Tips for helping my son look better in performance?

July 3, 2008 at 04:17 PM · If people wouldn't mind giving me honest (but gentle) feedback on my 14 year old son's presentation when he performs solos, I would appreciate it. He's always had problems with posture, bow arm, facial expression, etc. His new teacher is working on it but I'd like to help at home, too, but really don't know how. Here's a link to his latest solo so you can see what I mean. His teacher is *wonderful* but I feel guilty because I really never do anything at home to help my son in his practices. Thanks for any suggestions.

Replies (40)

July 4, 2008 at 05:13 AM · Sorry, I messed up the link! It works now.

July 4, 2008 at 07:54 AM · His bow grip at the beginning passages looks a bit strange.... especially the ring and little finger.

July 4, 2008 at 09:37 AM · Oh yes! I remember his teacher saying something bad about his pinky but I don't remember what it was and I'm sure my son isn't doing what he's supposed to. Ok, so what's it supposed to look like or should I just remind my son to do what his teacher told him to do?

July 4, 2008 at 10:16 AM · Hi,

my computer cannot open .mov files, but maybe a "procedural" suggestion might still help you:

  • imho, sound is the most important, then come any "mechanical" issues (to protect against strain or preventing yourself from fulfilling your musical potential), looks come a distant third
  • one possibility would be to practice with a mirror to correct posture issues, but that is distracting for the player and some things are impossible to check while playing
  • try to obtain some videos of the "target posture". Those might be of your son, when the teacher says "that was ok" or instead of the the teacher himself performing the things in question as a role model
  • as soon as you have the "target video", consistently videotape your son's practice and let him check his "as-is video" against the "target video" - this might also help the teacher to check for things that may not be apparent while performing in the teachers studio

Remember: Practice makes permanent! Better not practice than practice something in the wrong way.

Bye and good luck, Jürgen

July 4, 2008 at 11:09 AM · Hi Juergen,

To view the link, I think you need Quicktime.

Thanks for the ideas! I really like the idea of videotaping some practices at home and compare them with target posture, bow arm, etc. to see if he's on the mark. His teacher would thank us for that.

Your comment about sound being most important is something to think about,though. What started me thinking about the way my son looks in performance was two comments.

One was by his symphony director who, when viewing his first solo with his new teacher said, "If you knew you were going to be filmed, why did you make those faces?" (My son sort of screws up his mouth when he's working hard)

The second one was by his teacher who said that someone thought my son played very well and my teacher said to us, "I didn't tell him how much you have to work on! If I could just listen to you with my eyes closed..." Well, you get the idea.

My son was never keen on solos but he's getting more comfortable but was a lazy player under his old Suzuki teacher and his new teacher won't accept that. Thus, he's got much to work on. We've seen video of other players who draw you int with their style of playing and it would be nice to move in that direction.

July 4, 2008 at 11:50 AM · You might consider having your son take a few Alexander Technique (AT) lessons.

The point of AT is to learn how to use ones body in the most efficient and least harmful way to perform any activity. There's a lot of information in archives about AT that you might find helpful.

July 4, 2008 at 12:48 PM · The first thing that caught my eye was the low scroll - violin tilted steeply downward, directing weight into the left hand and restricting movement in both arms. To allow him greater freedom of movement in both arms and better balance of violin weight, I would recommend:

1. Practice holding scroll higher *specifically when reading music which is well below eye level*. Looking down at the music can easily trick a violinist into holding the scroll too low, but it need not. He would do well to practice looking down with his eyes, without tilting the violin down.

2. The big heavy shoulder rest also, unfortunately, encourages a low scroll. Ask his teacher about the possibility of less height *beneath the chinrest end of the violin*......or no shoulder rest at all.

I didn't watch the entire performance, but I saw no problem with facial grimaces. I liked his - free of histrionics - stage presence. It is better than some performers before the public nowadays, who remove all dignity from the performance with phony swaying and grimacing.

July 4, 2008 at 01:07 PM · From the angle of the camera, it looks like his core (his abdominals) is strong, and his back seems relaxedly upright. All good things. Therefore, his overall stance (his feet) should be good, too.

