Violinist.com members may keep personal journals on the website. Violinist.com's editor selects the best entries for the column below. Links to all other recent blog posts may be found in the column on the right.
By Paul Huppert
December 17, 2014 10:50
Learning aids that address a multitude of endeavors are nothing new. The ubiquitous training wheels are a vital, sometimes necessary component in the travails of the learning process. How much of a price do we pay for added security and comfort? When do we venture away from that security? When do the training wheels come off?
Tapes on the violin fingerboard are meant to help give definition, clarity, and security, in an endeavor that (for most) is an adventure into the unknown. I will submit in this article a couple of concepts, and a couple of ideas (i.e. opinions) that are really meant to contribute to the conversation. A discussion that I suspect is not either/or but an opportunity to address a relatively accepted pedagogical concept, and see it from a slightly different angle.
I use tapes with my beginning students (generally age 6-9). However, my journey as a violin instructor has taught me that tapes on the fingerboard are not a good idea for two reasons. 1. For the student they offer an opportunity to avoid the responsibility of aural integrity (i.e. play in tune dude) and more...the fingerboard is not a keyboard, there are many shades of grey, and a multitude of subtlety involved with intonation. That's one of the things that makes playing the violin, and other fret-less instruments so great. 2. It allows the instructor an easy path to a mediocre end. It's just plain easier to 'teach' the beginning student that has the added pitch crutch of a placement indicator for most, if not all of the notes they wish to employ in a given selection of music. The point in this humble diatribe is to express a different point of view concerning the use of tapes on the violin fingerboard.
Imagine for a moment that instead of the usual four tapes in the first position, we utilize only two (first, and third finger) but not for the reasons generally assumed. My personal epiphany came courtesy of the left thumb. Thumbs are basically the anchors for both left, as well as right hand technique. Noticing that many violin students early on have difficulty with thumb placement, and have (not yet) established a good frame in their left hand. The first finger tape is a good landmark position for the thumb and first finger, especially when engaging the third and fourth fingers. My beginning students become quite accustomed to hearing "check your thumb tape." In addition, I like to introduce the G string early on, and instruct the student to practice a basic four finger pattern, this also helps to establish the 'frame' for the left hand, as well as better left arm positioning. The second finger being the strongest, and the student needing to learn the difference between 'higher and lower' generally progress quite nicely without the aid of a tape. Now on to the third finger tape....
Mark O'Connor, in his early competition days distinguished himself in the fiddle world by frequently shifting between first and third position, and utilizing fourth finger extensions from the third position. None of these techniques were anything new in the classical world, but applied to a different genre, were ground breaking. O'Connor took an old concept from baroque times and applied it to improvisational folk playing. The point here is that a violin instructor, by shifting their perspective on what is taught when, can incorporate some interesting and beneficial changes in how violin technique is addressed for the beginning violin student.Tweet
By Robert Niles
December 16, 2014 12:46
In an effort to promote the coverage of live violin performance, Violinist.com each week presents links to reviews of notable concerts and recitals around the world.
James Ehnes performed the Walton with the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra and the Brahms with the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra, on the same day.
Stephen Waarts performed works by Beethoven, Bartok and Ravel in recital with pianist Chelsea Wang.
In Mo Yang. Photo: Neda Navaee
In Mo Yang performed Mozart’s Violin Concerto No. 5 with the Boston Classical Orchestra.
Stefan Jackiw performed Mozart’s Violin Concerto No. 5 and David Fulmer's Jubilant Arcs with the ProMusica Chamber Orchestra.
Joshua Bell performed Mozart and Schubert with pianist Menahem Pressler and "Death and the Maiden" with a student chamber group:
Vadim Gluzman performed Prokofiev's Violin Concerto No. 2 with the Tucson Symphony.
Remus Azoitei performed the Tchaikovsky with the Philharmonic Chamber Orchestra of London.
Gil Shaham premiered David Bruce's Violin Concerto “Fragile Light” with the San Diego Symphony.
Jack Liebeck performed Bruch's Violin Concerto No. 2 with the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra.
