Aye curumba! Garage Band saves the day

I went to the state library and got out the Doflein Method Book IV. I remember at 14 or 15 feeling a bit miffed that my new teacher had me go “back to basics” when I had already achieved AMEB Grade 7 with my old teacher.  I wish someone had explained to the teenage me that these are excellent remedial books for those who haven’t been taught the correct technique.  A musician friend suggested I re-learn using Ševčík’s violin studies book and another friend suggested Suzuki, but given the reasons why I’m re-learning (purely for pleasure) I think I’ve made the right choice. Each chapter in the Doflein books target a technique and it’s scaffolded in such a way that the learner does not freak out and they also get to play a two part piece with their teacher  As I’ve probably mentioned in an earlier blog the part I loved best about playing the violin was playing with others. Not only was a less lonely activity, I loved hearing the harmonies.

Unfortunately, I live too far away from any where where I can find like-minded musicians which is okay  because at this stage of my life I can’t commit to rehearsals. I’ve got too much going on (thesis writing…thesis writing…) and can’t commit to much. I had thought about taking some lessons to improve my technique but don’t have time for that either.

So here is where Garage band comes in.

I go through my Doflein exercises and preparation and then I play the piece. I record both parts with the metronome as different tracks. I listen to the tracks and note what I need to improve on. I can still tell when I’m out of tune and what needs work, and then I try again. I’ll need to get a real teacher at some point to give me some feedback on things such as posture, hold and bowing but this is okay for now. It also means that I don’t have to find another person to play with.

I need a hobby like this so that I an take time out from life.

Here is the first two recordings I made of the same piece. I can’t believe that it is only now as a 40 year old that I know how to practice and see that there are rewards from effort. I’ve compressed these files so the quality isn’t that good but on my iMac I can hear it well enough to assess tone quality. So I can tell from these two recordings that I am not ready to play the piece at the speed I attempt the second time. I cringe as I listen to the second recording as I can hear every wrong note.

When I have time I need to see how I can on the home computer just make sure I’m playing in time with myself without having to use the metronome. I find the beat really distracting, yet because of the gear I’m using I can’t really hear and follow the other part if I don’t use the inbuilt metronome.

I think I might set an afternoon aside to record a piece once a week, even if its the same piece. That way I can track my improvement.  There is much joy derived from  practice when you can hear the improvement.

AFTER I finish this thesis I might invest more time and resources to my set up, but my crude set up will suffice for now.


More about thesis writing next time around.  Can’t talk about it. Just gotto do it.


Mid-life or mid-winter

Thank goodness for smart phones. I would get very little done without one.

I’m still in bed because the kid is playing with the rescue cat we adopted. These days cat’s must be registered and sterilised, and be kept indoors! I get the feeling that I am not far away from becoming a crone like woman who goes on about how, “in my day…” 

In my day cats knew how to dig a hole in the garden and poop in it. This cat doesn’t seem to know how to dig a hole in the kitty litter and only in a box of newspaper so I’ve had to put away our open paper recycling bin! The cat is also afraid of the outdoors?!?!!!?! We don’t live in an apartment! I’m going to train it to go out, have a play and stay within the confines of our property. 

I haven’t had time to do much other than look after my child. I will probably not have a chance to see any friends who are not parents of my son’s friends until after the holidays. 

The thesis: not happening. I sent part of it to a PhD writer friend to have a read through and the whole mess to my supervisor who knows that I won’t have time to do anything until the school holidays are over. 

The paid job: something that is rare to come by apparently and I have been told that I’m silly to give it up. Maybe I am but I won’t finish my thesis I continue.

The violin: I still need to get replacement rubbers for my shoulder rest. I haven’t had time to go to a music store. I’ll try going over the weekend. I have found someone to duet with which is something to look forward to. I need to find time to print out some music at some stage. I haven’t been at my desktop either at home or in the office in ages. I might have some time towards the end of the week or the weekend.

So the plan is to:

1) Sleep

2) Stay sane

3) find some time in the next two weeks to not be around anything child related even if it’s two hours reading a trashy novel.

4)go to a music store

5) see at least one friend who is not the mother of my child’s friend. 

6)clean freezer so there is space for home pre-cooked frozen meals. Last minute meal planning takes up too much time!

7)chill out and plan to go on a retreat after submitting thesis.

8)don’t think too far ahead. 

9)remember that the unexpected and the unknown can be good.

10)buy more bamboo stakes to construct a structure to replace some eyesore makeshift barrier that’s been in my backyard for a year. I am so sick of half finished home improvement projects. It makes me feel as if I have been suspended in time for a decade.

