Wednesday, September 4, 2013

A new Violin Tuner - and a MacPhail Update.

 Today was our first "on us" lesson with Jeremy Swider of MacPhail Music.

I am as pleased after this lesson as I was before.  I'll be honest - as genuine as everyone seemed when we were reviewing the program for the Crew, they all knew who the Crew members were and who to be on their best behavior with.  This time, they had nothing to lose -- they already have my payment for the semester.  Celia's lesson today was just as fantastic as the one she had two weeks ago, if not even better!

When your violin is in tune, you can do a TON more during your lesson.  I had bought a tuning app back when Celia was first learning, and it would indicate we were in tune.  I assumed the instrument was when she went to her school lessons.  Then we had our MacPhail lessons.  We'd tune the violin, the lesson would start and she'd be spending half of it re-tuning.   The tuner said we were in the green zone, but we clearly were horridly out of tone.  I downloaded a few other iPhone/iPod apps, but they were not user friendly, Out of desperation, I went back to iTunes, this time on my laptop, and found SteadyTune for Mac.  It seems brand new - what info I can find from it are from late July.  It cost us $7.99, and while not a cheap-cheap app, it's cheaper than half a music lesson!  It's the best 8 bucks I've spent on music gear.  It tunes all sorts of string instruments, including violins with GDAE strings.  Not only will it tell you when you're on pitch, but how far above/below your target you are.  This is super-helpful when you're trying to determine to use the pegs or the fine tuners - you can tell just how far off you are and which you need.

Now - why it is so awesome?  Prior to Celia's lesson, we tuned her violin using SteadyTune.  We checked that all strings were on where they should be.  At lesson time, Celia hefted her violin, picked up her bow, and played G.  It was right on.  She and Jeremy zipped through the rest of the strings, and started right in on her lesson.  (I admit, I probably looked like a total idiot when I squealed and did a little mini-Cabbage Patch that we had finally gotten it right.) 

So, back to the lesson.  They zoomed right through all the stuff she had learned from before, and then moved on to new ideas.  I was busy keeping kids away from the study, so I'm not sure exactly what they were doing, but I heard something about using three fingers on a string.  Celia came out of the study giggling and saying something about she would be getting an email (her homework comes as a PDF).   Mr. Swider was just as fun as ever -- they were discussing half-rests (I think, I was only half listening) and heard him say "See how it looks like a hockey puck?"  I had to laugh --  I could tell he was from Minnesota.  Based on the folks that ran the local ice rink, Hockey isn't just a sport around there - it's practically a religion.  I could hear her agreeing about it...she's had plenty of experience dodging pucks as an ice skater when others were using them for training gear.

 Celia is looking forward to going back to school and taking lessons with Miss Sara.  She wants to perform in the spring recital so she wants to take lessons to make sure that she is eligible, but she can't wait to show Miss Sara how much she learned with "Mr. Jeremy."

The rest of the family?  We're just glad we have something new to listen to her practice after two straight weeks of Hot Cross Buns and Mary Had a Little Lamb. 

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