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Drew`s book- the review before the decent review....

October 26, 2007 at 4:29 AM

At one time it seemed that violin pedagogy books had more or less run their course. Baillot, Spohr and Auer laid the ground work; Galamian taught us how to use our heads in a clear and concrete tome; Gerle laid out the hand patterns systematically and explained bowing in depth in a second volume, and then came Basics which systematically lays out just about all the significant violin exercises in history. It seemed that with the coming of Basics there would not be much else to say on this front. The teacher had a ready to hand resource for any problem and the average player has an instant means of improving their total understanding of their instrument or electing to spend for example, a month on `tone production,` working through the relevant exercises and then focusing on those that produce the best results. What has been emerging in the post Basics era seemed to me to be books that try and be trendy or creative, crossing genres or advocating the teaching of bowings through quartet parts or whatever. All good stuff but doesn’t cut it for me.
In this information packed era then, I wondered if we honestly really needed another book about violin playing. Fortunately Drew Lecher’s book answers the question in a very low key and useful way, filling a niche that perhaps needed to be filled. What I mean by this is that although I don’t feel overwhelmed personally I find that my students are not always comfortable being presented with an array of differing materials from a wide selection of books. Depending on their personality and needs beginner adults or teenager who want to get serious with me will get doses of Wohllfarht, sevcik opus 6, Schradieck, Kayser, Mazas, Kreutzer, Paginini Barucaba Variations, one string scales, Galamian/Flesch scales, endless bowing exercises from Basics as well as appropriate pieces. If I find a shifting exercise that I prefer in one book then that is given even if the book is never used ever again.
For me, what Drew has provided is a resource for the thinking teacher to construct a systematic syllabus bringing together most of the elements encompassed in all the above volumes so that an effective and manageable customized syllabus can be created for any student. How is this done?
First and foremost for me is the fact that whatever one is doing in the exercise sections two vital elements of modern violin pedagogy are repeatedly stressed. First, that the finger patterns highlighted by Gerle are integral to everything and second the Galamian ethos of rhythms and bowings is likewise applied. It is not so much that Drew has discovered anything new but that he has brought things together if the teacher is willing to make an effort not only in their own thinking but in feeding the book to the student systematically. It is this aspect that makes the book a little different and a little superior to its kin.
What was new for me is the idea of practicing three octave scales playing the note on the next string before the last one on the preceding string. Now that’s smart. I have been teaching this to all my students. Last night I took a calculated gamble with a 34 year old beginner who has practiced two hours a day for one year and mastered third position, a little shifting and gives and impressive performance of the Reiding B minor concerto. She has diligently practiced Bytovetsky two octave scales with various bowings and rhythms with marvelous intonation but I had a gut feeling I could push her to do something really spectacular so I took her through the 3 octave scale exercise for an hour, chunk by chunk until she was playing it really well. Suddenly she could do three octave scales from any position up to 7th. That blew her away!!! I’ll be going back and solidifying her technique with all the shifting exercises in 16th notes in all the different patterns, keys etc but it was one of those truly exciting moments when the whole notion of violin technique explodes for a novice player.
Is there anything not in there that I miss? Of course! If you want to cover everything then you write the Galamian or Basics book, except its already been done. Very little on the actual mechanics of vibrato for a teacher not sur ewhere to begin, admittedly far too big a subject for this kind of book (Basics is the non plus ultra here)-actually there is one marvellous exercise combining slow and fast vibratos with long notes and shifting. Would love to hear Drew`s ideas on the timing of shifts (hint, hint).
Perhaps not quite enough string crossing type exercises for the bow for my taste but that is also my quirkiness.
To sum up, I would say this is a thinking teacher and students book. It’s not huge because it provides all the necessary start points and the individual has to work at it and I suspect the deeper you dig the more the rewards will increase exponentially. I’m afraid it’s a rather paltry review as I have not had the time to begin mining the book in the way I so cheerfully advocate but I have no qualms in advising violinists to keep it on their music stands.

From Yixi Zhang
Posted on October 26, 2007 at 6:11 AM
Buri, thanks for yet another wonderful review! I’ve benefited enormously from every book, CD, DVD that you recommended and I followed, with the exception of some meditation CDs from the Wildmind. (The leader/performer of these CDs has an accent that I find distracting, but that’s something else.) I really don’t need another violin book but now I can’t do without Drew’s book because I know I’ll be so glad that I have it just like all the other books I’ve got based on your recommendation. You are really good at this, you know?
From Drew Lecher
Posted on October 26, 2007 at 8:25 AM

I was just about to hit the hay and took a moment to check out the blogs…

Thank you,

From Bernadette Hawes
Posted on October 26, 2007 at 4:54 PM
Is this a book I could work on alone or does it need a teacher's help/guidance?
Since my teacher does not read/speak English, if I needed her assistance I would have to translate everything. Also I'm not sure she'd appreciate me working through other material (if only for the reason that it slows my progress on what I'm working on with her)
From Bill Busen
Posted on October 26, 2007 at 8:42 PM
I bought Basics on Buri's recommendation, and I don't even play violin. ;-)

Maybe that could be their blurb...or maybe Buri's...

From Stephen Brivati
Posted on October 27, 2007 at 2:36 AM
Bernadette, there is no reason why you cannot work on this nbook on your own. It's perfectly self explanatory and not particlarly wordy. One of the cool things about it thta I didn"t mention is that it contains lots of little tips scattered all over the palce that cna really help with a specific problem you might have. One interesting point Drew makes is that vibrato should not be practiced with the wrist initially practiced against the body of the violin. An approach that has, to my knowledge, has never been challenged before;)
From Drew Lecher
Posted on October 27, 2007 at 5:32 AM

I am swamped with teaching right now, but will work up a blog on both the shifting curiosity (“hint, hint”) and the vibrato method you mentioned to Bernadette.

You really did hit the nail on the head when you mention the book is for a thinking teacher and student. It is all about starting points and developing beyond those points knowing everything you are doing and playing –– everything.

It is to be overlaid from one study to the next. I didn’t want it to be cumbersome and overwhelming to even a beginner –– I use it with beginners to professionals. My original goal was about 50 pages with 5 of text. Couldn’t boil it down to that, but I could easily expand it to 1000+ pages…… why? The mind is a great storehouse, if developed.

In the first lesson I tell the student, “I hate dumb violinists. Everything is to be memorized and known.”

It is about “How to master…” (subtitle) the various skills required to accomplish the scales, arpeggios, double-stops, musical phrasing and mastery of the bow and left hand.

You are so very right that the world does not need another book with scales, etc., and that is the very reason I felt compelled to write my book –– it’s different with a purpose.

If you ever come to the Chicago area, we must meet up.

Thank you again, and do not hesitate to let me know if any other questions pop up.

Long day tomorrow and then I’ll work on some blogs…

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