Is the Wieniawski #2 Concerto plausible?

November 13, 2015 at 11:16 PM · Hi all, my teacher recently started me on the Bach A minor Concerto and the Wieniawski #2 Concerto. I'm going to be auditioning for several music camps (Tanglewood, Indiana University, Meadowmount, Interlochen, etc.) and I'm going to be audition for my local concerto competition. I've only been play for 2 years at this point and I just want to know how plausible this all is. I can post a a sample of playing a little of the Wieniawski and Bach (They are a little rough as I just started them) but will it be possible to pull it off within the short amount of time I have with extreme hard work (I have about 2-3 months to get them ready). I'm already working on them everyday...

Replies (66)

November 14, 2015 at 12:32 AM · August, it's so hard to say. Everyone learns at a different pace. Some kids play that stuff after a very short time. Just put the work in and try and play your best at your audition. We can't give you answers. Trust your teacher, and if you have doubts, bring them up to your teacher.

November 14, 2015 at 01:11 AM · Ask your teacher: can you deal with all of the technical requirements?

There are three octave major and minor arpeggios, quite a bit of up-bow staccato, thirds, sixths, octaves, rapid LH passages, etc.

November 14, 2015 at 04:55 PM · The Bach and the Wieniawski are a tall order for audition standard with only 2yrs playing in the background. I'm not saying it can't be done, but those who can do it well are in a very small minority.

Among the things audition judges are looking for are accuracy in notes, intonation, timing, and playing up to speed, together with good tone and attention to dynamics and phrasing, which all boils down to one word - discipline in all aspects. Most musicians should be able to master these things for an audition on a piece they studied intensively at least a year previously and which is now a real part of their repertoire. Judges will be more impressed by something that is played really well than by a difficult piece that is obviously rough round the edges and full of mistakes in all areas.

I feel that anything technically really demanding (as the Bach and Wienawski are) being prepared at only a few months notice at this stage in a player's development may be asking for trouble. But, as others have said, let your teacher be the guide and final arbiter - that's what teachers are for.

November 14, 2015 at 06:50 PM · I suggest that the OP post samples.

The two pieces are also very different stylistically, and it's possible that the OP has a teacher who assigns repertoire at varying levels of difficulty for different pedagogical purposes.

November 14, 2015 at 07:07 PM · The only person I knew who could play the Wieniawski after two years of learning the violin was a child prodigy. Could the O.P. be one? If so, probably not many people can answer the O.P.'s question.

November 14, 2015 at 07:44 PM · Greetings,

Jenny, yes when i was at college the Bach was a first year exam work and the Wieniawski a third.

What Kevin said is also true and it might be an case of a teacher using the Bach to improve the phrasing and sound of the player to feed into the more 'technical' work. It is all idle speculation.



November 14, 2015 at 08:38 PM · Standards at Oberlin are higher now than they were 35 years ago but my freshman rep in the late 1970s included Saint-Saens 3 and Mendelssohn. I teach both of those pieces to advanced high school students now.

Bach a minor and Weniawski 2 aren't even in shouting distance of each other technically.

November 14, 2015 at 10:06 PM · Wow. I'm unfamiliar with this world so I looked at the video application requirements for 3 of the above mentioned and they all seem to be different. Music for one application not listed to suit another. Is there lots of wiggle room on this? There seem to be some editing restrictions as well.

November 14, 2015 at 11:09 PM · Hi Jenny,

I think the RCM at that time was simply trying to provide a logical framework for development over the three or four year performance courses being offered. So they required one to play Bach in the dirst year , Mozart in the second and the big romantics later. Of course the best students , most of whom came out of the Menuhin school were playing tchaik, walton, and the likes in their first term. But i think it is quite a different situation in Britain. We dont have a history of producing an unending stream of soloists (hugh Bean, Sammons and a few others could give you arun for yoiur money) simply be aus ethe education system doesnt cater for talented kids. There are qute a few out ther ethat want to practice five or six hours a day from an early age but unless your parents had money and you were located in London you had to go through the same half arsed education system as anyone else. Most of the teqchers were, to put it politely, pretty darn bad. Good locL teacher swee few and far between. The player swith talent got out and went to america like Simon for example.

The Colleges werre well aware of this situation and worked hard to provide well educate d, technically competent player swho could do well in prchestras. Indeed, British orchestra players of that time were pretty good.

We may have not been slogging through all those major comcertos but the education wa ssolid and you had to play your Mozart concerto extremely well or you were hUled before the director for one rerun and then could be kicked out. but if you look at the line up of teacher sat the Royal College now it isnt very likely the standard is low .....



November 15, 2015 at 12:25 AM · Here. They are far from where i want it to be but i've been working it for about 3 days. I skipped around in both videos and i took snippets from different parts. I have until jan.31 to get all my audition material in for the music camps and until middle of feb for the concerto competition. Tell me what you think.

November 15, 2015 at 01:23 AM · 1- Both of the videos are of the Wieniawski (is that what you wanted)?

2- It might be the recording, but your tone sounds like it needs some work (and more bow), unless that is just due to tension in the body instead.

Also, the playing sounds rather flat and uninteresting. Do you need a better instrument perchance? :)

November 15, 2015 at 01:52 AM · The links are the same excerpt, but either way it's fairly sloppy and quite honestly made me cringe a bit. Posting a video of your playing instead of an audio recording could help clear up what is going on with your techniques and lead to more valuable help.

