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Flamenco drove me to Dounis

February 5, 2008

In the lazed aftermath of Christmas I saw a five-day beginners’ flamenco course advertised in Time Out, and I thought it might be fun to learn something new. How wrong can a girl be? I was useless. Absolutely useless. And miserable. I could see what the instructor was doing, but my brain couldn’t process it, and so my feet received garbled messages that left me one and a half steps behind everyone else, usually facing the wrong direction.

The good thing about the experience was that when I picked up my violin to practise (my band is about to record an album, so I thought it might be time to get in shape) I felt as if I had come home. I started with a few exercises from Simon Fischer’s Basics (particularly the trilling ones) and then picked up the great tome of Dounis exercises. Remembering an article in which various teachers discussed their favourite Dounis examples, which we published in September 2005, I started with section three of The Artist’s Technique, the one they all raved about. In it, you have to shift very quickly between various fingers within a group of semiquavers, and it certainly clears the cobwebs.

What felt so satisfying was the sense that I was able to process the information that was coming to my ears, react to it and send the appropriate feedback to my fingers. And I got better, quite quickly. Of course I’m probably still in the honeymoon period where my ears haven’t quite started hearing all the bad stuff, but it was lovely to feel competent at something after my flamenco experience. And it made me realise that even though I don’t play professionally, the amount of effort that I’ve put into playing the violin over the years ‘ain’t been in vain, for nothing’ (to quote Singin’ in the Rain). It’s like the fox tells the Little Prince in Saint-Exupery’s book: ‘It is the time you have wasted for your rose that makes your rose so important.’ I’ve certainly wasted a lot of time on the violin!

Ariane Todes Editor

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