Monday, February 28, 2011

A Slow Day

Today was just a slow day in general. So violin practice was pretty slow as well.

I practiced in front of the bathroom mirror so that I could monitor the bow. It turns out that it needed some supervision because this frog was fiddlin' all over the highway!

Plus, I practiced playing with a slow version of the accompaniment. That definitely gave me a chance to pay more attention to technique.

That's all for now!

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Dropping the Violin Mid-Fiddle?

I had a craving for some yummy dessert today, so I started making these ginger-lemon bars. Mmmm. While they're baking and then cooling, I figured I might as well clock in some violin practicing time. :)

So I said yesterday that my left hand was afraid of dropping the violin? Well, it turns out that its inkling had some semblance of truth because the violin slipped mid-practice a couple of times. I turned to the handy internet for some advice and discovered some useful diagrams and hints on holding the violin. One reasonable suggestion was to practice holding the violin while walking around. That sounded like a good idea, so I'm incorporating that into my practice time.

That's all for today, folks!

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Thoughts from Practicing Today

I've had two violin lessons so far, and already I'm realizing how much more there is to know. I think I've mastered the basic bow hold. At least, I'm not dropping the bow in the middle of the song. But I still haven't gotten the left hand position correct, or anywhere near correct. My main problem is that my hand is convinced that if it doesn't hold onto the violin for dear life, the violin will fall to the ground. So I can con the hand into thinking that it doesn't need to grab the violin, but then it has some weirdly ethereal hold that doesn't work too well either.

I've already played piano for a long time, so one would think that I know most of the basic musical techniques. Apparently, there's a pretty basic one that I don't know at all -- being accompanied! I started using the accompaniment tracks that I found online and discovered that it's really difficult to follow an accompaniment. If someone else is playing what I'm supposed to be playing, I can definitely follow that. But what if they're playing something else? Now I have to listen for the rhythm and hear to see if what I'm playing is in tune with what they're playing. That's really tricky. But it does force me to listen to intonation and not just rely on those handy tapes on my violin.

Moral: As Froggie goes a fiddlin', she learns important musical techniques along the way, some specific and some general.

Pretty cool websites

I have quickly discovered that there are a lot of Internet resources for the learning the violin.

This online tuner is pretty handy, especially since I'm still developing an ear and I don't have a physical tuner.

I also found these accompaniment tracks for Suzuki Violin Book 1-3, which are pretty handy. They're different from the ones my youngest sister used, and it's nice to have something different for a change.

Plus, it turns out that the learning violin over Skype is not that unusual after all. I do have to say that my teacher is much better looking. :)

Who am I, why the violin, and why now?

I suppose every blog needs an introduction. This one certainly begs one.

I am a twenty-something graduate of a top 20 college in the United States where I studied history and physics. I even earned a master of arts in history and am currently working as a historian for a prominent institution and serving as a freelance editor on the side. That makes me the perfect candidate to begin learning violin, right?

Music has been an integral part of my life for as long as I can remember. I started taking piano lessons when I was six after having picked out the upright piano I wanted in the piano store. (It turns out that I picked a good one.) While I'll be the first to admit that I never had the talent to perform professionally, I enjoyed playing the piano and performed quite complicated pieces rather well in high school. In ninth grade, I gave a joint recital with my younger sister, performing a number of pieces including Mozart's Twelve Variations on "Ah vous dirai-je, Maman" known in plain English as Twelve Variations on "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star".

My fondest memories of childhood music were chamber music. In tenth and eleventh grades, I had the honor of working with a local violinist who was just about my age. Together we performed Beethoven's Spring Sonata for Piano and Violin. It was so much fun to work with another instrumentalist and to see music come and alive in dialogue between instruments. I fell in love with the different textures, and the power of music to convey dynamic emotions. I knew I was lucky to have the opportunity to play with this talented friend, and I learned a lot by watching her perform. (She recently graduated from Curtis Institute of Music as a violist and is performing on the international stage!)

I always intended for music to be a major part of my life, but some unforeseen health conditions manifested themselves towards the end of my high school career. All of sudden, it seemed that I couldn't practice three hours a day, no matter how much I wanted to. My connection to music all of sudden became a physical impossibility. As days turned into weeks, weeks into months, and months into years, I ran away from the music I had grown to love, unwilling to face the loss of something I loved.

To be sure, I found new ways to make music a part of my life. I began playing in church meetings and continued to accompany my younger sisters. But for the most part, I avoided recitals and concerts because they reminded me too much of the past I had lost. Even studying music history was hard; I loved learning about the role of music in culture and its contributions to philosophy, but it all reminded of me shattered dreams.

Needless to say, a lot has changed since then. I'm learning to confront my fears with an inner strength that is my own. And I'm learning to make the most of my circumstances by finding new ways to grow. Rather than allow my limitations to shape who I am, I'm actively creating my own person within the confines of my life. It's finally time to make music, classical music, a more central part of my life, not in the way that it was before, but in a new way, a more mature way, a way that embraces that person that I'm becoming.

Why the violin? I've always liked the violin. I like it for its shape, its beauty, and its portability. (Imagine bringing your piano with you everywhere to perform, and then imagine playing a brand new instrument when walking out on stage.) I love the rich texture of its music. And I love how it has different musical capacities than the piano.

Learning the violin has been brewing in my mind for a long time. How did it came to fruition? I commented on a friend's photo on facebook and jokingly asked her if she could teach me to play violin. She was, after all, a violin teacher! Would she be willing to take on a long distance student? I really didn't expect to hear back from her, and I actually forgot about the whole saga until the following message appeared on my Facebook wall: "I'm thinking Skype might work for long-distance violin lessons. I haven't downloaded it yet, but I do have a webcam. This is assuming the sound-picture delay isn't too bad... What do you think?"

Three months later, the journey begins. My violin frog is going fiddlin'.