Sunday, July 29, 2012

I know I know... I am way behind.  I won't apologize this time though.  Some serious career and family matters have reared their ugly heads and I have unfortunately not touched my violin in about 5 days.  And it will be another week before I do again because I am now in Las Vegas teaching piano for a week!  I will do my best to get back on a regular schedule when I come back... er... ok not BACK on one.  On a regular schedule for the FIRST TIME EVER  :)  I won't promise this time.  We will have to see.  I have no idea when my life is going to calm down again.  In the meantime, I suppose I will post about Vegas.  I am waiting at the airport for my ride to the condo where I am staying... and there are people playing on slot machines already.  I am absolutely baffled by people's zeal to lose their money as fast as they can.  Maybe if this were the terminal and people were trying to squeeze in a last hour of gambling before going home or something... but no... this is the baggage claim where people have just ARRIVED.  I suppose I don't understand why they can't just wait until they get to their casino to lose their money... Maybe I'm just not willing to lose my money.  Anyway, more later!

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Jennings' New Friend

Well!! I have decided that the Dallas Community College organization is full of poo!  But I am still going to study violin, of course.  It is getting fun now!

Sadly my old bow (teacher claims it is a sorry excuse for one but I was kinda fond of it) decided it wanted to come out of the closet.  That's right.  He is no longer straight.  While I absolutely support this turn in his life, it means that I cannot use him anymore to play Jennings.  :(  I hope out there, there is some crooked violin that could really use a good life partner.  But Jennings will have to move on.  I took him to the violin store and (on recommendation from my teacher) requested their straightest carbon fiber bow, as Jennings just does not "swing that way".  We went through 3 or 4 J T Jete CF violin bows before we found the most amazing (straightest) match!  She and Jennings just go so well together, even if their colors don't exactly match.  You will see in the VIDEO I am going to post today.  ... er... oh I guess I will do that right now.  Ok here I am playing May Song... also I forgot to put up my recording of O Come, Little Children.  That first.

Ok and now here is May Song.  Oh how I wish it was not the worst recording ever.  :P  Oh well that is what this is all about.

.... The End!

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Promise I am alive.

Hello hello.  Yes, I promise I haven't fallen off the face of the planet.  I am just suddenly learning what it means to have a full(er) schedule and what a headache it is.  I am also butting my head up against the Dallas Community College system and losing miserably, mostly because I just don't have the time or patience left to deal with them at the moment.  Anyway, there might be a hiatus lesson-wise ... but hopefully not.

My husband claims that I continue to sound better.  I haven't figured that out yet, but I am trying to accept this new status of being a violinist that, if not at all good or skilled yet, at least I am not causing other people pain.  Even Moses (my giant orange tomcat) has begun remaining in the room while I play.  For awhile, both cats would very quickly vacate the moment they heard the bow touch the strings.  I don't blame them.  Much.  A DOG WOULD STAY HE TOTALLY WOULD.  Not bitter.

Anyway so here we go... I owe you guys some videos.  I will play (attempt to play) 3 songs today.  I hope that you will not have to wear earmuffs, but if you do... don't tell me.  Working on the confidence thing.

EDIT: Ok it was going to be three videos... I will upload the third one later.  Upload is taking too long :P

First video:  Song of the Wind

It is just as true for violin as it is for piano... when you practice it sounds pretty good and then if a camera or a person is in front of you, everything immediately sounds like poo.

Video #2:  Go Tell Aunt Rhody

Tuesday, July 3, 2012


Sometimes it is REALLY hard to be motivated when I think of the huge expanse of skills and knowledge that I have yet to learn.  But then I just want to kick myself for getting scared of what will essentially just be hard work.  And, like I tell my own students, if I work at it in bite-size pieces, the work won't be nearly as hard as I anticipate.

I had conversation with one of those students today that really inspired me to write something about the real reasons behind what I have turned this blog into.  I have only been teaching a few years, but I have already seen quite a few adult students throw in the towel the moment things get challenging and decide that they won't EVER be able to do it and quit.  Of course, in the past couple of years my track record has been much better, because I have banned the word "can't" in my studio, but I am still taken by complete surprise once in awhile.

It is SO important for adults to keep their brains motivated and active!  There are many studies (and I will not cite any because I am just that lazy... but I have read them ok?) that say staying active and especially keeping your BRAIN active is a huge advantage in the battle with dementia and Alzheimer's.    And then there are a bunch of studies (again... look it up yourself) that prove playing music lights up the brain (in CT scans... not chemically) in ways no other activity does.  In fact, musicians tend to have quite a few more cells between the lobes of their brain than anyone else, probably due to the coordination involved in handling an instrument.

