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.

A tricky passage and the return of a tape

Fine.  I’ll out with it.  I put a tape back on the violin.  It actually wasn’t up to me, as it was a matter of pride to play without tapes, but others didn’t see it that way.  Last weekend, Danielle’s friend from college Ilana Setapen, who’s now the assistant concertmaster at the Milwaukee Symphony, was over and gave me a mini lesson (which I didn’t record for some reason).  One of the things she said was that my third finger was consistently out of tune, something Danielle has also said.  She suggested that I just put one third finger tape on, also something Danielle has mentioned, so it came to be that my fate was sealed.  We used a piece of scotch tape, so it’s practically invisible.  A little better than those loud blue tapes I had on before.  I must say, it does make those shifts to third position MUCH easier–this one part early in the piece that involved a shift gave me problems and is now a non-issue.  Funny.  Hopefully I won’t go through the same pains as last time when I took the tapes off.  We’ll see.

Enough of that.  The stuff you heard me play with Danielle a week or so ago was the stuff right before the 1st violin solo, and after that is a 2nd violin solo.  That’s where I start here.  As you’ll hear, I get tangled up and Danielle helps me.  There’s a second of black in the middle of the video, so don’t stop the video too soon.  Also, Danielle holds the recorder later in the video, which you can always tell because it looks like something out of Paranormal Activity:

Since that lesson, I really have been trying to play with a big sound regardless of whether I’m playing it for the first of 100th time.  I think that’s pretty good advice.


Tahoe practicing

As I’ve alluded to before, Danielle and I did a lot of practicing on our vacation up in Lake Tahoe.  It was sort of like a music camp – a music camp with one teacher and one student receiving lots and lots of instruction.  I actually enjoyed practicing twice a day (at least) and then rehearsing with Danielle on the piece.

Like any student at my level of experience, I still waste too much time while practicing, but I think I’ve made some improvements there.  A practice session should be  like a workout.  I imagine leaving the practice room tired, sore, with sweat dripping down my face and partially out of breath.  This doesn’t really ever happen, with the exception of my hands being maybe a little sore, but the idea is there.  Practicing shouldn’t be something that you do, it should be something that you DO!  Not to say I’m anywhere near reaching this level of personal practice power, but there were a few times in Tahoe when my hands felt like dynamite, as if I’d played through the hard part and they were just ready to fly.  After a while it just feels like pressing the string down all the way is no problem and the only thing to worry about is rhythm and intonation.  Not that those things are anywhere near perfect or anything, but when your hands are on fire (in a good way) it makes attempting perfection in the other areas not seem like a total waste of time.  When I got to this level of practice, I wouldn’t want to stop playing because I didn’t want to have to get all revved up again after my hands cooled down in the 30 degree Tahoe air.  When Danielle came in and stopped me so we could watch a movie, drive around the lake, go on a hike, or go to the ski area for a bite to eat, you know, standard vacation-y type things, I sometimes just wanted to stay and practice.  Of course, after getting back from one of these activities, Danielle would suggest we practice for a few minutes.  At that point, I wanted to do anything but.  It’s like going to the gym or doing homework.  I never want to start the activity in the first place, but once I do, I get into a groove and then it just rolls.  I guess that’s pretty typical for a lot of things.

So here are three videos of me practicing in Tahoe.  There’s good news and bad news.  The bad:  this is practice, so you’re not going to get incredibly lyrical, beautiful melodies.  I know; it is me playing, so we hardly get that anyway, but at least normally there’s a semblance of beauty, or you can tell what I’m playing is supposed to be beautiful.  Here, I’m just playing the same notes over and over, trying to nail the rhythm with the best sound I can.  But wait, there’s good news too:  Danielle is practicing the Mendelssohn concerto in the other room, so some of her playing bleeds in.  You want beauty?  I deliver!  Er, just don’t expect it from me.

This first little part is right where the opening theme gets repeated a little ways into the piece.  Instead of starting on the D string like the beginning, we start on the A string here, so the notes are a little higher, but the melody is the same.  I’m playing along with the metronome (in quarter notes) and what I’m trying to do is match up the beat notes to the clicking of the metronome.  Here’s the music to this little part:

See that half note at the end?  I want to land that note right on the metronome beat.  I’m not always successful, but hey, I try.  It’s funny when playing with the metronome.  A part that I can usually breeze through I tend to forget the notes when that clicking is going on.  I also tend to get flustered when actually playing for other people, so the metronome must somehow make me nervous.  I guess the only way to fight that is to do it a lot.  OK, here’s the video.  Remember, it’s not (supposed to be) pretty:

(Actually, after re-watching the video, I don’t play those first two eighth notes, but I’m too lazy to take them out of the image.  Oh well.)

After practicing the part above, I then try to play through a larger part of the piece, but I mess up the part right before the part up there.  So I practice next the part right before:

You can notice that the last three notes there are actually the first three notes in that first line of music.  Here’s the video:

After that, Danielle came in and wanted me to play some of the stuff on the 2nd violin’s solo.  I hadn’t practiced it a whole lot, so she helped me out with this part:

It doesn’t seem like it would be that hard, just some 16th notes, but the fingering is a little tricky: