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Drew Lecher

Practice for Performing

November 29, 2007 at 6:29 AM

Technique is the tool by which we accomplish the artistic.

Suzuki Book 4 and beyond…earlier is simply much less of the following.

1.) Work the Open & Closed Hand Groups, initially just 1-4, but add other positions and do similarly on the lower 3 strings. When ready begin the Augmented Hand Groups.

2.) Work 8vas, 3rds, 6ths, 4ths, 9ths and unisons and 10ths — a little of everything each day in very high quality. You might spend a week or a month in the 8vas with just #1 on the 3 pairs of strings along with #1 in 3rds, 6ths and 4ths (no shift) on those same strings.

Incorporate Rhythms 1-4 and various styles of bow strokes and string-crossing patterns, also with various rhythms.

*** In the 9ths, unisons and 10ths do only 1 or 2 measures at a time.

3.) Do the Sliding Arpeggios (with and without vibrato) and 8va Slides — vary the starting position and strings along with rhythms, again.

4.) After 1 through 3 above are comfortable and on the way to mastery, add the 3-8va Major Arpeggios in Root (#1a), then 2nd Inversion (#1a) and then 1st Inversion (#1a). The major arpeggios develop and open the left hand better. Keep to one fingering for each until mastered working up higher and higher. Having begun in 1st position, you want to eventually begin the 3-8va arpeggio in 10th position. Lots of Rep Hits in all of these. (And did I mention Rhythms?:-)

MUSIC: Now take your next piece of music. It must be totally new to you and do not listen to a recording. If you have heard a recording that supplied the initial inspiration and kindled the desire to learn the given piece — that is enough. After the first play through to familiarize you with the composition, begin memorizing the most difficult passages. Know the Notes, Intervals, Hand Groups, Shifts, String Crossings and Rhythms — along with varying the rhythms in the memory process.

Use my ideas of technical work in the book and apply them directly into passages and sections of the repertoire you want to work on. Start slow, but never so slow the brain gets off the train:-) Conquer something so it is easy and then begin speeding up with the use of the metronome to avoid going too fast too soon.

You are going to be very busy, but don't worry as all of this is cumulative.

Take care and God bless,

Author of
Violin Technique: The Manual, How to master…
Viola Technique: The Manual, How to master…

From Shailee Kennedy
Posted on November 29, 2007 at 3:47 PM
I'm curious---why do you say don't listen to a recording before trying to play the piece?
From Charlie Caldwell
Posted on November 29, 2007 at 5:50 PM
I'm curious. What exactly is the point of listening to a piece of music before you play it? It gets in the way of my own learning process when I listen to someone else play a piece I have just started working on.
From Shailee Kennedy
Posted on November 29, 2007 at 6:21 PM
Well, for one, I imagine it would help with memorization---you would know how it's supposed to sound, therefore it would be easier to put together.

I'm just asking because I don't play classical music and it's a real puzzle to me the way classical players don't listen to music before starting to learn it. For me, it's the other way around---the more I've listened to a tune, the more versions of it I've heard, the more I internalize the melody and the easier it is to play. It doesn't mean I mimic what I hear exactly, but I appreciate the creativity of other musicians and learn from their ideas.

I am interested in the classical viewpoint, though, especially why it's so strict---many people seem to feel that listening first is a very bad idea, and I would like to know why.

From Drew Lecher
Posted on November 29, 2007 at 6:40 PM
“If you have heard a recording that supplied the initial inspiration and kindled the desire to learn the given piece — that is enough.” D.L.

Your questions, Shailee, and Charlie’s points, are both understandable and valid.

It does help to listen to other musicians’ interpretations, but can also make the classical musician in particular lose a bit of their own creativity of interpretation. Unlike jazz and other styles where the musician is actually recreating the music by modifying the “licks” and rearranging patterns, etc., the “classical” musician is restricted to the notes, rhythms and dynamics given by the composer. The exception to this is in baroque and some other periods within which we will add embellishments — trills, scales, arpeggios, etc. Also, cadenzas are our time to let loose with great freedom of compositional style — hopefully staying faithful and appropriate to the given composition.

