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Viola Blog. Yes, you read that right.

April 16, 2010 at 12:54 AM

 So I've decided to start a blog here, and I'm hoping I'll get some discussion/insight on my troubles/successes in my journey. I am, in fact, a violist. However, this is one of the best websites I've found for violin and viola technique. I've learned a lot here and hoping to increase my playing. 

Some info about myself..

I'm a sophomore Viola major at Syracuse University. They do in fact have a music school with some very talented faculty that I'm happy to be a part of. Nevertheless, I enjoy the confinement of the music school within the larger university setting. I can get some serious work done and still have fun outside of the music building. That is always good :) I'm currently working on the Brahms E flat Sonata, which has been one of the most challenging pieces I've ever played. I performed the first movement for my jury, and the second will be played at the end of this semester. I hope to have the entire sonata completed in a few months.

One of my major setbacks would have to be my vibrato. Sadly enough, I was never taught how to do vibrato, and thus developed my own sort of impulse/tense movement that some what resembled vibrato. No one really told me otherwise. When I got to the university, I went through and overhaul. It wasn't really until the start of this year when I really started practicing in abundance, playing more often in recitals/groups and started working on a lot of things. I started painfully re-learning vibrato over the summer. I decided to learn an arm vibrato since that came easiest. For about 6 months I began each day practicing with a metronome until I had the motion down. Then came the real test; for what ever reason, I had difficulty vibrato-ing without the metronome, which led to it's own recovery phase. I'm almost complete with that now, although when I tense up/become nervous I usually revert back to my old style of vibrato. My right had technique, thankfully, has improved, as well as my intotation. My tone has as well. over the past semester, although my vibrato is such a setback and causes me such distress. I drives me over the edge sometimes, but I realize everyone has their faults and its okay. I've made a lot of progress with that aspect of my playing and it's on the brink of being fixed. Just need to get the bad feelings out of my head.

That is all for now. I'll update whenever I feel need be. Hopefully before juries in a couple weeks. Wish me luck.

From Mendy Smith
Posted on April 16, 2010 at 1:10 AM

Welcome fellow violist!  And welcome to the joys of developing a relaxed vibrato - on viola.  I'm in a similar boat as you at the moment, trying to transition from a wrist/finger vibrato to more arm action. One thing I'm learning is that the moment you become tense, stop.  Then start again with a measured relaxed movement, then back into the vibrato.  It takes time, and alot of it, especially as an adult, to capture that relaxed easy feeling.

Keep us posted with how this develops!

Posted on April 16, 2010 at 1:46 AM

Hello and Welcome,

Of course you now may have to endure the sophmoric viola jokes from some but there are quite a few devotees of the instrument here also

Although violin might be considered my stronger suit, I bought a $600 "special" back in 1973 and began to dabble...Now I have a "sweet" instrument made by G. Marten Cornelissen, four real nice bows and am thoroughly entranced by the instrument.

From Alison Daurio
Posted on April 16, 2010 at 12:49 PM

Hi and welcome :) I also didn't learn vibrato until I was about 20. It was a struggle, but I did it. I started with arm vibrato, which eventually evolved into a pretty decent wrist vibrato. Just keep at it, you'll get there!

From Ann Marie Cordial
Posted on April 16, 2010 at 1:45 PM

Matt -

I'm a violist as well.  I am learning vibrato now and my instructor has me practice just the motion on the string in front of a mirror - like when we learned correct bowing with the mirror.  I do about 1 or 2 minutes with no bow; just checking form.  Then I add the bow and begin the vibrato very SLOWLY; all the while checking the mirror.

It is a process, I will admit.  But every once in a while I hear it coming off the string perfectly, and that's what gives me the  fortitide to go on.

By the way, I'm an older violist.  I started when I was 50.

---Ann Marie

From Lisa Van Sickle
Posted on April 16, 2010 at 7:44 PM

After 35 years of playing violin I started viola a few years ago, and have found vibrato to be one of the harder things to learn on the viola.  My hunch is that the more open angle of the left elbow changes how everything else needed for vibrato works.  When I go back to violin now, I'm amazed at how easy and natural vibrato is.

I wonder if the problem is in having learned one first and trying to switch, or if violists as a whole have a harder time developing vibrato than violinists. 

From Matt Scinto
Posted on April 16, 2010 at 9:25 PM

 Thank you for all the wonderful replies. Performing the first two movements of the Dohnanyi Serenade in C tonight.. wish me luck. My nerves have been getting the best of me the past two days but I hoping, God willing, everything works out tonight. Been terribly on edge. It seems the more you practice something, the more nervous you get about it. I nail it in the practice room but in performance.. not so much. Ahh!

Posted on April 16, 2010 at 11:55 PM


Blame it on the cellist

From Matt Scinto
Posted on April 17, 2010 at 3:45 AM

 @Sam no man, I always blame the violinist

From Matt Scinto
Posted on April 17, 2010 at 3:46 AM

 Dohnanyi certainly wasn't the best we've played it but we made it through. Glad that is over with :)

Posted on April 17, 2010 at 5:12 AM

 Well, as a wise sage of a teacher once said to me...mastering music is like viewing the horizon, the closer you get, it just moves further into the distance

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