instructional DVDs

August 15, 2008 at 07:46 AM · Hi folks, I was wondering how violinists feel about instructional dvds.

i'm a fulltime jazz guitarist (there's more info about me in the "teacher woes" subject) and know for a fact that there's a pretty good market for instructional guitar dvds, but i'm wondering how people feel about violin DVDs.

Now, even though there's a market for guitar dvds (or back in the old days VHS), a lot of it is junk and very superficial.

I ask this because I've recently started my own instructional video company and have released 5 jazz guitar dvds that are really succesfull and that have allowed me to live off royalties for quite some time.

I've decided to expand this business to include other artists and also other instruments.

btw, i don't want to turn this thread into any kind of advertising thread so i will not include the name of my company nor of the artists, unless asked. The purpose of this discussion is to gather information.

as far as my business goes, the goal is to make extremely high quality instructional dvds unlike most in the market. I'm a fulltime musician who taught and gave masterclasses in canada, USA, europe, and pedagogy is something that was always important to me, i've studied with numerous teachers so i've been exposed to various methods of teaching; the good and the bad all helped me decide how i wanted to teach.

the concept behind my videos is to show as much material as possible and to provide extremely clear examples of how the material is to be worked on and applied.

with that said, since violin is a childhood passion of mine, i've been looking into producing unique instructional violin videos.

I did some extensive research. There are no Gypsy violin or good jazz violin dvds out there..

i've watched a few jazz violin tapes (names witheld) and the material isn't bad but it's quite superficial, and doesn't talk about some of the fundamental techniques in jazz violin (jazz bowing, left hand technique, vocabulary)

I don't know what the market is like, but I approached two worldclass musicians in their respective fields, a Roumanian gypsy violinist and a jazz violinist in the style of stephane grappelli.

we shot the videos over the summer and i am currently in the process of editing them.

I'm curious: how interested are violinists about gypsy violin and jazz violin..

here are some of the topics we cover in the gypsy violin:

-gypsy interpretation, use of vibrato, appogiaturas (bulgarian, roumanian, serbian, etc..) gypsy bowing technique, gypsy effects , improvisation, demonstration of gypsy music

and on the jazz violin dvd:

-jazz violin bowing (chain bowing, syncopation/accents), grappelli style bowing, vibrato, left hand technique (phrasing, harmonics), note choice, rhythm, improvistation, etc...

i am really happy with how the videos turn out and will post a lot of clips on youtube eventually... these videos are also extremely long, the jazz violin dvd is in two volumes, the first volume is 3 hours in length.

are you guys interested in this kind of stuff?

and if so, what other things would you be interested in.

I'm hoping that these dvds are going to be a success. Of course, this is how I make most of my living , but I also really do it to make the learning of music easier.

My dream violin project is to invite various top classical violinist and have them talk about various subjects: ie have vengerov, hahn, perlman, etc... talk about vibrato, and how they achieved it, right down to the technical details... have them talk about how to interpret music, etc... and then have them all perhaps play the same piece, to see how each of them interpret the piece and why they chose to do it that way, etc... with various camera closeups...

such a project would probably require a heavy budget, but if my business works really well especially in the violin department, i will really think about doing such a monumental project!

again sorry if anyone feels this is a shameless plug or anything.. but i kept my end of the bargain, i did not post any links of any sort!

Replies (20)

August 16, 2008 at 01:15 PM · Dennis,

I'm right on your wavelength.

Please e-mail me privately at

August 16, 2008 at 03:36 PM · Let us know when you post those clips on youtube.

August 18, 2008 at 08:42 AM · thanks i got a few private emails about this topic... there seems to be little out there of good quality, and whatever is of good quality doesn't seem to be too well advertised (at least on the internet); ie the stephen redrobe dvd which i discovered through this site, i just ordered it, it looks great, and people seem to say good things about it; but it doesn't seem to be too well known.

anyway as far as clips go, i'll post some soon. in the meantime, if anyone's interested here are the artists in question:

gypsy violin:

jazz violin:

August 19, 2008 at 03:18 PM · Fiddle players do certainly buy these things. I'm wondering if your post is a veiled advertisement? Not necessarily good form for here. Sue

August 19, 2008 at 03:48 PM · Dennis - the swing was nice, but if you call that gypsy you will be laughed at both by purists and by anyone that have heard a gypsy fiddler. That is a jazz fiddler playing in his own style, and even the second clip which is a traditional tune is way more jazzy than folky.

