April 2013

Violin Is Hard But Life Is Harder (or, reminding myself why I went down this crazy path with a Kennedy quote)

April 17, 2013 03:24

People always ask me if playing the violin is hard. Personally, I feel like it's the wrong question, since the hard parts have always been playing catch-up to other musicians who were lucky enough to have non-procrastinating parents that got them in lessons at 6 years old (Mine promised me lessons on our upright piano all my childhood. I don't think it has ever been seriously played or tuned in all my 21 years). Also, finding time and inclination to practice after you just turned 21 and oh look! It's that shiny happy hour coaxing away not just my time, but money that could be spent on a re-hair.

But I digress. Violin is hard, no matter how much I point out that I was very strangely naturally talented, and that picking up my first violin was a Harry-Potter-Finds-His-Wand moment, and that I never had the coordination for piano or guitar or any other instrument requiring independent finger dexterity in both hands and/or lots of chords; I can't imagine any instrument being easier for me.

When I first decided to take up my violin, I expected criticism or discouragement, especially from other musicians, because I was 19 and very quickly decided that I could not live without it being the main part of my life. I had been so depressed before I found my instrument, not playing sounded like death. Still, without the encouragement I get on a daily basis, from friends, family, teachers, and total strangers who talk to me as I wait for the bus case on back, I could not keep this up.

Violin is hard because it demands you to listen. You cannot just play on auto pilot.. I mean, you could I suppose, but I'm sure you'd be horrified if someone recorded you doing so, and may pick up some horrible habits that will impede your playing until you learn to practice with mindfulness. The fingerboard, with it's lack of frets and moveable pitches, simply does not make such allowances, especially early on. Notes truly are hit or miss.

The bow may seem easy compared to what your right hand does on a piano, but one must slowly build subtle muscle memory in order to not sound like a dying cat, in a hand position most people cannot hold for more than a minute, while replicating the finest nuances of the human voice, and, oh yeah, balancing the thing on your collarbone (I play restless so it goes double for me).

Heck, even care is difficult, with it's finicky pegs and specialized luthiers and rosin dust and soft, soft varnish that forced me to get a very flat engagement ring so I could break my own rule about metal not being let within 10 feet of my precious instruments.

Playing as I do, realizing that I am in fact making progress even after depression and work and setbacks, has made my life worthwhile, by giving me something difficult to do, something to achieve that I both love and am good at. Violin is hard, but life has been much, much harder to me than music ever will be, and with that in mind it's worth any hardship it imposes. It may not be practical, but I know if I work hard enough I can go to the metaphorical musical moon.

"We choose to go to the moon. We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win, and the others, too." John F Kennedy, September 12 1962

8 replies

More entries: January 2013

Facebook Twitter YouTube Instagram Email

Violinist.com is made possible by...

Shar Music
Shar Music

Yamaha Silent Violin
Yamaha Silent Violin

Pirastro Strings
Pirastro Strings

Corilon Violins
Corilon Violins

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

Violinist.com Business Directory
Violinist.com Business Directory

Johansen International Competition

Antonio Strad Violin

Bay Fine Strings Violin Shop

Bobelock Cases



Los Angeles Violin Shop

Nazareth Gevorkian Violins


Metzler Violin Shop

Leatherwood Bespoke Rosin



Johnson String Instrument and Carriage House Violins

Potter Violins

String Masters

Bein & Company

Annapolis Bows & 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