Detail and Beauty

06 Nov 2023

Violin has been a part of my life for a little over 3 years now.

I’ve gone through 4 of the Suzuki books and I’m currently working on J.S. Bach: Sonata for Violin Solo No. 3 in C Major, BWV 1005 - III. Largo.

The piece is classic Bach: clear, beautiful, melodic lines, with intervals that are unforgiving. Needless to say, this is a tough piece for me.

Making progress has been rough up until my last lesson where my teacher imparted some wisdom that extends beyond just violin and is something I’ve been thinking about all day.

In it’s simplest form, she said this:

Focus on the detail to enjoy the beauty during the process

I wanted to hear the gorgeous lines that Bach has crafted in its entirety, and so I was practicing like that. But to properly learn to play it, I need to work from the details up. I can’t expect to play what I have listen to right out of the gate, no matter how much I want to — I have to dig into it and be specific with what I’m doing.

“How should this interval sound?”

“How does my finger feel when I play this double stop?”

“Can I move my wrist to make this transition more comfortable?”

“What if I put my second finger down first?”

“How much hair should my bow have here?”

“Where do I want to be in the bow?”

“Why do I hear a rogue note?”

“Why isn’t this note resonating right now?”

I should take enjoyment in the minutiae of crafting the piece from the ground up, almost as if I’m walking in Bach’s footsteps as he wrote the piece. Feel how the notes fit together – how the phrase is built and rises from simple notes.

Today was the first day I really put this new perspective into my practice – I was fired up. And by the time I finished practicing, the level of progress was dramatic: intervals were singing, my bow and left hand relaxed, a sense of comfort in how to navigate the notes and the phrasing.

It was a breakthrough.

The task now is how to translate this learning into other aspects of my life like eating better, building products, and writing. I suppose the first step is to first identify what what small units I can break things down into: meals, lines of code, and words, for example, and work up from there to enjoy the details while not forgetting about the bigger picture as the goal.