About Richard Tracy

I have been playing the violin for about 20 years - in spite of missing the index finger of my left hand.

Why Play in a Group?

ViolinGroupPlayingRecently, I attended a Violin Graduate Recital. The young lady did a great job and I thoroughly enjoyed listening to her playing and watching her technique. The best part of the recital though was when she played Chausson’s Concerto in D Major for Piano, Violin, and String Quartet. The piece was enjoyable to listen to and the players were a joy to watch. Their interaction with each other through the music, the glances, and the smiles bore testimony to the fun they were having playing together. Continue reading

Playing By Ear

Playing by ear is a useful tool which for some comes naturally, while others have to work at it. When I was younger, I used to play almost all music by ear. I would glance at the music to see the key, and then play without looking at the music again. As a result, I was “accused” of not being able to read music. I could read it just fine. I just didn’t need to. There have been times more recently, when my daughter and I were playing together that she would stop and laugh after I played something different than what was written. “You were playing by ear again, weren’t you?” Continue reading

A Long Journey

As I was growing up, I always had a love for music, but didn’t have the opportunity to play, until high school when my parents bought me an accordian. This was a good start and I was so anxious to play that I learned to play it in just a few months. However, this was not exactly what I had in mind – I wanted to play an orchestral instrument – more specifically, I wanted to learn the violin. Continue reading

Improving Your Sight Reading

The first church orchestra I joined was quite small. Our string section consisted of 2 first violins, 1 second (me), and one violist. Because I was always good at memorizing music, or playing by ear, I had never developed the skill of sight reading music. One day, our string section was practicing some Christmas music and the section we were playing had the firsts play a line, and the seconds echoing it. The firsts played their line, and when it was my turn, there was dead silence. Our violist leaned over and whispered to me, “That’s why I play viola!” Since I wasn’t very good at sight reading, I panicked when it was my turn to play. Needless to say, I took the music home and practiced a lot the next week so I would be ready when that section came up at the next rehearsal. I learned the hard way that sight reading is essential if you want to play with a group. Continue reading

Should I Take Violin Lessons?

A number of years ago, I was playing in a small church orchestra and the music we were playing had some artificial harmonics in it. The person next to me, who played in a local bluegrass band, had never seen that notation before and didn’t know how to play it. So during a break I was quickly showing him how it should be played. Within minutes, another member of the band came up to me and said “Are you trying to ruin my fiddler by teaching him to play violin?” Of course it was all good natured teasing, but it does make a point. What are your goals? What do you want to accomplish with your violin and what will it take to do that? Continue reading

Six Techniques for Perfect Practice

Practice is something that all instrumentalists have to face.  What makes good practice?  Here is Tampa Bay Music Academy’s blog post describing techniques for perfect practice.  It is written by Susan McClure and is re-posted here with permission for our readership.  To view it in its original context, please click here.

Remember the old saying “practice makes perfect”? Well, forget it. You can practice the same song for five hours, but if you’re practicing it incorrectly, all you’ll get for your trouble is a very strongly ingrained mistake. Continue reading

How To Take Care of Your Violin

My family is rather musical. I have played the violin for many years and I also have a son and daughter that play woodwind instruments. As a result, I have talked to many instrument repair people over the years. I remember one story I heard from a man who worked in an instrument repair shop in Indianapolis. He said that one student came into his shop with a damaged instrument (I don’t remember what kind of instrument it was, but it was rather large). Some friends would take him to his lesson but the car was too small to hold all the people riding and his instrument. He would ride to the lesson holding the case outside the window. When he arrived at the location, he would drop the case, open the door, pick it up and run in to his lesson. Not the best idea. The wear and tear eventually damaged the instrument to the point he had to have it repaired.
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“How Can You Play the Violin with Only 3 Fingers?”


When people become aware that I am missing a finger, they will state, “I don’t see how you can play with only 3 fingers!” To which I will good naturedly reply, “I don’t see how you can play with 4 fingers! It looks like that extra finger would just get in the way!”

Over the years, I have learned to have fun with my handicap. I love watching the reaction of people when they become aware for the first time that I only have 3 fingers on my left hand. I take lessons at the university where I work, and as a result, it is treated like a class – complete with an exam at the end of each semester. The exam consists of playing a couple of pieces before a panel of judges who grade you based on skill level and progress. The teacher I had those first few years used to delight in finding judges that did not know me. He would not tell them about my hand and we would both watch their reaction when they saw the “strange” fingerings I was using. Continue reading

Shopping for a Violin

Shopping for a violin can be both frustrating and fun at the same time. It’s sort of like buying a car – don’t buy the first cheap violin that comes along. If you do, you may find that you have purchased a lemon. As a result, I don’t recommend buying a violin on eBay (or any other online site). You might get a super great deal, or you may get a piece of junk referred to by other violinists as a VSO (violin shaped object). Continue reading