There’s beginner’s luck but have you ever considered “Beginner’s Bravado”?
Beginner’s bravado is when the beginner’s enthusiasm gets way ahead of their abilities. It sees toddlers climbing Mt Everest, even though they’re only just learning to walk. It can also make a beginner feel like a violinist, a maestro, when they still have dots stuck on their violin and can’t even play fourth finger let alone vibrato. Beginner’s Bravado helps you rise so far above your station, that you become airborne and much to even your own amazement, you might even fly!
Ironically while you’re flying and soaring through the sky, someone with more experience and ability can be left behind scratching their head:
“How come she can fly? Who does she think she is? I’ve been trying to get off the ground for years, just waiting for the perfect conditions and she just takes off without any experience whatsoever. How unfair!”
As much as Beginner’s Bravado can get you off the ground, it can also land you in deep water. One minute, it’s all blue skies. Then, you get caught in a head wind and before you know it, you’re half way to New Zealand and you can’t get back.
That’s what happened to me, my violin and the end of year concert.
You see, because I thought I could play Edelweiss, I sheepishly asked my violin teacher whether I could perform at the end of year concert. I have played the piano at such concerts when I was a kid and it didn’t seem like such a big deal. My teacher was quite encouraging and then she had all sorts of ideas. She asked whether I wanted to perform by myself or in a group. Despite my prima donna tendencies, playing in a group sounded like the sensible option! She put together a medley of The Rose, Amazing Grace and Edelweiss and it all seemed fabulous. I was sold.
I should just let you in on a little secret. I have only been playing the violin for nine months minus a day. Moreover, taking up the violin wasn’t a conscious choice or a matter of crossing off something from my bucket list. I had learnt the violin for a couple of terms as a kid and as far as I was concerned, that was it. I’d learnt the piano but I wasn’t really into music. Taking up the violin was all my daughter’s idea and I was just her taxi. I sat in on her lessons and helped her at home. We practiced together and slowly but surely, I fell in love with the violin but my daughter pulled out for awhile. She just couldn’t cope with all the screeching. She has sensitive ears. After a few prima donna meltdowns on her part, I decided to continue with the lessons without her, not really sure where it was all heading. I was hoping that if I continued and demonstrated that you really do improve with practice, that she would come back on board. I knew how much she actually loved the violin. Music is her thing…not mine!
So I guess you could say I picked up the violin on the rebound or even second-hand.
Back to the violin concert.
A few weeks later, my violin teacher was looking hesitant. She was concerned that we wouldn’t be ready in time. I heard her concerns but you know how it is when you are new at something and you think you know it but you don’t and me being me, I was quite dismissive. We still had a couple of months to go. How hard could it be? Once again, the beginner’s bravado had kicked in. I reassured her that everything would be fine…just fine!! We could do it!!
I have now made a mental note to self that the next time someone with more experience has concerns, I will take them more seriously. There is a problem. It may not be a big one but I do need to take it seriously. There might be something I don’t know about which needs to be considered, not ignored.
At the same time I was being positive and encouraging, my violin was being quite difficult. I was practicing for at least 30 minutes to an hour per day and yet I still wasn’t improving. If anything, I sounded worse. I was constantly playing two strings at once and my violin was screeching like an out of tune cockatoo and was really sounding revolting. As time went by and the concert date was getting closer and closer, I was beginning to worry.
What if I wasn’t ready on time?
Meanwhile, I gained a new respect for the violin. Although I’d thought that playing on one string would be relatively easy, I have now realised that trying to play the violin is like trying to bake the perfect sponge cake. That just like sponge cakes, violins are very sensitive. The eggs need to be at room temperature and you must separate the yolks from the whites. You have to sift the flour 3 times to get the air into it and then add that essential pinch of salt. Then, once you finally get the mixture into the oven, you can’t open the door under any circumstances and have to tiptoe around the kitchen very carefully without any thumping or jumping.
It begs the question: “Who do you think you are? If you’re going to be that fussy, I’ll go with a packet mix instead!”
The same with the violin. If it’s going to be so impossible, maybe I should just go back to piano and pick up where I left off?
It could be easier perhaps for me to learn the piano but the violin speaks to me. The piano does not or at least not in the same way!
Besides, I’m not a quitter. I believe in the power of persistence even when the evidence is maybe even strongly stacked against me.
I practiced more and more and more.
They say practice makes perfect but what no one seems to tell you, is just how much practice it actually takes. It turns out that the magic figure is 10,000 hours of practice to become an expert in your field. I then calculated that if I practice for 1 hour per day, it would take me 27 years to become a maestro. That means, I would be 70 years old and well and truly retired by the time I was ready for Carnegie Hall.
At two hours a day, success is almost achievable but that’s a serious commitment. I’d pretty much be living for my violin and I’m writer.
That said, I’d hate to think how much time I waste each day and if I could possibly consolidate some of those lost minutes, then perhaps I could fit my two hours in without too much trouble. Perhaps, I could take my violin to the medical centre and practice while I’m waiting for the doctor or my blood test. I could practice while I’m telling the kids to get ready for the umpteenth time. I already practice while I’m cooking, waiting for something on the stove and while I’m waiting for my cup of tea to cool down. After all, you have to seize the moment…especially when a moment is all you have!
In the meantime, it’s looking like a dawn performance on the steps of the Sydney Opera House and I’ll just have to hope that the security guard doesn’t call the Police!
The clock is ticking…
Yesterday, with just over 24 hours to go to the big concert, I pulled out my violin and panicked. Geoff and I had been away for the weekend at Jazz in the Vines in the Hunter Valley. This means I’d missed two days of violin practice. I wasn’t too concerned about this because I’d been practicing steadily and had felt I had finally cracked it. I was almost relaxed. However, when I started playing again yesterday, it sounded awful. It was playing two strings at once and the notes were ever so slightly out of tune but it very noticeable. It wasn’t good.
I didn’t panic but I was concerned. That’s when I realised just how sensitive violins really are. That they really don’t like being left home alone. My violin could have been playing something upbeat but instead it seems she was playing sad songs to herself all weekend. This meltdown was the violin equivalent of “where the hell have you been? Who were you with? You’ve been listening to other music! How dare you leave me behind!!”
I tell you, there is nothing quite like a jealous violin!
I even wondered whether my violin had been secretly siphoned out some of the wine (perhaps a bit of Merlot as we slept) because my bow was having trouble playing in a straight line and was sliding all over the place.
Fortunately, it turned out that my violin doesn’t hold a grudge because when I went to practice last night, it wasn’t too bad. It wasn’t perfect but it was a vast improvement. I’d also had a nanna nap in the afternoon so perhaps that helped.
It’s now just four hours til the concert begins. I’m more excited than nervous. I really enjoy performing with the group and I really want to see how it all finally comes together. I have done my best to prepare and it all just boils down to that moment in time. How will it all come together? Will my violin be naughty or nice?
Wish me luck!