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Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Too Cool To Fiddle

          The violin became uncool in 1964 when I was thirteen, or that is as far as I was concerned.  I wasn't looking at the bigger picture.  Who does at that age?  None of the Beatles or any of the other popular rock and rollers played a violin and no girl was going to give a moment of their attention to some sissy that did.  It was somewhere about that time that I decided to hang up the fiddle and start playing guitar.

          I'd been playing violin since the third grade when the school I was attending in San Diego, California offered beginners lessons and an opportunity to play in the school orchestra.  I took to the instrument rather easily and occupied first chair of the Riley Elementary School orchestra for the next three years.  I enjoyed playing violin in the orchestra, but lacked the ambition to practice in order to attain a high enough level of proficiency to be a really good soloist. 

          When I reached seventh grade my family moved to Northern Indiana, where the school I attended did not offer a school orchestra.  I continued to take private lessons from a dwarf who played as a strolling musician at a popular smorgasbord restaurant.  The choir teacher at the middle school discovered that I played violin and built a choral number that featured my violin playing for one of the choir programs.  Later, at a school talent show, my next door neighbor and I played a clever rendition of the song "Alley Cat", which went over quite well.   Those were the last times I played violin for many years.

           I dropped the violin lessons and continued taking guitar lessons under the tutelage of the violin playing dwarf.   My parents never forced me to do things I didn't want to keep doing, they only expected that if I were going to do something I would practice and take it seriously.  I tried for a while.  The dwarf musician taught me to play songs like the one about the dog named Bingo and other corny folk-style tunes which would have not impressed any of the girls I wanted to impress.  My guitar teacher did not look favorably upon rock and roll and had his sights for me set on classical guitar.

          Eventually music became too much of an effort to pursue on my own.  I did not know anyone else who played an instrument for several years and it was no fun playing alone.  Years later I went back to the violin and guitar to a limited degree, but missing out on years of practice meant I was not as good as I could have been. 

           Did you play an instrument when you were younger, but no longer play?  Why did you stop?   How much did you practice?  Was practice as much of a chore for you as it was for me?



  1. I play guitar or should I say I practice @ the guitar. My brother on the other hand can just pick up an instrument and play. I was always so jealous.

    By the way, my worms were in the house. :)

  2. Oh Arlee I love the acoustic guitar! I did take some lessons in high school but lost interest and I don't remember what ever happened to my guitar. My daughter has an electric one but I really don't care for it as much. I have one now but it very old and won't stay tuned. One day I will get a new one or at least a newer used one. I still love to play.
    Love Di ♥

  3. I played the piano from the age of four, passed many examinations, then at 14 yrs turned my piano playying to the modern music of the day, then at 17 met the love of my life and gave it up. Many years and three children later I did take it up again for a few years then we moved house and didn't have room for the piano. I now play a keyboard not forgetting my tambourine skills.

    Loved your post Lee,
    Have a good day.

  4. I wanted a piano when I was little, but my parents couldn't afford it, so I got an accordion. Took lessons for a year, but hated it. Didn't pick up an instrument till I was 50 and learned to strum chords on a guitar. Not good enough to play in public, but good enough to accompany myself. I love it.

  5. I did play an instrument when I was younger and still do when I can. I too, thought what would make the girls melt and I concluded as an 11 year old that drummers were the ticket. With my paper route money I bought my first of three sets of drums, like Johnny Cash bought his 49,50,51,52,53,54,55,56, etc Cadillac - One Piece At A Time.

    I bought a Ocean Pearl Blue set of Ludwig drums and Zildjian cymblas.

    I practiced every chance I got and it was not a chore to practice. I put Cash, Haggard, Jones, Twitty, Wells, Wynette, Lynn, and CCR on the record player and turned it up.

    I played with some garage bands. One I remember in particular, in North Carolina called Barry B and the Tar Heel Three.

    I sold my last set this past year at a yardsale my wife had and I regret it. I will buy another set Lord willing when I go back to work. I like to play 3 or 4 hours a couple times a week when I have a set.

    But, Lee, they aren't violins, they are fiddles and you can't play in Texas unless you got a fiddle in the band. Of course some would say you can't play a fiddle unless you got a Texan in the band.

  6. what a lovely story. I've liked the sound of violin much more than the sound of any other instrument. I adore hearing a violin in modern pop songs (for example the last one was SOBER from Pink) because it brings some magical sensuality to music and also some very refined elegance.

    I myself never played any instruments, but I did write lyrics for some singers in my country, and I still do it but under a secret pseudonym :)))

  7. I used to play the piano. I did pretty well, but I loved to listen to my sister create magic. She had such beautiful feel for it.

    I never bought a piano of my own - no room, no money.

    My son plays guitar and I feel the same way listening to him practice and play that I did when my sister played. Beautiful!

  8. Jules-- I always admire and envy someone who has that ability.

    Diana -- I have a couple of guitars here, but they rarely see the light of day. How to use my time is always the question.

    Yvonne-- A piano in the house is nice when you have room, but a keyboard works.

    Karen -- Accordians were pretty popular when we were younger--I knew of several kids that played them. Some basic guitar skills works well for simple back up.

    Gregg -- That's too bad you had to get rid of the drum kit.

    Dezmond -- Violin solos started becoming more prevalent in popular music after I stopped playing. That's why I started playing some later.

    Jemi-- It's nice to listen to someone who can play well when they practice. My sister used to play clarinet and hearing her practice was pure toture (hope she doesn't see this).

  9. I started the violin in the 4rth grade, I loved it. In the 10th grade, I also played the alto sax. I took school lessons on both instruments, and starting at the 10th grade, I took private lessons on both instruments because I decided then that I wanted to become a music teacher/professional musician.

    I practiced an average of 3 hours per day...sometimes more! Then I was in the school orchestra (violin), school band and jazz band (alto sax).

    I competed in various local competitions and did ok..I also tried to learn from an old man who played square dance fiddle with just 2 fingers! It was fun.

    Then I went off to college and majored on the violin for 2 years, till I had an accident in a summer job that put an end to my violin playing. I STILL miss it all these years later. Especially when I hear an artist like David Garrett. He amazes me!!


  10. I was classically trained on piano from ages 6 to 16, then I took 2 years of Jazz piano. I now play keys for a rock/blues band, and I'm also the lead singer.

    Forcing me to stick with piano lessons was one of the best things my parents ever did for me.

  11. You should've held out for the 70's - ELO had a violinist.
    I played trumpet through college and was usually in the #1 chair. I picked up the guitar along the way and prefer to play that now.

  12. I started out studying opera - and yes practice was daily. Both my children (now young adults) are musicians - violinists. One also plays the harp and viola, while the other adds piano to their skill list.
    Both loved music and had good days and tough days in their journey but neither has ever looked back in regret and they love what they do.

  13. Sig -- I really wish my school in Indiana had had a school orchestra to help keep me motivated. I was never very self motivated about it.

    Mesmerix-- Sometimes parents need to force kids because kids don't know better.

    Alex -- The 70s is when my interest revived with groups like Its A Beautiful Day and Blind Faith. Rock violin started becoming more common.

    Paula -- Love for music is often passed from parents to their kids. Time spent with music is time well spent.

  14. I played clarinet and piano. I loved playing them till my junior year in high school. Then I just got burnt out. I recently started playing piano again. Great post as always.


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