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Advice from Masterclass by Vadim Repin

March 15, 2010 at 3:17 AM

I had the luck to watch, in February, as an audience member, a masterclass by Vadim Repin at Montreal conservatory. It was very interesting to see how this very talented violinist teach. Making everything clear and mimicks when words aren't ennough to explain well. In fact, I have saw two 3 hours masterclasses with Repin over the years.  I just wanted to share a few tricks he told and mention that it's all things regularly discussed here on!  A very good new according to me.  

- Even advanced students still have slight posture problems with lifting the left shoulder, tension, not using all the bow parts and such. So Repin was very clear about the fact that one had to lift the violin from the left shoulder and hold the scrool slightly up since it's the only way to gain a flexible left hand able to do variet and coulours in vibrato. (and shift smoothly) The violin is mainly hold by the left hand; it should be seen as an extension of the left hand.

- One has to FIGHT this natural tendency the body has to tense the left hand when you play forte and energically with the bow...

- exagerate creshendos when needed. Do not just play short notes as if you don't care.

- never do a same melody that repeats twice the same

- In Brahms, don't play for your grand-mother as he said so well...  Do it magistral, grandiose. Hungarian music is like dance so really put this energy on the notes that need it. It's important to end well the short notes. In Brahms, also don't slow tempo when not written

- super important for sound (as students sometimes played well but with not ennough sound  according to Repin...) Good contact with the strings... use this index on your bow hand...

- When playing at the bottom (heel) part of the bow, always make that hand/wrist movement energically. At the tip, you do it but with less amplitude.

- Scales are the starting point... It's pointless to try to master a concerto if you don't practice the basics in scales. One should do at least 2 hours a day of scales or moore if needed... you never do ennough... Just a little story, a student came up very out of control and Repin kindly and patiently made him do scales unstead of playing his concerto... Insisting on the impotance of basics... A good lesson to all violin students I think!

- Follow your little finger. He's the "boss" in octaves and decimas (tenths) and indicates the place you should be.  Never stretch you hand from the weak pinky side. Unstead, stretch more from the stronger index side...

- In triplets, the second not is the most important. (also for counting issues)

And the main message, play with confidence and conviction in your message (be clear in what you want to say to convince people you're doing the right thing...) He often said, "it will be ok just if you convinced me it is (when you play)..." 


So, it's pretty similar to things regularly discussed here, no? Really, for those who think there is a "secret" with these super violinists, I can really say there aren't from what I saw. Every good teacher in a serious conservatory or established school has similar ideas to masters as Vadim Repin. We are not in a world where information is confined to specific countries as it might have been before (???).  Of course, I'm not talking about born physical talent, ear, context, opportunities, frequencies and leghts of lessons.  But, stricktly talking about pedagogy and violin learning methods, it's really not that different!!!

So, in my humble opinion, everyone who wants master tricks, find a good teacher and read ; )


Also, I have found (sorry if you already know this article) a very interesting article about David Oistrakh by Rimma Sushanskaya, a very talented violinist who was his last pupil. I think the article is quite recent since I had never seen it before.;col1


Once again, it shows the talent of this great artist to perform, teach (on regular basis, not just masterclasses), conduct and play viola at the same time!

Have a nice day,



Posted on March 15, 2010 at 12:39 PM


GREAT article on Oistrach and blog in general


woof woof

From al ku
Posted on March 15, 2010 at 7:59 PM

thank you anne-marie, great job.  curious to know if those students used shoulder rests or not for the masterclass on the subject of violin holding,,,i can be mistaken, but i remember vadim as a kid used shoulder rest but nowadays does not. 

From Royce Faina
Posted on March 15, 2010 at 8:34 PM

Love It!!!!!!

From Alan Corish
Posted on March 15, 2010 at 9:02 PM

I have seen on various videos that he uses some kind of pad, but only thin, to help him support the violin on his shoulder.  There are certain videos that show the elastic fastened to the violin.