Please support live music in your community by attending a concert or recital whenever you can!
In other news: Our apologies for missing a Grammy nominee last week! A big congratulations to the Turtle Island String Quartet, which was nominated for a Grammy in the "Best Classical Compendium" category for an album recorded with mandolinist Mike Marshal, called Mike Marshall & The Turtle Island Quartet.Tweet
By Laurie Niles
December 15, 2014 16:04
For many years, violin teachers have been helping their students explore fiddle and folk music in addition to their classical studies. With help from a lot of great teachers (listed at the end of this article) I've compiled a list of some of the best resources to help teachers, students and musicians explore various types of fiddle music and American music. Categories I've included are fiddle (which includes a variety of kinds of fiddle music), Canadian fiddle, and a few entries for jazz, rock and tango. In the future I hope to make other (or expanded) lists for genres like gypsy, klezmer, mariachi, Indian, jazz, etc. (Tell me which you'd like, most!)
Below, if you click on the name of the book, CD or method, in most cases that will bring you to the link for how to buy it. There are also some great books out there that are either out-of-print or not available on the Internet, and I wanted you to be aware of them anyway. If you wish to find those, I have given links that should provide a lead, and you also might check with your local library or university music library.
I hope this list of resources helps in your learning, teaching and exploration of fiddle music. If you have additional resources to share, please do so in the comments section or e-mail me with your ideas. Enjoy!
The Children's Session Book, by Karen Ashbrook
The Fiddle Series, by Greg Baker
Mel Bay books for violin and fiddle
Fiddle Heart Scandinavian Fiddle Tunes, by Göran Berg
The Fiddler's Fakebook: The Ultimate Sourcebook For The Traditional Fiddler, by David Brody (Oak Publications)
A Guide to American Fiddling, by Andy Carlson
Fiddlers Philharmonic, by Andrew Dabczynski and Bob Phillips
Fiddlin' Favorites, by Lisa Manning Deakins
String Connection Music Book, Vol. 1 and 2, by John Dewey
Top Fiddle Solos, by Craig Duncan
Elmore Fiddle Camp, by Randy Elmore
String Groove, by Edgar Gabriel
Fiddlescapes by Deborah Greenblatt
Fairfield Fiddle Farm, by Charles Hall
American Fiddler, by Edward Huws Jones
The Contemporary Violinist, by Julie Lyonn Lieberman
Bluegrass Fiddle, by Gene Lowinger
The Fiddle Club, by Dean Marshall and John Crozman
300 Fiddle Tunes, by Ron Middlebrook (Centerstream Publishing)
Ruffwater Fake Book, edited by Judi Morningstar
The Phillips Collection of Traditional American Fiddle Tunes, by Stacy Phillips (Mel Bay) (Scroll down to find book)
The Portland Collection, Vol. 1 and Vol. 2, by Susan Songer and Clyde Curley
Ashokan Farewell, by Jay Ungar
Children's Fiddle Method Books 1 & 2, by Carol Ann Wheeler (Mel Bay)
The American Fiddle Method, by Brian Wicklund
Martha Yasuda arrangements
Fiddleworks 1, 2, and 3, by Zav RT (Frederick Harris Music)
The Dungreen Collection - Traditional Celtic Violin Music of Cape Breton, by Kate Dunlay and David Greenberg (1996)
Danse ce soir! Tunebook: Fiddle & accordion music of Québec, by Laurie Hart
Teaching CDs by Laura Risk
The Fiddle Music of Newfoundland and Labrador - Volumes 1 and 2, collected by Kelly Russell
The Easiest Dance Tunes from Newfoundland and Labrador, compiled by Christina Smith
Canadian Old Time Fiddle Hits, by Gordon Stobbe
Jamey Aebersold Jazz: Aebersold Play-A-Longs
Stylistic Duets for Two Violins, by Jeremy Cohen
Scott Joplin Ragtime Favourites, arr. by Colin Cowles (Fentone Music)
Creative Strings Academy, with Christian Howes
Jazz Fiddle Wizard by Martin Norgaard
Electrify your Strings, by Mark Wood
Folk Melodies of New Mexico and the Southwest, by Susan Kempter and team
Care to Tango, by Michael McLean
* * *
Many thanks to the following teachers for contributing to this list: Jody Harmon, Kristen Herbert Vance, Becky Lennon, Sarah Montzka, Laura Dalbey, Martha Yasuda, Marcos Kreutzer, Jenny Visick , Michael Fox, Redding Farlow Soderberg, Danielle Gomez, Göran Berg, Julianna Chitwood , Douglas Locke, Keenan Christensen Fletcher, Suzanne Edwards, Linda Louise Ford, S Ann Schluter, Rebecca Appert Kaltz, Julie 'Bamberger' Roubik , Sarah Skreko, Rafael Videira , Nathan Allen Wood, Vera Dragicevich, Laura Nerenberg, Aimee Morrill Briant. Thanks also to Kerstin Wartberg and the Suzuki Teaching Ideas Exchange Facebook group.Tweet
December 13, 2014 05:17
Hi Everyone, when I started the blog, I made a bargain with myself and you, that no matter how the work went during the making of the violin that was what I would be writing about.
