I definitely wasn’t prepared for just how awful I’d sound the first time I picked up my viola after 10+ years of not playing. I tried to launch straight into a Brandenburg Concerto, but as I moved my bow a horrible, scratchy, whining noise came from my viola. I stumbled through the first few bars, then got up to shut the windows so the neighbours wouldn’t hear.
Putting Bach to one side, I dusted off a book of studies ‘in first position’. They were a bit beyond me too. Finally I got stuck into a book of scales. And very, very slowly a few basics started to come back, my fingers began to land a bit closer to the right spot and, encouragingly, my allocated half-hour disappeared in the blink of an eye.
The things that surprised me most about my first practice session were:
(a) I had a newfound respect for my 16-year-old self. On the whole, teen memories are fairly toe-curling but I was suddenly quite proud of what I’d been able to do, and determined to get back to least that standard.
(b) My left hand really hurt afterwards.
(c) Scales – as I seem to remember my music teacher wearily telling me – are actually incredibly helpful.