May 2009

Searching for Solutions

May 22, 2009 12:31

Yesterday i had a violin class. I really think that it is important, and i like it very much because it is an opportunity to solve mistakes (or bad-habits), allowing one's violin playing evolution.

I have discovered some of the tension sources that were tormenting me (not all of the sources yet, though). The tensions i have (wished to say 'had' :( ) is in my left elbow, going up to the left thumb. My teacher saw that whenever i take my violin to playing position, i  force my elbow to the right side too much. The elbow simply does not move from there, even in shifting, or playing in any of the strings. I guess that there is not much to do to overcome that tension, other than just paying attention to it, and trying every day to release it when it is noticed. Does Anyone have any suggestion?

Another very important issue I have discovered is that i must improve my intonation (but who must not?). He pointed out some out-of-tune notes along with some very very slightly out-of-tune notes. The former is an issue that i can correct with scales, which i practice every day. But the latter... Most of the slightly out-of-tune notes he pointed out, i could not even tell if they were flat or sharp.

I know of the play-to-a-drone exercise. But could this exercise improve my overall intonation, or just the harmonic intonation? How about the Melodic? 2 cents?

My teacher told me to imagine that i could not play to the open strings, finding the correct pitch by ear; training it to detect the incorrect intonation. Any thoughts here?

I think i have to release the tensions to improve the intonation... Maybe i'll just get a jar of prune's juice...

My many many thanks!!

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The importance of overall relaxation for violin playing

May 11, 2009 06:23

Last week's thursday i had a class with my violin teacher. He explained me some very important issues i must increase in my violin playing. Those are the overall relaxation of the body, releasing all the tensions that affects one's playing.

Every tension spot might mean that are posture problems that MUST be solved. Even more: it affects the playing, turning a 'must-be-smooth' passage into something harsh. I'll mention some efects i had felt someday. Some are already solved, others are being corrected every day. All i am about to say - write ;) - are my thoughts on the matter, meaning that i could be imprecise or maybe even incorrect. Suggestions are very welcome!!

The tension spots has its origin in a bad posture, which starts in the spine and is transferred to everywhere in the body. If we don't acquire a correct posture in the spine (which means an erect posture, feets shoulder-length appart (for those who are in an standing position) and comfortable feet position while sitting in an adequate chair), it all starts to tension. That is: or neck becomes stiff, we might raise our shoulder for playing, tension our pulse and fingers. It is a succession of tensions that happens.

(One could ask: "What is an erect spine posture?". To visualize an erect spine posture, imagine a line which starts in the base of the spine and goes straight up. Now adjust yourself to that straight line. Comments on this subject?)

All the tension spots need attention by all violin players. Only by releasing all the tensions it is possible to produce the most smooth sound.

Suppose we clear all tensions in the spine. In this way some of the tensions go away because our shoulders, arms and neck goes to a more natural position. Nevertheless, there could still be still some tensions to be treated.

If your neck is tensioned, then you could start feeling some stiffness and even pain (maybe even violin hickeys?). Neck tension is eventually accompanied by left shoulder elevation/tension. We must be very focused on releasing the shoulder/neck tension, making relaxation natural for us. (When we hold the violin in playing position our body may "think" that it must be tensioned to hold the violing in that position, which is not true at all, because the violin is being supported by  2 points: the collarbone and the left hand (thumb and base of first finger) and does not need any tension from neck and shoulder to be firm, just some slight pressure from the chin for stability. (It may be supported by a shoulder rest/pad but there are controversies on this, and lots of discussions on the matter).

Left hand's fingers must TOUCH the string in a smooth way. There should not be a hard pressure from the fingers on the string when that is not needed, and our bow arm and shoulder must be very relaxed as well (maybe some very slow and smooth string crossing exercises can release the tensions?)

A fully relaxed body (no sleeping in here!) prevents problems that could happend over a long time (years maybe) of violin practicing, like arthritis, and other stuff, and helps to achieve a more smooth vibrato (some comments here?)

I think i might be forgetting something very important and I know maybe i am saying all this just to myself (because i need these advices). So, feel free to add your comments or advices, because this is a really important thing for everyone to be aware of.

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Perseverance to a Violin Student

May 5, 2009 08:24

Greetings to you!

My name is Erick and i am an adult begginer.

I have started my new violin learning odissey at about 1.5 years. And i'd like to share with you my experiences with learning this incredible instrument, while it is happening, asking for advices when the need is at hand.

First of all, a bit about my past years in boredom, before i restarted my violin studies.

I am now 27 years old, living in a big town named Campinas, in São Paulo (Brazil).  I met the violin for the first time when i was sitting in my father's house, watching a delightful performance of a japanese solo violinist (don't know his name) playing orchestral "The Beatles" musics.

I was, i think, 12 or 13 years old by that time. At that moment i told him that i really liked that, and would enjoy greatly to learn to play the violin. I'm sure he thought that the idea was just delusions of a boy. But i really meant it. Some days later i went alone to a musical instruments shop, looking for a violin... And then i saw it... with it's brownish color; a marvelous case; the most beautifull violin i have ever seen. No other violin was like it. Went back to my father's house; asked my mom also; and we bought the violin (which, by that time, was worth about US$60-70, R$210 in local currency, back in 1994 or 95).

And then, i came home, violin case in my hands, to try and make my first sound... Took the violin; bow; sawed the strings and... nothing. No sound could be heard. By that time i didnt even know what was the rosin all about. rs ;) Anyway, i think that was a Friday. The next Tuesday my father took me to a teacher for violin classes. And with him i started to learn a bit of something... for about 3 months.

I couldn't bear using the shoulder rest i had bought, it was chinese and very unconfortable, there was no other in the shop... It did everything but hold the violin in position; really disgusting. And then i stopped the classes, which generated unconfidence in my family about myself and the musical study- except for my mother. She always told me that i had talent to music and to do something with it.

Several things happened after that, years passed. I gave that violin to a friend of mine, believing that it was not what i was seeking - actually i really don't know  WHAT was i thinking when i gave it - Then i bought a guitar; and a clarinet; but never looked at them with the eyes i have stared at that violin at the shop back in 1996. I went to university and got a Master degree in Statistics; started working in a big electric holding company.

And then, back in 2007, something clicked...

I saw myself looking at my boyish dreams; saw the need of music close to my life; Remembering something a friend told me - that everething a man really wants, he can achieve, by means of persevering. I bought another violin. This one, another low grade student violin, came with a very nice shoulder rest, that (almost) fit me from the start.

My will to persevere enhanced even more from 2007 to now. I started learning alone. For 3 months i was fixing my intonation with the help of an electronic tuner. On the 4th month i found a teacher; had classes for about 6 months; exchanged to another teacher for another 2 months; and now i have even another one; this one is the concertmaster in the local synfonic orchestra.

Last week he gave me the 'Kayser' and 'Flesch Scale Studies' methods. I am now learning 1st, 3rd and 5th etudes on the Kayser, and page 22 of Flesch (Bb Scales and arpeggios up to 7th position, no double stops yet).

If anyone have any suggestions, please, let me know, i am willing to enhance myself every day.

By the way... i am now studying 3 hours almost every day, in 3 periods (45 minutes in the morning, 1.5 hour after lunch and another 45 minutes at night - still gotta work, you know...)

Hope to write again next week... and to see your comments!!

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