Two weeks (or 8 days of school) ago I had great plans to have finished the two centre joints and then begin the boosting (or removing the waste wood) from the top plate. THAT was what I was expecting to be writing about this week.
It didn't happen.
The above picture represents 7 of the 8 days of school. Yes, 7. This was a centre joint that no matter what I tried it refused to come together until the very last day. Seven days to flatten one very wicked (and I think mockingly) twist I have ever seen in a piece of wood as you can see in the next picture. Especially if you want those two pieces of wood to be jointed together to make a violin top.
What I needed to do was first flatten the side facing the table, then square the smaller sides to that side, and lastly square the two pieces of wood to each other. When the joint is good there is not even room (anywhere) for even the space for a hair. Anything less will mean you will have a joint failure when the violin is under the pressure of being played. Not a good time for the top or the back to be flying apart.
To make such a joint, you will be planing the wood one or two shavings at a time- 0.03 mm thick (yes I measured) and then checking for square. An open door to the outside or it seems if you look at it side ways is enough to throw off a days work.
After 7 days of patiently-and after the fifth day not so patiently- I had a top centre joint whose joint is not too bad.
This spruce is made from wood that was cut about 120-140 years ago. And something that I've never seen before is what I can only call flamed spruce. Here is a picture of the finished top centre joint and a very remarkable piece of wood.
Back Centre Joint
Where the top centre joint took 7 days to complete the back joint took less than one day.
The only hiccup was the glueing of all things. John, who has many years of working with violins said that he had never seen anything like it. Either because of the age or because of the amount of natural oil in the wood or both it took coating the joint 4 times (normally it takes only 2). The wood just seemed to be drinking in the extra glue before allowing us to clamp the joint together. To test to be sure we had a good joint we gouged a piece out and the wood broke before the joint so all was well.
In the end, I have a good joint and a flamed back of the kind you rarely see. I am very pleased with the two joints and now able to move onto the next step!
John closes the shop in 4 days and reopens in the New Year. I plan on taking a couple of days off but will also be bringing work back to my flat, to work on during the break. So likely I will not be posting a blog until after the break.
Thanks for following my journey, so far, the great questions and comments, and those double tweets! Hope everyone is warmed beside your fireplaces with a warm drink in hand, good music being played, too much food to eat, and friends and family close by.Tweet
By The Weekend Vote
December 12, 2014 13:04
How do you like your "A"? Particularly, how do you like your "A" when it comes to Baroque music? Generally, we tune our modern violins to an "A" that is 440 hertz, but the pitch did not used to be so standardized. Those who adhere to "period performances" practices generally tune their violins to a lower pitch that is thought to be more in line with the pitch actually used in the Baroque era: an "A" that is 415 hertz -- much lower. In fact, if you want to just here the pitches, here is a 440 A and here is a 415 A.