However, it appears to me that his violin is too low down his front onto his chest. This might be to accomodate that Guarneri style chinrest he's got. Not good. The violin, for his longer arms, should be more up on his shoulder for my taste. This will free up his left arm and his fingering hand nicely, allowing him to relax that left pinkie into a natural curve when it's not in use. It may also be necessary to experiment with chin rests &/or shoulder rests to accommodate this hold comfortably.

To fix the bow hold, I would advise him to remember that the foundation of the bow hold is the thumb to middle finger. One can hold the bow securely in a vertical position with only those two fingers. The reason (I think) that his ring and pinkie fingers of his bow hold stick out is because he's put the balance of the bow back into those fingers too much. If he were to angle his hand toward the index finger more so that his middle finger and thumb do all the holding, then the other fingers' roles are to just balance the bow in the stroke, so they can all round and relax. The pinkie should be on its tip, curved onto the stick of the bow.

This is just how I was taught... If your teacher prefers a different hold, or says something else, I am in no way trying to challenge anybody. Just my personal preferences as teacher and player, based on the observations of this one video.

Best of luck to you and your son!

July 4, 2008 at 01:47 PM · I read somewhere else a nice trick (which works even if you practice by yourself): videotape yourself playing; then first listen to the recording, without looking at the image, thus focussing only on the sound. Then play the recording again, but no sound, image only. I use this once in a while, it's great to highlight posture issues as well as tempo, intonation, timbre issues.

July 4, 2008 at 01:27 PM · I just watched the video and what a nice looking young man you have for a son! Unless he is substantially more compliant or less sensitive than my 14-year-old is, I would advise you not to offer any kind of constructive criticism. This is of course unless he asks you to watch and help him correct a particular thing.

Really, his facial expressions were nice and relaxed and very pleasant. All it will take for him to correct any grimaces or poor posture will be a blunt remark from a teacher he admires and respects.

A friend told me that Galamian told him once "No animal sounds!" and that was all it took for him to stop this horrible habit. I saw a lesson this week where the teacher quipped, "Now, what symbol can I put on your music to say if you come back doing.... I will explode?" So, it can be done bluntly or with humor, but it should come from the teacher.

Also, I know my son really, really would not like my discussing his posture or playing with his teacher in his presence. So I advise a phone conference with the teacher rather than an in-lesson conference on any of the issues that concern you.

The first thing that attracted my attention was the bow hand, and it might be worth your time to converse with your son's teacher about his philosophy regarding the bow hold. It could be the teacher likes this type of bow hold, although it looks awkward to me.

The other advice is to raise the music stand. This is something you can do without being critical, although my son would probably bark at me if I raised his stand. He would know just what I was telling him and he wouldn't like it!

You could, as one poster suggested, explore with his teacher his going to a sponge pad instead of a shoulder rest or going completely without a shoulder rest. Both of my sons go without shoulder rests on the advice of their teachers. It gives them nice flexibility and feels comfortable to them. I don't know how tall your son is or how long his arms are, but it works well for my tall 6' 1'', long-armed sons.

July 4, 2008 at 04:33 PM · I've always been told never to lean in when playing. I have a tendency, when playing "harsh" or "gritty" passages, to lean in and then release at the end of the passage, because that's how the music feels to me. However, all of my teachers always tell me that when I come to a passage when I feel I must lean in, to do the opposite. They suggest that I stand up completely straight and play the passage with pride and dignity. Most violinists have a tendency to lean in during hard passages, so I suppose they're suggesting doing the opposite. After all, your sound carries much further/better when you're standing completely straight rather than when you're slightly bending over.

Hope I was of some help!

July 5, 2008 at 12:45 AM · What a great bunch of suggestions! I so appreciate each one of you taking the time to help.

Oliver, my son thought your idea of practicing reading the music with his eyes going down and not his scroll was a very practical one and something that he feels he could do. Also, I hadn't even thought about changing out either his shoulder rest or chin rest. We did change the chin rest once but we just used an old one we had around (don't know where it came from). I will have him talk with his teacher about this. My son didn't even know there were sponge shoulder rests. Appreciate you commenting on his stage presence. We do know violinists who sway so much, they distract the audience. (IMO)

Jennifer, I'd never even thought that a player can go without a shoulder rest. My son says it hurts without a rest but maybe he needs a cloth or some buffer. (And thank-you for the kind words about my son) He's 5'8" and growing so I know there are always adjustments to be made. I will definitely leave the discussion between my son and his teacher. I just always encourage him to talk with his teacher if something is hurting or if he's having trouble with some correction. I never give input at a lesson. I'm never present in the room with him though I can sometimes hear what's going on.

