The Scratchy Violinyst: Six Months

13 March 02017 (2 months ago)4 minutes of your time

Day: 182 (6 months!)
Practice Logged: 116 hours + 15 minutes
Feeling: practiced

If I hadn’t been tracking so diligently I think it might have caught me off guard, because today is (already!) the six-month anniversary of the day I cracked open the case of my violin and first put bow to string.

Yup. Six months.

Do I have any mind-blowing insight into this instrument which I’ve been studying for half a year? Can I pluck your heart-strings with tales of musical epiphany? Will my twenty-six weeks of musical interluding convey a deeper meaning upon your life.

Maybe.

But probably not.

If you’ve been following along with this blog over those six months, listening to the random recordings I’ve been sharing (an effort that’s on pause for the moment for the benefit of more focus on my actual lessons and techniques) you’ll know that I’ve shared a few observations over that time: the effort, the mentality, the culture… at least the little bit that I’ve noted so far. The violin is a challenging instrument. Every time I pick it up to practice, a number that is now well over a hundred hours worth of thirty-minute-sessions so do the math, I find something new to enjoy, new to frustrate, new to love, new to make me question every minute of those many, many hours devoted to playing this thing in my already cluttered and busy life.

Some random violin facts, and a snapshot of my six-month progress…

I still get a sore wrist from spending all day at a keyboard then switching to this inverted, twisting, upright finger-board posture. I do finger-crunches at my desk for about twenty minutes every day. It’s helping with finger strength but not really anything else.

I’ve acquired enough muscle memory that if my instrument isn’t placed just-like-so under my chin within a tolerance of a millimeter or two then my aim on the strings is likewise off and I revert to sounding like a dying cat.

My brain still struggles with the synchronization of my bow to my fingers, meaning sometimes I’m playing twice as many notes as I should. Every other note, roughly, is just a de-synced one and it sounds like terrible noise.

I’ve been working on my stage fright, which is –as it turns out– a real thing that messes with my head because my ability to play decreases measurably (anecdotally) when I’m in front of my teacher, a camera, or anybody really. It’s like that singing frog from the Bugs Bunny cartoon… no really… it sounds good when you’re not watching!

Apparently I can’t count. I suck at counting. I need to count better. I’m playing too fast. Or I’m playing too slow. Or I’m rushing my rests or I’m not doing something that is apparently involving counting and numbers and beats. I have no rhythm or pacing or something. I’m not sure how to fix this, except maybe strap a metronome to my head…. or go back to kindergarten for a few months.

I take a break from my classically-tilted lesson music by playing fiddle music. That should tell you where I’m probably headed with this thing.

I’ve found a kind of mechanical, foundational joy in doing scales. But that means I’m weird. No one likes scales.

I’ve been fortunate enough that I can blame the weather for staying inside and practicing my violin versus going outside to run. But spring will be here in a matter of days and the cold weather will make me frequently choose between how to spend my free time. Sadly I haven’t learned any improved ways to manage my limited time.

I still record a bit of video once or twice a month. I just don’t post it. I assume there’s only so much scratchy violin noise my handful of fans will tolerate.

I think I am actually improving.


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