Taking up the violin again--for dummies
Posted 03 September 2016 - 20:16
Did you know Wolfe Tone was an Irish rebel? That probably accounts for something, though goodness knows what.
Posted 03 September 2016 - 20:18
Posted 05 September 2016 - 00:01
Well hi dorfmouse! Glad to have you aboard and congratulations on your stats. Not that we pay much attention to stats here (25,000+ )
Yes I try to keep these folk amused as well as informed. But gee, sometimes it's hard! Talking of stats, I've been watching SoundCloud.com. How can I get more of you to listen to Gamma Cat as mentioned above? You know you can listen to a certain No. of songs for free and my OH reckons if you don't listen again for a while they give you another credit. Just use the Search icon.
I hope you all aren't just fixated on either classical or violin music...this world has lots of room for other kinds of fun.
Posted 18 September 2016 - 11:03
Maybe, class, I should have expressed my recent request in terms of homework. It seems a few of you have at least completed the first part of the assignment. None of you care to report any caterwauling urges?
I don't find all animal sounds so inspiring. The past couple of days I haven't felt like practising my violin, let alone improvising, even though on Wednesday I had a lovely session. Since Thursday I've been in a bit of a sulk because I decided my violin, Wolfy, was sounding...well... quite wolfy again. Is it increasing humidity with the wet weather or is it purely subjective? Can I really have confidence in such a touchy creature? Would further experimentation by a luthier be worth it? Such are my troubling contemplations.
A dark mood for whatever reason can certainly discourage us from practising our instrument. But in order to progress
Hint #28: We should practise when we feel like it. When we don't feel like it we should practise anyway.
Well, at least we should make sure we practise the NEXT day if at all possible
However I think the occasional complete holiday, say for a week or two after doing an exam, can be refreshing. It might even help us get out of a bad habit...and perhaps nothing is so discouraging as a perplexing bad habit. I'll tell you how I got out of a quite crippling bad habit I had years ago in our next session.
Till then, enjoy that crazy synth music!
Posted 11 October 2016 - 22:37
My Hint #29 is this: It's worth paying for expert help to get you over an intractable technical problem
When I had been learning for many years and preparing for 8th Grade, I developed a quite incapacitating problem. Till then I had been confident of my bowing and told I had "a natural bowing arm". But then I started gripping the bow too hard, pressing down with my index finger so it got quite pulverised. Was it stress or a misguided attempt to get more sound out of my 7/8 size violin? I was holding the bow so stiffly that I once dropped it while playing!
This of course was all quite depressing and worrying...
I was learning from my mother. Mum had her performer's diploma but no actual teaching qualifications. Because she herself had never had this problem she didn't know how to get me out of it, except of course to tell me not to grip so tightly. Fortunately, before doing advanced exams Mum would take me for 2 or 3 consultation lessons at the Conservatorium a couple of hours drive away. The violin professor of course knew just what to do and gave me an exercise where I held my bow vertically and had to walk my fingers like incy wincy spider along the stick -- quite difficult at first! I can't remember if they walked up or down or both but this exercise soon got me out of my problem, I think by reminding my other fingers that they were supposed to be doing something!
Whenever I feel this problem returning now I know what to do, so that lesson with an expert (though expensive) was money well spent.
Posted 06 November 2016 - 12:06
I suppose you good people expect me to keep you informed, inspired AND entertained right up till Christmas?
There are a couple more stories I can tell. One concerns some advice on interpretation I can give, emboldened by the congratulations I received after one of my performances many years ago -- congratulations from people who mattered in the musical world. Ah yes, (sigh) one of my minor triumphs. But I need to work on how best to tell the tale while maintaining some degree of modesty (and impressing with my knowledge of European culture and of ornithology; with my sensitive connection with the natural world and of course, my good old common sense).
So, all that will have to wait. Today I want to share some observations I have made regarding my move to a 3/4 size instrument and my trial of a middle-mounted chin rest which straddles the tail piece. They may interest some of you. Both are about playing high up the fingerboard. The first is: Wow those high notes get so close together, it's not so much a matter of where you put your finger as precisely how you tilt it. More practice needed!
The second is that I feel more secure playing scales that go up very high on the E string when using a normal (side) chin rest. I have my old one on Hermann (the 3/4 violin at my Mum's house) so have been able to compare. Playing really high on the E string while using the middle chin rest makes it feel like the violin is going to pop out to my left (even though I'm pretty happy with my Bon Musica shoulder rest). Do any of you who've used a middle chin rest relate to this?