Tasha, you found one of the huge problems in his playing and that's the position of the violin too far down on his chest. His teacher is working on this but it's slow go. Again, it sounds worthwhile to discuss a new chin rest since he said it hurts him to keep the violin up higher. Re. the bow hold: my son says his teacher has a different philosophy of bow hold (he said to hold with pinky and index) but I know my son's hand in the performance was not right as his teacher said so, too.

Adam, what an interesting tip! I read that to my son and he agreed he does just what you said is suggested not to do. That might be something he can begin to experiment with right away. One of his teacher's comments was about how he leans in and looks down at the music. He kindly allowed my son to have the music at his solo, though my son really had the song memorized but he's still insecure about going without it. I am hoping his next solo (probably the piece he's working on, the Vitale Ciccone, or however you spell it), he will break away from the music and that will really free him up.

Robert, I love the idea of listening and then watching with no sound. That sounds very beneficial. He can do this with his video taped lessons each week and with the two solos he's done on video.

Thank-you again for all the helpful suggestions. My son has never been interested in solos-always felt he was a better group player-but his teacher said he has "music in him" and is encouraging him to perform like a soloist.

July 5, 2008 at 01:05 AM · Terry,

I will check out the archives on AT. I know he did some when he attended Suzuki camp for a number of years but has probably forgotten all that he learned. It sounds like he needs some brushing up!

July 5, 2008 at 02:20 AM · First of all I see no major problems that will probably not be taken care of in time.

The bow hold is a bit strange, seems like he is up on the bow, almost baroque style, but it may just be the video.

The violin is a bit low and stays there the whole time. What about raising the darn stand! especially when he practices.

Actually the biggest problem is he does not seem very "invested" in the music. My son had this problem, and we did many things that helped him a lot, and as he got older it natraully went away. I one day talked to him about the difference, and he said many of the things that we changed did indeed help, but what helped most was life itself! I did not understand, so I asked him to expound, he said something to the effect of: " as I got older I experienced life and suffered a bit like the rest of us." What I am suggesting is he may look a bit removed from the music because he may be, in heart and soul, a bit removed from the music.

Note: Both of my sons now play for philharmonics in Europe, so in the end it all came together, just like it will for him.

Suggestions for this, which helped my son as well: Make sure he is playing a lot of pieces that HE wants to play.

2. Go see as many soloists as you possibly can, do not miss ANY that come to your area, and try to get close seats so he can not only hear them, but also SEE them.

3. Put in music that requires heart and soul for it to be played: Gypsy stuff, Tangos, etc.

4. His teacher may be guilty of over teaching, in other words, he may not be free to feel the music HIMSELf. So perhaps a little less restrictive method.

Hope it helps.

July 5, 2008 at 03:06 AM · some quick things that may help...

- play standing. sit only for resting (chairs are not good for posture). take frequent rest.

- raise the height of the music stand, so he looks up to the music

- get the Ohrenfom chin rest, or Flesch. A center over the tailpice rest will help posture.

- do not use the shoulder rest. Use a simple foam pad beneath the shirt, placed on the shoulder joint (not on the collarbone).

- stand in front of a mirror once in a while.

after all the above, GENTLE reminders during practise to raise the left arm.

good luck!

July 6, 2008 at 06:24 AM · Andreas,

I agree that my son is not very "invested" in the music! That is an accurate description. He has always played intellectually but not emotionally. I always wondered how some young players can play with such emotion and passion because my son can't. I think he needs to move past the point of feeling self conscious about expressing his emotions through his playing. His teacher said that his current piece should make people cry (Vitale Ciccone or however it's spelled and he did choose to play this piece) and that's going to be some challenge for my son to step to the next level of playing.

Frankly, until he came to his new teacher, I really didn't think much of my son as a violin player because I know there are so many good players and his type is a dime a dozen. But, I am encouraged to at least see him making progress where he had stagnated before.

I don't think his teacher over teaches at all but I know my son needs to change the way he plays from purely intellectual to a deeper level. I'm glad to hear this can change with maturity and experience. I'm encouraged to hear of your sons' success!