But, I have not heard of any teachers assigning Bach a minor and Wieniawski 2nd at the same time. A Concerto, Etude, Sonata and show piece at the same time and I do this often, sure but I do not see the benefits of these two concertos together since, as previously stated they're nowhere near one another.

Just going by the audio aspect, I'd say you were not ready for Wieniawski. But your teacher can be the judge of things since we cannot see anything.

November 15, 2015 at 03:20 AM · Ok so basically i suck and i have abosultely none chance of ever getting this to sound great no matter how much time i spend on it everyday?

November 15, 2015 at 03:25 AM · At your current level of ability and from use of the bow as heard in the video, yeah, pretty much.

I do not want to discourage, only be bluntly honest so that you can work on getting your ability to the required level first. :)

May I kindly recommend working on tone and bow control exercises everyday to get that bow hand in shape.

For the left hand, there is only one word needed: SCALES! ALL KINDS AND SPEEDS THAT APPLY! :)

Have fun... :D

November 15, 2015 at 04:21 AM · > and i have abosultely none chance of ever

> getting this to sound great no matter how

> much time i spend on it everyday?

No, that's not true. You CAN sound great. However, you have a very big hill to climb before your get there, and that's not going to happen by practicing repertoire.

Your playing in these clips shows that you have some major deficiencies with playing fundamentals, especially related to your intonation, rhythm, and tone production. Without actual video, it is difficult for any of us to diagnose what the actual issues are, but these are problems you need your private instructor, who probably knows your playing and development the best, to help you solve.

Earlier I posted about the technical demands of this work. How many of those things can you do well? You need all of them to play this piece!

November 15, 2015 at 06:08 AM · There are people here who are a lot more knowledgeable than me about the violin, so look at those that those posts before mine. However, I actually do think that some people who posted earlier were a bit on the negative side, so try to not be too offended. Your goals may or may not be realistic depending on the amount of time you have to prepare. The progress is quite good for only two years.

After listening to that clip you posted, I think you could try practicing the notes a bit slower, so you can hear all of the out of tune notes. It helps to check with your open string from time to time. It's usually hard to know if you are playing in tune or not unless you have some type of a reference point. I also got the impression that your shifting was a bit sloppy, so, try to time those better, and make sure that you are sliding to the note that you are trying to play. Again, it helps to check with open strings. After you get those things down, then you can try to use a metronome, and work on playing at a consistent tempo.

Also, a good place to start practicing this piece is the part with the sixteenth notes I think. maybe practice that passage as a etude to help you feel more comfortable with getting things up to speed and such. If nothing else, this piece should help you make strides in your playing. Hope that helps!

November 15, 2015 at 06:20 AM · I am curious; did your teacher assign you this piece or did you choose it on your own? From the standpoint of just two years of playing experience, you are actually doing surprisingly well, but by objective standards, this is not going to be performance ready, not even close. It is too hard for you.

You have quite a lot of technique to learn before you are ready for this piece. Scales, arpeggios, ├ętudes, graduated repertoire. I suspect the Bach a minor is exactly where you are. Then Accolay, if you haven't already played it, or DeBeriot #9; Kabalevsky; maybe Viotti #22; Kreisler Praeludium and Allegro.

You don't suck. But you are in exactly the same position as a very bright eighth-grader who is enrolled in an Algebra 1 class, trying to do calculus homework.

November 15, 2015 at 10:35 AM · I just listened to the two recordings (the same recording twice right?) and what I hear is a lot of promise - did you really start only 2 years ago? Was the violin your first instrument?

Maybe I should quit violin and take up the ocarina...

You have flow and I think musicality but the limitations listed above are apparent. But whats the hurry? Unless you have your eyes set on the QE competition this is not a race. Playing easier pieces well will get you to any future point with time - but playing difficult pieces badly will get you absolutely nowhere. I'm sure this forum us full of people (myself included) who have tried to go that route. Eventually you have will have to go back and play the easier pieces well anyhow - or switch to the ocarina.

November 15, 2015 at 10:38 AM · A Brevi brevity: " but unless your parents had money and you were located in London you had to go through the same half arsed education system as anyone else. Most of the teqchers were, to put it politely, pretty darn bad."

Ah, the memories. And what might have been if I had had a real teacher (our school assignment was an inept cellist :-\ ). OTOH, now I can afford to play the violin!

November 15, 2015 at 12:53 PM · August, my 2 centimes d'euro..

Try alternating your tonic left hand with the absolute minimum of finger pressure necessary to get a clear note. This will permit you hide the shifts and centre your intonation.

I was a late and rapid starter, and half a century later I still have to re-awaken (if not actually renew!) the basics.

You seem to have the talent - now for the patient, solid construction. And practicing etnails total and simultaneous awareness of all aspects.

November 15, 2015 at 02:35 PM · Do these camps use the video auditions as a competition for limited space or to assist in program placement?

