Violinist.com members may keep personal journals on the website. Violinist.com's editor selects the best entries for the column below. Links to all other recent blog posts may be found in the column on the right.
By Heather Broadbent
January 7, 2013 07:20
Who would have thought playdough can be used in music lessons? If you are struggling with group piano lesson ideas or violin group lesson ideas you will find this post to be helpful. Playdough activities are perfect for violin or piano group lessons with children and young adults. I use it with music theory and have the students create music symbols, key signatures, notes, rhythms and more. A great game is to divide the children into two teams and they create with the playdough different music symbols and the other their teammates have to guess what is the playdough creation. It is similar to the game win, lose or draw but with playdough.
You can use the homemade playdough to teach how to read music. Draw a lage staff on cardboard or posterboard and have the students make their playdough notes and put on the staff. You can have a guessing game between teams and keep score on this game. If it is edible paydough the winning team or student with the correct answer can collect the playdough and eat after the game is finished.
Below my playdough video I have listed a link to amazon for colored playdough, homemade playdough recipes and homemade edible playdough recipes. How much fun for the children to eat their musical creations or compositons.
You don't have to buy the playdough at the store - here are great homemade play dough recipes:
Play Dough Recipe:
1 cup white flour 1/2 cup salt 2 tablespoon cream of tartar (find it in the spice section) 1 tablespoon oil 1 cup water food coloring
Mix first 4 ingredients in a pan. Add water and mix well. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, for 3 – 5 minutes. Dough will become difficult to stir and form a “clump”. Remove from stove and knead for 5 minutes–add food coloring during kneading process. Play dough will keep for a long time stored in a covered plastic container or plastic sandwich bag.
And if you want edible play dough recipes so the students can eat their musical creations:
Kool-Aid Play Dough
1 cup flour
Mix dry ingredients together in a large saucepan. Slowly add water mixed with oil and stir over medium heat until mixture thickens to dough. Turn out onto a heatproof bread board or counter top and knead until cool enough for children to handle. Dough will be the color of the Kool-Aid mix and will smell like the Kool-Aid mix. (Can be stored in a tightly covered container for up to six months)
Jell-O Play Dough
1 cup flour
Mix all ingredients together and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly until consistency of mashed potatoes. Let cool and knead with floured hands until dry.
Storage: This recipe needs to cool completely "before" storing it in an airtight container!
Note: The items made from this play dough recipe can be painted when they are dry.
Oatmeal Play Dough
1 part flour
Mix ingredients together and form into shapes.
Note:The items made from this play dough recipe can be painted when they are dry.
Cream Cheese Play Dough
8 oz. package of cream cheese
Combine cream cheese, milk and honey in a bowl and mix until well blended. Mold sculptures on was paper.
Storage: Unused portions MUST BE STORED in an airtight container and kept refrigerated! Because cream cheese is perishable, use the expiration date on the cream cheese package as your guide for how long you can keep this play dough.
Note: The shapes can then be placed on crackers or bread slices, decorated with edibles (celery or carrot slivers, raisins, dried fruit pieces, nuts, or seeds for a healthy snack... then eat!
If you found this information to be helpful please subscribe to my newsletter at
and/or to my youtube channel
By Emily Grossman
January 7, 2013 04:18
Happy New Year, Violinist.com! In the time-honored tradition of fresh beginnings and firm resolve that accompany the flip of the calendar, I've set about resuming the usual dutiful habits that promote good health and well-being. Needless to say, how could I not feel the tug of the pen, as well? I look forward to keeping in touch with all of you once again.
2012 proved to be a pivotal point in my life in Alaska. Last fall, Kevin and I were able to meet regularly to practice our piano trio repertiore, as well as some cello/violin duos. We also met with Maria a couple of times and began to plan for a spring concert featuring several of our local chamber ensembles. Somewhere along the way, we decided to create a name and logo for our group of performers, with the intention of making a regular concert schedule for our community. Our first official concert would probably come together in the spring, but I just couldn't wait that long.