11)get out of bed! 🙂 

12) read a chapter of a book

Day -3 – Yikes!

Hello my three readers!

[I am too old and too private to post pictures up of me. Yes I know there are three people in the photo who are possibly older than me but one is a man and the other have had work done or are heavily photoshopped].


I spent most of today being a housewife but gave up and will try again tomorrow. Tomorrow I’m going to take a trip to a department store and buy storage solutions for my pantry. It’s getting a little scary in there and I’m sure we have mice. The husband is going overseas for a month so I’m quite freaked out about the prospect of having to dispose of any mice I find in the traps. [Note to self – do not mention buying mousetrap to vegetarian friends].

I managed to spend some time on the four pieces I have to play. I’ve accepted I won’t be able to play every note and decided to look at the positives:

1)I can play every note – just not at speed.

2)John Williams is difficult to play. I have new found respect for the composer of Star Wars, Raiders, Harry Potter…and the people who play in film orchestras.

3) I managed to go from literally rusty to okay for an amateur who hasn’t played in over two decades. Technically I have as I pull the violin out every 7-8 years or so and attempt to play again. This is the first time I’ve gone beyond playing a few simple tunes at home since I quit in 1991.

4)Some of my closest friends are going to be at the concert as will my kid and some of his friends!

5)I’m playing well enough to join a mid-level amateur orchestra.


I’ve started reading Mozart in the Jungle after catching a  snippet from few episodes of it in which they play one of the pieces we will be performing this weekend. I stumbled across thisblog which made me feel better about how difficult I am finding the 1812 Overture:

10) No orchestra knows the 1812 overture by heart. Although it is theoretically possible that individual players may know parts of it, they could never just start playing without any kind of preparation.



Realistically, I only have about 4 practice hours left in me before the rehearsal. I have to submit what I’ve re-edited to my supervisor in less than 48 hours. I also need to send hubby off to the airport. But I wont’ think about the big picture now.  Oh dear, I think my son still has a cold.



Day -9

To my TWO dear readers and me,

What? A week just passed? How did that happen?

Well I’m no where near being able to play every single note at the required speed, but I am better than I was last week. Why is it that playing badly motivates you to improve? I feel a bit bad for my kid that he won’t play have the opportunity to play the violin at this stage. He had a teacher at school but he was just doing it for the money. I’m sure he was fine once a child committed to private lessons, but the group lessons were token. Also, maybe it’s not my child’s thing. I never had the opportunity to play the cello, so I don’t know what I’m missing.

So today I managed to learn a few of the fast passages. It’s the first time in my life I’ve put so much effort into two bars. I don’t know if my fingers can move as fast as they need to but I am happy with what I’ve achieved.

I spoke with my supervisor this morning and we have a plan for me. A realistic time line and goals to get my thesis written up by the submission date.  I have to give up my teaching hours so that I stay sane. If I lived on campus and had all my meals cooked for me, and had no family to look after I could work and submit on time. But that’s not my reality.

I’m a bit disappointed that H is heading overseas to visit family for a month so won’t be around to see my performance, but he was able to view some of the rehearsal thanks to the lovely orchestra coordinators.

Reflecting on my progress has helped me progress. I might have to do the same thing for my thesis writing next month.







Day – 82 The countdown begins

82 days until the performance.

Today I took a quick peak at one of the pieces.

Things I must do:

  1. Get my bow rehaired ASAP – It’s been so long since I played, half of its been eaten by bow mites. Or maybe it’s the silverfish.
  2. Build up strength. Perhaps I need to look at doing some weights.
  3. Not spend so much time typing! This is going to be hard given that I’m writing a dissertation and have to mark students’ work online.
  4. Breathe! It’s for rusty players!
  5. Practice scales. The piece is fast. My fingers and brains are not.
  6. Do not panic!
  7. Hope that my muscles have more memory than my brains.

Things I did:

  1. Panicked after a reality check.
  2. Looked at one of the pieces and listened to it on YouTube. I used to play by ear a lot. I may have to rely on this skill again. But then I remembered that I could only rely on this skill because I was always in the section that played the melody. Crap.
  3. Had flashbacks to both happy and not so happy times with the violin.
  4. Panicked again after looking at my “milestones to completion” document.
  5. Panicked some more after looking at my class list – I have a lot of marking to do leading up to this.
  6. Breathed.
  7. Sight read, albeit badly, the piece. There is no way I can play it at speed. It took me a while to remember.
  8. Took pride in the fact I could still work out complex key signatures.
  9. Googled to see if I had the right key signature.
  10. Wondered whether this is all part of putting off thesis writing.