November 15, 2015 at 02:45 PM · Thanks for the responses. Yes I have only been playing for 2 years. Here is the other link

Dont cringe too much guys. I've only been playing this concerto for 3 days now. I suggested that I play this piece to my teacher and contemplated it and he told me yes and asked me to play certain parts like an etude and if I can get it to sound good we will switch to this concerto and work really hard on it so I can be ready for my auditions. This piece is going to happen. I would like to post another video of my progress in about a month and if I get the same responses and it sounds the same maybe I will consider. But for now, thank you to the people who haven't told me to stop but gave me actual suggestions on how to make it sound better. They are really working out. I understand where the others are coming from with me rushing through concerti, but I believe my teacher is allowing to play this concerto as he thinks that with the progress I've made ( I've made/making All-State, beating out kids who have played 5 times as long as me, and etc.) he thinks I may be in that stage that child prodigies are in when they learn an instrument (not saying i am nor am i implying) but he thinks if I push hard enough I can sound amazing on this piece. I mean honestly is the concerto supposed t sound amazing after 3 days? Idk, you are the professionals. Please keep the comments and suggestions flowing

Violin is not my first instrument, saxophone is

November 15, 2015 at 03:19 PM · Your playing is NOT as bad as many people here make it out to be. What I think you need is to take a few months and focus on fundamentals, particularly tone production and the dreaded "intonation".

I'd suggest open string long tones as a warm up every day for 10-15 minutes followed by at least a half hour of scales in 3 octaves (preferably with a drone on the tonic). If you can produce an full, even tone from frog to tip then you can move on to different bowings such as martele, staccato, spiccato, etc. Get Simon Fischer's book "Basics". It will help tremendously.

You're still young, so don't screw things up by skipping steps. The harder you practice on the fundamentals, the easier the "tough" stuff will be when you get to it. I think you will be able to do it if you work smart. Good Luck.

November 15, 2015 at 03:59 PM · I think the experienced listeners here can tell what are fundamental technical issues, and what's unfamiliarity with the piece (at 3 days of work, you are practically sight-reading).

However, you're not ready to play this piece. You may be able to hit all the notes, with work (although I think it's doubtful). But your core issue is going to be your sound production. You don't have the kind of mature tone and vibrato that you need to play a Romantic concerto.

You can hear it from the very first note -- the sloppy attack from above the string that's causing a crash (and it's not the only place this happens, there are other phrases that start with the same issue). Then there's the heavy consonantal detache that plagues a lot of the moving notes, which is a sound that I associate with beginning-to-intermediate players. Then there are the various unintentional accents on bow changes. And throughout, your vibrato is often overly slow and not really even.

Learning the entirety of the Wieniawski 2 in two months to a competition-ready standard is a tall order even for a student with all the necessary technical fundamentals. You're not ready to play this concerto at all, much less learn it in a compressed timeframe.

Your time is better spent learning the Bach A minor properly, and building your skills methodically.

November 15, 2015 at 04:15 PM · I agree with Lydia. The Bach A Minor sounds like the right piece for you -- learn it thoroughly and play it beautifully. It's really a beautiful concerto, I've never met a violinist who didn't think so. It's not as "impressive" as some other concertos for competition purposes because it is relatively short and because it does not have a cadenza. But it does have cadenza-like elements in both the first and third movements, and if you can play anything written in A minor beautifully in tune, you'll impress the judges.

November 15, 2015 at 05:24 PM · I agree 100% with Lydia's comments and advice.

Re making All-State, that is heavily dependent on where you live. You wouldn't even qualify to audition for All-State in Texas; it is unlikely that you would even make a Region orchestra (there are 28 Regions in Texas) at your current level. I know one student who made All-State in another state, one with a total population less than that of the city where I live, and failed to make our local Region orchestra after moving here the next year.

I implore you, do not take "you are doing incredibly well for two years of playing," which you are, to mean "you are going to be competitive in just a few months at an objective level with other players auditioning for Meadowmount," which you will not be. I can't begin to comprehend your teacher's thought processes, but if you live anywhere near a professional orchestra (I mean one where there are at least a few dozen musicians for whom that is their fulltime job), it might be worth your time to play for one of the titled violinists in that orchestra to get a second opinion.

I know what a Meadowmount or Interlochen violinist sounds like on a new piece after three days. You do not sound like that on the Wieniawski. It is not a kindness to pretend that you do.

November 15, 2015 at 06:21 PM · August's profile indicates that he lives in Atlanta, so there should be plenty of competent players associated with the ASO. (He's mentioned in previous threads that he studies with the local concertmaster, but it's unclear if that'd be the ASO's concertmaster or the concertmaster of some other orchestra in the area.)

My guess is that the local youth concerto competitions are highly competitive. It'd be surprising if they weren't.

Also, I was just looking back on a previous thread, and given that August mentioned this past summer that he was doing Suzuki book 4/5, the jump up to Wieniawski really falls under the "what is his teacher thinking" category.

November 15, 2015 at 07:07 PM · My teacher moved me past Suzuki because its not what is essential to my playing and we never finished through Suzuki. My teacher has gotten several of his students into top music schools (i.e. Curtis, Indiana, Oberlin, etc.) so I'm sure my teacher is very competent in his methods, and I find it rude that your insulting his methods as if he knows nothing of teaching and playing violin. He wouldn't be concertmaster and would have gotten degrees from Curtis and Oberlin if he didn't. Not everybody fully goes through the Suzuki method as there are other methods believe it or not Lydia. I play first Violins in the ASYO and sit 2nd chair in my schools orchestra, and other accomplishments, I'm not trying to brag but I feel as if you guys are making it seem like I am a very incompetent kid and my teacher as well. I also recently got into the ASYO Talent Development program so, am I really that far away from playing the Wieniawski?

November 15, 2015 at 07:28 PM · Please relax; nobody is saying you're incompetent. Everyone is in agreement that your progress has been quite impressive for playing only two years. That being said, you have a very long way to go. You do not help yourself by rejecting out of hand any qualified opinion that does not jibe with what you are expecting people to say. The people for whom you will be auditioning will be listening for the same things we are listening for and commenting on.