On a wintry Saturday night in December, Kevin and I rounded up our music and headed over to the coffee shop for some Bach and Gliere duos. Despite the howling wind, formidable road conditions, and little advertising, a full house awaited us with expectant ears. What a wonderful evening of music unfolded! Kevin added a sampling from the cello suites, which gave me a moment to sit and reflect. Across from me played someone who literally could have been performing anywhere with anyone (He actually turned down a concert in Anchorage with cellist Zuill Bailey to be there!), and he chose to play with me and entertain the people of Soldotna instead. Many people that came that night had never been to a classical concert; most of my friends usually have to work or take care of their kids. I felt honored to finally be able to share with them something I love so passionately, and proud to be the one to introduce Kevin to our community--such a gem!
And with that, Musica Borealis was born, a performing ensemble society whose mission is to bring classical music to the people, wherever they are, and share its beauty in the hopes of creating light in the northernmost reaches of the planet.
We have so much to look forward to this spring, I can hardly wait to tell you about it!
By The Weekend Vote
January 4, 2013 16:25
The act of reading pitches in music seems to work differently in different people's brains.
I've noticed this when teaching, and I've really noticed it when putting together my annual Holiday Sing-Along! Granted, I'm working with some people who sing, others who play the violin, and others who play guitar or piano. A violinist, other instrumentalists and singers usually want a chart; that is, a sheet with all the notes on it. But people who show up with a guitar, or even sit at the piano, might prefer to read a sheet of chords. Sometimes they are even unable to read notes.
Among those who read notes, thinking can also vary, and I suspect this might have to do with the type of pitch a person has. I have relative pitch, and I tend to look at intervals. I've noticed that friends and colleagues with perfect pitch tend to read notes in an almost individual way, as they are often able to hear a pitch by name or sight, without needing reference to other notes.
Beginning violin students often relate written pitches to the fingers they use to play them.
How do you look at written music? If you have a way not represented here, please share!
By Cheyne Winterthieme
January 4, 2013 15:03
Some people do not seem to understand it when a musician talks about 'color' in a piece of music... this poem is my thoughts on the subject.
Touching strings of quivering silver,
Lifting notes right off the page
Working with care to capture
Every detail thoughtfully distinguished
Look! Observe with your eyes!
© CFW 2012Tweet
By Bram Heemskerk
January 4, 2013 11:22
Franz Schubert (1797-1828) did not write a violin concerto, but he compensate that with 3 pieces for violin + orchestra:
By Mendy Smith
January 3, 2013 19:55
Review / Preview is a tradition that I picked up (mumble mumble) years ago from my professional career and put to personal use. It is a review of the previous year: what worked, what didn't; and what my plans and goals are for the next year. So here it is:
Year two with my teacher was just as intense as the previous year. Etudes have been a regular part of my "musical diet", as well as other exercises to improve tone and intonation. Only when I recorded myself for the first time in a long time a few months ago did the results of this effort make itself known to me. We started working on musical phrasing and general "musicality" much more than before. The bar has been raised on what is an acceptable amount of improvement week over week.
I ended up playing with the community orchestra once again but still play with a chamber group every week. This made for a very busy schedule during the week with little time to practice.
Interlochen was great fun again. A v.commer returned for a second year and a new one came for the first time. The cellist from my chamber music group attended for the first time and had a blast (after recovering from an unfortunate in-flight accident with a checked-in cello). She is planning on attending next year.
Performance-wise: I only did it twice this year. Once was a chamber music concert where our violinist had to drop out at the last minute because she was giving birth to her baby girl, and the second was my sister's wedding. Though the number of performances were few, the amount of effort and work I put leading up to those performances was much greater.
I'm torn about playing with the orchestra. I enjoy the comradeship, but from a schedule standpoint I think that my initial decision from last year was the right one for me. Getting home at 11pm on a work-night is difficult, and the sheer quantity of music that I need to practice (which isn't getting practiced) isn't benefiting anyone. I do however want to keep up chamber music. This seems to be, year over year, my preference. I need to make a decision after this season is over one way or the other.
From a technique/lesson point of view, the immediate goal is to learn to get up to and back down again from the nosebleed section of the fingerboard in the form of a 3-octave A minor scale. This is pushing my flexibility and balance to its limit at the moment.
Following that is to learn how to properly execute a phrase musically. I have all these "tools" in my musical tool-box, and now need to learn how to use them appropriately, and not just keep them stashed away until I have an etude to practice.
