Fiddling Around

It’s been an adventure of quite a different sort around here lately.

Passersby might suppose that we are harboring a particularly mournful cat in the screeching throes of death, but really, I’m learning to play the violin!

Those who knew me before recent times remember a Broadway fangirl who would play favorites from the “Scarlet Pimpernel” or “Les Mis” on any piano I came across. Once I began grad school, though, I fell off the musical bandwagon. I was busy with studying, working full time, maintaining a social life, and running. And besides picking out tunes occasionally, I just didn’t have the drive to practice piano anymore.

Fast forward 10 years or so.

I’m having lunch with a friend who’s the manager at my local library. We’re talking about unusual items that her library loans and which my library is thinking about loaning. She mentions the violins. I stop her mid-sentence – “The violins? You loan violins?!” And just like that, I realized how much I enjoy music and that I would totally love to learn the violin if I had access to one. (This comes as no surprise to my sister, who recalls my furtive attempts to sneak her high school violin when she wasn’t home and play around until I could figure out a tune.)

The day that the violin was ready to be picked up from the library, I raced from work to get there before closing so I would have it for the weekend. I brought it home so happy and excited, and when I picked it up and tried to figure out how to tune it, I realized that it was a lost cause. A year and a half of various people over-tightening strings and moving the bridge out of place made it so that the strings wouldn’t rest in the proper place. It was impossible to play. I disappointedly brough it back to the library and let my friend know that it needed to be serviced. And I told myself that since I had recently taken up a completely different hobby, it would make sense to work on that before jumping into something new and time-consuming like the violin. So I put it out of my mind.

Fast-forward to my birthday, when G made this happen:

My very own violin!

5 days after unwrapping this beauty, I took my first lesson, and it’s been nearly daily screeching ever since. My musical repertoire now includes classics such as Hot Cross Buns, Mary Had a Little Lamb, Old McDonald, and Happy Birthday. Hey, everyone has to start somewhere, right?

I’m so excited to get back into playing music again, and it’s definitely been an adventure. I’ve realized several things: I completely forgot how to read sheet music, I had only retained a vague understanding of musical theory, and the violin is a lot more difficult to play than the piano is. Most notes are formed by pressing a string on the neck of the violin and drawing the bow over the lower portion of that string, but the frets to place your fingers for the notes are not marked at all, and bowing takes a lot of practice to sound like anything other than a dying animal. Part of the difficulty is also that holding the bow and violin is awkward and unnatural, since the placement of your arms and fingers does not mimic any other movements that you usually make, so there’s no muscle memory. But this makes the experience such a fun challenge.

 

Practicing and working on improving my skills helps to fill the gap left by not exercising or training for races. And it’s exercising my mind, too. I had forgotten how to read music, but I studied the notes and dowloaded an app that helps me practice identifying them. In just a few days, I’ve mastered the treble clef once again, and I enjoy the feeling of looking at more complicated songs and knowing that I’ll eventually be able to work up to them.

Looking back over the past couple of years, I can see that I made choices to pursue my passions in the outdoors, and I was reaching down into myself through raw, physical exertion and determination. There’s an artistic and creative side of me, though, that has been hovering just beneath the surface, and it’s taking the opportunity now to show itself. It’s inspiring to uncover this part of myself, and I can’t wait to see what it can do.

Ever on.

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