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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.

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Respecting music

By Lydia Tay
February 6, 2013 19:58

My school has an annual concert at the end of every year, and last year was no different. Everyone looks forward to the main performance - the teachers' performance. Last year, there were 2, figuratively a bonus. One was a dance, and the other, a "last minute orchestra".

The teachers who formed the "last minute orchestra" played "The Entertainer" by Scott Joplin. There were teachers playing the violin, cello, synthesiser, xylophone and so on. There was even a conductor!

Here's the catch. The act was an impromptu drama. That means that while the teachers were playing the music, the "conductor" would go around doing all sorts of wacky and funny things like taking a feather duster and trying to tickle other teachers.

It was funny. However, I came to realise that it was TOO FUNNY. As the teacher who played the conductor carried on with his pranks and jokes, the entire audience focused their attention on him. That may seem fine to you, but what happened was that he was so funny, he completely took any attention to the music away, such that the music was negligible. The teachers could have played crap. It wouldn't have mattered.

I found it excruciatingly painful to sit there and watch the wonderful piece of music get so much disrespect that I ended up in tears. While I understood the rationale behind the jokes, I find that the teachers should have struck a balance between the jokes and music.

What are your views?

Comments (4) | Archive Link

Learn How to Play Violin!

By Daniel Broniatowski
February 4, 2013 20:28

How to Hold the Violin and the Bow

Welcome to the third and final series called "How to Play the Violin". In part 1, we examined the parts of the violin. In part two, we covered the parts of the bow. In part three, I will take you through a step-by-step guide how to hold the violin and the bow. Please note that nothing replaces actual lessons with a qualified teacher but this is a great way to read up on the topic before your first lesson!

Sometimes, a picture is worth even more than 1000 words. In our discussions, you will find this to be the case.

So, let us begin!

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1. Stand in rest position. Notice that my feet are together and the violin is tucked under my right shoulder. The instrument is cradled under my arm and is held loosely with the upper arm over the strings just above the tailpiece.

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2. Now place your right foot to the right so that it is under your right shoulder. Lean ever so slightly on your left foot. Then, pretend that your left hand is a hungry crocodile and make a pinching motion (without chomping tightly) with the fingers and thumb. Your hungry crocodile oddly likes to eat violins. Take your left hand and "bite" the lower bout of the instrument (that is, the "shoulder" of the violin that is closest to the floor).

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3. Make sure that the left thumb is touching the top of the back of the instrument, just below the neck.

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4. Then, use your left hand to remove the violin from under your right shoulder and hold it straight ahead - right in front of you.

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5. Next, turn your arm (the one with the violin) counter-clockwise so that the button (that is the tiny black part that is on the very bottom of the violin) points upward toward the ceiling (or at least as close as you can get without feeling tension in your arm). Note that most people (including myself) cannot turn our arms around fully unless you are double-jointed.

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6. Then, bring the violin "in" so that your chin rests just above the tailpiece (NOT the chinrest!) Remember what we discussed in the first blog post about the chin not going on the chinrest? Well, this is the time to get it right, lest you develop bad habits. Also, remember how we discussed needing a proper fitting for a shoulder rest and chin rest? This step will not work properly if you haven't yet done so.

And that is how you hold the violin!

Let's now cover how to hold the bow.

This is a little more complicated.

Please be patient with yourself when doing this. Many students get frustrated when learning how to hold the bow. Furthermore, when playing, it is very easy for beginners to lose the proper bow hold. If you can, try to spend a few days focusing only on how to hold the bow before you attempt to play. You'll be happier in the long run!

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1. We're going to make bunny rabbits! Try your best to replicate this "pose". Note how the thumb is gently curved under the first joints of the two middle fingers. This is the nose of the bunny. The ears, or the other two fingers, are nice and curved. Make sure that your entire hand is loose and nothing is tight or clenched.

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2. Here is how it looks from the side.

3. Holding the bow vertically on the stick with your LEFT hand (we'll call this the "helper hand"), make your bunny rabbit in the right hand. The tip of the bow should be at the top, toward the ceiling As we spoke about in the parts of the bow, remember not to touch the horse hair! Very carefully with both arms straight out in front of you, turn your bunny rabbit sideways, so that the thumb is closest to you. In your left hand, make sure that the bow is being held with the hair away from you.

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4. You may wish to do this part in front of a mirror. We are now going to deconstruct the bunny rabbit and reconstruct it with the bow on the inside of the bunny. Take your right thumb and let the center of it touch the corner of the frog. The corner is the top-most protruding part of the frog that meets the stick.

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5. Now, with your thumb curved, place the bunny's nose on the other side of the frog. Only the first joints of the two middle fingers should be touching. Now, place your index finger on the stick so that the side of the finger touches, just above the middle joint. Then, rest your pinky ON TOP of the stick and try your best to keep it curved.

