Playing the Violin

I’ve always loved the sound of strings. Escala and Lindsay Stirling are among my favorite artists. Nothing sweeps up my emotions like the violin. This alone is reason enough to want to play the violin. But I have other reasons as well. Sherlock Holmes and Albert Einstein used the violin to help them think. It was an outlet for their body and soul, while their minds tinkered with tough problems. So, the violin is a romantic notion to me.

Yet I’ve tried to learn before – and it didn’t go well. I was in fourth grade, so maybe I ought to give myself a break. The squeaky piercing shriek that I eked out of the violin was so far from my dreams. The two sounds didn’t connect in my mind. I began to hate the violin and quit my lessons after 6 months.

Now I like to think that I have more patience. It was still difficult for me to commit to playing the violin. I couldn’t shake the notion that lessons were no fun (courtesy of my past experience). But I finally found a cheap violin for $100. It came with a bow and rosin. It was a small commitment (compared to a $500 setup or lessons), so I bought a violin last summer. Now I’ve begun to play it.

It was worth the $100. I’ve enjoyed my hours of watching violin YouTube lessons. My favorites so far have been Red Desert Violin, which showed me how to hold the bow and stroke the violin properly. Eddy Chen told me about people use their left hand the wrong way. I’ve devoured the videos; researching temporarily consumed me. But I now understand that this is not a quick process. I spent three days just practicing the bow stroke – and I still practice every time I bring out my violin.

I’ve also learned some lessons – like, I can’t play properly without the right alignment. After days of cramping, a bruised chin, and a unsuccessful experiment with foam and dish towels (courtesy of eHow), I went to a violin store to get the proper chin rest and shoulder pad. It was a bit embarrassing, bringing my Chinese factory-made violin to an exclusive Seattle violin store. In my mind, it showed my new dedication, as I was terrified of entering such stores before. (I hate for people to know how ignorant I am about violins – but I really wanted the parts). My devotion to my new instrument is now nearing $200 ($90 for a chin rest and shoulder pad).

The good news is that I am now set up as a beginner. I cannot think of any more parts that I will need. My factory violin is all I need to learn good technique. All I want to do is be able to play notes well. I don’t need to become part of an orchestra. I still want to be Einstein and Holmes, simply using the violin as a peaceful way to cogitate. I’m certainly not there yet – I can play 4 notes well about 80% of the time – and it takes all of my concentration. But I’m determined to learn and, unlike my fourth grade experience, every time I practice only reinforces this desire.

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