Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Learning The Violin Part ??: Respect to Violinists

So it's been a long time since my last post on the journey of learning to play the violin.

To recap, I've always been a fan of stringed instruments and the violin in particular; about 5 months ago or so I decided that I was going to learn how to play the violin. And to read music. And to keep something approximating tempo. For the first 25 years of my life I've never played anything before (the various piano keyboards I've mashed my hands on don't count). Since I've started learning to play, the near-unanimous response has been "You certainly picked a difficult instrument" -- I'm kind of glad no one said that before I committed myself.

I'm still functionally illiterate when it comes to sheet music -- give me enough time and I'll tell you what a particular note is but it is still far from automatic recognition -- particularly if the note is above or below the staff. I'm working on that. On one hand I'm told that that I'm making good progress -- I can't say how great my teacher, a professional violinist herself, is -- but its frustrating that something seemingly so simple is taking so long for me to pick up.

For those who aren't aware -- the violin, unlike a guitar, for example, is fretless -- you have the entire swath of the fingerboard to find any of the dozens of notes that the instrument is capable of across its four strings with no real roadsigns along the way. To paraphrase Spiderman, with great power comes great responsibility: Not having anything but my less-than-perfect ear to place my fingers by I'm becoming frustrated by the "just a little off" and "no two times the same" phenomena. (Part of me is convinced that this would be easier with a "real" [read: not $0.99+shipping on eBay] violin... but I'm not spending $2k+ on myself until I'm convinced that I can achieve some level of accuracy and repeatability). I'm a digital guy by profession -- it's either on or off, right or wrong, and the violin is about as infinitely variable analog as you can get.

But the good news: I've become reasonably coordinated as far as placing and lifting fingers in coordination with bowstrokes; I'm learning new pieces relatively quickly; my tempo isn't wandering as far afield as it was originally, and everything is generally making progress, even if it's not as rapid as I'd like.

As I've said innumerable times before if nothing else I have a much greater appreciation for the craft of the professional musician: Any professional makes their work seem nearly effortless... Not only do the professionals make their individual work look and sound effortless, but the work of the trio, quartet, quintet or orchestra likewise seem as effortless as breathing.


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