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Taking up the violin again--for dummies

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#91 OlderAussie


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Posted 13 December 2016 - 22:29

Yes, my last tale for the year will attempt to illustrate the importance of choosing the right music for a performance.  In preparation for that I want you all to think of the many uses music can have:  to help people march, make people dance  etc.     Think of as many as you can.


My hoped-for grand finale may take quite some work, so please bear with me... I would like to go out with a bang.   :lol:   Whether it will be my last post in this thread remains to be seen, though I suspect the drama of my somewhat troublesome violin, "Wolfy", will have a sequel.  Of course you can all help keep this thread going by adding your own hints and stories!


In the meantime,of course, I still have my Swan Recapitulation:





Saint-Saens liked to be entertaining
His “Swan” to me needs no explaining

I do feel some stray

In the way that they play:

Vibrato and passion!

They follow the fashion

And portray that swan suffering and straining


For me their wrists wobble too much
Do they think swans' emotions are such?
And then such a bump
As down the string they jump

Their poor swan's in pain

It drives me insane
They need a more delicate touch!


Meno mosso

My accompanist so well set the scene
And my own swan slid on so sirene
Across that calm water
The way a swan oughta
My vibrato so tight
Was a triumph that night
A rendition that rarely was seen


When the music reached up to its pinnacle
Though I may seem to you rather cynical --

A gleam in her eye
Was for worms passing by

She hurried to feed

And that slight hint of greed

Made my playing just then not so clinical


But tranquility soon was restored

With the swan again somewhat bored

Can't you tell from the score

What some seem to ignore:

It just drifted away?

That's how we should play -

Art and nature in perfect accord!



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#92 OlderAussie


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Posted 25 December 2016 - 11:45

 I'd like to wish readers, particularly those who have participated in this thread, a very happy Christmas!  Many of you folk in the UK will be just about to tuck into your Christmas dinner but just in case you are desperate for entertainment when you get a bit silly later   :party:  I offer a snippet which didn't make it into my Swan poem.



A Summary, plus What Happened Next


Pavlova was a great artiste

Don't mean at all to scorn her

The audience sighed

When her poor Swan died

But my Swan just swam round the corner!  :angry: 


When the piano had rippled goodbyes

Our performance moved on to "Dark Eyes"

And I showed I could play

In a quite fiery way

And to some that was quite a surprise!  :lol:

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#93 OlderAussie


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Posted 28 December 2016 - 07:25

OK Dummies. Enough frivolity for the moment. You can let your hair down on New Year's Eve. Do pay attention. Today we'll ponder the great variety of ways in which music can be used and what its effect can be on listeners.  Have you done your homework and been thinking of them? Understanding this point may be crucial for audience engagement and thus a successful performance.


Hint #33: Your choice of music for a performance should suit the occasion, the audience's tastes and of course any relevant activity


Sometimes the appropriate genre of music will be obvious: dance music for dancing, marches for marching, a lullaby for calming. As for “scaring the enemy while strengthening tribal bonds”, this is usually left to massed pipes or tone deaf sporting teams. “Providing an impressive introduction” is usually the domain of brass or percussion. “Saluting an important personage” - well I can think of regularly spaced canon fire and a ship's whistle for greeting the captain (if they can be considered music?). Feel free to contribute ...


Of course the music we most often play as violinists simply communicates emotion, and (I'm pretty sure most of you will agree) the violin is tops when it comes to romancing.


My story will illustrate one or more of the above uses of music. Put your hand up when you think you know the main purpose of the music in this story, but don't call out. No, it is not a poem.


A Bush Concert

Back in the 1950s my young parents lived in farmhouse perched on a hillside which was still largely covered by bush. Several miles from town, and having to negotiate an often troublesome road, like most country folk they were as self-sufficient as possible, had their own cows, chickens and of course a cat to keep the mice down. Times were tough and so were many of the characters who lived in rural areas. Helping one's neighbour and oneself by being resourceful was by necessity the way of life.

Now it happened that Mum and Dad had a housemate who accommodated himself under the house. This “bushy” was not a young man, quite thin but self-sufficient and lively enough. The accommodation wasn't much at all but he seemed to find it quite suitable for his simple tastes. Unfortunately he was rather a scary creature and my parents were aware he had some quite worrying, even downright dangerous habits. As they now had a young child to think of, Mum and Dad decided it was high time for the rather wild and unruly fellow to go.

