Viola/Music Theory Lesson II. Grade 0.

Me and my very first Viola. Funnily enough, it chose me.

I am twenty-five years, at the age of writing this post. I am undertaking music for the first time as subject. Always had I wanted to learn music, since a young age. Despite my parents being very loving people, who still to this day, are very supportive of me… they did not possess the means to adequately fund me through music education. For that reason, I believe I turned to a more cheaper mode of expression: drawing. Although, I embark on a musical journey for the first time, drawing is still a domain I owe a lot to. If it were not for drawing, I would not have been granted the financial means, through my Academic career, to finally study music. Therefore, there is no regret in feeling as if time was robbed from me. No, everything is meant to happen as it has and ever will. I am only thankful that I now, can… and it is I, who chose. Although, there a lot of rules and conventions within the field of music. I see that there is a lot of love, just as well. And love is a rare thing indeed.

I am practically at Kindergarten level.

29-05-2020: First Lesson. Baby Steps.

The first lesson is not found to proceed this post, as such… therefore, consider this post as a ‘I’ and ‘II’. From my first lesson, my tutor instructed that I:

I am learning the viola. It was an instrument which chose me.

  1. Practice proper posture, and positioning of standing with my viola 30 minutes a day.
  2. Practice P.13 of Steven Chin’s “My First Pieces”. The compositions are a pizzicato, and should be played as such. All-the-while doing so, pay no mind to the time signature. Memorize the string placement of your instrument, as well as how to hold it
  3. Practice memorizing the Treble (g) and Alto (c) clef in writing. Not just the signatures themselves–but also, the pitches within. Place them correctly on the staves.
  4. Purchase the following, to complement the equipment I already own: A good-quality music stand, Stephen Chin’s “My First Pieces”, and AMEB booklet A (I also purchased ‘A1’ for further learning).

    Anything done with theory in-mind, my instructor says, should always be hand-written first.
    So yes, memorizing both clefs in a workbook by hand.

He stated that the violist supports the instrument by way of both their jaw/chin and clavicle/shoulder. One does not hold the instrument with their hands. That is a juvenile mistake. He said that there’s a reason for this. I will be sure to find out soon enough.

My posture is quite bad here due to undeveloped muscles. From beginning, I can barely pass ten minutes of standing. That is where practice, discipline, and diligence come in.

An instrument is quite the personal thing. I’ve named mine to form an attachment… of sorts. His name is ‘Treasure’ and he isn’t bad for a $300.00 student viola. When I do eventually upgrade, as those venturing in music tend to do… I believe I’ll keep him regardless. He is, after-all, my very first. I never want to forget where I came from. It leads to where I will be.

My Instructor is very firm, and strict in his teachings. He reminds me of deliberate practice instructors. Although his teaching method can be quite sharp in the beginning, I do believe that his methods of teaching are indeed efficient. They are sure to yield results at an accelerated pace. He is quick to discourage anything wrong, whilst commending that which is correct. It is akin to building good habits, early. What’s more, I find that most BAs in Music have several foundational courses focused on specifically teaching music. It appears, that anyone who pursues higher education in music… is also training to be a teacher, just as well.

As for my instructor. He said that one simply cannot begin:
1) Bowing, 2) Focusing on theory, and that which hasn’t been taught yet.

All with good reason too. Music, and the very convention of it is a very complicated and expensive venture. And yes, I am prepared to spend many years and hours of my life learning it.

I questioned his method of teaching, as this was a new domain to me… the conventions of drawing is far more liberal, I suppose, and that is what I am most familiar with in having learned it and taught it. Music theory is what I wish to learn past its very application. Yet, there presents a caveat within my wishes to learn the principles within…that is, music theory is a label that shouldn’t be mishandled. Music theory is an umbrella term which houses a huge sum of theories. That is why it is called ‘Music theory’. It is the theory OF music, and my-oh-my, theory can span over centuries. Theory, in-of-itself is epistemology tacitly recorded through many modalities (whether that be written or aural to name a few). Notation, is one of the theories among (but not all) others, such as: harmony, counterpoint, form, imitative procedures, music pedagogy, sound synthesis.

So what do I wish to learn?:
Notation: musical staves, keys/time signatures, tempo, beat, rhythm.

Scales (Major) and the intervals within.

Harmonization by triad and 7th chords.

Haromonic function: tonic, subdominant and dominant function.

Scales (minor) and the intervals within.

Scale modes.

Extended Chords, and Melody.



Ear training.

And of course, modern conventions.

(Take note, that I don’t know what any of those terms mean… however, I do feel my eyes light up with an, “oooh, yes–I want to learn that one!” echoing in my mind.)

