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.


Ah, the holidays.  The food, festivities, family, you know.  Of course, you think I’m about to use the seemingly innocent holiday cheer as an excuse as to why I haven’t been practicing, but the truth is, I actually have been practicing believe it or not.  Somehow, while Danielle and I were down at my parents’ or even while her parents were at our house,  I found a way to slip away and get in a little practice time.  I felt important and sneaky at the same time, silently disappearing to make mystery music from elsewhere in the house.

So Christmas has come and gone.  It was fun.  I’ll spare you the family details, but only say that I hope your holidays were as enjoyable as ours.  On the 27th, Danielle and I left town for Lake Tahoe, where we’ll be for the next five days.  It’s our longest vacation since our honeymoon two and a half years ago.  Yeah, we don’t get out much.  We’ve both been so excited about this trip – the sights, lake, mountains, and the time off to practice.  Does that sound weird?  We finally get the time to get out of town for more than one night, get the chance to be together in a beautiful area only to…wait for it…practice???  Yes, of course we’ll see the sights and do some cool Tahoe-y type stuff, but to get the chance to stop and have a bunch of uninterrupted time to practice?  I’m both proud and embarrassed that time off to practice sounds pretty darn good to me.

Last night Danielle and I played quite a bit together.  We actually played for a long, long time and got an enormous amount of footage (some of it I’ve actually watched).  Here’s some of the later stuff, which is, well, not perfect but surprisingly not too horribly not watchable:

Besides the obvious sound and intonation issues, messing up quite a bit at the end there, I mess up a few of the spots in the middle.  When playing a bunch of 16th notes, I can for the most part do OK, but when I have to hold a long half note and tie it in with a 16th note or 8th note it’s hard for me to always come out at the right moment.  You can see Danielle helping me with some head nods there.  I also have a few other poor moments like playing an eighth note like a quarter, and some others.  I won’t name them all, but leave it to you dear reader to find them all like an item-finding cartoon in the Sunday comics.

It’s funny how I can be so gloriously imperfect with my playing, yet with Danielle in there it doesn’t sound half bad.  Duh!  Some may say instead of her lifting me up, I’m dragging her down (not completely untrue either way) but watching us play together makes me happy, like for the first time in this whole experience I actually feel like I’m making music.


Feeling the rhythm

When I first started playing Paganini, I had a lot of trouble with the theme and the (what I thought at the time) crazy rhythm. As I played more of the Paganini, I got into really hard stuff like spiccato, octaves, and thirds, but most of this hard stuff was just a bunch of fast sixteenth notes. The Bach is easier without all of the violinistic trickery, but the rhythms are now a lot harder to get. I remember with the Paganini, I used the metronome when learning the theme (and hated the metronome…a lot) but really haven’t touched it anytime lately. Of course, this probably wasn’t a good thing, but when just doing a bunch of sixteenth notes, it’s easier to get lazy. Now, that has all changed. The metronome is back out and I’m struggling to get all of the rhythms down.  It’s funny, playing rhythms for normal mortals like myself is extremely difficult.  People like Danielle (aka musicians), especially musicians who’ve been playing nearly all their lives, can’t truly comprehend how hard the timing is on music like this.  I especially hate it when you have a little sixteenth rest or eighth rest at the beginning of the beat and have to wait through the beat and start playing in the middle before the beginning of the next beat.  It’s hard to time it right.  For me, at least.

A technique Danielle and I started doing is her playing the notes of the piece with me playing open As along with the rhythm. We tried this with some of the later stuff, but I unfortunately didn’t know the notes well enough, so we went back to the beginning. Well, I messed up a bit here too:

When watching that, it’s surprising how crooked my bow was. I’ll have to work on that.

Anyway, I find it very hard especially when going from fast to slow notes. For example, an early part I’m having problem with is this part:

Especially the tie. See where the tie ends in that sixteenth note? Apparently, I’m not supposed to play that sixteenth note but treat it sort of like a rest. It’s not technically a rest but there needs to be a clear articulation there, not a slur. Of course I always forget to stop, but I’m getting better.  When you look at the passage up there, it doesn’t look too bad, and it’s not (other than the ties) but near the end of the first page, we have this:

You got a few 16th notes, 8th notes, quarter tied to an 8th, sixteenths, etc, etc.  This kind of stuff is so hard for me (to play it correctly) and I really believe for anyone without a lot of musical training, this stuff just doesn’t come naturally.  Each day plowing away with the metronome should make it easier over the course of time.  So Danielle says anyway.

OK. Got it.

So the Bach is coming OK, I suppose.  I haven’t really been videoing myself much until the other day after Danielle and I had a lesson.  It was a fine lesson and I had been working pretty hard the few days before it.  So I get the idea to tape us playing together, since this piece is a double concerto after all.  I began taping right after our lesson–when she starts practicing a little bit of the Wieniawski Polonaise (this is her practicing, not performing).  I convince her to play with me on camera and she agrees.  We play, I think it went really well, and I was very excited to watch the video.

Long story short:  my battery ran out and I didn’t get what I wanted.

My original idea for this particular post was to whine and cry about how the camera turned itself off and how I lost all the great footage, leave you with that, and then once again not post me playing the Bach.  Then I thought that would be lame.

So I did what any red blooded American would have done:  I got out my mo-freaking violin and played that mo-freaking piece.  Well, part of it anyway.  And Danielle’s not around, so it’s just the 2nd violin part, but no biggie, right?  This is actually the exact half-way point of the first page, out of three pages.  So it’s 1/6 of the first movement of this concerto.  Not bad, one sixth down (sorta):

So I got something, although I messed up a little at the end there.  It’s a shame because that part is so cool and a good flashy place to stop, but whatever.  I’ll get it in the future.