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Taking up the violin again--for dummies


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#1 OlderAussie

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Posted 16 January 2016 - 03:56

Hi fiddle players...

 

I recently took up practising the violin again after more than a decade's almost complete abstinence -- and decades since I had a lesson. This also involved getting some new gear.  I've had some experiences I could call "educational".  So for the enlightenment of anyone planning a similar comeback (and no doubt the entertainment of the rest of you) I can offer a few tips.  

 

Isn't anonymity a wonderful thing? 

 

So here are Tips #1 to 3 in the series "Taking up your violin again - for dummies"

 

TIP #1

 

If you get your bow rehaired its best not to throw out that old bit of rosin lurking in your case before you've got your new bow hair rosined up again -- unless there's someone else's rosin you can borrow for a bit -- because with a perfectly smooth new lump of rosin & new bow hair, try as you might, there is just not enough friction to get the rosin on the bow. :duh:

 

TIP #2

 

When the truth of Tip #1 dawns upon you its best not to :idea: roughen up your new rosin with a nail file encrusted with diamond chips.  Unless you were planning to perform a rendition of "The Devil Went Down to Georgia" and play the devils part... 

 

 

TIP #3

 

Your new bow hair might not sit quite so flat after you've vacuumed the #*#*##* out of it :embarassed:

 

:howDoYouDo:


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#2 Tenor Viol

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Posted 16 January 2016 - 11:13

:rofl:


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#3 OlderAussie

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Posted 18 January 2016 - 04:28

So, I see there is some interest in this topic. Maybe I should hurry along my pearls of wisdom.

Before I get on to talking about your instrument you could contemplate:

Tip #4:

Pursue a meaningful relationship with noodles and dumbbells.

I'm talking about building up those muscles and increasing your stamina. Physical activity is not just for uncultured types!

You don't necessarily need to join a gym, though it would be a good idea to at least have some casual sessions if you can - you do need someone to show you how to do weight-bearing exercises properly without injuring yourself and check on your first few sessions. Perhaps you know a fitness freak or someone who's been in the military?

You don't need to get gear that Arnie Schwarzenegger would be proud of -- you can get pretty little plastic-coated dumbbells in any sporting gear shop. I now just use a pair of 1.5 with some 2 kgs for a couple of the exercises. I do a regime designed and at first supervised by my own resident X-sergeant. To progress I do more repetitions rather than putting the weight up. Do be careful and not too ambitious as it is quite possible to strain your ligaments, which take a long time to recover :( I got on to using 2 and 2.5kg weights but hurt myself and had to have a couple of months off.

An excellent alternative would be some aqua aerobics which include resistance-type activities. That's where noodles come in, and there are also pool dumbbells. Aqua aerobics is excellent exercise and doing a class to music with others is more fun. It's not likely you will injure yourself in the water. You should still be able to benefit even if you can't swim, as for most exercises your feet are on the bottom. Just check out how you can be accommodated in the particular class.

Though I've only been practising my violin again for a few months, I've surprised myself that I can now practise for a couple of hours without getting tired. I believe that's partly due to my stronger muscles and increased stamina. I also do a little cycling. Oh, yes, and it's partly because I now play the correct size instrument...because SIZE does matter! ;)

Edits: sorry -- I've fixed my description of aqua exercises and I had my noodles and woggles mixed up!

Update: now it's May I'm back to 2 and 2.5 kg weights, fewer reps make the workout quicker.
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#4 OlderAussie

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Posted 20 January 2016 - 04:22

So, on to the serious matter of your instrument.  This next "tip" is pretty obvious isn't it?

 

Tip #5:  Get an instrument which suits you into good working order

 

If you still have your instrument, is it in playable condition?  If you are fond of it but it has fallen to pieces or is making strange sounds not due to your rusty playing :D don't despair!  Apparently-- and I've only just learned this-- violin glue is designed to fail!  Yes, blow me down!  Otherwise if the violin came under severe stress due to temperature or severe changes in humidity, the wood might crack -- a much more serious problem.  So if it sounds different it could have an "open seam" or even a loose bass bar (another concept new to me).  Those can be fixed by a luthier if its felt your instrument is worth fixing and at the same time you can get some new strings and other gadgets you might need (more on those later).

 

It's important to dispassionately look at whether that violin really suits you.  How and why did you come by it?  How did you feel about playing it?  Be honest - I had to admit a "love/hate" relationship with mine.  If you are of small stature and small hands and had technical problems, perhaps you should be playing a smaller instrument.  I've already posted about how I've swapped from a 7/8 to a 3/4 size.  I've also found that the shape and feel of violin necks can differ markedly -- perhaps another instrument would suit your particular shape better? 

Dare I say it?  If you are blessed in the other direction maybe you should even go over to the "dark side" :cool: and learn a new clef...

 

For my penny's worth on buying a new instrument you'll have to wait till Tip #6.  For me that has been an interesting experience in which I learned about more things I never knew existed!


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#5 Chris H

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Posted 21 January 2016 - 23:34

I'm enjoying this thread - so don't think that just because no one is commenting that no one is interested!
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#6 OlderAussie

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Posted 22 January 2016 - 06:52

Thanks Chris!  I also seem to have amused TV.

 

So, on to buying an instrument.  Things have obviously changed since I was young.  I wasn't aware of  these instruments myself but from the forum comments on various brands I gather makers such as Gliga and Strunal have a production line turning out instruments of good quality and consistency. 