I have discovered that I'm quite shy have a weird fear of playing "out" in front of other people, like I'm putting on false "airs". Somehow I need to get over that if I'm ever going to make any real progress.
I do plan on going to Interlochen again this summer. I hope to be able to get a group together to play the Mendelssohn Octet. I need to get started on studying that piece sooner rather than later.
So that is it in a nutshell. 2013 should be quite interesting.Tweet
By Kate Little
January 3, 2013 09:53
Well, yes, depending on the level of proficiency one wishes to achieve, it is.
On the violin, minute differences of physical motions produce both subtly and dramatically varied sonorities. Finding and mastering these motions within one’s own body takes desire, time, experimentation, focus. The inherent labor is demanding and can be exhausting, thus learning to play is hard.
On the violin, physical and sonic correlations are intricate, and coordinating and aggregating higher and higher levels of sets of skills is a complicated process. The mental effort to master the intricacies is exacting, making learning to play hard.
At the same time, the accomplishments of one’s labor can be invigorating, and expectation of this result can diminish sense of travail, thus learning to play is not hard.
For me, the word “hard” is too general a term to describe learning to play violin. Personally, I like tricky, complex and, especially, exhilarating.
By Joshua Iyer
January 1, 2013 11:15
Well, it's 2013! A whole new year, free to do whatever! Of course, many put on some New Year Resolutions, and that is what I'm going to attempt to do in this entry, but they'll all be related to my violin. Luckily, this time it's easy for me because it's my first New Year on violinist.com, so I don't have to worry about repeating myself from last year. So allons-y! Molto bene! :)
1. Practice violin at least an hour per day (or six hours per week, getting a day off). If this is too hard during the school year, then shoot for half an hour per day.
2. Learn and record some new songs on Garageband with an all-violin orchestra.
3. Compose a movie soundtrack. (This will most likely be done in the summer.)
4. Upload more classical music violin performances to YouTube; I've barely any.
5. Continue work on Symphony No. 1: Mvt. II! (And just compose more in general!)Tweet
By Yong Xin Yaw
December 31, 2012 21:36
2012 is a harvest year to me. Since 15 months ago (Sept 2011), I took up Violin; the journey has been amazing. Honestly, I never expect that I could pull through. It’s an extremely difficult music instrument to learn. For starter, one has to overcome the awkward position of clamping the Violin, there is no fret on the finger board to indicate if you are pressing onto the correct position to play the note intended and bowing technique…poor bowing technique leads to quirky sound…
Seriously, I don’t know how I overcame these…but for one I can say is diligent practice and having the love for the instrument that keeps me going.
Initially, I gave myself 3 months to find out how I am progressing with the instrument. Praise God! Reality has been very kind to me. At 29 years old, I have relatively flexible fingers and able to differentiate tones. This is especially important when there is no fret on the fingerboard, unlike the guitar. Hence, students have to depend on hearing to identify if the correct note is played.
During last Christmas, I had prepared a Christmas medley to play during friends’ Xmas BBQ. I had memorized all 5 tunes. Played relatively well during practice session. HOWEVER, to perform at the actual event is a different story altogether. It was nerve-racking.
It wasn’t the first time I perform. I used to perform flying kicks, kick planks & stuff during school days as I was in Tae Kwon Do. This is totally different.
Performing action versus playing an instrument, I believe uses different parts of the brain and requires different cognitive process.
Guess what, I forgot the notes which I thought I had engraved it in stone...I am grateful to have encouraging audience…hahha…despite the poor showing, they clapped. Somehow, miraculously, the music notes starts to flow in my head again…Unfortunately, instead of playing a medley which I had planned, I played each tune individually…sad. But never mind, there is 2013 ?
Here, I encourage all the adult violin students to take courage and perform for your family & friends. The experience you can gain is immense. For first time performer, stepping out of your own private practice is nerve racking and be sure you will make mistakes during the performance. But that is fine. You will soon learn how to handle stress & pressure. At the end of it, the appreciation of your audience is an affirmation of the hard work you have put through during your practice. Go for it!
