Do You Play the Violin with Eyes Closed or Open?

June 21, 2004 at 05:25 PM · What are your thoughts on a player having his eyes closed during playing in a performance or having them open...like Ms Neveu :)?

Replies (50)

June 21, 2004 at 05:35 PM · My friend tess plays with her eyes open, and it's the creepiest thing in the world... She has this totally blank look on her face, it's really scary. I don't really care as long as they sound good, Most of the time I play, my eyes are closed.

June 21, 2004 at 06:01 PM · i prefer to close my eyes most of the time, even when i have sheet music :)

June 21, 2004 at 06:02 PM · Playing the violin with my eyes closed helps me emote and helps the emotion flow from the image in my mind through my fingers and into the violin, then out of the violin. I take every possible moment to play with my eyes closed, however, it is quite hard when you do not know the piece you are playing totally by memory yet.

June 21, 2004 at 06:10 PM · I don't dare to close my eyes since Buri just waits for that moment!

June 21, 2004 at 06:25 PM · AHA, thats who's been pinching my buttocks every time i perform.

June 21, 2004 at 08:06 PM · I've noticed when I close my eyes when performing I get and feel more emotion in the piece. BUT PLEASE - DON'T MOVE AROUND WHILE PLAYING/PERFORMING! IT DISTRACTS THE AUDIENCE AND TAKES AWAY THE FEELING OF THE PIECE!!

June 21, 2004 at 08:18 PM · And please try not to look constipated... much like I do... I don't do it on purpose but people tell me I look constipated...

June 21, 2004 at 08:23 PM · Ohh, yeeeees, Owen! That must have been him!

By the way, nice fabric in those pants...

June 21, 2004 at 08:32 PM · I don't think it's great to play with your eyes closed. It definitely doesn't help me. I prefer keeping my eyes open, and I really can't think of many people who play with their eyes closed all the time.

And, here's a reason why you shouldn't do that: one of my old teachers told me a story about a girl who played an entire concerto with her eyes closed, never opening them all the way through. She moved only slightly, but she kept on consistently doing it, and by the time the concerto was over and she opened her eyes, she was facing the back of the stage with her back to the audience. Not a good idea.

June 21, 2004 at 09:36 PM · About movement... A little natural movement is alright and engaging I think, but no falsications or conscious extraeneous moving of course...

June 21, 2004 at 09:59 PM · Aww man!!! No pelvic thrusting...

June 21, 2004 at 10:44 PM · cmon vernon, the ladies love it

June 22, 2004 at 12:13 AM · I always play with my eyes open, but it's one of those things where I'm not actually seeing anything, and I get all possessed looking and such. I've been told it's kind of creepy, I guess I should start closing them. Heh. My feeling is that if it sounds good, it's not entirely important how the player looks. As long as they're not doing a Bell interpretation, complete with the Matrix moves.....

June 22, 2004 at 12:19 AM · i fully agree with you, i think a degree of movement is actually necesarry to facilitate really balanced bowing. Watch any great violinist and you will see how they shift their weight around to aid with different bowing things. Even violinists we think of as relatively still like heifetz really move quite a bit. I love watching oistrakh move about, what a genius.

June 22, 2004 at 01:57 AM · well said, owen.

June 22, 2004 at 02:31 AM · Yup I have that creepy open eyed look going on, too. But the thing is my look is creepy because my eyes get all squinted and when the music is louder I open them more...lol once I played Shostakovich's Eleventh string quartet and one of my friends told me that the look on my face and the music had um...creepy results...:)

Usually I close my eyes most when playing solo Bach...that music just sort of plays itself;) it's like meditation.

And

June 22, 2004 at 02:43 AM · I have nothing beneficial to say. I just wanted to say what a funny idea, pelvic thrusts during a performance

June 22, 2004 at 02:43 AM · I have nothing beneficial to say. I just wanted to say what a funny idea, pelvic thrusts during a performance

June 22, 2004 at 03:00 AM · >>cmon vernon, the ladies >>love it

Only if you *look* like a Chippendales Dancer!!

June 22, 2004 at 03:05 AM · i'm in the ballpark...