 

Tip #6:  Modern brands such as Gliga or Strunal are probably well worth a look

 

My reason for saying so will be become clear later.  I did in fact sit down and consider an "Amore" violin which had a surprisingly lovely tone but I remembered my personal specifications.  I wasn't happy with the shape or feel of the neck.

 

Tip #7:  Don't let yourself be swayed by emotion - remember your specific needs

 

Sure that nice guy/gal has gone to a lot of trouble for you, even putting on different strings and doing a Paganini impersonation and is obviously desperate for a sale.  It's you who are spending the money and you who will have to play the instrument.

 

 

Perhaps, like me, you want a violin which is a unique individual - something distinctive: the mystique of the luthier's history and foreign lands!  One with a fine big tone of course.   

 

But you'd better not go down to the woods alone...


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#7 Chris H

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Posted 22 January 2016 - 08:46

So, what happened?.... I naively bought the first violin I played that sounded vaguely okay. I think it's fine though.
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#8 OlderAussie

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Posted 22 January 2016 - 08:56

Hang in there Chris, we have to let the others catch up. Besides, I'm gathering my wits.
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#9 Tenor Viol

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Posted 22 January 2016 - 11:08

Tease, we're on tenterhooks eagerly anticipating the next instalment
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#10 BadStrad

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Posted 22 January 2016 - 16:22

Enjoying this thread too.


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#11 OlderAussie

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Posted 23 January 2016 - 04:06

I think some of you want me to race ahead...but where was I?  I need to fill you in a bit otherwise you will think I'm a prime goose. :lol:

 

So, I was after a smaller fiddle but it had to be one I liked as much as my old unlabelled but probably French 7/8 size little "Madame"--she came with a silver-tipped Fetique bow you know...so I still think quite a classy lady.  I didn't want your average 3/4 size!  Armed with "Madame" for comparison I headed off to a larger city where I'd have more choice.  Not the nearest really Big Smoke, which scares me rather, but the more familiar but still quite large city not far from my home town--and where I had friends.

 

After visiting four establishments over a couple of days I went back to the well-qualified luthier with the appealing old German instrument which he had himself restored a couple of years back and had recently tweaked (not surprising it had come back from the previous young and no doubt growing owner).  I had another good play both inside and out, being suspicious of his lovely high ceilings, while he finished rehairing a bow. 

 

Well,   the sun was shining, :sun:  the birds were singing -- it was a lovely warm Spring day.  In fact the weather had been very dry there lately...  Yep, I thought happily, this baby will do me nicely!  Plus I had confidence in the dealer, who also made his own instruments (and was a nice young chap). 

 

Tip #8:  Deal with a well-respected and well-qualified luthier whose business depends on protecting his/her good reputation

 

So I happily paid up and headed off with my new little friend (and little Madame too) in the hire hire car to my Mum's. 

 

But will there be a fairytale ending? 

 

Well, kinda...


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#12 Tenor Viol

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Posted 23 January 2016 - 10:16

Cue ominous sounds off, double basses with contra-bassoons and bass clarinets in lower registers, vaguely discordant as the woods are entered and the sun disappears... :hides:


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#13 OlderAussie

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Posted 25 January 2016 - 03:42

You got it, Tenor Viol!  It was a long, very wet trip.  In fact it bucketed down!  Is this relevant?  Maybe...?

 

I wonder if any of you more experienced players have guessed what's coming?  Even you may be surprised!  Wow, my little 3/4 size really packs a punch!

 

So, was it the next day?  Anyway I was enjoying getting acquainted with my new friend, playing folk tunes, :happyviolin:  when a totally strange thing happened.  My bow suddenly got spasms and started jumping up and down!   Like I was suddenly really nervous!  :huh:    Why was I really nervous to play that particular note?  It was just an old Bb on the D string (3rd position).   My bow just couldn't be tamed and there was this weird sound!    So I contacted the dealer and felt a bit silly saying I was in general really happy with the violin but there was a problem with one note

 

Then I heard it was probably a problem with a special name and I'd likely also find it at the same pitch high up on the G string...which was true...

 

All of which brings me to what you might remember as "The Little Red Riding Hood Principle", which is:

 

 

Tip #9:  Be careful that you don't get MORE than you bargained for!

 

 

 

Yep, I'd brought home a WOLF  :blink:

 

I'll leave you to google that one (there is a lovely demonstration on YouTube but being a dummy I can't insert the link).

 

 

I told you it would be educational...but WILL the Big Bad Wolf gobble me up?  Stay tuned...


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#14 Tenor Viol

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Posted 25 January 2016 - 12:33

Here's one Youtube link

 

(If you wish to insert something like a Youtube link, here's how. Go to video and play it, whilst it is playing, 'right click' with the mouse pointer somewhere in the video. You should get several options, one of which is 'copy video URL' - select that. This copies the address of the video to your clip board. In your Forum post you can either just right-click and paste the URL  'as is', or highlight a word (I highlighted 'Here's'. Click on the icon that looks like a bit like paperclip, next to the numbered bullet list icon. This will open a dialogue box. Right click and paste the URL in to the address box on this. OK it. Congratulations, you have just inserted a hyperlink.)


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#15 OlderAussie

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Posted 26 January 2016 - 00:13

Thanks so much Tenor Viol for the advice and for giving everyone the link.  Yep that's the demo I meant.  :)  And thanks for that great musical accompaniment earlier too, very spooky -- we could do a movie together!


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