Fischer's Tone Production DVD: 1st Reactions?

September 29, 2010 at 11:02 PM ·

So what's the verdict?

Is it essentially the material in Basics in a different format, or does the DVD cover new ground?

Mr Fischer makes big claims for the DVD, and given his status and credibility it's a very tempting purchase. But I'm on a tight budget so I'd appreciate feedback first, please.

Replies (31)

October 1, 2010 at 12:29 AM ·

Hi folks

Really no reaction? I was expecting the DVD to generate a fair bit of excitement...

October 1, 2010 at 06:07 AM ·

Geoff, the DVD is just new to the market and I doubt too many people have even received their order yet. Mine is on the mail but will report back once I receive it.

After using his two books and reading his articles and comments posted here, I doubt very much someone has so many insights and ideas like Mr. Fischer would be wasting his time and energy on creating anything redudant.

By the way, what does your teacher think about his Basics?

October 1, 2010 at 01:20 PM ·


As a very late starter (mid 50's) with a bit of a string background, I'm having a great time trying to work out this crazy instrument for myself (with the odd check-up from my professional friends). And whenever I'm tackling a problem or a new technique, Basics is, of course, one of the first places I turn. It's status as a modern classic is surely already beyond dispute?

Look forward to your review, once your copy arrives!

October 3, 2010 at 10:52 PM ·

Disc 1

Some of the material from Basics, specifically from pages 37 (resonance), 38 (the tilt of the bow), 41 (5 soundpoints) ,  54 (bow-pressure), 57 (bow-pressure/string-length), and 60 (bow changes), is covered in the DVDs. The viola and the cello also figure in the DVD set, unlike Basics, which confines itself to violins alone (not that the exact same principles cannot be applied to the viola and the cello (David Finckel's videos)).
If a picture is worth a thousand words, a player demonstrating the technique in question on a DVD is, probably, worth ten thousand.

October 4, 2010 at 03:20 AM ·

Thank you VJ! Please tell us how your tone has improved.

October 6, 2010 at 10:31 PM ·

How are we doing - anyone ready yet to write a review?


October 7, 2010 at 02:04 AM · I'm still anxiously awaiting delivery. Tick tock.

October 8, 2010 at 03:35 AM ·

I just recieved mine this afternoon, and watch the disc 1. Like VJ says, its all about sound point and so on, though, its all in the Basic bk, its nice to see it on the video, and the students who participated are all learning it. But on the other note, Buri anf the others has talked about this over and over again in this site, but its really nice to see it how it work, how it supposed to be and so on. It seems  Simon Fisher is quite a a wonderful teacher.

'we'll be back when done watching the disc 2.


October 8, 2010 at 09:08 PM ·

Thanks Elinor!

October 9, 2010 at 07:01 PM ·

Mine came yesterday, on my birthday!:)

I had a quick review of both DVDs. My short answer: it is priceless.

I've got a quite good collection of DVDs of violin teaching, ranging from ones done by Chinese famous violin teachers (there are quite a bit out there in VCD format, but in Chinese language only), produced by Russians and many by Americans. I have to say that Simon Fischer gives the most insightful, clear, concise and elegant teaching among all of those I've got here.

We know that books, no matter how wonderful they are, are insufficient for us to learn how to play the violin. Demonstration, by teacher as well as students (such as in Masterclasses) give us more concrete, individualized and nuanced directions. This is what you'll get from these DVDs that you can't get from his books, wonderful as they are. Another great idea in these two DVDs is to have students with different issues and to see how Simon dealt with them individually. I can identify with various students all the way through with various issues and learn what and how to listen, what to watch for, and how to correct. You don't get this from books, not even from some of the teachers. 

I'm sure, like his Basics and the Practice, these two DVDs will require repeated reviewing to get the full benefit.

October 9, 2010 at 09:14 PM ·


Great news about you receiving your DVD set. My worry was more about :

>>Thank you VJ! Please tell us how your tone has improved.<<


Since you've received your copy of the DVDs, I take it that I'm off the hook now when it comes to providing an update about any improvement in my tone - real or imaginary ;-)

I am still experimenting with the tone production exercises and the (seemingly inaudible) change of bow with only the fingers or just the forearm. All this is going to take quite a while.

The problem is that one gets so used to one's (natural) voice - the sound of one's tone on the violin in this case - that it's not easy to tell if something is improving. For example, it might be very apparent when  playing in the upper registers and crushing the sound, or worse, in the case of double stops when the bow is not in the right plane between two strings. Now, imo, applying all of this while playing a passage or two and watching the soundpoints, pressure, and speed requires a more conscious and focused effort. It definitely helps if the piece to which all of this is being applied has already been memorized because one needs to transition from the exercises to an actual piece or passage.