Mum knew that while he was quite uncultured, he did have a soft spot for her violin playing. While he was generally away in the bush during the day she had noticed him out by the back door listening to her practice a couple of times so she decided to contribute a little concert to farewell him. He had seemed to particularly like legato pieces such as Chanson Arabe from Scheherazade – so of course that was included along with some similar pieces.  

Like all of his kind who were well recognised for their contribution around the district, this character was quite impressive in his own way, so Mum and Dad wanted to farewell him properly, with the concert culminating with a kind of salute as he left. My dad took charge of that. No canon was available but Dad thought he could produce just the right effect. In this, timing was everything and though Dad had little experience in that kind of thing, he promised he'd give it his best shot.


The time for the farewell soon arrived and all went to plan – the guest of honour duly appeared at the back of the house and soon seemed quite entranced by Mum's playing, even swaying along to the music. When the appropriate moment came, Dad performed extremely well for a non-musician and the final salute was very effective.

With Dad being a farmer, you may not be surprised to learn it was actually a blast from a carefully aimed shotgun! The guest of honour was indeed most impressed.


It could be said he quite lost his head over the affair.


Of course in these more enlightened and less isolated times, we can just call Wildlife Relocation Services.  :D


So Dummies:


Hint# 34:  Depending on where you are located, and your choice of repertoire, be mindful of the sort of audience you might attract

“Red Riding Hood Principle again?” I hear you say? Yes, very good! So you HAVE been paying attention.

No, I did NOT say he was an old man... yes, a black snake. Yes they are now protected, no, not quite as poisonous as tiger or brown snakes but still deadly. Oh, did you...a bit of excitement for you... just last week was it?  Yes, coming out at this time of year.


Ah, there's the bell. See you next week. Have a Happy New Year and please no under-age drinking, and remember to bathe between the flags. Yes, indeed, watch out for those too.

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#94 OlderAussie


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Posted 16 January 2017 - 23:48

Yes, I'm afraid the purpose was...

"Murder, most foul, as in the best it is. But this most foul, strange and unnatural"
(Hamlet Act 1 Sc. V)

Well, Dummies...as you seem happy to call yourselves...I hope that over the past year I have given you some points to think about while taking up the violin again. Here is a very important one:

Hint # 35: Beware of spending too much time on social media, especially on the ravings of ageing could-have-beens, and GO AND DO SOME PRACTICE

Because she is. :)

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#95 OlderAussie


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Posted 28 March 2017 - 11:02

Ah so a few people out there are still reading this thread.

I've been trying to keep my New Year's resolutions:

No more rhymes, (tick);
More practice.... well...
Adopt a new hairstyle ( done -- OK so it's an inverted bob)

But the reason for this post is my news that my little violin, Wolfgang, has gone back to a more trusted violin hospital. Hopefully he will be sounding better soon, fingers crossed.

Because I think too much wolf wrangling might be much like a ...strangling.

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#96 OlderAussie


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Posted 29 April 2017 - 02:24

Yeah! Good news!

My 3/4 sized but feisty Wolfgang is sounding much better now. He is back to his original configuration and Obligato strings. True, like most violins, he still has a wolfy note very high on the G string where I would hardly ever want to play. It's back where nature intended and the very troublesome one at the same pitch on the D string is under control with a new 2.5 gram wolf eliminator in the appropriate spot behind the bridge on the G string.

What happened was the original wolf eliminator was old when I got it and the rubber soon cracked. Then the local luthiers (who were recommended and compensated by the original dealer) got a bit too experimental. Maybe they didn't have the correct wolf eliminator on hand and used a 1 gram metal eliminator on the D string instead, wrangling the wolf by changing the position of the tailpiece and changing to even lower tension strings...then when I first tried it I wasn't happy with the tone on the A string, so the sound post was also moved.

The difference in the tone now he's been put right, especially on the G string, is that now notes sound "centred". Before to me it seemed the pitch was being arrived at by some sort of ghoulish committee! When playing higher notes on the G it was all too easy for me to give an impression of ... well I thought of it as a "sick cow" :( while the tone on the E string was too shrill and piercing!

Now all being rectified by the original dealer/luthier he is sounding so much better that at the moment he sounds more mellow than my 7/8 sized Madame, but we know she isn't set up at all well and has very old strings. She may be going for a little trip herself soon.

