Playing in the near-dark

December 2, 2011 at 04:23 PM · Ever try playing in the near dark? I find that it forces your brain to switch its efforts over from visual recognition to aural cognition. You have almost an "out of body" ability to hear yourself as others hear you. That can aid you in finding mistakes in your playing much faster. You might want to leave a night light on if your night vision isn't too good so you don't stumble over anything in the dark. Of course you can't read music this way so use something you memorized as a practice piece. I have other tips so look me up. John Schneider

Replies (38)

December 2, 2011 at 04:30 PM · Playing in the near-dark

Technique and Practicing: Playing in the near dark can help you get things in tune and improve your technique faster than practicing in a well lit surrounding.

From John Schneider

Posted December 2, 2011 at 04:23 PM

Ever try playing in the near dark? I find that it forces your brain to switch its efforts over from visual recognition to aural cognition. You have almost an "out of body" ability to hear yourself as others hear you. That can aid you in finding mistakes in your playing much faster. You might want to leave a night light on if your night vision isn't too good so you don't stumble over anything in the dark. Of course you can't read music this way so use something you memorized as a practice piece. I have other tips so look me up at http://www.schneiderviolinbridge.com Thanks,John Schneider

December 2, 2011 at 04:31 PM · is that similar to playing with eyes nearly completely closed? :)

i do agree that taking away the visual component may help to accentuate or bring out the acoustic component,,,if the violin player is mindful enough to start with:)

last night my kid practiced under dim lighting. perhaps the piece is on the faster side, i don't feel dim lighting has helped intonation. in fact, at one point, she hit into another string badly.

December 2, 2011 at 04:50 PM · Totally agree :-)

December 2, 2011 at 04:56 PM · Dear Al Ku: No, it is better than playing with your eyes closed since the brain seems to act differently when it realizes you are in the dark rather than just closing one's eyes. Darkness has always been considered a challenge to your brain since in our earliest history we were always more vulnerable to predators than in the daytime. The brain, therefore, switches into high gear in the dark. It is a self preservation thing. Also, if your child was trying to practice in dim light using music I can see why it was difficult to play well.

December 2, 2011 at 05:23 PM · Dear Lila Hodgson: Thanks for your vote of confidence. John

December 2, 2011 at 05:35 PM · I concur with your premise -- provided that the student's technique is solid and the practice method is sound.

As I've said before, when we had the blackout in the wake of the Alabama tornadoes last April, I had no choice but to finish each evening session in near-total darkness — 4 days in a row. These were excellent practice sessions.

Now I make it a point to do this frequently. The interval-listening drills and bow control and division studies of the past paid off well. Of course, all the memorization and my bent for scales and etudes and improvisation helped, too.

December 2, 2011 at 05:47 PM · I just read an article from the late nineteenth century in which students were encouraged to memorize whatever they were playing, so they could practice it after the sun set and not have to worry about lighting candles near a music stand. So this idea has certainly been around for a long time!

December 2, 2011 at 05:49 PM · john, good and interesting thought dark space vs closed eyes!

December 2, 2011 at 05:54 PM · Not quite the same topic, but you might want to check out this recent thread on the role of sight.

December 2, 2011 at 08:08 PM · It's nice to see several other folks have done the same thing - playing in the near dark. In fact today's home page has its lead article on the same subject. I think I posted first but so what! So, now i'll follow up with another tip. I will post it ASAP. Emily Hogstad's comment about lighting candles near sheet music in the olden days is very revealing. Thanks for that Emily! It makes me think about how old the violin is. I guess about 375 years for today's version. And all that time we have all been using the same bridge! Please look for my next posting with a tip that might elicit some complaints from conservatives. John Schneider

December 3, 2011 at 01:19 AM · The original post appears to be a not-so-clever marketing ploy. Your website is almost impossible to read and navigate, John. I can't imagine anyone staying longer than it takes to click out of the window.

December 3, 2011 at 01:28 AM · Great idea!

I might try to practice in the dark since I'm working on improving my intonation.

December 3, 2011 at 02:01 AM · A grade school teacher once told me that for an experiment, they blindfolded a man for two weeks to see the way the other senses compensated for the loss of sight. In that time, all of his senses became much keener, but when he was given back his sight, all those effects dissipated almost instantly.