October 9, 2010 at 09:50 PM ·

I think watching those excercises and the students struggling too on the video, makes sense more of what the book are really talking about. Seeing them makes it more clear, that we too, are having those same problems because of our inexperiences, in hearing the tone and so on. Also, Mr. Fischer more often correct the postures of the participants, which  also we often neglect , and how postures, sudden movement, jerking of bow hands and other affect the tone productions.

Like has been said, this DVD is priceless. I think, including those students who are more likely like us, dealing with the same issues, are much a great deal to learn thru watching than other DVD's, thats on the market todays whose students are on the high level of proficiency which you have no clue if they doing it right or not.

This is great! Best money can buy.

Now, I wonder if Drew Lecher will pursue the DVD project? His book is a tremendous help, now if I could see it on the video what is all about. hmmm...


October 9, 2010 at 10:51 PM ·


> Now, I wonder if Drew Lecher will pursue the DVD project?

What a great idea!

Drew - if you see this, is this something you would consider? I appreciate that it would be a big project, but it would be invaluable!

Maybe we should get petition together!? He's a generous guy and I suspect he might listen to us...

October 10, 2010 at 01:06 AM ·

@VJ: you are not off the hook and we are waiting for you to post your before and after performances shortly:)

For me, I can say that I have noticed that my tone has improved within the past 24 hours. I watched the DVDs a couple of times already and have been practising good part of the day today, but the jury is out until I have played for my teacher, who knows my playing the best.

In the meanwhile. I think your comment on how to listen is a good one. It's clearly something that Mr. Fischer stressed again and again throughout these DVDs. So does my teacher, who often says "I listen like crazy when I'm playing."  But how to do this in a productive way? This is a bit like the problem with intonation. How can you fix the wrong notes if you don't even notice they are not in the right places? You can use tuner, open strings or double stops to tune your ears to some get it right, to a degree. And for tone production, you can use the method of observing the vibration of the string that he described in the DVDs to compensate somewhat, but we will always miss certain things and that's why we want to have good teacher in our life. A teacher who does not sugar-coating but is able to spot problems and to help fix them for us in a timely manner and in a way that the message will stick to us. Nothing can replace that. 

"It definitely helps if the piece to which all of this is being applied has already been memorized because one needs to transition from the exercises to an actual piece or passage."

Yes, apply the the stuff to  something that is quite familiar to us is a good way to do it.   I started with scales and studies and moved on to whatever I'm working on, slowly and mindfully, applying what I've learned from these DVDs. For stance, I'm working on a couple movements of Bach Partita for this month's performance. I play it in a slower tempo than I have been playing and listen, watch and take notes. After 15 - 30 minutes, I noticed the improvements. Mozart is another good example. Every little improvement shows if you listen carefully.

October 18, 2010 at 03:40 AM · I’ve been studying the violin for nearly six years now and have amassed an impressive collection of instructional books, DVDs and CD-ROMS. Some of these have been useful, even excellent, but this one has instantly become my favorite. Mr. Fischer’s DVD delivers on what it promises, and more, and it promises a lot. The principles and method of instruction are crystal clear, and I found it immensely helpful to see the exercises performed by students of various experience levels, making the same kinds of mistakes that I would no doubt make on my own. Armed with these simple exercises and the demonstration of how to perform them correctly, it would be difficult to ever again settle for less than a singing, resonant tone. As good as “Basics” is, reading the exercises in a book cannot compare to the DVD experience. Kudos also to Mr. Paul Owen, the site manager of simonfischeronline, who emailed me after seeing my post above. Concerned that my DVD had not yet arrived, he immediately sent another - along with a gift CD for putting up with a delay that I had happily chalked up to the vagaries of international mail. Customer service like you dream about.

October 18, 2010 at 10:19 AM ·

Thanks for the feedback folks

It's pretty clear that this is an essential purchase!

October 18, 2010 at 01:52 PM · Late to the party but: 1. Where do I get these resources in the US? 2. They are not inexpensive so if I only pick up one, should I pick up the Basics book or the DVD? Thanks! JT

October 25, 2010 at 05:53 PM ·

I just got the DVD.  It only took five days from ordering it on the web site until it arrived here on my doorstep just outside Vancouver, B.C.  That's impressive, but so is the DVD itself.  I'm going to have to watch it a lot more, but I already find myself thinking about the concepts while I play, and I'm starting to notice a difference.  While watching the students on the DVD play the exercises, I started spotting their errors even before Simon Fischer pointed them out.  Even better, I'm starting to not only detect my own errors but figure out how to correct them.  And my wife, who's studying cello, is learning from the DVD as well.

