I’ve been doing my best to practice vibrato every day, but it’s been very slow going, dare I say frustrating? But both Monday and Tuesday during practice I admit that I was making some progress. Tiny, itty-bitty amounts of progress. The movement is welcome – I’ve needed a little clue that I’m not on a dead-end road with vibrato; maybe I can now imagine that this little alley could widen into some real lanes eventually.
I keep having to fundamentally revise what I’m trying to do. The dimension on which the hand moves to produce vibrato is very tricky to isolate. I can tense up and force a vibration, but that’s to be avoided – the sound betrays the fact that my hand is under duress. Instead, I need to gently move the hand. It’s very hard not to move the whole instrument. The idea is to vibrate the tip of the finger on the string – while pressing somewhat firmly, actually. Since it’s suspended in air out there between my chin and my left shoulder, pressing firmly on it has a tendency to make the instrument move. Physics and what-not.
I told Teacher in our lesson yesterday that the violin is very good for me because it doesn’t fit in my boxes. I’m a person who puts things in boxes –like all humans, categorization is how our brains work, to a large extent. We like things that fit our expectations and that conform to certain regularities. But most things, when you really look closely, defy definition by box, and the violin is no different. Nuance abounds, and tapping into the nuance and hard-to-pin-down details is what learning to play the violin is all about.
In other news, we made it through the rest of the Bach Gavotte in D Major in yesterday’s lesson. I’m pretty much head over heels in love with this piece; I remember feeling this way about the Brahms Waltz in Book Two, The Beethoven Minuet, and Humoresque, but in some ways this one is different. I developed a love for the beauty of those pieces by listening to them, not by playing them.
I said to Teacher, “To me this piece feels like it’s just supposed to exist in the universe, you know, the intervals and the melody hop all over the place, but somehow it comes together and is just perfect. I guess that’s Bach.” And it’s hard. Four quite specific new things: Trills, lots of them, including my first with the pinky. Double stops. Using the third finger on an occasion when I have only ever used the second. String hopping with the first finger while keeping the second down. In case the four are not enough, accidentals all over the place round out the difficulty, and the piece is also quite long.
The gavotte, as I’ve written, is actually a whole movement from a larger piece, Bach’s Orchestral Suite Number 3. It’s not a big movement. Like my goal with vibrato, it’s a little movement.
Thanks for reading.