Singing without vibrato

October 6, 2007 at 07:26 AM · When working on the 2nd movement of Bruch no 1 vc, it’s hard for me to imagine playing it beautifully without vibrato, but this is precisely what I’m asked to do right now. My teacher told yesterday to think that the singing voice comes from the right hand and to apply vibrato sparsely like using “makeup.”

Bruch without vibrato? Arrrh! Thoughts and tips please!

Replies (101)

October 6, 2007 at 12:18 PM · Yixi:

Your teacher has a good point about "singing" with the bow arm instead of just vibrato. However, I personally would NEVER allow students to practice such artistic technique on a artistic repertoire. I personally feel that etudes are the "practice forum" in order to properly prepare for the repertoire. I treat the repertoire as a sacred work of art and feel that one should never be disrespectful by "practicing" technique within the relms of repertoire. Gitlis always emphasized the bow being the "paint brush" of the musicial artist. It needs to be so well trained that it can detect and produce the most subtle of all colours.

October 6, 2007 at 03:36 PM · Actually, I respectfully disagree with Mr. Song. Yes, concert works are to be treated with the utmost respect. And yes, while etudes' FINAL goal is to aid in the practice of a certain technique, concert works' final goal is a musical, artistic performance. Where I disagree is in how one GETS to that final goal. I use practice methods, and as such, part of the process of working on a concerto or whatever is to deconstruct it, apply practice methods learned and used in etudes, and aim for those methods making playing the piece easy.

As for your specific question, Yixi, Oistrakh advocated practicing - even warming up, actually - on a (slow) Mozart concerto without vibrato. I've found this to help intonation enormously, myself. And in your situation, practicing the Bruch without recourse to vibrato should produce the following results:

1) For whatever reason that I've not yet figured out, when you "plug" your vibrato back in you'll find it to be much more...well, vibrant. More varied, consistent, and relaxed.

2) Such practice will direct your attention at your sound and its qualities, not letting you hide from yourself behind a vib screen.

3) In being thus directed to notice your unadulterated sound, you will hopefully be inspired to experiment with what the right hand can do to alter not only volume but also quality. As you try to achieve a sound that you want, a sound that you can hear in your mind's ear, your right arm will start to make micro-adjustments. And then the really fun questions will begin: elbow higher? lower? bow tilted? not? sounding point? ponticello? tastiera? pressure? weight placement on top of the bow? ahead? behind? feeling of hand being dragged? doing the dragging? etc. etc. etc.

The tricky part is to not just let the arm make those micro-adjustments but also to be aware of what the adjustments are so that, in the future, you can make them at will, without having to go through a trial-and-error process each time.

As for using concert works as a laboratory, I'll never forget my teacher at MSM - to whom I owe pretty much my entire technique and my ability to teach myself and others - putting me onto a Handel sonata when we first started working together. I was seriously ticked off, too. I mean, here I was, abandoning Juilliard, having played concerti galore, suddenly reduced to playing this silly little thing?? But in giving me a piece in which I couldn't be distracted by show-off elements or technical challenges, Vladimir gave me a perfect place to practice the thing I'd always overlooked: sound quality.

And it helped. And I'm grateful now, as I've been grateful since age 16.

October 6, 2007 at 04:40 PM · Hey Emil, I totally agree with you there...except just one thing to mention. How about starting with scales? Just very simple scales...

My teacher, with whom I started a little bit less than a week ago (who is NOT yet listed on my profile ^^) , is a HUUUGE advocate of extremely slow scales. However, he's big on practicing them with vibrato--even though it's great to be able to get a beautiful sound without vibrato, what you must take into account is that vibrato changes the overtone series that you're working with, so the bow technique must be flexible in order to accomodate that.

Try playing your three-octave scales SUPER slow, two notes per bow, and aim for a very complex sound with lots of 'core' and huge projection. After five days of this technique I've had some people at school come to my practice room and ask me if I had a new is SO helpful. Key though, is concentration. You have to focus like crazy! What this teaches you how to do is to pay constant attention to your sound quality and make adjustments on the fly when you don't like what you hear.

After a few days of this, try incorporating it into your can aim for the same sound QUALITY and presence with different color and dynamic.

October 6, 2007 at 05:07 PM · Singing without vibrato:

10.6.07 Yixi ––

I am delighted that Sung-Duk Song mentioned Gitlis always emphasized the bow being the "paint brush" of the musical artist. It needs to be so well trained that it can detect and produce the most subtle of all colours. This is too often neglected, or worse, forgotten!

Emil Chudnovsky hit the nail on the head with all of his comments and descriptions/methods. If you cannot make it beautiful via the sound (use of the bow) you will not achieve the highest level of your artistry.

When you apply the vibrato after determining your tonal colours the sound will spin/resonate as never before. We should all do this more often.

This is all part of the analyses and development of the music –– the goal.


October 6, 2007 at 05:03 PM · Shannon--Scales! yes.... and arpeggios I think...

It's the strangest thing, but my arpeggios sound better than my scales some times. So, not only slow scales, but truly truly truly focused slow scales.

I had some articulation issues (still do), so I not only do the slow slow scales, but do them with pull-offs to harmonics--same with arpeggios.

Then, when I do start my etudes, I change focus to posture, balance and lightness of thumb, with my fifth eye watching for light finger dropping.

Not qualified to discuss the other layers here, but my articulation is 'improving'.

October 6, 2007 at 05:06 PM · YIxi,

Sorry, I have to disagree with your teacher. I'm not a vibrato minimalist, and believe that the heart and soul of a string player flows from his/her vibrato. We are not clarinetists.

Speaking for myself only--I would find Emil's technique of warming up sans vibrato counterproductive. Knowing that I tend to be tight on stage, at least at first, I find it much more valuable to warm up with a very wide, exaggerated and loopy vibrato--then I feel I can control it. Also, practicing repertoire without vibrato means that when the vibrato is "plugged it" I'm suddenly trying to hit a moving target with intonation. I'd rather practice my intonation with vibrato calculated into the mix (or vice-versa).

One more thought: When I teach, especially when a student has a performance coming up, I emphasize that they must vibrate for the hall, even in a small space like my living room. This would be especially important for a concerto, which would presumably be played in a large hall. I don't see how it could help to have them vibrate minimally during our lesson and expect them to get on stage and have a different vibrato.

October 6, 2007 at 05:53 PM · Scott--I 'feel' where you're coming from man--and on some level I agree.

It's also true though I think to separate the layers of instruments (even clarinet;)). I've spent 'so' much time just practicing scales etc. with my southpaw on piano through the years because I can't walk and chew bubble gum well--and it helps--though the bubble-gum factor still applies.

But, like you said, sometimes I feel micro-managing the layers can have their own downfalls--I'm just not sure how, and think it's probably one of those case by case considerations--what works for one...

Someone convinced me to start focusing on the bow more rigorously, which I have--and thats what I'm feeling in Yixi's remark.

I'm sending you a clarinet! ;)....

October 6, 2007 at 06:12 PM · Forgot to mention. "Intonation" with vibrato--basically, when you calculate the amount of time on the fundamental pitch and then the infinite number of pitches you cover in one "round turn" of the vibrato, if you have a greater percentage of time spent on the fundamental pitch, you're going to sound in tune.

As for the bow--yes, the bow IS the "breath" of the violin, and it is of the utmost importance that you "sing" with the bow. But vibrato absolutely changes the way in which the bow catches the string because of the minute differences in string length, etc, produced during the vibrato. So in order to really train yourself to sing with the bow, it is absolutely essential that you practice tone production exercises with your best vibrato possible.

Another interesting point that my teacher brought up at my lesson--the bow itself vibrates in resonance with the string, the violin, and the bow hair. If you are in the habit of squeezing your bow or even gripping it tightly, it can limit some of the overtones present in your sound. I honestly did not believe my teacher until he demonstrated (and made me demonstrate for myself) the difference in sound that's's pretty shocking when you hear it :)

October 6, 2007 at 09:53 PM · grrrrr... there's that "sacred work of art" thing again. Music is not sacred. I reserve the right to sing "howdy doody" while I practice a piece, if that will solve a problem in my playing.

October 6, 2007 at 10:29 PM · Bow breathing. Intense topic. Glad to read everyone's responses and learn.

Two things I try to keep in mind when breathing:

Pulse (rhythm)

Inhale, Exhale (rise and fall--phrase)

That is music and that's it from me.

October 6, 2007 at 10:57 PM · If singing "howdy doody" helps you practice, I think you should go right ahead. But it's a mistake to think you can give pieces their due if you treat them as "songs with baggage", as you once said. Music is more than a skill set, I've become convinced.

So while your practicing can and should utilize whatever it takes to get results, including lightheartedness, your playing and performing needs adequate respect for music, including understanding why it's not the same as hip-hop or the rest.

October 7, 2007 at 12:28 AM · :)

October 7, 2007 at 02:42 AM · I hate to interrupt the flow of this great discussion, but just want to thank you all for your thoughtful and helpful comments.

A bit of context might be called for. I don’t disclose my teacher’s name for the reason of privacy. She is regarded by other concert violinists here as the “violin doctor.” My short-term goal is, with her help, to pull all the technique together as efficiently and effectively as possible. When she demonstrated to me that Bruch can sound absolutely emotional and colorful without vibrato, I thought I just peeked into a new world unknown to me. So I was somewhat dazzled and had to call for help and I’m glad I did, as you guys have given me this “secrete weapon” for improvement:)

Scott, I’m not preparing for an audition or performance in near future. My vibrato is another issue. In fact, I thought we were going to deal with my vibrato first when I started this piece, but now the issues of my right hand take the 1st priority. If I were to perform the piece, I’m sure the preparation and demand with my teacher will be a different story altogether.

