All Strung Out

Heh, the title’s a pun. You’ll get it later.

Today is the third day in the life of this blog.   This means that the goal of writing 365 consecutive daily posts is starting to become real to me.  Instead of being only a random idea I am willing to attempt, the first hint of, “Hey, 365 posts might require some serious work and commitment,” has begun to make itself evident.

Of course, this only makes me excited.  Three posts down and only 362 to go! Whoo!

I have two brief failures for you this fine time of day, whenever it might be for you.

To begin, learning anything new can be challenging.  This is my first blog.  I actually set it up two weeks ago, but it took me a lot of thinking to figure out how I wanted to word the introduction.  I was also taking my time and really considering if I wanted to commit to a year’s worth of posting, which I eventually decided to answer with an enthusiastic, “YES!” Currently, my main challenges with blogging have been with the site itself.  For me, the part of wordpress used for creating blogs has been not at all intuitive, and I have had to google on more than one occasion to figure out how to access the dashboard (for those of you unfamiliar with wordpress the dashboard=incredible cosmic power over every aspect of your blog).

However, my failure to be instantly all-knowledgeable about how to blog has been great fun.  Today, for the first time ever, I was able to go directly where I wanted to start a post! Okay, there is a button specifically for adding new posts, but I remembered that way of beginning a draft instead of madly clicking on all the buttons in the menu in an effort to find what I wanted.  I am beginning to find my own voice, and although I cannot yet describe what my writing voice is, I know that it involves making puns.

Speaking of which, that is a nice segue into the next failure.

The next failure involves music! Specifically, sight reading in an ensemble.  I play the violin, and today I read through STRING quartet music with four other people (we had two cellists). Three of us were semi-professionals, and two were professionals.

Told ya’ you would get the pun.

Anyway, when sight reading music there is absolutely no way to play the piece perfectly the first time.  In fact, there is never a time when a musician will play a piece perfectly, although there are people that seem to get pretty close. To sight read music, especially in a group, is to embrace failure.  When playing music you are: listening to your own sound, focusing on how to shape the music, how to move your body to play pitches correctly, how to breathe, looking ahead in the music to be prepared for tricky parts, counting rests, counting beats, listening to how your part fits in with the ensemble, and blending your sound with the other members in the ensemble.

That was not a comprehensive list, but it is enough to give an idea of how challenging it is to make it through a piece of music together with other people even with tons of practice time.  Sight reading is doing all that, but on the first try.  So for the entire hour and a half, everyone in the group was missing notes, botching rhythms, playing too loudly or too softly or not distinguishing between the two at all, not paying attention and suddenly finding themselves a measure off, and many others.  What is the result, you may ask, of reading through pieces of music once and butchering them? The answer is: laughter and camaraderie.  Nothing is funnier than everyone getting lost in the music and discovering that we were only a measure apart from each other, or discovering that we have not been paying attention like we should have and somehow managed to play several measures in a key other than what the piece was written in.  It is also a great opportunity to relax and have fun while making music, without the stress of a performance situation.

Sight reading ensemble music can have other benefits, too.  If you happen to be like me, a violinist of modest abilities, getting to sight read with professionals is a great thing in that you can begin to pick up better technique and ask questions that, when answered, help you understand how to play the music better.  It is also incredibly reassuring to see professionals making as many mistakes as you are, because it is a reminder that everyone has to practice and work hard in order to play music well. And like I touched on before, it is a great way to build connections with other musicians.

On that note, I declare this post finished.  Until tomorrow, happy failing!

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