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5. If you can, try to move the bow horizontally. And that is how you hold the bow! Good luck!

For more lessons like this, be sure to check out my violin videos at www.violincoursesonline.com

-- Daniel Broniatowski, D.M.A.
Violin teacher serving Watertown, Brookline, Newton, and greater Boston, MA

Comments (12) | Archive Link

How to Use a Metronome

By Liz Lambson
February 4, 2013 15:55

Photo by Mrs Logic

Photo by Mrs Logic

Instrument, bow, stand, music, pencil--that's all you need when you sit down (or stand) to practice, right? Wrong. One of the most essential and useful tools for the wise, efficient practicer is this marvelous, magical machine: the metronome. The timekeeper. That thing that clicks.

As a string bassist who grew up classically trained, I was used to bending the tempo, slowing with ritardandos, stopping for fermatas and railroad tracks, slightly altering the tempo based on the lyricism of the piece, and sometimes completely throwing the beat out the window to play a cadenza.

When I went to music school in college, I was introduced to jazz, and I realized I was on a completely different playing field, playing a completely different ballgame. As a player used to hashing up melodic solos, playing jazz forced me back to the bassist's primary role: keeping the beat. I remember my teacher telling me that a bassist who can't keep time is useless. A musician might have perfect pitch and stellar chops, but without a sense of rhythm . . . well. Good luck.

Another time I was preparing for a blind audition and was given a tip to keep in mind. When you can't see the adjudicators listening from behind a screen, you won't see their faces, but you also won't see their pencil lightly tapping on their knee checking the consistency of your tempo. Hopefully all panel judges aren't that cruel, but my paranoia of that "one" judge made me reconsider my relationship with my metronome.

We needed to become best friends.

____________________________________


USING YOUR METRONOME

If you don't have a metronome, now is the time to keep time. My personal favorites are metronomes with a dial (rather than digital metronomes) such as the Wittner MT60 Quartz. But anything that keeps steady time will do.

Here are a few things your metronome can help you do to become a better musician:


  1. Understand tempo markings. I like metronomes with a dial that show you the numerical ranges for common tempo markings like largo, andante, moderato, presto, etc. The metronome can help you get the feel for the overall tempo of a passage or piece.

  2. Set the tempo. Sometimes composers and conductors mark the music with a specific numerical tempo marking in addition to a general tempo marking (like "largo"). Identify the appropriate tempo for your piece of music. This doesn't mean you'll start practicing at that tempo. It's just what you're aiming for. (See number 5.)

  3. Warm up. When you pull out your instrument, start with long, slow tones to warm up the rosin on your bow and smooth out your tone. Typically you'll start with scales. Warming up with a metronome is like getting your musical heartbeat pumping again. Wake up the rhythm in your body! Ole!

  4. Practice scales and arpeggios with different rhythmic patterns. After playing scales with whole notes, half notes, and quarter notes, change it up a bit, moving up the scale in triplets (one triplet per bow) or groups of sixteenths. Then practice arpeggios at a slow tempo, gradually turning up the speed.

  5. Perfect difficult passages. For all music, whether you're playing scales, arpeggios, orchestral excerpts, or solos, START SLOW. Only increase the speed on your metronome once a passage or lick is free of error. You can apply this principle to even a single measure, a group of notes, or even a single shift between two notes. Zone in on exactly what you're tripping over and then conquer it with your metronome.

  6. Subdivide. Your metronome beat doesn't have to just be for a quarter note. Set it four times faster to click on the sixteenths, or three times faster for triplets. This will help you decipher tricky rhythmic passages, steady your dotted rhythms, and keep a steady beat overall.

  7. Learn vibrato. A great way to get your hand and fingers comfortable with the physical motion of vibrato is the slowly roll your wrist, forearm, and/or fingers in time with a slow beat. This will develop a vibrato that vibrates consistently rather that shaking uncontrollably. (See "String Instrument Techniques: How to Learn Vibrato.")

  8. Sight read. After regularly using your metronome, you should get a good feel for basic tempo markings. Remembering that "60" means 1 beat per second, if you can get the feel for the timing of seconds, this can be your baseline reference. When you get a piece of music to sightread, always identify the expected tempo before taking off. (See "15 Tips to Successfully Sightread.")

  9. Prepare your accompanist. Whether you're playing with a pianist, a duet partner, a small ensemble, or an orchestra, you can set the tempo specifically to what you're comfortable with. It's the worst when your accompanist rushes ahead of you at a pace that makes you stumble over your tricky passages. Even five extra beats per minute could throw you off if it's faster than you've prepared. It's also torture when you accompanist drags behind you. Give them an exact number so you can play in rhythmic harmony.

