May 2008

Chords & Intonation

May 28, 2008 12:08

FIRST: Make sure your strings are not false and the bridge is straight.

“…In practice, I can adjust each chord so that it sounds really well in tune , however the approach yields quite poor consistency when playing the passage in tempo. All of the adjustments that had to be made in practice do not seem to carry through, especially for 4ths and octaves — which I carefully tuned slowly in practice. …I sometimes don't know which note to use as my anchor to tune the rest of the chord to.
Very confused :( …”

RE: Chords — Tuning and Connecting

The general concept is right and I think what is possibly missing for you in this is the most important step AFTER slow practice — getting from note/chord to note/chord. (Below applies to both.)

Try adding the use of Rhythmic connections, but in so doing the initial rhythm should not be quick and precise — that follows in the progression of developing the given passage.

Example:

Say you are working on getting from one chord (a) to the next (b).

1. Play chord 'b' first.


2. Play chord 'a' to 'b' slowly — note the choreography/movement needed to achieve this with balance and accuracy.

a. Also, do this without the bow.

b. And the bow with open strings, as much intonation difficulty is caused by our misuse of the bow — tonal clarity must be established providing the basis for adding the notes back into the mix.

(Play 2 open strings together and deliberately lean too much on the higher string and then the lower string — the ‘sound effects’ are quite interesting and invariably bring a big smile to the young student upon first hearing:-)


3. Balance/posture FIRST, then IMMEDIATELY combine with accuracy of measurement — intonation.

a. In balancing the fingers on the strings, favor the higher fingers' placement, i.e., in a diminished chord (violin: Ab-1 on G, F-2 on D, D-3 on A, B-4 on E) / (viola: Db-1 on C, Bb-2 on G, G-3 on D, E-4 on A) roll/swing the left arm out pendulum-like away from the body.

b. Having 4th and 3rd fingers centered on their respective strings adjust the 'altitude' of the hand very slightly up toward ceiling assisting 2nd and 1st fingers' balance to their respective strings — retain the instrument's position (strings parallel to floor or slightly ascending).

There will be a modification in the angles of the fingers as compared to playing single-note passages. Do not roll left arm under unless truly necessary.

A slight modification to the left wrist is at times required, but be careful. Often the first reaction is to stick/bend the wrist out/in further from the instrument — this is invariably wrong. Keep the same basic posture for the wrist with only the slightest of changes. A smaller hand will require greater modification, so do experiment. The fingers should have total ease and leverage of balance with only 20% (guesstimate) of strength needed. More can be added for training and interpretive degrees of intensity.


4. Refer to #2 above and begin to move slightly quicker (well-formed) from chord 'a' to 'b' — kind of a lazy grace note, that you then modify gradually into a crisp, quick, well defined and totally accurate maneuver.

Dotted rhythms are great in developing speed from chord to chord. Another tweak is to slightly delay the 16th note. This adds an even greater level of mastery and works wonderfully from a slower tempo and gradually speeding up.


5. If chord 'c' is needed, master it per above, joining it together from 'b' via the same process and then rejoin 'a'.


The idea of playing the new chord or goal first is one of mastery for that arrival, so you are focused on that point and concentrating on leading up to it with the previous chords or notes. This works equally well for single-note passages and can be thought of as, get the peak, get the exit and then get to and through.

RE: Intonation (unaccompanied Bach, etc.)

The Perfect Intervals (8vas, Unisons, 5ths & 4ths) must be in tune.

In my day we were taught that Bach and other Baroque composers considered the Major 6th a dissonant as it is the minor 3rd inverted.

When I play a G minor chord on violin (Open G & D, Bb-1 on A, G-2 on E) / C minor on viola (Open C & G, Eb-1 on D, C-2 on A) the open strings' 5th is an absolute given, the Bb is best tuned from the open A (viola — Eb from open D) and the G-2 on E (viola — C-2 on A) must match the lower open string Double 8va.

This sets up greater tension between the notes of the Major 6th (1&2). To me, this is what the music is all about — TENSION & RELEASE. This in turn guides all the leading notes and therefore the musical line.

To me the worst intonation in this situation would be tempering of the Bb. It dulls the senses and makes the chords and passages lifeless — too much valium — Bach on tranquilizers.

