April 16, 2007 at 9:07 PMI bought a digital recording device a few months ago so I could hear my playing. It was an opportunity for reflection on what makes violin playing sound good and what doesn’t. From that experience and from being in the audience at several recent student recitals, I can list three big flaws that are characteristic of amateurish (not necessarily amateur) performance (1) a mewling tone (2) poor intonation (3) false accents
My biggest problem is false accents. I have started listening more carefully for them and I have tried to identify situations that seemed to give rise to false accents. (1) string crossings in legato passages (2) poor bow distribution (e.g. one bow with several notes followed by a bow of fewer notes) (4) reaching for an extension (3) the note after a long shift (5) bow changes (6) a the end note of a large melodic leap (7) an inverse accent (i.e. a note where vibrato and a full tone are expected but where the expectation isn’t realized) (8) a combination of any of the above (9) the start of any passage.
I am sure that this list is far from complete. But making the list has made me much more aware of what I am doing when I practice. Sometimes I try to consciously practice with no accents at all. The nature of western music provides adequate pulse without accents. This also makes me much more conscious of where accents should be placed and how willful I need to be when I make an accent. To be sure, an accentless performance is very boring and quite unmusical but consciously adding the accents back seems to be a correct step towards control and a more polished performance.
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