Archive for August, 2012

We Call it PLAYING Violin!

Monday, August 20th, 2012

Are your violin practices like this?

I was talking with a young lady the other day about returning to school for the Fall semester. She took up the violin last year, and she had been really excited about playing. But when I asked her about what she had done with her violin over the Summer months her response was that it had resided in its case in the corner of her room. She hadn’t played it once.

When I asked her why she hadn’t played her instrument she told me that it really wasn’t fun now. It seems that toward the end of the semester her teacher had decided to try to build some skills with the hopes that the kids would use them over the vacation months. The method used was to emphasize etudes and scales. At least with this young lady that was exactly the wrong thing to do! And the tragedy is that she isn’t looking forward to returning to orchestra this Fall!

I tell folks all the time that playing violin should be exactly that…PLAY. Every time we pick up the violin we should spend a part of the time playing music that we really want to play. Does that mean that we completely neglect scales, etudes and other technical studies? Absolutely not! But we need to spend some time on a regular basis doing something we enjoy as well as working on the hard stuff!
Play some Bluegrass or Country like Mark O’Connor! Dance around like Lindsey Stirling! Get into Rock like Mark Wood, Bridgid Bibbens, or even Rachel Barton-Pine! Or if Classical is your thing, and you really want to work on scales go right ahead. The whole point is that we need to do something with the instrument that makes us smile.

And if teachers forget that a major part of teaching the instrument is instilling that joy into new students and then helping them maintain that joy they are failing the entire strings community!
Give your students something hard and technical to work on, and then help them to see how to use the skills that you are nurturing in the music that they really want to play. (And that probably isn’t Wohlfahrt or Kreutzer.) It’s great for the kid! It’s great for the community at large. And in this time of economic difficulty, it’s job security.

Art Haule

It’s All in the Approach

Thursday, August 16th, 2012

Violin Fine TunerI got a phone call the other day from a friend whose daughter has taken up the violin. She made the wise decision to start practicing a little bit before school began and pulled out her instrument for the first time in 6 or 8 weeks. Not surprisingly, the violin was out of tune.

In trying to tune the instrument, the young lady found that the fine tuners on a couple of the strings were not working. She showed the problem to her parents, neither of whom play the violin, and they called me to come look at the problem.

“We might need a new tailpiece. Would you take a look and tell us what to do?”

Since the Mom makes a mouthwateringly good frozen Oreo pie, I headed over there the first chance I got, fully expecting to just make a simple adjustment loosening the fine tuner, tightening the peg, then adjusting the fine tuner. It’s something I advise people to do on a frequent basis, and you’ll find read the suggestion that you check your fine tuners once a month in my daily violin tip.

The young lady was relieved that her violin was okay. Mom and Dad were happy that their daughter could start practicing and that no money was involved, and I was promised a piece of Oreo pie at some time in the next few months. It was a true win-win-win situation!

But the incident started me thinking. The Mom jumped to the thought that a new tailpiece might be necessary. It was a logical thought, but proposed a radical solution for a simple problem.

I do that all the time…immediately think of the worst case scenario. (The Mom, by the way, usually does not. She is one of the most positive people I know.) Worst case scenarios are just that…WORST case scenarios. I look to the possible disaster and feel better when I find that my fears were not realized. But that means that I am stressed a good deal of the time. Many other folks operate in the belief that the simple solution will almost undoubtedly present itself, and they are frequently right. In both cases the work required to make things right is the same, it’s just the approach to the problem that differs.

I need to remember to relax, take a deep breath, and think about the likelihood of good outcomes. Sometimes attitude adjustments are hard.

Art Haule