Tuesday, 3 June 2014

How Lord of the Rings saved violin practice

At least all that obsessive watching of "The Two Towers" has been productive
Littleboy 1 recently started playing the violin. Now, he's a musical boy who took to the piano very quickly, and with his Dad also a good violinist, I had rather assumed that this would all go smoothly and I wouldn't have to do much.

But somehow, with the all the piano practice, homework, sport and other stuff we have to fit into our week, violin seems to have fallen somewhat off the radar. We were managing one session a week, with The Doctor at the weekend, but it increasingly ended in tears, either of frustration because he found it hard, or because there was something much more interesting to be done with his brother. (Meanwhile I was wondering if the neighbours could hear the terrible sounds emanating from our house and thought we were strangling a cat.)

Six months in, and his teacher had begun to write subtle, then not-so-subtle hints in his lesson book about the need for more practice. He'd also joined a string ensemble at school and had been given music to learn for a concert -- despite the fact that he had just about mastered playing open strings. It was time for action, so I decided that over half term we would get to grips with the violin.

Now, although I have tried in vain before to emulate the "tiger mother" style when it comes to music practice, I have never really succeeded. But this time I tried all sorts of things. Bribes, mainly, but also -- playing along to a CD that came with his violin book, and me playing the piano with him so it seemed like we were doing duets. But there was still lots of grumbling and not much improvement.

And then.....it happened by chance that Littleboy 2 was playing a tune on the piano that he said reminded him of the music from Lord of the Rings (something the two of them watch obsessively on DVD). I sat down at the piano and managed to pick out the tune. (Just goes to show that MY years of music lessons, which included barely scraping through my 'cello Associated Board exams until I gave up at the age of 18, did actually pay off).

Soon we were looking up, and improvising, all sorts of different musical themes from the Lord of the Rings films. There was the Shire music (which has a vaguely Irish/gipsy feel), but their favourite seemed to be the "Riders of Rohan" music. I wasn't sure which this was, so we used the iPad to look it up. (Handy parental tip -- you can find all kinds of sheet music on the internet, and an iPad is a perfect way to look at it.)

Littleboy 1 then spent a whole half hour engrossed in playing this theme on his violin (I've tried to post the video here, but it doesn't seem to like Blogger). Voila - his playing improved, and he was then able to tackle the concert pieces much better. Littleboy 2 even accompanied him on the piano.

So thank you, Peter Jackson, or actually Howard Shore, who Wikipedia tells me wrote most of the music for LOTR. Thank you for saving violin practice. Now, if you could just help me with that maths homework.....

9 comments:

Nota Bene said...

Success! That was a bit of good fortune...bet there must be other films that have music they like too...

Iota said...

Did I ever tell the story of the time I was listening to The Archers, and one of David and Ruth Archer's children was scraping away at the violin? I was thinking to myself that the BBC sound effects department had gone rather over the top - it was just SO screechy and SO tuneless. No child's playing could be THAT bad. Then the Archers' theme tune came and went, and... the violin continued. It was my own son in the next door room.

That CD that comes with the book is such a good idea, isn't it? (We didn't discover it until we'd almost finished the book - shame!) Sadly, after years of screechy practice, and treking to lessons, and paying for lessons, my oldest no longer plays the violin. I'm sad, but well, I suppose we can say we gave him the opportunity. Perhaps he'll pick it up later in life.

Good luck as yours continues!

Iota said...

I bet you can find Harry Potter music for the violin.

Tanya said...

I wish something like that had done the trick for me with the violin! Years of lessons were a bit wasted on me as I could play, but never to a great standard and that was due to lack of practice. It takes a lot of practice to move on from strangled cat sounds :)

nappy valley girl said...

NB - Indeed, and I intend to find them all!

Iota - that's such a funny story. As for music, I don't regret giving up the cello but I do regret giving up piano. I am actually starting to practice LB1's grade three pieces just to get myself back into it...and yes, we have already found Harry Potter for piano.

Tanya - see above - I was rubbish at the 'cello. But my husband still plays the violin now, so I hope at least one of the boys has inherited his talent.

Anonymous said...


............2. Nice..^_^v................

Metropolitan Mum said...

I wish my piano teacher had given me music I actually wanted to play. Why torture kids with Rachmaninov when all they want to play is One Direction? (I assume that's what kids want these days?)

MsCaroline said...

#2 started with Suzuki violin, then switched later to the 'cello, which he gave up right before coming to Seoul - just when he really started to sound good. His orchestra director in primary and middle school was a genius about picking music that would motivate the kids - and yes, one year they did play music from 'Harry Potter.' I have no doubt that she's managed to get her hands on the theme from 'Frozen' for the end-of-year concert this year - she's brilliant! My boys never cared too much for LOTR, but MrL and I certainly do. In fact, I bought the soundtrack specifically for the 'Riders of Rohan' theme music because I enjoyed it so much - and I also bought the piano music, too. I think I would get along quite well with your sons.

nappy valley girl said...

Ms Caroline - I think you would! They are obsessed with the whole trilogy, and now The Hobbit too. We have to have many conversations about the different characters, differences between orcs and goblins, etc. etc.