Sung-Duk, my current program includes Flesch scales, Kreutzer etudes, Bach S&P, and Viotti 22 and Bruch G minor concerti, with an emphasis on scales and the pieces. Regarding using artistic repertoire as a practice forum, would you like to elaborate on (other) reasons against this approach? I’m also a big fan of Simon Fischer and use his Practice and Basic quite frequently. I’m wondering what you think of his approach (using passages of solo repertoire to address technical issues). By the way, Gitlis’s DVD arrived a couple of days ago and I’m completely blew away by his performance, especially his bowing – it’s unreal!

Shannon, the scale thing you suggested makes perfect sense and I’m going to incorporate into my daily scale practice. I can see it’ll work for me. The hope is that I do have the sound inside me wants to come out to give me goose pimples. The trick is to get it out.

Kimberlee, pulse (rhythm without counting with the bow) and breathing, so true! I’m working hard on that too. Different breaths for scales, Bach and Bruch. With Bruch, I’m trying also to play from the stomach, but don’t ask me to explain.

Emil, your advice is so clear, specific, heartfelt and very helpful. I have a lot more to say to you but all I can say is again thank you so much! It’ll take me awhile to absorb all you’ve said so I’ve printed it out for daily review.

October 7, 2007 at 03:24 AM · I would suggest practicing the melodic material without the left hand at all. Just play on an open string and imagine the tune. That way you won't be distracted by the unvibrated notes and you will be able to really notice what you are doing with the bow.

October 7, 2007 at 04:02 AM · Wow, Bruce! Yeah, why not push a little further indeed. I'll try that. Thanks!

October 7, 2007 at 04:33 AM · Please tell me you're joking. Please.

October 7, 2007 at 05:19 AM · I'm dumb enough to try almost anything, but the warning is duly noted:)

October 7, 2007 at 06:17 AM · Yixi--you're so cool. So, I didn't mean literally "breathing"(although that's also good). I was thinking more in terms of eurythmics and phrasing. I know about playing from the stomach (center of chi, doors of life etc.).

October 7, 2007 at 06:41 AM · Actually, I think everybody in here is about half zany! Yixi being holder of a three-quarter's share.

October 7, 2007 at 07:04 AM · Taking a slightly different angle on this extremely interesting aspect of our technique: I find that for me, the less I think about the actual physical movements involved in vibrato and the more I think about the sound I'm aiming to produce, the better it sounds. That is, rather than thinking "OK, for this section I need to move these joints at this frequency and that amplitude" I imagine what tone color I'm trying to produce: warm, plaintive, cantilena, parlando, or what-have-you, and still focusing primarily on drawing the sound out with the bow. This may have been something like what your teacher was getting at--thinking of the vibrato as an integral part of the tone which is still produced mainly by the bow, and not as a completely isolated technique to be tacked on separately to the general tone production. Or maybe I've missed the point's three in the morning and I have insomnia again.

October 7, 2007 at 12:53 PM · Yixi:

In response to your question about reasons why I am against using artistic repertoire as a practice forum, I think acquired this view when I was with Gitlis. He would force and require me to think of a NEW artistic idea every time I played the piece for him. To Gitlis, he wanted the piece to sound "so fresh like the manuscript is still dripping with ink when the composer gives it to the artist to interpret". Therefore, I discovered that if I kept practicing a technical passage using the piece, I ran out of artistic ideas and there were times when I was so totally bored to death and uninspired by the repertoire at my lessons with Gitlis. He analyzed the problem and it was he who actually recommended to me that I need to practice the technical stuff in the form of etudes and be really comfortable before applying it to the repertoire. When we changed our lesson approach, it allowed me to be more "artistically innovative" because the technical portion felt comfortable so I focused more on artistry.

Not every teacher or student is a proponent of this method, but it worked very well for me and most of my students who I teach.

October 7, 2007 at 01:29 PM · Dear Yixi,

I guess it is a very interesting topic especially because I know that my point of weakness is vibrato because I would like to put in the music the taste I think, by vibrato.

I'm working hard with several exercises to get the results. I'm working especially on the control of width and speed of vibrato because I guess it is the possibility of variation which gives the widest possibility of colors and tastes (vd Zimmermann who in my opinion has the best control of all the degrees of freedom of vibrato).

I guess that using a measured number of oscillations applied on the music can work better than not using at all the vibrato.



October 7, 2007 at 02:54 PM · In support of Maestri Gitlis and Song, I have a little anecdote to offer. Whenever I spend time with Florin Croitoru (fantastic violinist, Kreisler competition 1st place winner, ten other competitions winner and laureate), his practicing consists of running through Paganini caprices and perhaps a look at this or that tricky bit of whatever it is he's due to perform. And it is invariably cut off with him commenting "that's enough of that. Don't want to kill the freshness."

I know he's mostly joking, but as we say in Russian "in every joke there's a grain of truth." And sometimes more than just a grain. But for me, when I was a student it just wasn't an issue to get locked into just one interpretation. So Vladimir probably felt the risk of such stultification was worth using works from the literature to address technical issues.

Mara, as for what you wrote, I don't think I've ever thought about vibrato in terms of which knuckle moves where and how far except in two instances: when explaining the rudiments to a beginner and when analyzing what was going wrong or what felt different in practice. That way, if something goes wrong on stage, I know how to flick the "on" switch for the vibrato I want, rather than trial-and-erroring my way through a performance. Usually, it's knowing something quite simple like "lift hand higher above fingerboard" or "land fingers more or pads, you're too much on the tips now" or "relax thumb around heel in this nose-picking position". But that's just a resort for emergencies. Most of the time, as you say, what I have in mind is the end result rather than the minutiae of getting there.

Finally, as for scales, I advocate the first scales of the day being played mid-speed (so as to avoid micromanagement from the right arm resulting in jittery sounds, tension, lack of physical flow, etc.) with no vibrato (to tune the ears). I gradually DECREASE the bow speed, by making the first scale one note to a bow, the second scale two to a bow AT THE SAME NOTE SPEED, the third four to a bow, and the fourth eight to a bow. The idea is to have the same, solid, un-choked sound at eight notes to a bow as at one note to a bow, and the same feeling of freedom rather than constriction in the right arm. The fifth scale of the day is often a vibrato warm-up, accomplished by playing the scale with truly non-stop vibrato. This means listening paranoically for the vibrato dropping off between notes (and avoiding that, naturally). And for prompting the feeling of a constant vibrato from the wrist - palm motion, of course, with the wrist acting as a hinge - wherein the fingers can substitute for one another without getting in the way of the constancy of the wrist's motion. I usually explain that exercise to students as the wrist being analogous to the electricity coming into your TV set, while the fingers are channels on TV. You can go from channel to channel without needing to turn the juice off, as it were.

And at the end of a three or four octave, non-stop vibrato scale, I usually have my vibrato up and running. If I don't, the sixth exercise usually helps: the Serratos-Szeryng etude in fingered octaves. Half a page of that, and my vibrato is definitely ticking along.

October 7, 2007 at 03:05 PM · "Finally, as for scales, I advocate the first scales of the day being played mid-speed (so as to avoid micromanagement from the right arm resulting in jittery sounds, tension, lack of physical flow, etc.)"

Hey, thanks! I've been having some problems with the very jittery sounds and lack of flow due to micromanagement that you mention.

What's your take on what to practice first in any given day? Dounis warns vehemently against practicing scales before doing a full technical warm-up (with something like the Daily Dozen) but then I suppose it's easy to get stuck in the "micromanagement" mode.

I once had a teacher who tried to fix my unreliable vibrato by drawing graphs of amplitude modulations, talking about Pythagorean pitch ratios to explain why you shouldn't dip below the note, and yes, described in minute detail every movement of every individual knuckle. I'm STILL trying to get back whatever vibrato I once had...

October 7, 2007 at 03:15 PM · As per my comment about practicing open strings without left hand and imagining the phrase, I was absolutely serious. This way you can concentrate on bow division, bow expression, sounding point, amount of pressure, bow speed, etc. without the distraction of left hand problems.

October 7, 2007 at 05:10 PM · Bruce is right...If you can't do it open strings, you can't do it with the left hand. Much of the right hand expression involves playing with color. For instance, you wouldn't play everything on the sounding point (particularly in piano sections) or your sound would always be the same - very dull. I think your teacher is aiming to have you realize the potential of your violin.

October 7, 2007 at 11:38 PM · I had an epiphany with my vibrato a few years ago when I stated playing jazz violin, and listening to the jazz greats, Stephane Grappelli and Stuff Smith. I realized how they used the potential of the vibrato to a far greater extent than almost any classical string players -- in terms of constant variety from none to lots, from the narrowest to the widest. I also realized how breathtakingly, heart rendingly expressive it is possible to play, without any vibrato at all. Since then, my whole concept of tone production and of vibrato has grown and blossomed. I have also learned and grown from listening to the great pop and jazz singers of yesterday and today and also the great vocalists.

I often ask students, or colleagues, to try to play a song such as "Summertime" with the utmost expressivity, using not a speck of vibrato. That is often an eye-opening experience for them.

Another useful exercise is to play long tones starting each note with no vibrato, establishing a beautiful bow tone, and then adding the tiniest possible amount of vibrato (as narrow as possible and rather slow) That is very helpful in understanding the role of the vibrato in tone color and expressivity.

October 8, 2007 at 08:34 AM · [T]hinking of the vibrato as an integral part of the tone which is still produced mainly by the bow, and not as a completely isolated technique to be tacked on separately to the general tone production. That’s exactly it! Mara, you can put the issue so accurately and concisely at 3 am, wow, I’m really impressed!

Kimberlee, my bow won’t breath unless I breath into it:) We may not be talking about the exactly same thing, but I do feel breathing and phrasing are closely related and if I don't breath properly, it interferes with the bowing and phrasing.

Zany, eh? I’m flattered, Albert.

Emil, we Chinese also believe that in every joke there lies some truth. And often we use jokes to tell the truths that can’t be told straightforwardly. Thanks so much for the scale exercise! I tried it today and I really like the system. I think I’ll keep doing it, time permitting. By scales you mean both scales and arpeggios?

