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Ryan Vaughn

Fast Fears

April 4, 2011 at 12:56 AM

 As I practice and play in my own little world, it's easy to forget how real violinists sound and look as they play.  Now, I'm not saying I should be playing at that high a level, but the speed at which the Paganini Caprice should be played is, to say the least, intimidating.  Even the theme, which I have down the best at this point, isn't anywhere near tempo.

 So I'm scared.  Mostly, I practice at a slower tempo, a tempo where I can hit all the notes and make it sound as clear as possible, but I also try to play faster - and it's always a disaster.  Danielle says the speed will just come; I hope that's true.

At this point, you're probably tired of variation 2, but I promised I'd post a video of me playing the entire thing, so here it is.  I'm not ecstatic with this performance, but it'll have to do for now:


It's not that clean and certainly not fast enough.  I'm a little disappointed with this variation because I thought it would be much easier, but it's turned out to be a beast.  Whenever the hand has to be really stretched out with the index finger and pinky (first and fourth fingers) on different strings all far apart, well it's hard.

Danielle described the first and fourth fingers on the strings like a block.  She had me do this blocking exercise:



Read the whole story at

From Laurie Niles
Posted on April 4, 2011 at 3:41 AM

 Hi Ryan, congratulations on all the progress you are making! Since you have mentioned playing fast, here, I thought I would pontificate a little on...playing fast. Rather, on getting things up to speed. Have you tried practicing in rhythms? Once things are in tune and in order, I find that the fastest way to speed things up, or to at least create the right environment in my brain and body for going faster, is to practice in various rhythms: dotted; slow-fast-fast-fast, etc. I find that I don't even need to practice the rhythms fast, just "in time" in whatever tempo I choose. The very act of making some of the notes longer and some shorter and then mixing that all up, really challenges both brain and fingers and seems to work a little magic.

I of course defer to your excellent teacher for your own particular course!

From Michael Pijoan
Posted on April 5, 2011 at 8:20 AM

 I'm just curious, what's your reason to skip straight into the 24th Paganini caprice? I'm not judging I'm just wondering why. It's an interesting decision to make. It certainly is a very ambitious goal! Good luck on your progress. Respect!

From Jerry Koziorynsky
Posted on April 5, 2011 at 11:56 AM

 I also wondered why you chose to skip all the beginner stuff and pull out Paganini. I'm not critisizing your choice, I just feel that having studied this piece to death, it would be easier for you to do easier rep. 

From Tammy Kirwan
Posted on April 5, 2011 at 1:58 PM

Please don't take this the wrong way, but you seriously need to learn to crawl before you try to fly! I totally understand your desire to be a pro violinist overnight, but trust me, is doesn't happen that way. I come from a background of playing the trumpet for 8+ years, and I was good at it! I assumed that I could just sail thru learning the violin......WRONG! If you really want to succeed in this endeavor, please take the time now to learn to crawl! I was extremely lucky to find a teacher that does not let me get away with anything! I really want to start playing fun pieces, but he still has me working on Suzuki material, and for that I am very grateful. When I found him, I was already past the halfway point of suzuki book 1, but he made me go all the way back to the beginning of the book and start over. All the annoying variations in the book really do have a purpose, to make you the best player possible! If you stick with the book and tackle all the boring, stupid variations and scales, you will become a good player..........with time! Learning to play the violin is not an easy task, but in the end it is immensely worth the long and hard work. 

From Tom Bop
Posted on April 5, 2011 at 3:42 PM

I've read a little of this and listened to the half bar I could take, and just thought it was some type of George Plimpton-type project, where some "everyman" takes on a job that requires a particular talent or skill and gets a topic. If that's the case, the Pag gives it curb appeal, as opposed to being a normal adult beginner struggling to get tone and intonation (not that there's anything wrong with that...) for years.

From E. Smith
Posted on April 5, 2011 at 4:10 PM

 Years ago I wrote a review for the SF Chronicle about this book by NPR announcer Noah Adams, who attempts a similar project on piano. I mention it because it might be an interesting read during your adventure. 

From Rebecca Hopkins
Posted on April 5, 2011 at 9:43 PM

After you have mastered the violin in a year, as you state as your goal, the rest of the world who play the violin are going feel like such losers for spending 12, 20, 30   or more years to get to a point we feel great about it. I know I do right now! What day are you into your journey in this video?

If only I had known it could be done in a year:>

From sharelle taylor
Posted on April 6, 2011 at 12:02 AM

 some of these responses seem so precious.  Its just a guy choosing to learn in his own fashion.  I reckon you're doing all right.  Maybe you'll change your timeframe or your goal post - that's your choice.  Just keep at it.  and Danielle is right - speed will come (or not, if you're like me).  in which case you settle for slower beauty. Play to an older age group with slow ears and it won't matter.

From Ryan Vaughn
Posted on April 6, 2011 at 6:46 PM

Thanks everyone for the warm comments and warm wishes!  For those wondering why I'm essentially starting with the Paganini those are very valid points to bring up!  Someone on my blog site brought up a similar point and I answered it in a blog entry:  Skeptics Among Us

Thanks again for everyone's comments, and Laurie, I'll give your suggestions a try!

From Laurie Niles
Posted on April 7, 2011 at 3:55 AM

 The older I get, the more I find motivation to be a precious commodity. Having a really huge mountain to scale might make some people give up, but to others, it's motivating. You still have to climb all the way up the thing, however you think about it, and there are no shortcuts. But I think what we can learn from Ryan is to have a goal that motivates you to do all those things!

From Bart Meijer
Posted on April 8, 2011 at 6:47 AM

This is amazing already, Paganini or no Paganini. I take my hat off.

One thing that makes this so interesting is the master plan that must be behind your endeavour. For me, and I suspect for many others, violin technique consists of a multitude of conditional reflexes, so deeply ingrained that they are hardly conscious any more. (That becomes especially clear when I try to change one -- ouch!) But at the end of the year you will probably have a catalogue of the things you learnt that make up your violin technique. And your wife/teacher already has such a list.

Please keep us informed.

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