Fundamentals that make or break our performaces!

July 29, 2004 at 08:04 AM · I've heard that the thing that separates the best from the mediocre is that the best violinists consitantly perform the super-basics perfectly. Obviously playing the violin is dynamic and complicated, but at the same time if one has a problem with his/her sound, chances are it can be attributed to somthing super basic. With that theory in mind, i'd like to hear what you think are the super fundamentals that we should constantly strive to perfect each day...here is my list in order of importance, but do any of you or your teachers have any to add??

1. INTONATION (if you can't hit the notes, what ARE you playing?)

2. SOUNDING POINT/BOW CONTROL(where the bow strikes the string is a dynamic thing, but it should never strike where you don't intend it to for sound effect)

3. RELAXATION (tensiond restricts everything, nuff said)

4. DELIBERACY (i'm talking about unintention notes/accents, accidental open strings, ext. I sound terrible when i hit that open string accidentally)

5. VIBRATO (the essence of your personal voice on the violin!)

What have i missed?

Replies (12)

July 29, 2004 at 11:59 AM · Musicality. All of the above without musicality is useless.

July 29, 2004 at 02:20 PM · I second the musicality element. It really makes or breaks a performance. I've heard people play who have had a couple of intonation slips or flubs while performing a piece but because of their musicality it's still been a really enjoyable performance.

Being relaxed is good. I think another thing is really being able to relax not just physically, muscles and all, but being able to relax and really adapt for the atmosphere and relax into the audience that you are playing for.

July 29, 2004 at 02:26 PM · Andrew's question is analytical, he is asking what would be the most important elements of vln playing. Musicality seems to me a rather complex synthesis of those elements, whatever they may be.

July 29, 2004 at 04:52 PM · I agree with Andrew but I would like to add rhythm. It is very important to be able to keep a tempo never mind how many rubatos you do it just gives a different feeling for the listener and makes the music come alive.

July 29, 2004 at 05:12 PM · I'll always be tremendously grateful to one of my former teachers, Vladimir Zyskind, above all others. It was he who told me:

"The public is, taken collectively, a fool. But even a fool knows when the sun is shining and when it's raining. And the shining sun, those things which any audience, no matter how unfamiliar with classical music, will always sense are intonation, sound and rhythm."

Though he was speaking in harsh absolutes, I've found his dictum to be true. I may be feeling musically incompetent and can still carry an audience. I may be feeling unimaginative, my vibrato might be less responsive than I'd like, my ensemble with the pianist or orchestra may be somewhat off, my arms might be tense, my inner turmoil or lack thereof might be showing, and the audience can still be left believing they heard a good performance. But constant intonation problems - as opposed to a transient intonational flub - or a weak/scratchy sound, or the lack of a sense of pulse cannot be hidden. If vibrato and the rest are the puffy eyes or blotchy face which may be masked with sufficient makeup, the three basics are the bone structure which, when deformed, no amount of makeup will suffice to hide.

July 29, 2004 at 06:07 PM · Well said (from a face that currently reeks of the morning after). I'd like to add something to the list, which I feel is the principal of all of the above. I'm not sure quite how to phrase this, but you have to remain mentally aware and receptive. For me at least, if my head is not together, none of these other aspects of playing have a hope in hell.

July 29, 2004 at 11:47 PM · Thanks for all the excellent comments!

Emil,

I wish I could have had as good a teacher as you! When he said "Sound," he means the quality of sound comming from your instrument, right? Strong and solid or graceful as opposed to scrathy/incomplete. What are the fundementals that make a vioinists' sound beautiful? Is it bow control? I'm not very smart, so you can't say "Andy...sound good!" You have to say "Andy, improve your sound by controlling where your bow hits the string better, or with more/less pressure in this/that passage."

Musicality and Sound are our ultimate goals, but what are the elements that help us achieve them that we should constantly be mindful of?

July 31, 2004 at 02:10 AM · Dynamics...thats another one. I forgot about that! That must be a HUGE part of musicality!

(Sorry to put this one back at the top of the list...I'll shut up now.)

August 2, 2004 at 08:35 AM · Hi,
Andrew, that's an interesting topic. To me, the most important factor is control, i.e. the ability to focus "on demand". I guess any performer worth his salt has worked on all the aspects you stated to the point that it all worked out. To be a successful performer, however, you have to be able to switch of all that might distract you from giving your best:

  • that nagging little headache
  • the fact you quarrelled with your wife before the performance
  • the lousy trip to the concert hall through traffic that almost made you late
Hope you get the point. My teacher sometimes hit a lamp with his bow in his crowded old apartment - yet this never affected his playing. Once, the music stand wasn't probably set up and collapsed in mid-play, sending the sheet music to the floor in a pile. Without loosing stride, he got down on his knees and played on.
I've read somewhere that the most important thing about practising and taking lessons is "increasing your lousy level", meaning that when you're good, you're good, but if you still excel with the world against you, then - and only then - you are ready to perform.
Bye, Juergen

August 2, 2004 at 08:31 PM · It is all mental. In Galamian's book, he mentions the importance of the mental aspect of playing. You must be in excellent emotional and physical and mental shape in order to pull off a good performance. Everything about you must be strong or else everything that you practiced will not come across effectively. I don't think it is a matter of having to clear your mind before a performance, I think it is a matter of months beforehand preparing yourself for stresses and coping well. And focus. Focus and control of the mind take a long time to master. And then there are the shakes, which have been discussed on other threads extensively.

-Jennifer

p.s. Oh yea. And you have to practice your music first. He he.

August 5, 2004 at 04:38 PM · Bob hit it on the head.

I heard a story once about a violin competition (a real one, like the Queen Elizabeth/Pag/Tchaik). There were three finalists. Two played perfectly (technically) however they were both a little lacking in their musicianship. However, the third one, played rather underpar on the technical side, yet her musicality was beyond words. You guessed it, she won. Musicianship, or musicality rules all in the end. Why else would you think Itzhak is on the top?

August 5, 2004 at 04:38 PM · Bob hit it on the head.

I heard a story once about a violin competition (a real one, like the Queen Elizabeth/Pag/Tchaik). There were three finalists. Two played perfectly (technically) however they were both a little lacking in their musicianship. However, the third one, played rather underpar on the technical side, yet her musicality was beyond words. You guessed it, she won. Musicianship, or musicality rules all in the end. Why else would you think Itzhak is on the top?

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