  10. Conduct. If you conduct music, all of these principles apply to your ability to lead musicians in time. Just like I was saying how a bass player who can't keep time is useless, a conductor who can't keep time is even MORE useless! Conductors have to be the rock when it comes to keeping the beat. If you tend to rush or slow down, spend more time with your metronome.


______________________________


Now, off you go to the practice room. Have a great TIME!

Comments (1) | Archive Link

Rieding opus 21,25,34,36, Küchler opus15, Járdányi Concertino NOT AVAILABLE ON CD!! for violin+orchestra

By Bram Heemskerk
February 4, 2013 08:57

How to make a classical cd that will sell well, although you are not the best violinist in the world?? : Record Rieding op. 21,25,34,36, Küchler op15, Járdányi for violin + orchestra on cd because IT HAS NEVER BEEN RECORDED on cd.

Itzhak Perlmann has recorded Rieding op.35, Seitz op.13 and Accolay1 for violin + orchestra on cd, and several Polish pianists and violinists have recorded some violin concertos for children and adult beginners (see below). But Küchler op.15, Rieding op.21,25,34,36, Járdányi concertino HAVE NEVER BEEN RECORDED on cd for violin + orchestra, although these pieces are high of my best, best-seen videos (see below) on my Youtubechannel, in my top-10 list of the last 4 ½ years that Violin concerto Youtube channel 'HenriVieuxtemps' has existed, and of my last year (because some violin concertos are not so long on my channel and are therefore not seen so often) .

You should expect that often-played iron repertoire pieces like Bruch1, Mendelssohn, Tsajikovsky, Brahms and Beethoven would be high in the top-10, because they are also on Violin concerto Youtubechannel 'HenriVieuxtemps', next to many unknown, obscure (and sometimes 2th rank) violin concertos.

So you can see that in the CD market, there is a big eagerness to buy these pupil-violin concertos on 1 or 2 cd’s of an average professional soloist (because the difficulty level of these concerto’s is not high) + professional orchestra of about 13 string-players (3 1th violinists, 3 2nd violinists, 3 viola’s, 3 cello’s, 1 double bass).

Every child who begins with violin lessons or every adult beginner you can give such a cd on his/her birthday as present, and than they have a good reference how to play those pieces from their violin lessons. Küchler op.15 with orchestra + Járdányi with orchestra you van find on YouTube: Küchler


Járdányi:

So a new challenge for professional violinists is not to record the Bruch1/Mendelssohn-cd, Beethoven + 2 Romances-cd, Tsajikovsky +Lieu Cher-cd, Brahms-cd , because we have enough of these of big names from the past and this time, but instead to record these sort of “childish” violin concertos . The 4th and 5th violin concertos of Paganini are also in my Top-10 lists. They are never played in concert halls (only the 1st and 2nd sometimes) and seldom recorded (like Arthur Grumiaux who recorded the 4th and Accardo who recorded the 1-6). So that is another hole in the market. But perhaps the reason these Paganini Concertos are recorded so seldom is that it is too difficult -- and Rieding is recorded so seldom, because it is too easy.

OK, the 2 Bach violin concerto’s are recently quite popular and in the Top 10. But how many professional violinists will read my arguments on Violinist.com and will change their market strategy, and how much influence I will have (in the conservative violinist world)? I think there is a bigger chance of a new Bruch1/Händelssohn-cd than a Rieding op. 21,25,34,35,36, Küchler op. 15, Jardanyi-cd or a Paganini 4,5-cd.

Total most views top10 from may 2008
Video Views Minutes seen Likes
1. Rieding, Oskar violin concerto op.35 in B minor 169.745 155.325 654
2. Rieding, Oskar Concertino op.21 in A minor in Hungarian style 100.324 75.117 366
3. Rieding, Oskar violin concerto op.34 in G majeur 88.659 51.871 237
4. Küchler, Ferdinand opus 15 in D major v conc. in Vivaldi style 77.287 35.498 255
5. Paganini, Niccolo 5th violinconcerto mvt 3 Rondo 72.685 72.593 352
6. Wieniawski, Henryk 8 Etudes Caprices op.10 5,6,7,8 68.292 34.112 252
7. Beriot, Charles A. de mvt1+2 9th violin concerto 61.135 60.663 273
8. Paganini, Niccolo 4th violinc. mvt1(end) Allegro maestoso 53.655 6.797 198
9. Wieniawski, Henryk op.18 for 2 violins part 1,2,3,4 50.914 82.019 318
10. Seitz, Friedrich Pupil's violin concerto No.1 op13. in G major 47.497 27.894 135