I think it is sad that many adults dub themselves "too old" to pick up something new.  I have 6 perfect examples in my studio of people who can prove that is not true and I met another guy today in my violin teacher's studio who, along with me, can also prove it is not true.  And I have several that have fallen by the wayside.  Like my student pointed out to me today, because they already know what music should sound like, adults assume that, when they try it the first time and it doesn't sound right, they can't do it.  That is one reason I am making this recordings, to show myself and others that, even though you sound like crap at first (Don't lie to me!  It is crap!), diligent practice and following your teachers instructions will pay off.  (I hope. ;P)

... ok I think I have probably come full circle here.

Messages of this blog:

1.  Try something new.  It doesn't have to be music.  Pick a sport!! I have also taken up Tae Kwon Do!
2.  Work hard at it.  If it's easy, it's not worth doing.

Alright, I will step down off my soapbox.  But I hope that anyone who wanders across this blog will take what I am saying to heart and just get out there and challenge themselves.  It's not as hard as you think it is!

Sunday, July 1, 2012

HOLY COOOOOW what a busy weekend!! But I think I have mastered the bow distribution necessary for "Oh Come, Little Children".  I will let you know if that is so after my lesson on Tuesday!! I might also let you guys watch me play ... um... .the song after Lightly Row... May Song? No.   .... well I'll let you know when I get it recorded :D Heeeh.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Violin Week 3 - Lightly Row

Just so everyone knows... all of these videos are and will always be first takes.  I want to be honest with myself about my progress and performance abilities based on my practice, not just take the best of many takes.  However I will admit this was the second effort only because the first time I noticed my cat Moses had crawled on top of the piano behind me when I wasn't looking.  The punk.


Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Violin Week 3 - Recording.... tomorrow.

So I know I promised a recording tonight... but it was a huge long day and I pretty much sweated in various insufficient air conditioners all day.  Soooo... I am gonna sleep on it.  And you get to hear some Lightly Rowing in the morning.

I know my teacher is reading this now.  (Hallo April!)  Guess I better make it good.  Maybe I will have some orange juice instead of wine.  But it's always 5 o'clock somewhere? eh?  EH!?  Yes.  Morning wine might be the BEST wine.  Especially on my day off. :)

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Violin - Week 3

Oooooooops.  I forgot to post yesterday D:  Forgive please!!   I have been a busy bee!

Ok so here we go.  I feel like I am KINDA getting in the swing of things.  But then something else pops up and throws me off again.  Thankfully, yesterday's lesson was of the "Good job keep doing that a couple more days!"  It is letting me have some time to sink everything into my brain.

I need to remember that when I am teaching people, because sometimes I get just as excited and just load things on students and forget that they are learning and need time to review and PRACTICE.  Duh.

Lesson learned.  I am going to record Lightly Row tomorrow for everyone's pleasure.  I know you are extremely thrilled.

Edit:  This is the stupidest written post on the face of the planet.  I think I was tired.  And I'm even more tired today.  Bedtime.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Violin Week 2 - My Internet Debut

Well.  We have come to it at last.  The moment where you discover just how ridiculous I am.  And also know the torture I put poor Jennings through every day.  Yes, here for your enjoyment.... myself.  Playing Twinkle Twinkle Little Star.  I recommend imbibing before putting yourself through it.

Violin Week 2 - Roadblock

Well I guess I thought everything was not so hard up until this week.... I started working on "O Come Little Children"


The name sounds so innocent... so lovely... happy unicorns and rainbows!!! ... the song involves "bow control."  When Jennings and I came out after a particularly grueling practice session last night, the hubs asked if I was doing something new.

"Ugh yes... bow control"

"Yeah you sounded pretty bad."

That's my honey.  Completely honest!! <3

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Violin Week 2 - Lesson 1

Oops I forgot to post yesterday.  Anyway...

Whoa!! Despite the fact that (in my opinion) Jennings still often sounds like a group of tiny mice being tortured by Sauron's hordes in MORDOR WHERE THE SHADOWS ARE.... my teacher claims I am still doing well.  I have now moved on to the next challenge:  Lightly Row and ... uh... I forgot the name of the other piece.   "TRIFLES" you might say to me when I tell you these are my current nemesis, but I beg to differ.  Unlike Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, Lightly Row requires several different string crossings and finger changes ALL AT ONCE.  And the other one ... May Song? ... is even worse!  At the end of my lesson, I felt as though I might start drooling over Jennings' F-holes and go cross-eyed.  

