The Scratchy Violinyst: Swapping Hands

4 April 02017 (3 months ago)3 minutes of your time

Day: 204
Practice Logged: 127 hours + 35 minutes
Feeling: swapped

I just passed the two hundred day mark.

Two hundred days doesn’t seem like a phenomenally long time to do anything, let alone to learn a musical instrument, but then two hundred days can apparently change a guy who had once seen a violin from a distance on a stage over there into a guy who can play a few songs and almost knows how to make a sound that won’t immediately be compared to a tortured feline.

In the last month there have been some changes.

The biggest one is that my instructor to the first six months of my violin career left teaching. I won’t go into the details. He’s a clever young guy with lots of projects and ambition and I’m sure (having worn those shoes in other roles in my life) that the teaching thing wasn’t taking him where he thought he wanted to be.

The result of this change has been a slight alteration to my practicing regimen. The first instructor took me from complete noob to, let’s call it, proficiently level two. He had a strong focus on my left hand, the hand with the fingers that dance across the strings and make the notes. I spent many hours figuring out the best way to hold the neck of the violin, solidify my intonation, strengthen up my pinkie finger so I could reach those fifths, and dabbled in some medium-skill techniques like third position and some vibrato introductions.

I did however take my right hand for granted.

The second instructor now wants to focus on my right hand, the bow hand, the –as he puts it– place where the sound is made. So I’ve spent the last couple weeks almost exclusively narrowing in on improving my bow hold and relaxing my grip and finding a better way to put the correct pressure on the strings to get a more solid, consistent sound from the instrument. And the payoff has been that even Karin commented that there is a noticeable difference in the sound quality.

Linked to this, maybe tangentially, is the fact that I haven’t made any recordings lately… sad for those three people who were actually listening to them. This is mostly because I’ve been spending a lot more time on foundational exercises for the last couple months. Scales. Lots of scales. Scales. Slow scales with long, full bows. Sometimes fifteen minutes of the same scale over and over and over and then if I think I’ve done that well, I’ll reward myself with a few songs from my “fun” music. Scales make for remarkably boring recordings in the inverse way that they make for remarkably important practice tools.

But… two hundred days. Not a violinist yet, but I’m starting to feel like I have enough skill with the instrument to avoid making a complete fool out of myself if I were to called to stand up and play. (Which is something I’m still trying to avoid for a few more months!)


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