Last 365 days most popular:
Video Views Minutes seen Likes
1. Rieding, Oskar violin concerto op.35 in B minor 85.974 156.224 394
2. Wieniawski, Henryk 8 Etudes Caprices op.10 5,6,7,8 44.704 34.312 177
3. Rieding, Oskar Conc. op.21 in A minor in Hungarian style 43.433 75.674 174
4. Paganini, Niccolo 5th violinconcerto mvt 3 Rondo 41.827 73.112 256
5. Rieding, Oskar violin concerto op.34 in G majeur 35.986 52.304 102
6. Wieniawski, Henryk op.18 for 2 violins part 1,2,3,4 33.804 82.647 217
7. Küchler, Ferdinand opus 15 in D major vc in Vivaldi style 33.122 35.818 139 8. Bach, J.S. violin concerto in E major BWV 1042 31.418 104.144 189
9. Beriot, Charles A. de mvt1+2 9th violin concerto 30.391 61.005 137
10. Accolay, Jean Baptiste violin concerto in A minor 24.111 44.615 121

Last 3 weeks most popular
Video Views Minutes seen
1. Rieding, Oskar violin concerto op.35 in B minor 5.112 23.436
2. Bach, J.S. violin concerto in E major BWV 1042 3.327 16.017
3. Rieding, Oskar Concertino op.21 in A minor in Hungarian style 3.074 12.508
4. Bach, J.S. violin concerto in A minor BWV 1041 2.608 11.280
5. Paganini, Niccolo 5th violinconcerto mvt 3 Rondo 2.559 10.721
6. Rieding, Oskar violin concerto op.34 in G majeur 2.502 8.296
7. Wieniawski, Henryk op.18 for 2 violins part 1,2,3,4 2.314 11.244
8. Küchler, Ferdinand opus 15 in D major violin concerto in Vivaldi style 2.287 5.746
9. Sarasate, Pablo de Spanish Dances op.22 no.1 Romanza Andaluza 1.838 5.465
10. Beriot, Charles A. de mvt1+2 9th violin concerto 1.804 8.580

Itzhak Perlman - Concertos from my Childhood violin+orchestra

Rieding: Violinkonzert op. 35
Seitz: Schüler-Konzert Nr. 2 op. 13
Accolay: Violinkonzert Nr. 1
Beriot: Scene de Ballet op. 100
Viotti: Violinkonzert Nr. 22

Violin Concertos for Children, Vol.1 [Import] violin+piano

Ella Susmanek (Performer), Elzbieta Jarszewska-Kordykiewicz (Performer) and others.
Oskar Rieding op.21,25,34,35, Antonio Vivaldi op.7no.2, Adolf Huber op.7, Ferdinand Küchler op.15, Friedrich Seitz op.13, Grazyna Bacewicz vc in G major, Jean-Baptiste Accolay in A minor,
Violin Concertos for Children violin+piano, Vol. 2[Import]
Ella Susmanek (Performer), Elzbieta Jarszewska-Kordykiewicz (Performer)

Charles August de Beriot (Composer), Franz Joseph Haydn (Composer), Gustav Hollaender (Composer), Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (Composer), Rene Ortmans (Composer), Friedrich Seitz (Composer), Giovanni Battista Viotti (Composer), Antonio Vivaldi (Composer)

More ideas for children violin concerto cd’s:

Comments (6) | Archive Link

The Terrible Horrible No Good Very Bad Rehearsal

By Karen Allendoerfer
February 3, 2013 10:25

I already knew that this week's was not going to be an ordinary orchestra rehearsal. As a member of the Board of Directors, representing the orchestra, I had received a preview of our conductor's letter announcing his decision to retire at the end of the season and his intent to inform the orchestra at large at this rehearsal. Now, in theory, this is not a terrible, or even surprising, decision. He has conducted the orchestra for the past 33 years, and has already retired from one of his other jobs in education. He is at a time in his career when many people look to move on to the next step. While the fame, prestige, and financial rewards of conducting an all-volunteer community orchestra are of course nice ;-), it's a job that a conductor could really only do for love.

The regard was mutual. I was not alone in considering him one of the best conductors I had ever worked with. At the Board meeting we had agreed that after he made his announcement, I would get up and address the orchestra to say that we would start the process of forming a selection committee, that everyone in the orchestra would have a say in choosing a successor, and that we would keep them posted. Short and sweet, which is good, because I've never been much of one for public speaking.

With this in mind, I got there early and snagged what I thought was a good parking spot right across from the church where we rehearse. Pulling into the spot I seem to have misjudged the distance from the curb, or the curb was excessively sharp. Or something was there at the side of the curb. Or something. There was a loud bang and I got out of the car to find that my tire was completely flat. It was dark, and raining, and the last time I'd changed a tire was sometime around 1982, in Driver Ed in high school. Quickly I dashed into the church and let a fellow board member know that I had a flat tire to deal with. Okay, I admit, I secretly hoped she would take over speaking to the group about the news. I kind of just wanted to leave, take care of the car, and pretend the whole thing wasn't happening. No such luck. I got into my car and waited for AAA, who said they were coming "sometime in the next 90 minutes."

