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A Happy Pre-Thanksgiving Day Lesson

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Work has been absolutely nuts:  so much so that I've been able to pick up my fiddle and play maybe two or three times a month for the past three months.  But as things started calming down, I figured, "Ok, let's see how bad I got since I haven't been playing" and "Hey, let's call up my violin teacher and schedule a lesson.  Even if I haven't worked on anything in the past few months, I need to see where I am and what to work on next."

So I got a lesson scheduled and broke out the fiddle for a bit the night before.  Surprise #1:  I didn't totally suck.  I was amazed.  I was afraid I might have lost too much strength or flexiblity in my left hand but I don't think I did.  The other nice thing:  I spent a few minutes on the bowing exercises I was supposed to do and figured out where I stunk the most:  really short bow strokes on the lower part of the bow.  Not enough control to really speed it up and keep a steady rhythm and good sound.

So I went to my lesson.  My teacher asked me what I'd been working on.  I'd warned her about work so I said, "Not a whole lot," and we laughed.

But I mentioned what I'd discovered the night before about short strokes on the lower part of the bow being a challenge and she said, "Let's take a look."

The next hour was amazing and intense.

We focused on bowing near the frog.  Short bow strokes practically on the frog mixed up with some occasional long strokes and work in the middle and tip of the bow.  Single time slow.  Double time.  We worked all the strings.  We did some string crossings right on the frog with some middle of the bow work mixed in for a change of pace.

With the short strokes at the frog on the G string, I could really feel the connection to the string:  how much weight resulted in a good sound and how just a little too much started crushing the sound.  It was really clear what moving the contact point around did to the sound.  I could really feel what the "other" 3 (non-index) fingers were doing on the bow.  And it was really clear why keeping a solid connection between pinkie and stick was a good thing.

We also worked on really minimizing bow angle movement when rocking between strings.  This is something I'd worked on on my own but playing at the frog, the benefit of every reduction in angle was really obvious.

After all that, I tried a bit of "Fortune" and it felt better, more under control.  I could feel the tip of my bow was quieter, getting the same sounds and bow rocks but with less wasted motion and better control.

And it top it all off, I asked my teacher what she wanted us to work on (I figure she'd had a couple of months to think about it since our last lesson).  Her answer was that she wants to get me to the point where "all that difficult stuff you do fiddling" is fluid and relaxed and with a big sound.  My response was, "You're dead on target."

Walking away from that hour, I think I learned:

1) how to do bow work at the frog to improve my control and sense of when I'm truly connected to the string

2) the importance of a quiet bow tip.  I'd gotten into the habit of rocking at more extreme angles to catch a third string.  I still want to do that but it's clear I should think about when I want to do that and when I want to stick to just the two strings so I can make the changes in bow angle efficient.

3) I've got an amazing teacher.  We suit each other really well and I'm thankful I found her.

4) A lesson like that takes a lot out of you.  Once the adrenalin wore off, I was totally wiped out.  Happy but wiped out.  It took a good hour+ before I was back to normal.

Hopefully I'll some time over the holiday weekend to put in a bit of practice time and see how well I can work on my own.  There's lots more work to do but I think today (well, it's past midnight now so technically yesterday :-)) was a real step in the right direction.

1 comment

Classical musicians and OT fiddling

Monday, September 12, 2011 9 comments

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Experience Level: Purty Good

Occupation: Computer stuff

Gender: Male
My Instruments:
A Del Gesu model violin made by Kelvin Scott of Knoxville, TN. My backup intrument is a Strad model made by Steve Perry of Friendsville (a few miles away from Knoxville), TN. It just worked out that way. Honest.

Favorite Bands/Musicians:
There's a lot of bands and players I enjoy listening to.

But the folks I've learned (or tried to learn :)) the most from, I'd have to say -- Tommy Jarrell, John Engle and Kirk Sutphin channelling Tommy, David Winston, Earl White, John Hermann, Rafe Stefanini, and Bruce Molsky with honorable mentions (as in I've listened to them and need to listen to them more) to Uncle Bunt Stephens (how can you not love Candy Girl?), John Salyer, Ed Haley, Bill Stepp.

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Created 8/5/2008
Last Visit 11/26/2022

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