Please do be aware that a good seat in youth orchestra or your local high school orchestra, or even making All-State, means absolutely nothing when auditioning for summer programs or music schools. The audition is all.

I note that the concertmaster of the Atlanta Symphony does have a degree from Curtis, though not from Oberlin. I am reserving judgment on what is actually being said in the lessons.

November 15, 2015 at 07:45 PM · I agree entirely with Mary Ellen.

I am by no means saying that it is necessary to play through the Suzuki method. I am merely saying that the level of repertoire that you were playing, by your own assertion, this summer, was early-intermediate repertoire. This seems to be in accordance with the etudes you were playing as well (Mazas).

To go from that to Bach A minor is a moderate jump (it's Suzuki book 7 equivalent) but given that you're progressing rapidly, not an unreasonable thing to assign.

To go from that to Wieniawski 2, on the other hand, is a huge jump. Your teacher may have reasons for letting you make the attempt, which we are not privy to, which is why we are all reserving judgment on that decision.

You did, however, ask people for their opinions on whether or not your goal was realistic, which suggests that you had doubts, and then reacted badly when people confirmed those doubts rather than reassuring you it would all be fine. (This seems to be a posting pattern of yours, going back to the "I want to be a concertmaster but I want to be a pediatric neurosurgeon" thread of yours.)

November 15, 2015 at 07:59 PM · August - why not copy this discussion topic and show it to your teacher? I think we would all love to hear what their reply was, if they are OK with you sharing it.

Also, I forgot to say in my previous posts how impressed I am with your level at 2 years - but please don't blow it now by hopping through repertoire: if there is one message above that resonates, you can not miss things. Its very difficult to fill them in later, a bit like trying to raise the house so that you can put in a foundation. Putting it in first is obviously rather sensible.

Could you also share which etudes you have worked on - that is completed - recently? I've never tried the W2 but I'm pretty sure that the experts above would have a great idea where you should be in that world before you have the chops.

November 15, 2015 at 10:03 PM · I'll clarify. I never meant you "sucked" or the likes when I said the recording made me cringe. I cringe when your OP said you'd planned to audition at "Tanglewood, Indiana University, Meadowmount, Interlochen, etc." with such an extremely limited time. Your weak tone makes me question your bowing technique at this time, as well as your seemingly flat sound makes me wonder what is going on with your left hand. You stand exactly 0 chances and I still am confused why or how your teacher came to the conclusion to have you work on both Bach and Wieniawski, unless you're trying to learn the Wieniawski on the side and it sounds like it.

November 15, 2015 at 10:19 PM · Well I've full decided to pursue music instead of medicine and that was an audio recording not a video so I don't ihow exactly you came to those conclusions about my technique.

November 15, 2015 at 10:28 PM · Well, to be fair, the sound could easily be because his violin sucks a lot, and it's really hard to judge tone based on an audio recording over the internet. Who knows if it sounds better or worse live. However, based on that clip, as some people already pointed out, I think there are some not so good things about the bow hand technique. I have actually known people from high school/YO who, by my subjective standards, had very mediocre sound production, who made it to great music schools, so I think it is probably more important to focus on things like rhythm and intonation. Like, I have heard of some percussionist who decided that he wanted to go to music school at the beginning of his junior year, and just made ridiculous strides in a year, and he managed to get into all of the prestigious music schools, and he didn't even make youth orchestra the previous year or something like that, so obviously nothing is impossible. No idea what the guy is doing now though.

Although it might seem like people are being rude, I think people are just trying assert their opinion, and trying to evaluate objectively, and it isn't necessary to get too defensive about it. Experienced listeners can usually garner some aspects of an individual's tone/technique based on just the audio though. Maybe not the whole picture, but at least a general sense. But yeah, a good violin or bow might dramatically impact the sound quality.

November 15, 2015 at 11:27 PM · "..that was an audio recording not a video so I don't khow exactly you came to those conclusions about my technique.."

August, the experienced players and teachers amongst us,(not to mention the Ardent Amateurs!) can tell a lot from an audio recording. For example, I can hear your fingers arriving firmly on the strings, and then staying there too firmly during the shifts. Of course I can only guess the inner muscular tensions and the kind of practice you do.

November 16, 2015 at 12:39 AM · Ok well , I would like your opinions on how to fix all these problems you here. I will say my strings are of low quality and I'm thinking of upgrading to Evah Pirazzi Titanium Solo strings,

and I got my violn for $2500 and its a Chinese made violin but made out of German wood, and I know the stigma around chinese violins but I took it to a few luthiers and they told me it was excellent quality.

I will admit my bow control could definitely use work and Adrian Heath you mentioned inner muscular tension, tell me how to release it, I can work on rhythm, I have the Sevcik book for shifting, and other materials that I am regularly working out of. Tell me what would be a good practice routine in your opinion. I appreciate all of you telling you what might be wrong but I would like suggestions, so could guys reiterate on what I could possibly do (or what you do to fix it)? I have a teacher yes, but there's nothing wrong with getting outside opinions... I do plan on applying to the top music schools so I have about a year and a half to get to that level. I practice 2-4 a days working on my major and minor scales (playing with a tuner, and making sure every note is absolutely in tune), playing different rhythms with my scales, practicing bow technique on my scales, sight reading, Kreutzer Etudes, all state material, youth orchestra and school orchestra music, chamber music, concerti, I am always practicing and I always make sure I do so with a tuner to make sure every note is in tune. You guys mentioned my tone sounded bad, how can I fix it???

