#MNGrade1athon Challenge: Muireann Ní Dhubhghaill

#MNGrade1athon Challenge: Muireann Ní Dhubhghaill
Muireann Ní Dhubhghaill, Artistic Administrator at Irish National Opera and flute player with Dublin Concert Band, is learning the violin as part of the Music Network Grade-1-a-thon Challenge. All funds raised during the challenge go directly to our Instruments for Older People Appeal. We caught up with Muireann to find out how she is getting on...

Muireann, your first instrument is the flute. Why take up the violin?

I wanted to try something different. I’ve never played a string instrument before, so I thought if I’m learning something new it might as well be very new! I also come from a musical family with a lot of string players and luckily my uncle was happy to lend me a violin (thanks Brían!).

When did you start learning to play the violin, and how have you been finding the process so far?

I started in January this year. It has been challenging and frustrating, but I’m surprised at how quickly I’ve picked some things up (other things not so much…). I was already in a bit of a practice routine with the flute and piccolo, so it was easy enough to slot in a few minutes every day. I was very proud when I played a scale for the first time, but there’s a big jump between that and playing the grade 1 pieces. Hopefully I’ll get there!

Are you getting lessons or teaching yourself?

I’m teaching myself using YouTube and a bit of experimentation.

What’s the hardest thing about adjusting from the flute to the violin?

Trying to figure out what I’m doing wrong when I sound terrible! On the flute you can pretty much guarantee it’s your breath support or your embouchure. On the violin, I’m thinking… is it my right hand? The bow? Does it have enough rosin? Too much? Is it in the right position on the string? Is it my left hand? Are my fingers in the right place? Is that even the right note??

Do you have any particular practise routine?

Yes, I start with long notes on open strings, then practise first position, second position, third position etc. Then I play my scales and arpeggios before attempting my pieces. But the pieces are still very difficult for me, so I sometimes try a simple tune like Twinkle Twinkle instead.

Who is your hero violin player?

Nicola Benedetti is an amazing player, and I really admire her passion for music education. I find it hard to believe she’s only a year older than me, she’s done so much. I’ve had the privilege of working with her and she’s a lovely person too.

Do you have a “desert island” violin album, recording or video that you’d like to share?

That’s a hard question. It would be difficult to pick a classical album, can I pick a trad album?? It features Martin Hayes on the fiddle. I think The Gloaming Live at the NCH is fantastic.

The Gloaming - Boy In The Gap/The Lobster (live at the NCH)

What have you found most enjoyable about the process to date?

I’ve really enjoyed the challenge and the sense of achievement. I love learning and figuring things out. It’s a slow process but I’m so proud of each little step forward. Today I played the first phrase of one of my pieces without stopping or making a mistake, and I was so happy!

If you are living with someone, how do they share this enjoyment?!!

Haha, I think you’d have to ask him! He hasn’t complained yet anyway. And my neighbours are saints. They have to put up with the flute and piccolo, an out-of-tune piano, and now a scratchy beginner violin as well. I’ll have to buy them a bottle of something before my Grade 1 exam!

Do you have any advice you’d like to share for anyone thinking about taking up a musical instrument as an adult?

Take your time and enjoy it. As I said it’s a slow process, but it’s the little steps forward that make it enjoyable. You won’t regret it!