June 22, 2004 at 02:49 AM · sometimes i play with my eyes open and sometimes closed. it depends WHAT im playing and what im feeling within the music at that moment. i dont think it really matters what you look like; just what you sound like.i cant believe that someone above actually said " dont move alot when playing and performing." thats your humble opinion. but i think if people want to move alot, then move alot. if you want to stand still, stand still.if people want to pelvic thrust even, who really cares as long as the music sounds good?!?!?!? all musicians are different and feel different things. if you dont wanna move when you play, then dont but its up to the individual musician and their emotions to decide that for themselves. and as for audience members who are annoyed by moving; i have never heard of something more ridiculous. if you dont like the fact that a perfomer moves, dont go to see them or shut your eyes and just listen. a performance is not for the audience (even though audience involvement and pleasure for the audience are important to a certain degree). the performers make music to express themselves and their emotions and to do justice to the works and the composers that they perform. the performer should not have to change his moving/emotions to please the audience. if the audience doesnt like it, too bad. i think that its rather selfish of people. people should just listen to the music that a performer creates rather than watching their every movement.

June 22, 2004 at 03:54 AM · Greetings,

Erika, I respectfully disagree. The difference betweeh a good performer and a great one is that the latter are concerned with the response they are eliciting in their audinece rather than themselves,

Watching someone cry is boring.

Cheers

Buri

June 22, 2004 at 04:35 AM · I don't know...I performers goal is to entertain an audience...but an artists goal should be to make the music stand out, not themselves. Some movement is natural obviously, but if a person freaks out then they distract from the music which is really bad. I think in the end it's a question of balancing the performer and artist in you...there has to be a combination of internal dialogue and communication with an audience in order for there to be depth in the performance. Kind of like regular talking- if a person talks to much about random CRAP then it is obvious that they are not "proofreading" the CRAP that they are saying and so it's CRAP, but if a person spends to much time contemplating than you have no idea what they are saying.

I've had a CRAPpy day...

June 22, 2004 at 04:49 AM · havent we all...;)

June 22, 2004 at 04:52 AM · buri, i agree that truly great performers care about what their audience feels and how their performance and the composers work has moved people. im not saying they dont. i agree that along side doing justice to the work/composer and expressing themselves, moving people is important as well. i know that.

yet i think that alot of people care too much about the moving of the performer rather than the music. i think that alot of audiences today care too much about how much the performer moves, what dress they wear, and whether it was pleasing to them. i think that the audience comes after the justice to the works and the means of self expression but that just my opinion.:)

June 22, 2004 at 05:36 AM · greetings,

i agree with most of that, i think. i have had a crappy day too.

cheers,

buri

June 22, 2004 at 06:30 AM · why not just have one eye open, one closed and the other on the clock,

cheers,

buri

June 22, 2004 at 08:57 AM · "The ratio of the artist to the audience should be that of 0 : 1 " Glenn Gould.

The words of this pianist are more painfully obvious when it comes to our performances it seems.

Closing and opening eyes in relation to movement of the entire body during a performance as a whole are in effect, for the performer's comfort and the audience's enjoyment.

One doesn't perform to an audience expecting them not to comment on our style, postures, use of body to express emotion ect. Were it NOT so, they'd have to have their eyes blocked when they come in, and no one will be remembered for their stage posture/style (heifetz?).

More so because it is one of our better senses than hearing, the visual aspect of a performance is usually more important than the listening one. This is true for the majority of our consumers. We, who are more like critiques of anything from a bow hold to a daimond ring, have our attention held elsewhere.

Interestingly, Zukerman said he finds movement while performing unessary, supposedly scolded some students who used it... Can someone verify this.

Down-trodden, anguished and crappy day indeed.

June 22, 2004 at 10:45 AM · Well I close my eyes when i play....and I don't move across the stage like deranged maniac. I'm just asking about closing one's eyes during a performance...not movement

June 22, 2004 at 11:07 AM · Hi,

I never intentionally close my eyes during performance. Since I mostly play in an orchestra setting (2nd violin, and yes, I admit it, viola), it would not permit me to see the conductor.

In a chamber music setting (quartett, sextett or even a duo) it is also very important to take up visual cues, so that doesn't leave me that possibility, either.

If one plays a solo piece from memory, it would be possible to play with eyes closed, though (I've never done this) I wouldn't recommend it because it would cut off feedback from the audience.

