Learning the Violin – my journey so far (part 2)

First Steps:

I love the piano; if I didn’t play the harp, I’d want to play the piano.  I like the sound, but more importantly I want to be able to play harmony – a bunch of notes at the same time.  But I do play the harp and so, for now at least, the piano is a project for another day.

I love the cello, even more than the violin; Jacqueline du Pré is one of my absolute favourite musicians, and the cello itself sits in this wonderful aural range.


If I’m going to learn another instrument, I decided it was going to be something I could take with me on a bicycle or on the bus…

(Of course, it can always be worse – I thought moving a harp was bad until my brother, percussionist extraordinaire Robin Layne, started playing the marimba.  The marimba has to be taken apart when moved, and then put back together – at least the harp stays in one piece! :) )

A few years ago (maybe 2009?) I rented a violin for a month.  I didn’t find a teacher (I also didn’t look that hard), but I had fun messing around with it.  Watched some videos, but didn’t come across a “Harp Tuesday” for violin ;)

Then in April of 2011 I found someone who I thought I would work well with, and I decided to go for it and take a real shot at learning to play the violin well.

Lets see if I can recall some of my thoughts as I first tackled the violin:

I was reminded again of how essential it can be to have a teacher when learning a physical sport like the violin.

I’m someone who loves learning things on my own, and am pretty good at it.  But for a physical thing like learning an instrument, having a good teacher not only speeds up the learning process, but also helps make sure that you can learn at all, and are not handicapped by improper/inefficient technique.

Learning the violin is also a good reminder of what it’s like to be a beginner on an instrument, which I think is helpful for my own teaching.

Of course, one of the first challenges on a string instrument is just being able to produce a nice, even sound.  I worked alot on long bows on the open strings, and trying to get as beautiful and constant a sound as possible.

And working on pitch – the harp is a fixed pitch instrument, so I haven’t had to develop my ear regarding pitch in the same way that a string player must.

Finally, noticing how much of an advantage it is knowing how to play another instrument.  In particular, some thoughts on exercises vs. playing music that I will save for a separate post.

I worked away on the violin for a 3 or 4 months, until my teacher left town.  I was fairly busy at that point, and so took a break until the end of last year.

Next up – buying a violin!

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