Highly recommended.  But I realize that tone production is just one small part of violin playing.  There's figuring out which sound point to use when, not to mention what the left hand is doing... I wonder how long it'll be before I find myself ordering a copy of Basics...

October 25, 2010 at 08:13 PM ·

Charlie said: "tone production is just one small part of violin playing."

I'm not sure it's small part. You wouldn't say one's voice is small part of a singer:) Tone production for violin is like the quality of one's singing, at least that's what I've been taught:) But I agree that The Basics is absolutely essential to have.

That's said, I strongly believe that you'll benefit from a teacher with or without books or DVDs.  I reviewed these amazing DVDs a number of times and practiced accordingly for a couple of weeks, my tone production is definitely improving, but my teacher noticed duringmy last lesson that my right arm and shoulder were more tense than before.  Did I tense up due to over-focusing on the tone production excise or the twe were not causally connected? I'm not sure, but my point is that we need feedback to learn effectively.  Books and DVDs, no matter how great, are not sufficient for this purpose.

October 25, 2010 at 08:31 PM ·

A wonderful DVD.  I have been learning (for about 2 years) the violin from a teacher who graduated from the Cleveland Institute of Music in performance and teaching (and performs with various chamber groups and orchestras in various parts of the country).   During all that time I could not get much sound out of my violin no matter what I did and what she tried to convey to me.  WELL, after watching only 1 hour of Simon's DVD on tone production, I now understand what is needed to start getting the sound we all want from a stringed instrument.   If you play the violin even a little bit I'd say that you owe yourself a gift and this is IT.    Best single source of how to play the violin better than anything I have ever come across.   Add in the cost of lessons, violin, bow, case, time, etc., etc. and even if you get only one tip from this DVD it will have been worth it!

October 26, 2010 at 10:44 PM ·

Charlie said: "tone production is just one small part of violin playing."

Yixi Zhang replies:

"I'm not sure it's small part. You wouldn't say one's voice is small part of a singer:) Tone production for violin is like the quality of one's singing, at least that's what I've been taught:) But I agree that The Basics is absolutely essential to have."

I realize that tone production isn't a small part.  But since all those exercises are done with nothing other than a third-finger D on the A string, it's obvious that there are a lot of other things involved in violin playing - the entire left hand, for instance.  If I wasn't so fascinated by it, I'd be terrified by the magnitude of the task I've set myself in learning the violin.

Interestingly, when I mentioned the DVD to my teacher, he wasn't interested at all.  But I suspected this might happen.  He has a definite curriculum in mind for me - although I'm not sure exactly what it is, it seems to be focusing (at least to this point) on left-hand technique.  He's content to leave details of tone until later (mine is apparently acceptable for now), and he won't even mention vibrato aside from saying that it'll come in time - even if it takes a couple of years.  But I'm willing to trust him and continue on the path he's set for me.  My technique is improving steadily - my recent work on the Accolay is making me start to feel comfortable in fifth position, for instance.

However, I'll continue to think about the concepts put forth on the DVD while I play.  It might not be my primary focus for now, but it's certainly having a good influence on my tone, such as it is.

October 27, 2010 at 12:13 AM ·

Thanks Charlie. I knew what you meant but just wanted to kid you a bit for the fun of it.

My teacher is extremely interested in the DVDs but she treats The Basics as violin Bible and she tends to put more emphasis on my bow arm technique than the LH ones, not that the latter are less important because, as she puts it,  the LH techniques are "science" but having a great bow arm is arts.  A lot of teachers (some of my former Chinese teachers for instance) tend to pay more attention to the LH technique.  When asked what's more important, we'd hear something along these two lines:

"If you can't play in tune, nothing matters." But one can play out of tune even if the LH is perfect but the bow pressure is wrong, as we see Simon Fischer demonstrated in his DVDs. Or "If you can't make good sound, nothing matters."  I think this sets a higher expectation than the previous line, as it presuppose a solid LH already (out of tune notes can't be called good sound in my book). More importantly, good tone production requires well-trained ears, and the listening skill doesn't come over night. For this matter, I'm kind of concerned when teachers don't start on tone production with their students from the very beginning. I certainly wish my previous teachers were more vigilant about my tone production than they were.  You are smart to do the extra with the DVDs.

October 27, 2010 at 03:04 AM ·


although I would say that intonation is the central aspect of playing any instrument it is not quite so simple as one might think. As  Yixi has noted,  Simon explains and demonstrates veyr clearly that intonation is very often a function of what the right hand is doing.  What we see is that by exerting too much bow pressure the intonation is bent horribly and yet the studnet/pro assume s that the left hand is at fault.   Anothe rinteresting aspct of this is that great violnist who have tonus do have ocasisons when they play quite badly out of tune (everybody is human) but because they have a beautiful natural sound it is often barely oticeable. Wherea sa violnist who does not have this fundamentla ringing sound may play out of tune to the same degree or less and sound absolutely awful.   The connection between tone production and intonation is veyr deep.