However, I would highly recommend to practise with closed eyes from time to time, since now it shuts of a possible disturbance, heightens concentration on the music and enables me to listen better to what I play.

Walking off the stage in a kind of self-induced somnabulism sounds really scary to me.

Bye,

Juergen

June 22, 2004 at 01:32 PM · My view is more radical than Erika's in that I believe that the top priority is to do justice to the piece and the composer's intention. After that I would place the interpreter's personal conditions for optimal performance, whatever they may be (eyes closed or not, moving or not). Moving around can be very beneficial to prevent stiffness, and combined w/ controlled breathing can be the best thing to do if you get nervous. IMHO pleasing or communicating w/ the audience is a very dubious concept. To go on stage trying to fathom what will please the audience is impossible unless we have an idea of who is attending the concert. But you can't serve two masters. Either you do justice to the piece and honour the composer, or you experiment w/ pleasing the crowd. As far as classical music is concerned, I tend to see performance more as a ritual to homage the art of music, so the audience is there not to be entertained but to participate in a somewhat solemn ceremony, being silent and respectful. In a rock concert, on the contrary, people just want to have "fun", scream, bang heads or whatever, so maybe the idea of communicating w/ the audience makes more sense. Since pop (vocal) music is so overwhelming, perhaps we tend to believe that "communication" is requisite for a deep aesthetic experience, but that need not be so. One has to strive to be true to the music, not to the audience. Often the audience has no idea of what the music is or how it should sound.

June 22, 2004 at 07:51 PM · A good audience should be there to hear the performer do justice to the music. I never go to a concert with the sole expectation of being entertained in the way I would be if I went to a circus - except in very rare cases (like paganini encores, but that's not why I go to concerts!).

I personally don't shut my eyes. It feels somewhat pretentious, I don't know why. A bit of a hackneyed thing to do maybe.

I think stage presence is important, and there's nothing more irritating than having to see someone contort their body awkwardly in the middle of the Beethoven concerto. Even worse is when people stamp their feet.

I think Oistrakh is the perfect example of good stage presence - he didn't move around a great deal, no more than necessary, and his eyes were not perpetually closed.

And I agree with Buri. If you're in music only to make yourself emotional, stay at home and do it in your practice room. If you're in a concert hall, your job is to move other people.

Carl.

June 22, 2004 at 08:42 PM · when i play the viola i open my eyes nice and wide. and i love getting in too the pieces especially suzukiaki. that is my all time favorite piece of ever.

June 22, 2004 at 10:23 PM · Personally I play with my eyes closed. How bout them closed/open (like you can see the whites...LOL). Maxim Vengerov plays like this, it's ULTRA creepy, however the music is beautiful.

June 23, 2004 at 02:42 AM · Well, here's my two cents, for what it's worth (although, I am not professional, so it doesn't count much)

I used to love to play with my eyes closed, when I knew the piece by heart.

Then, after losing my left eye to a long and continuous battle with FEVR, I have a (laughably ridiculous, I know :( ) fear of playing closed. So, in short, they're open.

June 23, 2004 at 03:15 AM · what is FEVR?

June 23, 2004 at 03:51 AM · FEVR, or Criswick-Schepens syndrome is a very serious, very rare proliferative hereditary retionpathy. It causes retinal hemhorraging, macular holes, detatched retinas, etc, etc. I have had seven operations so far. There is a website devoted to this condition, by Jane Ann Young, at www.fevr.net

June 23, 2004 at 05:00 PM · thats terrible, is your other eye okay?

June 23, 2004 at 06:58 PM · It is stable right now, thank God. I always am at a risk for going permanently blind, but right now everything's fine. I had two operations on the right, one photocoagulation and the other pars plana vitrectomy/membrane stripping.

The hardest to deal is all the time I have been kept out of school due to the problem, catching up with the studies has been a chore.

June 23, 2004 at 07:21 PM · your strength is inspiring

June 23, 2004 at 07:26 PM · I was at a concert once where a man played half of Bach's sonatas and partitas...he was playing with his eyes closed, and was ever so slightly turning on the spot...we were scared he was going to fall off the stage! By the end of the movement his back was to the audience. When he opened his eyes, he turned around with a shocked look on his face. heheh.