November 16, 2015 at 01:29 AM · Wow. All that plus school would have me in need of some very serious downtime. I wish you the best of good fortune. Hope you will be able to make sense of the music world and restore your inner peace.

November 16, 2015 at 01:36 AM · Practicing with a tuner might be part of your problem. The violin isn't an equal-tempered instrument (although your intonation is far enough out of whack that it's not an issue of the minute variations of temperament and/or you hearing the wrong implicit chord). You need to develop an ear for intonation. Strongly consider playing sequences of notes as double-stops, or against a drone note (such as an open string) in order to check your intonation.

On the vibrato issue, I would practice a pulse vibrato with a metronome, in scales. Divide into 4 pulses per beat, then 8 pulses, then 16 pulses, etc. Your goal is to control the speed and make it perfectly even.

The bowing techniques are fundamental ones and may simply need to be taught to you. I'm not sure that you know the proper execution of the techniques, so raw attempts to get them will probably not work without instruction on how to do them correctly. You need to learn how to draw a legato where the bow changes are seamless.

You are confused on string brands. Evah Pirazzi strings are from Pirastro. Vision Titanium Solo strings are from Thomastik-Infeld. Either string is likely to be a poor choice for you, since what you need is more color, character, and complexity, not raw brilliance. The issues that I hear are not related to strings or even the violin's response. The instrument is giving you plenty of feedback; you need to listen to it and adapt, making sure that what's coming out of the instrument is what you intended.

Finally, without video, it's harder to guess at the source of problems that are audible, but the experienced players have a good guess at the range of possibilities -- each of those issues has possible physical causes. You should be learning to listen in this way, by the way -- to hear what you're doing in a critical fashion and be able to relate a particular result to what you are doing physically, so that you can practice analytically and self-correct.

For instance, your consonantal detache, with its myriad of accents at the starts of notes, is probably due to a stiff bow arm, but figuring out where the tension and/or failure to maintain a sufficiently parallel plane is located requires being able to see you.

Watching videos of other people play in a critical fashion is actually a very interesting exercise. Often you will be able to see mistakes *before* they occur. Ditto thoughtful engagement in group masterclasses, where learning to relate what's coming out with the violin with what you see is a valuable skill.

November 16, 2015 at 04:39 AM · Lydia, you wrote "The violin isn't an equal-tempered instrument"

Will someone please elaborate on this? I actually just check my pitch with open strings most of the time now, but why would the tuner not actually be in tune, and how would this be not the same as using a tuner? What's the point of tuning before you play? How else would you be able to know if you are in tune or not if there isn't some kind of a set intonation? Wouldn't two equally competent professional players have like a different sense of pitch, and the orchestra just sound completely out whack if that were the case? Haha, I have tendency to hijack people's threads, but I think this might help the op too!

November 16, 2015 at 05:29 AM · The violin is not an equal-temperament instrument because we use differing intonation for different intervals and also have differences in keys and notes (C Major is not A minor intonation wise, and a C is a "comma" sharper than a B#).

EX: Play a note and then the note a third above it. If you play them exactly as you play scales and then combine them, they sound horribly discordant. So, violinists automatically play the upper note sharper so that you get a perfect third instead of a clash (same for sixths, etc). :)

November 16, 2015 at 05:39 AM · I was just coming in to say the same thing as Lydia about the tuner. Please don't use it to check every note.

Here is a simple exercise which will demonstrate why using a tuner on every note is a bad idea: Play an "E" on the D string (first finger, first position). Now play it together with the open A and adjust until the perfect fourth is perfectly in tune. Sounds good, right? Must be the correct pitch for an "E," right? Now without moving your finger, play that exact same "E" with an open G string. The sixth will sound *terrible.* Now adjust the "E" until the sixth with the open G sounds good...keep that it again with the open A. When you have finished cringing, throw away the tuner, or at the very least solemnly swear to use it only to tune your A string in the future. Tuners don't know the context for a pitch, and one of the great advantages of string instruments is the ability to adjust each note to be in tune in its own context.

Regarding how to practice releasing tension in the left hand that is affecting shifts, intonation, etc....I have my students play with "whistles." That is, play with the left hand fingers only just touching the string instead of firmly going down to the fingerboard. It should sound hideous. Then add *just enough* weight to the fingers of the left hand to make the notes sound clearly. This should result in significantly less gripping than you are currently doing.

Regarding the ability to diagnose technical problems based only on sound, not on visuals, any experienced professional teacher can do that. Of course actually seeing someone play provides even more information but it's possible to form a substantial evaluation of someone's technique based only on hearing them play.

November 16, 2015 at 05:41 AM · I wonder if the author is even able to post a video. A low quality audio recording can only take you so far for feedback. There could be too much pressure here or there , which are obvious in the audio or bow hold, hand position could be hindering you, anything really. Everybody can describe what they believe is happening but a visual recording really helps pinpoint a lot. Not everything, but a lot more than we can and have commented on so far.

November 16, 2015 at 01:25 PM · August, I agree, as usual, with the detailed advice of Mary Ellen and Lydia.

Here are another two cents:

I feel we have two modes in practicing:-

- a Perception mode, e.g. in slow, soft scales;

- an Action mode, e.g. fast scales, studies, repertoire.

How to unite them?

