12 Years of Classical Music

I started learning violin at the beginning of 2008, and switched to viola at the end of 2014. To be honest, if it wasn't for my husband, I would likely have quit years ago. I'm happy to say that I've been playing all the way to 2020, and I've achieved so much more than I would've ever thought I could. Playing to a standard on a classical bowed string instrument is probably the hardest, and most rewarding, thing I will ever do in my life. It is a lifelong undertaking. After 12 years, I'm still very much an amateur, in both the best and worst senses of the word.

Why I prefer viola over violin:
The role of the viola is to fill space. It is the middle voice that you won't hear, but it adds richness to the overall sound. It is usually the supporting character, but there are times for it to shine above the rest. These traits suit my personality perfectly.

Playing music* on the viola/violin...

...is an inconceivably complicated task. It is a combination of science and art. Of course, there are many variables that can influence just how complicated the task is, such as difficulty of the music being played, and the skill and experience of the performer.

...is as much a high art involving the mind and spirit, as it is a physical sport.

...is about controlling and executing minuscule details in one instance, such as:

○ Accurate pitch and duration of notes, keeping in mind that a single note can be divided into 3 parts: the beginning, the note itself, and the ending

○ Connection between each note

○ Intonation – a B♭ in one chord is not the same as in another

○ Choosing the right bowing speed and pressure

○ Imagining the sound that you want to produce, and knowing what techniques to apply to execute that sound

○ Doing all of this every single second, as a unit with other musicians

*'Music' here refers to Western classical music played by reading music notation. The above statements are not meant to be claims for all types and genres of music playing involving these instruments.

Some people just have a natural gift for music. They can do things effortlessly without being taught, that regrettably another person who worked harder can't do to the same effect no matter how much they try.

Originally published 2020-04-17