Written by sharelle taylor
Published: December 18, 2013 at 8:10 AM [UTC]
This is a sort of end of year wrap up for me.
2013 has been a very odd year. I started the year thinking I might really progress, sight reading was coming together, I'd joined a local and more advanced orchestra.
Then KAPPOW - like something out of an old Batman comic, I started on a medication that completely erased my ability to play, to read music, to organise my thoughts. I had no spatial organisation, no mathematical ability (no mental arithmetic, tables, no sense of ratio or proportion). This happened in the space of less than 48 hours. It was kind of weird, since I had the metacognition to realise I didn't have the skills anymore, but I couldn't work out how to retrieve the skills.
Playing the violin reduced me to tears for about 4 months, as I could no longer get through even a bar of music. I had no idea how long to hold any note for, even though cognitively I could count it out. My bow arm belonged to someone else (and still does), and I found myself having to stop when I found myself magically up the fingerboard tree branch - plotting like a kitten how the hell I was going to get back down: 'if my 4th finger is on D, then my third should go onto ... F so that makes my 1st finger another D' REVELATION - I'd discovered the octave! All over again. Like someone with dementia wandering around the circular yard all day.
After the first 3 months it things came together a bit in the next few weeks, and I returned to some sense of normal [hey, its all relative] after 4 months. Just in time to take deliver of the little violin that could - the lion head baroque.
Another drama unfolded with that violin- I had noticed a feeling of it feeling as though it, I don't know how to explain - sprung apart - when I replaced a chinrest, and so took the opportunity to have it looked at by my regular (very well trained) luthier. Not the young lad who had doe the restoration work. Luthier has one quick look and pronounced some dire and urgent problems including neck block crack (which I'd kind of known about), button crack, seams opening. Long and short of it is that the instrument is potentially going to fall apart in my hands at some point, the glue that remains from the original is so old that it needs to be completely removed and that means taking the top and bottom off and reglueing, this with a crack in the neck block to contend with, and the fingerboard being original baroque so made of a soft composite so not strong enough for much work. Heavy sigh. Its gone back in a case while I save up.
So I retrieved my good 4/4 violin, played it for a week or so, and realised it was giving me an almighty neck strain and then I developed a shoulder injury which became a shoulder tear when the dr was examining me.
Ever one for impulsive action, by the end of the week I had sourced a great 7/8 violin that I think could do me for ever unless a benefactor comes along.
Meantime, I have been having much more productive learning this past 6 months, and 2 opportunities to have a little performance. First occasion was the 2nd Movement of Bach Double - I borked it completely, by thinking that I needed to up my medication 3 days before. Don't try that at home. I had no idea what was going on.
The second occasion was last weekend -
Bach Double 1st movement
PLEASE WATCH, and comment constructively
All things are hard to play here, the style and feel of the piece, being in the correct part of the bow at critical sections and intonation. One tip my teacher gave me was to ditch the use of vibrato until the intonation was as near perfect as possible. It worked for me so you might like to give that a whirl too. It also helped me concentrate on better use of the bow. Considering all the issues you've had re medication and its interference with your music, you can give yourself a gold star. I really liked your performance!
You asked for some constructive suggestions, and I'm going to comply with that request.
(1) First of all, I'm not put off by the slow tempo. That piece has a lot going on, and playing it slower allows you to listen to your partner in addition to playing. The tempo does need to be a little faster for the piece to take on more gusto. As you slowly dial up your metronome, be sure to consciously relax and breathe easily. Tension is the common enemy.
(2) See if you can memorize just a bit of the piece, starting with half of the first page. Your eyes looked truly glued to the music and that saps mental bandwidth that you need for other stuff. Initially it'll be frustrating -- I know this first hand -- but then you will turn the corner and it will be liberating.
(3) Watch your own video closely again for two things. First, look how your violin teacher is holding her violin -- I mean her posture. Second, look how her right shoulder, elbow, wrist, and fingers move when she is bowing. Compare that to how yours moves. Practice in a mirror or videotape yourself playing an easy Wohlfahrt exercise or something involving a lot of back and forth detache bowing -- can you make your arm work more like your teacher's arm?
(4) When you encounter notes in a piece that you regularly play out of tune, instead of just playing that passage over and over in the hopes it will improve on its own, you need to figure out WHY they are out of tune. Then ask your teacher for specific practice techniques that will help you fix little things like that more efficiently. And consider practicing a two-octave D Minor scale very very slowly so that you can hear the pitches really sing on your violin.
(5) Don't feel too bad about struggling with the second movement of the Bach Double, that's a really deceptively hard piece to play. It requires great tone control and spectacular intonation. I have great respect for you attempting that.
What a handy device the ipad is for this recording bizzo. This was recorded at night, in a lounge room in normal lighting, nothing special in terms of sounds, and the only reason the effect on you tube is blurry is becasue i tried to compress it down to an MP4 to make it upload faster via our wifi internet connection (I shouldn't have bothered, could have just left to the next day and done via ADSL at my work. I may in fact replace it). I bunged it in the youngest audience member's hands and said "Margaret, can you please video this for me?". Despite being 20 years old, she'd only used an iphone, not an ipad, but I gave her the 3 second demo and away she went.
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