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Ah...despair!


Banzai

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I've been playing violin for about a year and 7 months, after being in love with Cape Breton fiddle and a great deal of Baroque music for a long time. I love playing.

I've been getting pretty good for such a short time. I can play a number of fiddle sets, though I can't quite duplicate all the rhythmic elements to my satisfaction yet. (It should sound like "rock and roll" without power a little more). I'm even playing a pretty passable version of "Gavotte en Rondeau" from Bach's Emaj Partita. I don't think that's too bad for less than two years playing.

To invoke a metaphor, my climb up the mountain had thus far been speedy and fun. Strenuous yes, but in a cheerful and invigorating way. But this last week it was as if I had just stepped through an intermediate cloud layer...and looked up to see that the mountain rises higher than I ever imagined, and I wonder if I'll ever be able to climb high enough.

This bit of malaise was brought on when I decided, on a lark, to try to play simply the opening chords of Bach's Chaccone. I knew it was beyond my current ability, but I don't believe I had a proper amount of respect for just how far beyond. My fingers stridently resisted making those contortions. Where on "lesser" compositions music came from my bow, now only scrapings and discordant sounds as if my fiddle were itself in pain.

Don't get me wrong...I'm not giving up. I love playing, and will continue to play for the rest of my life. But after a time of confidence it was a sudden awareness of just how paltry my talents are, and just how far I have to climb. Alas.

And there's no teacher here to help me. In fact, I've been advancing without the benefit of a teacher for the last 10 months of my playing.

I recently relocated off the edge of civilization. The only music store doesn't even stock violin strings, save for the very cheapest of solid steel. Believe me, I've looked...there is not one individual here who can help me advance in my violin playing. I may be the only, or at least the only competent violinist in town. (And I'm not very good!)

Thanks for "listening" to my diatribe. Without a teacher or another stringed instrument player around, I just wanted to vent a bit to a group who may understand my feelings.

Cheers!

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Dear Banzai,

Don't despair!! But do find a teacher somehow, perhaps on line, web cams???? If you are not forming the chords correctly you might end up damaging your hands. I have not heard complaints about the stretches in this piece which is what makes me think you might not be doing it correctly. If you wreck up your hands it will mess with a lot more in your life than your violin playing. What I have heard with really hard stretches tenths, fingered octaves, do them for a while but the minute the hand starts hurting stop. In terms of your time line, everyone goes at different paces, but between beginning Gavotte and Rondeau and starting the Chaconne was three years here and between beginning to play and Gavotte and Rondeau was about 5 years... so don't mess yourself up, you have a prodigious talent! If there is no possibility of a teacher you could work profitably on notes and bowing patterns, intonation, and a greater familiarity with the entire finger board, scales.

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Banzai,

I have been in that place very very many

times! Actually I am just pulling myself out of one of those

"phases" but the difference is that I have always had a teacher

that would say 'you had a bad week Joseph? well don't worry I know

you can do it if you really try' so I feel bad for you. I think

there are two ways that I have been able to bring things into

perspective one is: listening to someone better than myself playing

and watching the ease and flow a musician has when he/she has

mastered a piece, two: find a piece that you have mastered

and just play it through without your book and listen to and

just enjoy the music. I wish you all the best and definitely do not

despair! 

J.

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Thanks guys.

Being sans teacher for encouragement, I just felt the need to have an outburst where people who understand the frustration might listen.

I really do appreciate the replies.

I know the Chaconne is a tough piece...and I know it's far beyond my current abilities. I think it was a bit eye opening, in those first fumbling attempts, at just HOW far beyond my abilities. What looked to me like a technical challenge to unravel in due course in the hopefully not too distant future suddenly looked like a monumental obstacle that I couldn't fathom how to surmount.

Thanks for listening.

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One of my favorite students is a professional musician who came to the violin in her late thirties. A couple of years ago she went through a big despair phase, which ended shortly before she said to me that she had just gotten around to believing that there are things she will never be physically able to do. She has shown me an interesting aspect to having a long life with loads of talent.

This amazing person continues to enjoy her orchestra, even though many of its members seem willfully oblivious the kind of musicianship she has and which she imparts daily to her much younger vocal and piano students. She's a mature teacher, and struggles daily to maintain her accomplishment, thankyou.

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I feel for you Banzai, I had a crisis a year ago, where I had stopped improving. I began to question my competence, and lost my confidence, and it took a lot of determination and goal setting to get me out of the rut. I think I started a topic here on Mnet, as well, for some public support I would suggest that you pick a piece which is within your current abilities which you love, and learn it, and perfect it. It is always good to look to the future, and to hard pieces, but I found that personally, by constantly setting my standards so high, I was slowly and unwittingly killing my confidence.

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Banzai, have you read Arnold Steinhardt's recent book "Violin Dreams"? You might enjoy reading about his challenges with the Chaconne. It comes with a CD that has 2 different versions of him playing the piece, recorded early in his career and recently, and it's fascinating to listen to how his interpretation has changed. At any rate, I think I know what you're going through; I picked up the music for the sonatas and partitas when I was in high school, and after struggling with even the "simplest" movements was about ready to give up! (35 years later I'm still playing and still don't feel ready to tackle the Chaconne!) Keep persevering! Also, are you aware of the Violin Masterclass website? It has lots of video explanations of techniques that might be helpful.

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Steve,

I just discovered that website a couple of months ago. I tried to register for a logon, but never got a reply. Oh well.

By the way, I still can't thank you enough for transcribing Tullochgorum onto Sibelius! I've been having a ton of fun with it.

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Regarding big stretch double stopped chords and finger pain I have heard that you should never press with the left hand. Perhaps because a chord is difficult tension comes into the hand, but as I understand it that tension is your enemy! It can hurt your intonation and it can damage you. Light, relaxed, as light as you can be and still get the note, then you can adjust the intonation and protect your hand.

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Thanks again for the tips and the kind words. I've been working on this stuff, and my moment of fleeting crisis has seemingly passed. I'm certain these things come and go.

I've been working particularly on the chord building, to include lifting and resetting fingers and playing chords more like two double stops vice trying to twist all my fingers into place at once. I'll also work on lightening my pressure.

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