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Zlata Brouwer

The Confidence Paradox

April 16, 2015 02:10

In this episode I share with you my personal (embarrassing) experience with the confidence paradox. I hope you can learn from my mistakes. 

Just before I went to study at the conservatory I played quite some gigs here and there. I often played all alone without accompaniment, sometimes even in a recital setting. That was quite scary... alone in front of a room of people staring at you... I choose difficult pieces, perhaps to make a good impression. These difficult pieces were in my repertoire, so I thought I could practice them the day before and then perform.

Of course lots of things went wrong... perhaps they were only in my head, because I don’t remember what actually really went wrong. Anyway... I was highly uncomfortable.

This is the confidence paradox. I was very nervous to play in this setting, but I choose pieces that were on the top of my level and didn’t take much time to practice them.

In some way I wanted to compensate for my nervousness and tried to show off and prove that I can do something. Maybe I just wanted some proof for myself.

I’ve learned from this experience and now choose safe pieces that I prepare in a way that they can’t possibly go wrong (I hope).

I see this a lot with students too: they feel very nervous and insecure, so they choose really difficult pieces and don’t take enough preparation time.

They take themselves into a situation that triggers loads of stage fright and makes everything worse. That’s destructive for your confidence.

I’ve learned that whatever I have to play, wether it’s dead simple or more challenging, I prepare for a very long time. I always want to be on the safe side. I never assume something to be on or under my level and I can just play it away. I only play things that I really have control over. I don’t take much risks anymore.

In this way you will feel more confident and have more control over the situation. You play a bit on the safe side and don’t underestimate what you have to play.

On the other side there are many people who don’t dare to play anything while they are good players. I think that’s the other extreme and also not constructive.

Perhaps you recognize some of this. Perhaps you don’t practice easy pieces or perhaps you choose to perform pieces that are too difficult for you.

I’m curious what your experiences are with the confidence paradox.

Do you sometimes bring yourself into difficult situations? Do you choose a very difficult piece to compensate?

Or do you know yourself well and can you determine exactly what pieces you can play and how much practice time you need? I’d love you to share how you do this. What are your solutions?

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



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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12 Tips to Play in Tune on the Violin or Viola (9 to 12)

April 9, 2015 01:35

This video is the second of three videos about playing in tune on the violin or viola. In these three videos I give you the 12 most important tips to play in tune.

One could probably write books for of information about this topic and create loads of DVD boxes. In these three videos I present the tip of the iceberg.

Playing in tune, also called ‘intonation’, is one of the most difficult topics of violin and viola technique. In the beginning the fingerboard can look like a great unknown universe. 

Besides that we have to adjust continuously to our musical environment. Intonation is different when you play with a pianist, in a piano trio, in a string quartet or in an orchestra.

Watch tips 1 to 4 right hereWatch tips 5 to 8 right here.

Here are the last four tips in this short video series:

9) Have a lot of patience!

It takes a lot of time to have progress on the violin and viola. They are beautiful instruments and you’ve made a very good choice to play (one of) them. Please don’t be demotivated by this. It’s all worth it, but it just takes a lot of time.

You are not the only one. It takes everybody a lot of time and that’s ok. Be happy with the smallest progress you make. All these small progresses together will make a big progress.

The result will come eventually, just enjoy the journey that leads you to it. It’s fun to play the violin or viola even if you don’t play exactly how you want to play.

When you have reached your goal, there will be a new goal for sure. It never ends.

Every level has a new devil.

It’s all good and part of the process.

10) NEVER put stickers on your fingerboard.

There are people who claim it makes everything easy. Nevertheless... please, in my opinion, don’t do it!

This is why I am completely against stickers on the fingerboard on any level: Watching the stickers is like pushing a stand by button on your ears.

To look means to stop listening. We humans are very visual. We are focussed on what we see and a big part of our attention goes away through our eyes. Learn to listen.

I know... it can be extremely tempting to place stickers on the fingerboard. Yes, it can get you good results on short term, but on long term it will ruin a lot for you. On the long run you don’t save time. Using stickers will only lengthen your journey.

