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Zlata Brouwer

Interview with Emily Williams: Violinist, Teacher and Author of 'The Beginning Violinist'

September 25, 2014 01:10

There are hundreds of violin method books in the market and it’s almost impossible to find something that is really really new and different. Although there is so much high quality material available, violin teacher Emily Williams noticed some gaps:


  • People who are taught strictly classically, often can’t play anything without sheet music

  • People who are taught very strictly in the Suzuki method, often can’t read notes well and can’t figure out a piece from sheet music themselves

  • Violin method books focus on the A and E strings, while there aren’t many pieces on the G and D string

  • Violin method books are almost entirely focussed on major keys and classical chord progressions, which makes it difficult to play in other modalities and keys

  • Books look like they are made for children, with lots of illustrations and a childish layout. Children can get distracted by it and loose their focus on the music. Adults are ashamed to show their violin book to friends

  • Students often don’t develop musical and technical independence

  • These gaps can cause that students ‘hit a wall’ and are demotivated to continue playing the violin or viola


Filling these gaps creates more fulfillment and enjoyment for students and makes it more likely that they continue playing for the rest of their lives.

beginning violinist bookEmily realized that it wouldn’t make sense to write another violin method book. Instead she wrote companion book that can be used in combination with any method book.

This companion book, ‘The Beginning Violinist - A companion book for children and adults’, fills in the gaps mentioned above and gives students a solid foundation.

Her husband Dr. Benjamin Williams, being a professional composer, created musical accessable pieces that are fun to play and widen the tonal horizon of students.

With seven hours of time difference I interviewed the author via Skype just as I teach Skype lessons to students worldwide. In the interview she shares a lot about her background, what she missed in her violin education, her motivation to give her students a solid foundation, the philosophy behind the book, music education and violin education in general.

The interview is interesting to watch for teachers AND students.

“My goals as a teacher is to make myself obsolete. My desire is that my students gain independence.”

Would you like to read more about violinist and teacher Emily Williams, her violin studio in Missisippi and her other musical activities? Would you like to order the book ‘The Beginning Violinist’? Or would you like to contact Emily? Find all about it on Emily's website: www.playviolinmusic.com

Is this useful to you? Please let me know in the comments below!

Love,

Zlata

PS: Have you invented a product or service that violin and viola players can benefit from? Have you invented an accessory (mute, chinrest, case, whatever), written a book, recorded a CD or made something beautiful that serves violinists and violists. Just e-mail me at info@violinlounge.com.

If I think your product or service is interesting for the viewers of Violin Lounge TV, I might invite you for an interview. Being interviewed on Violin Lounge TV will get you visibility and sales. In this way I hope to support innovation in the area of violin and viola playing.

PS2: Take a look at more interviews I did here!

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Book Tip: Master Your Stage Fright by Bohdan Warchal

September 18, 2014 05:20

This episode of Violin Lounge TV is all about stage fright and the solutions. It’s about playing confidently.

Some time ago I did a survey amongst my viewers and the word ‘confidence’ appeared lots of times. Among the responders there were very different levels of playing and very different struggles, so there was a wide variety of answers to my questions. The word ‘confidence’ stood out as something violinists of all levels struggle with and came back in many answers.

‘I just want to play confidently’, many answers said. This can mean to play confidently together with others, playing for friends and family or even playing an important audition or concert.

It surprised me that confidence in playing the violin or viola is the nr 1 struggle for most players. I decided to make some videos around the topic of stage fright. This is one of them.

In this episode I review the book ‘Master your stage fright’ by Bohdan Warchal. He is an experienced concert violinist who now makes beautiful strings (Warchal strings).

I’ve personally suffered from stage fright (certainly during recitals, exams and solo play) and this book has been very useful to me. That’s why I would like to share it with you.

It’s a very personal book in which Bohdan Warchal shares a lot of experiences from his performances all the way from his childhood to adulthood. In this book he also shares some anecdotes of other concert violinists. Besides these stories there are lots of very practical tips in this book.

The book describes the different causes of stage fright, how you can cure the different types of stage fright, what exactly happens to you when you have stage fright, how you can deal with it and how you can use it in your advantage.

Yes, nerves can be used to improve your performance instead of destroy it. This book explains how!

Also this books covers a lot about practicing and preventing stage fright by practicing in a good way.

A very nice quote is this one: ‘There is no official definition of music, but there IS a definition of practicing.'

When you prepare for a concert, you can prevent suffering from stage fright. This book describes what to do on the day of the concert, whether you should play through the piece you have to play in your concert or not, what you should let go, what you should have in your head, what’s a good warming up etc. Also it gives some tips about what you can do during the concert while you are playing. The books covers visualization too.

A fun section is ‘practicing exhibitionism in daily life’. 

Available drugs and medicines are also covered in the book... including tips on whether to use them.

Developing general musicianship skills is also part of the book.

Weaved through all these topics and practical tips are inspiring personal stories and anecdotes about performances.

When you suffer from performance anxiety or stage fright performing for thousands or just your cat, I can highly recommend to buy (and read!) this book. Click here to buy the book! 

Is this useful to you? Please let me know in the comments below!

Love,

Zlata

PS: Do you have questions or struggles on violin or viola playing? Post a comment below or send an e-mail to info@violinlounge.com and I might dedicate a Violin Lounge TV episode to answering your question!