It took 45 of those 90 minutes for the truck to come and put on the spare. I spent the time listening on my iPod to the music I was supposed to be rehearsing. For the upcoming concert we are playing Britten's "A Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra" and Weinberger's "Schwanda the Bagpiper." Both of these end with challenging fugue sections. Often listening to music relaxes me, but this time it didn't. I felt the time slipping away and I didn't really calm down until I saw the AAA truck lights. The technician put on the spare quickly but not without some struggle and pushing (making me think that there was no way I could have done it myself, even if I had remembered how from that long-ago class), and I went back to rehearsal.

When I walk in the orchestra is in the middle of the Britten Fugue section. I recognize it right away and want to jump in too. Playing this frenetic counterpoint seems like it will be cathartic, a release from the earlier evening's tension. So, I pull my bow out of the case quickly and start to rosin it up, quickly. As I rosin the tip, the bow snaps. Slack strands of horse hair seem to explode out of nowhere and rain down on my hands. The snapping sound cuts through the brass blaring and the strings wailing away. I hear it echo through the church sanctuary. The harpist's mother, there to pick up her high-school age daughter at intermission, turns her head to look at me quizzically.

I've never seen the unvarnished interior wood of a bow stick before. It's brownish-red, like the outside, but not as dark and not as shiny. I just sort of stand there, trying to fit the two pieces back together, like a puzzle. But of course they don't stick. "I can't believe this is happening!" I announce to no one in particular. I fear the harpist's mother thinks I'm a nutcase.

The music doesn't stop, but I run up to my stand partner and ask her if I can talk to her for a minute. She says "of course," and comes out into the church entryway, where the refreshments are waiting for the upcoming break, and offers me some apple juice. We drink and munch on cookies as the Fugue rushes on in the background, without us. She knows about the flat tire already, now she knows about the bow. I ask her if I can borrow her spare bow, since my daughter has my spare bow, at school. I'm almost afraid to touch it, though, let alone play with it. It's one thing to break your own bow, it's another to break someone else's. I decide that it has enough rosin.

Between sips of apple juice I realize with relief that I'm not going to cry. Another friend had her bow break in an accident at rehearsal about a year ago, and I thought, at that time, "what if it were me?" I had said, back then, that I probably would cry. My bow is around 33 years old. My parents bought it for me and I don't remember anymore how much it cost, if I ever knew. It's not anything special in terms of provenance or materials. I'd wishfully thought it was made of pernambuco for a while, but it's just Brazilwood. It's a little heavier than the average bow. But it has sentimental value, and most importantly, I'm used to it. I'm so used to it that I wasn't ready to part with it 3 years ago when I got my new violin. I tried a few bows at that time and just didn't find anything that I thought was clearly better. My bow ricochets, it bariolages, it does what I need it to. It didn't seem urgent back then, so I put that decision off and stuck with my faithful "buddy," my first real, good full-size bow.

Now, with the decision forced on me, I'm not as upset as I feared I'd be. During the rest of the rehearsal, as I try a couple of spares offered to me by sympathetic friends, it occurs to me that bow shopping might be fun.

Rehearsal ends too quickly, since I'm only there for the second half. And then it's time for the conductor's announcement, which is greeted with shock and disappointment. I try to lighten the mood by opening my little speech with "just when I thought this day couldn't get any worse . . . " I mention that we will be starting the search with the Board members and opening it up to anyone in the orchestra who wants to participate. People are subdued, thoughtful, accepting. Some of them have been through conductor searches before, with other organizations. Not me, this will be my first.

So here I am, looking for a new bow, and looking for a new conductor. Things change, and change can be good.

Right?


Comments (12) | Archive Link

Master Violin Maker Carl Fredrick Becker (1919-2013): a Tribute

By Laurie Niles
February 2, 2013 21:12

"He was the best violinmaker and restorer of the 20th century" -- this is how many in the violin-making community viewed Carl Fredrick Becker, who died Wednesday in Chicago at the age of 93.

Carl F. Becker

Born in 1919 in Chicago, "Carl was a brilliant man who could have done almost anything he wanted to do," said New York violin maker Charles Rufino, who worked for Becker for nearly four years during the early '80s. "During World War II, he became a pilot and was such a fine pilot, they kept him here as a trainer of other pilots. He had offers from the airlines to become a pilot -- a pretty glamorous, well-paying job in the '50s. And he said, 'No, I thought about working with my father and making the instruments up at the lake, and that was more important to me.'"

