Practice Diary: No sound

The first note of the etude is an open G.

I didn’t have my metronome on so I could play that first note however long I wanted. I never had too much problem with the two notes after the G, or the 4 notes after that.

But I just couldn’t do it.

I was close. My violin was up, the frog of my bow was hovering maybe half an inch above the G string, I could hear the note in my head and picture myself playing the open string.

Instead of actually doing it I lowered my instrument instead and looked away from my music. I felt stressed about practicing the etude. I was disappointed by my sense of defeat. It’s admittedly not an easy etude but it’s not that difficult either. I’ve practiced the opening 8 measures for a solid week and half now, and I’ve had this etude for 3 and half weeks, and I still can’t get it. The word “failure” popped loudly in my head. There might’ve been a tear before I caught myself in the mirror and thought I was being utterly ridiculous.

This went on for a while. Eventually I decided not to test my luck, and started by practicing some shifting to the third position, playing the notes at the beginning of the difficult measure. It went okay. I added another note. A little flat but the second attempt was good. The next few notes were fine. I wasn’t touching the next string. My 2nd finger was in tune. My 4th finger was in tune. The next few notes were also in tune. Shifting back to first position went pretty well.

I put everything together and finally played that open G. The first 4 measures sounded… fine.

The next 4 didn’t, but by then I wasn’t stressed anymore. I proceeded with my practice. The rest went pretty well.

There were other etudes that were problematic from the very beginning, but this is the very first time, ever, that I am so stressed out by something that I would actually lose the courage to play. It wasn’t, of course, the open G that I was afraid of; it was the possibility that the notes after it would stumble and fall and crash into each other, and fill the room with audible display of my failure. And I just couldn’t stand that possibility. I don’t mind not being good at something. But I mind, very much, of working very hard and still failing — utterly failing — at something.

Anyways, I don’t think this will happen again tomorrow. By the end I was comfortable enough to practice with a metronome set at the speed I was supposed to play, and now I have a whole new set of challenges to overcome. These are challenges I’m excited to tackle, so I’m quite motivated to do more tomorrow.


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