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sharelle taylor

BAH. BACH. Steady even tone no matter what. Yeah, right..

March 16, 2012 at 10:57 AM

I had one of THOSE lessons on Wednesday, still not sure how to feel about it. I am working on the Bach accompanied sonata no.2 in A major. This is the 2nd month, and finally I have sorted out the timing things (does anyone else shift the goal posts so that notes held for too long are compensated for in the next bar by playing short? Sometimes I miss seeing a change in pattern, and make dumb mistakes like that). Teacher had been hinting along the weeks that once the rhythm and timing were established, we were to dig into the tone.

But Wednesday was the day when I was finally going to show how WELL I can play the first movement. I knew the notes, and in my head they sounded pretty good.

So with S1 the teacher at the piano, and S 2 (that's me) at the violin, I poise to go - and didn't even get the first note in. S1 "have you thought about how your setting the bow before you play? S2 "huh?" S1 "hmm. ..."

So for ten minutes she moved my bow arm in a sort of graceful arc, hand over hand to make sure the bow was positioned nicely between thumb, little finger so it was straight on landing, at the frog, flat hair, NO shoulder raising (ever), and then we played that first and second note. then me, then her, then me again.

30 minutes later I was ready to play the first phrase.

Since the lesson still and another hour of life left in it, you can guess at the pace today. And once again, I was not able to suddenly uncloset my hitherto unrevealed prodigious capacity. I think I have to accept that I never will.

And today, since micromanaging means I have now memorised the piece, I played without music, eyes shut and listened. And to tell you the truth, it was a teeny bit horrifying how uneven the tone is, and the notes that stand out are the ones that are easier to play. I think this is one of the true gifts f a good teacher - S1 has never implied that its horrible, but that it can be improved, but lordie I wouldn't want to listen all day the way I sounded. - that was really the gist of that lesson, to develop a constant sound so that no matter where in the bow or the rhythm I am, every note CAN sound exactly like every other note, and then I can choose to change that.

I suspect this lesson is a long way from learnt. Anyone who wants to pipe in with ideas for how you first think about setting your bow, and how to keep that constant tone (particular moments of weak sound are the slurred up bows ), please chime right on in. I'm charging batteries for my Kodak flip tonight, will upload video progress tomorrow. then we can really get in on the action.


From Karen Allendoerfer
Posted on March 16, 2012 at 4:09 PM
I think it's great that you are recording this, and that now that you know it by heart you can listen to it with new ears. That's always so educational. I'll be interested to see and hear the recording!
From Tom Holzman
Posted on March 16, 2012 at 7:34 PM
does anyone else shift the goal posts so that notes held for too long are compensated for in the next bar by playing short? If this is done purposely, it is called rubato.

The accompanied sonatas are beautiful and lots of fun to play with an accompanist. As Karen points out, recording your efforts will be invaluable in helping you to hear what is working and what is not. Good luck with a wonderful piece.

From sharelle taylor
Posted on March 18, 2012 at 3:42 AM
Karen and Tom, I have posted the video via the discussion page. Thankyou for your interest.
From David Whitehurst
Posted on March 18, 2012 at 4:19 PM
I have been working on the No. 2 Partita and I understand how you feel but ...

I also understand now why I have felt like he (teacher) has no desire for me to perform (my beautiful Bach piece). It's because I wasn't ready to perform.

I've gone from thinking I could play the violin to knowing there are so many things I need to learn before I do play in front of people.

Even though I "want" to play the Bach, my teacher and I had a goal setting lesson. Please don't take my post here as discouraging. I want to explain just how weird of a turn my lessons have gone. I want nothing more than right now to play my Bach unaccompanied sonatas and partitas for people and the performance to be played as if I were this frankenstein violinist put together like so:

1. The confidence of Hillary Hahn
2. The impeccable bowing, economy, use, divisions, etc. of Mr. Perlman
3. The phrasing of Gil Shaham
4. The tone of Jascha Heifetz

And in the months of Jan, Feb, and now March my teacher has seen me learn and play the Allemanda and Giga of the no. 2 Partita. He has also helped me through a serious left thumb issue and then he corrected an incorrect right hand bow hold. He's bored me with open string son file' and vibrato practice. He has focused on my tone because he knows that I can "play" music and he knows that I "want" to sound great and play for people. My last lesson was a goal setting lesson.