We used to see many, many concerts but when my son started performing so much, we stopped attending so many concerts due to time limitations. He gets free tickets to the San Diego Symphony so I will keep my eye out for all the violin soloists that come to town.

Ron, I am definitely going to ask his teacher about the two chin rests you mentioned and have my son experiment with a foam pad. Do I make this myself? How big should it be?

He'll be sitting all this week as he attends a chamber music festival but I hope his coaches will encourage the players to use the best posture and technique possible so he won't come away having slipped into old bad habits.

Great tips-thanks!

July 6, 2008 at 09:38 AM · "I really didn't think much of my son as a violin player because I know there are so many good players and his type is a dime a dozen."

If he's interested in violin, your job as a mom is to believe he's the best violin player that ever lived. The rest is his teachers' domain, not yours. You want him to be, and therefore look, free and powerful, then give him what he needs to be free in any walk of life, as his mom. I didn't look at the vid. I might when I get back to my good computer and connection, if I remember to.

July 6, 2008 at 04:52 PM · Wow Jim, I guess I never looked at my role that way. The thing is, my son has a huge variety of interests at which he excels including physics, competitive chess, and baseball and he can be pretty over confident; yet, in his violin playing, he's always felt that he was good but not great and I concurred because we know some pretty prodigious players. I will say though, that after his first two recitals, I was amazed at what he did in the short time he's been with his teacher and I'm willing to rethink my opinion of him, particularly since this teacher only takes kids that he thinks have something extra and I now believe my son is one of his better players. (Maybe just because he's older) But I still have a hard time "requiring" long practices like other driven families do. It just doesn't seem right for our family or for him. He gets a lot done in a 45 minute practice and that seems enough for him unless he's specifically preparing for a performance. I know he has no idea of what he wants to be when he's an adult but I hope he'll be able to combine his love of physics and his love of music. My dad was a physicist and a professional musician and I hope my son can do the same.

Thanks for helping me see things in a fresh way.

July 7, 2008 at 12:03 AM · On the other hand, it could be that all he needs is a good shoulder pad :)

I think everything I am and am not I owe to my mom, at least until I was age 30 or so. If I'd ever heard her express something like "his type is a dime a dozen", it would have been hard to work around, for a long time. She might have thought that in reality, but she certainly never expressed it to me! Would likely have been hard to get past, when the time came for it to not be true. If I played somewhere, then all the relatives had to come or at least hear all about it, not because it was great, but because it was me, and therefore great ;) That's the best, most powerful thing you can give.

If anything was lacking though, it's something you show; interest and some involvement in the details. You might have it a lot easier than she, living in a place where you two are plopped down in the middle of a lot of opportunities.

July 7, 2008 at 03:00 AM · My son offers this piece of advice after watching the video.

The problem is not that the scroll is pointed too far downwards, because if that were the case, the solution would be to hold it up higher with his hand. Instead, the problem is that the scroll is too far in front of him where there is nothing holding the violin up except his hand. To solve this, he should move his violin farther to the side where his shoulder can help support the violin, and all his hand should do is keep it from moving horizontally. To help with this, he could switch to a center chin rest which would focus the weight of his head on the side of his chin as opposed to his cheek. At the moment, he has the violin sitting squarely on his left collar bone, which has almost no support, and on top of it all, the tailpiece goes directly forward. This offers no platform for the violin to sit on as his chin presses downward, because the chin sits farther out than the collar bone. If the violin were out to the side, his head would point slightly to the left, placing the violin between his chin and shoulder.

July 7, 2008 at 05:03 AM · Greetings,

but we are just getting into schools of thought here. I hold the violion up solely with theleft hand and have no trouble with shifting. The suggetsion thta is is limiting is based on lack of understanding. The violin also rests on the collar bone. Heifetz used his shoudle ra litlte bit. I have to admit I haven`t sene the video yet but this sounds like the advice oyu would give to someone with rather longer arms. In such cases the center chinrest is usually conra indicated. The center tailpiece is not actually soemthign that can really be recommended as a generla starting point. The most conmfortbnale across the board chinrest is usually said to be the Guarneri model.

There are also schools of thought which have the violin quite far to the fornt. Auer advocated the arms being as close togetehr a sposisble.

Incvidentally when the violin is held by the left hand it is held high. This causes the weight of the violin to fall in towards the body so that the insturment becomes effectively weightless.



