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.

7 Comments on “Together!”

  1. Priscilla says:

    Hey Mr. Ryan 🙂

    I was smiling inside as I read your post here… I actually look forward to my violin practice too! 🙂

    I have been learning the violin for about 6 years now, and I’ve had two violin teachers but they haven’t been all that helpful in explaining stuff, so I like to think that I might be better at playing if I could afford a better teacher!
    But nevertheless ;D I always look forward to practice sessions on my own, when I can figure out techniques I read about online (and on your blog, of course :D) and try them on the pieces I’m assigned.

    This is so different from when my siblings and I were younger and taking lessons (piano lessons) and being “forced” to go practice.
    Ah, maybe self-motivation is the blessing of being an adult beginner 🙂
    What do you say, Danielle? 🙂

    All the best and happy holidays!

    • rrvaughn says:

      Hi Priscilla,

      I think you’re right about the adult beginner. Everyone always says that adults can’t learn as fast as kids, and perhaps there’s a little truth to that, as a gifted, motivated child (Danielle teaches some of them) will have a higher learning curve than me, but a sort-of motivated kid who would rather do something else has a bit of a disadvantage against a motivated, goal-oriented adult. So I think we uncovered the important factor there: motivation. 🙂

      Happy holidays to you too!

  2. Kirstin says:

    Charles: “I think Ryan is a wonderful person and a tremendous spouse for being willing to work so hard to share in his wife’s love of, and work in music.” Hear, hear.
    Happy New Year to both of you!

  3. B.Rajkumar says:

    Hi Ryan,

    Well played. But I am not happy with the sound of your violin. Danielle’s violin sounds very beautiful whereas your violin sounds like mine!!

    There are 3 possible reasons.

    (1) Danielle’s violin is better (hence costlier) than yours.
    (2) Strings of Danielle’s violin are better (hence costlier) than your strings.
    (3) Sound difference is due to difference in bowing technique. You are a novice whereas Danielle is a professional.

    Please ask Danielle which of these is the actual reason. I also want to know what brand of strings she uses (if it is not a secret).

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