Even so, I'm curious if some benefit could come from being completely blind for 2 weeks and playing violin. :P

Joseph

December 3, 2011 at 03:52 AM · Dear folks: I now stand accused of giving you all not a great practice tip but a poorly disguised marketing ploy. I take solas in the fact that only one respondant out of 13 has seen anything sinister in my trying to pass on an honest to goodness tip which will help those of you who want to improve your playing rather than grind your ax. I was under the impression that violinist.com did not condone such naked agression from people writing on their web site. Sorry for this response but I feel my efforts to help my fellow musicians are being smeared by this respondent. Your fellow violinist, John

December 3, 2011 at 04:13 AM · Dear Nick Lin and Joseph Ho: Thanks for your kind responses. I hope you find my suggestion a help. Many have already commented that they have found the technique useful since some have already tried this before my posting. I can say in answer to your question Joseph that nothing is worth being blind - even for just two weeks. So just use this technique without altering it with blind folds or other methods of removing sight. Best wishes, John

December 3, 2011 at 04:25 AM · I said appears to be, John. I have often wondered what it would be like to be blind and attempt to take up the violin. Jose Feliciano comes to mind and he's had the guitar down for some time now.

There was another thread recently where a similar topic was discussed. However, its focus dealt more with not looking at the fingerboard as opposed to playing in the dark.

You have an interesting idea though. If practiced in such a fashion it might well give one another perspective of the violin and its fingerboard. I'll give it try myself and see. Could be very beneficial.

In passing, will you be reprising your role in the Dukes of Hazard? Might we see further adventures on the big screen?

December 3, 2011 at 09:28 AM · Tony Boone

Your comments struck a chord with me too. A very messy unprofessional looking website, and a not very subtle attempt to sell a dodgy looking bridge.

But maybe we are both wrong. I somehow doubt it though!! (I don't see any soloists using this bridge!!)

December 3, 2011 at 09:36 AM · That bridge looks like it's stoned.

December 3, 2011 at 11:22 AM · I agree with Tony and Peter,

you got us to look at your website, well done!

we looked, nobody would probably had looked if you didn't post this thread so well done again.

It would have been polite on your part if you were clear and honest to begin with and just said openly that your website did 'not' have any more tips on practice as it clearly does 'not'.

this is what you wrote:

I have other tips so look me up at http://www.schneiderviolinbridge.com Thanks,John Schneider

Right after you give a tip on practice, this is indeed 'misleading'...

well: there is NO other tips on your site but only the bridge you designed and sell and how to buy it. Why not just say so and post about your site under the 'for sale' section?

I am not going to comment on your web-site it is not relevant at this stage I think.

December 3, 2011 at 02:33 PM · Dear folks: In posting a good and useful tip for all of you - practicing in the near dark - I was doing just that. It was quite a surprise to me that the same tip appeared in the blog section of this fine web site yesterday posted by someone else about two hours after I posted mine. It seems that, to quote an old saying, "great minds run in the same channels"! I didn't mention my bridge at all on this web site yesterday. But over a year ago I did mention it when I offered it for free to anyone visiting this violinist.com web site. I sent out well over a hundred free bridges to folks requesting them and I sent them out postage free. The rules of the violinist.com web site clearly say that a contributor may list a link to their own web site which is all I did. I was not plotting to "trick" you into visiting my web site. However since some of you who wanted more of my freely given tips did go there to get more free tips you noticed that my web site is trying to sell violinists on the idea that I have developed a wonderful new bridge. If you had not gone to my web site you would never have known about my bridge. This is just the same as the blog I posted yesterday about using a metal tail gut which can now be seen in the blog section of this fine web site. It doesn't mention my bridge either. Since you folks have brought up the subject of my bridge I will elaborate on my tips I have on my web site. If you take the time to look you will readily notice that running down along the left hand margin of my web site - that you have been critizing - is a list of all the pages on my web site. One of the earlier pages listed is titled "Tips for better violin playing" If you choose to you can go and see that I have made 30 tips available to my visitors. These tips cover all segments of violin playing and are for the novice as well as for the professional. The web site design is not my own but a free design provided by earthlink. If you have quams about it please take them up with earthlink. Best regards and may you all have a merry Christmas John

December 3, 2011 at 02:39 PM · "One of the earlier pages listed is titled "Tips for better violin playing" If you choose to you can go and see that I have made 30 tips available to my visitors."

