Printer-friendly version
Ryan Vaughn

Jedi mind tricks

July 28, 2011 at 9:36 PM

I currently find myself at my second music camp of the summer:  Luzerne Music Center.  We're in Lake Luzerne, New York which is nestled in the beautiful Adirondack mountains.  

The good news is that I've been practicing quite a bit since I've been here, and no, I didn't forget the video camera!  The bad news is that Danielle is so busy with her students, chamber music coaching, and her own practicing and rehearsing that she doesn't have a whole lot of time to work with a rising star like myself.

Luckily, I'm pretty good at managing my own time and my practicing so far here has gone pretty well.  Remember the ending to the theme?

That little ending requires playing (all in first position) the second finger on the D string, then the fourth finger on the A string to get that D#, then back to the first finger on the D string and then a half step higher on the A string for an E.  So the fourth finger sort of slides up a half step while the first finger does its job on the D string.  The point of this is that it's some finger gymnastics and definitely the most challenging passage in the theme.  I've had some trouble with this part before, but it's getting better.

Interestingly, what's helped me with this passage is something that's happened sort of naturally.  When I first started playing, I would completely stare at my left hand the entire time.  This, of course, causes my bow to get sloppy, play on the wrong strings, too close to the bridge, etc.  Lately, I've done a much better job of trusting my left hand and looking at where my bow crosses the strings while I play.  It's funny; like Obi Won said, "your eyes can deceive you...don't trust them."  It seems like I can "see" my left hand play without staring at it.  Maybe it's muscle memory, maybe my ears are getting better, maybe both and something else as well.  Maybe I'm becoming a Jedi.  Whatever the case, it's helping with that tricky last passage.

Here's a nice slow run-through of the theme.  Notice that throughout, I snag quick glances at my left hand, but for the most part, I look at my bow:

 

I played this yesterday morning, and in the afternoon, Danielle gave me a little mini lesson.  I taped the entire thing, so the following video was sort of luck that I got it at all.  Danielle was helping me with my sound and intonation on the theme and I was getting frustrated by how slowly I was playing it.  She didn't mind the speed; she just wanted me to play it smoothly and correctly.  Really not intending to tape it or anything, I just busted out with this:

OK, so it's not the best playing ever, but we were pretty happy with it (although I do look at my left hand during the last passage!).  The sound could definitely get better, but the intonation is the best I've played it at that speed.  Do you notice the goofy looks on my face at times?  I didn't originally even mean for her to take this seriously.  It's funny; I just went for it and it turned out well.  Danielle called it an "anomaly" which I'm not exactly crazy about, but the fact is I played a bit above my station.

I got another explanation that I like better than it being something supremely out of the ordinary.  Have I mentioned Elbert before?  He was at USC when Danielle was there and they both studied with Mr. Lipsett.  He's now with the San Francisco ballet and helps Danielle with some of her students and was on faculty at Danielle's camp.  He's here at Luzerne now as well and he told me a story.  When he was younger, he worked on a piece (I can't remember which one), and he only practiced it long and slow and didn't want to pump up the tempo.  His teacher at the time (not Lipsett) told, rather ordered, him to just go for it and bust out the much faster tempo.  Just go for it!  He did and it sounded great.  Perhaps it's an argument to just practice it slowly most of the time and then just go for it.  Danielle typically stresses building slowly to the tempo with a metronome, going faster and faster bit by bit.

Which approach is better for building speed?  Perhaps they both have their place.

Read the whole story at vaughnvsviolin.com


From sharelle taylor
Posted on July 31, 2011 at 4:40 AM

 and bravo yet again.  LOL was waiting for you to crash and burn, congrats that it didn't happen.


From Kim Vawter
Posted on August 1, 2011 at 4:24 AM

 Good job--and thanks for the suggestion about looking at the bowing. I admire you for your courage in taping yourself and posting it. Sometimes when I watch myself play I feel like there is a string attached to my face that makes me pull back my cheek muscles when I play--Looks very strange, very funny! I am not going to talk about  the drooling--ha, ha.

Yes these finger gymnastics are very difficult but just like jumping over the pommel horse or doing the parallel bars, it does get easier-eventually.  Some of us (me!) just take longer to get there.


From Charlie Gibbs
Posted on August 3, 2011 at 6:34 PM

Congratulations on having the guts to not only record yourself, but to post it on the Web.  I've just started working on this piece myself and I'm too shy to even try it when anyone is around.

Just a thought:

That little ending requires playing (all in first position) the second finger on the D string, then the fourth finger on the A string to get that D#, then back to the first finger on the D string and then a half step higher on the A string for an E.  So the fourth finger sort of slides up a half step while the first finger does its job on the D string.  The point of this is that it's some finger gymnastics and definitely the most challenging passage in the theme.  I've had some trouble with this part before, but it's getting better.

Instead of using the fourth finger on the A string for the D#, have you tried using your third finger?  If your fingers are long enough, it's easier that way (similarly to get a G# on the D string, etc.), and my teacher says it's OK.  That leaves the 4th finger ready to get the E on the A string.  In fact, my sheet music specifically suggests using the 3rd finger for that D#.

Again, thanks for the postings; I'm enjoying following your progress and comparing it with my own struggles.

This entry has been archived and is no longer accepting comments.

Our Kokopelli
Please support Violinist.com
through your
one-time donation or
sponsorship campaign.

Violinist.com is made possible by...

Shar Music

Yamaha V3 Series Violin

The Potter Violin Company

Coregami Performal

Metzler Violin Shop

Connolly Music

Corilon Violins

15th International Henryk Wieniawski Violin Competition, Poznań, 8-23 October 2016

Anderson Musical Instrument Insurance

Dimitri Musafia, Master Maker of Violin and Viola Cases

Fiddlerman.com

Fiddlershop

Heifetz International Music Institute

Long Island Violin Shop

Nazareth Gevorkian Violins

Pro-Am Strings

Wangbow Violin Bow Workshop