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Karen Allendoerfer

Sweet spot

November 29, 2006 at 10:58 AM

I was planning to play Greensleeves on viola, but then listened to a You Tube recording yesterday of the orchestral arrangement, and I decided the range of the violin was better suited to the way I (and, in my humble opinion, the composer) think it should sound. Particularly the opening, with that ethereal descending passage that's on flute in the orchestra, sounds much better on violin.

So for the performance I'm playing it on violin instead (note to Anne--even if your comment was snarky, it was right!) That made practicing last night a very interesting experience. First of all, it made the fear go away. The piece is much more secure in my personal comfort zone on violin than on viola. I don't freak out about fourth through 6th positions on violin the way I still do on viola, where I'm just getting comfortable and fluid with third. And reading viola clef is still feeling a lot like speaking German. I can make myself understood in Germany, I can talk to my (German) husband's family and friends, but I learned the language as a young adult, I didn't grow up speaking it. Whereas treble clef is still English for me, still my mother tongue.

Someone wrote in the "viola personality" thread that after playing viola for a while, the violin would feel almost like a toy, that you would be amazed at what you could do on it. I felt that way. Vibrato hasn't been that good or come that easily in years. Intonation wasn't that accurate the first time through, but improved after about 10 minutes of playing.

I want to get to and stay in that sweet spot where I get back to the instinctual violin intonation but keep the looseness, relaxation, and sure-fingered-ness that the viola seems to have inspired. I'd been playing viola for 20-30 minutes a night for about a month with almost no violin to speak of. Now I guess I'll be alternating.

And trying to get my violin into better physical shape. I've posted elsewhere how poorly I feel my violin measures up to the sound of the viola I rented, especially on the G string. Even if my vibrato is okay, the sound is still kind of hollow. Someone on suggested a complete overhaul, and even though I bought new strings recently, it has been 10 years since the instrument was checked out by a luthier. Hopefully that will help!

From Anne Horvath
Posted on November 29, 2006 at 4:51 PM
OK, Karen...nice and easy...slowly step away from the C String, and no on will get hurt...
(more snarkiness)
Really, Good Luck!
From Richard Hellinger
Posted on November 30, 2006 at 1:33 AM
The viola is much better therefore giving it a greater deeper sound. I think that is what you are experiencing. When my violin was getting fixed I was using a friends, and it had a much brighter (possibly too bright) of a sound. It felt so weird, and then when I got mine back, it sounded so weird also, but exactally the opposite, really dark and clear. It took a few weeks to get used to it again.

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