Sounds like the tip of the iceberg ... (wink)

December 3, 2011 at 03:46 PM · I will just avoid reading any of your posts in future, you are 'not my style'

bye

December 3, 2011 at 04:41 PM · It is hard to understand people but then again, I am not running for the Republican nomination for president. The question raised about soloists not using my bridge can be very easily answered. Soloists don't want anyone tearing their reputation apart with unfounded complaints because they used something new. After all, people could say that the new device is what improved their playing by their having used it. To illustrate, just remember how recent baseball greats have been unjustly maligned when they broke Babe Ruth's home run record. Many naysayers were quick to point out that Babe Ruth got his home run record when baseball seasons were much shorter so these naysayers were brazen enough to claim that the new records didn't count! When anyone comes up with something new that replaces another item which for instance has been used for 350 years, that inventor is up against an almost impossible wall of resistance from the general public. It reminds me of a tomb stone in Tombstone, Arizona's graveyard which reads "He was right and we was wrong, but we strung him up and now he's gone." So, that is why soloists don't change their venue by using anything revolutionary. They are afraid to. Again, Merry Christmas to all. Perhaps I lost my appeal with one of you by making that wish for you all. Maybe "Happy Holidays" would please the politically correct ones among us! John

December 3, 2011 at 05:14 PM · Mr Schneider

“The question raised about soloists not using my bridge can be very easily answered. Soloists don't want anyone tearing their reputation apart with unfounded complaints because they used something new. After all, people could say that the new device is what improved their playing by their having used it.

When anyone comes up with something new that replaces another item which for instance has been used for 350 years, that inventor is up against an almost impossible wall of resistance from the general public.”

With all due respect THIS I’m afraid - is absolute rubbish!!

Any musician that could get more sound by changing something on their instrument would not hesitate to do it, or use it. There would be no unfounded complaints – no one much in the public would notice anyway, even on TV with moderate close ups.

Again, the general public won’t be that aware of the bridge being in use for “350 years” and that it has been replaced with something else. It is not up to the public anyway what sort of bridge a musician decides to use.

When an established musician uses your new device and it catches on with many more, then we might take it seriously. But continuing to come out with the sort of nonsense I’m reading in your posts just makes me want to laugh.

December 3, 2011 at 08:47 PM · Dear Peter: I have had many experiences in my 77 years which keep me from believing that what you say is true. Sorry, but I have to stack up my experience against your generous and kind opinion of human logic. People are dead set against exposing themselves to ridicule by their peers. The Bible says it all. People are like sheep. Most of them won't do a thing unless some leader shows them the way. Your very statement that unless some musical authority says my bridge is good or uses it you and others won't change over to using it is quite correct. And famous people are of the same mind set. They won't expose themselves to ridicule which could ruin their carrer. Would you? To demonstrate my point, I used to sell a device I patented which kept everybody from getting thrown off any horse they were riding no matter how badly the horse bucked. Many people asked if it would save them from a bad and sometimes fatal fall. The answer was always "yes", but one caller, a mother who was requiring her 2 and 3 year old sons to learn to ride said her one boy had been thrown and broken his rib and collar bone. I told her that yes my saddle would stop such accidental dismounts. She still didn't buy it!!! There is an old saying "You can lead a horse to water but you can't make him drink." I wonder if her little children survived their mother's lack of logic. So you see Peter, if you know of any well known soloist who would endorse this bridge by even trying to play on it before endorsing it let me know and I will send both that maestro and you as well a free Schneider Bridge - that is if you will use it. I rest my case. Best wishes, John

December 3, 2011 at 11:30 PM · John - when someone brings the bible into an argument I know they have lost the point.

I will say no more.

December 4, 2011 at 04:20 AM · People should leave John alone.

Sure he might tried to promote his website but at least he gave something back - a good tip!

I tried to play in the dark with my eyes open today, and it was a great experience. It was definitely a different sensation than closing your eyes. Closing my eyes relaxes me and activates my imagination part of the brain but also lessens my sensitivity. With my eyes open but in the dark, I become more sensitive to my intonation.

December 4, 2011 at 04:41 AM · Yes leave John alone and some of us should thank him.

I found his hints very quickly the first time I went to his site and yes every so often within the hints he promotes his bridge, but every so often I came across things that I either didn't know or had not thought about recently.

Thank you John.

TTFN

Pat T.