Sorry this post has been somewhat self-absorbed. I do have some advice that may be more relevant to you especially if you are really just taking up the violin again.
Hint #30: Try to become as self-reliant a musician as possible
I DON'T mean you don't need a teacher or to listen to good advice. I do mean you shouldn't rely on being spoon fed. Do practice sight-reading and improve your understanding of written music including musical theory and of course all those musical terms. Have a go at trying to play a lot of different studies and pieces. Don't rely on recordings to know how a piece should go or be happy with a very limited repertoire...
Also as violinists we should try to learn not to rely too much on finding or checking pitches by using a keyboard, even if one is available. For instance we can often check a pitch by comparing with an open string or simple harmonic, or compare a note played in a high position up the fingerboard with the same pitch played in first position. I sometimes suss out the pitch of notes in high passages by playing them an octave or two lower. Yes indeed that means I have to recognise what those notes with so many lines under them actually are!
As I said before -- more practice needed! Thoughtful practice. It has been known to do wonders.
Posted 09 November 2016 - 19:12
I've never visited Strings before, look what I've been missing! A whole mysterious new world waiting to be discovered ....maybe when I retire...hmmm, not too long to go now!
Did you know Wolfe Tone was an Irish rebel? That probably accounts for something, though goodness knows what.
Got adventurous last week and popped into the harp forum ... now feel a wee harp coming on ...
(Don't think retirement is going to be long enough, if I can actually ever afford it!)
Posted 16 November 2016 - 01:07
Yes dorfmouse, I love harps too and sometimes envy those with long fingers...
One of my favourite CDs is Carol Thompson's "The Enchanted Isles - Harp Music of Ireland, Scotland, England and Wales" (Dorian Recordings) DOR-90120 if you are interested. Just gorgeous! I also remember a lovely more classical concert by the Lipman Harp Duo, a husband and wife team, (Sebastien and Sayo). We are so fortunate to have these wonderful musicians based over here. The concert was held in an art gallery in the late afternoon and while we listened to the glorious music we could look down on a peaceful river, green pastures and the mountains beyond - a little taste of heaven!
Actually, rippling music and a peaceful river sets the scene perfectly for the illustration of my next tip. This hint of mine is for the time when you (that is, the "dummies" among you) gain, or regain, the skills and confidence to perform. It follows on from my tip on self-reliance.
Hint 31: Stand by your own interpretation of a romantic piece with a descriptive title
Think about the title and the nature of the actual music itself and resist trying to copy the interpretation of others if it doesn't gel with you.
In my previous post I mentioned a performance of mine which was quite a success. On that occasion I had a definite idea of what I wanted to portray and expressed it to my accompanist, a wonderful pianist who entirely agreed with me and had the skills to deliver exactly the right atmosphere.
I have been working (believe me) on a longer description of that happy event, however in the meantime I can give you this "precis"
Camille Saint-Saens -
He did like swans
He wrote a lovely piece
It's played a lot
But often not
In a way that makes me pleased
How those swans sob,
Their hearts a-throb
Their poor souls all a-quiver
When all I see's
A swan serene
Just floating on a river
Posted 22 November 2016 - 23:53
So now here comes a poem --
Though I've worked on it for weeks
It's form lacks the consistency
A critic often seeks
But PHYSICISTS have failed to find
One theory unified
Unless it comes with strings attached
No matter how they've tried!
So I'm not feeling too bad
That my rhymes and metre range
From here to there 'cause after all
Time signatures can change...
Ah! NOW I know just whom to blame!
The great Pavlova was her name
Or maybe I should here refer
To her famed choreographer
They took Camille's so gentle tune
And made the audiences swoon
Their musos were obliged to play
“The Dying Swan” in that sad way
Their swan it fluttered so in pain
Fell down a lot, then rose again
She struggled so against her fate
Was really in a sorry state
Till she expired upon the stage
THAT'S why sad "Swans" are all the rage!
But is that how it now must be?
Consider how originally
"The Swan" came late in a parade
Where poultry pecked and donkeys brayed
Where fossils danced and scales were played
While asses ran some tortoises staid
And then a kangaroo or two
With the lion and elephant – quite a zoo!
Camille wished trouble on his swan?
I don't think so, but let's move on...
(to be continued)
Posted 27 November 2016 - 04:44
Maybe I should get on with it ... I don't want to "string it out" for too long... I'll give you another useful hint mid week.
THE SWAN (continued)
I think I know where it went wrong --
Saint-Saens then published this one song
Without its context of good cheer
He only liked his friends to hear
And so that Swan piece was set free,
the others only posthumously
So when around 1904
Pavlova knocked upon his door
The choreographer, Fokine,
Had learned it on his mandolin
Fokine, she thought, was just the man
To boost her fame -- that was her plan
In choice of music he was free
Alas... he was no Tchaikovsky!
