January 2007

Marvel of the Week

January 31, 2007 22:39

Today was a scratch and pout day. Ever have those days where you can't seem to slow down well enough to practice for real? And everything sounds scratcy no matter how harder you try.

That has been my marvel of the week. That the harder one tries on violin, (but for some reason, especially the viola) the worse the outcome. The relaxation so needed for sounding well and beautiful is sacrificed in an ever spinning out of control effort to get to that beauty and relaxation.

It just can't be done if you are set in high gear. So how do you slow down? The time today that it took to slow down was, well, a never-ending process. So after several put-down-pick-up-later-tries, I had an hour or so of totally frustrating practice. It probably didn't start out all that bad, but how the push and shove of perfectionism can ruin a practice.

It really just amplifies the point that mental ease and wellbeing is crucial to a productive and successful life as a string player. I have seen several players who I knew when they were young and free of nerves or pressures. And then, later, as they emerge from a violin performance degree, a much more stressed out player. Not just one or two people, this seems to be a trend.

What are we doing to our students in college? Or what do students do to their playing? Is it personal life at that age that is so up in the air and unsure? Or do we put so much pressure on those who seek professionalism in the arts, here, violin/viola...that the joy and draw of it is smooshed by tense accomapnying life? Exams, juries, recitals, masterclasses, lessons, auditions....

Hm. Not that any of that applies to me at the moment. It is other stuff in life, the regular person responsibilities...(like shelter and food) that are stressing my playing.

It is comforting to know, though, from enough experience, that tomorrow is a new day and a good night's rest will probably cure the problem.

And my lesson tomorrow will be so much fun!!!

On another note, we were approved for the house (rental). That means I can start advertising and taking in students that have already asked for lessons. Finally, somewhere I can live and teach from. I'm excited about that! We move in two weeks.

Sals,
Jennifer Warren

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Musings after a Practice

January 25, 2007 09:34

If I am proud of a note, through its last voice, then it will be beauty-if not only a pleasant sound amid lesser things. If I am embarrassed or unsettled by a note as it leaves my bow and fingers, there is nothing in the air that may be called "music".

Jennifer Warren

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Weekends in Hotels

January 19, 2007 10:24

I'm getting up slowly this morning...(hmmm...is that a deviation from the norm?)...listening to Bartok quartets. And periodically wandering from room to room spraying bleachwater on moldy surfaces. I'm burning some very hippie-smelling incense to cover the smell. We are moving in a month or so...to a small inexpensive rental home. I've not lived in a HOUSE for so long!!! This week will be spent looking at prospective residences.

My husband was going to complete a music minor this semester....american history in music or something of the likes. He got to his classes and had a major disappointment. The first was that they placed him in 20th century music history, which is a graduate level class, with a few seniors. I had a sneaky suspicion that this was the class...but I didn't check up on it. He doesn't really read music, but he is extremely intellegent (I'd say mensa level smarts), and very knowledgable in music history. But that was not a class for him. Reading scores? Then the second dissappointment was that the minor isn't even offered anymore due to lack of interest. I felt so bad for him, and slightly guilty, since I'd incouraged this decision, and been equaly excited about it for him. Oh well.

I have a symphony rehearsal tonight and performance tomorrow. Beethoven 7. I haven't gone over the music extensive-style since the rehearsal last weekend, since it went well. That's not good behaviour for a professional, so I will go through it before heading out this afternoon.

The recent thread on starvign musicians has had me thinking. For me, a big part of my career as a performing orchestral musicians means hotel weekends. It now takes me about 20 minutes to pack everything from concert clothes to instrument stuff to my collection of hotel room comforts like candles and air freshner and smelly goods.

Anyway.
Anyone have a suggestion about ordering scores for solo study? For playing with an orchestra? I want to know the orchestral score to the dvorak romance inside out. Should I order a full score, pocket sized maybe, or not? Where would be a good place?

Jennifer

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Giving a little TLC to one's instruments.

January 17, 2007 00:23

I am so pleased and excited tonight about both my violin and viola. They are reacting well to the minor (or major) adjustments and changes.

I recorded the inner movements of Bach Cello Suite no. 1 tonight just to hear the viola, using the Coda bow, post bridge sanding and fitting (drastic amount of bridge removed, I think), a suitable set of strings for the instrument, finally, new rosin, and a good healthy dose of greediness and hunger to play all night long. I didn't record the violin because I'm focusing on orchestra music and my solo piece, which isn't at any stage worthy of sharing with anyone. :)

The Bach Suite no. 1 was never formally studied. I used it as my introduction to the viola for the few months with the new instrument. But the movements fell comfortably into my evening tonight.

