shadowspar: A viola on a purple flamed background, with the text "viola hero" (viola hero)
Tuesday, October 30th, 2012 14:07
Wow, it's been the better part of a year since I posted one of these. Ooops. <_<;

I've had a whole bunch of stuff going on in my personal life that's made it difficult to get in much practice. Despite this, my shifting is coming along shockingly well, at least relative to how much time I've managed to put into it. Starting to work on Bach's Minuets #s 1 and 2 from the first Suzuki book. They actually sound pretty good once I get everything together.

It's frustrating to feel like I could be progressing a lot faster if I actually managed to get organized enough to put more time in. Hopefully things will improve in the coming months, and I'll manage to do just that, so I can take off like a rocket. ^_^;
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shadowspar: image of an alto clef (alto clef)
Tuesday, May 15th, 2012 23:45
Things that are maddening: when you have a Bach earworm stuck in your head, and all you can do for it is to play it yourself, since you're the only one that makes it sound the way you want it to sound.
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shadowspar: A viola on a purple flamed background, with the text "viola hero" (viola hero)
Tuesday, January 17th, 2012 15:16

I have to hand it to my teacher; she manages to make every lesson productive even if life has prevented me from having gotten any practice time in the past week.

I'm actually starting to be able to play music in some semblance of proper time when sight-reading a new piece. Exciting! Also having the fledgling beginnings of being able to read ahead in the piece while playing, which is also Very Good News.

Still being gently reminded to grab hold of every tune and play it LIKE A BOSS. Music sounds better when played confidently, even with the occasional missed or slightly out of tune note! ^_^;

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shadowspar: image of an alto clef (alto clef)
Friday, September 30th, 2011 16:51

Mock if you want on account of it being John Denver, but I think this is a really beautiful song. One day I will play it on viola.


John Denver - Annie's Song on Youtube.

shadowspar: image of an alto clef (alto clef)
Wednesday, June 15th, 2011 16:14

Haven't posted anything about how the viola lessons have been progressing for some time now. Will try to find time to rectify that soon; big news coming up. ^_^;

In the meantime, and since I haven't posted it yet, here's one of my favourite pieces of classical music. If you're not familiar with it -- it starts out soft, but you might not want to turn up your speakers too loud. ^_^ Even with the obvious musical joke in this piece aside, I really think it's a beautiful and flowing piece of music.

shadowspar: A viola on a purple flamed background, with the text "viola hero" (viola hero)
Tuesday, May 3rd, 2011 14:11

It's awesome when your teacher gives you permission to suck, either explicitly or implicitly. In this case, it's the latter; no matter how little practice time I've managed to get in, I never get a guilt trip over it.

I feel like I've been either on the road or sick for all of the last three weeks, with the concomitant lack of practice having the expected effect on my technique. Nonetheless, we worked on left-hand technique that'd help me reach higher notes & lower strings more easily (elbow well to the right; palm angled well towards the fingerboard instead of facing you), tuning up my intonation on the C string, and bringing the fourth finger into play.

More practice.

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shadowspar: A viola on a purple flamed background, with the text "viola hero" (viola hero)
Tuesday, April 12th, 2011 14:06

Geez I suck.

No, not really. However, I do need some more focused practice time...time to start a piece and work all the way through it and get everything right, by knocking it off in stages: right notes & intonation, right rhythm, right bowing.

What else...been learning treble/bass clefs on my own. Viola first position actually sections things up fairly nicely, with the top two strings (D/A) divvying up the treble clef, the bottom string (C) mostly filling the bass, and notes from the second lowest string (G) landing more or less in the middle. Finally figured out that line notes have an odd number of fingers and space notes have an even number; can't believe that took me so long. Played the head of the jazz tune "C Jam Blues" out of the Real Book on Sunday, which is kind of neat but not a huge musical accomplishment -- there's almost nothing to it; it's even simpler than "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star".

Next week: Camptown Races, in concert!

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shadowspar: A viola on a purple flamed background, with the text "viola hero" (viola hero)
Tuesday, April 5th, 2011 14:38

Viola lesson == can haz! I wasn't sure for a while there -- yesterday we got a slushy mess of late winter precip, and I, while running out the door to work and carrying my viola, slipped and fell flat on my arse hard enough to shift the viola's bridge. Fortunately it was easily fixed by someone who actually knows what they're doing with a stringed instrument (unlike me).

