Lame. Lame. LAME. Lame. Lame Lame LAME.

Last Saturday, Kiddo#2 opened up her crystal ball and gave me a glimpse into the future when she pitched (pun intended) a fit about going to her violin lesson.

Due to uncontrollable circumstances, Kiddo#3’s lesson was moved to be back-to-back with Kiddo#2’s lesson. This she disliked: he is distracting. He would stop her from learning. She didn’t want to share.

My point: we can’t help it. This week, you’re going together. First you, then him. If he distracts you, he doesn’t get started until you’ve had your full 30 minutes. If that means he only gets five minutes, that’s what he gets. He’s only hurting himself if he distracts you.

She screamed, pouted, cried, stomped, snarled (literally, like an animal: just like Kiddo#1 taught her–I’m so proud) and finally when I got them in the car and was driving to the lesson, she said to me, “SHUT UP!”

Kiddo#2 then learned Mom is capable of doing a U-turn and dropping her back off at home. And then Mom picked up her own violin and sheet music and went to have a lesson with Kiddo#3. Because I paid for the instructor’s half-hour, so what does it matter which bad violinist gets the lesson? And the instructor agreed.

I haven’t had a violin lesson (in the strictest sense of the word) since I was 12, so this was nerve-wracking. The instructor is the only non-family-member to have heard me play, and somehow she didn’t pass out from terror. She did adjust my bow hold (now I can’t play at all, thanks) and said, “Okay, give me a G-major scale.”

Would you believe that in all these years of violin lessons and guitar lessons and choir, I’ve never done scales?

They frighten me. Even as she started explaining, she put the sheet music in front of me and I started to panic and my brain closed off. I can’t read music. I mean, I can decipher a note given enough time, but I can’t PLAY sheet music. (Patient Husband says I have a mental block; I think I’m musically dyslexic because it just turns into dots and lines for me.)

She played with me, saying the notes out loud, then showed me what I needed to be doing, and said, “That’s probably enough to work on until next week.”

Would you believe that, having figured out how to do a scale, I was terribly excited to do it? That I’ve been keeping the violin out and just playing scales ever since? Because…they’re cool! They’re all the same except they start in different places. But now I’m not thinking, “Oh dear heaven, that has seven sharps!” any longer. Now I’m thinking, “Oh, just start it here and then do that set of intervals and it’ll sound right.”

That’s me: 37 years old and I discovered the G-major scale. Lame.

Now to go back and work on that bow hold again. And maybe try to improve my intonation enough that small animals no longer fall stunned from the trees outside my home.


  1. Blue

    Not lame at all. You have found something else that you enjoy, and that’s very cool!!

    And don’t let the ‘dots and lines’ intimidate you. It is possible to be musically dyslexic and still do just fine. I have. ( I tortured people with flute trills, though :-D)

    1. philangelus

      I can only play things because I memorize them. Trying to look at the music while playing causes grief and panic. 🙂

      1. Blue

        Don’t look then. Or if you have to look, pretend the poor little dots are running away from your violin. And they just happen to be escaping in time with the music. 😉

  2. Heather

    Not lame for so many reasons.
    Yay Mom! For not letting your kid get mouthy and get her way…I’ve done my fair share of U-turns to return home and have mouthy child suffer the loss of something they desire.
    And Yay Mom! For finding something you didn’t know you’d lost…and loving it.

  3. cricketB

    Good for you! Sounds like your teacher has many tools in her toolbox.

    Fundamentals of Piano Practice talks about the value of scales — not as an exercise to do for hours, but something you can play with. Fast, slow, melodic, arpeggio, pianissimo. You already know the fingering so can concentrate on other things. Just wait till you get to the other scales — very cool!

    We read to kids while they follow along with their fingers. Why not follow along as you play or listen to something you know? (Like the Suzuki CDs you play to your kids every night.) Or use your finger to follow as Kiddo#2 plays. (She’ll even help by telling you when you point to the wrong thing.)

    Love “dots escaping in time to the music”!

    Lucky you, just shift your fingers a bit. I learned woodwinds first. Whole notes have nice fingering, but sharps and flats can get nasty.

    I’m supplementing my voice lessons with reading a theory book (addictive) and picking out the written exercises on the keyboard. At first it was one note at a time. Check cleff. (I’m fluent with treble, but bass?) Touch white key, check for accidental or key signature, make noise.

    Then it was the major scales. Breakthrough! Actually playing them on the keyboard shows the pattern in a way the key signature alone can’t. C is all white. F you use the rightmost key of the group of three (in place of the white key just above it). B-flat you use all previously-used black keys and add in the rightmost black of the other group. E-flat is the same, just keep alternating which group you get the next black key from.

    I’ve also worked on “key numbers 1,3,5,6,8,10,12,1” and “skip 2,2,1,2,2,2,1”. Both work, but using one for ten minutes then the other was even better.

    Now that I know some common patterns, I’m not as impressed by my teacher’s sight playing. This key, group of three notes stacked neatly, the part of the phrase where the other note makes the entire bunch sound finished or unfinished. No need to actually read the notes at all.

    And congrats on putting the lesson to good use. Showing your kids that learning new things is fun and should never stop is important. There are also tons of studies that show musicians’ brains work better and degrade less with age.

  4. lbdiamond

    Listen, if I picked up a violin, any sound I created with it would be akin to a cat yakking up a hairball, PLUS a grizzly raking its claws on a chalkboard. Just sayin’. 😉

    Congrats on your accomplishment.

    Final point: Though you’re not at *insert famous violinist name here* level, you still play. You still practice. You still enjoy it. That’s all that matters.

  5. Diinzumo

    If it hadn’t been for a substitute (!) teacher’s explanation of how to write an essay, I never would have graduated college or written anything more than a grocery list. Sometimes it just takes that trigger.

    Scales are cool. In my band geek days, I’d warm up on the flute doing all the major scales up 2-3 octaves. Learning something new is cool. Demonstrating how mouthy kiddos don’t get what they want is cool. None of it is lame.