Cat Scratch Fever

October 19, 2011 at 08:18 PM ·

With apologies to Mr. Nugent...

Does anyone else, from time to time, just have a REALLY BAD DAY practicing? Last night I could do nothing right, except nothing. And just trying to draw a sensible tone from the instrument, which I usually have little trouble with, was next to impossible. Just horrible. It's strange that the previous day the tone was clear and sonorous. It's easy to blame the instrument, the weather, full moon or the alignment of the planets, but time to fess up, it's all me. Why the Jeckyll and Hyde bipolarism?

Is there gene therapy for such a thing? LOL. Just venting. I hope I sound better tonight at my lesson...!

Replies (21)

October 20, 2011 at 12:04 AM ·

Just put on some Ted Nugent tonight and you'll be all better in the morning.

October 20, 2011 at 06:16 AM ·

Of course, we all do occasionally. Just back off to slow controled bows on open strings only working for tone quality and smoothness.

October 20, 2011 at 07:38 AM ·

 Yes, I have.  It got so bad at one point, I quit the violin for about 2 years in high school.

October 20, 2011 at 09:58 AM ·

My solution to an attack of the cat scratch fever is to change rosin!  I have quite a collection gathered from all the different string types I've tried recently.  I think what it does is to at least gives me hope the problem is going to be solved. 

Actually, there may be some sense to it since it forces me to work on tone as I adjust my bowing to the new level of grip.  Something to try anyway! 

October 20, 2011 at 10:35 AM ·

I find it really helpful If I take 1 day off per week from practicing to let my hands, fingers and brain cells recover. You are bound to have bad days by playing 7 days in a row.

October 20, 2011 at 10:39 AM ·

October 20, 2011 at 11:13 AM ·

Your belief in rosin is touching - a bit like believing in faries, or god, or something - but it won't do anything in the end - just get on and play - even if it's bad. (But try and work out why!)

October 20, 2011 at 12:01 PM ·

 may be on those odd days you were going mental.  it is not you, but the inner you:)

October 20, 2011 at 02:07 PM ·

October 20, 2011 at 05:16 PM ·

Ooooohhh, yeah!!  Been there/done that.  If my very best four-letter word doesn't relieve the stress, next I stroke my violin and tell her I know it's not her fault.  Then I drop back and play something very simple and melodic -- heck, use "Twinkle..." if it works for you ("The Ash Grove" is my personal favorite).  Several deep breaths later everything usually looks and sounds much better.

Good luck!

October 20, 2011 at 05:57 PM ·

Me: ' My solution to an attack of the cat scratch fever is to change rosin!'

Nate: I agree Elise! I hope that change would be to Baker's Violin Rosin. I have found there's no such thing as scratch with their rosin.

Me again: Dream on.  I have yet to make 'the A list'.  Or should that be the BR list... 

Maybe you can send me a 20yr old  Baker's stub?

October 20, 2011 at 06:52 PM ·

Maybe it's that petrified hunk of 25-year-old Hidersine Dark that's the problem, lol... Or maybe I am just going 'mental,' like Al said (probably closer to the truth).

Yesterday's lesson went fine. My teacher complained about the weather, his fiddle, and his aching arm, but he still sounded sublime (as always). What's worse is that he still had "his" sound on my fiddle, and proceeded to tell me once again what a nice fiddle it is (sink the knife deeper, why don't ya), which only confirms that I truly am the weak link!

Although I sounded better yesterday, I am still annoyed with my instrument for being such a fickle, finicky, facetious little brat. But I still love her. She'll have me trained yet.

Elise, I was wondering if you could elaborate a bit on your new bow hold??

October 20, 2011 at 09:14 PM ·

For me, one of those "all thumbs" days is often a sign that too much of me is occupied elsewhere and I'm not present.  Sometimes, coming back to it later in the day helps. 

October 20, 2011 at 09:42 PM ·

David: New bow hold??  I'm not sure where you got that from, mine hasn't changed much for the past 3 years...

October 21, 2011 at 07:59 AM ·

For beginners like myself, it is bouncing bow syndrom. When I'm nervous, my bow bounces. Then I play my version of La cumparcita with "virtuosic" (have a laugh!!!) ricochets, sautillés, spicatti... if it bounces, it's there! After I use off all my bounces, I can practice. Oh, my La cumparcita is also good for slurpy, very slurpy (I really mean it) portamenti... just saying...

October 21, 2011 at 08:18 AM ·

Marsha: ("The Ash Grove" is my personal favorite)

SNAP!  I don't believe it - thats my default piece.  It seems to be the only one I can ever remember when I try a violin at a shop.  I didn't check - are you english perhaps?  It was burned into me growing up...


October 21, 2011 at 01:58 PM ·

Elise: " I adjust my bowing to the new level of grip..."

I must have read "new hold" into that... I apologize! ...But since you brought it up, can you expound upon the new level of grip? Is it how the bow grips the strings, or how you grip the bow?? Sorry if this has been discussed elsewhere. Thx! :D)

October 21, 2011 at 02:26 PM ·

Elise --

Nope, not English -- but I must have been in a past life.   :)   I have a passion for all things British Isles!  Except maybe haggis.......

"The Ash Grove" was in one of my method books, and I fell in love with it.

October 21, 2011 at 04:04 PM ·

Elise: " I adjust my bowing to the new level of grip..."

David: I must have read "new hold" into that... I apologize! ...But since you brought it up, can you expound upon the new level of grip? Is it how the bow grips the strings, or how you grip the bow?? Sorry if this has been discussed elsewhere. Thx! :D)

Ah!  Now I understand.  I meant 'grip' of the rosin not my hand :)  That makes me do slow bowing, high string changes etc etc so that I mentally adjust to how the bow is adhering to the string.  But its just my way out  - I hope it woks for you. 

BTW I recommend getting a range of rosins - they aren't expensive relative to most things violnish and give you a lot of flexibitily, in particular when you change strings.  Indeed, I don't think anyone should recommend a string without also mentioning which rosin they favor with it and what its properties are.

In my rosin toolbox I now have (from light/lowgrip to dark/sticky: Hll pale; Bernadrel, Larsen (medium I think) and Menlo dark.  I'm trying to get the mythical Baker's but I seem to be the extra (and yet unsupplied) digit in a Baker's dozen!  BTW Evah Pirazzis seemed to like Bernadrel, pure gut Hill pale, Passiones Larsen medium and I've currently got larsen Tsigane which took me back to the Bernadrel.


October 24, 2011 at 08:52 AM ·

Had "one of those days" last night.  I was using my back-up bow, which drives like a truck (my primary one is in for a re-hair), and couldn't BUY a decent tone!!  Poor Brahms is probably spinning like a lathe.  Just got an e-mail that I can pick up my bow today.  Hallelujah -- maybe the "Hungarian Dance #5" will stop sounding like "Turkey in the Straw"!!  In the meantime, I'll have "The Ash Grove" (see my previous posts on this thread) running through my head on a continuous loop! 

October 24, 2011 at 01:02 PM ·

 David, another possibility is that you are--suddenly, exponentially--hearing better, more acutely, so every scratch and other error is  magnified.

when I came back to playing after an injury side-lined me, I was pretty pleased with my sound.  But, as I practiced, my ear woke again to the details, and it was disheartening.  Then I remembered--this is a GOOD means I'm on track, again.

So, while it hurts to the very soul, sometimes becoming newly aware of 'cat scratching' means you are doing everything right...and, of course, have to go on to do it better.  Suerte!

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