Will try and actually look at the video ;)

July 7, 2008 at 05:46 AM · I have three comments.

First, I am a bit of a pretender as i am more a fiddler than a violinist; however they have not kicked me off this site yet, so I'll comment anyway.

Second, I would suggest a bit of a pause to start. Give the audience a couple beats to adjust to you, before they adjust to your music.

Third, as I watched the performance (I did watch the entire performance, and I enjoyed it), I was distracted by the shirt. A solid color would have been better; white, possibly or maybe a royal blue, depending on the audience. The reason I was thinking royal blue or some striking color was because he tended to blend into the background a bit; something that made him more the focus would help.

Aside from that, I did not see anything I thought was amiss.

If you think his posture may be improved, you may suggest an elastic back support under the shirt, but if it interferes with the music, leave it off. His music speaks for itself pretty well.

July 7, 2008 at 05:34 AM · Jim,

I suppose it does sound like I'm a harsh judge of my son. It probably would help to know that I am his biggest supporter in music and he knows it. He knows I love listening to both he and his brother play music very much and he knows I think they're both very good. In most everything he does, he's always been the big fish in the little pond and music had been no exception but by switching teachers and seeing what's out there, he now understands he's not a big fish in a little pond but a small fish in a big ocean. Also, things have always come easy for him so he has tended not to work hard. But, he has had to learn to work hard with his new teacher and I don't want to gush forth praise for his playing as much for his effort, if that makes sense. I've seen him motivated by the success of hard work and that's very encouraging to me and *that's* what I want to communicate to him: "Your hard work pays off!"

Buri and Jennifer, I have encouraged my son to talk with his teacher about his shoulder rest and chin rest so we'll see what comes out of that. I don't step in but if my son is having pain in his arm, collar bone, etc., I always tell him to talk with his teacher but he typically doesn't. Maybe he will this time??? Buri, it does seem that each violinist has preferences so how does a parent/ teacher decide what's best for the individual?

Roland, sometimes I think my son plays just like a fiddler! LOL He's played lots of fiddle music and has fun with it. Thank-you for your comments. You see, each of us can observe something unique in a performance. I just grab a shirt that fits him and he's good to go. I never thought about how what he wears might affect how people "hear" him but it makes sense. Ok, we'll go for royal blue next time-a good color!

July 7, 2008 at 02:36 PM · Buri,

Just what I really need to understand. Although I pride myself on guessing games, this failed me.

"the center chinrest is usually conra indicated"

It would be most useful if clarified. Thank you.

July 7, 2008 at 10:14 PM · It's doctor talk, left over from when he was a nurse :) Contra-indicated means a treatment that's iatrogenic...

July 7, 2008 at 10:14 PM · Greetings,

JIm@s beena round long enough to instantly decode what I write...



July 8, 2008 at 12:15 AM · Rebecca,

You are the parent of a very handsome young man! I asked my sons to look at the video and they concurred with Oliver that the scroll down for whatever reason is an issue problem and most noticable when he shifts back down from the high positions. This seems to also make his right elbow a little low (as well tucked close to the body) when playing on the D and G strings. However the obvious fix is a new and taller stand so he is more comfortable and more free with both arms/hands. Our guys had this trouble and their teacher recommended they ever so slightly lift the scroll up when shifing back down, almost as a subtle release and to be more neutral on the shift (I am not sure I explained that too well!!!). This opens up the posture and gets your right elbow from being too tight against your body. They also mentioned he was too tall for his stand which others have mentioned. Another thing, we guessed was that possibly he is shifting his weight once and a while to one foot which is probably from that puney stand as well. This is due to the fact that he sometimes rests his left elbow almost on his waist. This suggests that he is possibly having more weight on the left foot sometimes. He definitely does this when waiting during the piano part and it is quite noticable but it is not clear he gets back in a balanced position after that break.

I noticed when we fixed the weight distribution and the scroll issue the right side freed up very much and the right elbow was free to move up as required for a more positive stance on the lower strings. Take it with a grain of salt from those who are always tweaking and adjusting constantly.

It is counter intuitive for people to raise their arms and expose their armpits, much like dogs or cats won't expose their tummies. I learned this when I studied dance for a few years. It is a defensive posture from caveman days and must be consciously overcome when you learn to dance. Stretches with arms above head, can help, or just being aware of this primitive carry over. Often people who are nervous keep their arms tucked tight in for this reason but don't when they are relaxed at home. If he is stressed, or worried about that tiny music stand, that would explain this slightly defensive posture which we are all predisposed to and keeps are elbows in too tight.