And when Fokine turned to his muse
You've guessed the tune he chose to use...
We've seen that Swan was all alone
No fun companions, far from home
What could its reputation be
Within that culture? Let us see...
A waterbird far from the norm
With what cops might call “previous form”
A symbol there of high romance
Our tranquil swan had little chance
Was that poor Swan then ready doomed
Its suffering was so assumed?
Posted 30 November 2016 - 07:02
**** I N T E R L U D E ***
The Swan Andante
Interlude: The Big Night; Reflections
The Swan (continued) Con Moto; Recapitulation
THE BIG NIGHT
The hall was large, the seats were full
The orchestra was a hit
Some solos fine,
and then came time
for me to do my bit!
How did I keep my Swan so calm
and play without a fear?
This one thought I kept in my mind --
“I am not even here!”
With that thought firmly in my mind
I played without a care
Just how could I be nervous
When I wasn't even there?
Back then I was just a school-girl
No idea swans' lives were so cruel
With ours intertwined,
Used by our own kind.
To add such romance
In our poems and dance --
And passion -- they've oft been our tool!
Posted 30 November 2016 - 21:53
Oh, blow! Do you really need long fingers? I already spend large amounts of my limited practice time struggling with small-handed pianist problems ...
Thanks for the CD tip
Posted 01 December 2016 - 00:59
I'm just guessing about the long fingers...
Posted 04 December 2016 - 12:38
You see, I've done a quick survey
Of the swan's place in our culture
And found it's linked with tragedy – .
Why, almost like a vulture!
This need for swans to suffer so
Leaves me a bit perplexed
Why must this one bird be portrayed
As so unfairly hexed?
First: “Swans sing sweet before they die”
Lord Tennyson spread that thought
But I have read we give that view
More credence than we ought --
Although a Whooper Swan in death
Might do some honkish wheezing
Due to a loop that's in its throat
I can't think it sounds pleasing
Weird tales of Leda and that swan
The censors here will smother
Suffice to say, that down the way
She found herself a mother
That she produced such offspring strange
Was not the end of it
It led on to the fall of Troy
(Who can believe that ... bit?)
No wonder then Pavlova's dance
Which was acclaimed as magic
Lived up to expectations that
The ending should be tragic
They say that real swans mate for life
That does now spring to mind
Oh dear! So should that lead to strife
And sorrow for their kind?
Because there forms a perfect heart
Between two graceful necks
A sentimental true love is
What everyone expects
We've heard the course of true love
Is hardly ever smooth
This makes for a good story --
Then pictures in the Louvre
Think of Odette who suffered so
As Swan Queen in Swan Lake
The prince then vowed to wed Odile,
The cruel magician's fake
When Siegfried found that he'd been tricked
He was so horrified
He jumped head first in Odette's lake
And star-crossed lovers died
When I was young this pathos led
On to a whole new rage
And poor swans found themselves lampooned
By boys upon the stage!
To ballet moves so daintily
The boys, (who did their best)
Looked funny in their tutus
While in socks and boots still dressed!
So all in all I think the swan
Has already done its bit
To move us in a sad way
Or as a comic hit --
Perhaps its time to let them be
We should get off their case
And like Camille just let them dwell
In a tranquil watery place.
Posted 07 December 2016 - 21:47
Apologies to those more familiar with The Carnival of the Animals. I have now made my description of that suite more accurate. Also, thank you all for your patience, as you can see I am still illustrating my Hint #31 about interpreting a romantic piece. Yes, there is yet a Recapitulation to come. I would spare you that, except it does include more detail of my own performance of The Swan which you may find of use (since it was such a hit).
In the meantime I'd like to say a bit more about my hint on overcoming nerves included in my poem The Big Night. The violin arrangement of "Le Cygne" was well within my technical grasp - as long as I relaxed, so just immersing myself in the music with a mental picture of a swan who really didn't give a ...bit of concern...worked very well. A few years later, when I had to play some Kabalevsky in an exam after only a few weeks' practice I found that sheer terror could also be quite effective! On that occasion I (and my young accompanist) seem to have been scared into our wits and played every note. The common factor in these two scenarios is found in the next hint.
Hint # 32: When performing, immerse yourself in the music -- or if necessary, in the very demanding task at hand -- above all don't think about what impression you are having on the audience/examiners
The time to consider the audience and their reaction is when choosing your pieces, but more about that later...