May I recommend "chunks" of five notes (or less, if there are bowing or shifting complexities). Each chunk can be practiced like a moonwalk, slowly, with the absolute mimmum of force, many times. Only when everything is well learned, (and perfectly and reliably in tune,) may we play a couple of times up to speed.

Thus the Perception is integrated into the Action.

The "moonwalk" practice should take at least twice as long as the fast practice, at least in the first ten years of playing...

PS a tuner in useful, (and a tempered scale is better than nothing, but less good than the ears))but it relies on the eyes: we have to allow the ears to take over!

November 16, 2015 at 05:37 PM · Fast passages should be learned with fast motions from the very beginning, or you teach yourself the wrong way to play them (and fail to catch things like fingerings that work well at low speeds but badly at high ones). Break things up into chunks, yes, but play the chunk fast. If it's too hard to hear that way, lower the number of notes in a chunk -- to two notes at a time if necessary.

November 16, 2015 at 06:51 PM · August, you posted a question on a discussion forum. You asked whether anyone thought you were ready to play a certain piece. Lots of people -- including many who are exponentially more qualified than I -- said no. Only one person said yes, and she said you should practice the rhythms on open strings. I don't see why you should get huffy about that. Nobody is questioning your teacher's credentials -- but they did question his judgement for reasons that they gave you quite candidly. If you think your teacher's judgement is beyond reproach, then why did you ask our opinion in the first place?

And it looks like you did not give up Suzuki entirely because you're playing the Bach A Minor Violin Concerto which is the highlight of Book 7. In Book 6 there is a lovely thing called La Folia and a couple of Handel Sonatas that I recommend very highly. If your technique is adequate to polish those pieces to a high gloss quickly, then you will have some really nice stuff in your repertoire.

There have been plenty of other threads on temperament and tuning on the violin, I'd rather this thread didn't evolve into another one. The fifths in equal temperament (on the piano) are not perfect Pythagorean fifths, it's that simple, but the ramifications for violin playing are complex and profound. For some really awesome tutorial videos on intonation I strongly recommend Sassmannshaus's videos on One of the very first demos is of the example that Mary Ellen described in her post. Watch ALL of Sassmannshaus's intonation videos, you can see them all in under half an hour.

I bet a $2500 Chinese violin made out of European wood is probably a pretty darned good instrument.

November 16, 2015 at 08:23 PM · Lydia, for once I must disagree!!

My slow "chunks" allow us to prepare an open, loose left hand with the fingertips directly above the notes they are supposed to play; and for the bow, well prepared string crossings and weight distribution. Only then can we effectively "energise" both hands with speed and strength. The success of the faster chunks will tell us what to change in the slow ones.

Certainly, once the music is well assimilated, the slow preparation may only last a few minutes, but if one is an eager teenager, I insist that the slow work should take more time than the fast.

November 16, 2015 at 08:32 PM · Sassmannshaus also argues for working with the metronome at a very slow tempo for intonation. He advises spending *half* of one's repertoire practice time on this. But, that's for intonation. That's not for facility.

November 16, 2015 at 09:09 PM · But surely, facility is worthless without good intonation!

But in fact I advocate two approaches, depending on the physical and mental "build" of the student:

- light-tensioned slow practice, leading to vigorous fast playing; or,

- strong slow practice, then lessening the strength to speed up.

November 16, 2015 at 09:17 PM · I agree with Adrian. Slow practice is essential and it is the first thing. However, the slow practice must be done using the part of the bow and the amount of bow that one will be using when up to tempo.

Practicing in small, fast chunks is the next step. But slow practice, slow, slow, first.

November 16, 2015 at 09:42 PM · To improve your sound, it really helps to just play scales, or just open strings with long bows, and to really focus on all aspects of the bow arm. Pay attention to the angle of your arm, and the contact point of your hairs. I had this habit of playing mostly with the side of my hair. When I took lessons, my teacher used to tell me to not do that and use all my hair. I was skeptical, and never actually listened, yet, lately, after many years, I've come realize that he's probably right. Most of the time, you want to use most of the bow hair. The recording gives me the impression that you don't.

Some professionals here are very keen on not using visual cues while you play the violin, but lately, I've been experimenting, and to be honest, I think it really helps me to look at my bow hair while I practice. To get that nice legato sound, you want to look at the hair, and see it compress to the point where the string almost contacts the stick. It sounds scary, since you might think that there will be a big accent, but if you record yourself, you'll realize that there isn't, but only a clear and really powerful sound that comes out of your instrument. Even if you listen to yourself objectively, the difference really is pretty much day and night.

It's also very tough to focus on the fundamentals of sound production while you are playing a piece that is well beyond your technical skill level. I used to believe that nothing was beyond me, and that I could take shortcuts, but now I see just how it is almost impossible, and rather futile to attempt something without a solid foundation. If you haven't learned to walk yet, how would you compete as a sprinter in the Olympics?

In your specific case, if you played the bach and just really tried as hard as you could to sound good, you would probably sound alright, but not with the Wieniawski! You can probably practice as hard as you want for the next three months, and you won't sound like Itzhak Perlman in that recording you listened to, not even close. Even if you had his skills, he still has a much better instrument and bow, and people would still think he sounds better. That's why I wouldn't agree with people who say your instrument is good enough. Sure, if you are a amateur, it won't matter if you are playing a VSO or something. If you are really set on a music path, you should get the best violin and bow that you can possibly afford. The poor sound in that recording might mostly be you, but if you had a strad, or something, people probably wouldn't complain as much. That's a extreme example, and you're probably never going to buy or lease a Stradivarius, sure, and the violin you have now might be good for your skill level, but why let something like that limit you?

