Swallow Tail Jig

Day: 136
Practice Logged: 89 hours + 5 minutes
Feeling: sick

I took a sick day. I’ve been battling this cold that has been teasing me with off-and-on days for the better part of a week, but I woke up this morning after a crappy night’s sleep barely able to type the email to let them know I wasn’t coming in… so that pretty much affirmed it, and I went back to bed.

Fast forward a bit and a few extra hours of rest turned into some casual violin practice, and me — knowing I was probably not leaving the house for my lesson this afternoon — figuring I could probably put off the pieces I’ve been diligently working on for the last six days and play some of my non-lesson stuff.

I’ve been poking around with some fiddle music. I like the classical violin stuff, really, and I think that’s where I’m going to build my foundation skills, but I have a feeling that if I ever use this newfound violining skill for something other than annoying my family from the depths of our basement, it will probably have something to do with playing a tune that will fall into the category of fiddle music.

So I’ve been poking around with some fiddle music. And even though I have been barely fast enough with my tempo on this piece to call it a slowed down version of the song, I was pretty proud of being able to jig out the first eight bars at the tempo I did.

It only took me ninety minutes of focused practice on a sick day home, too.

There is also a youtube version because I’m sorta half-heartedly keeping up with my progress reports by posting a few random videos tracking my minor improvements.

Rowing on the Lake

Day: 131
Practice Logged: 85 hours + 25 minutes
Feeling: floating away in fog

It’s foggy today. Like, super foggy. Pea soup fog. The type of fog that had me hiding away in my basement practicing violin… until I went for a short run later… in the fog.

I thought I’d record something that I was actually supposed to be practicing this week. Two reasons for that: (1) I spent some time earlier in the week and flipped back to page one of my study music and played through everything and in the process realized that I could hear and feel some measured improvement and (2) I actually kinda like this song.

The first reason is more important tho: I listen to myself all the time. One might even say I’ve heard every second of practice that I’ve done. Kinda hard not to, y’know. So, to actually listen to what I’m doing and to feel when I finished practicing that there was a skill and confidence there that wasn’t there, say, six weeks ago, that’s cool. I mean, I know I’ve gone from zero to something in the last 131 days of learning this instrument, but that was an acknowledgement that I’ve gone from something to something slightly better.

This song (I found someone else’s recording on Youtube) is both more and less complex than it sounds. More, because it’s all about the rhythm, flow, pace, and smoothness of the song that evokes a gentle, rowing vibe, and I haven’t quite nailed that yet. Less complex, because it’s like six notes and mostly open strings. I played it a bit slower, but I only got this music assigned thirty-six hours ago, so… it is what it is!

But then that’s the point. None of these recordings are going to be spectacular. I’m not thinking these are stellar, i-d-buy-them-on-itunes quality: they are moments in time in my own learning, mostly for myself, so that when I step from something to something slightly better I’m not just trusting my memory.

Skyrim (Main Theme)

Day: 124
Practice Logged: 81 hours + 30 minutes
Feeling: epic third

It’s not that I’m stuck at home, per se, but we’re having a lazy Saturday afternoon around the house and I figured I’d get some practicing in.

My instructor set me up with a bunch of exercises pushing me to start dabbling in third position. THe simplest explanation for third position on the violin is that there is “first position” where your hand naturally wants to be on the neck of the violin, but where you are limited to a certain range of notes. And then there are other positions — second through eighth or something, I can’t exactly recall at the moment, so look it up — but these move your hand a certain number of steps away from that first position home base. This allows you to reach some higher notes and do so some funky double string notes that you simply can’t from first position. But third position is a kinda intermediate technique.

I printed off this sheet music for the Skyrim theme a few months ago, but it has a bunch of higher notes (you can hear them get all scratchy in the middle of the track) that you can’t reach until — as I noticed today — you slide them up to third position.

So I wrote that into the sheet music and practiced some of my transitions and almost made this song sound half decent…. well, half decent for a beginner violinist.


