The Scratchy Violinyst: The Adult Education Journey Continues

14 August 02017 (1 month ago)3 minutes of your time

Day: 336
Practice Logged: 192 hours + 25 minutes
Feeling: Summer Split

It being summer, and my life adrift on the effort to (a) produce a brand new web comic and (b) not spend any more time in front of a computer than necessary, I’ve not written much here lately. Yet, I have been keeping busy, despite what seems to be a summer lull, and part of that busy-ness has been in the form of a new kind of focus to my violin practice.

In fact, on the 13th of this month I reached the 11th month of my study with this instrument. Which means, in now less than a month I will be legimately able to claim a year of experience…. hithertoo only claimed as “about a year” when asked by casual inquiry on the subject.

The new focus is a refinement of my effort to find a kind of methodical, deliberate approach to my learning. Figure out what needs work, then hone in on that and move the needle towards improvement.

That said, I’ve taken August off. I cancelled two of my lessons early in the month due to other commitments, and my instructor cancelled the other two due to his vacation, and so four weeks of lessons turned into a kind of unplanned summer break, if only from formality.

I’ve been playing, and playing with a kind of deliberate effort to refine specifics.

I have picked six pieces of varying style and difficulty that it is my goal to memorize. This is pure vanity. The ability to pick up the violin in the absense of sheet music and play a few songs seems like a skill worth pursing.

I have been learning vibrato. One short bit of my daily practice has been officially handed over to tuning the weird, quivering sort of muscle memory required to gently but rapidly waver the pitch of the note in a way that adds depth and richness to the sound. It looks effortless from the outsite, but it is the violin equivalent to scratching your head and rubbing your belly… while reading music.

I have been strengthening my pinkie. I wrote about this earlier, but I’ve devoted a measure of time to this each day for the last month or so and the results are seemingly showing. My pinkie is by far the weakest of my fingers, but he’s actually contributing to the team these days rather than fudging it from the sidelines.

And I have been doing my scales. No one loves scales, but they are the building blocks of everything else and I can feel their benefit in my playing in the form of a confidence bent towards a better tonality and measure of my speed in hitting the string in the correct place.

Eleven months of playing this instrument. As an adult learner it is unclear how to judge my progress. By the standards of a beginner, I am mostly compared to kids who have a different approach both in technique and emotional investment. Compared to my peers, I struggle to find an equivalency of the proportions of style, time-investment, self-versus-formal instruction, and honest of reporting. So, I just judge against myself… and look for measures that I can sense: a stronger sound, a richer tone, a more confident ear, and just the exponential ability to play for the sake of playing. My destination may be unknown, but the journey continues to keep me entranced.


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