RE: Intonation (accompanied by piano)

Perhaps I am old school, but I think the violin/viola should be slightly sharp to the piano.

This removes a great deal of the clash caused by the piano being tempered in tuning. We literally rise above it and, like a great singer, learn to center our intonation around the big monster.

Note how opera, jazz, Gospel and folk singers will 'bend' the leading tones — sharps high and flats low to mold the musical line. This again creates tension and release, one of the most important aspects to a musical performance.

Always go for purity and focus of pitch and the rest will take care of itself. Sing the music in your mind and match that on the instrument — piece of cake:-)


Always do varied rhythmic patterns.


Have fun!

Hope this helps —
Drew

Author of
Violin Technique: The Manual, How to master…
Viola Technique: The Manual, How to master…

4 replies | Archive link


GOT RHYTHM?

May 17, 2008 23:59

Get rhythm!


“Sometimes I experience difficulty with rhythm while playing especially when the music is syncopated. Of course when focusing primarily on a rhythm difficulty and trying to correct it, inevitably it can cause me to loose focus on other dimensions of the piece such as bowing and dynamics and things of this nature.”


Hi Bob,

Just a brief response — I hope it is helpful.

Main point:
Practice everything in varied rhythmic patterns and varied bowings.

This will enable you to develop amazing control of the hands and their total coordination. Scales, arpeggios, 3rds, etc., etc.

Also the repertoire should be practiced in various rhythms and all in varied dynamics. We play sections multiple times and this is far more efficient and much more interesting.


Possibly the most missed aspect is to practice shifts in varied rhythms.


I give a lot of varieties, examples and tips in the books, but the main ones are:

With 4-note patterns do–
2-16ths 2-8ths and permutate them.

With 3-note patterns just remove one 8th.


Dotted Rhythms:

Dotted rhythms are great in some instances, but generally not as productive as they can tighten the player’s actions. Of course, we must master these as well and subdividing the dotted 8th and 16th with all 16th bows works wonders. Another tweak is to slightly delay the 16th note. This adds a little sizzle to the rhythmic context and can inflect the musical line just right.


Do rhythmic patterns with string crossings, as well.


Have fun!

Hope this helps —
Drew

Author of
Violin Technique: The Manual, How to master…
Viola Technique: The Manual, How to master…

4 replies | Archive link


“GPS” –– 5.3 Air Bow

May 16, 2008 07:58

mini-blog re: Rough Starts, Crash Landings, Awkward Retakes.

The Air Bow is dealing with beginning the beginning of a composition, phrase and/or new bow stroke.

It is the Bow Stroke in the Air preceding the actual sounding of the note to come and is to be as fluid and accurate a path and plane as when on the string.


Play the music before you play the notes — have the motion, style and flow in the bow as you prepare to begin just as a conductor does with the style of upbeat indicating tempo and character.


Use your eyes to educate your ears and sense of touch. Discrepancy of tone will be more easily heard and understood when the eyes observe.

How do you think of, view and order its use?

Plan actions > Accuracy, Fluidity > MASTERY

This is the fifth category in a series of blogs dealing with:

1. Left Hand
2. Shifting
3. Right Arm
4. Right Hand
5. Bow

They will be kept under the heading of ”GPS” for those who wish to follow the articles. I hope it is of benefit to you.


Contact variables of the bow hair to the string — the 1) point of contact, 2) speed of bow, 3) weight of bow, 4) amount of hair, 5) string selected and 6) vibrating length of string/position number.


Rough Starts:

Whether beginning with an up or down bow, it is a great assist to play one or more bow strokes with your first note in order to develop the desired tonal character. Use the 6 variables above in achieving the personality/mood of the sound.

Vibrato can and should be used in this, but initially use no vibrato concentrating on the tonal production.

Having accomplished this, again use the extra bow strokes and incorporate a very subtle lift — maintaining flow, etc. — just preceding the first note to be played. After this, remove the extra bows keeping the sensation/feel of playing them so your entrance is precisely as desired.


Be careful — you must maintain the proper plane of the bow when no longer using the extra bows.

Crash Landings:

Again…keep the flow of the bow.

When starting from the air the bow should approach the landing as a jet — not a crashing helicopter. (The perfect landing, Ray:-)

It is good to initially set the bow on the string and then thrust/pull the stroke with the desired character and style. This should be done with open strings followed by the addition of the note(s) to be played, as their location on the string will greatly affect the bow variables listed above.