I am probably going to play violin at my daughter's (step) wedding. She doesn't want anyone walking her because her biological dad was never around. But she wants me to play the marches. So, I'm now working on bowings and arrangements of Wagner and Mendellsohn. And, we choose a piece for the June recital. I'll be the first 49 year old kid to do a recital for my teacher. I'm going to do the D major Cantabile by Niccolo Paganini. It's a beautiful piece with lot's of technical stuff but overall focused on tone. Cantabile means in the singing style.

The moral of my story is to not get discouraged. I did at first but I've come full circle now and see what is important and if I'm not ready to practice and perform the Prokofiev Op. 115 Sonata for June recital then I accept his word. My teacher played that for me when I put the score on the stand last Thursday night. He squeaked and squawked his way through it and told me that he had nightmares over it because he chose it over the G-major Mozart concerto for an audition and didn't make it. I love the piece but I'm not ready. He knew I could already play some of the Paganini and that focuses on my tone beauty and bowing so he quickly satisfied my discouragement for not doing the Prokofiev.

Hang in there. Don't get discouraged. But by all means if you're doing something wrong or your teacher spots an area of concern, open all your senses and turn up your sensitivity perception.

EDIT: LOL. I am a guitarist and I love Tommy Emmanuel (fellow Aussie). I wonder how he would approach Bach. I think he would ignore the bow markings and take a drum solo in the middle somewhere and scratch the finish of his violin with a stick while he danced and entertained you. In a nutshell our interpretation should be about what "sounds" good. That's why we play music. :-)

From sharelle taylor
Posted on March 18, 2012 at 10:04 PM
this is the link to my Bach practise, since it seems to be taking a lifetime to be up on the discussion page:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Nqdhe-SCdpY&feature=g-upl&context=G25b278bAUAAAAAAAAAA

David, thankyou for that thought. I'm no where near the unaccompanied Bach's, yet, but this is the first step toward them specifically. its not discouragement, more the constant feeling that no matter how much I learn, there is another equally as deep and complex layer to be uncovered to do the next thing.

Tommy and Phil Emmanuel are the most musical droogs on the planet. I recall being at a Tamworth country music festival in 1975 or 6, and the group Iw as with were having a bit of a jam in the caravan park where we were all staying, and as happened all the time in those days, Tommy and Phil were both there. Tommy was probably about 19 or 20, and already considered a legend. Stunning to see the depth of his understanding, his ability to improvise over anything shut every one up to listen.

From Karen Allendoerfer
Posted on March 19, 2012 at 8:11 AM
Hi Sharelle, I actually got a notification from YouTube that it was up. Nice job! I think it sounds quite good overall but if you want critical feedback I have a few nits to pick.

I actually think it's too steady and even, in the sense that there isn't enough phrasing or dynamic contrast. That may be your recorder though. My camera tends to flatten out and obscure the dynamics when I record myself. My teacher talks about making "gestures" when phrasing and I find that is a helpful way for me to think about it, so I'm repeating that here. I think you could benefit from expanding your repertoire of gestures. Think about a phrase blooming or opening up when you get to the top of it. Think about birds flying, or water flowing. Then try to think of how to express that gesture in music.

A very minor point because I think your intonation overall is pretty solid, but when you go up into 3rd position or especially above, your 4th finger is sometimes out of tune. I don't think it's actually weak, but you're not using it to its full potential, maybe because you're nervous about playing up there (I would be). There are a couple places where you reach the high point of a phrase--in pitch and in intensity--or at least I think it should be the high point, but that gesture is lost because of a weak, slightly out-of-tune note.

You're right, you're still working on it, but you've done a lot of good work already that I think you should be proud of!

From sharelle taylor
Posted on March 19, 2012 at 9:30 AM
Karen, yes that's exactly the sort of feedback i'm after. I think I'm generally confused about what I should be doing with this piece, and will have to discuss with teacher on Wednesday. when we first started, she said (and wrote on the music) use less bow (I'm sure that wasn't useless bow, chuckle), but get the intensity without having to use the bow, but last week she said to use the bow. She's definitely working toward me being more conversational with the phrases, but I don't seem to hear them in my ehad very well - I think this is often a problem for me with Bach, that I can hear the phrase when I'm NOT playing, but once I start I jsut can't seem to remember how to shape it.
I shall watch out for the 4th finger, there's no excuse for it at this stage :)
I wonder if the discussion I posted will ever appear?

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