So, now I've got enough instruction behind me to cover all of first position with the exception of the fourth finger. This gets me from C3 (the second space from the bottom in the bass clef) up to D5 (the second line from the top in the treble clef). Now it's just a question of practice, practice, practice so that my fingers can get used to finding all those notes.

Didn't get a chance to use the keys to Anya's studio last week on account of a dentist's appointment on Friday and knocking my viola out of tune on Monday. Hope to rectify that in the coming week.

Still need to keep working on slurs across strings. Still have a good deal of work to do with eliciting a consistent sound -- consistent bow speed, consistent bow pressure, keeping in the correct "lane" of the "Kreisler Highway". Still need to work on planning out the bow, though this is improving. =)

Practice, practice, practice.

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shadowspar: A viola on a purple flamed background, with the text "viola hero" (viola hero)
Tuesday, April 5th, 2011 14:26

Huh, forgot to post this last week.

While I had the viola out of the case for a bit of screwing around, I got zero focussed practice last week on account of a meltdown at work and spending a bunch more time with the kids to take some of the stress of other events off of other family members.

Despite this lack of practice, my slurs have apparently improved, and my note reading & intonation on the G-string is not bad. Need more work on divvying up the bow for slurs, giving full bows for each un-slurred note, and keeping the bow from drifting up or down the strings.

I good news, I now have a key for my instructor's studio, so I can practice during the day at times when it's not being used for other lessons. Being able to duck out at lunchtime and break out the viola is something I'm really looking forward to. =D =D =D

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shadowspar: A viola on a purple flamed background, with the text "viola hero" (viola hero)
Tuesday, March 22nd, 2011 22:06

First lesson in three weeks -- missed one lesson on account of going to Chicago for Drupalcon, and a second on account of March break. Didn't get a chance to practice anywhere near as much as I would have liked in the interim -- locked my practice materials in the car while in Chicago, and I spent March break glued to the coverage of the 2011 Tōhoku earthquake when I wasn't peeling the kids off of the walls. While I haven't improved a lot in the past weeks, I haven't lost much either; I was surprised how easily many of the songs in the book came back to me when I've been playing nothing but scales and tunes from memory all week.

To work on for next week: slurs (still), starting in on the G string (woot!) and bringing the fourth finger into play (double woot!) Things are really starting to get to the point where you have to stretch for notes now, and while the challenge is fun, I'm still left with the feeling that things would be much easier if my fingers were just a millimetre or two longer....

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shadowspar: A viola on a purple flamed background, with the text "viola hero" (viola hero)
Tuesday, March 1st, 2011 14:33
  • I'm increasingly happy with my intonation. It's still a looong way from perfect, but at least things tend to be in the right ballpark, and I'm getting better pulling sour notes back into tune while still continuing to play.
  • Slurs on the same string? No problem! Slurs that involve crossing strings? Not so much! I've got some exercises to do that will help me practice.
  • More bow, more bow, ever more bow. Especially with (eg) a two-note slur, each note should get half the bow. Playing all the way from the frog to the tip while keeping the bow from sliding either up towards the fingerboard or down towards the bridge is still a challenge. I have exercises for this too. =)
  • I'll be gone to Drupalcon next week, so no lesson, and the following week is March break, so no lesson then either! It'll be three weeks 'til the next one. Fortunately lack of material hasn't been a problem -- it's lack of practice time that's been the limiting factor -- but Anya gave me a bunch more to work on just in case. I could totally stand to spend a few weeks getting the basics squared well away and cementing the mental link between notes on the staff and fingers on the fingerboard.
  • Chris recommended some easy jazz standards to take a stab at, which I really appreciate. As much as I like playing tunes like Frère Jacques and Twinkle Twinkle Little Star (and they're prime real estate, given that I have two small children) it's nice to have something a bit more grown-up to try as well. They all seem to reach up to E5, though. From first position on viola, that's your fourth finger on the A string, and I haven't quite gotten that far yet. Between that and reading viola on the treble clef, I've got a bit of work to do before I can get through them, but I'm really excited to take that challenge on. =)
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shadowspar: A viola on a purple flamed background, with the text "viola hero" (viola hero)
Friday, February 25th, 2011 01:48

Finding forum threads on Teh Internetz discussing how to set up your viola to play a punk show simultaneously fills me with a sense of possibility and makes me disappointed that I didn't think of it first. More of the former than the latter though. (Besides, who am I to think I'm some kind of musical prodigy, eh? =)

shadowspar: A viola on a purple flamed background, with the text "viola hero" (viola hero)
Tuesday, February 15th, 2011 14:45

Decent lesson today despite not having had much of a chance to practice last week -- spouse and one child elected to get sick over the weekend, so taking care of them trumped viola practice. (The nerve!)