November 16, 2015 at 10:27 PM · August's violin is not limiting him at this stage. A $2500 Chinese violin is a pretty nice instrument. I have students far more advanced than he is, playing on comparable instruments.

It's irresponsible to encourage someone to spend buckets of money to upgrade an instrument when the instrument is not the issue. Let's not put the cart before the horse.

November 16, 2015 at 10:42 PM · Greetings,

I think all the comments here about practicing are spot on, as one would expect. I wonder, with a wry smile, if August actually know the level of players he is getting advice from? Lucky chap.

Slow pr actice is crucial but more often than not a waste of time since it tends to lack both mental involvement and any relTionship to what is actually done when playing fast.

A useful method that helps to blend this conundrum is to take a group of, say, four notes and play them really slowly with perfect relaxation and intonation. Perhaps on semibreves, one note per bow. Then without pause play them extremely rapidly many times in one bow with very light finger action.

Another option which I think is invaluable is what Drew Lecher (another master teacher) has called repetition hits. I recommnd the OP do a search on this website for my blog about 'a humble stab at repetition hits' which I think clarifie swhat appeared to be a rather complex technique in the beginning.

Just to add two yen to outbid Adrain, I dont think August should be playing ia concwrto at all. Not just because it is way, way too difficult, and I say that recognizing he is extremely talented if he has only played for two years. But because it contains a number of techniques which are actually potentially likely to cause tension and increase hindrnaces in playing unless learned without good foundations in place. In particular I would not be introducing up bow staccato , descending glissandos and fingerd octVes at this stage.

Nor do I think a new instrument is necessray or connected to the issue. A video would be nice but one cN hear what is necessary on the audio.



November 17, 2015 at 12:04 AM · August's issues with tone production would likely only be exacerbated by a better instrument, not improved. At this stage in his development, he needs his equipment to be somewhat forgiving. You don't learn to drive in a Formula One racer.

I think there's a difference between thinking slow and playing slow. You can work on a passage slowly, while keeping each motion fast. The "slowness" is basically time to think between each fast action.

November 17, 2015 at 02:43 AM · Here's my stab at the teacher's rationale: the OP's progress is indeed quite impressive for two years of playing. He is obviously a quick study. Perhaps the teacher thinks that the OP would improve rapidly at a place like Interlochen or Meadowmount. He may feel that although the student is not at the level of the other students there, his unusually fast progress (not prodigy level progress, to be sure, but fast nonetheless) may convince the teachers to accept him. And of course while Bach a minor is a more appropriate piece for this student's level, that piece won't work for the auditions mentioned. That's my best guess, anyhow.

November 17, 2015 at 04:06 AM · Alright, maybe, it is wrong for me to suggest that the instrument needs to be upgraded. I used to be entirely on the other side of the fence on this issue of whether or not the instrument affects the sound produced by the player.

However, recently, I was at the shop getting my Soundpost adjusted(after it popped out again :(). While there, I happened to meet a very good violinist, who has a very impressive resume - won multiple symphony jobs...etc, is relatively young(so in good playing shape). I'm not gonna say who it is, since everyone's just going to google.

I heard her practice something there, and her sound was just so rich, and amazing. I asked her to play my violin, to see what she thought of my newly adjusted post, and she kindly accepted. When she played my violin, she was obviously still really good, but much more ordinary. I thought that, basically, she just sounded like a better, more solid version of me, rather than what she sounded like on her instrument. Of course, I had only heard her tune, and after that she had only played several phrases, and a passage. This goes back to the whole story with Heifetz putting his ear up to his violin when someone complimented it haha.

Thus, this is why I thought the violin might also be an issue. Now, maybe I had selective memory, and my mind simplified everything I heard, but this is just my opinion on the matter. It would be interesting to see what other people think.

November 17, 2015 at 04:16 AM · I find slow practicing to be extremely mentally engaging because I actually have the opportunity to think about everything. Sassmannshaus explains how to speed up incrementally with the metronome in his video tutorial. When you do it his way you can sense the changes that are taking place in hand position, the portion of the bow you're using, etc., as you increase the speed, and then you can go back and apply those elements to the slow tempo. Increasing tempo in practice is not a monotonic trend. I think his method is very well suited for a piece like the Bach A Minor that has a lot of what one might call passage work.

November 17, 2015 at 04:52 AM · Also, I just watched those videos linked by Paul, and to be honest I still get the impression that a tuner might potentially work. They would just have to make a tuner tailored specifically for stringed instruments and have it reflect 'Pythagorean intonation' rather than 'equal temperament'. Not sure why nobody has thought of that yet hmm. Assuming that there is a systematic way to play in tune, that would make practicing a lot easier. Sure, it would not make sense to neglect your ears, but unless you have a teacher with you 24/7, maybe you can just quiz yourself every so often, by playing a scale to the such a tuner? Anyway, no real need to change the topic of this thread if this post truly detracts from it, but as someone who does not currently use a tuner to check intonation, this seems interesting.

November 17, 2015 at 05:34 AM · The best way to use technology to improve one's intonation is to get into the habit of recording oneself and listening to the playback.

You aren't going to be performing or auditioning with the help of a tuner so why not train your ears to do their job properly in the first place?

