with vibrato

I have never been a detail girl. I am more of a close enough kind of girl.

I don’t follow recipes. I don’t measure accurately. I don’t edit or proofread.
Which is probably why I never did anything with research or medicine. Because I might really like my science. But I’m pretty sure no one would want me cutting them open or doing important research or even baking a soufflé.

And I had a roommate who was puzzled by the fact that I played the violin.
Because it didn’t fit with my close enough attitude.
Because violins don’t have keys or frets to help you get the note right.
You have to put your finger in the exact right spot every time.
No fudging. No helping. And if you are off, even by a fraction of an inch. It sounds awful. But somehow, when I practiced enough my fingers knew where to go.
Exactly. Every time. Without even thinking about it.
And it has been years. And I don’t even want to think how rough I’d sound if someone put a fiddle in my hands. But I’d still know where to place my fingers for the basic notes.

But. Getting it exactly right is not enough when it comes to anything creative.
I can play the notes perfectly. And something would sound off. Plain. Flat. Missing.
Instead, any violinist who has made it to about Suzuki book 2…..they have something that makes their notes sound richer. Fuller. And better than just exact.
They have vibrato.

Which means that on certain notes you wiggle your finger a little. Just past and just before the actual note.
And playing the note a little high and then a little low instead of just right on somehow makes it better. And. you still have to know where the actual note is to do this. But just not be limited to it. And of course – too much of this and you’d get sick of it. But in the right places these intentional wiggles make a piece …..well more musical. And I googled it, just to make sure I was describing it accurately because it has been a long time since I’ve attempted it…and it said that it creates a more “emotional sound”.
Warmer. Richer. And Fuller.

My parents paid for lessons and I practiced intently in my room every night. Right after 90210 was over. And I always sat near the front.
But eventually I started getting distracted. There was Calculus homework, soccer practice, and boys and of course Dillon and Brandon.
So I stopped practicing.
But I still knew when it came to auditions that I still needed to play with confidence and vibrato. Even if I wasn’t sure of the notes. And much to my director’s dismay – I still made the cuts.

And I’ve almost sold my violin a few times, but my husband has always stopped me. I haven’t played in well over a decade.
But I still try to live like that.
With vibrato.
Because sometimes just playing the right notes is boring and flat. And sometimes you have to be willing to be just a little off.


samskat said...

My violin lived in a corner in my parents' house for a long time...and when we moved here, I decided to bring it, and a bunch of loose sheet music, to Tulsa. I pulled it out once, and I definitely do NOT play well anymore (not that I was great to begin with, I was better on the piano), but there's something calming about tuning it and catching the right notes, even after all these years...I never did play well with vibrato, though...

Kristin said...

I love this post and it takes me back a million years. Mr. T. gave up on me during my freshman year when I pretty much told him that I had other more important priorities in life besides orchestra. This did not settle well with him and he kind of treated me that way for the next three years.

Like you, I have almost sold my cello but can not bring myself to do it. It is sitting in our media/playroom, in a corner, collecting dust, just waiting...