Learning to play the violin is a bit like learning to drive a car. Sadly for me, I can’t drive at all.
Before I get into this, here’s a brief timeline of the events leading up to my third violin class this morning.
A brief timeline of the events leading up to my third violin class this morning.
- 2001 (or maybe it was 2000 or 2002) – went to the annual Book Exhibition at school, where my sister picked out a book for me. The Mozart Season by Virginia Euwer Wolff. In the book, a 12 year old violinist participates in a Mozart contest, plays a concerto for her dead Jewish grandmother, discovers that she’s an endangered species, finds a lost song, and practices her violin a whole lot. 13 (or was it 11 or 12?) year old me decided to learn to play the violin some day.
- 2004 (or 2005) – 18 year old me got distracted and bought a guitar instead. Turned out I was reasonably musical. Stuck with the instrument, practiced for hours every day, got pretty good at it even, and wrote some semi-decent (and a few slightly shitty) songs. My violin dreams were shelved for a while.
- November 5, 2010 – 22 year old me was kinda bored. I was writing better songs by then, but hardly ever practiced. I wondered if it was time to find new focus in my old ambitions. Asked my family for a violin on my birthday, got a cycle instead.
- November 5, 2011 – 23 year old me asked for a birthday violin again. This time I actually got one.
- Later in 2011 – found a violin tutor who had great expectations of me, and totally disappointed him. I went for 4 – 5 classes, made rapid progress, and then quit and decided to go the self-taught route. Terrible decision. Never try to teach yourself violin, Zonk. Especially if you’re a lazy bum and entirely lack the discipline and rigour required to master this cruelest of instruments.
- 2012 – 2016 – Picked up the instrument and dropped it again roughly 234 times. Figured out how to play Scarborough Fair and May It Be (Enya). Felt momentarily accomplished. Accomplished nothing.
- 2017 – Planned a bunch of life changes for 2018, including but not limited to – marriage, moving out, quitting my job, going freelance, becoming a person who understands money; and learning to play the fucking violin.
- January 2018 – Called up Furtados, got a list of numbers for violin teachers, arranged to meet the first one that answered his phone. Luckily for me, he turned out to be excellent. He told me that adults can learn to play pretty easily too, and that I do have an ear for music. Which was quite a relief to hear, because by this point, I’d almost entirely stopped playing anything. The last song I composed was written at least 2 years ago, and the fingertips of my left hand were smooth as baby’s bum. I’d figured my musical ear must have rotted itself off my head by now. I paid up immediately, and started going to class.
- Today, 8.30 a.m., January 30, 2018 – Class #3.
My teacher introduced me to sight reading, adding one more thing to do to the growing list of things one is expected to do simultaneously while playing a violin. Keep the bow parallel to the bridge. Keep your bow hand flat and loose whilst not dropping the bow. Put your middle finger in the curve of the heel and your pinky just so and with your ring finger, you must poke the frog in its eye. Keep your thumb rounded. Keep your left hand loose (I cannot). Keep all four fingers curved, and find the right note with absolutely no markers to help you do it at all. Keep the scroll pointing up. Bow surely, at a consistent speed, and ease the pressure up at the right times. Use the right section of bow, at the right distance from the bridge. Keep your right arm still from elbow to shoulder. Pay attention to the sound you draw out – try not to sound like a dying cow. Do all of this simultaneously, of course and oh! Slow down! You have to be playing in time!
I’m not very good at multi-tasking, Zonk. Nor am I good at Math. I realised today that musicality can really only take you this far when it comes to music. And with the violin, it probably barely even counts. So much of this is technique and practice and hard hard hard work. It’s a bit overwhelming. But, let’s be honest. It’s also kinda exciting to think that if I keep up with this, I might actually be able to play respectably someday.
So my aim this week is to get as close to an hour of practice every day as I possibly can. I think it should be doable. I doubt it’s gonna be fun. Either way, it’s time to buckle up.
*grimly puts rosin on bow*