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Taking up the violin again--for dummies


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#16 OlderAussie

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Posted 28 January 2016 - 11:36

OK, so first I want you all to know that I'm not the sort of person who usually gives names to inanimate objects.   Until I got my new troublesome charge my old violin was just named "My Violin". By the way I lied before -- It actually it does have a label.  It reads "Repaired By..."  but THAT is another story  :crying: and not a very nice name.

 

So at the end of my visit to Mum I hid "Madame" under a bed and travelled back to see the luthier...but while Wolfgang is in violin hospital and I have your attention I have another tip for you.  That is, if you are really genuinely a dummy taking up the violin again and not just pretending :angry::

 

Tip #10: Ask yourself "Do I need new specs?"

 

I mean with the right focal length for reading violin music some feet from you while SIMULTANEOUSLY holding your violin at the right angle? I now have reading glasses, multifocals AND "music-reading-and picture-looking-at-glasses".

 

You see they come with a bonus - you can now have a nicer time at the art gallery!  I always try to give good value :D


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#17 Tenor Viol

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Posted 28 January 2016 - 11:48

Good point.

I don't think people are always aware that with varifocals you can opt to have an intermediate reading zone. I always make a point at eye tests of making sure they are aware that I need to be able to read at the standard book distance, computer screen at arm's length, and music slightly further away. Modern varifocal lenses can handle this, but be aware of two points.

The first is that to get all of that into one set of lenses, the lenses need to be deep, otherwise each zone will be narrow and you will constantly be tilting your head to find the the right zone. This has been tricky in recent years as the fashion has been for narrow lenses.

The second this is that the more complex lens structures tend to be features of the more expensive lenses, as they are complex. This does mean in the UK you are probably looking at several hundred pounds for the lenses. So all those adverts for 'Two pairs of xyz glasses for just £70' I'm afraid don't apply.


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#18 OlderAussie

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Posted 30 January 2016 - 05:04

Excellent advice TV.  It is a bit of a nuisance having to swap glasses even though I have new expensive multi-focals (or whatever they are).  For my next pair I'll see what they can do for me.  It's good that larger frames have come back in, though the really big ones I had some years ago used to fog up all the time and really annoy me, so I hope they don't go there again...

 

So!  Dummies (and Honorary Dummies, because I know you are out there :rolleyes:)   No class today -- it's the weekend.  But if you like you can revise Tips 1 to 10.

 

I've written something you might like to reinforce Tip #9:  "Be careful you don't get MORE than you bargained for".  If you like you could contribute something on one or more of the themes discussed so far. :anyone:

 

Here's mine:

 

Madame is so velvety mellow

 

While Wolfgang, a much smaller fellow

 

Sounds big bold and proud

 

He sings out so loud

 

His wolf tones belong on a cello!  :D


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#19 OlderAussie

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Posted 02 February 2016 - 06:12

No takers?  Do feel free to contribute your experiences, especially with wolves...

 

You probably want me to get on with my exciting tale.  To cut a long story short, quite some work has been done on Wolfy since I left him with the luthier, at no cost to me (refer to Tip #8 because there was no actual warranty on second hand goods).

 

 

Well, Wolfy, his problem's been cured

 

When he's good he sings like a bird!

 

His wolf has been strangled

 

Its pitch has been wrangled

 

To somewhere that shouldn't be heard.

 

He now sports a metal wolf eliminator behind the bridge on the D string. The weight on the tail-piece has been changed and he has lower tension strings.  The wolf is much quieter and has been moved to between a D and D# - so if I hear it I know I'm playing out of tune (or my violin isn't tuned to concert pitch). As all this changed the tone on the A string I also asked for the soundpost to be moved to make that more mellow again.

 

Is Wolfy worth all this trouble?  I think so, still my advice to you is to avoid such hassles if you can!

 

A wolf tone is in fact the mark of a very resonant instrument.  Some of the best instruments have one, so it is almost a badge of honour  :o

But apart from the problem of wolf tones, can an instrument be TOO resonant? 

 

I will tell you some of little Wolfy's other strange ways next time...he's quite a Wild Child!


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#20 chaia

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Posted 02 February 2016 - 10:19

Very educational I didn't know what a wolf note was til I read this and looked it up! I look forward to the next installation!
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#21 OlderAussie

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Posted 05 February 2016 - 22:33

Thanks chaia, no, I'd never heard of one on a violin before so I wasn't looking for one when I tried my new violin out (twice) but  I'm sure I played the B flat on the D string a dozen times - I had an injured left thumb and was right out of practice so my repertoire was very limited and a couple of the mournful folk songs I was playing included that note. Did the low humidity at that time mask it, then the rain set it off?  I'm still confused about that...