June 23, 2004 at 09:41 PM · Thank you Owen.

I don't mean this to sound tacky, but it's actually been the violin that has helped me keep my sanity when I was forced to remain in one place for weeks at a time.

June 24, 2004 at 02:52 AM · Hey, you don't sound tacky at all! I have a rare connective tissue disorder, and because of it, have received some injuries over the years that have kept me from schoolwork for weeks at a time - I know exactly how awful that experience can be. The violin is what kept me sane, too. Don't ever think it's tacky! That's why music is there, anyway - to inspire and comfort us. :)

Have you finished all your work for this year yet? If not, have you tried asking your teachers to cut out some assignments, or else substitute them for something easier? You probably have, but I was just wondering...personally, that was the thing that saved me when I had to do all those lessons for all those long absences. Otherwise I never would have gotten all my grades in on time. My teachers were actually much more supportive about it than I thought they would be. Maybe you can work out a similar arrangement.

Even with a reduced workload, though, it's a huge chore... :P

Best of luck to you; I admire all your courage.

Musically, Emily

June 24, 2004 at 03:46 AM · A cellist in my school orchestra who is a soloist for a piece for cello and orchestra plays with eyes half closed! I can only imagine that his looks are scarier then that of playing with eyes fully closed - he almost look like he is channeling with the spirits...

June 24, 2004 at 06:05 AM · my teacher sometimes gets a possessed look when he plays, other times he looks as though he's about to doze off

June 26, 2004 at 03:12 PM · I'm an eye closer generally. When playing with a pianist or an orchestra though I open my eyes frequently to connect with the conductor or with the pianist. Swaying...Josh Bell style, I find extremely distracting, mainly because I think of a figure skater landing a jump, and the hair-do he has seems to go along with it, and probably also I notice it more because I really don't enjoy his playing that much. I am consious of what the audience is seeing though. They don't want to see a really in-pained look on your face when you are playing. I am serious when I play, but I always appear relaxed and comfortable, generally only making a face when I hit a wrong note or screw something up (that's a mistake, because it totally gives you away).

June 26, 2004 at 08:07 PM · I have to have my eyes open or else I fall over. And become a woman in distress...with a violin. Whoah. Toxic combination for any prince charming. No eye closing for me. I prefer the upright position....um...while playing.

-Jennifer

June 26, 2004 at 08:21 PM · Haha Jenifer that was quite funny to read. *still laughing*

June 26, 2004 at 09:37 PM · Greetings,

Jennifer, I have never had any objections to women lying down in front of me clutching a violin. A double bass tends to aggravate me though...

Cheers,

Buri

June 26, 2004 at 10:32 PM · ahh, you must teach me your charming ways buri

This discussion has been archived and is no longer accepting responses.

Facebook Twitter YouTube Instagram Email

Violinist.com is made possible by...

Shar Music
Shar Music

Yamaha Silent Violin
Yamaha Silent Violin

Pirastro Strings
Pirastro Strings

Find a Summer Music Program
Find a Summer Music Program

Dimitri Musafia, Master Maker of Violin and Viola Cases
Dimitri Musafia, Master Maker of Violin and Viola Cases

Violinist.com Business Directory
Violinist.com Business Directory

Violinist.com Guide to Online Learning
Violinist.com Guide to Online Learning

Dominant Pro Strings

Antonio Strad Violin

Bay Fine Strings Violin Shop

Bobelock Cases

Fiddlerman.com

Fiddlershop

Los Angeles Violin Shop

Nazareth Gevorkian Violins

Violin-Strings.com

Metzler Violin Shop

Leatherwood Bespoke Rosin

Warchal

Barenreiter

Johnson String Instrument and Carriage House Violins

Potter Violins

String Masters

Bein & Company

Annapolis Bows & Violins

Laurie's Books

Discover the best of Violinist.com in these collections of editor Laurie Niles' exclusive interviews.

Violinist.com Interviews Volume 1
Violinist.com Interviews Volume 1, with introduction by Hilary Hahn

Violinist.com Interviews Volume 2
Violinist.com Interviews Volume 2, with introduction by Rachel Barton Pine

Subscribe