More interesting to me, though, is how different these tuning systems sound, when one plays Baroque music. I've put together two examples of the same piece, one played in a standard "modern" way, using A=440, and another played in the "period performance" way, using A=415. Which do you like better? Please participate in the vote, and then share your comments and thoughts about tuning.
Our two examples are the first movement from the Bach Double (Concerto in D minor for Two Violins and Orchestra)
A=440 (modern): Itzhak Perlman and Isaac Stern play the Bach Double, I
A=415 (period performance) Rachel Podger and Bojan Cicic play the Bach Double, I
By Laurie Niles
December 10, 2014 13:20
What is a music student to do, over the holidays?
Though the holidays can be a very busy time for musicians, music students may find a bit of a lull in their studies during vacation days. Perhaps there was a motivating fall recital or holiday concert, but now it's over. School lets out. Teachers go on break, and lessons go on hiatus. Perhaps one travels to see family or friends.
Should the violin go along, or should it just go on break, too?
I never begrudge people a short break. It's important to connect with family and friends, to do charitable work, to attend a religious service, to throw a party, to do whatever makes that spirit of culture and community come alive for you.
But I'm not ready to tell you to put the bow down entirely! Most people have at least a few days off from work or school during the holidays, and if time and family/religious obligations allow, this "in between" time can prove quite fruitful for you and your violin. Without the pressure of a recital next week or even a lesson next week, you can plan some practice sessions that are purely experimental and a little less goal-oriented. Maybe it's time to sight-read some new music, or just try something that isn't an assignment. Did you stop doing scales, because you were so busy preparing for concerts? Well, do some leisurely scales, or focus on a technical matter that's been on the shelf. Maybe you want to play something from a long time ago, something you just simply liked. Maybe you'd like to just mess around and improvise. If you're lucky, perhaps you will see people who can play chamber music with you, what better way to bond over the holidays?
For some, it's just not possible to take the violin on holiday break, or to get to practicing. If that's the case, then you can still accomplish something by keeping your ears open. Long plane ride? Load your iPod with a recording (or several!) of your new piece and bring some nice headphones. Staying at home? Consider attending a concert or religious service with live music.
What ever the next few weeks holds for you, I hope it will be filled with good music! I welcome your suggestions for making the most of holiday break time.Tweet
By Kate Little
December 10, 2014 11:19
In the formidable final movement of Beethoven’s 9th symphony, the bass drum enters pianissimo, anchoring the tenor solo. In general, tenors receive sufficient attention. It is the bass drum that interests us today.
Erik also danced the gongs in the Utah Opera production of Turandot. Surrounded by a frame suspending a dozen bronze disks, his weight shifts, focus pivots, arms ripple, choreographed by the melody. Precise yet relaxed, the ringing tones originate in Eric’s thoughtfully, carefully prepared physique.
It’s physical. It’s mental. It’s emotional. It’s a personal thing, playing an instrument: An expression of the self. When you hear Eric play, you hear his childhood: his curiosity, his desire, his intention, his commitment. That is what has made his sound what it is today. When you hear Eric play, you hear his life: his joy and his fears. That is what allows him to perform. All of this in the bass drum of Beethoven’s 9th. Dancing for sound. Live. From Eric to you. That’s music.
The Week in Reviews, Op. 60: Grammy Nominations, plus Jennifer Koh, Mayuko Kamio in Concert. And, 'The Cough'By Robert Niles
December 9, 2014 13:43
First, congratulations to Hilary Hahn, Jennifer Koh, and Jaime Laredo, whose performances were among those honored with nominations in this year's Grammy Awards. Hahn was nominated for "Best Chamber Music/Small Ensemble Performance" for "In 27 Pieces - The Hilary Hahn Encores." Composer Anna Clyne was nominated in the "Best Contemporary Classical Composition" category for "Prince of Clouds," which was performed by Koh and Laredo. The Grammys will be awarded in Los Angeles on Feb. 8.
Jennifer Koh and Jaime Laredo. Photo by Juergen Frank.
Here is our previous coverage of these recordings:
On to the reviews! In an effort to promote the coverage of live violin performance, Violinist.com each week presents links to reviews of notable concerts and recitals around the world.
