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Thinking about it

Posted by Andah1andah2 on Saturday, December 17, 2011

I was thinking about thinking while playing just now.

I was playing a tune that I can get through pretty cleanly most times.  Then I started thinking about was I needed to do and then, boom, I can't play it well.  

So then you try to get the tune memorized in muscle memory so you don't have to think about playing.  So then you don't think about it and, boom you mess up because you weren't thinking about putting in that slur to keep you bowing in the right direction or it sounds flimsy because you're not focused on the right amount of bow pressure.

Thinking seems necessary to maintain some focus, but then too much and the "mind game" eats you up.  So experience and practice also must put you into a "zone" that gives you right amount of thought needed...just enough?

Sometimes I get into a real good feeling zone.  Do you know what I mean?   When it all feels right while playing, you're into the fiddle and bow and don't feel a mile away from your instrument.  Your in a groove and feel in control.  When I mess things up while in that zone, then I think it truly gives me a understanding of my true playing limits and what I need to get better at because I'm not limited by my skills and my "mind games".

I truly believe that FOR ME, it was pointless to have people tell me, "don't play with tension".  I would have been better served from the beginning, being told "Go ahead and play with tension.  Know it's there, and as you get better, try to take some out little by little"  Because I needed to play with the tension.  I had no other choice.  I had to have that "right of passage'  before I could understand that tension needed to be removed from playing.  I needed to experience it first with tension and then work to remove it.  Is there anyone that was able to never play with tension from the very beginning because they were taught to simply "not do it".  It kind of made me batty, striving for this form that wasn't going to happen in the first months or year of playing.

Not to belabor the point, but I equate it to my kids first learning to ride a bike without training wheels.  I could have told them from the beginning, "Ok, when you ride the bike, don't get all shaky and wobble the front wheel.  You need to ride with the front wheel perfectly straight".  Rather, I let them ride with the shakes until they were able to get the bike going.  Then, when they were able to ride regularly, they make the shaky wheel go away, because they learned the skills and strength needed to control the front wheel without being jittery.  It would have not made a difference to tell them to ride smooth, they couldn't have done it, and it would have frustrated them.

Just some humble opinion stuff.



6 comments on “Thinking about it”

brya31 Says:
Saturday, December 17, 2011 @8:41:45 AM

I know exactly how you feel. I think I need to sit my fiddle next to my golf clubs because both of them are terrible whenever I overthink them!

mudbug Says:
Saturday, December 17, 2011 @3:22:13 PM

Yeah, it's not about how many hours practice you can fit in in a day. It's picking up the fiddle, every day over the course of time that gets you there. Eventually, anylising and experimenting, thinking about things you do X time will get you where you want to be, or at least closer than you were.

cardinalwookie Says:
Sunday, December 18, 2011 @3:14:18 PM

I am so with you.
I can be playing like a diva one night and the next night it's cats screwing. There seems to be little difference in any outside influence, it's just like having a fiddle biorythm that changes how in tune with your instrument you are.
I find on the days I'm "in the zone" I can experiment and practice improv and new tunes by ear. On the more common "cat" days I practice slower and work on what I already know. It's all good, but the moments where It just clicks and you are steering (rather than pushing) the music are the best. It's why we play (isn't it?)

oliver Says:
Thursday, January 5, 2012 @6:41:34 AM

I always imagined that violin playing was very much a matter of combining physical and musical skills. Little did I suspect that it was, perhaps, more of a mind game.
And I have never understood the day to day peaks and valleys. Must be the rosin conditions(?)

fiddlepogo Says:
Tuesday, March 20, 2012 @12:38:14 PM

Stew,

An excellent point!
This line is a jewel:
"Go ahead and play with tension. Know it's there, and as you get better, try to take some out little by little"
It oughta be done in nice calligraphy, framed and hung on every fiddler's wall!

Oliver... it's all three- physical and musical skills AND the mind game of controlling it... and as cardinalwookie says
"steering (rather than pushing)".

fiddlepogo Says:
Tuesday, March 20, 2012 @12:42:12 PM

Stew,

An excellent point!
This line is a jewel:
"Go ahead and play with tension. Know it's there, and as you get better, try to take some out little by little"
It oughta be done in nice calligraphy, framed and hung on every fiddler's wall!

It takes a LOT of hard work to learn to NOT work so hard!!!

Oliver... it's all three- physical and musical skills AND the mind game of controlling it... and as cardinalwookie says
"steering (rather than pushing)".
Rosin conditions could be part of it... so could bow hair tension... I figured out a trick to get more consistent tension, and that has eliminated SOME valleys. But there are some days where the mind just doesn't seem to want to connect at all, and other days where it DOES connect, and gets dictatorial and PUSHES TOO HARD!

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