The Scratchy Violinyst: Pupal Stage

9 June 02017 (3 weeks ago)3 minutes of your time

Day: 270
Practice Logged: 156 hours + 10 minutes
Feeling: Metamorphic

Something has clicked.

Call it muscle memory. Call it internalization. Call it payoff for over a hundred and fifty hours of practice across what will be nine consecutive months as of next week. But something seems to have clicked.

I don’t want to imply in the slightest that I’ve mastered this beast of an instrument, that I can play better than I can, that I’ve stopped the learning process and that I’ve somehow become a violin master. Far from it.

Instead, those notions and feelings and frustrations of plodding across a level plateau for the last four of five months, feeling that progress, if any, has been slow and almost immeasurable or imperceptible, somehow that feeling has been eased and thrown a big juicy bone.

I’m far from good, but I’ve sensed over the last month that I’m better.

I’m not missing the strings as much as I used to, not inadvertently bumping a neighbouring note in an effort to play another.

The scratching, squealing, cat-torture-sounds are increasingly rare.

The taped-on faux-frets I added nearly nine months ago, bits of masking tape marking the finger positions, have fallen off over the last couple weeks, worn by finger oils and a million micro-nudges by the digits of my left hand and I realized that I’m just fine without them, the fingers somehow knowing where they belong on the board.

I can actually play music that sounds like the song it is supposed to sound like.

And better, I can sight read other music and it has feeling and a hint of grace even on only the second or third play through.

Weather notwithstanding, I would never had hinted at public performance a few months ago, but I’ve been practicing with the windows open in the heat of the spring and I’ve yet to hear a complaint from any of the neighbours. I even felt a bit of honest remiss at not thinking to bring the instrument to the mountains this past weekend. I could have stood atop a craggy rock and played for the passing runners. And I think I might have actually felt okay with that. Epic even.

This violin is not mastered, but about seven months ago I asked a not-so simple question right here on this blog: when do I get to call myself a “violinist?”

As in, when do you go from someone “learning the violin” to someone who “plays the violin”? When do you go from someone learning to someone doing, in general? When do you cross that threshold? When do you define yourself as someone who (tho still forever learning, refining, enhancing your skills as you bank more and more hours at that task) can label themselves a ___blank____?

I don’t have a perfect answer. I’m not sure I’m quite there yet. But I’ve been feeling more and more comfortable telling people that I play this beast without the caveat that I’m still very much a student.

I’m in the pupal stage: No longer a caterpillar… but not yet a butterfly.


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Brad knows karate… and seven other Japanese words.

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