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

"NoirVelours" from the "Fiddle Talk" forum

• Please begin by telling us anything you would like to about yourself. Age, place of birth, residence, etc.
My real name is Brigitte Tremblay but people know me as NoirVelours (BlackVelvet). I’m a french-canadian born in Montréal, Québec (Canada) but I traveled a lot with my parents when I was a kid (Algeria,France, Germany). I have a specialized bachelor degree from the University of Montreal in anthropology (archaeology). I’m a 39 years old single mom with a wonderful son who is more patient then my cats with my violin practice, though he sometimes close the door haha.

What made you decide to play the violin? I don’t think there is a single reason, it’s one of those emotional urges you sometime feel, like you know this is for you.

  1. I saw that gothic girl playing the violin from one of my favorite bands at the time and really wanted to have fun like her!
  2. Then I wanted to play this song badly, I mean, a real obsession!
  3. My uncles were fiddlers and I really wanted to keep this alive in the family because beside a cousin who played piano when she was a teen, no one but me is a musician (lol I don’t think I deserve the title yet).
  4. When I was a cadet in the canadian army I was in the honor guard (the kids with the guns) but envied insanely the others kids in the fanfare. I was prefering music instead of respect for my drill skills and shooting aptitudes. The seed was sowed already deep inside. But my first date with a violin failed miserably. It was an electric violin and I was totally clueless about it. I thought it was broken because the pegs were too loose, and I broke a string trying to tune it, then I realized the bridge could be moved and panicked. It felt so fragile I was scared of it and could not even play a twinkle! In fact I was scared before someone put a it in my hands, I was trembling just picking it out of its case for some weird reason. So buying one and taking lessons was out of the picture. I was VERY dissapointed though because I was not expecting that weird reaction and made myself the promise that when I’ll be ready I will try again. Then recently, in March 2012, it happened. The urge was back stronger then ever. I search for days on the internet for information, what to buy, can an adult learn without a teacher, how hard was the fingering etc. Then ordered what I hope is a good beginner violin. I really started playing the first of April but it was no April’s fool because I’m still playing! I’m glad I overcome my fear of the devil’s instrument ^.^ • How long have you been playing the violin? A month already! I’m sad I did not had the guts years ago but eh I’m still young.

How often do you play? How long are your practice sessions?
I try to have a practice in the morning after my coffee, because I think it’s cruel to torture the neighbours earlier then that. That one usually go for 30-40 min max because my arm and left hand get too tired. Then I play in the evening for about the same time but lately I started playing a wee bit longer because… well I have to get my violin fix! This is so addictive.

In your opinion, what’s your proficiency on the violin?
Total n00b! I keep wincing at my bad notes and whistling bow but I’m making progress every week! I’m starting to get good at reading first position notes on a music sheet and that makes me very proud! I hope to start with slurs soon, they will be the first violin technique I learn beside playing in first position of course.

Your greatest personal experience with playing?
Hard one because I’m so new at this. I guess it was when I finally manage to relax and let the music vibrate in me instead of concentrating on bowing straight or my fingering. That day I lived the song I was playing even if it was far from good and started swaying to it. Then I realized I was playing better! So I’m trying to reach that relaxed zen state when I play but it’s hard, it was a fleeting moment and doesn’t come back very often, but I know what to reach for now.

What other instruments do you play?
I own a piano but it’s only looking pretty in the livingroom. I was only able to play an ok Für Elize (the easy melody part) on it after weeks of of hard work and video tutorials. I realized with a tear piano was not for me, I was simply not feeling any link or affinity with it even if I love hearing someone play piano (I guess it’s good for a violinist since they often are accomp. by piano lol). It was a gift so I’m still feeling bad about not trying harder to play it. I was also not able to read the music sheet, way too complicated! I also own an electric guitar that is gathering dust. I had a boyfriend who played the bass years ago and he wanted us to play together but… I really, REALLY dislike the sound of an electric guitar lol. Maybe one day my son will want it when he’s a teenager. So… nope, not playing another instrument. The violin was my idea for me, maybe that’s why I’m having a blast learning it.

What does music mean to you?
Emotions. Simple as that. Take away my ipod I don’t care I will sing the songs I like. Music is the last thing I hear when I go to sleep, it’s what I crave when I’m sad or when I’m happy or just feeling at peace. Playing the violin makes me happy, it brings me in a special little place where I forget about life and just enjoy the moment.