Roy, thanks for your helpful tips on tone production, which I believe is consistent with that of Emil and a few others.

Antonello, I haven’t heard Zimmerman but for me I want the Shaham vibrato. What exercises are you working on for vibrato improvement? My index knuckle doesn’t move as much as the middle and ring fingers do and the knuckle of my little fingers is not flexible at all. I was originally taught to do arm and wrist vibrato, but the movement of finger knuckles were not mentioned to me. So for years, my hand is waving and shaking but the fingers aren’t vibrating so the sound is not so good. But this mechanical aspect of vibrato seems easy enough to deal with. The much harder part I think it is what Emil et al have pointed out: the analysis of vibrato (and to some degree intonation) issue should be considered in terms of tone production by first working rigorously on the right hand tone quality. This is a lot harder task than just getting the vibrato motion right. Personally, I think this is a really a challenging and neat appraoch!

Sung-Duk, thanks for the explanation. I’ll think about it some more and maybe discuss this with my teacher to see what she thinks.

Bruce and Daniel, I find the open string technique works better for me in practicing faster passages, which require complicated string crossing or various bowings than with slow melodic passages. With the latter, I need to hear the notes to tell whether the sound quality is what I’m looking for, so the open strings aren’t working for me. Maybe I’m just not ready for this yet. Thank you for the suggestion and I'll put in my notebook for future reference.

October 8, 2007 at 04:46 AM · Wow, I should stay up till 3 more often... :P Glad to help. Now if only MY vibrato would stop sucking.

October 8, 2007 at 03:37 PM · Likewise, I'm sure. ;)

October 8, 2007 at 07:02 PM · Emil,

I think you misunderstood me or perhaps I didn't make myself clear. In the privacy of my practice room (if I had one in my tiny apartment) I am not going to worry about the "sacredness" of the music and so exclude some possible solutions to a problem merely because those solutions might seem profane, were someone to hear me implementing them. So, if Kreutzer etudes help me, I'll use them. If playing the piece backwards with no vibrato were helpful, I'd do that too. I don't feel any need to exclude a particular practice method just because the music is so... "sacred".

October 9, 2007 at 01:53 AM · Just another thought to add:

With regard to expressing the moods and the emotions of a given phrase, I think it is also helpful to consider that your bow is an extension of your body and that it reacts to the emotions your body experiences through your feelings in very obvious ways. In a very basic way, when one is sad, movements are likely to be slower, the face and mouth turned down, energy less animated. When one is angry, the body's movements are likely to be more pointed, more aggressive, the face tightened, eyebrows furrowed, etc. These reactions in the body to what one is feeling can be used to advantage with the bow arm and also in the left hand. I caution though that the intensity of these emotions must not show up as physical tension in one's playing. There is a difference between capturing an angry, defiant mood and having the body behave that way such that the emotion overwhelms one's physical movements and one loses control. What is essential is to tap into the physical movements that, when set in motion with the bow, will capture the emotion, mood, atmosphere of what you wish to express.

I have found it helpful with students to start with the eyes, and, while I hide the rest of my face with a piece of paper, ask them to describe what my eyes are expressing. After telling me the basic mood they see in my eyes, I ask for some elaboration. For example, if they tell me you look "sad", I ask further about the kind of sadness. Am I distraught, upset? Do I look disappointed or dejected? Do I look like I'm about to cry? Do I look lost, confused, uncertain, worried, and so on. I use Karen Tuttle's list of five basic emotional states to assist in this process.

I have found that by tapping in to what the body automatically seems to show when feeling a certain way, one can transfer what's in the eyes, or the face to the movements of the bow arm and the left hand and that, just as there are an infinite number of degrees to a given emotion, so to the movements of the bow and vibrato have infinite combinations.

Perhaps this is stating the obvious, but ,the speed, weight, contact point, bow hair angle, string and fingering choice, degree of flatness or curve in the fingertip (finger pads), choice of portamenti, etc. all are in the service of what and how you are feeling towards the music.

I would further say that there are even times when a piece of music may not seem to have much depth to it, but a great artist, in part, because of their sensitivity to the essential character, personality, moods, and emotions they discover in the piece, will make one feel as if one is hearing a masterpiece. It is also true that there are pieces of music, so overwhelming in their emotional and spiritual scope, that one may never feel their equal and also be forever striving towards an ideal.

Be that as it may, while I was studying with Masuko Ushioda, she experimented with me at a master class and asked me to demonstrate the results of having analyzed one movement from Saint Saens first sonata for violin and piano having written down in the music everything I felt I could extract in Jascha Heifetz's first recording of this piece, from his choice of fingerings, to glissandi, to accents, dynamics, bow speed, vibrato speed and amplitude and intensity, etc. For the first time, I felt I experienced a little what it was like to get into the mind of a great artist and make a stab at an integrated, well conceived interpretation. It was this experiment that led me to the idea that these choices had their roots in emotion and that, because they manifest themselves physically, one must always endeavor to link the two together through intelligent observation and experimentation to be able to communicate and convey something of significance to the listener.

In addition, if one practices applying this on a regular basis, it becomes possible to be moved by the music and instantly change the sound just as easily as one talks and reacts to what another says in a conversation. In the end, what keeps the music and life itself fresh is the desire to communicate and share what one experiences whether it is communal bonding in the songs the women of a rural village in Thailand sing as they grind the ingredients to make their unique spices or the concert violinist in a large hall in a large city playing the E minor Mendelssohn concerto to an audience amongst whom may be members that have heard the piece countless times before as well as those hearing it for the first time. The very animation and joy and desire to express is seen and felt in both cases in the eyes, the face, the arms, the hands- indeed the whole body.

October 8, 2007 at 07:03 PM · i remember one time camping near lake george in upstate ny and woke up to the calls of the loons. the lake was calm and still, wrapped in layers of mist.

if yixi plays violin right there and then, i will beg for something slower and, no vibrato,,,

October 8, 2007 at 06:57 PM · I've heard this expressed as sentiment v. sentimentality on a more subtle layer Ron. So, in two areas: one's preconception of what the composer might have wanted, as well as one's technical mastery that will allow them to use their own emotional states in achieving that vision, this is expressed.

Both seem important when doing other's work. But if one is doing their own thing, a lot of other variables come into play. Like, am I using mastery over my emotions versus letting them randomly animate my bow? Even more pertinent, is the question as to whether this mastery is done stylishly.

And for some of us, would someone please unwrap the bubble gum please!.

October 8, 2007 at 11:00 PM · Greetings,

I`m very much in the @practice without vibrato,` camp. I belive the end quality of playing is significantly enhanced by this approach. First, because veyr often it seems that vibrato is being used to correcect imprecise placement of fingers to a substantial extent. This may not be affecting the listeners overall impresison of the piece but the more one practice slow pieces with the fingers les sprecise than usual the more one has learnt poor tehcnique that is going to transfer to faster works or ones tehcnique in general. Second, as Derek Collier storngly emphasixed in his Way they Play Interview, the secret of praciticng is to be able to play all passages without vibrato. If one pracitce with vibrato at a slow tempo then that level of intensity will become exaggerated in performance causing nervous tension and tehcnical problems. This is not to say that vibrato is not practiced. On the contrary, it is recognized as fundamental and therefore worthy of intense and arduous practice at the right time.

Incidentall, a converse of the bow only approach (sort of) is to practice vibrato on one finger/one note while singing or imagining the melody. Allow tthat single note vibrato to vary in ammplitude /speed with the music.

Yixi- it sound slike it would help you to practice the `rivarde exercise@. You can find a descritpion of it on this site and also in Flesch `The ARt of Violin Playing.`Also, traditional chomatic scale fingering is veyr good for opening up the finger joints.



October 9, 2007 at 07:17 AM · Buri, the scale fingering you referred to, is it one finger all the way up and down? I haven't tried that yet. Fischer and Flesch's books have been very helpful and I think I get it, but my faulty vibrato is somewhat stubborn, especially the index finger tends to 'forget' the right movement. Also vibrato at higher positions (6th and up)on G string are generally tricky for me.

Ronald, you gave me a lot to think about.

You know, it's my birthday today and you guys are giving me stuff to work hard on:) Couldn't have asked better presents!

October 9, 2007 at 07:42 AM · Happy birthday, Yixi!

October 9, 2007 at 04:06 PM · Happy Birthday Yixi!

October 9, 2007 at 07:04 PM · If you want a singing tone you need to start with a tone.

I suggest that you practice as follows:

1. Very slow bow with no pressure. The bow is so slow that there is no continuous tone. Just a series of (as regular as possible) pops and pings. Remember no pressure. Just set the bow on the string with no flex at all and pull and push the bow.

2. After a bit (retaining the feel of the hair on the string and the bow in the hand) speed the bow upa bit so that there is actually some tone. If you feel yourself pressing or flexing then go back to step 1.

3. Once the sensations are mastered speed the bow up just a bit and practice getting a constant amplitude from frog to tip with no pressing anywhere. Practice speeding up and slowing down the bow without adding ANY pressure.

4. Whatever you do don't waste bow. If you find yourself pressing go back to step 1.

Early on it may sound a bit like a tuner or a car horn. You should cultivate an ability to be a "no-pressure" tone generator. In time you can start on nuance and color and volume and etc.

Have I said no pressure enough? Pressure kills tone.

October 9, 2007 at 08:42 PM · No pressure? Are you being serious?

October 9, 2007 at 10:42 PM · Greetings,

Yixi you got the Rivarde right?

The @old@ chromatic fingering is where one is constantly opening and closing joints becaus eof using 112233 etc.



October 10, 2007 at 12:28 AM · No pressure? Yes I am absolutely serious. Of course it means slightly tighter bow hair but the weight of the bow provides sufficient force for the bow hair to connect with and stay on the string. The objective is to pull (on down bow)the string just far enough so that it slips of the hair and transfers sound energy into the body of the violin. If you press down on the string it will stop the vibration of the string and kill the tone. There will be plenty of ugly sound but nothing that can be made to sing.