He's a great player no doubt, but 2 hours of scales (unless you have all day to practice) every day.

From Phil Easley
Posted on March 15, 2010 at 9:45 PM

 Anne-Marie---a very nice summary.  It's true, you've repeated many bits of advice that we hear all the time, but they are always worth repeating.  Each time I hear them, or read them, especially through another person's perspective, they take on greater value.  And I appreciate your observation that the so-called 'secrets' of great musicianship are not really secrets at all.  Your insight is quite helpful.


From Anne-Marie Proulx
Posted on March 15, 2010 at 10:06 PM

To respond to those who are curious about rest setups, I can tell that there are good arguments for the two! Repin had an extraordinairy powerful and beautiful sound with just a thin cosmetic pad. (has he always put since a few years).  He was able to just hold the violin with no hands to explain something for a few seconds.  Neither him nor the students had necks. (I mean no "giraffe" necks there. Rather all on the short side ; ).  Four students played. The three bows played without a rest but with pretty much sponge setups under (bigger than a cosmetic sponge.)  And the girl played with a rest and a very noticable relaxed posture and sound. (me and my teacher found she had the best sound. A mix of power and beauty with totally unforced wide vibratos.) With closed eyes, I would have tell she had no rest! (but this is only my and my teacher's opinion. Those who played their concertos ALL played VALUABLE very good quality playing. No one of the three studentds was "better" Sound is subjective...)

So I think it shows that the most important thing was relaxation... no matter the setup!  And if you wonder why there was a high proportion of non-resters, it's maybe because it's the top music concervatory in town that have special shool/music adapted program with excellent coaching. (we have two conservatories at Montreal). I suspect they are more aware of the non rest issue. By contrast, at my conservatory, I'm the only one I saw with no rest and it was at my request.  Perhaps students are advised to try all alternatives at this conservatory?  Many many of the more soloistic musicians from Montreal come (or came) from there... 

I hope it can give an idea about the rest interrogation. 

Happy you liked the article too!


From Anne-Marie Proulx
Posted on March 15, 2010 at 10:17 PM

Hi Al,

Yes, Vadim Repin told in the first masterclass I attend he used a rest when he was a student (I've saw on video many excellent Bron students with rests. Some have gorgeous sound with and without).  Vadim Repin also played with a rest in videos when he was 17-18 yo. Around his Queen Elizabeth victory years if I remember well. Perhaps he took it off quite late? 

I loved his sound the two ways!  If you can, take a look at this at 12 yo... 

I also have the his Krenikhov at 11 yo, I beleive it's no longer in youtube. Can always email me... We don't see such kids around here! I'm more than impressed.

Have a nice day,



From al ku
Posted on March 16, 2010 at 1:23 AM

hello anne marie, vadim in that youtube was adorable and mature, able to handle the passionate:)  teaching.    one can tell it is still a child's sound, but so precious and precocious. 

would love to see his 11-12 yo playing! 

yes, some shoulder rest kids eventually grow up to play without.  not trying to restart the sd rest discussion here, but always interesting to hear the individual to why.

i like your conclusion that the key is relaxation either way.



From Samuel Thompson
Posted on March 17, 2010 at 4:27 AM

What a beautiful and insightful entry - thank you for posting!

From Pauline Lerner
Posted on March 17, 2010 at 7:45 AM

Anne-Marie, thanks so much for posting this.  Vadim Repin is such a wonderful violinist, and we all can learn a lot from him.  It was good to know that he covered a lot of issues we discuss on this site.  I especially like his advice on relaxation.  I tell my students about it frequently.  Now I have to tell myself to do it.  It really makes a big difference.  You wrote about the masterclass so well that even those of us who were not there learned a lot.  Thanks again.

From Anne-Marie Proulx
Posted on March 17, 2010 at 6:44 PM

Thanks! I just reapeated very good advice ; )   I also love very much his playing and teaching approch!


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