Any comments are welcome and appreciated. Negative or positive. In terms of "before and after", a "before" is on here in a past blog somewhere. Bach Suite no.3, prelude.

ANYWAY. The viola practice session for tonight vs. last week is like night and day. Hot and cold. Frustrated wailing and knashing of teeth Jennifer vs. mile-a-minute happy Jennifer (pulling out all sorts of etudes and pieces and exercises to try out).

The total bliss was this: after two hours of playing Bach (including the chaconne and other violin Bach), arpeggios, etudes...NO PAIN!! No total hand/wrist/arm/back exhaustion!!!

Note to self. Procrastination in the area of instrument adjusting, fitting, repairing, and upkeep is cause of more agony than is readily apparant or obvious. Spending a little money is a very worthy investment in health, happiness, career advancement, and self esteem. :)

The strings were so high above the fingerboard and the so tight...My poor bows were the scapegoat for so long. Easy mistake to make, given the aural cues sweeping ears and brain.

Whew. My violin is making me very happy as well. Switching to the silver Obligato D and G, and gold E.... and to a soft rosin (Thomastic), along with invisible and unknown variables...my violin is sounding and playing in a way that makes me want to play more and more. It could be v.comm's suggestions on left hand positioning and thumb placement...

K. Posting the audio. And then going to sleep so I don't edit it away into the abyss after thinking about it. :)

Sals,
Jennifer Warren

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January 15, 2007 23:51

Well, I have the sensation that I've been in continual motion for some time now, without the sense that I've stopped, rested, reflected, and relaxed.

AHhhh. So now I take that moment. They are there all the time, I just care enough about them to hold on to them for a few more moments until calm, well, happens.

I spent some time at the luthiers and now my viola is back..and playable!!! All that really needed to be done (lots COULD be done, but as far as the main complaint goes) was shave down the bridge and fit it better. At all, actually. I played it today and....yea. He must have taken off an inch. It is great! Now I can focus on other things!

I had a rehearsal yesterday on Beethoven Symphony no. 7. Because I had been a nervous fender bender the last week or so, I must have prepared well. No real issues that were problems. If you had to pick one of these violinists that is not like the other ones...(Highlights magazine) it wouldn't have been me. Or anyone, I think. I was generally surprised and delighted. The concert is next week.

We're also looking for a house to rent in this area for the end of next month. And school for everyone else starts tomorrow. My teacher is going to teach me without having to go through the school, since of course that got all messed up. In about five ways. I'm so very excited and greatful that she is willing to do that.

The COrelli Alliance stringes were bum. Didn't fit right somehow. And not well-suited...and I tore up the C string winding at the top because it got stuck THREE times while trying to wind or unwind it.
So I just sighed (heavily) and got a set of obligatos for the viola at the shop.

What bank account, did you see any bank account??

He he.
I'm really revved to play my viola through the week, breaking the new strings in and being so overjoyed by the playability of my instrument.

I think my leg fell asleep. Better go put it to bed.

Sals,
JW

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Bowing Beethoven 7

January 9, 2007 15:45

O.K. Now I know what is hard about Beethoven Symphony no. 7. Playing the bowings UP TO SPEED!!! It is a whole different ballgame with the metronome cranked up to mark. Whew. Getting those notes clean isn't the major problem (though I had to go over and over a few shifts until my fingers were cranky). The bow. GRRRR!!! I found it less awkward further away from the frog, but doing it that way is not as crisp, obviously. Not that it sounded particularly crisp at the frog. More like a semi truck going over speedbumps.

So...does anyone know some good exercises for the bowing in mvt.s 1, and 3? The books I currently use are Kreutzer, Schradieck, Dont, and Mazas. Or something that isn't really an etude, but an exercise...besides the obvious, playing the bowings without fingers and with string crossings on one finger. Or going up the scale. Maybe it is something that needs technical address...i.e. higher elbow and less wrist, or flexability in the fingers for those short, quick notes. The problem i was mostly having was going from the long notes to the quick, finding myself in the wrong part of the bow..unless I moved the bow during the note before it a little bit.

Anyway. Back to it...

Jennifer

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Tune-ups for the instruments. Getting ready for another year.

January 7, 2007 17:14

Well, it is the new year. The new year seems to bring my instruments into needing new accessories, new strings, adjusting, repairing, upgrading...
Violin and Viola. To prepare them for the work ahead, I guess, and being kind to them for the rough year they just survived!