October 10, 2007 at 12:39 AM · Gravity, not pressure.

October 10, 2007 at 01:07 AM · I am not sure if I agree with that last statement. Have you tried this no pressure technique with a 90 piece orchestra at a large hall? It won‘t work, not even for a recital. There must be a certain amount of pressure applied especially at the tip or else every downbow will inadvertantly have a diminuendo. Every violin has its own limitations or a squelching point. The string’s threshold can increase with proper attention paid to the relationship between the intensity of vibrato and bow pressure.

From what I understand it was really Wieniawski who toyed around with the idea on how to increase tone without losing quality since the venues he played in began to grow in size. . Wieniawski found that if he vibrated with greater intensity and center he would be able to use greater bow pressure while the string was “protected” by the vibrato. This technique allowed for extra tranmission of power to the string without the sound becoming scratchy. This procedure opened the doors (previously believed to be unattainable) to sounds that carried to greater distances. Wieniawski taught this approach to colleagues like Auer who taught this approach to all his students like Seidel, Heifetz, Elman etc.

October 10, 2007 at 04:16 AM · Nate, that sounds exactally like Mr. Friedman said it!

October 10, 2007 at 01:11 PM · Yes. Its why most modern violinists sound the way they do.

October 10, 2007 at 02:59 PM · Buri, yes I've got the Rivarde exercies and thanks for the scale fingerings too.

October 10, 2007 at 06:16 PM · Corwin, when I play certain pieces (such as Bach Partita II Sarabanda), I put no pressure on the strings very much the way you discribed. But with romantic pieces such as Bruch, the bow needs to be 'gluey'. I don't know if one can do this without any pressure, especially playing upper part of the bow closer to the bridge when playing f on G string(eg, measures 64-68 in 2nd movement of Bruch G minor).

Also, does your no pressure method work the same way for all contact points? How so?

October 10, 2007 at 07:47 PM · Try just letting the bow rest on the strings (tighten the hair a little bit more than common) and then without pressure pull the bow across the string. Isn't gravity alone gluey enough? Just to illustrate the point hold the bow by the screw alone and see if it isn't gluey enough.

If you feel like the hair is sliding or skating across the string increase the hair tension a little bit more. Also slow the pull down.

I will be the first to say that on day one this won't seem terribly satisfying but it won't take until day ten for you to see the potential for tone in a slow bow with no pressure.

The rest will take a lifetime.

My teacher claims that Ysaye said that a big sound was the last thing that one developed with the bow and that many fine players never developed one. He didn't think a big sound to be a compelling virtue but he did require a beautiful tone.

October 10, 2007 at 09:22 PM · Yixi--"bow breathing" phrasing/emoting the way a vocalist would (like you said in the beginning--singing). I was thinking of the way one breaths when singing. Phrasing in violin is much the same, except we use our bow rather than our lungs. Rise and fall in music is most natural. Breath in, breath out--essence of phrasing, imho. I still think this is a very intense topic. Roy sure made some nice comments about Jazz.

October 10, 2007 at 08:49 PM · Corwin, I think it is interesting to note that even Galamian talked about how you have to use added weight at the tip to balance the bow due to the majority of the weight being at the frog/lower half. Otherwise the tone is uneven.

October 10, 2007 at 09:10 PM · Corwin... your theories describe the opposite of violin playing.

October 10, 2007 at 09:27 PM · Wouldn't the opposite of violin playing be something more like removing wallpaper or throwing yourself off a tall building?

October 10, 2007 at 09:43 PM · Well Kimberlee, you're on the right track, because both of the non-sequitors you provided make about as much sense as what Corwin proposes.

Corwin, study video of any violinist playing from even before this current period of violinists who you insinuate are inferior. Elman, Heifetz... anyone, they all use "pressure".

October 10, 2007 at 10:35 PM · Greetings,

I think it is failry widley accpeted that to compensate for the lightenign of the bow one has to add extra weight. As Pieter points out this -is- true of olde rplayers as well. Anexcample that springs to mind is Gerle. Ddidn`t he study with Hubay at one point? Auer also advocates exercise in which one crescendos on long notes on a down bow. That cannot be done without an increase in weight.

However, ther eis also a great deal of truth in what Corwin says . I think Oliver talked recnetly about experimenting in this direction. There is one thing that makes this much more feasible in my opinion: gut strings. I used synthetics for some time becaus eof the serious humidity problems and really ended up assuming that what they could produce wa sthe full range of colors of gut. When I switche dback to wound gut (Olives)I had some troubloe getting a good sound until I had adjusted my use of sppeed and pressure to be compatible with them. It was quite a difference and certinaly I feel these stirngs are much more compatiblke with Corwin`s cocnept. Its interesitng timing as I have bene doing a great dela of work on Mahler five recently , in a way trying to figure out how to play every little dynamic detail Mahler wrote without getting tense or too tired. One thing I have discoved with the gut strings is that it can be done in many cases by adjustments of speed and sound point while keeping changes in pressure as far out the picture a sposisble. Makes such works far less stressful.



October 11, 2007 at 05:12 PM · Buri, the 112233 fingering does the trick! I also use 1212 all the way up and 2121 down, that seems work for me too.

Kimberlee, you are so right about this topic being intense. I didn’t know that but, hey, it’s so much fun to watch the grown-ups wrangle, isn’t it?

Corwin and Nate, I take both of your points to heart and thank you both for your help. Corwin, I do know the great benefit of playing feather light without pressure. When I do so, the sound is pretty and carries afar. In fact I do so when I practice scales, Bach, etc. But I haven’t reached to the point to consider this is the only way of using the bow, as the gravity is just not always gluey enough for me. Also, I’m still not clear your view on how to use contact points with respect to presure. Sorry for being a bit terrier-like grabbing an issue and not letting it go.

October 11, 2007 at 05:14 PM · "Corwin, I do know the great benefit of playing feather light without pressure. When I do so, the sound is pretty and carries afar."

I agree. At least in the spirit that bow speed rather than weight creates big sounds!. I'm finding that it's like a gourmet recipe between weight and speed, and purely speed; and, finding just the right amount.

I was practicing grand detache last night on something I'm arranging, and it was awesome as I experimented for contrasting effect between parts of the music. Now, I still can't walk and chew bubble gum at the same time, but all these little pieces do, eventually come together with patience.

For me, I find it equally challenging to less speed, less bow, and more pressure. I still trend most notes to a third of the bow, and have neglected efficient forte in the process--I s'pose but at least I know it?

October 11, 2007 at 05:39 PM · Yixi, I have been playing with this contact point thing and I really can't say much about it. When I don't press for my sound, contact point doesn't seem to be that critical. I wonder if contact point becomes an issue when the tone is made by pressing as in if you press in the wrong places you'll choke the tone more than if you press in the right places.

This is a speculation only.

October 11, 2007 at 09:06 PM · In support of the no pressure post this should be our basic bowing.Try bowing a long bow with no pressure (son filè) and then pressing in turn with various fingers of the bow hand each in turn.Really feel the sensation of the bend of the wood and the give of the hair.This is a wonderful box of colours and artistry begins here.Vibrato is just another colour than can be added but good intonation is best learnt without out it.Incidently these are excecises that I do for warming up my youth string orchestra often counting to 40 and pressing down with one finger or another whilst feeling the pulse during a son filè.

October 12, 2007 at 02:54 AM · Thanks Corwin for explaining.

Janet, I too enjoy practicing son file and I also do Kreutzer #1 at 40-50bpm often for the similar purpose. Now K1 is a good example that I have to take contact points and pressure into account, as when the bow speed is slow and even pretty much all the way through (the way I try to play anyway), but to play all these changes of dynamics and positions that normally require more bow to achieve the sound in this case one can’t afford to speed up the bow, what else is one to do other than exploring the contact points and pressure to get crescendos and higher positions sound decent?

I’d really like to hear some comments on this problem.

October 12, 2007 at 05:26 AM · Hi Yixi,

I completely agree with you that pressure must be applied properly to vary tone (keeping in mind that pressure of the fingers/thumb into the stick of the bow can result in a pressed sound, i.e. tight fingers dampening vibration of the bow - I think this tightening of the hand/fingers on the bow is often confused with pressure of the bow on the string). I've found that it's useful for students to think of pressure as responding or corresponding to the resistance of the string, depending on sound point and speed (assuming that the student is able to control sound point and speed).

One thing you can add to your inventory of bow control is to vary the speed of the bow within a single stroke. Speed control is useful for a long sustained bow and also for long runs; a caricature-like description of it is to apply a smoothly graded fast-slow-fast stroke. Probably related to how we notice what comes first and last, the result is the illusion of a super-long bow/arm for legato, and brilliant sounding runs. Of course the success of this single stroke depends on how well it flows into the next.

Which brings me to your original question. The singing voice first and foremost reminds me of proper phrasing (as Stern suggests in Mao to Mozart). Before we attempt to apply colour and nuance, matters of speed/soundpoint, bow division/bow position, and perhaps most often neglected, the way one stroke connects into the next and from the previous, all of Zukerman's 'bread and butter' bow control, must be applied to properly shape every phrase. My reason for refraining from simply calling a bow change a bow change is to emphasize the importance of how we handle the change. For example, to phrase through two strokes, the speed/pressure into the change must equal the speed/pressure out; to suggest motion into the next bow, accelerate into it with appropriate speed/density/articulation on the new bow; to end a phrase and start anew, decelerate the previous stroke, and start with new, appropriate bow speed. The possible combinations are numerous (even without considering the issues of timing), but until the printed score, or musical impulse illicits a reflexive adjusting of the bow arm, such meticulous planning must be consciously practiced. This kind of control is the basis for singing with the bow.

