Monday, February 13, 2006

Learning to Play the Violin

Well, fortunately I'm not learning from scratch since I've played the viola since I was in the 4th grade (less the 14 years between 1990 and 2004...) and even play semi-professionally in the Giovanni String Quartet. Thus I do have a fairly solid technical foundation for string playing. The bow arm is largely the same, and the left hand technique is closely related. However, I've found there to be some significant differences.

First, the violin itself and the bow are both noticeably lighter in weight, thus not as much physical strength is needed to play the violin. Also, the violin seems to be more naturally sensitive than the viola, which is both good and bad. The good part is that it takes significantly less effort to make a sound. It's startling to me how easy it is to get something out of this instrument! Partly because of this, and also partly because of the violin's place in the orchestra, the playing seems to be much more subtle than with the viola. One of the challenges, though, is that while it's easier to make a sound, it seems more difficult to make the *right* sound. due to its sensitivity, the violin is very easily played badly in terms of tone. The slightest problem with the bow and the sound is scratchy, or the bow bounces, or other problems.

Since we have an abundance of violas in the Albuquerque Philharmonic right now, I volunteered to play violin in the Seconds. I figured this would be a good way for me to get used to playing in treble clef on the violin, and also get my bow technique more refined.

You realize that violins and violas are actually the same size but that violinist's heads are just bigger?

Intonation actually seems a tad easier, maybe because I'm used to the hand stretching involved with viola playing. On the Violin, my left hand can be more relaxed.

So my first concert on the violin in the APO is coming up on the 18th. We're performing two Beethoven works: the Choral Fantasy, with Arlette Felberg on piano solo, and then the Mass in C. Both are great pieces, and since they are mostly in C Major, and mostly diatonic, I'm not faced with too many challenges when trying to get my reading straightened out. The next concert cycle will include the Sibelius 2nd Symphony, however... (gulp!)


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