 

My Wolfy does have strange ways.  I'd say he's more sensitive than most. An electric fan going near him, even if blowing in another direction makes his tone go quite eerie.  Plus he is sensitive to walls.

 

Walls?  Or is it windows? Anyway I was playing in our back room and...

 

While bowing on the G string,

 

The E began to ring! 

 

Could that be right?

 

Gave me a fright

 

I hadn't touched the thing!   :wacko:

 

 Was that weird or what?  So I went down to the open plan end of the house to demonstrate to my spouse. Hmm... Hmm. Try it again.  Hmm...maybe just a little?

 

 

So, is Wolfy temperamental?

 

I got experimental

 

and what I found

 

for a nice sound

 

Some space is fundamental

 

 

Yep, I'd say that's just about all any of us can take for today :sick:


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#22 Tenor Viol

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Posted 05 February 2016 - 23:47

TheE willresonate if it's a harmonic of a lower note you're playing - 5th, 8ve, 12th etc


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#23 OlderAussie

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Posted 09 February 2016 - 03:27

Thanks again TV, you are a great Teacher's Aide!    Isn't acoustics an interesting subject.

 

Tip #11: When comparing violins at different dealers remember the acoustics of the room can have a big effect on how the instrument sounds

 

Depending on the facilities available, this can make it difficult to compare instruments -- maybe you should ask to try each out in a small room as well as a large one if that's available. 

 

The small room where I practice has two wardrobes in it and each has a full-length mirror.  These have also had a big effect.

 

If they don't scare Wolfy they sure scare ME!

 

Oops folks I'll have to leave this here.  I've been accused of using electricity :eek:   But do stay tuned...


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#24 OlderAussie

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Posted 13 February 2016 - 00:00

What follows is a LITTLE delicate.

 

Lets say (hypothetically speaking) you discover that when playing you now suddenly develop a one-sided double chin.  Perhaps one that, even worse, does a bit of dancing to certain frequencies?  :huh:

 

Would you:

 

A) Vow to only ever hide up the back of the second violins?

 

B)  Aspire to immortality on SoundCloud?

 

C)  Consider styling yourself after Tiny Tim?

 

D)  Dig out your neglected book of facial exercises?

 

E)  Dig out your neglected book of facial exercises VERY QUICKLY when your science-reading, weight-training OH informs you that after about the age of 60 you can't bulk up muscles due to lower testosterone levels?

 

FACT CHECK NEEDED :anyone:

 

However, he says, after that you can still strengthen or maintain what muscles you have.  But how much better to start your exercise regime when much younger! 

 

 

Tip #12:  Avoid/minimise/tone up wobbly bits and improve your look by exercising your face and neck muscles with a daily regime such as "Facercise" by Carole Maggio.

 

 

Or grow a beard.

 

 

 

  :blink:  :duh:  I see...can be tricky... :wacko:


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#25 Chris H

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Posted 15 February 2016 - 23:34

That's the problem with playing in a room with two wardrobe mirrors - you may never have found out, and then it wouldn't have mattered!
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#26 OlderAussie

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Posted 18 February 2016 - 01:56

Yes, I know, Chris, sometimes ignorance is bliss...

 

But back to my soap opera...it's time to introduce another character!  As well as some allegorical characters, you've met my violins Madame and Wolfgang.

 

But (some sultry music please Tenor Viol)...

 

Now please don't read me a sermon

 

But I've been off moonlighting with Hermann!  -_-

 

 

OK, so Hermann is my "other, other" violin.  Actually he belongs to my Mum and lives at my Mum's house.

Because it illustrates some of my earlier points I'll tell you about our relationship.

 

Another 3/4 size of German origin, Hermann was brought to my Mum several years back in two pieces, poor fellow!  She bought him cheaply on spec and had him put back together, later lending him to a couple of pupils.  Now it turned out that Hermann has quite a noble tone and is from a respected workshop BUT I didn't feel he was the fiddle for me.  Why?  He has a chunky and not very refined neck and I have very small hands and short fingers.

 

His neck is both wider and deeper than Wolfy's and his strings are further apart.  I found it impossible in some studies to put a finger on two strings at once where indicated.   Also double stopping exercises in particular are more difficult so I think I made the right decision in buying another violin with a slim neck.   Of course having strings closer together on Wolfy is occasionally a problem too - such as one exercise involving triads where I need to put a finger on a middle string without touching those on each side -- tricky!  I can get around that by using my slimmer 3rd finger in place of my 2nd.