August 19, 2008 at 05:49 PM · I like Professor V's posts on youtube. Don't need much more instruction than that and aside from a private teacher.

August 19, 2008 at 06:14 PM · Simon Fischer's entries will soon be available as well. Am very much looking forward to those.

August 19, 2008 at 07:10 PM · hi mattias

that is actually gypsy; more specifically modern roumanian gypsy style... that is how they play nowadays, they like to mix it with a lot of different things... the "modern roumanian" gypsy mentality is a bit different than the stereotype that you're referring to and that most people are aware of (taraf de haidouks or traditional hungarian gypsy style).

nonetheless the DVD does not focus on that modern gypsy style. those are but youtube clips demonstrating the style of the violinist who himself is a very famous (among his people) roumanian gypsy.

strangely enough if he played the "purist way" you talked about, he would be laughed at by his fellow countrymen... of course every country is different , and even within the same country, there are different gypsy "cliques" ... both sides criticize eachother, etc...

for the dvd, i tried to arrange it in such a way that will satisfy both sides

August 19, 2008 at 06:51 PM · Dennis,

As far as I can see, in today's world there is a market for just about anything at any quality level. Any serious musician must have as his goal complete mastery of his instrument, meaning technique & music therory. That leaves style, interpretation, and improvisation. These are all linked to personal taste or historical/cultural standards.

I guess where I'm going with this is that Classical violinists tend to have very high levels of technical competence with less focus on improvisation. At the other end of the spectrum I see the folk violinists focusing on less sophisticated music which seems to have a narrower demand of technical ability. Somewhere in-between lies the Gypsy style demanding greater technique plus the ability to improvise. Improvisation, by the way, is a skill set that can be learned like any other, and seems to be a seperate talent as well. i.e., anyone can learn it but some excell.

If you can identify, and just as importantly, codify the unique musical and cultural elements of the style, you should be able to sell it.

August 20, 2008 at 12:34 PM · Dennis -

He might for sure be a modern roumanian gypsy that is playing the violin, but the way he uses his bow, intonation an accents has nothing to do with traditional music.

Just because you have the etnicity does not mean that you play in that style.

If an american played first a Sinatra song in the "correct" way and then an american polka in the same style, would you call it "how a traditional american polka should be played" then?

Of course Not!

Why then with so called gypsy music?

If I would by a DVD with how to play Gypsy violin, for me or for my students, I would expect it to be traditional fiddle playing, not a tune direct from the Pop charts with a Jazz/Pop violinist.

But that all depends on how you advertize it, I suppose.

August 20, 2008 at 06:40 PM · well this is where it gets tricky... first of all the clips i posted are clips of him playing his music, those were not clips of the dvd itself.

here's a clip of him playing more "traditional" style:

btw, just to let you know, practically EVERY roumanian gypsy knows him and looks up to him as a musician, so then if that doesn't make him authentic, what does? read further below

\it's very difficult to define an authentic gypsy style. I don't know how much you know about it, and please understand that I don't necessarily claim to be an expert as well, BUT I've been surrounded by gypsies for the past 10 yrs, hungarians of different casts, roumanians, moldavians, french (manouche), german and dutch (sinti), etc... so I've learned a lot from them.

I know enough that you just cant lump everything into one "traditional gypsy category"...

the german sinti play jazz music a la django reinhardt, some of them also specialize in hungarian music because a lot of their ancestors came from hungary (czardas)... but the hungarian gypsies who hear the germans play their music think it's not authentic.

