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Karen Allendoerfer

Violin this time, not viola

November 20, 2007 at 12:53 PM

Thanks to everyone who responded to my last blog about my first lesson. It's delightful, like having several teachers and not just one. I had another lesson yesterday, almost as long.

My friend with whom I was going to play the Bach Double in church has Lyme Disease and her hands have swollen up. She hasn't formally said she can't play, but the music director thinks that she and I need to make other plans. So, after panicking briefly, I suggested that I play Vivaldi's Largo from Winter and a violin solo arrangement of Jesu Joy of Man's Desiring, along with the previously planned Fantasia on Greensleeves. My teacher thought these were both good choices, and she found the perfect Bach arrangement for me. I played an orchestral arrangement of it in high school where the 2nd violins had the triplets, and I've sung the chorale, and this arrangement has the triplets alternating with the chorale, so here I get both! :)

I started out the lesson by telling her that I'd asked for a violin/viola double case for Christmas. I don't know why I hadn't thought of that before (duh! rocks!). She thought we'd be able to work on both instruments in the future. She brought me some Fiorillo viola etudes instead of Schradieck or Sitt. She said she'd run into my former teacher while shopping for music at Johnson and they'd talked about me and etudes and come up with the Fiorillo. Some of them look scary! But she said to start with #9-11, which have the shifting and playing in higher positions that I'm looking for without the scary double stops--those can be for later.

Then, as warm-up for the Vivaldi, I played an E-flat major scale. E-flat is apparently an especially hard note for me to hear. And my left thumb (the old car door injury--or "Crazy Aunt Nellie," as Anne would call her) was giving me her usual problems when shifting to the second octave. I got some of the most useful advice I've had so far about my thumb: don't just let go and take it off the neck. I hadn't even realized I was doing that. What I thought I was doing was adjusting the thumb so that I could feel the neck. My thumb injury is such that I have a surgical scar in the middle of the back of the tip, on the pad, where the innervation is a bit odd and the feeling is not quite normal. But at the very tip, or down by the first knuckle, the innervation is normal and fine, so I often end up moving/adjusting my thumb a few mm this way or that so that one of those good parts of the thumb, rather than the weird part, is in contact with the neck. This makes Nellie "fidgety" as well. My teacher understood why I wanted to do this, but she said that if I needed to adjust, I should do it after I've shifted and found the note, rather than while I'm shifting or between notes. I tried that and I think it's going to help. Just thinking and being aware of the purpose of those fidgety thumb movements should help me control them better and keep them from getting in the way of intonation.

I also asked my teacher about bow Sound Points, as covered in Fisher's _Basics_ and _Practice_. She isn't aware of the system and seems to integrate the same concepts by listening. That seems to work for her, but for me it seems to put too much pressure on my ear. I'm all for training and improving my ear, but I'm also thinking that I need other ways than listening to become aware of all the different issues I need to work on. I was also really struck by Drew's different names for types of bowings in his last comment: Spiccato lirico, Detache Porte, Detache Pulse. I'm sure there are more. They remind me of classifications of birds, or of neurons, or of barnacles or something--a real old-time natural historian's type of classification system. The kind of thing I was never particularly good at in school and was told, as was the pedagogical fashion at the time, that I "didn't have to learn" because it was "just" rote memorization. Like the sound points, and the kinds of neurons, I just learned it by listening (or looking). I don't know any names of bowings.

But now maybe I'm ready for more of that. Knowing about the 5 soundpoints, the different classifications of bowing, gives me a framework to think about these issues until my ear catches up.

From Anne Horvath
Posted on November 20, 2007 at 1:43 PM
I hope you enjoy working on your Fiorillo etudes. I learned them in high school, (on violin, of course!) but I still like cycle through the book now and then.

I can understand the "weirdness" of an old scar. Have you tried putting a small band-aid on top of the tender part of Crazy Aunt Nellie? Or does that interfere with your sense of touch too much? Just a thought.

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