Practice Diary: Why do I still have so much bow left?

So at the moment I’m working on the A minor scale (melodic, 3-octave) and arpeggios. Metronome is set at 50bpm and I start at 1 beat per note and 3 beats per bow.

One of the things I’m working on is trying to keep an even speed with each bow. Apparently I have a tendency of starting off at the right speed, slowing down in the middle, and playing catch-up at the end, so by the end of the 3rd beat my bow seems to be at the tip or the frog (most of the time) but how it get there is very questionable. Even though I practice my scales every day I never actually noticed it until it was pointed out to me during lesson. I think I know why: I’m too focused on the left hand that even if I “know” I have a bowing problem I don’t give much thought to fixing it.

So now I’m trying to correct that. The first thing I did was to put stickers on my bow marking the thirds. The bow is 25.5 inches in length so the stickers are 8.5 inches from either end. Then, before I start practicing my scales, I do a few minutes of open string bowing with the metronome so my arm remembers what it’s supposed to do. And after that I go on with my regular scale practice. Doing so has been really helpful. I could feel a change in my bowing and I noticed my arm moving a lot faster during the second beat than before.

But when I played arpeggios I was having trouble getting to the ends of the bow at the end of the third beat. I’ve noticed that since Monday but I didn’t have the energy to fix it. There are two shifts going up and they are both relatively new to me. My left hand still doesn’t know where to go so most of my focus is devoted to that. The first shift happens on at the end of the third beat, with first finger going from E to A on the D string. I’m also supposed to shift slowly, sound out the slide, and time it so that the A begins on the next beat. This takes a lot of coordination and I’m only recently able to hear it in my head how it’s supposed to sound.

So there I was just practicing my coordination and trying to slide slowly into the right note and as I was about to change bow I looked to the stick and I was maybe 2 inches away from the tip. What the heck? I mean it’s been a problem for a while but I didn’t understand why. Based on some twisted logic I kept thinking that I was rushing into the next beat (because look there’s still bow left so I must be going too fast right?), but that doesn’t make sense because I had the metronome on and my A was on the beat. So it had to be the bow and I was forced to conclude that my bow slowed down. Which was also baffling since it was doing fine in the first two beats. I must’ve subconsciously slowed down either because I was too focused on my shift or because I thought I needed more time to shift correctly? I don’t know. None of it makes sense; the bow speed should not change and I changed it and got confused when it wouldn’t reach the tip…

So I tried to fix that. I told my right arm to keep going and I ended up shift on the last two inches of the bow and the world didn’t end. My bow got to the tip, the timing of the shift was good, the next note started on time, and I didn’t run out of bow. It works! It’s a miracle (not really)!

So there you go. Small victories~




Reviving My Blog

I’ve been thinking about writing a blog lately. For some reason I have an urge to write about my musical journeys. It’s coming up two years since I picked up my violin again, and lately whenever there’s an anniversary coming up I get nostalgic and think about the past a lot, and it might be fun to organize the thoughts in a coherent and semi-public way (I mean, who will actually read my blog?).

I completely forgot that I had this blog. My computer remembers my login info, and I was amazed to discover that in the few months leading up to my thesis defense I actually wrote 5 blog posts, each of them quite well-organized, about pretty meaty things like books I read and thoughts I had. And I even bothered to include pictures and link external sites and everything. That was more than two years ago now.

Since then, I’ve defended my PhD, found a job, moved to another city, and picked up my violin again. I now also play the cello. Life has been very good.

My current plan is to dump some thought vomit here every so often about bits and pieces of my earlier violin experiences, and current goings on. I don’t want any of the posts to be too long or rambling. Hopefully each will be a small nugget of memory that piece together who I am today as a musician. We’ll see how this goes.