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Oooooh, the boring, unglamorous, practical stuff...

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Laura Sinnerton Laura Sinnerton | 09:09 UK time, Wednesday, 26 October 2011

It would be fair to say things have been pretty busy over the last few weeks. Looking forward in the schedule between now and Christmas, things just seem to get busier.

Over the next few weeks we will be exploring new Dutch music with principal guest conductor Jac van Steen, embarking on another series of education concerts with Grant Llewellyn, kicking off our new series, Symphony, travelling around north Wales and completing hours of recording.

However, it isn't the growing pile of music in the corner that is concerning me today. Indeed, it is a much more practical concern.

Two weeks ago, my bow seemed perfectly fine and happy. It was smooth in the legato passages, springy, yet controllable in off-the-string passages, just the right amount of heavy when required to play in a less genteel manner. Now? It is shedding hair at the rate of no man's business. Simply coaxing it into a lovely smooth line along the string is like trying to coerce a much abused shopping trolley in the direction you want it to go at the supermarket. I need a bow rehair.

Despite my father's not infrequent offers to go out and chop the tail off some poor unsuspecting equestrian beauty, I still prefer to leave it up to the professionals and have my bow rehaired by a respected bow expert. Finding the time to do this, however, is another matter.

It's the same with changing strings. For me, the need to do this seems to happen almost instantaneously. I'll have a lovely set of strings on, all beautifully played in and gorgeously resonant then suddenly, almost overnight, they will sound as resonant as a lead bell covered in leather tolling in a complete vacuum (I exaggerate, but only so you feel my pain).

But when is a good time to change strings (unless one has snapped, in which case it's a bit obvious)? We all like to have strings in their optimum condition for big concerts, auditions, recitals etcetera, but change them too close to the event and you'll spend the whole time panicking about retuning, and change them too early and you'll miss them at their zingy best!

Wind players, in particular those of the double reed persuasion, have a constant predicament. Needing different reeds for different repertoire, they are continually choosing, measuring, gouging, scraping, soaking and tying on reeds in the hope of creating one just right for what they are playing.

Being a musician is sadly not just about playing great music and wearing pretty dresses (I wish it was because I really like clothes). Your instrument is an extension of yourself and when something isn't right it's like trying to run a marathon with a stone in your shoe.

I wish there was a 24/7 expert bow rehair service. Perhaps it's a niche in the market someone should investigate. On that note, I'm off to call my bow man to see when he can fit me in!

The National Orchestra of Wales is performing with conductor Jac van Steen, and violinist Tasmin Little, on Wednesday 26 October at BBC Hoddinott Hall. For further information and tickets, please visit www.bbc.co.uk/now, or call 0800 052 1812.


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