Somebody found my blog the other day by searching for “how to tell if your violin is depressed.” I thought I’d use that as a prompt and tell you five ways to tell if your violin is depressed and five ways to help. (Note: Depression is a serious illness and in reality, the best and sometimes only way out is to seek medical help. )
How to tell if your violin is depressed:
1. It won’t stay in tune. You’re constantly tuning it and wondering if it’s the weather or if it’s the humidity. It’s neither.
2. It’s covered in cat hair. All different kinds of cats. Violins tend to seek out cats more when they are sad.
3. It only wants to play sad pieces like Barber’s Adagio. If you try to play something happy like Ode to Joy from Beethoven’s 9th Symphony it transposes it into a minor key and before you know it, you’re back in Barber’s Adagio.
4. Your violin won’t eat and sleeps all day in its case. It refuses to come out even for its previous favorite activities like Kreutzer Etudes and Scales.
5. You find a lot of empty alcohol and prescription drug bottles hidden in the trash and you don’t remember drinking or taking any of them yourself. That’s just your violin, self-medicating.
How to help:
1. Blast happy, joyful tunes at your violin all day long. I recommend a lot of Mozart and perhaps the last movement of the Organ Symphony by Camille Saint-Saens.
2. Practice, practice, practice. Aka, fake it till you make it. If you pretend it’s not depressed, on occasion, your violin will pull through. Try scales, Sevcik, etudes, and your violin’s old favorite pieces.
3. Sometimes putting your violin together with other instruments can help. For instance, consider another violin, a viola, and a cello. Get them to play some Beethoven String Quartets (personal favorite, opus 132). DO NOT let them play Barber’s Adagio. If this fails, try a larger group—include woodwinds, brass, percussion. Mahler Symphony no. 2 might be a good option for that. (You’ll need a chorus too.) Again, do not let them start playing Barber’s Adagio.
4. Buy it a new, colorful case. Studies show that bright colors can help. Continue to avoid direct sunlight though as violins, unlike humans, do not like direct sunlight.
5. If all else fails, your violin will need professional help. Take it to a luthier for repairs. Consider planing the fingerboard, a new bridge and/or soundpost, an adjustment, a thorough cleaning and polishing, and of course, all new strings! If that doesn’t make your violin happier, then nothing will.