I’ve given myself one year to master the violin.

As an adult beginner, I should be playing Twinkle Twinkle; instead, I'm playing Paganini's 24th caprice.

Patting your head and rubbing your belly

A couple of posts ago I mentioned how the right hand was a difficult beast to tame.  Last night, Danielle really wanted to focus on making the right hand more fluid and limber.  She had me put my elbow against the wall so I couldn’t use my arm much and had me play short single bows by only moving my hand:

After that, I played some scales trying to incorporate the new bow technique:

It’s really hard trying to remember everything.  One moment I would concentrate on keeping the hand limber, but then my left hand finger would go on the wrong string.  Then I concentrated on my left hand, but my bow would slide too close to the bridge and my right hand would tighten up into a claw!  It’s this huge balancing act that all has to come together to sound anywhere close to musical.

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Skeptics Among Us

The following is a comment made by a visitor to this blog.  He brings up some really great points about how I’m going about learning the violin.  After, is my response.  (and I apologize for the rather long blog entry)

Comment by RF:

You are doing well for a beginner, but you should by no means be trying anything by Paganini. Read the rest of this entry »


On a Larger Scale

One piece of the violinist toolbox I’ve yet to touch upon is the scale.  I’ve been doing scales, of course, but just never showed myself doing them.  They’re more difficult than they seem like they should be.  Well, maybe they’re not more difficult, just that standards are higher with them.  On a difficult passage, if a few things here and there are off, then so what, but on a scale, you’re playing very predictable notes, so shouldn’t it be perfect?

With my playing, that answer is clearly no.

Since Paganini Caprice 24 is written in A-minor, it would makes sense for me to be practicing an A-minor scale, right?  Probably, but Danielle wanted me to start with A-major first so that’s what I’ve been doing.  At the beginning, I only went up two octaves, and I didn’t even use a 4th finger – I played with open strings.  Then I used the 4th finger, but still played only two octaves:



Besides the fancy camera work, noting too exciting, right?  Adding on just one more little octave means several shifts going up and down.  Here’s my valiant attempt:

Besides missing the cute little face at the end, not horrible, huh?  Several of the high notes are out of tune, but hey, my tapes don’t go up that high.  An interesting thing to do with the last video is actually to mute it and watch it again.  My left hand actually looks kind of good.  My darn right hand seems to be messing everything up.  When starting the violin, I would have guessed that the left hand would be 99% of the problems.  Now, I’m not saying I’ve mastered the left hand or anything, but the right hand is surprisingly an equally (if not more so) beast to tame.


Studio Class Performance #1

Residential Life puts on a talent show every spring here at the Colburn School.  Students can perform anything except their primary instrument.  We the RA staff of course have to put on one or several skits.  Danielle this morning gets the brilliant idea that I should perform part of the Paganini in the talent show.  The only problem?  It’s this Sunday.

She insists that I a) have to perform in the talent show and b) it can’t be my first performance in front of a large number of people.  The only chance I would get to have a somewhat public performance would be in Danielle’s studio class, which is–wait for it–tonight.

The idea of playing in Danielle’s studio class is a nightmare.  Not only are all the students in this class less than half my age, but they’re all about 10 times better at the violin than I will be at anything in my life.  This is a serious crowd; they might not look like much, but this is a ridiculous assembly of talent:

Danielle breaks the bad news to me in the morning – her class is at 5:30PM.  So I do what any red-blooded American would do in this situation–I throw a hissy fit.  It was actually pretty ugly.  I yelled at her for trying to embarrass me in front of everyone and throwing me under a bus when I wasn’t ready.  I even made my first quitting threat.  It was bad.

She backed off but resorted to laying on the guilt.  Long story short I played.  I really can’t describe how nervous I was, but it was a lot.  My hands were physically shaking during the performance.  Of course it wasn’t very long, just the roughly 30 seconds of the theme, but still nerve racking.  I played it once, and it was OK, so Danielle asked me to play it again.  I didn’t think I did much better, but I didn’t have a major memory slip during either one.  Then, I was about to leave the stage when I realized we didn’t film it.  Danielle took my phone and filmed my third performance:

She told them to go crazy with the cheering.  You didn’t think my playing caused that, did you?

What’s weird about a performance is that you get what you get.  When I tape things I can do them over and use the best one, but with a performance, it’s one and only, unless the piece is only 30 seconds and then you can apparently do it three times.

Oh, and tonight at our res life staff meeting I found out that the talent show was postponed a couple of weeks.  Phew.


A Thank You to Metzler Violin Shop

When we started this little endeavor, Danielle threw together my supplies.  My violin is a 1925 Holm Viertel that Danielle owns.  It was in a case I didn’t really like, so we used another case Danielle had lying around.  Danielle also had a spare bow that she lent me and gave me a shoulder rest and a little thing of rosin. Read the rest of this entry »


Danielle the Beginner

I honestly don’t remember how this subject came up, but during a lesson Danielle told me that if she switched the violin around and played “left handed” (if that really existed for violin) that she plays like a complete beginner.

The following video is quite shocking.  Viewer discretion is advised:

All I have to say, is wow.


All Octaves and no Play…

So I’ve been practicing octaves quite a bit lately.  As we’ve mentioned before, octaves are like pushups–you feel really good after you do them, but really crappy while you’re doing them.  Violin is one of those unfortunate things that makes you suffer to get any better, but there has to be a little fun, right?

So I revisited the theme.  Yeah, I know.  Since starting this project my definition of fun has slightly altered.  If you remember, here’s the theme I played a couple of weeks ago:

Here’s me this morning: Read the rest of this entry »