I also share your view that, while there are certain benefits to practicing without vibrato for specific reasons and in specific phases of preparation, vibrato is more than just colour and nuance, more than icing (certainly more than mere sprinkles, as some have implied). Just thinking of how we would convey motion, stillness, stress, release, dissonance, resolution, should be enough to illustrate this fact. How we vary our vibrato is intimately connected with how we phrase with the bow and must be planned just as carefully and in coordination with the bow.



October 12, 2007 at 05:17 AM · Jeewon,

That was awesome.... Thks from me too.

This phrasing using vibrato you ultimately led to it feels, reminds me so much of what I see in a pop song I'm working on. The vocalist has this wispish pure beautiful voice that decays.

Well, your 'detailed' description, reminded me how I've worked so hard not to overdo vibrato period. But being on my own for now, I have to make decisions how to use arm weight and bow speed--your images concerning using the hand were awesome too!--but, (I'm trying to beat Henry Fielding in making run-on sentences ;)) things like varying the speed are nearly as intricate as using vibrato to bring voice it now feels.

These next layers of 'my' development will be 'starting' to look at those things--real, note and phrase shaping, so I hope the intensity of how I feel at the moment about the variability of options will not overwhelm me. Knowing this however, is half the answer.

But, little things, still related to singing, like using forte efficiently, create really cool images for me in how true it is about voice, and the violin. And how intricate it is. So, I march forward bravely!

October 13, 2007 at 12:57 AM · Jeewon--one more thing to add to your well-phrased post :)

When "breathing" in life or music, there is an underlying pulse which is consistent with the genesis of all musical endeavor. Get rid of the pulse and it doesn't matter how much you try to inhale/exhale, you won't be breathing because you'll be dead. No pulse=dead.

Rhythmic pulse comes first. In fact, rhythmic pulse is the common denominator linking music of certain styles--waltz, jazz, rock, tango etc.. I've noticed the importance of rhythmic pulse, especially playing Bach Partitas. Their dancelike rhythms are part of what give them life. Insert too many arhythmias and the whole thing (regardless of the inhale/exhale phrasing) dies.

So, I would just like to add that when you're breathing, it's helpful to make sure there's a pulse! I think this must sound like gobbeltygook. Maybe you can "phrase" my idea better?

October 13, 2007 at 04:22 AM · Jeewon, people rarely agree with me on most of the things I said, but the fact that you did not only pleasantly surprised me but also reminded me a friend of mine, who is always positive and most charitable in interpreting other people’s position and intention so much so that he would make a most difficult person to cooperate with him. Well, he is not only a gentleman but also an extraordinarily skilled mediator. I think the same can be said about being a really good teacher, who is always able to see the elements that a student has got right and bring out them out in such a refined way that it makes the student go “Wow, this is 100 times better than I could see and articulate!”

I think this tightening of the hand/fingers on the bow is often confused with pressure of the bow on the string. I had this confusion for a long time and I’m still grappling with the idea of the resistance of the string.

As for varying the speed of the bow within a single stroke, that’s such a timely advice, as I’m sure it’ll help with the Bach Giga of Partita II that I’m currently working on.

I think your view on connections between phrases is very similar to that of my teacher’s. While she does talk about bow changes but more so her focus is on what the music requires at this point and what is the most effective way to achieve it technically. Very often, the bow change is more about planning and managing what happens before and after the bow change then the change itself. I think this is consistent with what you said.

Thank you so much Jeewon for your wonderful post.

October 14, 2007 at 04:31 AM · In response to several comments:

Mr. Gerle, who witnessed Hubay's conducting at the Royal Franz Liszt Academy in Budapest and later was given Hubay's remarkable Stradivari (the G string in particular was quite robust on that instrument) but did not study violin with Hubay as far as I've been able to determine, wrote a very interesting and detailed book entitled "The Art of Bowing Practice". Some of the more salient points made in it as related to things discussed in this thread are:

the division of tone production into the mechanical (what the bow provides) and the physiological (what the player provides):

" At the frog, the hand, being right above the contact point between bow and string, can exert the weight of the arm directly on the string. Moving away from the frog , however, the distance between the point of the power's origin in the arm and the contact point between the bow and the string, where it needs to be transferred, becomes greater. Transmission of power over this distance can only be effected by the leverage of opposing forces between the thumb and the forefinger (index finger)."

Further along, he writes:

"Although the player experiences the feeling of increasing pressure in the forefinger, which is in direct contact with the bow, the force must come from the forearm muscle, which alone is strong enough for the task. From the player's point of view, the origin and nature of pressure progresses gradually from weight at or near the frog, to torque power towards the tip. These relationships of power between player and bow-change vary constantly, whether the sound-volume is steady or not. ..It is very seldom that we can use merely the weight of the bow to produce a satisfactory tone. That is also why using weight by itself to maintain or increase volume can only work within a minimal distance from the frog: beyond that point it has no bearing without transmission by leverage."

Additionally: " The small muscles of the fingers are inadequate (to produce a large full sound especially in the upper half of the bow) and the forefinger, which is so often and mistakenly asked to supply most of the pressure, in particular does not have the strength for the necessary torque power. This power should come from the much larger and stronger forearm muscles."

Still further: "To transmit their power to the point of contact between bow and string, the forearm,hand, and fingers should be turned (rotated) inward AS A UNIT- the whole movement from frog to tip and back can also be compared to the motion of scrubbing the inside of a barrel lying on its side. It is important that after arriving at the tip with increased pressure, the up bow should start with the same amount of pressure. A frequent mistake is to give up much of the sound during the bow-change at the tip and to start the up-bow considerably weaker than the end of the down-bow....

There are a number of large muscles in the body which can be used to make violin-playing less of a physical effort and therefore more economical. .. The most important, directly involved large muscles are the forearm and upper-arm muscles of both arms. But others which are also very useful include, in layman's language, the right chest muscle and the back muscles, especially the area on either side of the spine, just below and inside the shoulder blades. When you succeed in letting these muscles take over most of the burden of the physical activity in violin playing, you will have freed the smaller muscles of the hand and fingers and made them available for the more delicate task of articulation, phrasing, and expressive characterization."

Regarding changing the bow: " a seamless, unnoticeable bow change is essential for an uninterrupted,beautiful singing tone, giving the impression of an unlimited bow-supply and an unending bow... The bow , arriving at the end of a stroke, has to reverse direction and return on the same track; reversing the direction means a momentary halt; without bow motion there is no sound, without sound no continuity of tone or phrasing.

The only way to avoid this gap is to maintain the continuous motion of the bow, even if at a reduced speed. This can be done by moving it in a 'loop' with a flat elliptical path at the moment of the bow change. The loop can be either horizontal or vertical ( here, there is an illustration of a sideways flattened figure 8), but if you use the vertical loop, it should be flat enough so as not to touch the neighboring strings. While guiding the bow in this loop, the actions of the various parts of the arm are staggered: they change direction CONSECUTIVELY, one slightly after the other. This principle of de-synchronization is the same as in walking: one leg moves forward while the other is already preparing the next step in a continuous, overlapping motion."

To acquire this motion, Mr. Gerle suggests:

"For a smooth bow change from up to down bow in the lower half: just before the end of the up-bow stroke, start a slightly downward motion with the upper arm and turn it gradually into the down-bow path, while the hand is still finishing its up-bow motion and is straightening gently from its slightly bent position. When the rest of the arm is joined in this way in the down-bow motion, the slight delay allows the fingers to complete their bending movement smoothly and to conclude the up-bow motion of the bow itself . By then the arm is on its way in the down-bow stroke, moving momentarily, in effect, in the opposite direction from the fingers and the bow, which are just finishing the loop.

For changing the bow from down-bow to up-bow, simply reverse the direction of the movements in the sequence: while in the up-down change it is basically clockwise, in the down-up change it is mostly counter-clockwise.

Note that the finger-movements are passive: they react to motions by other parts of the arm and are last to complete the change. Sudden, excessive finger movements just before the change speed up the bow, and the added speed causes the unwanted accent which one tries to avoid for smooth, unnoticeable bow-change."

October 14, 2007 at 05:31 AM · To All:

I have been out of the loop on this thread ––

Great discussion and many interesting observations and tips.

One “game” to develop a silky smooth well-connected tone has to deal with a “no-tone bow.” I call it the “scratch stroke” and you will see why.

Complementary with Corwin’s idea of no pressure (Jeté has some of this aspect) and all the ideas that we do adjust the weight according to musical need:

1. Place the bow near the fingerboard on any string (later, gradually nearer to the bridge) –– eventually do this on all strings individually and then in pairs.

2. Draw the bow as lightly and slowly as humanly possible.

3. DO NOT allow the note to sound, only allow static noises with absolute consistency –– no wavering of the static!

4. Time your stroke with the clock or metronome set at 120 so every other beat is 1 second. The challenge is to draw the bow for the longest period of time possible, and then do it longer……:-)

5. If you get to the point where you feel the heart beat pulse through your thumb and into the bow, you have done quite well.

6. IMMEDIATELY after a few of these bows, flow into a beautiful mezzo forte or forte Détaché Lié/Legato Détaché– Seamlessly connected strokes.

The sensation of the bow hair and string fusing together is remarkable.

Buri: I went back to Olives, also, though I use the Synoxa A, just because the Olive A does not hold pitch well with all of the on/off playing I do while teaching.


October 14, 2007 at 11:10 AM · Your welcome Albert and Yixi. As you suggest Albert, I think making the violin 'sing' is one of the most rewarding aspects of playing this instrument - makes all the toil achieving it worthwhile.

Kimberlee, I totally agree. Our sense of pulse is what coordinates all motion, whether musical or physical. And a performance without pulse can be deadly (boring) indeed, perhaps worse than dead ;). I've observed that how well a student feels pulse is directly related to how quickly they are able to learn, both musically and technically. A sense of pulse organizes every motion, times every change, coordinates the bow with the fingers, allows for flow in every action and every phrase. Further afield, you can 'feel' the rhythm, watching Jordan, Woods, Federer, Ali, Bruce Lee, etc.