The luthier, also suggested using a 3/4 size bow rather than my full sized one. Being lighter, this would decrease the tension on the strings and help keep Wolfy under control. Now, I happened to find a very light but rather decrepid, broken and repaired, ancient bow of my Mum's here and tried that and it is interesting the difference it made - Wolfy not so loud and possibly more mellow, so I will certainly look into getting a good 3/4 size bow.

Well I feel inspired to give you another hint:

Hint #36: Its good to deal with luthiers who are very competent and experienced string players themselves

That can only give them more insight and a better ability to check the tone of the instrument over all pitches.

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#97 dorfmouse



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Posted 29 April 2017 - 14:24

I'm just guessing about the long fingers...

Well, I went and did it - see harp forum.
And no, you don't need long fingers, just well-behaved ones .... as I'm discovering .... !
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#98 OlderAussie


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Posted 01 May 2017 - 04:56

Good for you, dorfmouse!  Go for it!


Well, Dummies... I did give up rhyming for a time, but now I've seen some performances I really can't let pass without this little contribution:




When I was just a tiny thing

My Mum would make her violin sing

A dreamy piece she played quite often

Was one she used a mute to soften

It flowed along and went so high

and seemed to me a lullaby


My memory is no doubt clear

In fact, I have her copy here!

Marked “Allegretto, con Sordino”...

But now I'd really like to know

Are those two markings in dispute

That “rather fast and with a mute?”


For now I've heard it played so slow

That mushrooms would have time to grow

Then they employ a nightingale

Our poor bored ears to so assail!   :blink:

Please leave that bird back in its wood

and play Tosselli as you should   

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#99 OlderAussie


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Posted 03 May 2017 - 23:08

Actually your Nightingale is pretty, but you know my cheeky streak...


So now I've heard your Nightingale

An icon for its song

But is it yet the best I've heard?

Well there you would be wrong


You can't have heard our Butcher Bird

Unfortunately named

For it is quite a songster

And should be more acclaimed


Not just to mark its territory

You really ought to know

When it gets in performance mode

It puts on quite a show


Lets say that for some mince meat

It becomes almost a pet

Just watch and wait for pretty soon

A fine reward you'll get


I well recall one rainy day

A member of our gang

Took shelter in our car port

Oh how he sang and sang!


A regular full concert

Would amaze the strictest critic

His own pure song was interspersed

With other birds' he'd mimic


We heard him do the Whip-Birds

The Magpie, even Crow   :rofl:

Plus several different bird calls

With names we didn't know


Was he singing for his supper?

He gave us such delight

If we'd put him on YouTube

He'd have ten thousand likes


His own song has such phrasing

A melody so sweet

Whereas your famous songster

Seems stuck on trills and tweets


In fact its song reminds me

Of Mynahs we have here

Not native to this country,

Whose small birds' loss we fear


The Mynahs so aggressive

Our natives they displace

We trap them with a “Judas bird”

And have them euthanased



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#100 OlderAussie


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Posted 18 May 2017 - 00:10

:offTopic: All this lively discussion on bird-song?

That was my point! What IS that nightingale doing there? But then I got to thinking...maybe I just didn't get it...

Still, I stick by my thoughts on the tempo...

The "Nightingale?" Serenade

Enrico, then a lonely lad
Dreamed of a youthful love he'd had
And wrote a yearning serenade
To words “Come back, do not delay!”
That seems to me an urgent plea
But the way some play, good gracious me!
That lady's interest well might fade
Before the final note is played...

So is the bird there to jazz it up a bit?

I'm loathe to criticise Andre
When people flock to hear him play
Hate to opine in too much haste
And pontify on musical taste -_-
So deary me -- perhaps I'm wrong
To not enjoy that birdie's song
Or wonder at its loud inclusion
And find it such a dxxxxd intrusion
Detracting from that lovely theme
Inspired by such a golden dream
Of love long lost but not forgot?
How DOES that bird fit in the plot?

As ornithologists will tell
It can't relate to Philomel...

As one of two Greek sisters
But which it's hard to say--
Being turned into a nightingale
Is how she got away
From a nasty man so violent
But still it must be said
He probably was quite unhinged
To find his poor son...dead
One sister's crime so gruesome
It can't be fully told
(But had her dish of cruel revenge
Been served up hot or cold?)

Still now we know the bird that sings
Can't be that Philomel
The one that sings must be a male
It cannot be a girl!
And so a new romantic link
formed round that nightly song
He must be a poor bachelor
Who has perhaps been wronged?

