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Zlata Brouwer

3 Tips for Violin or Viola Players who Feel like a Beginner Every Day

May 21, 2015 01:39

I would like to start with a question for you...

Do you recognize the following? One day you have practiced and you got some great results. Imagine you are happy with the results and you feel even a little proud of yourself.

The next day you start full of confidence with your practice of that day. You pick up your violin or viola and when you start playing the amazing results you got the day before are gone!

What has happened here?

First of all: It’s not a lack of talent and you are not crazy!

Everybody playing the violin or viola experiences this once in a while or even daily. It might feel that you have to start learning the violin or viola again every day. You feel like a beginner every day. 

Let me give you 3 causes and cures for this phenomenon...

1) The Practice Illusion

In your practice session you have played the same piece ten times... maybe even a hundred times. What do you remember of all these repetitions? Do you remember number hundred when it went really well?

Probably you do and you are very excited about this. When it ends up going so well, you easily forget the ninety-nine times it wasn’t perfect.

This is the Practice Illusion: it’s your memory working very selective.

If you didn’t play perfect ninety-nine times out of a hundred... how big is the chance that the first time you try it the next day it will go perfect? 1%

The start of your new practice session will most of the times not be so good as the end of your previous practice session.

Just pick up your instrument, practice with confidence and ease down your expectations.

2) You need a warming up

When you just pick up your instrument, your hands are cold and you haven’t ‘played in’ than you won’t play on the top of your abilities. 

This warming up is similar to a warming up in sports. Your muscles will be warm and smooth.

Music is not a sport, but there are quite some similarities.

A warming up can consist of:


  • Playing scales to stabilize your intonation

  • Bowing technique exercises

  • Playing some pieces that are fun and perhaps a bit under your current level


Experiment to find out how long it takes and what you need to do to warm yourself up and get to the top of your abilities. 

3) Everyday is different

Just as that you can have a bad hair day, you can have a bad violin or viola day. We are not always on the top of our abilities.

What do you do on a bad violin or viola day? You don’t have to do something specific or something very different.

Most of the times on days like these I just pick up my violin and play the things that I planned to play. After a while I get into the flow of playing and it goes all right.

Another possibility is to NOT play that day. If it only leads to frustration, there is no point in pushing through and practicing anyway. 

It’s not always bad not to practice... perhaps there are some unconscious learning processes going on that need their time.

Another possibility is to play a piece that motivates you. What would you really feel like playing?

Or... try something very different! Perhaps you normally play from sheet music and you would like to improvise a little. Doing something different can motivate too.

In addition to these three tips: A learning curve is not a straight line. There are a lot of ups and downs. Every violin and viola player experiences this. You are absolutely not the only one.

The implementation of these three tips is very personal. Just experiment and see what works for you. If you would like to share your tip, feel free do so in the comments below.

Is this video helpful to you? Please let me know in the comments below! If you like it, share it with your friends!

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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[Video] Can You Over-Drop Your Right Elbow or Shoulder while Bowing?

May 13, 2015 01:02

Can you have your elbow or shoulder too low when playing the violin or viola?

In this episode I’m answering a question of one of our viewers. Nicola writes...

Hi Ms. Zlata! Can i ask something?
Is there such thing as OVER-DROPPING my elbow or shoulder?
Or rather the question is, "is dropping the elbow or shoulder good all the time?"
Because i always think that a dead drop of everything especially the right arm will make me more relaxed and my playing better but instead, i feel some tension and strain at by lower triceps(near the elbow) and at the Ulna side of my forearm. I feel a stretched muscle. I experience this mostly when pronating my forearm when playing at the tip and the triceps pain at the middle downbow.(i consciously drop my elbow esp. at downbow, am i overdoing it?)

I'm preparing myself to rework on my straight bowing and tone production and i think addressing the basic issues such a shoulder,elbow, wrist and finger flexibility will tremendously make my project a whole lot easier and yield better results.

Thanks a lot.


Let’s first go into the shoulder part of your question...

Lots or players tend to lift their right shoulder while bowing. This make tone production harder and can cause injury. With a low shoulder you can play with weight and improve your tone. Therefore your teacher tells you all the time to lower your shoulder or elbow... but how low? Can it be too low?

When you play at the extreme tip, you feel some muscles stretching because you lengthen your arm to be able to bow straight. When you lower your shoulder, perhaps you feel slightly more stretch.

You need to be able to bow straight generally. However... Lots of soloists don’t bow extremely straight at the tip. This can make the bow change at the tip a bit rounder and make your arm more comfortable and less stretched. Try this out and see if it sounds and feels better.

Let’s go into the elbow part of your question...

You might have heard of the Galamian square. I show you in the video how this looks like. Your violin, arm and bow take the shape of a square when you put your bow on the string just above the middle of the bow.