I came across a friend’s posting on Facebook as he was getting ready for Iron Man Triathlon. He posted that he had trained for a year to get his physique in shape. Little social life, little entertainment, careful diet & etc..all to get ready for the Iron Man race day…This is the same for us as an adult violin student. We are the Iron Man in the music genre…haha…
Let’s continue to work hard in 2013 to improve our skill and bring better music to our loved ones….God Bless.
You may refer to my previous post in MayTweet
By Laurie Niles
December 31, 2012 19:48
You might remember that we started this list in September, in response to Conductor Bramwell Tovey, at a performance of the 1812 Overture at the Hollywood Bowl. He told the audience that, if this was their first time seeing the 1812 live and outdoors, "then count it off your 100 Things to Do in Classical Music Before You Die." And also, "How are you doing on the rest of the list"?
My question was: WHERE is the rest of the list? Thus I asked you to help me come up with it, and V.com readers responded with wonderful creativity and imagination -- as always! I've taken the best responses, added some links and spiffed things up, and now we have our list! If you feel it is not yet complete (how could it ever be complete, after all?) please feel free to go beyond 100 and make more suggestions!
If you see anything on this list you'd like to do (or do again), then 2013 might be the year!
100 Things To Do in Classical Music Before You Die
1. See a live, outdoor performance of Pyotr Tchaikovsky's 1812 Overture.
2. Go to (or play in) a Handel's Messiah sing-along (whether you sing or not!)
3. See a concert at Carnegie Hall in New York.
4. Watch at least a few of Leonard Bernstein's Young People's Concerts.
5. Attend a master class and watch a great music teacher work with a great music student.
7. Go to a concert at the Aspen Music Festival in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado.
8. Buy season tickets to your local symphony orchestra's concerts.
9. Go to Salzburg, Austria and celebrate Mozart's life and birth in some kind of very touristy manner.
10. See a big performance of Beethoven's 9th Symphony, complete with choir and vocal soloists.
11. See Tchaikovsky's Nutcracker Ballet, with live orchestra -- and take a child with you!
12. See a Stradivarius or Guarneri del Gesu violin in person, or better yet, play one!
16. Watch film of the great cellist Jacqueline duPre (1945-1987).
17. Go to an organ recital in an old cathedral with a good organ.
18. Hear an English cathedral choir live.
19. Hear the Mormon Tabernacle Choir live.
20. Hear a song cycle, such as Franz Schubert's Winterreise, sung live.
21. Go to a performance of a late Beethoven quartet.
22. See a concert at Disney Hall in Los Angeles.
23. Hear Gregorian chant performed by monks.
24. Take a music lesson from a virtuoso or a member of a major orchestra.
25. Attend the Queen Elisabeth Competition finals in Brussels (or watch online if you can't go).
26. Keep track of a major music competition one year, listening to the players and thinking about whom you'd like to win. Suggestions: the Queen Elisabeth (linked above), the Indianapolis Competition, the Menuhin Competition, the Wieniawski Competition, the Montreal Competition, Paganini Competition, Sphinx Competition -- there are many, and most are streamed online these days!
27. Attend an intimate concert in an unusual space. Socialize with the musicians after.
28. Listen to a recording of Arturo Toscanini conducting a Beethoven symphony.
29. Experience Wanda Landowska's legendary expressive capabilities on harpsichord
30. Attend the Boston Early Music Festival.
31. "Adopt" a student musician--find a person, child or adult, who will regularly play for you and let you cheer them on as they progress.
32. Listen to 100 Symphonies in 100 Days.
33. Go to a performance of Igor Stravinsky's "Rite of Spring," and ponder the fact that this piece caused riots when it was premiered in Paris on May 29, 1913.
34. Actually listen to all four movements of Beethoven's Fifth, not just the first!
35. Hear the Vienna Mozart Orchestra at the Musikverein Golden Hall in Vienna.
36. While you're in Vienna, hear the Wiener Philharmoniker -- the Vienna Philharmonic -- perform live, too.
37. Go to the Haydnhaus in Gumpendorf, Vienna - the house where Joseph Haydn (1732-1809) spent the last twelve years of his life.
38. Visit the Zentralfriedhof in Vienna, where so many famous composers and musicians are buried.
39. Go to, or participate in, a great live performance of Vivaldi's Four Seasons.
40. Hear a live performance of the Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto
41. Hear Itzhak Perlman play live.
42. See a Broadway musical.
43. Watch the 1939 Samuel Goldwyn movie, They Shall Have Music, which features the 20th-century violin legend Jascha Heifetz.
