersdaughter.blogspot.com via Krista on Pinterest

I was beginning to worry that I wasn't lyrical enough when playing the violin. At first, I struggled to learn the notes. Then, even though the notes were right, the pieces didn't sound right to my ears. I decided the issue must be with my technical ability to interpret the rhythm. But even when the rhythm was right, the music I played seemed dead and flat. Clearly, being musical is something different from just playing what is written on the score.

I've tried changing dynamics, and phrasing, but there just seems to be something tangibly missing from what can be played, and what I play. For a while, I thought maybe it was my imagination. After all, I am progressing in my lessons. Perhaps the frustration I feel and the nearly imperceptible disappointment I can't help but notice on my instructor's part isn't real. But I can't shake it.

He gave me a CD with the lesson pieces on it to play along with. Up until this point I haven't because it is designed to play with a certain software package. My computer has an external drive, and I can never find it, so it hasn't been convenient to use the CD. However, last night I took a chance and popped it in my car stereo and, behold, it played! Furthermore, even though the pieces on the CD were the same as what I am studying in my lessons, they sounded nothing like what I do. They are musical and fun, not repetitive and dull.

I was definitely right in doubting my musicality.

In high school and college I made a practice of copying the meter and rhyming scheme of an assortment of poets when composing my own poetry. Through this practice, I eventually developed a deeper intuition and skill in creating my own works. I will never be Robert Frost, but I can use his poetry as a guide to create word pictures nearly as fluid as his. In other words, I can't recreate his poems, but learned how to use his tools to evoke similar feelings.

I didn't want to have to do that with music. For some reason, I thought it would be cheating. That if I tried to copy what another artist had done, it wasn't something I did, but merely imitation. But I was wrong. I can't learn musicality without practicing it. And that means spending some time following in the footsteps of better musicians until I learn how to play as they do. Only then can I tap into that ability on my own.

Some people are born with innate abilities. I was not. However, having made this connection it feels as if I have made a leap to another level. Whether or not this mental leap remains true in practice remains to be seen. But at least I feel as if there is another tool in my bucket. If I hadn't avoided it for so long, how much more improved would I be at this point?


February 15, 2013 at 01:50 AM · Nice for you! By listening to many masters, one can really find things they like in each one and somehow do something new on their own that is a mix of each liked element + a personal touch.

I am always stun to hear, when I listen to some documentaries about my idols that even them had idols... Logical!

Eric Friedman told that the great masters come from a very established legacy and are not the fruit of something totally new and innovative(even if each one added their personal touch in their music...)

Another revelation is to record oneself. I never dared until recently but it helps immensly to see what we lacks (technically and musically) and where we have to work. Thus, it's a very efficient and time saving device. Our teacher can't tell us everything and we must be our own teachers when we are not with them at home.

And also, imho, musicality has also to do with a good instrument. It's very difficult to even come closer to master's sound if we have a tin can sounding violin. Having a good sounding instrument helps one to naturally find what they want.

Good luck :)


February 19, 2013 at 01:47 PM · yeah, can relate to that. When learning new pieces, it's a hard to get the correct rhythm off the mark. It takes me quite a few trials and hours of listening to others. Funny though if I go back to it a month later or two-the piece seems to sound better. I think because you know the notes and now you can channel that energy to the music itself and or other areas of your skills.

This article has been archived and is no longer accepting comments.

Facebook YouTube Instagram Email

Violinist.com is made possible by...

Shar Music
Shar Music

Pirastro Strings
Pirastro Strings

JR Judd Violins
JR Judd Violins

Los Angeles Philharmonic
Los Angeles Philharmonic

Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra
Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra

Dimitri Musafia, Master Maker of Violin and Viola Cases
Dimitri Musafia, Master Maker of Violin and Viola Cases

Anne Cole Violin Maker
Anne Cole Violin Maker

Violinist.com Shopping Guide
Violinist.com Shopping Guide

Metzler Violin Shop

Southwest Strings

Bobelock Cases

Johnson String Instrument/Carriage House Violins

Jargar Strings

Bay Fine Strings Violin Shop



Los Angeles Violin Shop


String Masters

Nazareth Gevorkian Violins

Laurie's Books

Discover the best of Violinist.com in these collections of editor Laurie Niles' exclusive interviews.

Violinist.com Interviews Volume 1
Violinist.com Interviews Volume 1, with introduction by Hilary Hahn

Violinist.com Interviews Volume 2
Violinist.com Interviews Volume 2, with introduction by Rachel Barton Pine