December 2010

Getting Down to Basics

December 30, 2010 11:13

 There have been many discussions, posts and blogs on this topic before now on, and that is because it is important for us to remember -getting down to the basics. 

It is very easy for musicians to progress and forget about basic technique. And it is also very tempting - you may find yourself rolling your eyes as soon as you think about practising simple bow strokes, checking intonation and thinking about posture. But just like anyone in any profession, one needs to think about these simple things otherwise they are forgotten. Think about a doctor - as a medical student, they work on the simple things and gradually learn more about the medical world. Later on, if they were to be treating a patient and had not reviewed the simple and beginning stuff, they would forget and not know. It works the same in music - when you find yourself needing to rely on something very simple but have not reviewed it, you will forget and not know, or at least be rusty at it. It's just a good job that forgetting something on the violin wouldn't put someone's life at risk unlike the doctor! 

Today I have been reviewing the basics and spending most of my time in front of a mirror thinking about posture and simple technique. I've been looking over Etudes and exercises for beginners in all my old books. And do you know what? It has helped a lot. My memory has been restored and my tone has improved just by going back to basics. So I think I will be doing this more often! I have realised getting down to the basics is important for anything to do with playing the violin. 

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The Mysterious Violinist

December 26, 2010 09:59

 Over the past couple of weeks I have endured concert after concert, church service after service. Although I was ill for the most part of some important ones (and unfortunately missed one), I attended a row of 5 concerts in a massive hall as part of a youth choir I am in. Of course, there was a full choir, an orchestra and a famous guest presenter (I won't say who it actually was though for my own sake). 

Anyway, the concerts were all going well, and I was right in line so I could see the first violin section, and the lead violinist. The lead violinist was fascinating to watch - he was quite large, laid back and had big hands. His grey hair half flopped over his eyes as he played and he had to keep pushing his glasses up to the bridge of his nose every few minutes. His violin quite frankly looked tiny next to him, and his bow seemed too short for his arms. He looked as if he would have been more suited to the double bass rather than the violin! He barely looked at the conductor as he was playing apart from during his solo parts and instead just concentrated on the score in front of him. His posture and the way he played meant that he was relaxed and slouched back, and everything seemed utterly effortless to him. Trills send my fingers flying and my vibrato is quite obvious, but when he was doing trills and vibrato his fingers barely moved, almost like it didn't exist in the music. Saying all of this, on solo parts, his playing and technique was utterly beautiful and sent my ears into a new frenzy, a passion and a desire to play like him.  

This man had such a strange air about him that I cannot describe. I felt like I could connect with him in some strange way, and every time he looked in my direction (with quite a stern look about him in general) I wondered if he could see me and be able to tell whether I was a violinist?

Every concert I went to, I would watch him. I started to pick up some differences in the ways he approaches techniques (tremolo was played nearer the middle of the bow rather than at the tip, and his spiccato was very neat and not wild like some other people's were). It was fascinating. 

Of course, he was not always stern, there were some points where he turned around and smiled at people in the choir, and I saw him laughing with a group of other violinists at one point. He did go very serious looking when he was playing though, almost as though he had just entered a completely different world and mind-set all together.

I wonder who this man is now? I never found out his name at all, but maybe I will go and ask. To me, he is a mysterious violinist, someone I can look up to and follow. I don't know if I will see him again - I probably will, but until that day, I will take his example up and follow his way.


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Snowmen, Exams, More Exams and Christmas!

December 5, 2010 16:52

 Just over one week has passed since my last blog post, a week that has been taken up with festive joy, lots of snow and much revision. Tomorrow, my GCSE mock exams start, beginning with music! My music practical exam takes place in school at 9:15 am, which gives me hardly any time to get to school and get prepared! Nevertheless, I shall go and perform my violin solo - Sarabande in G Minor by Karl Bohm, and my simple ensemble with my brother - Pachelbele's Cannon in D. I am opting for pieces that will get me high marks but won't be too understated this time round. 

All week I have been revising like mad actually - Maths, English, Welsh, French, History and more subjects have taken over my mind in floods and massive waves as I've been trying to cram in the last of my knowledge into my brain. And all this time, I've been missing out on the snow that has been falling daily outside and the creations of snowmen and snow angels all over the village. 

I was delighted to find out that I had passed my Grade 5 theory exam too. I received the news via email 2 days ago, and it is a huge relief. I can now proceed to doing grade 8 voice and violin sometime next year! I'm very pleased with myself because to be quite honest, I dislike theory with a passion!

So, if you don't hear from me for the next couple of weeks it is because I will be sitting exams! School will soon be over for the Christmas holidays, concerts will be taking up my schedule and the seasons joy will be around me. 

Now is the time to wish everyone a very merry Christmas before I get too busy to. Have a great Christmas, everyone!

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