then within hungary you have differents casts of gypsies... there are the "aristocratic" kind who went through rigourous formal training (lakatos family for example) and the "street" gypsies who played by ear (watch the film latcho drom, there is a portrayal of these kinds of hungarians). Well then guess what, the ones with formal training look down upon the "street" players... But in hungary and for most people the "real deal" is the ones with formal training (sandor lakatos, roby lakatos) etc... and then even within the type who received formal training; thehre is roby lakatos for example who doesn't play in the traditional hungarian style, yet every consumer of gypsy music lump him as a "gypsy musician" (by musical genre)

ok then we have the hungarian music performing roumanian music (hora staccato, the lark, etc...) well guess what, you'll have roumanians saying it isn't authentic because it looks the ornaments that make it roumanian in the first place... and then within roumania, you have the same situation as in hungary...

in france, the gypsies play jazz , they are greatly inspired by django reinhardt, these gypsies are called manouche or sinti... but then you have a russian tribe (namely the demeter family) who are not sinti but russian roma who come and play sinti jazz in their own style..

so now, how then do you define authentic gypsy style?

really, despite all these differences, the main thing they all have in common is freedom in interpretation (use of improvisation), dramatic ornaments, usually a really strong technique... but then i cannot elaborate any further because of the above reasons...

my goal with this gypsy dvd was exactly to demystify all these assumptions that you basically made..

the dvd does not cover and cannot cover every single style to the minute detail because for one it would take too much time and two, he makes no claim to play every style.. hopefully if this first gypsy dvd does well, i 'll be able to invite some other gypsy violinist i know who specialize in different aspects, to show the contrast between players and countries.

again based on my research, there is no method book or dvd out there that talks about any of this, if there are i'd be really interested... there are two books released by melbay, but i checked it out, and it's just a repertoire book and the analysis and interpretation advice is well this time around "unauthentic" (despite having me gone through that speech about "authenticitiy")

email me privately and i'll send you a clip of him playing "authentic" hungarian style

August 20, 2008 at 07:07 PM · Dennis - well, now I know how much _you_ know :-)


Django was a gypsy, but he did not play gypsy music. If Joshua Bell plays Mozart, dos he play American music just because Bell is an american???

>btw, just to let you know, practically EVERY

>roumanian gypsy knows him and looks up to him

>as a musician, so then if that doesn't make him

>authentic, what does?

Most period barock players I know LOVE Segovias eccentric recording of the chaccone. Does that make his recording autentic?

Heck, most opera singers I know of LOVE Bob Dylan, does that make him an autentic opera singer???

>BUT I've been surrounded by gypsies for the >past 10 yrs,

So have I. I have also for my entire life been surrounded by Swedish violinist and _very_ few can play a traditional Swedish tune so it doesn't sound like Brahms.

>ok then we have the hungarian music performing

>roumanian music (hora staccato, the lark,

>etc...) well guess what, you'll have roumanians

>saying it isn't authentic because it looks the

>ornaments that make it roumanian in the first

>place... and then within roumania, you have the

>same situation as in hungary...

That is all good since both of those piece are composed and not traditional from the beginning.

>so now, how then do you define authentic gypsy


To strat with - where does the inspiration for the sound come from?

A clue: It shouldn't be from a saxophone :-)

>really, despite all these differences, the main

>thing they all have in common is freedom in

>interpretation (use of improvisation),

Nope. Most traditional music is passed along without improvisation of the notes, but you are correct that they have freedom of interpretation (to an certain dergee)

>dramatic ornaments,

That is subjective.

>usually a really strong technique...


Since most of the the traditional music is songs it is most about singing. Not technique. No matter what instrument you use.

The main thing they all have in common is not _how_ they play, but where the music came from culturally. That is true for all ethnic music where ever it comes from.

August 20, 2008 at 08:02 PM · hi mattias,

well first of all, i must say with the utmost respect , you're getting too deeply into semantics by over-analyzing what i wrote. You would be a great lawayer ;-) !

but you're also avoiding the main question: what then is authentic gypsy music.

You've attempted to refute my arguments (but at the same time you've interpreted my arguments in such a way that make them seem "false" -semantics-) but at the same time ignored a huge chunk of my paragraphs describing the different styles of playing. some of your examples are also exaggerations (sinatra, joshua bell) of my arguments.

the difference in opinion really lies in the definition of authentic gypsy music.

you say django reinhardt did not play "gypsy music" . I'll agree that he was a gypsy who played jazz music. But he definitely had a gypsy approach to his jazz playing that is very unique and which influenced the manouche gypsies until even today.