July 8, 2008 at 12:19 AM · Hi J,

I appreciate the feedback from you and your sons. You know, I asked him about the stand height (as I'm always raising his stand at home) and he said his teacher asked him to lower it because he was being videotaped! So, it definitely was too low. The obvious solution would be for him to either memorize his pieces or to perhaps change the angle of his stand so it could be higher but he could still face the audience without it blocking either the camera or his face.

Your description of the scroll going lower as he shifts into lower positions makes perfect sense. He also has tended to "sit" on one hip with uneven weight distribution so this feedback was also a helpful observation. He tends to slouch-very intuitive for him! LOL Let's just say he had a lot of bad habits that needed breaking when he came to his new teacher.

Hopefully, by the time his next solo rolls around, he'll be able to work on a few of these issues. I think the main thing is to see improvement, even if it's only in one or two areas.

Tell your guys thanks for the feedback. :-)

July 8, 2008 at 01:53 AM · I know about video taping. You see a shirt and pants and a big sheet of music for a head! Try this. Get him in a perfect posture an then us one of those sticky tabs and put it on the wall. After every shift have him check that he lines up. Neutral. Not pointing up or down. As our guys were younger, we even marked where the stand was so they didn't twist too far forward. As these boys grow they can go through some very awkward phases and I an on my guys all day 24 x 7 to stand and sit straight. When the shoulder are slouchy, the violin can swing in too far to the front. I even put a piece of tape on my kids shoulder blades and when their chests caved in the tape popped off. They thought it was great fun and loved messing around with posture experiments. Good Luck!

July 8, 2008 at 09:29 PM · Hey J,

You are creative! I'm not sure my son will tolerate the tape but it sounds pretty amusing and effective. Well, we'll see what he looks like at the end of the week when they have their final performance for the chamber music festival. Of course, sitting down and performing is a whole 'nuther story!

July 9, 2008 at 05:55 PM · Pilates does wonders for posture!

July 9, 2008 at 08:16 PM · As a dancer, I know Pilates is wonderful for dancers but I never thought about using it with musicians, though at my son's chamber music festival this week, they did start off with a yoga class. Do you have any recommendations on Pilates videos?

July 9, 2008 at 10:33 PM · Greetings,

actually Pilates is better done with a qualified instructor. There is a Pilates for Dummies book which gives thorough and clear instructions. You might consider Alexander Technique which is considered mainstream for musicians these days.



July 10, 2008 at 04:56 AM · Hey Buri,

Where do I find Alexander Technique instructors that don't cost an arm and a leg? I remember years ago when my son attended Suzuki Camps, there were private AT classes but they were something like $95 and well out of my budget.


July 10, 2008 at 05:44 AM · Greetings,

yes, that`s the problem. It`s not cheap. AnAlexander teacher goes through a long period of rigorous training and has to be a memebe rof an accreidted organization before they can advertize. Some countries are extremely strict on this. The British government beingnone of the most. Organizations tend to have their own standards and will ofetn not recognoze taechers from equivalent organizations in other countires although because of minor discrepanbcie sin approach. (The fundamentals don`t change- they can@t).

Sorry I digress. On the whole this means that what you are payign for is a highly trained profesisonal though there are always exceptions. The only time I think you can get cheap lesosns is if you work a sa guinea pig for a trainee instructor. It might be worth inquiring about that with the relevant organization of your country. OTher wise all you cna do is ask if its worth it.

For me, I put it at the top of the list of things a violnist ought to purchase. We are talkign avbout nien hundred dollars basic here. It has the same significance as a quality instrument and teacher in the long run.



July 10, 2008 at 06:08 PM · Well, maybe I ought to take my son down to the Suzuki Camp that comes here in a few weeks to see if he can take 1-2 AT lessons from Evangeline Benedetti, who is the certified AT instructor. We know the wonderful teachers who run the camp (one is my son's cello teacher) so they might allow us to do that and perhaps my son can do some work at the camp to work off his fees a bit. Worth a shot!

