Sunday, February 8, 2009

Viola da Gamba, or how not to make it Moo like a Cow

I'm still working on that bit, but it's coming along. I've been practicing, I won't say every day, but more days than not, so that's good for my musical discipline. I make a solid effort to do so even if I've got something going on; for instance, let's say I'm going to a Blazers game after work. I get home and find I've got 20 minutes to kill after I've eaten and before I have to leave. I'll bust out the viol and use that 20 minutes to practice, knowing full well that I won't be doing any practicing after the game. I try, though, whenever possible, to alot at least a full half hour.

For a month or so I just worked on a G major scale and arpeggio. I'm making an effort to sing the notes as I play them, to help fix in my head the different locations of the notes on the fretboard. Being a keyboard player, one of the things to get my head wrapped around is the fact that on a stringed instrument, you can sound the same pitch at different locations on the fretboard. I'm hoping that it will eventually become a more intuitive thing for me; for now it's just another great mystery that I've got to deal with.

I practiced the scales enough so that I actually don't have to look at my fingers all the time now, which frees me up a bit to read the music on the page that I'm trying to learn. I don't have any rosin yet (no excuse for that; I've just been lazy but I will have some soon) so I did a lot of string plucking so that I could practice the fingering, and I think that did me a lot of good.

I had a lesson yesterday and so I've gotten back to practicing the bowing again. Trying to match my teacher's smooth, fluid motion with the bowing arm was a bit frustrating, but there were times when I felt like I was getting the hang of it. The whole cow mooing thing, I've discovered, can be largely eliminated by keeping the bow perpendicular to the bridge and not sliding it up and down the string. The other part is the actual combination of action in the bowing arm, wrist and fingers, the correct actuation (is that a word?) of which will yield a smooth start to the sounding of the note. Of course, knowing that and doing it are sometimes two different things at this point, but I try not to get too overwhelmed, and tell myself that what I need to do is concentrate on the few small things that I need to know now. Trying to comprehend the strange symbols in my teacher's copy of Marais' Deuxieme Livre de Pieces de Violes only leads to mind-boggling confusion at this point.

So there's an update. I'm excited to actually be working on a real song, probably by Praetorius. Not sure where all this will lead; will it be another instrument that I just sort of half-ass and use my own intuitive musicality to learn the basics of, or will I take it farther and really get serious and try to learn it? I'd like to think the latter at this point, so I'm ramping up towards making it a daily ritual and really trying to dig in my heels and go for it. I'll include some pictures soon.