Stickers will not automate your motor skills. Playing the violin or viola is not just training motor skills.

Your ear commands and your hand follows.

Playing in tune by using your ears will get you faster progress and you won’t hit ‘the wall’... a plateau from where it’s really hard to progress.

Once you play without listening it’s very hard to start listening later on. It will take you forever and will take you nowhere.

By the way: stickers are NEVER accurate. There are no frets on a violin or viola for a reason. A piano and guitar are always a little out of tune. When you would play on a violin or viola with that intonation, it sounds terribly out of tune.

Little mistakes in intonation are far more hearable on a violin or viola than on a piano or guitar.

I’ve experienced this when recording a CD with a singer songwriter and my string trio (two violins and a cello). There was some time pressure and we had to record our parts separately. We had no chance to listen to each other and adjust on that. The recording appeared a little out of tune (hey, nobody’s perfect!). The ‘audio guy’ had an idea... let’s use autotune! Well... that was done and it sounded even worse... it sounded awfully out of tune. Since than I know... well tempered tuning doesn’t work for strings.

A good alternative to stickers may be this device (click here).

11) Continuously adjust based on what you hear.

Never think: I can play in tune and now everything is ok. Especially when you are playing together, always keep listening and adjusting. 

When you play in a string quartet and one of the instruments goes out of tune. When you all adjust to that, nobody will notice.

When you play together with a pianist and the piano is a bit out of tune, your performance can still sound good as long as you adjust to the tuning of the piano.

12) Never trust your intonation.

Continuously doubt it and check it.

The mistake I make sometimes is that I make mistakes in really simple stuff. The hard pieces are the things you study on and have analyzed. The danger is in those easy bits you think you can play without really studying them. 

Never practice of play on autopilot. Always stay awake!

Well... these are my 12 tips for you. Just to be sure, here are the other videos: Watch tips 1 to 4 right hereWatch tips 5 to 8 right here.

Do you have additional tips to play in tune? Share them 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!



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 Hold Your Arm (left and right) when Playing on the G String

April 3, 2015 03:59

In this episode I’m answering a question from one of my viewers.

I’m Thiago, 31 years old and from Rio de Janeiro - Brazil, I play the violin for about 5 months. 

My question is about playing on the G string. What’s the best arm position to play on it?

See you on the video, thanks for reading!

Making these tutorial videos and answering questions from players worldwide feels to me like traveling the world without leaving my desk :).

Let’s first go into your right arm... (further below I teach something about the left arm)

You might already have learned that the position of your upper arm depends on which string you are playing on. When you go to the E string (for violists the A string) your arm goes down and when you go to the G string your arm goes up.

Pulling your upper arm up too much when playing on the G string (for violists the C string) can really hurt your back and shoulder.

Your elbow should be slightly (!) lower than your wrist. Different violinists and violists do different things. Find out what works best for you... just a little up or just a little down from this standard position.

This position is comfortable and won’t cause injury while you are still able to transfer the weight of your arm into the bow. What more do you want? ;)

Changing the position of your upper arm when changing strings is just a movement of your upper arm (think ‘chicken wings’). Don’t pull up your shoulder to your ear. I sometimes tell people ‘shoulder low’, but the danger in this is that you push your shoulder down too much to an unnatural and tensed position. Keep your shoulder relaxed and in a natural position.

For more tips on the position of your shoulder, please watch this video: Should You Lift or Rotate Your Shoulder when Bowing on the G String

Now something about your left arm, as I’m not sure if you mean left or right arm in your e-mail...

Normally your elbow should be straight under your violin pointing to the ground. Your left arm should be relaxed and should be able to move.

When you play on the G string you can take your elbow slightly (!) more under the violin to the center of your body. In this way it will be easier for your fingers to reach the notes in the G string.

When you play on the E string you can take your elbow slightly (!) more to the left.

Before you apply these tips, please watch my video to see exactly what I mean.

I hope this helps you to play on the G string comfortably and with a beautiful tone.

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



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: March 2015

About Zlata

Zlata Brouwer is from Hilversum, Netherlands. Biography

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