Wow Ronald, sounds like a lot of issues we've been discussing as of late! Thanks for the excerpts - makes me want to catch up on my Gerle - haven't read it in over a decade. How time flies.



October 14, 2007 at 03:55 PM · What are some of the pros and cons with resepct to encouraging your student to use the metronome to improve his/her rhythmic pulse?

October 14, 2007 at 04:32 PM · All pros, especially if rhythms are varied for the passages. This also opens up the mind to more phrasing ideas and quickly shows technical faults.

October 14, 2007 at 11:29 PM · Jeewon--whoah! That's taking my pulse notion to the next level, and I'm going to notice how it affects what I do in an entirely new way! Pulse isn't just a question of playing the notes on the right beat, it's also a question of emphasis--that's eurythmics.

Ron--that's my first exposure to Gerle--golden thoughts. He articulates so many points I've noticed but didn't understand. Thank you for taking the time to post this excellent excerpt. It makes upbow staccato more clear for me (energy coming from the pectoralis/shoulder/back and articulation coming from the light fingers).

One more exercise to add to your long list, Yixi. I practice "sirens." That is, I make a completely unchanging, monotonous sound (like a tornado warning siren) on slow bows through several bow changes. The idea is to learn to make an unvarying sound before you add the effects. It was hard for me at first, but now I love what it does for my technique--especially in Beethoven where I really don't want to mess up phrases with artificial swells.

Drew--fantastic "no tone" exercise. I just tried it and it was great fun. I noticed it was easier for me to control with side hair, although I also practiced flat hair. And, yes, it seemed to pique my body's understanding of the bow's contact with the string.

October 14, 2007 at 10:34 PM · Greetings,

thanks for all your greta comments Drew. I am enjoying working on your book which I received tyhe other day.

I love Olive strings but the a string has proven to be utterly unreliable. It is the only string I have played on that can sharpen by a smuch as a tone during a movement of a symphony. Bizarre.



October 14, 2007 at 11:35 PM · It seems like I have the best luck with Eudoxas. But, you know what they say . . . when it comes to strings, go with your gut!

October 15, 2007 at 01:32 AM · Are you er, winding me up?

October 15, 2007 at 04:25 AM · 10.14.07


Thank you for your interest and open compliment. It is much appreciated.

And that Olive “A” can drop like a stone off London Bridge (or would that be a head) –– perhaps a mixture of helium and lead? It does have a beautiful sound when in tune, once or twice.


Glad you like the noise ala no-tone:-)



October 15, 2007 at 05:12 AM · Firstly, I am glad that Mr. Gerle's thoughts resonated, no pun intended, with many of you.

Secondly, I'd like to mention a fascinating book, which has relevance to this discussion of singing and musical expression, called Note Grouping- A Method for Achieving Expression and Style in Musical Performance by James Morgan Thurmond.

The chapter on Motion in Music presents some very interesting ideas on rhythm, coming from a unique angle with regard to rhythm's relation to musical expression.

"In ancient Greece, the arts were classified into two groups: (1) architecture, sculpture, and painting; and (2) music, poetry, and the dance. The Greeks thought that the 'beautiful', the goal of all art, was achieved by the first group in a state of repose; that the different elements composing this group-juxtaposed in space- were perceived at one particular moment of their existence. In the second, however, 'the beautiful' was realized in a state of movement: by a succession of its elements during time. It is this quality of movement, or motion, presented during the succession of its elements, that is the basis of the enjoyment that we receive from listening to music....

Rhythm is synonymous with movement-'ordered movement.' In fact, the word 'rhythm' comes to us from the Greek: rhythmos, meaning 'measured motion'; and Plato's definition was: "Rhythm is order in movement...

Music that is mechanical,cold, lifeless; that leaves us 'unmoved' has lost its spontaneity and human quality.

The principal difference between a thing alive and a dead or inanimate one is its ability to move, and it is precisely this same quality that distinguishes expressive playing from dull 'execution'. Just as a human being is characterized by the rhythm of living- by his heart-beat, breathing, and walking, by his eating, sleeping, and working-all different kinds of motion, so must music that is alive also have its rhythms, the pulse of the meter, the ebb and flow of phrases, dynamic contrasts, the rise and fall of moving note groups."

The book deals in large part with shaping phrases and breaking them down to create a compelling musical expression as the smallest groups are linked to larger and larger thoughts until an entire composition can appear to be one giant coherent and emotionally moving essay in sound.

It also strikes me that with regard to the rhythmic pulse, certain violinists, by virtue of their finely honed skills at controlling their physical movements and their breathing and other basic body rhythms as well as their inner sense of steadiness in part guided by how they sing or hear the music in their mind, create an overall sense of rhythmic flow regardless of the particulars of their phrasing.

As fast as Heifetz could play I never got the impression he was rushing or out of control. The same can be said of Milstein. There is an urgency and drive in their playing, and an intensity and energetic quality yet it always seems to flow.

By contrast, I have on tape ( I'd be happy to share it via an mp3 file or some such for comic relief) a violinist who shall remain nameless but who played the Mendelssohn E minor Concerto with an orchestra and was going along with beautiful heartfelt phrasing in that lovely melody that begins with the three repeated d's in the first movement but who, as that section came to an end, started the G major return of the opening theme with a sense of anticipation and lost control by the time the section that starts with the ascending then descending G major arpeggio was reached- as if running from a swarm of angry bees whose hive had been disturbed.

There are also environmental factors that can have an effect on one's ability to control the rhythmic flow. Growing up in a chaotic household, or being around people who are always in a panic to be on time or get things done in a rush can take its toll though, admittedly, there are always exceptions with people who consciously choose to react the opposite way to the stress imposed on them or who escape from such an environment through their art or music or some other interest which is their place of repose amidst the turmoil.

Be that as it may, it stands to reason that the more tools you have, the more knowledge you have about what you are working with, whether it is an attempt to sing on the violin without vibrato or any number of other matters discussed in these forums, the more wonderful and amazing will be your journey with the violin.

By the way, Kimberlee, I actually had to apply that siren exercise you mentioned in a piece of music called Gifts by composer Stuart Smith that, at one point, called for a sliding tone that had to cross strings and cover a good deal of the range of the instrument and last a couple minutes in the process. The piece was actually quite fascinating as the melodic and rhythmic material was in large part adapted from fragments of melodic and rhythmic hooks that the composer recalled from his background with jazz and popular songs. I may still have a recording of that if you are curious to hear.

October 16, 2007 at 01:19 AM · Ronald--I would indeed be curious to hear, and thank you for yet another insightful post. It answered some important questions I've been gnawing on.

October 15, 2007 at 05:58 PM · Ron,

That was truly thought provoking and a wonderful addition to this whole thread. I had frequently heard of the Greeks love of the Arts, Math, Sciences and, I believe, Language, BUT never have I heard it explained so simply and so well, regarding the Arts.

Thank you.


October 16, 2007 at 02:14 AM · Go now and download for free “Violin Mastery” by Frederick H. Martens at this web site:

The book is no longer copyrighted, which is why you can download it for free from the Internet. It contains interviews with "the greatest" violinists and teachers from a century ago.

You won't get many technical tips, but the book does RELENTLESSLY beat home the point that the great masters coax tone and artistic expression mainly from bow. Bowing and not vibrato is the key to tone, according to those masters.

Also consider “The Art of Bowing Practice: The Expressive Bow Technique” by Robert Gerle. You can buy it at

(Of course it helps if you play the Lord Dunn-Raven Stradivarius from Stradivari's golden period like Anne-Sophie Mutter.)

October 16, 2007 at 03:46 AM · Marten's manuscript is awesome--I read some in it routinely.

p.s. There are deep discounted printed versions at Amazon. 4-6 bucks... I mention this, because my eyes can't take the screen for more than one interview at at time.

October 16, 2007 at 05:02 AM · Ronald, Jeewon, Drew and Kimberlee, thank you all for your generosity and great discussion. I’ll be reviewing them again and again, for a long time I’m sure.

Kimberlie, thanks for the "sirens" thing. I’ll try it this week.

Ronald, I’ve already ordered the Thurmond’s book -- done the easiest part of the job:) I kind of understand the significance of the rhythmic pulse you, Kimberlee and Jeewon are talking about. This is also what my teacher frequently points out to me when I’m slacking off for one reason or the other, for instance, when I’m micro-managing some notes or when I’m confused about a phrase and its relationship with the rest piece.

Outside music, I definitely find energy and joy in living with structure and rhythm – the two seem to me to be the spatial and temporal aspects of the one thing. However, I still can’t quite capture the rhythm of either thinking deeply or rhapsodically.

When we think, we think in time but the thinking can't be simultaneously timed by us, or can it be? Any comment?

October 16, 2007 at 05:02 AM · Ditto Yixi! That was interesting stuff.

October 16, 2007 at 05:12 AM · Greetings,

sorry about going off topic, but Drew, re the Olive a string problem, what would you recommend with the other two olives that is more reliable or would you just give up and use differnet strings altogether?



October 16, 2007 at 07:22 PM · Yixi--do you know any easy Gavottes or Bourees? Maybe the Suzuki literature? Like the Handel Bouree? Think of them in terms of dances and when you play them, bounce up and down to the rhythm--you know, the way many teenage boys dance--the ones who don't really know how to dance, but they can manage to bounce. See what that does for your concept of rhythm. I regularly bounce/dance when practicing the Bach Partitas. Okay. Now I know I have metaphorically thrown myself in the trash. Crazy, I know, but it helps me feel the driving underlying rhythms.

I played Guitar Hero (playstation) for the first time a couple of weeks ago. One thing I noticed--the reason so many of my friends have trouble with that game has to do with rhythm. They get off the rhythm and then they can't get back into the music. Almost instinctively, when I started to play that game, I began bouncing up and down to the rhythm. Everyone thought I was just trying to be cool like a slamming guitarist, but really, it was just a strategy to keep me in rhythm.