But you see one thing that you still haven't defined is "gypsy music". What is gypsy music then? to be honest i don't think it's possible to come up with a very clear definition that will satisfy everyone.

what you wrote "The main thing they all have in common is not _how_ they play, but where the music came from culturally".

I have to half-disagree here, it really *is* how they play and that in itself is influenced by where they come from culturally and where they have settled.

Hora Staccato and the lark were examples of tunes. They are not compositions by gypsies but roumanian gypsies play them. those are tunes i mentionned because your average violinist is more likely to know them.

so if those don't qualify as gypsy even if played by gypsies, you;ve eliminated a significant chunk of gypsy repertoire (depending on the country).

You've especially eliminated a huge chunk of the typical hungarian gypsy repertoire (hungarian folk songs - czardas), a huge chunk of the russian repertoire (moscow nights, moscow windows, dark eyes, two guitars, etc...)

what are the gypsies to play then? I've especially spent a lot of time with sinti gypsies in holland and france. They took the django reinhardt idiom and further infused it with more gypsy elements and they play jazz standards, they call their music Gypsy music as well (they call it gypsy jazz to be more specific). Are you going to go to their campsite and tell everyone : "Hey guys, sorry you guys may be gypsies but you're not playing gypsy music" ?

I stand by what I said, that gypsy music is much more in the mentality (interpretation) than the composition itself.

There is a significant amount of improvisation/interpretation in the music, listen to how differently everyone plays monti czardas (now i hope you're not going to argue that it doesn't qualify as gypsy music because it's an italian imitation of a hungarian folk dance ;-) ) for example, or if you want an "authentic" gypsy song: "Djelem Djelem", they all play it differently.

dramatic ornamentation, what i meant by that, is well quite vague, that's why i left as vague as that, it really depends on the style... but generally speaking ,and again since you're into semantics, i repeat GENERALLY spekaing, that means a highly expressive vibrato (like a singer and you did mention that)... it definitely is influenced by singing (but then again a lot of non-gypsy violin music is also influenced by the voice).... but the technical aspect is evident in the use of fast flurries of notes (i'm thinking more along the lines of hungarian style here)..

"Most period barock players I know LOVE Segovias eccentric recording of the chaccone. Does that make his recording autentic?

Heck, most opera singers I know of LOVE Bob Dylan, does that make him an autentic opera singer???"

well i'm not going to answer that question, because in my original post about gypsy music, i never tried to push the definition of "authenticity" as much as you have. To me "authentic" simply means the way you interpret the music (we're going around in circles) which is a simple thing to say, but there's a lot more to it than meets the eye..

to you on the other hand, the definition of "authentic"

is very clear cut, and by your definition, most gypsies are not authentic gypsy players!

i've spent a lot of time with them, to the point that i've heard them speak their language enough to have picked up a lot of phrases as well, i lived with them sometimes when i was in europe.

anyway, just to recap, i really believe that gypsy music is very difficult to define, and that a lot of it is really in the approach (which you say isn't) moreso than the composition... although the approach also influences the composition and vice versa (chicken and egg).

Anyway, I say all of this with the utmost respect to you. and i'd like others to tell us what they think of our discussion, even if they don't know about the music

August 21, 2008 at 03:17 AM · >Anyway, I say all of this with the utmost

>respect to you. and i'd like others to tell us

>what they think of our discussion, even if they

>don't know about the music

I appreciate this discussion - thanks! And I agree, time to let others in.

Thank you Dennis :-)

August 21, 2008 at 09:33 PM · I don't see the problem. Simply break the material down into traditional and modern (or cross-over, if you prefer that term);or, mix and match there's plenty of room for product "packaging" here. Just as some prefer Baroque vs modern, some will want only "traditional" Gypsy.

Remember, nothing is static in life, especially music as we all strive to express oursevles. If there is any one thing that could describe Gypsy music it is expressiveness.

As far as my own interests, I tend toward the traditional, structured, melodic, and emotive types of music.

I do think your dream project is worthy, and also very ambitious.