One thing's for sure, that bird is LOUD
His song would wake the dead
Its early morning wake-up
Would go right through your head
Not likely then that Enrico
Would welcome that same bird
Impinging on his lustful dream
It would be so disturbed!
But no, the song goes flowing on
And fades away so high

That's PROOF a noisy nightingale
Cannot have been nearby!
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#101 OlderAussie


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Posted 15 July 2017 - 07:44

Well, here's an observation to cheer us all up:

Hint #37: Sometimes our playing can improve while we are asleep! smile.png

Hasn't this happened to you? There's a difficult passage which in a practice you try and try to get right but still can't, then next day bingo, you can do it! ohmy.png Or do it sometimes, or almost do it...anyway it has vastly improved. It certainly seems true that sleep can consolidate our learning. Perhaps it's also that those particular fine muscles involved need that bit of time to strengthen or stretch? Anyway, in the words of a local bedroom furniture retailer "Its amazing what a little Snooze can do".

Please note however, that whereas one sleep helps, several sleeps before the next practice certainly don't.

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#102 Dharma


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Posted 18 July 2017 - 19:41

I'm not sure...I often find a layoff of a few days leads to a breakthrough.

If you're a virtuoso, it will certainly harm the very, very limits of your playing, but as a beginner, I often find a break of 2-3 days is really refreshing.

Because of family issues, I just had two whole weeks off. In my first session back, yesterday, it took 20 minutes of scales to bring my intonation somewhere towards something a human would recognise, but when I moved onto my pieces, they all felt so much easier than I'd remembered them being.

I've experienced the same thing many, many times, on many instruments, so maybe it's a foible of my manner of learning, rather than an absolutely truth...
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#103 OlderAussie


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Posted 24 September 2017 - 09:14

Dear folks


I've been thinking of sharing a few more thoughts with you.


First, I've gone back to a more normal side chin rest (rather than a middle-mounted one) as it does make my grip on the violin seem more secure when playing in quite high positions. As I reported it used to seem like my violin wanted to pop out sideways to the left. Heaven knows-- I have enough other worries trying to play my scales in tune. mellow.png


This got me thinking about the asymmetrical nature of violin playing and how that seems to affect several things.   


For instance, I found creaking in my Bon Musica shoulder rest was fixed by simply loosening and re-tightening the screws on the back.  They must have become slightly cross-threaded because of the differing pressure along the shoulder rest. Then again, my mother, who played without a shoulder rest, developed one shoulder noticeably higher than the other. 


Talking about lop-sidedness:   lately I've decided to (every now and then) to give a toothy grin while practising.  This is to remind me I'm meant to be holding the violin with my jaw and not a kind of suction pad formed in one side of my mouth - a habit I've only just become aware of.  Goodness me, is all the extra exercise I gave those muscles in my youth why my lips on that side are fuller?








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#104 jim palmer

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Posted 24 September 2017 - 15:10

There's an amusing poem in an introductory law book I once looked at-


"When i was young and learning the law

I argued each case with my wife.

The strength this practice gave to my jaw

Has lasted the rest of my life"


adapted for violin players-


"When I was young at music school

we played violin with no shoulder rest.

Our necks grew long and our jaws grew strong

So now playing Bach we're the very best!"





Edited by jim palmer, 15 October 2017 - 19:13 .

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#105 OlderAussie


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Posted 15 October 2017 - 05:44

Hint #38: We must recognise and rise above physical and auditory challenges

Now, if you became just a fly on the wall
You might not enjoy my practice at all sad.png
With a tone often thin and some notes rather “out”
You might indeed wonder just what I’m about...
At least I am TRYING and lifting my game
By playing new things and not always the same
For violin learning’s not for the faint-hearted
If we can’t take the heat, well, we shouldn’t have started
So if screeches and howls are for you too distressing
You’ll never get far in your dream of progressing

If you just want a life that’s all comfort and ease
This violin learning is sure not to please
At first it seems awkward just holding the bow
And the hard yards keep coming, Ah, don’t I just know!
It’s like wrestling a beast and we need the right grip
With the best shoulder rest so the fiddle won’t slip
For one shoulder shrugged up so much more than the other
Can end up much higher (that happened to Mother)
Have a well-suited perch as well under your chin
Best keep mouth relaxed now, so try out that grin!

But for TEN nimble fingers as arthritis sets in
I’d take up Piano — and ditch Violin ohmy.png

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