I have wanted to play the violin for a long time. As a kid I did not have that opportunity, which I always regretted. I would have loved being a prissy classical violinista, able to do something that many people can’t. I also didn’t realize/learn until I was older that most people don’t have this magic music talent that others made me feel that I lacked, that most people who are talented musicians just work really hard and practice countless hours. I would have been willing to do that if I’d had a wonderful instrument, the violin. I am doing it now, though, as much as I can.
I finally had the opportunity a few years ago after a traumatic accident left me with a head injury that had only positive results. Yes, I said “positive” results. For example, many head injury victims have varying degrees of uninhibitedness. Fortunately, for me the effect was just enough to open up a path of creativity that I hadn’t known before. But I also realized that I had to re-connect some brain synapses that had apparently been damaged as well, and learning the violin, since I already wanted to, was a natural solution.
The violin can be frustrating. It took a very long time to get past the stage where all I could do was make a screeching sound. I still am trying to figure out bowing technique, among other things. There are just so many variables, like the violin itself, the kind of strings that can be used, the rosin used, and the bow. You can spend thousands just on a bow, and as I have often said, it is like a wizard choosing a wand. Sometimes the most unlikely one chooses the violinist, and it’s not always the most expensive one. Within the bow choice is the material from which it is made, wood or synthetic. Not only that, sometimes I use different bows for different composers. I have a bow that I call the “Bach bow” that I use when playing Bach because it can dig in, sound more brilliant, than other bows that I have. On the other hand, I need a less flashy bow for fiddling, one that’s a little more malleable and “softer,” so I get out one of two others that I have. Is this making you crazy yet? It does me sometimes! But here I am, working hard, practicing Bach as much as I can, trying to figure out the complexities of playing the violin. At least I already knew how to read music from playing the piano and the flute.
Last Monday I got new strings. That in itself opens up a whole new can of worms, at least until the strings finish stretching and get “played in.” It probably wasn’t the smartest thing to change the strings before the concert next week, but the old ones seriously needed to be replaced. In fact, I had already put a super-old G string on when the one from the previous set broke. I always save my “old” strings so I have spares in case of an emergency!
I keep working, I keep practicing as much as I can. My violin teacher tells me mystical stories of playing for as much as eight hours a day while she was in college – practicing on her own, playing with a quartet, playing with a large group, then practicing some more on her own. I can only dream of that now. Sometimes I feel lucky to even get 30 minutes, but when I get a larger block of time, it’s a real luxury. You know I can spend an hour on as little as four measures of music on the unaccompanied Bach. But I like the challenge of a nice “juicy” piece of music, and laboring to make a complicated piece of music sound just right is so worth it in the end.