When coming back to the context of landing in motion, make sure that the plane is accurate in the approach so the landing has just the right amount of zip and/or bite to the sound.


Awkward Retakes:

Similar to Crash Landings, the bow stroke must land in the desired direction.

Too often the bow slightly hooks the landing, i.e., a slight up-bow is detectable just before the actual down-bow begins or vice versa. To avoid this, go beyond the strings in training the Retake, especially with the down-bow. Be particularly careful with the up-bow, as one can crash on to the violin top and thrust the bow under the strings — a rather awkward moment…

Stay as close to the string as possible, though you may initially lift in a higher arc on the road to mastery.


It is the Bow Stroke in the Air preceding the actual sounding of the note to come and is to be as fluid and accurate a path and plane as when on the string.


Everything affects everything.

Remember:

Excerpt:

1. Higher/nearer.
a. Higher strings are played nearer to the bridge, if all else is kept equal.
b. Higher notes on the same string are nearer to the bridge in bow placement, if all else is kept equal.

2. Lower/further.
a. Lower strings are played further from the bridge, if all else is kept equal.
b. Lower notes on the same string are further from the bridge in bow placement, if all else is kept equal.


To be continued…

Hope this helps —
Drew

Author of
Violin Technique: The Manual, How to master…
Viola Technique: The Manual, How to master…

Technique is the tool by which we accomplish the artistic.

11 replies | Archive link


“GPS” –– 5.2 Bow w/LH pinky

May 11, 2008 09:21


mini-blog re: PINKY

Does your left hand’s pinky "sound" bad?


You do not need a stronger 4th finger, just watch your bow as it is probably trying to help the little one and in so doing it destroys the tone.

The bow will move away from the bridge to help the pinky as we concentrate on the perfect placement and balance and shape and vibrato and, and, and… the pinky is where to much attention has gone.


Solution: Come nearer to the bridge and…

— careful —

The bow will also likely slow down in assisting pinky.

Solution: …keep the flow of the bow.


Remember the contact variables of the bow hair to the string — the 1) point of contact, 2) speed of bow, 3) weight of bow, 4) amount of hair, 5) string selected and 6) vibrating length of string/position number.


Everything affects everything.

Use your eyes to educate your ears and sense of touch. Discrepancy of tone will be more easily heard and understood when the eyes observe.


Excerpt:

1. Higher/nearer.
a. Higher strings are played nearer to the bridge, if all else is kept equal.
b. Higher notes on the same string are nearer to the bridge in bow placement, if all else is kept equal.

2. Lower/further.
a. Lower strings are played further from the bridge, if all else is kept equal.
b. Lower notes on the same string are further from the bridge in bow placement, if all else is kept equal.


To be continued…

Hope this helps —
Drew

Author of
Violin Technique: The Manual, How to master…
Viola Technique: The Manual, How to master…

Technique is the tool by which we accomplish the artistic.

5 replies | Archive link


“GPS” –– 5.1 Bow

May 9, 2008 09:55

Requirement: PASSION to ACHIEVE MASTERY

The bow is most subtly involved with all we do in playing the instrument. Without a truly personal tone we can have excellent left hand technique, but it will be grossly limited in all areas of artistry.

With a truly personal tone the sound resonates beyond the ears and into the very mind, heart and soul of the listener. It is the purist of artistic achievement. Coming from the very depths of expression, the artist literally steps into the music with the goal of portraying its characters, depictions and realizations of moods and actions.


How do you think of, view and order its use?

Plan actions > Accuracy, Fluidity > MASTERY

This is the fifth category in a series of blogs dealing with:

1. Left Hand
2. Shifting
3. Right Arm
4. Right Hand
5. Bow

They will be kept under the heading of ”GPS” for those who wish to follow the articles. I hope it is of benefit to you.

Intonation is one of the primary areas of focus in all we do. This applies to the intervallic measurements set about for the left hand fingers and also the contact variables of the bow hair to the string –– the 1) point of contact, 2) speed of bow, 3) weight of bow, 4) amount of hair, 5) string selected and 6) vibrating length of string/position number are brought together in order to accomplish the desired dynamics and character of the music.