Day: 124
Practice Logged: 80 hours + 50 minutes
Feeling: bow-crossed

Keeping with the “I got a book of easy Disney music for Christmas”, I’ve been spending my so-called extra practice time having some fun with these tunes. When I say “extra” time, it’s because usually I work through my assigned practice first, for a half an hour or so, then spend fifteen or twenty minutes on stuff that is just for fun.

The Disney stuff is good because — like the holiday-tunes book I was working through leading into Christmas — the songs are usually (a) simple and (b) familiar enough that they count more as basic practice than anything else. The running training analogy I could use is this: if my Suzuki practice is hill training or tempo runs, then Disney-songs practice is my steady run: short, laid back, not pushing too much, and just milage to solidify endurance and fitness. It’s not intended to strengthen or extend anything.

Plus it’s fun to see some payoff, however modest, from all those technically-based classical minuets and gavottes.

I still have some work to do on this one: it’s not as difficult as it sounds, except for the tempo which is pretty quick. I hit a few wrong notes trying to keep my pace, and sped up a bit in the middle, but — hey, that’s why I’m recording myself: to catch this kind of stuff.

It’s a Small World

Day: 117
Practice Logged: 76 hours + 10 minutes
Feeling: dopey

…after all?

I haven’t been to Florida in almost exactly three years, but I spent the morning thinking about there. Not only were my parents due to fly out of Fort Lauderdale airport early this morning (they were diverted through Miami and are now far, far away from that chaos) but two couples from our running group were supposed to have run the DisneyWorld Half Marathon this morning as part of the Goofy & Dopey Challenges. It was cancelled, and they have been telling both sad tales of a lost race and uplifting tales of an unofficial and impromptu makeup run around the hotel area with 100s of their fellow Disney runners.

I couldn’t help but think that for my first unabashedly scratchy violin recording of the year I should pull out that new Disney songbook I got for Christmas…

…and I couldn’t help but think that my world is feeling quite small this morning.

Princess Leia’s Theme

Day: 107
Practice Logged: 70 hours
Feeling: sad

December 28

This is far from perfect, but I spent a good hour learning to play it today. A few minor mistakes, but the song has a wookie-load of accidentals… and I’d like to see Han Solo play as good with only three and half months of practice.

RIP Carrie Fisher :(

O’ Christmas Tree

A second holiday short for today’s rendition of “The Scratchy Beginner Viloinyst Shares His Progress“, and then maybe we’ll move onto some other music after the season no longer encourages me to butcher these oh-so-famous standards.

O’ Christmas Tree

We were driving around yesterday and I was rambling on and on about my violin, and we were talking about the value of playing different kinds of music: the value that Christmas music has in my practice (as I see it) is that because I know the song so well, it’s so familiar, it lets me re-allocate a little focus to other aspects of playing.

So, when Christmas is over it’s back to the much less familiar Suzuki books… unless… and this would be the only reason I’d ever buy one of these books, I can see a collection of, say, Disney songs having the same sort of value: simple, familiar and allowing me to refocus my practice on things like technique, form and fingering in lieu of trying to grok the song at the same time.

Silent Night

Continuing the theme of scratchy beginner holiday music, I dug into my compendium of Christmas classics and practiced this short rendition of…

Silent Night

I’ve been focusing on two things for the last month or so: (a) the assignments given to me by my instructor, which are pretty much me progressing through the Suzuki books, and (b) some pieces from a big book of holiday standards, all of them with piano accompaniment which Karin has been practicing along with me… apparently she’s got a performance planned somewhere soon.

Oh Come All Ye Faithful

So this is new. I’ve decided to add a new kind of post to this blog: recordings.

Impressed yet?

I hope not too much. As a beginner violinyst who has opted to use data and technology to help myself improve, public accountability is a big part of that. So I’ve been recording myself on video or on audio (using some very basic tools, like a GoPro or my iPhone.) And I’m going to be posting those audio clips here, collected.

Stay tuned. And let me know what you think.

Oh Come All Ye Faithful