September 9, 2010 at 4:21 PM
When you play a piece of music, what do you do? Are you like me and try to visualise a picture or a story? Or do you play just with the expression you know so well?
Picturing a story in your head whilst playing music in my opinion is one of the best things to do. It helps people to connect with the piece and put their utmost feeling into it.
A while after I first started playing the violin, my violin teacher, Mrs. Foad, once told me after a struggle to get my technique right, 'Think of baby elephants stomping along, make your bow like the baby elephants,' so, I did. And the result I got from that image transformed the piece.
Another time, when I wanted to master doing a very quiet spiccato, she told me it had to be like a small child, tip-toeing along in the night because they don't want to get caught.
These visualisations have helped me throughout my years of playing the violin. Whether it is scales and a spider creeping up the drain pipe, or the child from the spiccato, tip-toeing along, it all helps.
When I moved on to do lessons with another teacher, Mrs. Scourse, I found out she did exactly the same. It isn't just technique that these images can be put to, but an actual piece of music too. I was once attempting to play the middle section of 'Sarabande in G Minor' by Karl Bohm, but I just could not master it correctly! So, with the right spirit, Mrs. Scourse looked at me and told me (quite seriously) 'Think of your friend's hamster dying... she is very upset... and the poor hamster...'
At first I found this rather amusing, but soon put my mind to it and played the section with that thought in my head, and, what a difference!
Even when you are listening to music, you can think up a scenario - maybe of a big jolly man walking down the street with a top hat, dressed in a suit.. when a gust of wind comes and blows his hat off and he falls over. It is just not the man's day... but then suddenly a good person approaches him with his hat, takes him under their wing and patches up the hole in the knee of his suit and he is all better again and just as jolly as before!
These stories can be as bizarre or creative as you like, it is just about putting your mind to it. It now comes naturally to me - when I practise the violin, I can visualise these things and it will bring out expression without much effort - thinking about expression can quite often lead to muscle tension and frustration. Doing this can be much more relaxing.
Every time I listen to music, play a new piece, pick up an old piece or just go over my technique, I think of some new or old story each time to help me along!
And do you know what? The thought of baby elephants stomping away will never leave my mind for as long as I live!
I think alot of us do the same thing.
I think I have always had little pictures or stories going through my head for the music I am playing.
I thought it was just me when I was younger and never said anything to anybody about it.
Then one day I went to a Maxim Vengerov master class and he was doing this through out the entire class. Everything he was showing us he had a little story to go along with it. It was fun to watch him hop around and act out these scenarios to help us visualise what he was explaining.
Don't mind the baby elephants but I think I'll skip the spiders, thanks :-)
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