Carl was born into violinmaking; his father, Carl G. Becker (1887-1975), was a prolific and well-respected luthier who worked for the Chicago firm, William Lewis and Son. The younger Carl started apprenticing with his father at age 16, making cello ribs. The two went into business together in 1968, when they founded Carl Becker and Son in Chicago, in a multi-level building on Belmont St. that served as the family's shop as well as their home. (The shop now is located at 30 E. Adams St., in the Chicago Loop.)

"If you said to Carl, which is the better, you or your father? He would have always said his father was the better," said British luthier and violin dealer Charles Beare, retired director of the London-based J & A Beare. "But I've always thought, from his work, that (the younger) Carl was actually the very best violinmaker of the 20th century -- anywhere. You get differences of opinion on that, but for me, the best of Carl was the best we ever got between 1900 and 2000."

Carl F. Becker

Carl Becker made his first violin in 1948. After that, he made nearly all his instruments in collaboration with a family member, said his son, Paul Becker, who, along with his sister, Jennifer Becker, also is a violin maker. "He made only 13 violins and violas by himself," Paul Becker said. "All the rest are in partnership with mostly my grandfather, and then also with me and my sister -- about 800 violins, violas and cellos, total." Two of his grandchildren, Stephanie Jurewicz and Vada Becker, also apprenticed with him and are luthiers.

"He was responsible for uplifting the quality of our instruments," Paul Becker said. "His hand, my grandfather always said, was much better than his own, and felt that dad was responsible for making the finest instruments."

The late violin dealer Geoff Fushi, of Chicago-based Bein and Fushi, owned two of the instruments that Becker made on his own, one which Becker made specifically for him. Fushi prized them greatly, said Fushi's daughter, Suzanne Fushi, who said that her father always trusted her to get the Strads, Guadagninis, Amatis out of the safe, but "when it came to, 'Go get my Becker,' he instructed me on how to carry a violin: 'Pick it up by the neck, have your hand on the bottom, take your time, don't rush around any corners…'"

Much of Becker's violin-making occurred at the family's secluded cabin in Wisconsin, by Lake Pickerel, where he worked in a studio over the garage. (It's also where he practiced one of his favorite pastimes, muskie fishing.) But the instrument-making was a part-time endeavor -- weekends and evenings, and in the summers. His time in Chicago was devoted to repairing and restoring violins.

"He was a wonderful restorer, and he was painstaking," Beare said. "He would always be on the side of the violin, or whatever instrument he was working with, rather than on the side of the people he was working for. It was always the violin that was important."

Carl Becker worked on many very famous and valuable violins, violas and cellos, including the Lady Blunt Stradivari violin, which was sold in June 2011 by Nippon Foundation for a record price of $15.9 million.

"Carl could take the most intractable problems and solve them," Rufino said. "It was like watching someone try to untangle a big, tangled knot of string: Carl would just stick his hand into the problem, lay a firm grip on it, and follow that string to the end. Then he'd turn around and go in the other direction, until it was all in a neat bundle."

"He had boxes and boxes of little jigs he had made, and he worked with such incredible sensitivity to preserve," Rufino said. "In restoration, he would bend over backwards, tie himself in knots and go to astonishing lengths to preserve the original maker's work."

For example, in restoring the Muntz Strad of 1736, which Stradivari made when he was 92, Becker had to address some wear on the corners of the violin. "Anybody else would have just cut off the worn corner and replaced the wood with a new piece of wood," Rufino said. "Carl went through this elaborate process of slicing the thickness of the wood and pulling the original wood up, higher and higher -- it's almost impossible to describe."

"He took Stradivari and analyzed it better than anyone has, as far as translating it from Stradivari's work to his own," said Jim Warren of Kenneth Warren and Son violin dealers in Chicago. Warren bought one of the last violins that Becker made.

"Carl was like Violin Yoda," Rufino said. "Carl had a sort of Platonic ideal of a violin, which did not exist in space-time. You cannot have the perfect violin, but you can have an idea of a perfect violin, and he would just compare the reality that was in his hands to that perfection."

"He saw the violin as an engineering problem," Rufino said. "He taught me to see the violin as a question of the distribution of tension." If you redistribute that tension, the instrument will sound different. The secret to adjusting an instrument lay in manipulating the pressure of those strings: by changing neck angles, by changing specific points about the fingerboard, adjusting the sound post, adjusting the bridge.

"He also came to it from a very human point of view: the violin is a musical instrument that only has value when it's played by a musician. Carl's entire focus was: make it play great, and make it comfortable for the musician. There's an awful lot of arcane knowledge that goes into making an instrument comfortable."

