Friday, March 25, 2011

Violin vs. Piano #1

As I mentioned before, I consider myself a pianist who is now learning the violin. As I become more familiar with this second instrument, I'm discovering definite differences between them. Here's my new favorite: ringing notes on the violin!

The sound a violin (and other string instruments) produce comes from vibrating strings. Each string vibrates at a particular pitch (hopefully, an actual note!). When a string of a violin is vibrating at a certain frequency, it also vibrates at multiples of those frequencies. (Our ear is simply in tune to a limited range of frequencies.) If one of those frequencies happens to be a multiple of the frequency of another violin string, that second string will also vibrate. This is referred to as "string resonance" & "sympathetic vibration".* While pianos are tuned in order to take advantage of this phenomenon, it's much easier to hear on the violin.

Recently, I've been practicing Song of the Wind, which has a lot of phrases that end on open "E" strings. It's really cool to hear the ringing "E" before going on to the next phrase. I think I'm falling in love with the violin.

* I knew that the math lecture I went to fall semester freshman year would some day turn out to be useful. However, I accept all the blame for errors in this and all future explanations.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Violin recital!

As a music student, I think it's very important to see and hear other people play. The whole experience is inspiration but also gives you a much better feel for performance. In addition, you hopefully can learn from their technique and their sound.

One of my friends gave her junior violin recital tonight, and, of course, I went. The chapel was beautiful, and I loved all the music. She played the first movement of Beethoven's Spring, a much beloved music memory of mine. Then, she played Rachmaninoff's Vocalise, a piece I've fallen in love with ever since I heard Joshua Bell's rendition. She concluded with a beautiful Bach concerto.

The recital was splendid (even if the pianist did overuse the sustaining pedal and blurred two octave scales all together.) Everyone was very interested in the performance, and they even brought her 1/32 size violin to display at the reception. Who knew that you could even play a violin that tiny?

Monday, March 21, 2011

A confession

Even though I'm doing much better over all, it seems that I've had a few exhausted days. Every activity feels laborious, and I've even resorted to going to bed at 8:00 p.m. All that goes to tell you that I've neglected this blog not out of lack of things to write about but out of lack of energy. In fact, I have a few exciting things that I want to write about, so stay tuned!

In the mean time, on the violin front, I have still been practicing. Never fear. I have read my own columns! I have decided that a little bit of practice is better than none, especially if I'm focusing on the project at hand. So the Froggie is still goin' a-fiddlin'. :)

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Forming a Habit

As I was practicing today, I kept thinking about habits. What are habits? Being stuck in a rut is a big fear of mine, and often I conceptualize habits as ruts. After all, Oxford English dictionary defines habit as "a settled or regular tendency or practice, especially one that is hard to give up." Then, a rut is a "long deep track made by the repeated passage of the wheels of vehicles." So naturally habits lead to ruts, right?

That might be one way to conceptualize things, but that frame leads to the negative. Habits can be good as well. Habits such as brushing your teeth every night or making the bed or arriving at meetings on time are laudable. Holding the violin bow correctly & playing the violin in tune are definitely desired habits!

But one can only form habits, good or bad, through repeated activity. It only counts as a habit if you do it the same way every time, which implies that you do the same thing multiple times, usually a lot of times. That means that the only way (not the best way, but the only way) to form the habit of playing violin correctly is to practice frequently!

I'm forming a March resolution: to practice violin almost every day in order to form good violin performing habits. Aside from the days I'm out of town, I'm going to practice (if even only a little.) According to the dictionary, it seems to be my only hope. Fortunately, it's executable!

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Shoulder Rests have a Function

It turns out that shoulder rests really do have a function. Remember when I told you about the left hand paranoia? Having the proper support between your shoulder and your jaw bone really does help significantly reduce left hand paranoia, at least about dropping the violin.

For a while, I was trying to make due with the traditional kitchen sponge, but I finally caved to aforementioned left hand paranoia (keep in mind that the frog hand dominates this blog) and purchased a shoulder rest. Or, I should say, I went to Amazon and picked an awesome shoulder rest, which I purchased with my Swagbucks giftcards. Yes! Surfing the web is finally paying off; it's making me a better violin player. ;)

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Practicing with a plan

Growing up, my piano teacher always urged us to have a plan when we practiced. Every day we practiced, we should write down what we hoped to accomplish in that practice time. He insisted, but did we listen? Of course not. We knew better. Even when I was practicing three hours a day(!), I never had a practice plan, or at least, not one written down.

As an adult, however, my attitude has changed a lot. For a wide variety of reasons, I feel that if I put effort or time into something, it needs to count. So if I'm going to spend time practicing the violin, I need to making tangible progress in each of those minutes (or at least most of them).

My teacher gave me some suggestions at my lesson yesterday. Here's how my notes read:
1) Twinkle: straight bow
2) A scale: straight bow
3) Lightly row: left hand fingers above fingerboard, first row of knuckles even with fingerboard

Today's practice definitely had all those suggestions in mind, but I spent most of my time focusing on intonation. When playing a scale, it is best to actually play the notes in the scale and not some pitches that do not correspond to notes at all. That is much easier said than done. Then, I practiced learning Lightly Row, focusing on playing pitches that were actually notes. That song is tricky! And I don't quite have it done to be able to play it with the accompaniment.

Lastly, I played Twinkle with the accompaniment CD. That violinist plays it really quickly, and I don't have a good enough bow hold to make it through very well. So I'm putting bow hold (with a focus on the pinky) on my list of techniques to master (or improve on) before my next lesson.