Purity practice: find the phrase by losing your vibrato

February 14, 2017, 2:39 PM · Vibrato is a good thing. I like it before shifts, after shifts, during tremolo, on pizzicati, over open strings, and even (gasp!) in baroque music!

But vibrato, if left unchecked, tends to take over your brain.

still pool no vibrato

You won't realize it at first. But once your left hand gains enough mental real estate, your right hand wonders why it should care anymore. It draws the bow in predictable fashion, your dynamic range goes down the tubes, and you become a boring violinist.

So what's the solution? Shift the focus back to the bow! It's the right hand, after all, that determines nearly everything about your sound. In order to do that, you just may have to lose your vibrato temporarily. You'll work it back in, but only after putting the right hand back in charge of the phrase again.

I show you how I handle Purity Practice in the video below. And we'll take a detailed look at the first phrase of the Barber violin concerto along the way:

Have you tried "purity practice"? How did it work for you?


February 15, 2017 at 01:25 AM · Nate you should come to southwestern Virginia where we actually have mountains that look like that! :)

February 15, 2017 at 01:39 AM · I noticed this last week, attending a Baroque concert -- so much more of the expression came through the bow! And a Baroque bow at that....(maybe that makes it easer..)

I've run into the occasional person who "can't" stop their vibrato! Ideas for that? :)

February 15, 2017 at 10:29 AM · many many thanks as always Nate!

February 18, 2017 at 09:26 PM · When I was learning Bruch concerto, my teacher demonstrated the importance of the bow by drawing a looong open G string with so many colors and emotion that gave me the goose bumps I still have whenever I think about the sound. Someone said, the right hand is mechanics and the left is artist. Or as philosopher, poet and violinist Jan Zwicky said, the left hand is our pumping heart and the right is our brain.

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