Jennifer Koh performed the Bach, as well as Anna Clyne's "Rest These Hands," with the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra.
Mayuko Kamio performed Mozart's Violin Concerto No. 5 with the Symphony Silicon Valley.
Michael Ludwig performed the Sibelius with the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra.
Philippe Quint performed the Khachaturian with the San Diego Symphony.
Frank Peter Zimmermann performed the Sibelius with the Sydney Symphony Orchestra.
Huang Bin performed the Butterfly Lovers Violin Concerto with the Shanghai Symphony Orchestra.
Rossitza Goza performed the Mendelssohn with the Tulsa Symphony Orchestra.
Peter Winograd performed Mozart's Violin Concerto No. 4 with the Pueblo Symphony Orchestra.
Alexander Sitkovetsky performed the Sibelius with the Brussels Philharmonic Orchestra.
Kyung-Wha Chung returned to the London stage after 12 years, performing works by Bach, Mozart and Franck in recital, but all anyone was talking about was the coughing.
Please support live music in your community by attending a concert or recital whenever you can! But, uh, try not to cough, okay? ;)Tweet
By Daniel Broniatowski
December 9, 2014 11:02
Today we share a podcast that has been a long-time in the making. In fact, it was conducted in February 2014! To quote the late Erik Friedman from Emil's website,
'One of America’s finest up and coming virtuoso violinists, Emil Altschuler, performs at a world class standard and possesses a commanding stage presence. He received his Bachelor of Music from The Juilliard School where he studied with Dorothy DeLay and Naoko Tanaka and his Masters of Music from The Yale School of Music under master violinist, Erick Friedman, wrote of him: “…a very gifted violinist who possesses the talent and capability to become a truly outstanding violinist of his generation…and sound and accuracy of intonation that are truly extraordinary.”'
Why the wait? Our fantastic guest had been working on a recording featured on our podcast which was subsequently released. This took time, and, unfortunately, with the finished product came copyright restrictions. Therefore, after a much-anticipated finish, we could only share with you clips of 30 seconds in duration. Yet, we believe that you will enjoy the content of this podcast and you will enjoy hearing about Mr. Altschuler's highly interesting life.
Want to have podcasts like the one below delivered to your inbox monthly? Join the Maestro Musicians Community!
You may play the podcast by clicking on the link below:Tweet
December 8, 2014 23:44
SENT TO Singapore Airlines via feedback page:
I am a professional musician and teacher in S.E. Asia. I have always had the utmost respect for SQ and their service... until the recent events with a Swiss Youth Orchestra, trying to board SQ in Hong Kong.
As you are aware - this story is making its rounds extremely rapidly through social media, FB, Slipped-Disc.com, etc and should be addressed as soon as possible, through proper PR channels. The music world - professional, and student - is an extremely connected forum: and musicians also have a following of millions of fans and audience.
I have travelled many times on SQ, MAS, CX, AirAsia with my violin (one of the main instruments mentioned as not allowed by your Hong Kong ground staff.) - and I've never had a problem. In the USA, for instance, it is written into aviation law as an allowable item.
Having your staff properly trained is your own responsibility: Not the job of musicians to educate them. Those of us who travel to play, professionally, pay A LOT of attention to news of this nature. We absolutely cannot afford to have glitches at an airport with a belligerent, under-trained staff. We would rather pay a few dollars more and feel assured that some nitwit won't demand that we risk $200K, $500K or more, to check a violin, when it is completely unnecessary. I fly on twin-prop commuter planes - and EVEN THERE the instrument fits easily in an overhead bin.
Please respond to the story. Please re-assure the travelling musician public that this is an anomaly and is being rectified. OTHERWISE: expect this story to be circulated for months!
Hear more from the world's top violinists in The Violinist.com Interviews: Volume 1, which includes our exclusive conversations with Joshua Bell, Sarah Chang, and David Garrett, and others, as well as a foreword by Hilary Hahn.
We've compiled a list of some of the year's best new offerings from violinists for you to consider.
Violinist.com has not reviewed, and does not endorse, the content of any of the articles below.
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