"The supreme gift of Carl's work was that he had a mastery of line that was so elegant," Rufino said. "Carl loved ballroom dancing and was an excellent dancer -- all the ladies at any function wanted to dance with Carl. If Fred Astaire had been six-foot-three and a violin maker, his name would have been Carl Becker. His work was supremely elegant."

His patience was legend, "Carl Becker would have driven St. Francis to insanity, he was so patient," Rufino said. "Time did not exist for Carl. He didn't care about time, he cared about doing a job perfectly. His work was of exquisite delicacy and sensitivity."

In restoring the famous "Lady Blunt" Strad, the violin "had developed this spontaneous dimple in the middle of the back, a little dent -- these things sometimes happen. He wanted to push it out to restore the arching." And he did it -- over a period of six months, applying a little bit of pressure each day. "He described to me, how he made these little mini bass bars that would put a very light pressure on the dent, pushing it out. He would dampen it very lightly with water and apply the tiniest bit of pressure." In the end, he fixed the dent, without endangering the integrity of the violin; "He didn't have to heat it or do any kind of destructive or threatening thing. This was the way he worked, all the time."

Carl Becker did not reserve his patience only for the finest instruments on the planet; he also gave his full attention to the instruments of professional musicians who came from all over to have their instruments repaired and adjusted.

"He was a polite, deliberate, considerate, soft-spoken man in a field with its share of sly, self-important fast talkers. My no-name violin never sounded better than it did than it did after a few minutes in his hands," said Rick Lohmann, violinist and teacher in Santa Fe, N.M. "It still has the bridge he made for it over 20 years ago. He came the closest anybody ever did to identifying the maker. I always breathed a sigh of relief as I walked up that narrow old staircase on Belmont St., knowing that whatever tonal glitch was haunting my violin, it was about to be solved."

"He would work until 3 in the morning on someone's adjustment, to get it right," said Paul Becker. "He did that regularly, and he did it without question. He connected with people one-on-one, one at a time."

Carl Becker was a founding member of the International Society of Violin and Bowmakers ("Entente") and also founding member of American Federation of Violin and Bowmakers.

"Carl was generous and warm-hearted with everyone who shared his love of violinmaking," said violin maker Gregg Alf. "Although our violinmaking styles are different, we were able to connect as colleagues with mutual curiosity for the profession we love. Carl's approach was very methodical, extremely well thought out. No part was left to chance. Carl was a a true gentleman, generous with his time and knowledge. When he took on an apprentice, it was with the true spirit of helping them grow, both as a maker and as a person. I think many young makers will remember sitting beside him, his OptiVISOR ('Becker checker') lowered, while discussing the finest details of their instruments."

The list of luthiers who learned from Carl Becker is long and includes: Raphael Carrabba, Charles Rufino, Thomas Immel, Sebastian Zens, Sam Zygmuntowicz, Michael McMahan of Australia; Glenn Bearden, Whitney Osterud, Michael Reis, Michael Lochner, Peter Beare, Eric Benning, Vada Becker, Stephanie Jurewicz and Jonathan Woutat.

Becker worked on stringed instruments for some 76 years, and "he experimented and tested himself every day, all through his life," Paul said. "He always advanced violins, from the day he started until the day he died. The very best instruments were the last ones he produced, and he was in the middle of making two violas when he passed away."

"I expect he's up there in heaven, grilling Stradivari about one thing after another," Rufino said. "'Why'd you make those fiddles so thick at the end of your life, I don't understand it!'"

Carl Becker is survived by children Paul Becker, Carol Henderson, Marilyn Becker and Jennifer Becker; eight grandchildren and three great-grandchildren. Memorial services will be August 10, at a venue to be announced.

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A more efficient way to learn those orchestral violin excerpts

By Michael O'Gieblyn
February 1, 2013 09:24

Hi Violinists,

I wanted to let you know about a little project I have been working on about how to study violin excerpts.

When I finished music school, I felt pretty good about how I played my scales, sonatas, and concerti. But, when I started taking auditions to join an orchestra, and actually make a living, I realized I knew basically nothing about excerpts.

One of the most common suggestions I was told was to listen to the excerpt, and listen to a a couple different interpretations as well. This was often a tedious and time consuming process-both in finding the sheet music, and the recordings

I would have to count out measure numbers and bracket them off, and then try to sift through the recordings to find those 10 measures on the recording. It would take me a couple of minutes to find a 20 second excerpt.

I realized I was wasting so much time, so I created the free resource, ViolinExcerpts.com as a way to save some time.

So, here you can find an image of the most popular excerpts, and a couple different recordings of just the excerpt. On some of them, I've even added metronome markings to see how their tempi compare.

In other sections I've added videos of masterclasses from YouTube, as well as a platform for people to upload videos of themselves playing excerpts to get feedback-a mock audition kind of experience.

