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November 2009

Two Steps Forward, Three Steps Back

November 28, 2009 07:05

After finally gaining control over my bow again thanks to Botox injections in my right hand, I've had to admit it: I've lost technique. Too much time has gone by. My bowing has suffered, my fingering has suffered. I have timing problems between my right hand and my left. This is even evident in my typing, as I constantly have to go back and re-type words due to missing or reversed letters because my fingers can't quite coordinate with each other. Some of that is the Botox; it does create the disadvantage of paralyzing the muscle controlling the middle finger on my right hand, so that I can't use it for typing (or much of anything else but bowing).

Some of the problems I have are undoubtedly due to MS, although I try not to blame everything on MS, tempting as it is. As far as the typing goes, I can say without reservation that I used to be able to type 100 words a minute with two mistakes on an IBM Selectric, back in the day, and on an old manual, 80 words a minute, for what it's worth (and yes, I'm dating myself!). So some of this is definitely a combination of MS and Botox!

As regards the violin, it's hard to say how much is the MS and how much is just me. When I think back to when I first re-started, my teachers all thought I held a lot of promise, and I progressed rapidly. I seemed to be able to solve problems intuitively, and I always came to my lessons prepared, and that was as an adult! Lately, I can't seem to find my way around the simplest problems, whether it's performing a shift to effect a harmonic, or dealing with a tricky double-stop. I seem to be taking forever to learn a piece, where I used to learn them in a reasonable amount of time.

At any rate, my teacher has decided bring me back to some easier pieces to give me a chance to relearn some basic skills. So at this time I am learning Purcell's G minor Sonata. Coordinating the fingers of my left hand with my bow in the allegro is the challenge in this piece. Keeping my left hand relaxed so that my fingers can move freely is not easy for me. And of course, the harder I "try" to relax that hand, the tenser it becomes. Moving the bow rapidly back and forth between strings cleanly is another thing I have had to relearn, and it is so frustrating to have to go over this ground again. I wonder if I will ever learn to play this instrument well.

I wonder, do other violinists experience setbacks such as this? Is this a common thing? I find it somewhat embarrassing, but perhaps it's a healthy thing as well, a humbling experience, a reminder that I'm never as good as I think I am. I just hope that the result will be that I will become a better violinist and a better musician as a result.

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