String instruments that sit in their cases languishing for over 50 years and then get picked back up have some stretching out to do to in order to reconnect with their past glory. I’ve read that it can take a year or two of usage for them to reveal their capabilities to decent players. Now, I’m hardly a decent player yet, and with mine, I needed to have some basic repairs done first, but ever since it’s been great to play. Of course I’ve been improving pretty dramatically too, over the course of this first year back at it (surely everyone’s first year is their most improved year!). To complicate matters pertaining to my understanding of all of this, my three years of experience with the instrument as a tweenager left me with no memories about the finer points of instrument versus player prowess at all, so while I know for a fact that when I picked up my Roth it was like an instant download of better playing capability into my brain, a lot of the other possible manifestations of age and the re-awakening of an older instrument’s capabilities are more rooted in speculation, on my part – what is the player bringing and what is the violin bringing?
Teacher talks a lot about humidity impacting a violin’s ability to stay in tune, and it’s quite true that I’m having to struggle much less with tuning the instrument now, during the more humid summer, than I was earlier in the year, in the bone-dry winter. I’ve written some posts about humidity being very low in our condo in the winter, and about my purchase of a little humidifier to insert into the violin. But the humidity in the air is always the most impactful, and it seems clear that the tuning pegs are now turning more easily and more fluidly than they were in the dryer winter months. Of course I’m also better at manipulating the pegs, knowing how far to turn them, knowing when it’s “good enough” in a relative way to the other strings. I now tune the thing myself in the manner I – watching in awe – used to see Teacher doing it in my first few months of playing, leaving the violin on my shoulder and turning the pegs with my left hand while bowing with the right.
I also feel like the A string went on a journey and has now returned and stabilized. I can’t say much about the journey, but my tone has evened out in ways that I can’t fully attribute to my playing – it’s just somehow better. Similarly, I think the D string is on a journey of its own right now. Some days I fight with it for tone quality, and others it’s great – I think it, too, will come home soon. I suspect the G string needs to go on its own journey, but I spend far, far less time down there than I do on the other three, so that one will probably take a bit longer to make the trip.
All of this just in time for the Chicago winter to begin its homeward journey as well. Maybe this violin-impact stuff is what Vivaldi was actually writing about in The Four Seasons.
Thanks for reading.