Meet “ratvn” from Fiddlerman’s “Fiddle Talk” forum

• Please begin by telling us anything you would like to about yourself. Age, place of birth, residence, etc.
Hi all, here is Robert, I’m 53 and reside in Kent, Washington State, USA.

Robert - known as "ratvn" with his favorite violin.

Robert – known as “ratvn” with his favorite violin.

• What made you decide to play the violin?
Playing violin was my dream when I was a little kid. It did not come through after 40+ years and finally I got to start learning to play.

• How long have you been playing the violin?
I’m at 16 months into learning and one year of fiddlerman.com member.

• How often do you play? How long are your practice sessions?
I would love to practice every day for about 30 minutes to an hour, maybe a bit more on some days when health permits

• In your opinion, what’s your proficiency on the violin?
Not very proficient yet, but improving every day, after every practice session.

• Your greatest personal experience with playing?
I was so thrilled when recently a girl overheard my practice when walking by my room (think it was Irish Washerwoman) and a bit later on commented that I sounded pretty good. The story was over a year ago when I first started without instruction and not yet knowing FM site (so fresh that I did not know how much tension to tight the bow nor how much rosin to apply), I met her (a friend of my friend’s son) and was informed that she had violin lessons from her school for 7 yrs but not playing it anymore. I asked her how to hold the violin and bow, and she gladly did a quick demo along with few open string bowings as she did not remember any piece. That was my first real instruction, albeit just for a few minutes. And over a year later, her comment made me so happy, so much progress for that much time.

• What other instruments do you play?
A few instruments, a bit of piano and some other ethnic ones.

• What does music mean to you?
As playing violin was a dream, music is always a wonderful world to me. As a cancer survival for a few years now, I was trying to fullfil my dream but it was so hard at first. Due to the surgery/chemo/radiation treatment, my physical condition was so bad that it was hard to even finish a practice session of 5 minutes. I was advised to look for some kind of meditation/excercise to retrain my damaged muscles/sensories and fine motion controls. Did not think about violin playing, but it turned out that learning/playing violin is actually a form of meditation to me. An active yoga/taichi in action that excercises muscles, focuses the mind in doing certain task which really in the end reduces stress, improves motion controls and sensories. It’s like a happy ending story. Now I can extend my practice session to about half an hour without much problem, and the violin really feels closer and closer as a part of my family, my happiness.

• What or who has been your greatest influence?
Pierre is one and later on, there are some other violinists.

• What are your goals for playing violin? Short and long.
I’m happy if I can make some violin sounds without hurting other’s ears. My goal is just to be able to play the violin, playing some simple tunes to entertain myself, and whatever else I can pick up will be a plus.

• What type of violin training?
No formal violin training. I was on my own for several months without instruction and did not know nor believe if there was even any web site teaching violin for free, and was about to get stuck, hitting a big wall in learning. So it was such joyful and happy when I found Fiddlerman.com. Getting great instructions from FM tutorial videos and introduced to so many wonderful members as a very close community, as a very close friendship, a great family together. Without you all, I could not make it this far and may drop it some time back already. Lots of appreciation and thanks to Pierre for his dedication, time, the site and for the help, sharing and encouragement of members. The best I’ve experienced in a group as a wonderful family.

• How do you warm up?
I did not have a good method for warming up. I just play a few notes against my tuner, memorizing it and as a quick ear “calibration” to the key signature, and then practice some tunes. All of the tunes I’ve learned were unfamiliar so I listen to them over and over, then find sheets if available, then use some software to slow it down to play along with, and gradually increase the tempo to its normal speed. Amazing Slow Downer is one of the best that I have good luck with (tried several others), as it has the ability to smoothly slow down a wav/mp3 and also shift the pitch. My violin is tuned at A=415Hz, a semitone lower than standard A=440Hz, as it’s softer, less harsh, sweeter and easier on my fingers as well as strings.

• What is your favorite type of music?
I like any type of music as long as it sounds good.

• What is your favorite piece of music? Why?
There are so many to name. A few pieces by Vivaldi, Mozart and many folk tunes from around the world.

• What are your 2 favorite things to do other than playing violin?
Chatting with FM members is one and the other is maybe doing some project/experiment with violin setup/tuning.

• Do you come from a musical family? If so please tell us about them.
Not quite sure as the only one that playing instrument was my father who passed it down to me. The rest of my family did not touch any at all as there is none among my sister and brothers.

• Are you a member of any orchestra?
I wish, but no, and may not be forever.

• Do you ever perform publicly?
Not really publicly, but yes in a close group of people. When my father was volunteering as a pastor of a local church, I played piano for its congregation, choir and sunday service, for about 5 years.

• What do you work with?
I was an automotive tech, computer/network tech, photographer and electrical engineer.

• Would you please share with us information about your violin and bow and if you have several please tell us about them as well.
Ratvn_ViolinsIn the picture is half of my violin family (I’m a bit obsessed and like to collect items). Starting from the left is my most favorite/played one. It’s a Gliga Pro, Guarneri model, a gift from a very close friend, stringed with Pirastro Tonica; next is my backup, basically identical to my main one, just 3 yrs older, with Helicore. The rest of the acoustics are Strad’s. Middle one is a Czech made, about 90+ yrs, also with Tonica, the most mellow/sweet and is the only one of the bunch that got tuned at A=440Hz. Next is my 4th favorite, a Josef Lorenz, Luby, Czech, about 40 yrs old, with Zyex, and last is my newest to the family, an electric from Fiddlerman, Cecillio with everything still stock and working good. It’s the second most played, beside my main one, as a silent violin to not disturb others, eventhough it sounds beautifully with a separate preamp, a multi-effect/all-in-one guitar pedal and amp/speaker/cabinet.
At the left is my most favorite bow, as you can recognize, a FM CF bow, the most neutral, fast responsive, well balance and control of the whole bunch that I use for learning and developing bowing technique with. Next is my Pfretzschner pernambuco bow, very sweet and warm but very picky thus only got play sometimes. At bottom is another expensive braided CF, very good and light bow but no where near FM CF in term of performance, and the other two are inexpensive pernambuco wooden bows.

Thank you for taking your time reading this.

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