The Art of Violin Playing

13 April 02017 (6 months ago)4 minutes of your time

I’ve been eyeing a new copy of this old book for a couple months.

There was a brief window of time, once while I was browsing the sheet music stacks before class in the music store below the lesson studio: this book was there on the shelf and I flipped through it, pondering the pretentious nature of an eighty-year old manuscript on the ART of learning to tame this instrument that I’ve been lugging around for the past seven months (yes, seven months officially as of today!) attempting to make sound less like a feline trapped in a lawnmower and more like the sublime promise of four strings elegantly vibrating their tones through the delicate echos of curved wood and ebony.

I saw this book, pondered buying it, did not because fifty dollars seemed like an unnecessary extravagance… and then I went to my lesson instead.

One thing I’ve noted about playing the violin, or at least about learning to play the violin, is that unlike virtually every other “hobby” I’ve pursued in my life, violin is a relative secret society of unwritten facts and rituals that none dare speak aloud for fear of… I don’t know.

If you are, say, a photographer then there are about sixty-eight different monthly magazines, so many books that you could build a library to rival the cost of the actual camera equipment, apps, websites, tools, podcasts, audiobooks, clubs and courses all of it meant to cushion your landing into a technical skill.

If you are, say, an aspiring runner then there are at least two-dozen magazines, a hundred books on marathon training, films about running, apps, social networks, bloggers, instagrammers, podcasts, clinics, clubs, training teams, races, and race expos, all of it built to buffer your exhaustion through an otherwise solitary sport.

If you are, say, a student of the violin then there are… well… there is a bi-monthly magazine which is really expensive and restrictive about where they deliver it, uh… I’ll be generous and say six reference books and an eclectic collection of sheet music which fits into the vague categorization of “Level 2/3″… a couple websites, a couple pretty much useless adware tuning apps… a couple scattered music stores… a handful of social-media active players who post stuff on Youtube, and… expensive lessons… maybe a community orchestra if you’re lucky… all of it just… there… not filling quite the same information expanse that seems to be gleefully filled for every. other. hobby on the planet.

So, what I’m saying –basically and without trying to offend anyone– is that an eighty year old book about “the ART of” this instrument seemed like a virtual information oasis in a vast desert of trying to learn… participate… hone… just play this darn thing.

But fifty bucks seemed a little too expensive and I decided to be THAT GUY and go check Amazon first.

It was ninety bucks on Amazon.

(It has since appeared for cheaper, but still in that fifty dollar range, and presuming I order it from the UK or Florida or somewhere else even more exotic.)

So… to the library. Unless… nope. Even they don’t have a copy.

I went back to the music store, but sure enough their copy had been sold. Yet I was still a little cavalier about the notion of actually putting out that fifty bucks for some kind of information junkie fix.

Fast forward to yesterday’s lunch… A walk down Jasper Avenue… A stop at the used book store, no reason, for nothing in particular, for saving that it’s what I do sometimes on my lunch breaks in the summer when the weather permits a main street stroll. I casually poke past the section labeled “music and entertainment” flipping through the nine-or-so inches of “learn to play the guitar” books and other orphans of so-many broken musical epiphanies, each sold for cash after some other sad soul’s failed attempt at picking up an instrument, before admitting defeat and dusting off the assets of their attempt to be distributed into the resale markets for another leap into the void of oh-so-optimistic adult education.

And then there is was.

The Art of Violin Playing – Book One by Carl Flesh copyright 1937.

It was tucked casually between a book of Avril Lavigne guitar tab solos and a collection of Glee TV show music for vocal-piano-guitar. Just there. Waiting for me, perhaps. The book I’d spent the last two months quietly poking around trying to find, for just a hair over twenty bucks, and a mere two blocks from my office.


Maybe I should start my own podcast: The Art of Trying to Learn Violin Playing…

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