I prefer to work on the composition independent of others interpretations. For me, it actually awakens my thought process regarding all the variables of fingerings, string selection, bowing styles and a host of other choices.

Afterwards, I will listen to various artists and analyze their interpretations compared to mine. This enables me to re-evaluate both and modify further should I feel a need to do so.

Hope this helps.

From Karen Allendoerfer
Posted on November 29, 2007 at 8:33 PM
I rarely listened to recordings of pieces I was working on when I was a student, but I do so much more now that recordings are more accessible. Just relying on my own ear, without any external frame of reference, has sometimes resulted in my "learning" it out of tune or just plain wrong and not knowing that there was anything wrong with it until someone else pointed it out, maybe at the next week's lesson, or even later. I've even learned and internalized totally wrong notes because I misread the music--especially when I was first learning to read alto clef for the viola--and only realized later, after listening to a recording, that I was playing a wrong note and corrected it.

What about having your teacher play it through for you--is that like listening to a recording too?

From Ray Randall
Posted on November 29, 2007 at 9:14 PM
Hi, Drew, good advice, but exactly what do you mean by hand groups?
From Pauline Lerner
Posted on November 30, 2007 at 2:19 AM
I advocate listening to a recording or your teacher playing a piece before you give it your first try. My students all say that that helps, and I know it helps me when I am the student. The first time you play a piece, you focus on playing the notes correctly, but you don't "hear" the piece in a "gestalt" sense. That's why it helps to listen to the piece before you start to play it. I find that this is true whether I'm learning a piece from a written page or by ear. I do not advocate mimicking someone else's style.
From Mendy Smith
Posted on November 30, 2007 at 5:45 AM
When I learn a new piece I either listen to a recording while reading through the music (minus instrument), or do a "play-along" with my teacher. For me this helps with tempo, rhythm, and "laying the ground-work" in my head. This is especially helpful if I have never heard the piece before. I don't use this as a basis of developing my own interpretation, but just as a starting point. Is this detrimental in a way that I'm not realizing?
From Drew Lecher
Posted on November 30, 2007 at 7:23 AM
Having the teacher play through or an initial listening to a recording are both good. Also, sight-reading some of it in the lesson enabling the teacher to guide one through the more difficult sections is very good.

Note the key, tune your fingers using the open strings (even if they clash harmonically with the piece) and double-stops when traversing from one string to the next.

Part of the point is to improve reading skills and be more independent in the learning process. This helps on all levels.

Hand Groups are the interval combinations or patterns of measurement for the fingers. They are the “words” – the language of notes and intervals as translated from the page to the violin fingerboard.

Such as a combination of interval spacing between fingers, as in, open/closed/open or whole/half/whole, steps or tones which is the “Beginning Hand Group” – BH. Pitch intervals change with varied string combinations, but the Hand Group can remain the same. (Excerpt from my violin and viola books.)

I teach 20 different Hand Groups in the books and they are great intonation studies in and of themselves.

I agree wholeheartedly. We all must have an idea of the sound and a student needs that initial listening for inspiration and guidance.

After that is when they will gain tremendous independence technically and artistically working on the piece along with guidance from their teacher and or a periodic repeat listening to a recording, even preferably by another artist as this will shed a great deal of light on how one artist interprets the given work and another artists has a different interpretation. (Libraries and friends are a great source of other recordings.)

Along with the gained independence comes an awareness of the tension and release the various notes contribute to the line, shape (gestalt), mood and character of the work. Perhaps the F# gives the feeling of needing increased drama and intensity or that of great exuberance and joy.

No, it is not detrimental in any way:-) The “play-along” with the teacher is my least favorite choice unless the teacher is playing some of the accompaniment, but it wont hurt you. We all learn in many varied ways. Some ways promote greater independence in the student and others are more gently nurturing. It depends on the level and personal character of the individual.

Reading through the music without the instrument is wonderful, whether with a recording or later on in silence while hearing the music, with its ebbs and flows, all in the mind. During this we can imagine the type of sound, the required draw of the bow, the timing of the shift, the quality of vibrato and so much more!

Thank you all for your comments and questions.
I hope this helps.

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