The reason I brought up "pulse" in the first place? I've noticed I can elicit a great deal of musicality from my violin if I just get the rhythm and emphasis right (for me, that's very hard--it's a bear). I think the Bruch 2nd mvmt is a very good example.

October 16, 2007 at 08:18 PM · Just wanted to say thanks for the great discussion. Pretty much all of this stuff is a bit (if not a whole lot) over my head since I'm just an adult beginner. :-p But it's a great read nonetheless, and hopefully, I (and/or my kids) can one day benefit from at least some of these tips even just a little bit. :-)


October 17, 2007 at 12:28 AM · Kimberlee, Gavottes, Bourees or the Suzuki literature are a few things belong to my a whole bunch of things that I don't know about. I'll look into them though.

What you said about Bach partitas and Bruch really make sense to me. That's maybe why I'm having so much fun and time just flies when I play them. Working on scales is where I tend to miss the pulse.

October 17, 2007 at 05:56 AM · Buri,

Continuing off topic:

I use the Olives on the G, D (Silver) and E (Gold, which is a bit prone to breaking –– just keep a few extras around and don't use old E's in performance. I was recently playing obbligato to the choir in a Mass and part of the E shot across the organist's manuals –– I had a verse of tacet and quickly changed the string to make the next entrance with a measure of time to spare:)

For the A, I use Synoxa, as it does not seem to get that hard feel and sound that develops with the other synthetic strings within days –– sometimes hours.


October 17, 2007 at 11:55 AM · Hi all. I only have time these days to poke in now and then, and haven't more than skimmed what I'm sure are very thoughtful replies. But to be what I think is on topic, I would recommend occasionally doing the following: go to the Rode caprices - among the most musical ever written imho - and look for those caprices that have slow inroductions. Play one or another of them w.o. any vibrato, yet trying to make then as interesting and convincing as you can. Bring out every nuance, every hairpin with just the bow. It's very helpful.

October 17, 2007 at 08:36 PM · Hi Ronald,

A fun memory of Mr. Gerle: When I played Tzigan in a lesson with him, he said that it was good but then he made me copy his figerings and phrasing. He said I needed to learn it again because now I had the "correct" information passed down to him from Hubay. (As I understand it Hubay worked on the Tzigan with Ravel.) He did the same to me with Beethoven concerto and Bach's Chaconne. Gerle was a great teacher if a bit excentric. I do miss him.

October 17, 2007 at 10:36 PM · Greetings,

Lucia, I think I am right in saying that is not correct. It wasn`t Hubay who worked on Tzigane with Ravel. It was Francescatti and they toured together and performed it.

Perhaps they both did? Mattias?



PS I agree 100% with Ralph. Those openings to the caprices are murderous litlte gems and if you can master them thta is really something. I often advise quartet player sot work on these. They are the perfect workout for getting control of the slow moveemnts of Haydn quartets. I have often felt Rode was actually influenced by those quartets when he was writing them. Can`t explain it. Just a feeling

October 18, 2007 at 04:57 AM · A few things:

Regarding Ravel's Tzigane: I have checked several sources to obtain the following information, which may not shed light on whether or not Hubay worked with Ravel on it but does give other background on the origins of Tzigane.

Prior to writing the Tzigane, Ravel started working on his second violin sonata but it was not completed until 1927, 3 years after the Tzigane was completed. A friend, Helene Jourdan-Morhange was consulted on advice about fingerings and bowings on the Sonata and Ravel also inquired of her what the violin's most extreme capabilities were, including glissandi he was considering incorporating into his sonata. He also demanded on one occasion, when he was working on Tzigane, that she play for him Paganini's 24 caprices again to understand the limits of what was possible in writing for the violin. She writes, " He thought Paganini might be able to suggest to him some unsuspected obstacles but I can safely say Ravel was the more devilish of the two."

The Tzigane was inspired by and dedicated to the grand-niece of Joseph Joachim ( Hubay also studied with Joachim), Jelly D'Aranyi, whom he met in London in 1922. The composer-pianist Henri Gil-Marchex accompanied D'Aranyi in the first performance at the Aeolian Hall in London on April 26, 1924.

It was also at this time that Ravel began a duo collaboration with Francescatti and they played his Tzigane together.

I cannot find any information on whether or not Hubay directly influenced Ravel in the Hungarian idiom but it is certainly plausible at the very least that there was indirect influence through D'Aranyi who was a Hubay pupil.

Mr. Gingold, with whom I studied this piece, spoke of Tzigane as referring to a Gypsy woman and that too many interpret it quite boldly and heavily from the beginning passage and he felt it should reach its dramatic zenith up high on the G string after more coquettish, playful, toying , seductive qualities and not be played overtly with a forceful, brutish sound at first.

As for singing with vibrato and connecting with JeeWon's post featuring playing of Henryk Szeryng from the bow curve question, the Zapateado presents a very interesting example of Szeryng's mastery and subtle use of the bow in a piece that does not call for vibrato throughout given its frequent fast off the string passages. I urge looking at that link again and watching how Szeryng makes the bow talk in the up bow and down staccato passages with great elegance and how is very rapid sweeps in the bow and his vigorous back and forth movements at the frog convey the declamatory character so well of the cobbler pounding during his work to make his shoes ( Zapateado means "cobbler" or "shoemaker" I believe)- all done without vibrato.

October 18, 2007 at 05:04 AM · I personally appreciate singing w/o vibrato in the following spirit. Besides grand expressions not requiring vibrato, developing the other layers of the infinite facets of this girl:

she has ankles,

and a neck,

and ribs....

I know that sounds kind of silly, but adorning her with continuous vibrato, is like not appreciating all her other qualities for me. "If you love someone: whisper."

Though originally, the focus seemed to be on increasing awareness, there is a broader level of this as well I think---a very nice, and rich level.

October 18, 2007 at 01:34 PM · Here's an example of Vengerov singing with little vibrato

October 18, 2007 at 02:50 PM · My Mt. Everest for a singing tone is the solo violin part to Richard Strauss' song Morgen. One bar per bow is not too hard but the phrasing sounds better two bars per bow.

October 18, 2007 at 03:21 PM · Oh I love that one! Where can I get the score?

October 18, 2007 at 04:16 PM · The Vengerov is beautiful.

October 18, 2007 at 04:21 PM · Thanks Ronald, for your last two

posts. My reading list will grow

exponentially if you keep this up!

"Rhythm is order in movement..."

I was just talking about that to a

student the other day, that every

motion in violin playing must be

executed according to a pulse, whether

referring to the machine or not. In

some ways I think the machine dulls

our awareness of inner pulse (as I've

witnessed many a student practice with

the metronome, and still be arythmic -

is that a word? - just regularly so)

I find when students just pay

attention to their inner pulse they

are immediately able to achieve

whatever they are working on more

efficiently. I think an awareness of

pulse automaticaly makes us more aware

in general, and in particular how to

time our every movement, whether in

the left or right hand, and especially

in coordinating the two hands

together. We must 'order' our

movements to play rhythmically, and

only our awareness can do that, not

some incessant tick, more akin to

watching a pot boil ;).

I think the kind of rhythm that we

admire and are trying to describe,

that moves us to our core, actually

happens not in physical space, but

rather in harmonic space. Just as the

4 dimensional continuum locates us in

space-time, so the multidimensions of

music locates us in sound-time. I'm

not just trying to be clever. For as

corny as that may sound, I think the

truth of it lay in our awareness of

harmonic rhythm.

A performer may be capable of a steady

pulse, but without incorporating the

tension-release and larger structure

of harmonic rhythm, and how to vary

the pulse accordingly, it may leave us

feeling cold. I think this is a clue

to how we're left feeling after

certain collaborations between

artists. When there is a true synergy

in the way they feel harmonic rhythm,

their ensemble and interpretation is

quite convincing even if it is

different from what we're used to.

Herein lies the greatest shortfall of

North American musical education -

namely, eartraining, which is usually

restricted to melodic awareness at a

very young age, and then left until

most are already deaf to the vast

space which is harmony.



P.S. Ronald, can you tell me where you found all the history re. Ravel, Hubay, et al. Very interesting stuff! By the way, Szeryng on

October 18, 2007 at 06:02 PM · Thanks Ronald, for your last two posts. My reading list will grow exponentially if you keep this up!

"Rhythm is order in movement..."

I was just talking about that to a student the other day, that every motion in violin playing must be executed according to a pulse, whether referring to the machine or not. In some ways I think the machine dulls our awareness of inner pulse (as I've witnessed many a student practice with the metronome, and still be arhythmic - is that a word? - just regularly so) I find when students just pay attention to their inner pulse they are immediately able to achieve whatever they are working on more efficiently. I think an awareness of pulse automaticaly makes us more aware in general, and in particular how to time our every movement, whether in the left or right hand, and especially in coordinating the two hands together. We must 'order' our movements to play rhythmically, and only our awareness can do that, not some incessant tick, more akin to watching a pot boil ;).

I think the kind of rhythm that we admire and are trying to describe, that moves us to our core, originates, not in physical space, but rather in harmonic space. Just as the 4 dimensional continuum locates us in space-time, so the multidimensions of music locates us in sound-time. I'm not just trying to be clever. For as corny as that may sound, I think the truth of it lay in our awareness of harmonic rhythm.

A performer may be capable of a steady pulse, but without incorporating the tension-release and larger structure of harmonic rhythm, and how to vary the pulse accordingly, it may leave us feeling cold. I think this is a clue to how we're left feeling after certain collaborations between artists. When there is a true synergy in the way they feel harmonic rhythm, their ensemble and interpretation is quite convincing even if it is different from what we're used to, otherwise not so much.

