Feedback on the Gigue from Partita 2 please!

March 19, 2014 at 05:55 AM · Hello! I'd really appreciate some feedback on my playing of the Gigue from Partita 2;

For some context, I am an amateur player in my early 30s working towards the ABRSM Diploma - perhaps this Autumn if I'm ready.

I would particularly appreciate thoughts on;

* interpretation and expression

* good exercises to solve the technical issues that are underlying the occasional mistakes

* if you know anything about the ABRSM Diploma level, how close you think I am to it.

Many thanks in advance!

Replies (20)

March 19, 2014 at 09:15 AM · Greetings,

so far so good. A difficult work you have got the basic outline of.

The first priority is always intonation. Since you have the good sense to record yourself, you can identify for yourself the passages where your intonation goes bad. A useful hint is to play such passages in a variety of different positions. Another thing you can do is play a note and then sing the next note before playing it. It goes without saying every gdae must precisely match the open strings intonation-wise.

Next I would look at the tone quality itself. It is not quite deep or focused enough. To some extent you are floating on the surface of the string.

As you know , tone is the best possible ratio of speed, contact point and weight. I would strongly recommend you get a copy of Simon Fischer`s DVD Tone Production and practice the basic exercises. That will wake your senses up to what tone production is about. In the meantime, play many passages everyday on five different contact points. IE take a fairly long phrase eand play it only on SOund Point 5 (next to the fingerboard. You will need a fast light , bow stroke using only a few hairs. Get the best possible sound. Repeat on SP 4, then 3, then 2 then right on the bridge. When you are playing next to the bridge the bow speed will be superslow as will the tempo of the work. But if you cant play there with a good sound then you dont yet have tonal control of your instrument.

Finally, not much is coming across in terms of musical shape .

It is important to understand that this is actually the equivalent of four human voices sing. Sop, Alto , tenor Bass. So if the bass is singing then you have to bring out the notes on the g string that represent the melody of that voice irrespective of that the next five notes are doing on other strings. And once you have identified what this melodic line is thats floating around in all the squiggles you need to do something musical with it. Perhaps increasing the intensity or volume so that the dynamic/energy grows or vice versa. Similarly you may have a soprano melodic line which should stand out and must do something musical with it. At the moment it sounds like a long string of notes. there is no continuous sense of melody coming through at all.

I would advise you to listen to five or six different recordings of this work, or just one of you prefer and really try to understand how the performer is expressing the work. if necessary mark a copy of the score. Then go away and try to reproduce -how- that player does what they do. Where the notes longer, shorter, vibrato, accent whatever. Good models are Hahn, Milstein, Szeryng, Szigeti, Ferras, Grumiaux, Menuhin, etc. Especially listen to Casals playing the cello suites.

looking forward to your next version,


March 19, 2014 at 10:03 AM · Dear Chris, after Buri's great review I just wanted to give the tip to slow down slightly, rather than speed up slightly as you do now, on the more difficult passages. Regarding Fischer's DVD on tone production: instead you can also get his book "Basics" which explains these exercises and much (much) more. I find it personally much more time-efficient to work from the book than from the video.

March 19, 2014 at 01:57 PM · Nice work on this piece. It's so dastardly for Bach to have made the second page twice as hard as the first, because that's when I'm already feeling tired out!

I agree with Buri about musical shape and tone generation -- these issues are strongly linked because with a richer, more sonorous tone and better control of tone (the ability to turn it on quickly, for example) then you will have better tools to create the musical shape.

You did not post a video so we cannot see your bowing. With a fast piece like this it is easy to fall into the trap of playing a lot in the upper part of your bow. But I recommend trying to getting a little more into the string (like you are petting a cat), nearer to the heel of the bow. Try this in the sequences that involve a trio of slurred notes followed by a trio of individually bowed notes, for example in the bottom half of the first page. Slow down and find a way to come back to the same spot (and as time progresses, nearer to the heel) on each grouping. Take that pattern and it would be a good workout for Kreutzer No. 5. Maybe eventually you don't want to play it right at the heel, but at least then you know you're making the choice.

I suggest: Use the first page to focus on the tone generation work, because you're comfortable finding the notes there, and use the second page to focus on intonation and clean passage work.

March 19, 2014 at 10:23 PM · excuse me,

but even given your language difficulties and the addition of an emoticon at the end, your post talking at out respect was about as ignorant and I'll mannered as it gets.

The OP was asking for constructive criticism and help.

Now let's just take a quick look at what that means. Although it is quite normal and certainly not rude in todays weird Internet driven world he is more or less tacitly asking for free violin lessons from a diverse group of people which includes extremely high level and expensive teachers and even soloists as well as gifted amateurs. Not a problem.

Those professionals who would rather be paid a far wage for their advice simply choose not to respond. Personally I consider it a privilege to help a sincere and talented person like the OP so I will leap in. But does he or you have any idea what they are getting at the end of the day?

People like myself who dedicate a lifetime to thinking about the violin, paying unimaginable sums of money over the years to study and re study and keep learning. Do you really have ?any idea at all?

