Sometimes I wonder what it would be like to listen to a conversation between two musicians if I had no knowledge of musical terminology or slang.

I imagine it would be similar to me listening in on a high-level mathematics lecture at M.I.T. or being handed a complicated recipe and told to make bouillabaisse. (The extent of my culinary skills is heating up leftovers in the microwave.)

Such an experience could probably also be compared to watching the Harry Potter or Hunger Games films without having read the books.

But with music it’s even more confusing—not only is there a well-known repertoire, but there are also various other languages to deal with. (There are even German-English dictionaries created specifically for Mahler symphonies.)

Still, one of the most bizarre musical conversations to overhear might’ve been one that I had with a fellow violinist last Saturday.

Friend: “Hey, Emma, look at my jaw. How’s my hickey comin’?”

Me: “Wow, looks good! You must’ve been practicing a lot!”

Friend: “Thanks! I think you have to work on yours a bit, though.”

Don’t fret. This exchange wasn’t a reflection on any (nonexistent) promiscuous endeavors. Rather it expressed a surprisingly typical concern in my life.

Let me explain: a violin (or viola) hickey is a red mark just beneath the jaw, which results from the constant pressure of the instrument’s chin rest. A respectable hickey can be attained only by practicing for hours every day.

My first exposure to the hickey phenomenon was when I attended Interlochen Arts Camp two summers ago. Nearly all the violinists had one, including the majority of instructors.

When I returned, I began noticing the discoloration on the first violinists in symphony—and then on professionals on stage.

Despite my best efforts, though, my neck has still never been graced by the violin hickey (though there was a time when I was convinced the area was turning slightly pinkish). It’s a bit of an embarrassment, really.

I guess the only solution is to start practicing more!

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