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.

So I got nothing

That little injury turned out to be just that – little.  It actually healed pretty quickly and I ended up only taking one day off completely from the violin.  I was thinking about how to capitalize on the injury as far as the blog goes and I had a pretty good idea.  The cut was on my middle finger and I thought of a loophole (I actually wanted to title my next post as just that:  “A loophole!”).  The loophole was that I would practice octaves!  Genius, huh?  Since my middle finger was out of commission, I could simply practice octaves, where I only use my first and fourth fingers!  Brilliant!

At first, anyway, it came along quite swimmingly…that is until Danielle got involved.  I was merrily practicing away when Danielle poked her head into my room and said “I’m not sure what you think you’re practicing, but they’re certainly not octaves.”  Which leads me to my next point.  Danielle is a bit of a smart ass.

The hard thing about octaves, at first, is stretching your hand enough so that the first finger and fourth finger can be on the same note, one octave away.  This means getting those two fingers farther apart than the good lord intended us to be able to do when designing our hands.  That’s the first challenge.  Well, I’ve been soldiering away with this sound box for four whole months now, so stretching isn’t that much of a problem.  The new challenge is to actually play the octaves in tune.

In tune.

My nemesis.

Normally, when I play a scale all out of tune, I’m dorking up only one note at a time.  When playing octaves, or any double stop for that matter, you have to nail the lower note and then adjust the higher note, in this case the fourth finger, so that you’re playing a perfect octave.  It wouldn’t be that big of a deal if the distance between the fingers remained the same.  Unfortunately, as the notes get higher, the first and fourth fingers get closer together to remain at a perfect octave.  This makes playing an actual passage tricky.  For example, the second passage requires going from that high A to a C# and then a D, D#, E, F, etc and the distance between the first and fourth fingers for each of those notes varies slightly.  This makes listening all the more important.  Also unfortunately, my ear isn’t what Danielle’s is and it’s really hard for me to tell quickly if I’m playing a perfect octave.  When someone good plays this variation, they know about how apart the fingers need to be and then they instantly adjust to make the octave perfect.  All while keeping a good sound.

Really???

Ugh.  So to be quite honest, I have nothing.  I could play the third variation now, after three days of work on it, but it wouldn’t be a whole lot better than when I played it right after I took the violin tapes off (you know, the time I played it and someone said I should put the violin tapes back on).  Yeah, that one.  You’ll just have to take my word on it that I’m playing my little heart out and hopefully one day when I’m older I’ll be able to bust out some crazy in-tune octaves.  Maybe I’ll think about not sucking so much at thirds as well.

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5 Comments on “So I got nothing”

  1. ejeagleband says:

    I sense a little frustration or discouragement here. Just keep on truckin’.
    I look forward to you notes and progress. It boosts me a little bit too. the good parts are inspiration and the lower parts are commiseration. (I think that’s the word i’m looking for.)

    • rrvaughn says:

      Thanks for the kind words. I played them a little this morning and they’re already a little better. Sometimes I think “bad” practice days or lessons have their payoffs in the future. Hopefully!

  2. Bart Meijer says:

    Ryan,
    two bits of comfort here:
    1. Playing octaves is very difficult.
    2. It can be done.
    Good luck!
    Bart

  3. Interesting. I might not recall correctly so please correct me if I’m wrong.

    When you were starting this journey someone criticized your methodology saying you were skipping steps that where important to building a good violinist’s foundation and you replied that you didn’t intend to become a violinist, you just wanted to play a certain piece when the year has passed. It was all just an experiment.

    I think it’s been around six months now, and I wonder if your position has changed a little or not. What I mean is that the violin is an easy instrument to fall in love with (in my experience), even though learning to play it especially after already being an adult and without having prior musical training will most likely be a difficult and sometimes even frustrating experience.

    How do you feel about that “sound box” at this point? Do you really think you won’t end up being a violinist? Are you already one? At what moment do you become one? Do you think you’ll be able to give it up when the experiment is over? I know these are a lot of questions. I’m just a curious follower. 🙂


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