July 14, 2008 at 08:35 AM · Hey you,

Nice to see you posting on the boards again. I'm impressed with your musical perception as you've had no musical background. You are definitely on the right track with things. You've received great advice here and I agree with a lot of people, particularly the bow hold. So keep at it as you are and I'm sure he'll do great. It takes a long time to break bad habits...even do this day I have them myself but he has to be willing to change them. If he WANTS to change them and wants to play at a higher level then Jesse will have no problem getting there. I also like the fact that he's able to lead a balance life with sports and academics and not just music 24 hours a day. I know many people like that and you do too...moderation is key in my opinion.

Good luck to the both of you!


July 15, 2008 at 06:23 AM · Hi Paul!

Nice to "see" you here, too. :-) I think you're right in that the key seems to be if he *wants* to change his habits because that does require hard work, doesn't it? :-) He *is* improving (though his teacher probably would like to see certain things improve faster like the bow hold, bowing arm, and position of the violin!)

Yes, I confess I struggle with wishing my son would practice more because I see the results in him and others when more time is spent in practicing but again, I really think the motivation has to come from within to a large extent. I will say that challenging him can motivate him which is why I felt he needed to change teachers so as a mom, I don't totally step out of the picture. (Like tonight when I got mad at him because he procrastinated all day and then decided to practice at 10:30 pm when he knew he had a lesson tomorrow!)

I know a lot of kids already know they want to be musicians but Jesse wants to do about 5 things with his life at this point so he is definitely spread pretty evenly amongst his interests.

Thanks for the encouragement, Paul. I don't know if we'll see you in the fall but I hope Jesse can play with you again sometime. :-)

July 15, 2008 at 05:59 PM · I think you've gotten some good advice overall and quite a bit of it too.

On only seeing this one performance of your son, I can only comment on very general terms. Actually, only two technical areas:

In my estimation, he simply needs to 1. Take the time to work on bowing and 2. Free up his instrument.

He does not appear to be at ease with his bowing (probably a combination of lack of command for the bowings he's using and the physical retraints of the current rests he's using). This may be causing some of the issues with his left hand in terms of intonation, as it seems to me he already has the intuition needed for the left hand, but the bowing slows him down and may be causing him to "second guess a little" or not hit spot on.

Long bows and bowing exercise can help here. By "long bows" I mean, work to make an "up bow" and "down bow" each last for a half or full hour--sounds ridiculous, but once the attempt is undertaken he will come to understand what is needed and how long a "long bow" must be for him to gain faith in his bowing.

He may be a player that benefits from either a reduced rest or using none at all. The main point being that he should allow himself and his violin to play in different attitudes (scroll up, scroll down, scroll slightly to one side, violin tilted in pivot long axis, violin tilted out/up-pivot on long axis, & etc.). This can be practiced in concert with his bowing. With a rest, he is limited by the specific configuration he is using at any given time and only what is possible by its specific design. So, he should try other rests/arrangments.

He has great posture for a young man his age given today's tendencies in most people(and us who are getting on in age). So, Alexander may or may not benefit him in the short term (however, it can benefit him over his life time and might be something he wants to look into when funds are more readily available to him).

As for his passion for the music, your son should ask his teacher to work in pieces he particularly likes. These can always be worked into the learning regimen and pepper what might be a rather dry playing list to most of us! Sometimes, it’s these little tidbits that make playing dead music not a chore but something bearable.

July 16, 2008 at 01:12 AM · His teacher did say he did better today at his lesson with bowing (and he did say they can explore new rests) and I do know that my son chose to play the Vitale Ciccone for one of his current pieces so perhaps he'll play it with more passion since he was the one choosing. My son still is so limited in his knowledge of music, though. How can he know what he's capable of playing? I mean, does a young person just listen to a bunch of music and say, "I want to play that?" Since I'm pretty musically illiterate, I have no idea if my son can listen to a song and know if he can play it or not. Or maybe he hears a song he wants to play and asks his teacher about it? That makes sense to me.

Anyhow, just rambling but do appreciate the suggestions. His teacher's out of the country for the next 6 weeks so my son will be having fun continuing with some trio chamber music with a couple of friends. They want to try a fun (but long!) piece by Mark O'Connor. My son is desperate to play 1B by Edgar Meyer but there's no sheet music for it. He's figuring it out a little on his own but I don't think he'll get too far. Now that's a piece he'd play with passion! LOL

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