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How to Play Multiple Staccato Notes on One Bow

September 11, 2014 10:13

In this Violin Lounge TV episode I answer a question from one of our viewers:

Dear Zlata,

I have trouble playing pieces where there are multiple staccatos in a row. My bow usually ends up jumpy and I find myself tensing up a lot. I am confused about the motion used to perform staccato. May you please demonstrate how to do a proper staccato and any other advice that you may have.

Thanks in advance,
Angel


In your question lies already a hint to the answer. You write you tense up a lot. This means you are doing too much work! You can do a lot less. This motion is really small. In the video I perform it in slow motion.

In staccato you don’t want the bow to jump like in saltando for example. The contact of the bow on the string has to remain intact.

You just tap your index finger a little bit while keeping your hand in the same position and hold. It’s a little like you are pinching someone.

I barely move when performing a flying staccato. You shouldn’t get in the way of the bow too much :).

Imagine that the bow is part of your index finger... like you have a very long index finger. 

Make the motion very small and light, otherwise the sound and mainly the stops will be scratchy.

When you are doing this you will see the spring system of your bow in action.

Most of the times in violin playing when something is wrong, you should do less instead of more.

Make sure that you don’t lift the bow, because this will make it jump while you do this exercise. Keep the weight of your arm on the bow. Keep the bow on the string. Just move your index finger.

I hope this will help you. The way I explain this is very simple and efficient while giving a good sound.

However... there are a thousand ways to explain this and there aren't two teachers who explain this in exact the same way.

Just do what works for you. I hope I have delivered a contribution to your experiments.

Is this useful to you? Please let me know in the comments below!

Love,

Zlata

PS: Do you have questions or struggles on violin or viola playing? Post a comment below or send an e-mail to info@violinlounge.com and I might dedicate a Violin Lounge TV episode to answering your question!

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How Hard is it to Start Playing the Violin, Viola or Cello as an Adult

September 4, 2014 07:02

In this episode of Violin Lounge TV I answer a question from a viewer:

Hi Zlata,

I just found your YouTube channel and I’ve got a couple of questions about the electric cello. Quite some years ago I have had one year of cello lessons. I think I was about ten years old. Unfortunately at the time I lost my motivation and and stopped. Now, years later, I regret that I stopped and didn’t push through at the time.

My question: Is it possible as a nineteen years old to start playing the (electric) cello? How hard/difficult is it going to be?

I know one learns faster as a child, so I’m afraid I’m not going to succeed.

I hope you could share some tips with me how I can succeed ‘against the odds’ in learning to play the cello.

Best regards,

Myrthe


First I would like to recommend my video ‘Is it too late to start playing the violin’ (or viola or cello), which is all about starting to play the violin, viola or cello being an adult.

Myrthe is afraid that she can never learn as fast as a child learns. This is not entirely true. While music is not a language, learning music can be compared to learning a language. The process is kind of the same. The Suzuki school/method is based on this principle: learn music like you learn your mother tongue.

Let’s take this comparison a bit further: What if you are an adult and you want to learn French or another foreign language you are not familiar with yet. When you put in a lot of effort for two years, you can probably speak French better than a French two years old born and raised in France.

This is because as an adult you are used to learning things. Your memory works better, you analyze things better and you can comprehend things. You are far more developed than a child in many areas. Besides that you have already learned another language being your mother tongue.

The same way you can learn to speak a language, you can learn to play music. 

Myrthe is afraid she will not succeed... before I can answer that I need to know: in what exactly do you expect to succeed or not?

Are you planning to have weekly private lessons for the next five years and practice daily? Would you like to play in an amateur orchestra, have fun making music, being able to play some tunes you like and share your music with friends? Sure, this is perfectly possible! Start today!

When your goal is to play on stage and be a professional in three years with little effort, I recommend to adjust these goals to more realistic ones.

Will it be hard or difficult? Yes, absolutely! Bowed instruments are difficult to learn. They are very complex and sensitive instruments, so it takes a lot of good quality lessons and good quality practice to be able to play some simple tunes beautifully and achieve the realistic goal described above.

Are you committed to do what it takes? Is your goal realistic? Is the time path to achieve this goal realistic? If so, you will be able to succeed!

Learning to play the violin, viola or cello takes a lot of time, energy and money. Sorry, I’d like to be honest and I don’t want to make it any prettier than it is.

If you like practicing, playing around with your instrument and sorting things out, than it won’t be hard or difficult. You will have fun along the way. That’s the most important thing.

If you don’t like practicing, reconsider playing a musical instrument like the violin, viola or cello. Practicing is what you will do 90% or more of the time you spend with your instrument.

Even if you are a professional, you still need to maintain your skill set and still need to practice and prepare for your performances.

I’m sure you can have lots of fun with the violin, viola and cello (electric or acoustic) and I can tell from my own experience it’s worth all the effort. It’s worth doing what it takes.

I hope I have shared some valuable information and motivated you to start anyway.

Is this useful to you? Please let me know in the comments below!

Love,

Zlata

PS: Do you have questions or struggles on violin or viola playing? Post a comment below or send an e-mail to info@violinlounge.com and I might dedicate a Violin Lounge TV episode to answering your question!

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Previous entries: August 2014


The Violinist.com Interviews, Vol. 1

The Violinist.com Interviews, Vol. 1

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Zlata Brouwer is from Hilversum, Netherlands. Biography

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