I'm always adding more excerpts and features, and trying to find features that make me a better player. If you have some suggestions of ways to improve the site, I'd love to hear from you. I have found that this saves me lots of time, and allows me to get back to actually practicing much quicker. I hope it can help you as well.

Happy Practicing,
Michael O'Gieblyn
ViolinExcerpts.com
michael@violinexcerpts.com

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The Evil Kun Rest!

By Jaimie Wisnia
January 31, 2013 02:02

Last lesson, after falling in love with my sponge temporary shoulder rest thing, I got my Kun collapsible. I love everything about it except for the fact that it gives me massive, searing pain in the shoulder. The "scoop" isn't deep enough or something because with my shoulder and chest there's no way it can lay both on my shoulder or chest without pain. I've tried putting cloth to keep contact with my chest but that just makes it slide everywhere. I had no idea that the Kun would do so much damage. I miss my sponge so much! I must be in that small percentage that Rigid shoulder rests are just out of the question.

I play tense because I have almost no clavicle for the violin to rest on; without supporting it with my left hand my violin will slide and fall, no matter what. The Kun gives me pain, no shoulder rest gives me pain, but the sponge is the closest I've ever gotten to relaxed and comfortable playing. My issue with the sponge pad is that it will move under the elastics after a while but I'd rather deal with that.

I'm curious, though, about the Bonmusica rest because it has that "hook" shape whereas the Kun just has this groove thing (that no matter what adjustments it does not help at all and of anything has made my playing back to square one- wobbly bow, hitting two strings at once). Has anyone ever switched from a Kun to a Bon Musica with success or will I just have the same issue as I did with the Kun, where it won't lay comfortably and flat on both my shoulder and chest? I love the sponge but it does move and it will "flatten" after a while, and it just doesn't have that sturdiness a Kun has.

-J

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Faculty Announced for 2013 Starling-DeLay Violin Symposium

By Laurie Niles
January 29, 2013 12:09

I'll be at the 2013 Starling-DeLay Violin Symposium (May 28-June 1) at The Juilliard School, will you?

Here is the information page, and here is the application. Go! The application deadline is March 15.

Itzhak Perlman

Itzhak Perlman, with students Michelle Ross, IhnSeon Park, Ania Filochowska, Seung Jung Oh, Aretta Zhulla, Nicole Leon

©Photo: Nan Melville / The Juilliard School

I've been going to this event, which is aimed at professional violinists, teachers, post-graduate and college students, since 2007. If you're curious about what it's like, check out our page called Starling-DeLay Symposium on Violin Studies at Juilliard, which has links to the many articles I've written from this event.

The 2013 Faculty has been announced, and it looks like a lot of fun:

Master Class Teachers:
Itzhak Perlman
Jorja Fleezanis, Indiana University Jacobs School of Music
Ani Kavafian Yale School of Music
William Preucil Cleveland Institute of Music
Sylvia Rosenberg The Juilliard School

Pedagogy Class Teachers and Classes:

Brian Lewis:
The Musical Gems of Josef Suk

Katie Lansdale, The Hartt School:
Invitation to the Dance: Exploring the Solo Bach Partitas; and Resonance/Concomitance: Considering Timbre and Polyphony in Bach’s Solo Violin Works

Michael McLean, The Colburn School:
Bach to the Basics: An In-Depth Look at the Compositional Genius of Bach’s Solo Works for Violin

Odin Rathnam, concert violinist:
Lost in Translation: Demystifying the Principals of Ivan Galamian in Practical Application


Guest Recitalists: William Preucil and Giora Schmidt

* * *

Here's the Facebook Page for the Symposium: https://www.facebook.com/groups/SD.Symposium/?fref=ts (If you want to join this FB page and need to be 'invited' let me know)

Here is the website for information for this year's symposium: http://www.juilliard.edu/youth-adult/summer/starling.php

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Thank you to Violinist.com's current sponsors

By Robert Niles
January 29, 2013 11:21

I'd like to take a moment to thank the supporters who've made it possible for us to bring you Violinist.com for another month. Here they are:

One note of potential interest: MondoMusica New York is offering Violinist.com readers who follow their link a special discount (50% off admission) to their exhibition of fine instruments, to be held March 15-17 at the Metropolitan Pavilion. Please consider visiting our other sponsors listed above, as well, as many of them also offer special discounts and opportunities to V.com readers from time to time. You always can find the list of current sponsors over on the right side of any Violinist.com page.

If you run a violin-related business and would like to reach out to and support the Violinist.com community, we have space available in our Business Directory. Please visit our sponsorship page, or contact me via robert@ violinist.com to learn more.

Thank you, again, to everyone who supports Violinist.com!

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