Herein lies the greatest shortfall of North American musical education - namely, eartraining, which is usually restricted to melodic awareness at a very young age, and then left until most are already deaf to the vast space which is harmony.



P.S. Ronald, can you tell me where you found all the history re. Ravel, Hubay, et al. Very interesting stuff! Loved your description of how the opening ought to be interpreted. By the way, Szeryng on Tzigane. Some others sound brutish by comparison indeed!

P.P.S. Sorry Laurie, I wrecked the edit button with a bad link (one bloody " missing), can you erase the above post? Sorry for wasting a post if you can't. JK

October 18, 2007 at 06:16 PM · Jeewon--I was having trouble understanding, but never mind. I'm going back to practicing. The more I try to understand, the less I understand.

October 18, 2007 at 11:14 PM · Hi Kimberlee,

I don't think most get it until a teacher points it out anyway, unless they were able to hear already. Some people are just born with harmonic structure hardwired into their brains. Just as some are able to recognize visual patterns and memorize them such as Stephen Wiltshire, a savant artist who can reproduce vast cityscapes after one flyby in exacting detail, some are able to recognize sound patterns and reproduce them, and in the case of the Artist, synthesize them - as for the rest of us, practice, practice, practice (i.e. of the mental/eartraining kind - away from our fiddles and at a keyboard - the more we hear/feel the piece, the less we'll have to practice it physically)!

I think Artists are aware of the whole piece as they play. That is, they hear works completely and at once (brings Mozart to mind.) To the extent that a performer is able to do that in real time, the performance unfolds as a great drama where every phrase belongs to the whole. If you think about it, that's how composers compose. Certainly ideas may come to them in snippets, which may include intervalic and rhythmic motifs; but after a certain point, of 'scribbling and bibbling', they come up with a grand plan: the harmonic structure (like an outline of an essay), the harmonic rhythm (how and when they modulate), and then start filling it in with their original motific ideas. I'm not saying that's a template, but I think that's how it works.

So, for the performer to 'recompose' a piece before an audience, they must have first analysed it, and of course made unique choices about how to execute the grand plan. I think many students, when receiving a new work, make the mistake of starting to play it, instead of trying to hear and understand it.

More to your point, just think of how you would time a I-V interval at the beginning and in the middle of a phrase, or how you would do it the first time and the last time the motif occurs in a movement. Sing it out loud (think Beethoven Concerto, 3rd movement.) Listen to an artist play and feel the timing (it's never metronomic). There are plenty of other I-V intervals throughout the movement, but why do they treat the I of the tonic to the V of the dominant differently? Or listen to how an artist treats the bass line and the voice leading in solo Bach. It's not the rhythm that dictates the timing, but the intervalic relationships in the context of the key. Bernstein said that the atomic unit of music is the interval, as opposed to a single pitch. That's the clue to interpretation. For starters, we must sensitize ourselves to how each degree of the scale 'feels' when played against its tonic, how the tendency tones tug and push, then how each chord feels in progressions toward and away from the tonic; for if the interval is the unit of music, the progression between two chords is the unit of composition.





Hi Kimberlee,

Sorry I'm being unclear.

I think a part of the confusion lies in terminology. We use the word 'rhythm' to mean the pattern of wholes, halves, quarters, the subdivision of sound duration; we use 'rhythmic' to mean such rhythms performed accurately according to its relative temporal subdivision (i.e. in a dotted quarter-eighth pattern, the dotted quarter lasts three times that of the eighth); but then we equivocally use (or at least I did) 'rhythmic' to also mean rhythms timed and distorted, for lack of a better word, to conform to some sense of 'superpulse', which moves according to harmonic contexts and other musical aspects (what I've called dimensions of the sound-time continuum - too much Star Trek:).

Maybe the better word for it is timing, as in the timing of a punchline in a joke. But there is a rhythmic component to timing as well as I think you were trying to say when you wrote about heart beat and emotion, surprise, etc. You can feel your heart start to beat faster when getting excited. The 'rhythm' of that buildup can happen gradually, or suddenly, or erratically without a sense of rhythm, in which case it would lead to a 'let down'. Witholding the resolution of a certain cadence, or holding a certain bass note a little longer than the rest (agogic stress) without changing the rhythm of the subsequent notes, or rushing a little to get to a cadence, preparing for a subito piano, etc. These are the subtleties that an artist expertly controls to affect our emotional response to their performance. What I am suggesting is that these subtleties are not random (or to the extent they are random they feel contrived or out of place), that they are planned (until they become reflexive, and even then practiced when studying with a score) according to harmonic rhythm (the rate of change in chord progressions), and that the 'distortions' are rhythmic because they are proportional and well timed.

At some point in preparing a piece, we must make sure that the temporal subdivisions of a rhythm are correct and steady. It's in this stage where feeling inner pulse can help time exactly what we move and when. It can start with simple but accurate counting (out loud). For example, to develop sensitivity to the string, try depressing the string over 4 counts (I think Mimi Zweig calls this her 'elevator exercise'), which can help time shifts, or for that matter, shift over 4 beats, 2, 1, 1/2, 1/3, 1/4 beat - I'm a big fan of rhythmic acceleration for developing inner rhythm, or practice a finger pattern exercise lowering the finger, smoothly and gradually, over 4 counts and suddenly lifting it on 1, which can help time finger lifting/placement, or do the Ysaye string crossing exercise, precisely counting the gradual approach to and the exact moment at which your bow touches the next string. Such exercises can help time motions in pieces. Then you could practice counting out loud and playing, coordinating every motion, according to your count, instead of moving habitually - this is quite difficult for some the first time around - count the metre and place each rhythmic group precisely on each beat in the measure, proportional to the tempo you chose. At first you don't even have to string the beats together, leaving rests in between, but if you can be precise about the rhythm and match it accurately to your count, then when you do string the beats together there will be an effortless pulse about your motions. Another example for slow passages is to 'la-la' subdivisions out loud as you play a slow, lyrical passage, with complete awareness of how the 'la-las' fluctuate according to how you want to play your rubatos, ritardandos, etc. (or portato the subdivisions for bow planning as well) The first step to getting inner pulse, whatever exercises we do to get it, is to become acutely aware of our own sense of timing (which I think you mentioned as well), to make sure that every motion is triggered by that inner sense, not the other way around, not beaten into us from the outside (of course we could all use a good metronomic beating once in a while, especially preparing for orchestral auditions, and especially since some behind the screen will be carrying - ugh.) But no matter how accurate you can get, if it just stays that way without adjusting to the context of dynamics, texture, voicing, harmony, or the character of the rhythm itself, the performance will be stale. And I think the more our inner pulse develops the more we are able to sense these subtle temporal fluctuations in context.

There's also the whole issue of metre, how we feel the regular stresses in music. For example, sometimes in a fast 4/4, if we start to feel it in 2 or 1, the music will start to feel slower, even if the actual quarter beat is metronomically faster, because we start to feel the larger beats with smaller rhythmic subdivisions.

It's so difficult to talk about. Wish we could just jam, then it'd be easy!

Cheers, gotta run!


October 18, 2007 at 05:20 PM · Crap, don't know what's going on with my browser! More apologies. JK

P.S. Can you delete this too, Laurie?

October 18, 2007 at 04:53 PM · A conductor friend of mine went to Mannes and said he got the most wonderful ear training there because he was "forced" to hear polyphonically . The training he got allowed him to follow the thread of three or more voices at once and, with Schenker analysis he also learned there, was able to see and hear individual phrases related to their harmonic direction and the overall structure of a piece. He felt Herbert Von Karajan was a master at this and one could feel as if each phrase was part of a larger whole guided by the changes in the chord progressions and the tonal centers of the larger sections of a given piece. I suppose it's analagous to being able to see the totality of your life before your eyes and recognize the different periods you went through and see how all the particulars lead to larger aspects and patterns of your life's journey in each of these periods. It reminds me of the Seven Ages of Man that Shakespeare describes: infant, school boy, lover, soldier, justice, pantaloone, old man- a whole life lived. Harmonic progression, the uniquely developed component of Western European Art Music is the glue by which the notes are linked together and the pacing and understanding of its flow ties an entire composition together as one complete, logically flowing unit. Curiously, it was explained to me that much of Debussy's impressionistic music does not lend itself as well to Schenkerian analysis because Debussy uses harmonies as color that had a formally structural function- for example, the parallel dominant seventh chords moving in whole step motion (in the Sarabande of the Pour le Piano Suite) which do not resolve to the expected tonic but simply convey their own unique sound without needing to function in a traditional way. Nonetheless, there still is ebb and flow in the changing of harmonies and there still is a sense of movement and phrasing and events that are linked in time.

I really believe you've hit the nail on the head Jeewon with this idea that our inner sense of pulse needs to be developed. The cadences of our speech, our walking, and just how and when we choose to spend our time all have an effect on our inner pulse. I find it interesting (I'm afraid I can't recall where I read this) that studies have shown that Bach's music in particular is beneficial to drivers during rush hour and other tension-inducing driving situations in part because its logical progression has a steadying effect on the nerves and the inner rhythms of the body- pulse rates drop, breathing eases and one can feel more at ease and less stressed through exposure to Bach. Of course, most musicians hardly need any additional inducements to support the playing and listening of Bach's music but I just mention it as an indicator of how its harmonic structure and its orderliness in distributing melody and using rhythm in the service of increasing or lessening energy flow all have a salutary effect on mind and body in addition to the obvious effect on the spirit.

KImberlee, I hope some of the above helps. Jeewon, the source for the information on Ravel's violinist friend from whom he sought advice I found in a book by Roger Nicols called Ravel Remembered. The information on Francescatti came from liner notes from one of his CD's and the information on Jelly D'Aranyi I got checking different googled sources online, and other specifics were gotten off the liner notes to Charles Libove's recording of Ravel's violin music.

The Szeryng excerpt was one you posted in an earlier discussion relating to Szeryng's high elbow.

Anyway, that's my two cents worth for now.

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