The 6 points above must be incorporated into every millimeter of the bow stroke.


Everything affects everything.


Use your eyes to educate your ears and sense of touch. Discrepancy of tone will be more easily heard and understood when the eyes observe our driving into the ditch, slipping on the ice and slamming into the Chicago-Style Pot Hole.

When practicing, when do you begin practicing and thinking of your sound? Hopefully it is on the way to opening up the case, but, at the very least, it should be as you approach the string with the bow for the first tone of the day — tuning the instrument and yourself (your ear, your hands, your arms and your posture).

In my books, there is a section titled Planes & String Crossings. It deals with the all-important basics of drawing the bow on the various planes dealing with a single string all the way to 4 strings. The examples given are done with open strings and then should be applied directly to other studies and repertoire.

When playing tricky and/or difficult passages we will use open strings to acclimate the bow’s actions to the various string combinations. This is especially done in chords and double-stops. Whether a beginner’s piece or the Brahms Violin Concerto, chords will be practiced with open strings to achieve the desired tone and understand/master the required technique.

This involves those 6 points above and the bow is further modified to compensate for the various strings and their lengths when fingers are added to the mix.

Excerpt:

1. Higher/nearer.
a. Higher strings are played nearer to the bridge, if all else is kept equal.
b. Higher notes on the same string are nearer to the bridge in bow placement, if all else is kept equal.

2. Lower/further.
a. Lower strings are played further from the bridge, if all else is kept equal.
b. Lower notes on the same string are further from the bridge in bow placement, if all else is kept equal.


Experiment!

The proof is in the pudding.

1. Play 2 open strings and experiment with the plane of the bow. You will find the resonance increases as you slightly favor the lower string. You will be tonally shocked if you favor the higher string.

2. Now experiment with the bow’s angle to the strings. Look at the contact point and note the shape of the box or rectangle that is outlined by the 2 strings, bridge and bow hair.

Remember the angles are not truly right angles. A “straight” bow isn’t a true perpendicular to the instrument and it is not a true parallel to the bridge.

They are not mutually compatible.

Note how the great artists subtly, and sometimes not so subtly, modify bow angles to the string. I am not referring to the bow tilt and side or flat hair at this time, simply the actual visual angle of the bow as it crosses the string. THIS IS NOT BY CHANCE, BUT BY DELIBERATE CHOICE OF THE ARTIST AS THEY SEEK OUT THE PRECISE SOUND AND CHARATER DESIRED.

The “straight” bow is convenient terminology, but is actually false and has probably tied more string players technique up in knots of tension then I care to hazard a guess. Of course, some will say I am being too detailed and it really doesn’t matter to such a fine degree — HOGWASH! (It is a good thing I do not have any opinion on this:-)

All agree the bow path must fluidly flow. Curves are easier to draw, more forgiving in accuracy of path and more flexible in modifications in any direction and degree.

A “straight” bow either is or isn’t!

When approaching a string crossing we anticipate by adjusting the bow’s plane accordingly — it is a rounding over, if you will.

The rounding of the bow’s path is equally important as it instantly guarantees a fluid action in the joints of the wrist, elbow and shoulder. Just make sure you are “rounding around” the left hand or scroll — a very, very slight orbital path, hence my term of “Crescent Bow.” Banana Bows works well, too:-)

Too be continued…

Hope this helps —
Drew

Author of
Violin Technique: The Manual, How to master…
Viola Technique: The Manual, How to master…

Technique is the tool by which we accomplish the artistic.

6 replies | Archive link


More entries: July 2008April 2008

Facebook Twitter YouTube Instagram Email

Violinist.com is made possible by...

Shar Music
Shar Music

Pirastro Strings
Pirastro Strings

Metzler Violin Shop
Metzler Violin Shop

Yamaha YEV Series Violin
Yamaha YEV Series Violin

Dimitri Musafia
Dimitri Musafia, Master Maker of Violin and Viola Cases

Corilon Violins

Bay Fine Strings Violin Shop

Bobelock Cases

Fiddlerman.com

Fiddlershop

Nazareth Gevorkian Violins

Los Angeles Violin Shop

Pluhar Violins

Pro-Am Strings Ltd

Violin Lab

Violin Pros

Wangbow Violin Bow Workshop

Subscribe