Boogie in the Studiee!

January 1, 2023, 5:07 PM · I think most of us probably spend at least 1,000 fold more time in the studio practicing than actually performing. I find practicing fun - but it can be much more than that - downright exhilarating.

So what this is about is: which pieces do you play when you are on your lonesome just for the pure fun of it. The reason I ask is that I have been working on Schubert's Death and the Maiden (V1) and there are two movements (at least) that are just plain riotous fun: the first and the last.

I think you can recognize such pieces by the speed you play them. Try as you might (metronomes excepted) you can not play them slowly, even if there is multiple train wrecks, you have to play them at full pace!

So what are your boogie-studiee never-mind-the-torpedos pieces (hoping nobody hears you)...

Replies (12)

January 1, 2023, 10:09 PM · I used to do this more, but I find myself more often trying to find enough time to practice everything I'm working on, so even enjoyable stuff kind of carries with it a particular technical orientation. Like if I play through some Corelli, or the Kreisler transcription of Gluck's Melody, as I did a day or two ago, I'm trying to work on purity of sound or vibrato, or something in particular.

I do read through pieces with others sometimes, so maybe that counts. Most recently, with a pianist friend, we've been playing through Martinu's Concerto for Violin and Piano (really more of a sonatina), since a kind soul was able to provide me with a performance edition prepared from the manuscript (provided nothing commercial comes out of my use). It's a rad piece.

January 2, 2023, 2:48 AM · Sorry Elise, my mind is still boggling slightly at your statistic!

For pure fun (is there any other reason to pick up a violin?) I'll usually read through the first violin part of a Haydn quartet. Most of them are pretty familiar to me now but I still get the occasional surprise. Feeling less energetic I'll often play a few of Drdla's little salon pieces. I particularly recommend Ivresse, for when you're in the appropriate mood.

Edited: January 2, 2023, 4:42 AM · When I was still actively playing, I don't think I EVER played anything JUST for fun. I was always trying to get better, or perform to a certain level. But that's its own weird kind of fun, I suppose.
January 2, 2023, 6:33 AM · It's the great Atlantic divide. Over here I don't know any amateur of my generation (well past it now, although the situation was pretty much the same 30 years ago) who practises for self-improvement. Most of us never actually practise at all.
January 2, 2023, 9:49 AM · Almost all the amateur players I know are of my generation (that I consider to range from ~70 to 100, from ~10 years older than my children to older than I). And they clearly practice, because we manage to get it together for concerts and weekly-improving rehearsals.

I don't really practice to improve any more, but to slow the decline and it has been that way since I was about 72. But it depends on the instrument:
Violin that I started at 4 hit a sudden decline at 55 because of an neck injury. Everything since then is recovery and not very successful.
Cello that I started at 14 kept improving until I was 72 and continuing to add repertoire. But I played cello very little between 30 and 60, just occasional chamber music and "church solos."
Viola that I first played at 40, but only began to play regularly at 80, continued to improve for about 5 years while everything I played was adding repertoire. But I have had the viola out of it's case less than 10 times the past 3 years.

January 2, 2023, 10:23 AM · On violin, for me one of these is the Preludio from Partita in E. I can still play the first page from memory at tempo and I find it really fun to play as fast as possible.
January 2, 2023, 4:28 PM · Andrew, I get lots of young amateur players into my shop, and I mostly don't bother trying to suss out who is a high-level professional, or who is a beginning amateur prior to welcoming them in. All are welcome, even if they don't have any intention of buying anything from me. I can show and let them try fiddles from a few different makers to help them along on their path.

Just today, I had a person come in and try some violins. From our phone conversation, I expected him to be a low-level amateur, but he turned out to be a really good player. Things like that happen a lot too.

January 3, 2023, 1:28 PM · Steve - OK, I exaggerated - but not by 20 much. If I practice 1000 hrs a year (3hrs/day for 350 days) and our orchestra performs for ~6 hrs/year then its 350X! OK a bit less, there are some other, but ad hoc performances and 3 hrs is a bit optimistic :)

Thanks for the Drdla link - I love those salon pieces and don't know this one.

Edited: January 3, 2023, 1:33 PM · David - I'm going to guess that is why you became a Luthier and not a performer. Playing the violin is probably my greatest pleasure - other than hanging with my partner that is....

re the shop amateur trial - what pieces are you most tired of hearing :) Maybe I can be a better customer (Bruch first line?? Though that is a great way to look at violin string balance).

Edited: January 3, 2023, 3:21 PM · Elise, I can usually nail what passage they are going to play on the first note, though not every time.

I don't really get tired of hearing the same passages over and over again, because playing the same passage on different fiddles has greater comparative value, than playing something different on every violin. Typically, my main focus when listening to clients is learning and assessing, not musical entertainment.

Even when listening to the very best players and the very best fiddles, the evaluation machine in my head is always running. That's one of the curses of doing what I do.

January 3, 2023, 3:32 PM · I'm with David. When I don't have repertoire or chamber music or orchestra parts to work on -- which is rare these days -- I usually revert to studies. I sort of feel like, "At last, I can work on something for me." But sometimes I do just "play" something and usually it's a lyrical salon piece such as the Svendsen Romance Op. 20 or the Gluck-Kreisler Melodie. And more rarely I'll play through some jazz standards and work a little on my improv skills.
Edited: January 4, 2023, 2:37 AM · David - your "evaluation machine" is why I'm always very inhibited when trying out a violin with its maker or dealer within earshot. I'm only too aware that it's not just the instrument being evaluated! Does the machine provide a print-out?

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