November 17, 2015 at 05:58 AM · Yes Lydia, playing slowly means thinking fast!

Indeed, as well as the "moonwalk" mode, I also use a "frame by frame" mode, where for example a long slur is divided into one-note bits in the same direction, and the reflexes are rapid, and the tone is real.

So first the moonwalk, then frame-by-frame, then fast chunks, then groups of chunks.

In each mode our attention is intense, but different.

November 17, 2015 at 06:14 AM · You see. I knew we all agreed!

Shawn, such a tuner is not possible because it goes against the essence of the art of the violin. The great players all tune somewhat differently in relation to those notes that are not acceptable to vary which depends on the key among other things. Try listening to about six recordings of the opening section of the Wieniawski by truly great players. Their individual temprements are causing quite a diversity of intonation but it is all much closer to perfection than we lesser mortLs get. There is no such thing as perfect intonation but when I chose to focus on that to the exclusion of everything else, an act that tends to preclude the enjoyment of the music, It is Heifetz who gets the closest most of the time. Kreisler too , was exemplary but I dont have him playing wieniawski.

Using a tuner to check notes on an individual basis is horrible . Aside from the basic idea that same name notes have to be in tune with the open strings of that name to 'be in tune with the instrument,' we also have to be acutely sensitive to whether a note sounds dull or resonate even if it is in tune. This is a higher level skill which needs to be taught at a much earlier stage than is customary. Finding the resonance of the instrument.



November 17, 2015 at 07:29 AM · Mary Ellen, I think your advise is very sound and that it makes perfect sense to develop intonation with the ears rather than the eyes, and that you can't take a tuner with you to a performance or audition. However, why is the same thing not said about the metronome? Wouldn't you make the same argument, that, well you can't take that to the audition, and it's better to just listen to yourself to develop a internal pulse. I ask this question not with a tone of arrogance, but rather, uttermost respect for your opinions and various accomplishments, genuine curiosity, some humility, and perhaps a whole lot of ignorance. Would the same thing not be said about rhythm and pulse?

Alrighty Buri! Next time I play out of tune, I'll just tell myself that it's art, and stop agonizing over it! All kidding aside, I guess I understand that there's a subjective element of pitch. I actually just listened to a performance of this concerto by Perlman on youtube, and realized just how out of tune he was in some passages. Like maybe, he only played the first and last note of a run in tune, and everything else was just...uh...yeah!

Okay, I know that I am not qualified to talk trash about Itzhak, and that he is like among the greatest of all time. I also realize that Mr. Perlman is not a 'mere mortal' as you said, and that realistically, I'll never sound as good as him, even if I played 'perfectly' in tune, and he played every note out of tune. However, how much of this is art, and how much of it is poor taste? Why do we not look at August's performance in the same light as a player of that caliber?

August, I would also encourage you to look up on youtube, and watch some masterclasses of the type of teaching in those programs that you are trying to get into. There, you can see the type of players in those programs, and maybe learn some things from the instructors. You might get a better idea about the level of players who get accepted to these programs than just what people talk about on this particular post.

November 17, 2015 at 08:16 AM · Greetings

Shawn, kidding aside, i think you are missing the point a little. Take the example of a scale. There are certain fixed intervals that one cannot mess around with. Then there is the question of the 7th and 3rd degrees and how you relate the rest of the scale to the decisions you make there.. That is a question of individual taste that develops over time. That is where artists can vary and still be in tune. Some great artists even bend intonation for effect at times. But as Ashkenasi (Vermeer quartet) points out, `one can forgive wrong intonation but not -stupid- intonation.` IN other words, you can be too sharp on these notes and its not the end of the world, but too flat shows an innate lack of understanding of the instrument.

Yes, some of the great violinsts can play rather out of tune on occasion. They get away with it because they have complete mastery of the bow and what is called tonus IE te sound they produce is so correct;ly produced in terms of weight , speed and sound point that the lsitener somehow doesnt hear what is going on and simply bathes in the glorious sound. Oistrakh wa son eof the best example sof this. His intonation could be really sloppy at times but everything he did was so beautiful and artistic it somehow didn`t seem to make much difference. Listen to his last recording (if he made more than one???) of the Scottish Fantasy opening and compare it with The Heifetz version. Heifetz` intonation is rather more precise even allowing for artistic variations in pitch, but we never compare these two openings on the more objective basis of intonation. Rather some people love the former and some the latter. They are both equally marvelous in their own way.

The problem is that one has to have awesome bow control to get away with some left hand inaccuracy. Perhaps more than even many professionals ever have.



November 17, 2015 at 09:35 AM · Of course you need to develop the internal sense of pulse, but that internal sense is often flawed, and importantly, remains flawed. So the metronome remains a necessary harsh disciplinarian throughout a violinist's life.

But pitch we have to learn to hear from the very beginning. That includes subtly adjusting what we are doing based on the feedback we hear from the instrument. You can deliberately mistune your strings and discover that you will still automatically play in tune when you avoid the open strings. Intonation is not merely a matter of hitting the same spot on the fingerboard all the time.

November 17, 2015 at 03:03 PM · Playing for good folk dancers helps in developing accuracy in timing and pulse, for if you don't, you'll soon get prompt feedback from the dancers!

November 17, 2015 at 06:58 PM · Pets perform a similar role....

February 3, 2017 at 06:50 PM · I wonder where the OP is in his violin playing given a good 2 years has passed since this discussion has ended. :)

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