Rosinin’ Up My Bow, Or…This Is Going to Do Wonders for My Carpal Tunnel….

Yup, I bought myself a violin this week.

Nope, I don’t know how to play it.

Yup, I’m determined to play like Charlie Daniels.

And nope, Brad did not flip out when I brought it home. (That’s because I’m a great wife and let him buy a new Zune with home A/V stand from Woot the same day.)

I am soooooooooooooo excited! I’ve been wanting to learn to fiddle for years. Then we went to Williamsburg this month and I watched a guy throw down on one, then this little smidgen of a girl rocked one on a cartoon Raiden was watching, and it was on. No wig-wearing, frock-coated man or itty bitty girl as big around as my thumb is going to outdo me! The gauntlet is down, baby!

It took me about 15 minutes to figure out that no sound was coming from my violin because I needed to rosin up the bow first.  (By the way, I was really happy to find out that “rosin” is a real word and not some word I just made up because I couldn’t understand what Mr. Charlie was singing in “Devil Went Down to Georgia.”)

Apparently, my Beginner’s Guide to Fiddle DVD is assuming that I have some basic familiarity with the violin, like how to coax a sound out of it. It’s wrong.

I’ve played a few instruments in my life so far. Piano, saxophone, clarinet, marimba – I can still sit down and pick out a tune with any of them, provided I have music in front of me and don’t have to rely on my tin ear. But I’ve never really messed around with string instruments.

I’ve wanted to, of course! I would have loved to play guitar, for instance. My cousin Jeremy, who is 6 years older than me and whom I completely idolized throughout my middle school, junior high and high school years, plays guitar and bass. Back in the day he was in a band called PMS (Post-Metal Syndrome) that practiced in the barn behind our family’s home place, and I thought I was something else when I got to sit in and watch them practice. What I would have given to be able to play!

(Now Jeremy is in a band called Runaway Cab – if you know them, you know they rock; if you don’t know them, check them out.)

My stepdad went to college for guitar, and the sounds he can pull out of one will make your hair stand on end and your eyes tear up. He played and sang in Spanish for my wedding, and it was absolutely beautiful!

(We have some of his publicity shots from when he played in a band in Mexico City in his younger days – slicked hair and a suit, playing Elvis and Big Bopper.)

My attempts to learn guitar failed miserably even with lessons. My hands are small – barely reach an octave on a piano at their peak flexibility – and getting my fingers around the neck without pushing down on all the strings at once required amazing contortions. I finally learned to pick out “Dust in the Wind” and gave it up for good.

But a violin! A violin has a small neck that I can handle and a bow instead of a pick, which is much easier to fumble and drop than a big ol’ horsehair bow. I can handle a violin.

I gave up on my DVD and turned to YouTube. Sure enough, videos on fiddle playing are all over the place….for free. I got my bow rosined.

After another two hours, I had my violin in tune. No one bothered to explain that in detail either – when the string won’t tighten any further but you’re still about 3 notes too low, the key is to loosen the fine tuners at the bottom all the way and start over. But don’t forget that by doing that, you’ve thrown the other three strings off their key so you need to go through and check them again.

I only snapped one string figuring that out, but that was okay ‘cuz I had picked up extra strings just in case. Lucky happenstance – I also got to teach myself how to string a violin!

Of course, if anyone knows an easier way to tune a violin, I’ll be happy to learn….


~ by gypsyjonga on July 17, 2009.

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