When you lift your elbow too much, you can’t see a square. This causes a pushy sound and isn’t comfortable.

When you lower your elbow too much, you can’t see a square too. This causes that you can’t transfer the weight of your arm into the bow and look’s like a chicken’s wing.

I recommend making a nice square with your elbow slightly below that. This is very comfortable for your arm and produces a nice tone from your violin or viola. 

After your managed to make a nice square, discover the position of your arm on each string by tilting the square.

Summarized: When you drop your shoulder without tension, you can’t over-drop it. When you push your shoulder down with force, it’s too low. Your elbow must form a square with your arm, violin and bow. You elbow can be slightly below that to play comfortably and beautifully.

Is this video helpful to you? Please let me know in the comments below! If you like it, share it with your friends!

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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[Video] How To Play in the Second Position on the Violin

May 7, 2015 01:41

In this episode I answer a question from a viewer:

Hello Zlata, my name is Angelica and I would like to know about playing in the second position on all strings. Thank you.

When can you start position play?

Generally everybody starts playing in the first position and when they are ready the third position follows. Often the problem is that people learn to play in the second position too late and it will remain a problem. Don’t forget the second position, because sometimes it comes in very handy.

When you start position play to early, your fingers will get completely lost on the fingerboard. Your first position is the fundament on which the other positions rest. Before you go into position play, make sure you can play in tune in the first position. Know the first position well: all the fingers (first to fourth) and their high and low versions.

Some people are ready after a year or lessons, but many start postion play later. When you start position play at the right time, you will learn faster and get better results. Starting positions play too early will seem like the fast track, but in reality it will cost you time.

What is the second position?

When you place your first finger on the spot of the second finger, you are playing in the second position. That’s how postion naming works.

You don’t just move your finger like you do when you shift form a high and low second finger for example, but you move your arm and hand towards you so you play one tone higher with all fingers.

How can you learn to shift to and play in the second position?

Every position is different: the higher you move up the fingerboard the smaller the distances between your fingers get. Besides learning to shift to the second postion, you also need to find the spots where to place your fingers in the second postion.

The difficulty of the second postion is that it doesn’t really have a reference point on the violin. Most positions can be learned by recognizing the reference point on the violin.

It takes some time to practice the second position, but it expands your possibilities in playing orchestra parts, creating handy fingerings and coloring tones.

Angelica asked me to explain how it works on every string. It works the same on every string. However you need to practice it on every string, as the placement of the fingers can feel differently to you on every string.

Click here for my book tip on how to develop your playing in the second position.

Is this video helpful to you? Please let me know in the comments below! If you like it, share it with your friends!

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 Semitones in Tune

May 1, 2015 02:11

This episode is all about how to play semitones in tune on the violin or viola.

To make this video tutorial accessible for players of all levels I use the first semitone you learn on the violin or viola as an example.

The first fingering you learn is a tone between the first and second finger, a semitone between the second and third finger and a tone between the third and fourth finger. This means that the second and third finger need to be really close to each other.

Lot’s of beginners play their third finger too high, because they don’t squeeze it against the second finger enough. In the video I demonstrate this.

Let me give you some tips to solve this issue:

Tip 1: Know really well how the semitone should sound and how it differs from a tone. 

This image of the tones in your hear or in your ear must be really clear and solid. Otherwise your fingers will not know what you want from them. You must be able to imagine and to recognize the difference between a tone and a semitone.

You can train this be listening to recorded music (I demonstrate the tone and semitone in this video), playing the tone and semitone on the piano if you have one or comparing it to a tone and semitone you can already play.

Tip 2: Know how you have to place your fingers.

Some people tell me that they can’t find the strength to push the third finger against the second finger. This doesn’t necessarily have to with strength. You don’t need a lot of strength for violin or viola playing anyway.

It matters HOW you hold your left hand and how you place your fingers. Lots of people struggle with the semitone, because their third finger is flat and not curved.

Be sure to put your violin or viola IN your hand, so you create some space for your fingers. Pivot your hand a bit towards the neck of the violin. The closer your knuckles are to the neck of the violin, the less your fingers need to stretch to reach their positions on the string. In the video I demonstrate how to do it right or wrong.

Place your finger round, so curved, and not flat. In this way you can slide your third finger over your second finger to find it’s place. This brings your fingertips on the string really close together. You should have the idea that you almost place your third finger on top of the second finger. They are trying to push each other from their place.

Just to summarize: To be able to play semitones in tune you need to:


  • Be able to clearly imagine the sound of the tone and the interval

  • Make the correct movement when you place your finger

  • Have your arm, hand and finger in the right position


Is this video helpful to you? Please let me know in the comments below! If you like it, share it with your friends!

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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