Practice Logged: 162 hours + 0 minutes
Nine months of playing have led me to various conclusions, not the least of which is that I made a good decision in buying myself a violin last September.
I’m not sure why nine months seems like a milestone. Maybe it’s because other great things I’ve done in life have taken about nine months: like training for a marathon or having a kid (albeit that was mostly in an assistant role for me).
Nine months ago I wrote a cryptic explanation about why I was planning on investing a few thousand dollars and few hundred hours each year to attempt a mid-life crazy. It was a singular chance. It was a moment of temporary opportunity, a space of transition when doing something big and bold could be slipped through the cracks of a life in upheaval and change, and when everything settled back down, when the crazy of losing a furry friend and the blur of a draining work-life and a house and neighbourhood in flux, flustering the mind into a chaotic whirlwind of never-ending exhaustion, when all that landed and the pieces recrystallized into something resembling calm, the violin part would seem less crazy, the music would be a constant that was just there almost as if it never wasn’t.
And while that might be an ex post facto interpretation, it holds. Life hasn’t completely settled. The shaken snow globe has mostly stopped shaking, but the little snowflakes haven’t all settled in their final positions. There are bits swirling in the dome yet to flutter down upon the scene. There is still an unfettered energy driving against the inevitability of gravity.
But the music is there. It’s almost a normal thing.
So I tell myself, and it seems as true as anything else in my life these days, that I made a good decision in buying myself a violin last September.
Thirty minutes each day, sometimes less, sometimes more, but averaging one half hour has resulted in over a hundred and sixty hours of practice. On some days scales, etudes, or methods ring into the air with varying degrees of confidence. On others, it is me poking randomly through an ever growing collection of sheet music, playing favorites, sight-reading new pages, or struggling through patterns of notes that are obviously well above my skill level. Some days feel as though I should put my hat on a street corner and busk my way to a new living. Other days I’m keenly aware of every scratch as my tired fingers fluster to keep time with my bow.
But the music is there.
The violin –or rather, the violinist– is improving, if only in increments measured at the scale of individual neurons.
For the last few days I’ve been squeezing in between my “official” practice a mediocre attempt at learning the ultimate violinist cliche piece of Pachelbel’s Canon in D. I’m not quite as good as the guy in this YouTube video — no comparison, actually — but the noise that was gurgling from my instrument was a passable rendition of the exact same music that wouldn’t send an audience running with their credit cards to the Earplug Emporium… at least up until the 1:45 minute mark.
Nine months! Nine months ago I was squeaking out Twinkle Twinkle at roughly that same quality. Now, nine months later I could probably avoid completely embarrassing myself as background music at a wedding. A little bit embarrassing, but not completely. (Perhaps a video in a week or two?)
That’s progress. That’s midlife crazy. That’s a decision devoid of regret. That’s the new normal.