August 23, 2008 at 03:39 AM · hi dave

i think you might have misread what i wrote, and i believe the thread went in a completely different direction..

first thing that's need to be clear, the DVD has already been filmed!

Second of all, we were not actually discussing the contents of my dvd. Basicalyl mattias assumed that the clips i posted of the artist in question was gypsy music..

I would like to be clear that I made no such claims (i hope not anyway!). He's right, it isn't "traditional" gypsy music. I put traditional in "" because that was what we were originally arguing about.

If you or anyone else following the discussion read my previous post explaining the different countries/different styles, you'll see that it becomes quite difficult to define "gypsy music"... AND of course, gypsy music isn't all violin too, there's the accordion, gypsy brass bands , etc... etc...

i have to admit that i'm only familiar with hungarian, roumanian and french/german styles.

one thing my dvd was NOT was the french/german style which revolves more around jazz/swing.

the artist in question is roumanian , but he's used to playing bulgarian, russian and hungarian styles too. So the DVD focuses a lot on the eastern european style (of which, again, there are many).

But then, in my opinion, gypsy music is very hard to define, and it especially has to do with the approach.

and since it has to do with "culture", for someone who wants to get into the music and play "authentically" , well then one DVD alone is not going to cut it... the only way to do it is to immerself yourself into the whole music (and again realizing that every country is different).

i think the main issue, at hand, is that very few people know what gypsy music is... most people when they say gypsy music as far as violin goes, they think monti czardas, or the russian folk song dark eyes... that's probably only 2 percent of the truth...

and then when they perform it, it doesn't sound "gypsy"

that is the main focus of the dvd:

1) to explain the different styles: for example roumanian style : there are various ornaments (listen to the original version of hora staccato not heifetz' arrangement) ... or the bulgarian ornaments: here's one if you guys want to try it out:

second position, E string. middle finger on A, on one bow stroke play the following notes:

A Bb A G# and loop that pattern.. it's meant to be played as fast possible, it's an ornament

now between second A and G#, you need to slide the middle finger up as it goes from A to G#. if anyone wants to hear what it sounds like shoot me an email and i'll send you an excerpt from the dvd

2) how to interpret the music (gypsy style)... for example in russia, they often reharminize music with a specific chord progression (the descending fifth progression)... if you take a piece like dark eyes where it's

2 bars of A7, 2 bars of Dm, 2 bars of A7 , 2 bars of Dm, 2 bars of Gm, 2 bars of A7, 2 bars of Dm, 2 bars of Gm, 2 bars of A7 and finally to bars of Dm

those are the original chords... russian gypsies will often reharmonize the section in Gm starting with

one bar of Gm7, one bar C7, one bar F, one bar Bb, one bar Gm6 one bar of A7 and isntead of resolving to Dm, they will have a false cadence with Fm6 and D7.....

sound very confusing? hahaha sorry


Anyway, we tried to make the dvd as comprehensive as possible but of course we can only put so much information into a 3 (yes THREE) hour dvd. if it's successful i can invite a hungarian violinist to do another dvd so we can see things from his perspective...

hopefully it ll help demistify a lot of misconceptions and help violinists add a bit of spice into their playing..

August 23, 2008 at 08:43 AM · Thanks Dennis,

This is exactly what I imagined the DVD'S to contain:

Ornamental devices that will add a little bit more spice into my playing.

I'm not concerned about where the gypsy came from, I thought everyone knew that they played the music they heard from the lands they had settled and added their unique styles.

August 23, 2008 at 09:23 AM · I am glad you have Tim Kliphuis on board.

He is a top player in the Grappelli style, and can play more modern if he wants. He is very experienced in giving workshops in that Hot Club style, and should be a good "face" for your dvd.


August 23, 2008 at 09:57 PM · "Heck, most opera singers I know of LOVE Bob Dylan"

Placido Domingo took voice lessons from him in 1962. They done it at Dave Van Ronk's house, I heared.

August 24, 2008 at 05:04 AM · thanks graham, let's keep in touch to see what we can do with the bop violin dvds.


here are a few clips of the gypsy dvd, they're not videos, as i m not the who who's doing the video edits...

these are in low quality mp3 for faster download...

and that's me on guitar... not that i'm playing anything spectacular

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