Monday, June 13, 2011

Off Topic - Music

My parents blessed me with music lessons.  I lack talent, but I certainly enjoy myself.  I made sure my kids had music lessons, too, and my son Steven spends many hours playing guitar, bass, and mandolin.  He goes a little ape, though, collecting guitars and electronic gear, which he usually finds on Craigslist.

I decided recently to play my violin again.

I had given it up for several years because (1) my marvelous teacher had a stroke and stopped teaching (I was heartbroken for him. I felt just so very sad every time I even looked at the violin.), (2) with my cataracts, my ability to read music quickly and accurately was gone, and (3) there's never enough time for everything I want to do.  The sight thing took me away from my piano, as well, but at least I kept playing that a little.

My eyes were fixed quite a while ago, and I have simply been wanting to play.  This is going to be humbling, though.  I haven't practiced for years, so I've lost muscle memory about finger placement or even pulling the bow straight.  I did pick up a nice electronic tuner (kiddo carried off my old one).  This tuner turns green when you're tuned exactly to pitch - so easy to see!

I got the violin out and tuned it. It is a Chinese model with a lovely rich tone.  I don't know when it last had new strings, and a string popped as I tightened it.  My son Steven was home, and he volunteered to change the string, but all we had to put on was another old string. I realized I better replace the strings.

Meanwhile, I've been disciplining myself to only play 5 minutes at a time, because I have no calluses on my fingertips.  After I play a while, my fingertips will grow tough little pads and I won't even feel discomfort pressing down the metal strings.

I bought a set of strings at the music store, and the fellow who helped me told me that he performs clarinet with the Austin Civic Orchestra, which was having an outdoor pops concert last Friday night.  John and I went and very much enjoyed sitting in the fresh air.  Such a casual, lovely evening, with people bringing their little kids, dogs, coolers and lawn chairs, and wonderful music.

On Saturday, with Steven unavailable, I had quite a struggle restringing the violin. I was doing so well - I got three of the four strings replaced.  Then, on the fourth, the tuning peg wouldn't stay put.  It has two holes, and I needed to put the string through a different hole.  After I figured out that issue, I was almost finished when there was a horrendous bang! and the bridge popped out.  It was so loud, I thought I'd broken the violin!  The bridge needs to be positioned just right.  Fortunately, we could see exactly where the luthier put it last time he worked on it.  At one point, I was holding a little flashlight in my teeth...finally, John came and helped me because we needed two pairs of hands.

After it was restrung, it wouldn't hold pitch. After it rested overnight, though, it stabilized. I suppose the strings stretch at first and then settle down.


  1. It seems you have received many blessings! Good luck getting to know your violin again.... I will be waiting for your first You-Tube concert.

  2. The violin has to be my absolute favourite instrument to listen to, but I never got to learn it. (Played piano with no feeling at all - cold keys all winter!)
    It was lovely to hear about your rediscovery of the violin. It's such a beautiful instrument and the tone just goes through to my soul. I wish you many, many hours of contentment and relaxing comfort with it.

  3. Enjoy your violin and generally your music even if looking at your violin makes you sad. I love music and regret not having the chance to learn an instrument as a child. However, my husband taught himself four instruments!

  4. Hi Dianna,
    Thank you for your lovely blog! I am writing beggining for some help. I have recently purchased an NZAK and I am having so much trouble getting it going. As you know they are a big investment and I feel very nervous that I will be unable to utilise it properly! Is there any way you could take the time to tell me how you make the hash mark on the cylinders ( I mean how you count them to get the right numbers etc) I have the 72 and 84 cylinders. I was also wondering if it is possible to knit socks without using the ribber at all? I have nothing but trouble with it jamming even after trying everything on the DVD etc etc. I totally understand if you cant reply but thank you for reading anyhow. PS I am i Australia where these things are still rare so finding someone local to help seems a bit difficult.

  5. First of all, go to YouTube and watch all of Jacquie's videos on the NZAK. She goes kind of fast, so watch a few times if you can.

    Use a lot of lubricant.

    Next, make tubes, long, long tubes. After tubes are going well, you can learn to make a heel or toe.

    It's easier if you don't rethread the thing. Start and end with waste yarn and leave knitting on it so you don't rethread.

    Google Pat Fly and read everything you can on her website. There are old manuals there with the hash mark diagrams. I use nail polish for mine.

    Stay in touch!

  6. Oh, and join the Yahoo sock knitting lists.

    I forgot to add - yes, you can make a hemmed sock instead of a ribbed one at first. There are instructions on the internet.

    My NZAK is stiff. It really helps to wear it in by cranking long tubes.