August 2010

It's Not Magic - Just Practice

August 19, 2010 08:53

I'm in my 17th week after returning to the violin after  a 30 year break. And while I am far from the virtuoso I was born to be, I am enthused and joyful about the progression I have experienced.

It would seem that  there is not to be one big revelation regarding playing - rather a series of smaller epiphanies which together combine to make rather pleasing progress.

I am assisted in this journey by my teacher. Without his help, encouragement, cajoling and enormous well of patience I would still be somewhere near the level I was at 17 weeks ago.

I visit this site almost every day and see so many questions on the Discussion section about problems and difficulties - I even posted one - to which the answer is: it's not magic - just practice.

I think, as adults, we are unused to this slow, organic way of learning. We want results and we want them now! In my work (IT) if I can't do something, I look it up, apply what I have found out and that's it. Job done. Next. It's just not like that with the violin.

Taking my personal experience so far...

Back before, I remember doing a little 3rd position. I used to hate it. Couldn't for the life of me figure out where all the notes were. Or tie the notes to the fingers.

It was one of the first things my teacher got me doing this time. I recall asking him what the secret was. I mean,  come on, what a ridiculous thing it is to expect to move your fingers, blind, up a fretless fingerboard and hit the right note, millimetre perfect. Surely there had to be a trick. There I was, slip-slip-sliding all over the place - too high, too low, missing it 99 times out of 100. He said no trick - practice.

This week we started looking at some 4th position playing and some 5th and 6th... And then I got the idea: just put your first finger where your third would be - bingo! And now 9 times out of 10, I get it. But I know it isn't that simple - my left hand and arm have learned where my third finger, my fourth, a tone above the fourth, etc are. It's not magic - just practice.

Fourth Finger:
A tricky one. I could not, just could not, pull it close enough to the third finger to make a nice semitone. I was resigned to my deformity. This was a real problem with a visible physical cause - right? Well, yes and no. Again, practice, noting I was sharp and doing my best to pull the finger in has over the weeks resulted in my being less sharp and sometimes even in tune! Looking at the fingers I can see I can tilt the 4th finger into the 3rd so the tips are touching Result! It's not magic - just practice.

Looking forward:
The next big thing is vibrato. Whoo-hoo! Truth be told that is the Grail after which I seek. Armed with that I shall feel more complete. We had a little look at it last week. I can't loosen my wrist enough without loosening my grip and losing the note. However I shall persevere. After all, it's not magic - just practice.

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