Continuing to work on basic coordination stuff (lh fingers always above the fingerboard -- don't let the third and fourth fingers sneak underneath; don't pull fingers far away from the fingerboard even when they come off the strings), cleanliness of bowing / purity of tone (good contact, adequate pressure, using enough bow), and timing (resisting the urge to cut half notes short; using large swaths of bow and bowing more quickly for quarter notes and more slowly for half notes).

My intonation is still far from perfect, but is definitely getting better. It's still shocking that every now and again, I can put my fingers down on the fingerboard without even looking at them and have notes come out in tune! It's pretty wild.

My supervisor keeps musing about possibly taking up the violin. I'm trying to encourage this, since two of our staff have children who play violin and cello, respectively, and that would give us a string quartet. Maybe we could serenade the patrons from the mezzanine of the library; I'm sure that would go over well. =)

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shadowspar: A viola on a purple flamed background, with the text "viola hero" (viola hero)
Wednesday, February 9th, 2011 00:53

Now up to three fingers on the A & D strings in first position. This gives me enough notes to play a scale (D major), so from here on there will be a lot of scale-playing in my practice sessions.

We started (explicitly) working on quality of sound production today -- ironing out the screeches and scratches -- which I've been waiting for since day one. Can definitely see that I'm going to need to step up my sight-reading; the staff is quickly getting littered with a lot of different notes; it's not a matter of distinguishing between four evenly-spaced open strings any more. =)

Capable viola instructors aren't always easy to come by in small towns, but Anya is not only extraordinarily qualified but extraordinarily gracious to boot. Quite frankly, I figure on having a long road paved with practice and frustration ahead; string instruments are rife with subtleties, and playing them well is the study of a lifetime. The innumerable squawks and sour notes I produce are something I expect and am amused by, but any good-natured self-deprecating joke I make is always met with a response like "You're actually progressing quite nicely" or "Like most adults who are just starting to learn an instrument, you are too hard on yourself." I well appreciate how good my fortune is to be studying under such a beneficent tutor.

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shadowspar: A viola on a purple flamed background, with the text "viola hero" (viola hero)
Wednesday, February 2nd, 2011 22:42

Made a neat spontaneous discovery tonight: first position on viola + being able to correctly place your first three fingers on the A & D strings == Twinkle Twinkle Little Star in D major! Wooooo! =)

shadowspar: A viola on a purple flamed background, with the text "viola hero" (viola hero)
Tuesday, February 1st, 2011 14:17

After a somewhat frustrating week of practice trying to grok the intonation of the first few notes on the fingerboard, it was pretty awesome to have my teacher essentially say "You seem distracted by that bit of scratchyness...let's try using a bit more bow, like this..." and all of a sudden have the viola start emitting a nice, clean, mostly in-tune B and C♯ instead of the noise of indeterminate pitch that seemed to be coming out of it before.

There was more, but I'm still kind of gobsmacked by the fact that I can land my fingers at an unmarked and seemingly-random point on the fingerboard and have a discrete note come out of the instrument as a result. ^_^;

ETA: As an aside -- putting the cart way before the horse, but this gives me hope for maybe one day being able to jam with people in diverse styles of music. This is Sonny Rollin's jazz standard "St Thomas" played on piano, congas, and......viola! =)

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shadowspar: A viola on a purple flamed background, with the text "viola hero" (viola hero)
Saturday, January 29th, 2011 23:59

Inasmuch as I've always thought it'd be neat to play a musical instrument, for the longest time I considered it to be out of reach -- something that only "cool kids" did. I was a computer geek, so being good with technology was my lot in life, and making music wasn't. I toyed with the idea of picking up an instrument for years, and of course never did.

TL;DR: I've started taking viola lessons.. )