Ben Lee was in an accident while riding around London four years ago. He fell off of his bike and injured his wrist. Normally, that would be scary news for a violin player, which Ben is. However, Lee went through physical therapy and, at the suggestion of his fellow bandmate, Linzi Stoppard, decided to turn his rehabilitation into an attempt to break a world record.
A fall off of his bike brought new challenges.
“My bandmate said, ‘Ben, why don’t you see this as a target of rehabilitation, why don’t you go for this Guinness World Record?'” Lee told the BBC News.
If you can play it slow, you can learn to play it fast.
If you browse through any of the current listings in the Guinness Book Of World Records, you’ll see an endless variety of records that have been set. From the ‘world’s tallest dog’ and ‘the oldest person ever’ to ‘the most socks put on in one minute’ and ‘the world’s longest tongue.’
Lee took his friend’s advice and decided he wanted in on some of that notoriety. He set his sights on becoming the ‘world’s fastest violin player.’
“If you can play something slowly, you can play it quickly,” said Ben.
That sounds entirely plausible. However, this wasn’t an attempt to play something quickly, but rather it was an attempt to play something the quickest; faster than anybody else in the world!
15 notes per second…
Ben had to put his hands and fingers where his mouth was, so to speak. How exactly does one go about becoming the fastest violinist in the world?
Ben demonstrated. “I played it very slowly,” Ben said as he played a short excerpt from the infamous Flight Of The Bumble Bee by Rimsky-Korsakov. “Eventually, I got up to 15 notes per second.”
Ben went on to explain that, in order to break the record, Flight Of The Bumble Bee (which has over 810 notes) would need to be played in one minute.
He believes that virtuoso Niccolò Paganini was one of the first violin rock stars, and compared Paganini’s Moto Perpertuo (Always Moving) as being very similar to the feat he was going to attempt. He demonstrated by playing a short excerpt from the piece (video below!).
Not your traditional acoustic violin
One of the obvious visual differences you’ll notice is that Lee isn’t playing on a traditional classical violin. Trained classically, Lee plays on a more modern electric violin made of Kevlar and copper fiber with his band, Fuse.
“You could take a bullet with this violin,” Lee joked.
FUSE aims to inspire.
Although his $1.5 million instrument is sleek and glittering and has a few adjustment knobs similar to an electric guitar, it’s played no differently than one would play a traditional acoustic violin.
“What we aim to do with FUSE is to inspire people, and introduce them to different styles of playing the violin,” Ben explained. “You can play the violin in wonderful jazz styles, romantic styles—you can play it very percussively…” at which point in the video shown below, Lee breaks into several short samples to demonstrate.
“So there’s lots you can do with a violin.”
Step up instrument?
If you like Ben Lee’s violin as much as you enjoy his playing, you might be interested to also know that he just released the world’s first new 24 ct gold violin in collaboration with British jewelry designer, Theo Fennell, and bespoke violin manufacturer, Bridge.
You can pick one up for a cool $2 million.
Did Ben break the record to become the fastest violin player in the world? Take a look and a listen for yourself!