December 30, 2010 at 6:13 PM
There have been many discussions, posts and blogs on this topic before now on violinist.com, and that is because it is important for us to remember -getting down to the basics.
It is very easy for musicians to progress and forget about basic technique. And it is also very tempting - you may find yourself rolling your eyes as soon as you think about practising simple bow strokes, checking intonation and thinking about posture. But just like anyone in any profession, one needs to think about these simple things otherwise they are forgotten. Think about a doctor - as a medical student, they work on the simple things and gradually learn more about the medical world. Later on, if they were to be treating a patient and had not reviewed the simple and beginning stuff, they would forget and not know. It works the same in music - when you find yourself needing to rely on something very simple but have not reviewed it, you will forget and not know, or at least be rusty at it. It's just a good job that forgetting something on the violin wouldn't put someone's life at risk unlike the doctor!
Today I have been reviewing the basics and spending most of my time in front of a mirror thinking about posture and simple technique. I've been looking over Etudes and exercises for beginners in all my old books. And do you know what? It has helped a lot. My memory has been restored and my tone has improved just by going back to basics. So I think I will be doing this more often! I have realised getting down to the basics is important for anything to do with playing the violin.
That is what a good teacher should do; occasionally to backtrack and get the pupil to re-assess technique and posture (for an adult – children need a different approach), and to revisit a piece worked on a couple of years ago and not done since, to see what has changed.
It happens at the professional level as well. In the Strad a few years back there was an interview with a concert cellist who said when he returned from a hectic 3-month European tour of recitals, concerts and TV performances with no time to sit back and practice, he was aware that his technique had deteriorated ("got dirty" was the phrase he used), and it was necessary for him to spend the next few weeks putting things to right. I don't know whether he got a teacher to give an independent assessment, or perhaps it was a professional colleague.
Not just in music, either; it is regular practice in well-run businesses and professions for employees and management right up to and including board level to have annual assessments from their immediate supervisors. In the business I was in the three men at the very top - the chairman, his deputy, and the CEO, would assess each other's performance every year..
It's a lesson well worth learning. As with the violin, so with life. Get the basics right and the rest will follow.
There is facility and there is technique. I am amazed at the facility of some people with minimal technique. But technique keeps it real. Technique is permanent. Facility is vital for the virtuoso but only facile virtuosos with great technique survive playing until old age.
Interestingly a technique can be had by players with mediocre facility and can help them play way above their natural level.
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