I am STILL trying to find a comfortable set-up with my viola....one that will cause less pain, be more consistant, and allow me to move forwards with the music. I have felt very stuck musically as I wrestle with the instrument.

The first thing, was a new bow. A carbon Fiber CODA aspire. I had a let down the first few days with the bow. It is heavy, thick along the stick, has an awkwardly sized/ratio'd grip/winding/frog. My playing was a mess. But with a few days of hard adjusting and experimenting, I decided that this is a good bow for me. The heavier bow brings out much more sound from the instrument. After I realized that I don't have to use my body for weight,it has it's own weight on the strings, things turned up immediately. It really was one of those magical moments. It also allowes a good strong sound above third position, most noticeable with the double stops in the Walton. Soo....getting used to the bow.

Then there was the issue of the shoulder rest and actually holding the instrument.I had tried my violin rest (A Mach) before my first rest, right after getting the instrument, and it didn't work, and fell off all the time.

Well, different year, different results??? The amount of tension needed to support the viola in the jaw/neck/shoulder/back/head....drastically dropped! It still isn't what I'd like, but, well, I'm not complaining (except for the painful bruise it gave me on the chest, one of those ribcage bones below the callarbone).

Then...I think my strings died, or I killed them. SOO much effort and strength needed to depress the C string, and the only pain-free way to do it, renders my hand angled badly for vibrato. It was really frustrating. They are Obligatos, which when they get old, get really stiff, thick, and unresponsive. Urgh. My strings have such a short life. An expense of keeping up two instruments is definately the strings. SO I spent about five hours on the internet researching strings. I've got one shot to get strings that will work better on my instrument, not choke it, but sound rich...low tension, soft, thin, but not steel. I finally settled on Corelli Alliance, light, 4/4 for 51 bucks. At five a.m.

And.....budum, ching! I'm taking lessons starting in a few weeks. So excited! Have spoken with the teacher, and am now getting jitters like I used to before a semester started. Weird.

I might have a good lead on an orchestra that I could get a viola position in, that pays twice what I get now anywhere per service. That is one of the reasons I'm going ahead and spending some money getting my viola set up well. I also got some new rosin. I'm trying Thomastic Soft rosin, violin/viola.
Sticky goodness.

Bwlaahhhhhggrrrhhh! Wow. That is a long blog about, well, not a whole lot.

I'm enjoying my viola lit:
I listened to an amazingly beautiful version of the Bach chaconne played on viola...I want to try that! I am going viola practice crazy. I missed it so much between Oct. and Dec.17 when I had to really spend all my time on the violin.

I play Beethoven 7th Symphony on violin this month. I found my score, and am going to listen to the recording with the score tonight. The part (vln1) doesn't seem particularly difficult, no tricky fingerings or anything. But I'm not fooled. I know it will be hard to put it together and give a clean, clear, high level performance (mostly strings blending in the section).

Also working on the Dvorak Romance. Hoping my Obligato violin strings arrive tomorrow! Those strings have been dead for a few weeks....

Right now, though....writing a song with my christmas present guitar (used Fender acoustic). Relaxing. About to sing for my husband (unless I collaps in a bundle of nerves). Funny how controlling nerves for performing violin doesn't transfer well to nerves where the voice is depended on....

Sing, sing, sing today!

Sals,
Jennifer

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Bow Arrived (it's a boy)

January 4, 2007 01:42

Well, my two day air mail delivery finally arrived today...six days later.

That would be my new viola bow..the aspire CODA viola bow. I"m not sure about it. Definately better than what I have been using, but not the weight and characteristics I'd choose.

However, that is probably a good thing. Because I really need the weight of a heavier bow on the viola to play the more difficult pieces. It makes the strings actually work in higher positions, double stops. It is great sounding...much brighter than what I'm used to, but without the edge.

It will take some work to get used to the frog and grip. It is a strange placement of the grip and winding and frog. It almost forces your hand into a certain ratio and spaces.

There is definately potential for massive improvement nowt hat I didn't feel before. The sound is weighty, but not clumbsy, though the light, baroquish, sensitive playing will take more work.

I only had two hours to play around with it, though. YOu know I'll be videoing myself and writing up pages on the various aspects of the bow and everything related and not related.

Tired.
Excited with the bow, actually, as it makes practicing much more interesting, and takes away a lot of the frustratioins (addind new ones that are more workable).
Signing off.
Jennifer

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