That's my violin. I was trying to do a depth of field shot, but I don't know if I succeeded.
That’s my violin. I was trying to do a depth of field shot, but I don’t know if I succeeded.

When I was studying at university, I took weekly violin lessons. Every Friday, I would pack up my violin and my music and make my way to the music building (which was inexplicably located off-campus) for an hour-long lesson with Mrs. S. For each lesson, I had to prepare a scale or two and work on the solo part of a concerto or other work for violin. We also worked on the dreaded and difficult topic of music theory. Obviously, that meant I had to practice during the week. For my lessons, I received three credits a semester, which is the same amount I received for regular classes that met for three hours a week (either in three one-hour increments or two one-and-a-half hour increments).

For some reason, this really bothered my friend B. She was not (and is not) a musician. (This fact may seem unrelated, but I suspect it explains a lot.)

“I can’t believe you get three credits for doing that!” she’d fume when I went off to my violin lessons. No matter how much I tried to explain that I did the same amount of work (if not more) for those one-hour lessons as I did for my three-hour lecture and seminar classes, she just couldn’t believe it.

Now, it’s pretty hard to explain actual violin playing to someone who doesn’t play an instrument. Basically, you’ll play something for thirty seconds, if you’re lucky, before your teacher stops you and tells you everything you just did wrong. Then you have to play it again and fix what they just told you was wrong. And believe me, there’s always a lot wrong and it takes a lot of tries to fix it properly. That sounds really negative when I put it that way, but it’s actually fun if you like the instrument and want to get better (which I did, and I do).

However, I can partially demonstrate the difficulty of music theory. I’ve been learning some music theory on my own—I’ve never taken a formal class in it and want to learn more beyond the basics than what I know—and one of the resources I’ve used is this “Music Theory for Musicians and Normal People.” This stuff is hard, everyone. That’s not news to me—and probably isn’t news to most of you!—but in case there are any people out there with friends like my friend B. who think music is a “soft option” or whatever—well, now you can set them straight!

8 thoughts on “News Flash: Classical Music Is HARD

  1. I’m impressed that you continue to push yourself not just to practice violin, but to learn music theory post-college. I find it hard to get motivation to practice when I don’t have the pressure of a lesson looming.

    1. Yeah, I like learning new things, so it’s not too hard for me to motivate myself to learn more about music theory. If only I had more time to work on it!

  2. Sure you got 3 credits for a one hour class – but how much practice and homework were you expected to do outside of class compared to your three hour seminars? Music is hard and takes a lot of time if you want to be any good at it! It’d totally at least be on par with your other subjects.
    Also, heaps of respect for keeping up with it in addition to your writing!

    1. I was expected to practice every day. Usually it took me an hour to do enough so that I could play properly for the next lesson, so that’s 7 hours, 6 if you don’t count the day I had the lesson. So quite a lot, as you can see!

  3. Speaking of classical music, I recently come across these videos from Philharmonia about various instruments in the orchestra. I think you’ll like it (if you haven’t seen it already).

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