What or who has been your greatest influence?
Huh… good one. I don’t think anyone was. I never had a childhood hero or a model as a teenager and no one in my family influenced me, I’m the black sheep in fact . Someone that really opened my mind though was Barbara, my philosophy teacher in highschool. I think I was the only one in my class who wish we had more philo classes lol. She really was making us think and debate instead of memorizing stuff and I realized that it was ok to think my own way instead of trying to be like others. It opened a big door for me.

What are your goals for playing violin? Short and long.
My short goal would be to stop making my strings whistle :p (darn bowing!) My long goal would be to be good enough to play on my own baroque violin handmade with wood from my country *gasps* crazy I know and it will take many years before it happen but I am patient and willing to give the efforts needed to learn the techniques. Right now I’m not looking to perform for others beside my family at Christmas but one day I would love to make people dance to my violin!

What type of violin training?
There are types?

How do you warm up?
I stretch a bit my neck and shoulders then dive in my latest song! Playing it over and over is my warm up lol. I slow it down I repeat notes I’m struggling with or tricky bowing. I recently started scales even if they are boring because I really want to improve my precision, speed and dexterity.

What is your favorite type of music?
Well it’s old school gothic/batcave and dark ethereal but concerning the violin I fell in love recently with baroque and I’m really starting to make an obsession about it. I listen to it all the time even when I make my grocery rofl. I’m trying to build up a good size music library to explore what really reaches to me in baroque.

What is your favorite piece of music? Why?
For violin it’s Passacaglia (the guardian angel) of Heinrich Ignaz Franz von Biber.
Because that song is making me go through so many different emotions with different intensity. Also I love the embellishments, it can sound very different from one violinist to another. But my favorite music change with the seasons, my mood and the alignment of stars :p.

What are your 2 favorite things to do other than playing violin?
I’m hopelessly addicted to mmorpg’s. I started with Everquest in 2000 and now playing Guild Wars 2 who is still in beta but almost ready to be released. I also am a big reader! I adore historical stuff but also I’m a huge fan of poetry, philosophy and old classics (I love how they were writting back then, so elegant), but I also dream in fantasy novels hehe. As you can see I’m not into sport or anything exciting. Reading a good book on a blanket under the shade of a tree at the lake is perfect. I’m a simple person. Soon I’ll add my violin and sing while the lake swallows dance their ballet in the air!

Do you come from a musical family?
If so please tell us about them. Unfortunatly no. My parents never touched a musical instrument. I remember asking for music lessons over and over because I was doing fine with a recorder at school but my parents always refused.

Are you a member of any orchestra?
No though I’m sure it would be a great experience. I think I would really like playing in a small strings group, quartet? Something intimate anyway.

Do you ever perform publicly? I’m not that cruel! Not yet hehe but one day I will try to join the sunday jams on Mount Royal in my city. Maybe I could learn from others there or simply have fun.

What do you work with?
My chromatic tuner! I can’t tune a violin without it but I can recognize now when it’s out of tune. I also have a music stand and a mirror to check if my wrist is straight. I bought also a webcam that I plan to use for checking how I sound and my posture. I also have my ipod I use as a metronome and a ear plug for the left ear for when even I cannot suffer my playing! I have the Suzuki book 1 method but it’s more a song compilation then anything else, I think it’s meant to be used with a teacher. I also have Fiddleworks for folk songs and a Mel Bay First Violin Lessons which I really like because of the easy fingering charts. I check youtube and Fiddlerman for tutorials (and the learning games). Those are my tools!

Would you please share with us information about your violin and bow and if you have several please tell us about them as well.
My bow is crap, it’s an octogonal brazilian wood elephant weighting 67g which is way too heavy for my weak wrist and fingers lol. My violin is a Ricard Bunnel G2 from Kennedy Violins, assembled and ajusted at the violin shop. I love it’s oil finish and dark brown color and added some lace ribbons at the scroll to personnalize it. All fittings are in real ebony and the tailpiece has 4 fine tuners. I use Zyex strings with the silver G and D but might change my E string which I find too bright. I use L’Opéra Jade rosin but I plan on trying many kind until the perfect one is found. I’m loving my violin more and more each day, I often say we are dating and getting to know each others before the love story begins! Each passing day I feel more comfortable with it. I know it’s not a super quality violin and would love to play on a good one, but it will do for now with my humble budget! I called my violin “monsieur le marquis” because I think he is snobbing me most of the time.

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