So lay of the cheap crappy remarks about respect. We are here' to help from the bottom of our hearts and will give freely to anyone who asks. And it's all done with the utmost respect, even if you can't understand this simple thing.

Got the message?

March 20, 2014 at 01:07 AM · Chris -- Great work so far! Lots of constructive feedback already provided here. I echo Buri's comments regarding tone generation and intonation. When you're ready to work on phrasing, I recommend listening to Lara St. John's version to gain an understanding which notes to emphasize to bring out the melody.

Thanks for posting your recording. It's great to see another amateur like myself who returned to the violin again after a long break. I am also benefitting from the feedback here.

March 20, 2014 at 03:40 AM · Your left hands seems okay, but your right needs work. Your are playing the piece too fast for your level and the right isn't keeping up. Slow the piece down a bit and focus on the left a bit more. Loosen the wrist, keep the bow parallel with the bridge, and add weight into the bow through the index finger(or middle finger with some).

Experiment (improvise)with articulations, practice exaggerating your emotions and keep your eyes closed to feel the bow.

Bach's violin sonatas and partitas are designed to be played with a lot of reverb, IMO. A dry recording = no emotion to some ears. Add some reverb to your recordings.

March 20, 2014 at 04:17 AM · Phil your post is quite ironic. You criticize others, but your post is most insulting.

"I believe it would earn you a diploma, but lets face it even though you are way better than me, there is still a gap between what you have just done and Hilary Hahn! :-)"


March 20, 2014 at 04:19 AM ·

March 20, 2014 at 04:22 AM ·

March 20, 2014 at 09:19 AM · Thank you all for the comments! That's very helpful.

In my mind at least, I think I am starting to understand the voicing. Listening again to Menuhin and Podger playing it a minute ago, I was surprised - I have listened to their recordings dozens of times but I hadn't appreciated the depth of what they were doing before! So many thanks for the advice to work on tone with Fishers exercises - that should help me bring it to life a bit more. (Also, I am actually playing this with a Baroque bow, which I find great in helping me understand the music but does mean my right arm is trying to learn another way of working as well!)

Intonation and speed - yes, useful points thanks.

And finally, I do value the time people take to listen and reply, and everyone's collective expertise :)

March 20, 2014 at 11:07 AM · interesting. I wouldn`t mind seeing a video of you doing that.

But then what strings are you using? Not my area of expertize but I dont know if a barque bow works well on Dominats or whatever?

That might be a reason why the tone isnt quite working at the moment. Good threads on gut strings here.



March 20, 2014 at 12:55 PM · Never played with a Baroque bow. You can experiment with the A string tuned between 415-435. Someone here should know a standard Baroque tuning.

March 20, 2014 at 01:20 PM · The strings are modern synthetic strings - can't remember what type but more expensive than Dominants.

The bow sounds quite different to my modern bow, and from what I've read about the Baroque technique sound production is less about pressure on the string.

Perhaps I ought to post something Romantic and see whether you make the same observation about tone quality. I suspect you might!

(As it happens, I have a baroque-style violin with guts, no chinrest, and a shorter length - which I tune in narrow fifths to whatever value of A takes my fancy - it is great exploring that but I am only attempting much easier repertoire on it at the moment!)

March 21, 2014 at 02:16 PM · Since you asked for opinions, I think it's fine, as a hobby, to be experimenting with baroque bows, playing different violins, using different strings, etc. (I have one that it tuned in fourths -- what a disaster), but if you want to realize the most progress on the violin then you've made things harder for yourself. I'll bet most of the serious pros who play with baroque bows and gut strings didn't do much of that when they were coming up through music college.

And about respect, taking the time and mental energy to offer what one genuinely believes is constructive criticism seems to me the distilled essence of respect among violinists because it reflects mutual trust. Clearly the OP understands this point perfectly.

And Chris -- welcome to the Amateurs and Returners' Club (ARC). Always good to start the day with a pretentious neologism! Five bucks to the first person who can figure out ha good way to put an "O" on the end of that to make it "ARCO". I couldn't think of a way, which kind of pizzed me off...

March 21, 2014 at 09:27 PM · Greetings,

-Clearly the OP understands this point perfectly.

Absolutely. I only have problems with idiots who attempt, among othe things, to offer a distinction between violinists and musicians.



Amateurs and Returners Cooperatve Organization

(cohabiting, central, collective omnipotence)

March 23, 2014 at 01:23 AM · No such distinction intended.

Your $5. How do you want that ... small bills?

March 23, 2014 at 08:16 AM · what's current in the Ukraine?

March 23, 2014 at 12:37 PM · Ukrainians had the grivna as their currency, but will soon be paying in rubles again ...

March 23, 2014 at 01:07 PM · I thought it was the hyrvnia.

Interesting thing about bars in the Ukraine: Wine is the most expensive drink, then mineral water. Then spirits. Then beer. Then vodka.

The one time I had some absinthe in Kiev, my mobile phone got nicked...

March 23, 2014 at 07:41 PM · that`s why in Manet`s `absinther drinker` nobody is using a mobile phone.

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