Why do I endeavor into music? What do I hope to achieve? Although I am very much satisfied with my Academic career, I do believe that now calls for a new journey to embark upon, concurrently with the one I am due to begin in two years (tenure at my institution). I love, above all else, knowledge. And not just retaining knowledge for myself, but also disseminating knowledge. Teaching. ‘Deed I do. Therefore, music is perfect. I should like to one day teach it. No matter how long it should take for me to get there. I will teach it, one day.

What a complex, and rich field it is. It is a journey! And Yes, the time is now. What’s more, perhaps one day, I should also like to write a research paper on music pedagogy. And not only write it… but understand it too. One day.

”’Til then, I want to learn as much as I possibly can before I expire.

Don’t wish me luck. Just know that I will do it.

06-06-2020: Second Lesson. To Be Precise .

My Instructor was happy with my progress from the first lesson, and stated that I learn quickly. I’d attribute my pace, to my application of practice. I take to practicing what he outlines for me, each day for one hour, at the most… with of course, Sundays, being completely reserved for more hours.

For the second lesson:

  1. Continue practicing proper posture, and standing with my viola 30 minutes a day through the drills laid-out for homework.
  2. Learn how to identify steps, skips, and leaps within compositions, on the manuscript paper. Annotate your own. However, take to firstly, practicing the treble clef and its pitches. We’ll come to the alto clef, and bass clef, much later.
    + A step, is one step lower or higher for a pitch. That is, how it sits on the stave. From line to space, and space to line. Whereas, a skip adheres to line to line and space to space. A leap is larger than one interval, in regard to the note’s placing.
  3. Continue practicing P.13 of Steven Chin’s “My First Pieces” for one page, now. The compositions are a pizzicato, and should be played as such. Memorize the string placement of your instrument, as well as how to hold it.
  4. Practice P.14, section 7. of Chin’s “My First Pieces“. Keep time, whilst doing so, just as well. The ‘Open Strings’ for this pizzicato composition are not annotated. This will do good to solidify in my mind, memory of where each open-string is. Thirty minutes of this one.
  5. Practice P.14, section 7. of the above mentioned. However, utilize the metronome at 60 BPM. One should follow the ticks, not the spaces in-between. Before doing so, count the 1-4 for the first bar/measure. This method of counting differs from time signature to respective note value. In the case of Chin’s composition, we have four quaver notes which equates to one whole note for common time. Another thirty minutes of this one.
  6. Practice the bow-hold with a pencil. Not on the bow. Firstly, ten minutes… then increase the increment with comfort. A Bunnyhold without the restraint.
  7. Then, he’s assigned me with yet another homework task which I’ll take to doing in a proceeding post eventually. As he stated “One must have an appreciation for music…” to be serious about it.

My Instructor mentioned that the Alto clef was created specifically for the purpose of violists. Whereas, your piano doesn’t at all need to use the alto clef… for it extends to both tones within both the Treble and Bass clef, the viola needed that mid-range clef (C).

Feedback from last week:

  • He said my posture over-all is good. However, I keep locking my knees. I must relax them, instead. With practice, I’ll eventually relax and learn how to properly ground myself. He also said “Try your best to stand up straighter”.
  • “Cut your nails” my instructor said. And I asked “Do all violists cut their nails?” And he said “All instrumentalists cut their nails”.
  • Your music stand should always be at eye-level.
  • Do everything in pencil.
  • Focus on only what is being taught. Advanced-level theory, will come much later.

My Instructor suggested that piano is a requisite skill, due to it being capable of eight octaves to the viola’s four. Funnily enough, my supervisor for my PhD, Mike said this when I was intending to study music mid last-year “I see you playing piano”. I intended to play bass guitar, before I intended to go into piano–however, I opted out for the viola, due to my believing that it suits my personality more. I see myself playing the viola. The viola seems like a Meryl thing, to me. However, I don’t oppose the piano at all… it is a very sexy instrument, and very masculine in its milieu. My choice is grounded on my seeing that the instrument would suit those more extroverted (pianists are often expected to lead in an arrangement). Therefore, I will eventually learn piano–however, much-later, when I understand basic music theory. Also, I wish for a piano that has hammers over the digital variant; And my living spaces as they are, don’t hold any sufficient room to house such a grand instrument. Anyhow, I will one day get up to that stage, as well, for I do believe that the piano is a perquisite for the classicist intending to venture into higher education. Would I ever abandon my treasure? Of course not. Viola squad, for life! And I love my treasure.


Much better posture. My hands are not supporting the instrument. The space between my jaw and neck are, with the shoulder rest. I still have work to do, on relaxing my knees from locking. I will take to doing that this week.

Next week, my instructor said that we would be learning ‘Pitch Names’. I have also extended our lessons further, to 1 HR and 30 minutes. As mentioned, I am serious toward this endeavor. And I intend to learn as much as I possibly can!

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