Maybe I will make a video of myself playing Twinkle Twinkle Little Star just to make myself feel better.  And also so that you might observe my successes before I subject you to Jennings screeches of pain.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Friday, June 15, 2012

Violin Week 1 - Names and Pictures

Well since none have come forward with good names for my trusty violin, I have decided to name him Jennings.  It is a middle name long passed down to the males in my family and makes me think of butlers.  So!!  Since my old Giovan paolo Maggini (1642) is quite an old chap and, while much worn and abused in his life, still makes quite a smooth sound and faithfully does whatever I tell him to (whether I want that or not), I think it is fitting.  Yes no?

Here is a picture of Jennings and I in our usual pose.

Note that, despite his age, he trustily rests upon my fancy shoulder rest that I masterfully crafted while I look for an affordable KUN replacement.  You might also note my complete look of intimidation and fear when I gaze at the fingerboard I am expected to use to make discernible sounds, AKA notes.  The violinists will also note my atrocious hold on the bow.  So sorry, Jennings.

Let me try again.

There see?  Quite lovely.  In fact I am pretty sure that this face is entirely accurate to how I look when concentrating on the bow hold.  I am surprised my teacher has not even once snickered at my most determined expressions.

Alright there you are.  That big black blob in the background is my Kawai piano that I love very much. She is my only hope in tuning Jennings at the moment, though she, herself, is a bit out of tune due to all the weather changes going on.  Suppose I shall just have to dig in my wallet and fix that pretty soon... or try to use the tuner on one of my metronomes... Where's an oboist when I need one?

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Violin Week 1 - Lesson 2

WHEW!  Well my shoulder recovered this morning and then I put it through another hour long lesson.


My teacher also told me today that if I keep going at the rate I am going already I could probably go for a local (for fun sort of) orchestra in a year or so.  I basically stared at her in blatant disbelief.

I am still using only the A and the E string and only fingers 1, 2 and 3 on the left hand.  I am not sure my progress will be as quick when I start having to move my hand around on the fingerboard and wrangle the stupid bow all the same time.

Still trying to throttle (as-of-yet unnamed violin).  My thumb was turning purple and might have progressed to other colors if the pieces I were playing were any longer than about 30 seconds.

Next goal:  Figure out how to make my right wrist and fingers do some sort of bizarre wriggly move when I try to play legato so it doesn't sound like I'm killing tiny, noisy insects between each note.

This goal seems a bit more unattainable than the last.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Violin Week 1 - .. Again...

Unexpected side effect of first violin lesson:  Seriously sore left shoulder muscle.  Guess I better start stretching before practicing and definitely before an hour long lesson x_x

I watched myself in the mirror.  My teacher is right.  My left wrist DOES like to do funky things when I'm not paying attention to it.  Curses!

Goal for lesson tomorrow:  Be able to play piece without having to search for that stupid D on the A string.  Also not have to stop every few notes to check my bow hold.  I have been diligently practicing with a pencil at stoplights.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Violin Week 1

Wow it has been a long time... I would be surprised if anyone is still reading this at all!  But I am going to start it back again because I have started a new venture:  I am learning to play the violin.  As someone who teaches adults in my own studio, I know what a challenge it is, and I think it will be interesting to write from this side of the lesson, as a student.

Of course there are a few differences:

1)  I already know how to read music.  Many of my students come to me with no experience in music at all so that is an advantage I already have.  However, I know it is going to be a tough thing to reprogram my brain to respond to the notes on the violin and not on the piano.  I have to form a few new neurons to get that working.

2)  My Dad, as someone who almost went to college for violin performance, has already given me a few pointers.  So that also, is a big plus!

Now that being said, we will dig into the hard part.  Holding the blasted thing correctly!  I had my first lesson today as part of an Applied Music course at Richland College.  My teacher, April Kondrat, is endlessly patient, I can tell.  And she told me quite a few times what a great job I was doing and how she was so excited that I already know some about it.  However, I still felt like I was trying to hold a brick in between my chin and my shoulder and controlling the bow is ridiculously hard to maintain!  I would start out just great and then halfway through the exercise, I would be caught with my hands in the most bizarre positions.  I apparently need to practice in front of a mirror since I had no idea I could even bend my fingers like that.  Also, I am surprised I did not get gangrene in my left thumb with how I was trying to throttle the violin's fingerboard.

I should probably name my poor beat up violin... It is going to go through a lot of abuse before I can make him sound good.  I hate to be mean when I don't even have a name to say "I'm sorry" to when all is over.

Open for suggestions.