44. See the great cellist Yo-Yo Ma live in performance.
45. See a recital with violinist Joshua Bell and pianist Jeremy Denk.
47. Busk in downtown New York City (or major city of your choice).
48. Conduct an orchestra.
49. Play a Stradivarius or Guarnerius with a Tourte bow.
50. Go to the BBC Proms festival.
51. Attend a performance of a piece you love and treat yourself to front-row tickets.
52. Find a piece written in the 21st century that you like.
53. Participate somehow in commissioning a new piece of music. (Kickstarter?)
54. Attend an opera at Arena di Verona, an Roman amphitheater in Piazza Bra in Verona, Italy.
55. Bring someone who hasn't ever heard live classical music to a performance. Maybe it will stick, and that's one more fan!
57. See the Simon Bolivar Youth Orchestra of Venezuela live.
58. See John Williams conduct a live concert of his movie music.
59. Listen to an a capella performance of Renaissance music (e.g. Ockeghem, Orlando di Lassus, Josquin des Prez, Byrd etc.) in an old cathedral in Europe, such as the Reims Cathedral in France.
61. Attend Mass at Notre Dame de Paris, and listen.
62. Go to the Bayreuth Festival in Germany.
63. Go to an opera at La Scala in Milan, Italy.
64. Go to most any restaurant in Hungary. Listen to the Gypsy bands. Think how they influenced Liszt, Brahms, Bartok, Dohnanyi....
66. Listen to a great live performance, or participate in, the greatest pieces by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: the Requiem, "Don Juan", "Figaro" or "The Magic Flute" -- in Salzburg would be fantastic.
67. Listen to a great live performance, or participate in, Beethoven's Symphony 3, 7 and 9, and his 5th Piano Concerto.
68. Perform Brahms chamber music (piano trios and quartets; string quartets, septets, etc.)
69. Attend a great performance of Shakespeare's "A Midsummer Night's Dream" with the Mendelssohn score.
70. See Tchaikovsky's "Swan Lake" ballet, with live music played by an orchestra.
71. See a performance of Stravinsky's "Sacre du Printemps" or "L'oiseau de Feu".
72. Play or see a live performance of Schoenberg's "Verklaerte Nacht".
73. Play or see a live performance of Shostakovich 8th String Quartet, or the orchestra version.
74. Perform in a grade school for the kids.
75. Perform at a retirement home for the elderly.
76. Watch a performance of Aida in the open air market in Verona or any place else in Italy.
77. Witness the making of an instrument first-hand.
78. Watch the entire process of your bow being re-haired.
79. Attend a pre-concert lecture to learn more about the history and background of pieces featured at a concert.
80. Make an instrument.
81. Invent an instrument.
82. Buy an instrument.
83. Sell an instrument.
84. Attend a performance at Verbier Music Festival.
85. Play an instrument from each instrument family.
86. Hear a non-Western instrument in concert.
87. Play a non-Western instrument, such as a sitar.
88. Attend a period-performance baroque concert, by a group such as Tafelmusik.
89. Sing in a choir.
90. Tell a viola joke.
91. Make a recording of your own playing.
92. Write a piece of music by hand that includes bass+alto+treble clefs.
93. Get an autograph from a famous musician.
94. Take a picture with a famous musician.
95. Perform for your church.
96. Donate money to or find some way to support your local classical music radio station.
97. Read Song of the Lark by Willa Cather.
98. Discover The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians (in a music library, or Grove Music Online) and look up at least five things of interest to you in there.
99. Go to a Music Library -- that is, a library dedicated to nothing but music, with scores, recordings, books about musicians and music, etc. (You can find them at many universities -- and there are a few public ones as well, like the Brand Library in LA). You can find treasures that you will not discover on the Internet!Tweet
Violinist.com has not reviewed, and does not endorse, the content of any of the articles below.
New York based violist Ljova and the City of London Sinfonia: an émigré perspective
How to Setup Online Violin Webinar Classes - For Your Students
Please consider supporting Violinist.com by becoming a sponsor, and reaching our dedicated community of violin professionals, students and fans!