The problem was rosin. Wow what a difference.
Okay. Revise my estimates of my abilities again. I had a minor bowing problem and a huge rosin problem. I bought sandpaper this morning. And sandpapered the rosin. Suddenly I was much better at bowing. I feel kind of stupid but oh well.
But the real change was in my estimate of the sound quality of this violin. I assumed since it was bought for not a lot of money for a guy who was 12 at the time (1914), it couldn’t be that much better than what 12-year-olds generally get these days. Wrong. Way way way wrong. It’s much better. Much better. A musician friend who just heard me play said it sounded far better than anything she’s seen basic students getting these days.
I don’t know if that’s just because they used to make them by hand out of much better materials or what. I’ll make sure to ask the people at the violin shop too. Because with a properly rosined bow, I’m realizing that I’m lucky to have this not only for the personality but for the sound as well.
I’ve now talked to two musicians who got immediately what I meant about instruments having personalities. One of them slept with her favorite bass (which had a name) in bed with her every night (and had an S.O. break up with her because that was “too weird”). Another kept his first piano until it was falling apart and then gave it a ceremonial dismantling, similar to a funeral.
So currently, my playing is still uneven, but it’s much closer to the skill range I had when I left off playing, than anything before I fixed the rosin. In fact I didn’t expect to do this well this fast, and I have much fewer misgivings than I did when I was having to press so hard it sounded icky, to get any noise at all. At my best, I actually sound good right now. At worst, there’s hesitance and hitting two strings at once and getting notes wrong. So I basically want to get more consistent, to start off with.
Pressure seems to bring out the worst of it. I was really amazed when I played for someone today. Because she basically told me she didn’t give a shit about proper technique, she just cared about the underlying feeling I was trying to get across. I relaxed and played (improvised) better for her than I have this whole time I’ve been practicing. I only noticed a couple parts that went wrong, and not by much. If someone had said the opposite, I would have stumbled over every note. Trying to read music is painfully slow and sounds like utter shit.
(Eeeeeeeeee! Cat under blankets! Up against stomach.)
Of course I know I’m being helped by a well-made violin. It’s easy to sound good on this thing. And it likes me, and that makes it easier too. We aren’t fighting each other, which is how I feel on a lot of instruments. And now that the bow is properly rosined I’m not fighting that either. Playing on it feels like many of my interactions with Fey. There’s kind of a symmetry and symbiosis going on.
I’m so glad I had this dream, I don’t even remember the content, but it left me with a strong urge to get the violin out of the closet and start playing again and get any necessary repairs done. A strong enough urge that I was willing to move all kinds of crap to get to it, and then use my Gandalf staff to pull it out of there. All the time wondering if it was the right thing to do. And then when I opened the case, I pretty much knew. But it was only today that I became sure that I’ll be able to play it well enough to do what I want with it.
And I feel whole in a way I haven’t in awhile. But I didn’t know I didn’t, until it changed. There’s this deep woodish quality in this violin and I can feel something like that same quality in myself.