A Violinist's Guide to The Muse (and other abstract characters)  

May 31, 2018, 4:53 AM · I am uncomfortable. It's the walls. They stare blankly.

Cramped in a small practice room, I unzipped my case open and get ready to spend the next four hours in here.

My instrument rests now on the open case. I put some rosin on my bow, tune the violin, and finally warm-up. I'm still uncomfortable. It's the white walls. The empty walls that scream for color. I'm gonna have to paint them.

My instrument's sound waves become visible when they touch the wall. They take random colors, forms, and shapes. Sometimes it's beautiful, other times it's plain and simple. Sometimes complex. But it's always my voice reflected on those walls.

Every day musicians paint the rooms of this conservatory. And every day at six am, the walls reset to white. Looking forward to a new work of art.

rainbow walls
Image by Violinist.com.

So here I am, hoping for a good day's work. But to make it real, I need the help of The Muse. Her fairy dust gives us musicians the inspiration to up our game. It's addictive. And I can't wait to see her today.

I trust she'll come. The Muse will not share her fairy dust if I'm impatient. So I paint and forget about it. Meditating like a monk, I slowly build a magnificent cathedral of sounds and beauty. I hear steps outside my door. Must be her! Don't stare. Focus on the sound.

The Muse begins to peek inside my practice room. I have to smile. Her face rising through the little window on my door. I'm feeling it. Here we go. United at last. Body, mind, The Muse, angels, and even Tinker Bell wants to be part of my music-making. My room is now full of mystic characters. Hell yeah! High on fairy dust, I'm so pumped I can only--

And then my iPhone pings! The Muse vanishes and Tinker Bell blasts off like there's no tomorrow. The magnificent cathedral roars down as it collapses. I see white walls again. Back to square one.

So much for the effort, time, and energy spent finding "the zone". We risk too much when phones are around. Even if set on vibrate. Monks know it and take measures. But musicians make excuses. We have important apps. The metronome, tuner, timer, etc.
But why risk leaving "the zone", where you learn best, for a Whatsapp ping? It can probably wait. Training time is sacred. Ask Tinker Bell!

Here are some retro tips to enter Narnia, "the zone", or that ethereal place where artists seem to do their best work. Leave phones behind! Set the mood by physically building your practice atmosphere. Buy a real metronome, a real kitchen timer and print out those scores on real paper. Bring a real notebook and plan your sessions on real index cards. Lay it nicely in your practice room. Build an inspiring station. These real objects make a 3d version of a world you love. It invites The Muse to show up quicker. Once she's there, treat her nice and she'll hand you the daily dose.

Now that you know how simple it is to keep this delicate guest around, give it a try. Set your altar, start painting, and get lost inside the sublime. Soon enough you'll be growing as a painter, musician, and as an artist.

The Consistent Musician


May 31, 2018 at 06:32 PM · Nice!

June 2, 2018 at 09:43 AM · Thank you for sharing your thoughts.

I prepare each morning with a few minutes of Tai Chi in order to gain a sense of being with one self. Preparing the violin is part of the ceremony and then turning my back on the small wall clock, I look at yesterday's notes for todays immersion session. I suppose to immerse oneself in the act of really 'letting go of the outside world' is my way of progressing.

June 7, 2018 at 05:48 AM · IPhone: I’m a writer, and a musician among other things that chase a Muse around my typewriter and practice space everyday. The Do Not Disturb feature on the iPhone is essential to preserve my creative space I have to enter. (Short stories are the toughest).

It’s ok to block out the world while you are being musical. That’s what voicemail is for, and limiting who can breach Do Not Disturb. Just a thought and tip to help preserve your sanity.


This article has been archived and is no longer accepting comments.

Facebook YouTube Instagram Email

Violinist.com is made possible by...

Shar Music
Shar Music

Pirastro Strings
Pirastro Strings

JR Judd Violins
JR Judd Violins

Los Angeles Philharmonic
Los Angeles Philharmonic

Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra
Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra

Dimitri Musafia, Master Maker of Violin and Viola Cases
Dimitri Musafia, Master Maker of Violin and Viola Cases

Anne Cole Violin Maker
Anne Cole Violin Maker


Violinist.com Shopping Guide
Violinist.com Shopping Guide

Metzler Violin Shop

Southwest Strings

Bobelock Cases

Johnson String Instrument/Carriage House Violins

Jargar Strings

Bay Fine Strings Violin Shop



Los Angeles Violin Shop


String Masters

Nazareth Gevorkian Violins

Laurie's Books

Discover the best of Violinist.com in these collections of editor Laurie Niles' exclusive interviews.

Violinist.com Interviews Volume 1
Violinist.com Interviews Volume 1, with introduction by Hilary Hahn

Violinist.com Interviews Volume 2
Violinist.com Interviews Volume 2, with introduction by Rachel Barton Pine