 

Ha ha.  The plot thickens! Today I discovered that Hermann has a bit of a wolf tone as well!  :lol: It's on the B up on the G string.  However it's not nearly as bad a wolf tone problem as Wolfy's is.  It doesn't appear as well on the D string like Wolfy's did. Actually the corresponding note on Wolfy's A string even had a bit of a wobble as well -- it didn't sound bad, just like a bit of extra vibrato...and the note an octave higher on the E string did sound a bit more eerie than the notes around it.

 

But as you know, Wolfy's problem is under control with some clever wrangling...at least for the moment.  I expect when I want to change the D string it will be a job for the luthier as the metal wolf eliminator is a very tight fit and obviously needs to be in exactly the right spot.  I might experiment with different brand strings in time rather than the Warchal strings the luthier put on to decrease tension.   I did like the sound of the Obligato strings I had on earlier -- except for the wolfs of course!   The luthier did suggest that in future I might try a lower bridge as a way of decreasing the tension and that idea has some appeal.

 

But for the moment the thing is to improve my skills  :violin: ... so I think I'll let sleeping dogs lie! 


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#27 Tenor Viol

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Posted 18 February 2016 - 09:33

Happy to oblige...

 

https://www.dropbox....nister.jpg?dl=0

 

I decided sultry wasn't quite right and felt that Wolfy might feel threatened by Hermann...


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#28 OlderAussie

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Posted 18 February 2016 - 21:20

 You're right, TV.   Wolfgang is such a touchy lad. 

 

But why music SO sinister?   Yikes! Am I right in thinking someone is going to get gobbled up?   I guess it's for the lurking wolves.  

 

Here's one for the pedants.  Why does "wolfs" sound OK to me as the plural in my above post?  Is it because it's short for "wolf tones"?

 

 

 

 

Edited:  oops, "pedants", not "pendants"! :blush:   Though I know some of you are hanging on every word...


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#29 Tenor Viol

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Posted 18 February 2016 - 23:08

Possibly... f singular and v plurals are Anglo-Saxon words (other words include dwarf/dwarves, roof/rooves, hoof/hooves, etc). Some of these are gettign lost as the tendency these days is to have roofs rather than rooves for example.

 

I deliberately left the title off the extract - it is of course the opening music from Jaws and that is the cello part. I can tell you that a page and a half of those quavers is very tiring as most of it is fingered 3/4 with the odd 1.


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#30 OlderAussie

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Posted 22 February 2016 - 03:40

Poor TV, yes I bet those quavers are a pain.  You cellists will be there playing away wishing Jaws would just get a move on!

 

Well I'm back home and had my first couple of practices after not playing for a few days.  As expected yesterday's practice -- the first on Wolfy for a couple of weeks -- was pretty scrappy. Today's was a little better.  It's always like that isn't it when you haven't been playing and it made me think how violins are a bit like ponies - the more you use them the friendlier they get!

 

So, for those of you who are just taking up the violin again after a longish break:

 

Tip #13  Don't be discouraged if playing at first feels like a totally alien experience.  Just practice a little more each day and gradually the feel will come back to you.

 

However this is important:

 

Tip # 14  Ensure a good grip, good posture and comfort with the right combination of shoulder rest and chin rest to suit you.

 

A few people may have a build that doesn't require a shoulder rest, but most will benefit from one of these. I was glad to discover the Bon Musica shoulder rest which can be adjusted in all sorts of ways - there is a lot of information on this on the web and more about my experience in the Viva Strings shoulder rests thread.

 

A comfortable chin rest is also crucial.  We also have a choice of side or middle-mounted chin rests.  I've followed some advice I received from a violin professor during a consultation lesson many years ago, that a middle chin rest can help those of us with short arms (he also advised me to get a 7/8 size violin -- a pity he didn't say 3/4 size :() .  

 

The height of the chin rest can also be adjusted by adding more cork where it sits on top of the violin.  After today's practice I decided to put some extra cork under my chin rest.  Though I don't have a long neck I am now playing a 3/4 size violin which of course is also smaller in the vertical dimension. I had been given a nice flat piece of cork by a local luthier from which my OH carefully cut two small shapes with a Stanley knife (also known as a box-cutter).

 

When it comes to removing or installing a chin rest here is a really good tip regarding an item you possibly already have among your stationery:

 

 

Tip #15  The wire popped out of a 25mm fold-back clip makes an ideal tool for removing and replacing your chin rest.

 

Just remember the old motto when dealing with screws "lefty loosey, righty tighty" and don't over-tighten.

 

My raised chin rest does feel more comfortable and it seems that as less of my neck is now squished sideways that dratted double chin thingy has been reduced!  :hurrah:    Still I'll continue with my face exercises. 

 

Next time, since I've got you all set up and exercising just about everything else, I'd better talk about exercising your fingers!


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