Yixi`s point that the singer would not say the sound is only a small part of the job is very good.  However,  I think it helps to explore this issue in depth and make some new connections.   The fatc that the DVD has the word `tone production` in the title tends to quite inadvertantly,  make us think in terms of separated left and right hand.  However,  behind the fundamental cocnept the DVD teache s us that `tone production I is about the proportionla relationship between spped, weight and sound point  is a wider point that I belive is worth mentioning.   The body is a holistic unit with left side affectng right and vice versa.   If we are not using the proportions correctly,  as this DVD so skillfully teaches,   then we are using too much energy to produce what we want.   This excess energy, which translates into tension,   will directly and detrimentally impinge on the left hand technique.  In other words the argument that `I can focus on left hand and not worry about @tone production@` is fallacious.   If you don`t ave the best possible bow arm then your left hand is also limited. 

To my mind this has serious implications for teaching beginners of any age.   If we don@t insist on a beautiful tone from the beginning,  preferably using the ideas put forward so concisely by Simon,  then we are not doing them any favors at all.



PS I wrote a blog on this DVD recently.

October 29, 2010 at 05:50 AM ·

Charlie Gibbs  quote " But since all those exercises are done with nothing other than a third-finger D on the A string,"

Not quite correct, the DVD shows that the exercises are to be practiced on ALL four strings in low, medium and high positions, ie 12 areas of the fingerboard.

Only doing them on one string would limit the power of these exercises considerably!

October 29, 2010 at 01:25 PM ·

 Here's the review Buri wrote, if anyone missed that. 

November 9, 2010 at 12:55 AM ·

Laurie - thanks for the heads up. I'd missed Buri's post.

Buri - terrific review: not only do you make it clear it's a must-buy, you also give excellent guidance on how to get the most from it!

November 9, 2010 at 09:12 AM ·


I am in complete agreement with everything you say in your post, and I also of course rate Simon's work very highly. (I haven't seen the DVD yet so I'm only taking up one of your points).

Being a complete simpleton, I've always thought that people must be aware of the fact that lots of bow pressure means the pitch changes slightly, and being a rather "digging in" type of player at times, I suppose I unconsciously change my left hand a fraction to accomodate this. A bit like Heifetz saying he plays out of tune but fixes it so quickly that no-one notices!

I've become a great advocate of the left hand position that sees the fingers pointing up towards the bridge, (to put it the only way I can!) and that the pads on the left hand fingers are used rather than the tips - generally at any rate. (This has been brought up on another thread which I have yet to respond to). This is also shown in photos and text in the Roger Rich (aka Rugerrio Ricci) book, on the Glissando.

I say this because it works for me, and I play a lot better and with less effort than before. But then maybe I'm a wierdo ... (Please don't all come back and confirm that!)

November 12, 2010 at 11:50 PM ·

 sorry late reply but I only just bought this DVD and to me as an adult learner, 3yrs and 10 months into violin learning, tackling pieces on ASTA level 7 (for my american friends), these DVDs have been an invaluable addition to my learning!

it was money very well spent indeed!  I often don't have the time/energy to read books and I am the type of person who engages more 'visually' and 'aurally' so to have it all 'talked and shown' to me was much better, I have the basics book but I much prefer to have mr Fischer in front of me on my big screen tv telling me and demonstrating me things :) it was like having my own private lesson hehehe

November 13, 2010 at 12:36 AM ·

Another enthusiastic two thumbs up here.

In the DVD, Fischer mentioned looking at the string and aiming for the widest amplitude when bowing for the best tone.

Question: Anyone know if this is consistently a good way to evaluate tone?  I find the visual aspect easy.




ps: Would start a different thread except that my various new postings never shows up in this forum for some reason.

November 23, 2010 at 03:25 AM ·

I enjoy my copy of Basics and had to have the DVDs on tone production when they came out. They seem really well done to me and I appreciate the format as it's often harder for me to find time to dig into the book. I started playing when I was 40 & have been working with my teacher twice weekly for about 18 months. What I'll say is this. I have watched the dvd set once and worked (very minimally at this point) on the exercises on dvd1.  During my last two lessons my teacher has asked what I'm doing differently with my bow arm. She likes what she is hearing..

Of course YMMV but given how well the material is presented & how sensible it seems, I absolutely believe his comment about improving tone at every level to be quite probable...

April 8, 2011 at 03:31 AM ·

 I know this thread is getting a bit old, but I cannot contain my excitement! I just ordered this DVD set...hope it doesn't take too long to get here so I can check it out and share it with my teacher :)

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