Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Instrumental Mindset: Violin Psyche

It is that time of year again, and I'm spending much of my creative time practicing the violin. All of a sudden my attraction for the instrument has to do with the instrument itself, not just its repertoire. I have been practicing technical exercises: scales, arpeggios, double stops, shifting exercises, bowing exercises, and etudes, and I am actually acquiring some technique. I can finally do left hand pizzicato, and I can now play double stops in tune without relying on mostly luck. I think that all this time I have been spending with the violin has caused me to think like a violinist.

Aside from scales, etudes, and the occasional bowing exercise, I rarely practice exercises involving technique on the viola. Practicing hard technical stuff on the viola hurts my hand after a short time. Most violists spend their practice time improving their sounds, refining their phrasing, and thinking about interpretation. Playing in tune on the viola always has to be taken on a note-by-note basis, while playing in tune on the violin is rather scientific. On the violin a half step is a half step: one finger width. On the viola the notes are just far apart enough to require constant adjustment. A finger width is not always the operative measurement.

The funny thing is now that I have acquired some useful technique, I actually enjoy playing technical passages just for the sake of playing technical passages. It is an eye opening experience for me. This obsession of mine may not last long, but I'm sure having a good time while the spirit moves me.

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