Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Without Music Life Would Be a Mistake - Nietzsche

What a difference a year and a half makes. That's how long it's been since I've played my viola. In fact, to be perfectly honest, that's how long it's been sitting in the trunk of my car. Not a good place for an instrument, especially with how cold it gets in New York. But today I finally hauled it out of my trunk and played it for about an hour.

My gods, do I suck.

I was never phenomenal to begin with. I didn't have the discipline required to be truly great. If I had spent more time practicing scales and technique, maybe I could have made it into a big name school. But I cared more for the actual feeling I got from playing than I did about becoming the Yo Yo Ma of the viola.

I'm not even fit to breathe the same oxygen as Yo Yo Ma.

I can still read music and play the notes just fine, but it's been so long since the last time I played that my fingers don't move as fast as they used to. My arms are sore from just playing for an hour. To think that I used to practice for two or three hours at a time!

Playing an instrument is apparently nothing at all like riding a bicycle. You forget. And it shows.

With a bit more practice I could probably get back up to the level at which I used to play. I'm just not sure that I have the time to do so. It would take months and months of practicing a few hours a day and with everything else that's going on in my life, I'm pretty sure that's not going to happen. Instead, I'll have to be happy with the half hour once or twice a week that I might get.

And I will be happy. It had gotten to the point where I missed playing so much that I couldn't listen to classical music, especially pieces that I had played, without tearing up. Now that my instrument is physically in the same apartment as I am, perhaps I'll be able to start playing (and listening to the classical music station) again.

I regret the fact that I had to give up being in the college orchestra, but with night classes it would have been hard to schedule around something that wasn't required for my program. I know that I made the right choice in the short run; I just hope that my prolonged absence from music hasn't forever damaged my ability to play.

The moral of this story: do not, under any circumstances, stop doing something for over a year. It'll be harder than hell to come back to it later.



  1. I snickered so hard I hurt now. You make me laugh. But for sure. I was talking to my piano teacher and her and I agree that even a week without practicing can show on a piano. Especially if you practice regularly. I started playing the piano at 13 and then stopped at 15 and now I've started again and I almost feel ashamed when I play thinking, "I should know this!". lol. I love the classical station. good luck.

    And what's with the "gods" thing? lol.

  2. Yeah, I started playing violin in the fifth grade and switched to viola in ninth. There was not a single year between fifth grade and my first year of grad school that I wasn't playing. This past year and a half have totally thrown me off but I'm hoping to someday get back into the swing of it.

    I say "gods" because I'm not religiously affiliated so I feel that I have no claim to any one deity. "Gods" is just my way of not having to say something lame like "oh my stars and garters". LOL

  3. I completely got out of my piano playing and studying when I started grad school. I graduated from grad school about 5 years ago. After reading what you wrote here, I plan to sit down and play for more than 15 minutes tomorrow.

    The interesting thing about playing music is that your muscle memory comes back pretty quickly -- my piano teacher explained once that this is why we can pick up a piece we played years ago, and get through it pretty well, but if we try something we played about 1 year ago, and didn't come back to recently, we tend to stumble through it more.

    I realize that while I stopped taking lessons because working full time and going to grad school left me exhausted, I know that I haven't pursued piano as much as I would like to because my teacher passed away a few years ago. What I need to do is start practicing again to honor all that he taught me, instead of finding excuses to not sit down and break out my music.

    So -- thanks for the post. Definitely gave me the kick in the butt I needed. :)

  4. Jo: I know exactly what you mean about muscle memory. I had played Telemann's "Viola Concerto in G" back in high school for several auditions and it go to the point where I could play it by heart. I hadn't touched the piece in that year and a half but when I went to play it the other day I was a little rusty but I could still manage it pretty well.

    I'm sorry to hear about your teacher. I'm just glad to know that you're thinking of getting back into it. It's my goal to play at least once a week for the rest of the year. I think it's doable, but we'll see.