December 4, 2011 at 02:01 PM · Thanks Nick and Patrick for coming to my aid. I am glad my tip has worked for you both and thanks for looking at my other tips. On the blog page of violinist.com a couple days ago I posted a tip about using heavy metal wire rather than the more flexible gut for anchoring the tail piece to the violin. This blog has seemingly attracted no attention since no one is writing about how crazy an idea it is. It really does have a basis in physics. If something is free to vibrate it will and in doing so uses up energy. If you restrain that vibration the energy is forced to go somewhere else. In our case it will go back to the bridge and from there on down into the sound box. Not a big thing but with violins, every little improvement is a plus. I explain more about how to do this in the blog. Best regards, John

December 4, 2011 at 09:35 PM · John

I would probably agree with you about the tail gut versus wire, although I do not claim to be an expert on the finer points of violin setup.

I did not mean to give you a hard time over your bridge, but I'm sure it seemed that I did. Let the matter lie, I'm sure we are both right in our own way.

Best wishes

Peter

December 5, 2011 at 04:18 AM · Thanks Peter: I just today (12/4/2011) put a copper wire tail gut on my 2nd. violin! I had put one on my first violin about a half year ago. My 2nd. violin knocked my socks off after receiving its metal tail gut!!! Much more power and more resonance. I really suggest that all my friends from this discussion page visit that blog or go to my web site to read "Tips for better violin playing" which has as its 2nd. tip a complete explanation on how to make this conversion. My home page has a left hand margin where this page is listed. Try it, you'll like it! John

December 9, 2011 at 08:06 AM · My eyes close all on their own when I'm playing a passage with scales or arpeggios. I have to police myself to keep them open. The problem with closing them is not seeing the music.

December 9, 2011 at 08:05 PM · This is an interesting thread. All of my students are regularly asked to play with their eyes closed during part of their lesson - both with their scales, but also their pieces. My students both kids and adults find the exercise fun, and it gives them a new awareness of their instrument that you just don't get when playing with your eyes open.

I don't consider a piece learned until it can be played the vast majority of the time with the eyes closed. I do have a few students who get dizzy if they leave their eyes closed to long, so we do limit that a bit. I have my students start doing this very early in their training. By closing the eyes we are forcing our body to resort to other methods (namely hearing and touch) to control how we play. I use this method to work on bow control and tone and also to become really comfortable working the entire fingerboard.

I am constantly amazed at how the tone or intonation improves when I ask the student to close their eyes and LISTEN to what they're producing. Often they correct the problem without any suggestions from me.

I have advocated this method for years, but after having taught my first blind student a few years ago and seeing what she was capable of, I am now a hard-core believer in the benefits of playing with eyes closed.

December 12, 2011 at 03:35 PM · Dear Ms. Andronova and Saunders: Thanks for the positive feedbacks! I had mentioned early on in this posting, in answer to a question about closing one's eyes, that closing the eyes was good and you see many maestros doing just that. But in addition to that the human brain senses in the dark that extra ordinary caution is required for survival. After all, there are night stalking predators out in those prehistoric woods who will eat you if you don't use all your faculties to find them. So, if your brain knows that it is dark and you can't see, it will sharpen your sense of hearing even more than if you are only closing your eyes. Best regards, John PS. Have you read my blog on the other violinist.com page about replacing your tail gut with a copper tail gut?

December 13, 2011 at 03:06 AM · John, years ago when I was a student of the late Joseph Knitzer, he insisted that I practice some at night in the dark. His reasoning was that it would help intonation and by getting totally secure with the positions on the finger board in the dark it would train me to be able to find the position without having to look for it, thereby letting my mind concentrate on the notes and intonation.

I am convinced that it worked.

Carter

December 13, 2011 at 06:31 AM · Greetings,

I often feel like I am groping in the dark when playing Bach.

Perhaps.

A player who made his mark,

had practiced in the dark.

He said he found,

The resulting sound,

To be the best for Bach.

Cheers,

Burp

December 14, 2011 at 05:01 PM · Dear Carter and Stephen: Thanks for your votes of confidence. Cute poem! John

December 26, 2011 at 10:41 AM · I just tried it today, this must be done in total darkness! Because the light shinning under the door and through the cracks disturbed my focus. It's night time now so I'll go down and give it another try.

But, I think it is good to practise sometimes in front of a full length mirror, one can check posture, and this seems to help with focus.

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