Four Things I've Learned Playing Violin in Four Months
What can you learn from four months of playing violin?
Musical instruments and I have a long history. You see, musical talent also runs in my family, with my great-grandmother, grandfather and mom being able to play 2+ instruments well enough to do public performances. It was fitting that I would be recruited into piano lessons at a young age. I took singing lessons, actively participated and took music classes starting in middle school and throughout my college years. After college, however, things happened and I gave less and less time to music. For someone so encompassed in music growing up, I still struggle to rationalize why music became so distant for me.
Something that you love can only be put on the back burner for so long before you wake up and realize something is missing in your life. That time came this past winter. I decided to learn violin and bought my own. Why then after so many years of musical absence? Maybe it was my mothers cancer becoming terminal and I sought it as a coping mechanism? Maybe it was wanting a change? Maybe it was watching Sherlock play his violin in Sherlock? Regardless, it’s here to stay as my violin has embedded itself into my soul in ways I didn’t think were possible.
One doesn’t incorporate something for at least an hour a day without learning quite a few lessons. Below are four things I’ve learned in my first four months with my violin. These are the things I feel are the most significant, but believe me, there are so many more things I have learned!
- The Violin-Relationship
When I started learning to play violin, my teacher told me I had to start slow and ‘learn’ my violin. “Just like a relationship,” he said, “you have to get to know each other.” You start simple at first, then the conversations get more complex over time.
Just like a significant other, I find myself missing my violin and longing to play it whenever we’re apart. I beam when I talk about him and take every opportunity to talk about it. I even named him, Alexander, as many violinists do. And just like a relationship, you have to talk (play) your violin, otherwise the relationship will weaken and the progress you’ve made will be lost.
2. Building technique takes longer than you initially thought
My first two lessons were based on having correct bow hold, how to hold my violin etc. These are critical to learn and every lesson I have, my violin teacher has me work on perfecting as aspect of technique. Violins are considered one of the hardest instruments to learn because there IS a lot going on. Some techniques can’t be tackled until you’ve been playing for at least two years (i.e vibrato). Every single small thing you do affects your sound and learning each and every one takes time.
Beginner sound is also a thing. There is a youtube video floating around that parodies how you sound after so many years with a particular instrument. Even at 5 years on violin, the violinists parodies the ‘beginner’ sound. Not everyone has it and some work through it quickly and lose the sound quicker than others. Others will take time, but hopefully not five years! That said, if you feel discouraged about your progress, record yourself every week. You’ll be surprised how much better you sound week to week with regular practice and a good violin teacher!
3. A violin is an investment
My knowledge of violins prior to starting my lessons was limited. How limited it was came to fruition within my first few lessons. Each lesson required me buying something extra for my violin. Thankfully it came with a case. Below are the accessories I use consistently. I ordered all of them from amazon.
Music stand (invest in a tall one)
Note decals (NOT the ones with letters, but the ones that mark things with lines
Rosin (your bow will have no sound until its been rosined)
4. What instrument calls you?
I learned to play piano starting at the age of 8, but never really fell in love with it. I enjoyed playing it and even made up a few songs as I went along. However, when I started getting into more advanced techniques, I started to have issues. Eventually I would stop playing it regularly in high school, only to pick it up for two years in college again. I discovered I enjoyed hearing someone else play piano as opposed to playing it myself. With violin, it’s different. I enjoy hearing and seeing others play, but I want to play it even more.
In order to be good at an instrument, in order to make it ‘sing’, you have to love it. There’s a special sound that comes from truly being in-tune with an instrument. You can tell, just by listening, when someone is ‘in-sync’ with their musical instrument. Foreign languages function the same way, you have to be ‘in love’ with a language to truly grasp it.
I’m not there yet and nowhere close, but during those times when I can hear my violin sing, I only want to play more and grow with my violin. Someday that ‘sing’ will be heard everytime my bow touches the strings. Until then, we will keep growing together and I can’t wait to see what else I learn in the next four months and beyond.
© 2017 Alexis