By Danielle Gomez
May 20, 2013 18:09
I never quite outgrew watching cartoons. It's not like I get up every Saturday at 7am to watch them like I did back in the good ol' days. But I rent series on Netflix on a pretty regular basis. Good cartoons can have very provoking plot lines and interesting characters. "Avatar: The Last Airbender" being an excellent example.
One of the lastest series I've been going through is "Star Wars: The Clone Wars." At the beginning of every episode they have what one of my students calls "a Yodaism" (we bond over the episodes we've seen). It's a little one or two sentence bit of wisdom/life advice that usually has something to do with the episode that will follow.
So one one of the episodes I recently watched it said: "Adaption is the key to survival." It struck me as really relavant to a topic that has been coming up a lot lately in lessons. I currently have this large batch of students that have "stuck it out." Meaning I started them all when they were 3/4/5 years old when I had a ton of lesson openings in my studio.
It's been a few years so that same batch is now 7/8/9 years old which is a totally different kind of kid. If you've ever taught/raised this age, you know that the eight year old knows everything. They're independent in some areas but not all. And while they know how to play the violin, they lack the maturity to do consistent, correct repetitions.
Which leads to parent meltdowns. They know their kid is mucking up the piece and they're frustrated because all the cute little games and tricks that worked before when the student was four no longer seem to have the same impact.
Therefore, adaptation is the key to survival.
The bag of tricks no longer works so new tricks need to be added to the bag. It's unreasonable to think that the things that motivate a child when they were four will be the same when they're eight. The child has changed and so must you.
Practicing should never be a static concept. It's very dynamic. So while practicing should always take place, what goes on in the practice session must change if the child is going to both progress and remain interested in their instrument.
May 20, 2013 13:11
Violinmaker Bob Spear has said that playing a mezzo violin will make a better violin player out of you. In my case, he is right. I don’t know if I would have practiced as much and kept playing on my good German trade fiddle from the twenties. My Chinese mezzo designed by Bob is only a high grade instrument. But this is an instrument that responds easily and allows one to realize the art of violin playing. Like a really good hand made violin it demands better technique than the basic high grade trade fiddle.
The mezzo violin, right, is perfectly scaled up from the Strad grand pattern instrument. For reference, my 1920's German fiddle, left, measures perfectly to the grand pattern. Although the pictures appear to show more difference, the mezzo body is only 1/2" longer.
My old violin has a nice little dark tone but not the easily produced projection of the mezzo. Both are on the same basic quality level. I am one who picked the violin up again in retirement. In many ways I am better now but the vibrato still isn’t working. Maybe it is in the chin-rest shoulder-rest collar-rest setup that I don’t have right quite yet.
Until the beginning of this year I stayed in first position in order to work on intonation. But slipping into third was beginning to come more frequently where a phrase worked better in third. But shifting just came back and was just right there naturally most of the time. When I was a kid, I didn’t think that practicing Flesch scales had done me that much good.
The instrument has continued to bloom in fullness of sound quality. It’s sound quality is in the middle of what one expects a violin to be. Neither dark nor shrill. It is equally strong on the G string and E string with only the expected note to note variations that all string instruments have by the laws of physics.
An anomaly happened this year. About three of four months after installing new strings (two sets of Pro-Arte and one of Karneol) the open A string would develop something like a loud wolf tone. And the first and second fingers on A would sound strange harmonics. At last, I noticed that when the G was plucked violently, it had a rattle. Of course I looked in all the usual places to no avail. Soon, I noticed the silk wrapping on the G string. It was half way up in it’s radiused groove of the nut. The thickness of the silk was lifting the aluminum winding just a few thousandths above the groove at the edge of the nut. That was the G rattle. When the G string resonated sympathetically while the open A was being played vibration in this minute gap caused those strange sounds.
The resolution was simple, I carefully cut the silk back about ?th of an inch being careful not to nick the aluminum. The reason is that on my mezzo the nut to bridge length is 16 mm longer than on a normal violin. Since the G string peg is closest to the nut, there isn’t very much allowance to give the string makers any extra length to shorten the G string silk. At this time, there aren’t enough mezzos in the world for the string makers to create a special G string for the mezzo but using a small viola G might work. In the future, I will just trim the silk back.
It is reassuring to read the trials, tribulations and solutions from you string players who share your experiences on V.com. I know now that I am not alone when I have a problem here or there. I thank you for your sharing and also to Laurie and Robert for keeping this site on the net.
If you are shopping for a strong violin at a modest price trying out a mezzo made or designed by a student of Carleen Hutchins is well worth your time. Possibly you want to leave your valuable instrument home when you play on a cruse ship. An imported mezzo might fill in.
ABL (aka the Mezzofiddler)
By Laurie Niles
May 19, 2013 21:24
How heartening to see such a big turnout on Friday night for the final Gala Concert of the 2013 Montreal International Musical Competition!
The three laureates -- Marc Bouchkov (first prize), Stephen Waarts (second prize) and Zeyu Victor Li (third prize) -- and three remaining finalists -- Fédor Roudine, Ji Young Lim and Chi Li -- played to a nearly-full house at the Maison Symphonique de Montréal.
Above, I have linked the performers' names to their semi-final performances, because I do believe the semi-finals truly showcased their emerging artistry, and in many cases they gave truly stunning performances.
Left to right, Maxim Vengerov, Stephen Waarts, Chi Li, Zeyu Victor Li, Ji Young Lim and Marc Bouchkov. Photo: Gunther Gamper
This final concert -- well, it was a bit more like those final Olympic figure skating exhibition galas, when the competition is over, the athletes are exhausted, and nobody is making their triple-lutz jumps any more. Maxim Vengerov finally did get to conduct something besides the Tchaikovsky Concerto, with Chi Li playing the last movement of the Mendelssohn, Ji Young Lim playing Saint-Saens "Introduction and Rondo Capriccioso," Zeyu Victor Li playing Ravel's Tzigane and Marc Bouchkov playing Sibelius Concerto. Fedor Roudine reprised his last movement of the Tchaikovsky and Stephen Waarts, the first movement of the Brahms.
Winners of the special awards were announced in an awards ceremony that preceded the performance. They included:
Best performance of the Compulsory Canadian Work ("Rhapsodie pour violin et piano" by Jean Lesage)
Radio-Canada People's Choice Award
Wilder and Davis Award for the Best Semi-Final Recital
MIMC Grants for the Unranked Finalists
By Mendy Smith
May 19, 2013 16:50
I'm on my second week without a You-Know-What. Collarbones were made for holding the viola. The biggest thing I have to watch out for is not raising my shoulder and going into "clamp the darned thing between my jaw & shoulder" mode. I probably used to do this all the time with a You-Know-What, but without one it is much more noticeable when I do that dreaded act.
I have discovered that the thumb is a movable object. Sometimes it is high, sometimes it is low, sometimes behind the first finger and sometimes between the 1st and 2nd finger. But by all means it shouldn't stay completely stationary. A stationary thumb tends to lead to tension.
My bowing straightened itself out over the past week. I now have that nice squared stance that has eluded me for years. I also discovered that I can reach the very tip of the bow without having to do odd right-arm stretches.
But best of all is that my vibrato is starting to finally loosen up and has become less spastic and more continuous. Now if I can break through this muscular speed limit before tensing up, I'll be golden.
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