Bruch violin concerto exposition!

Edited: November 22, 2018, 4:40 PM · Hi everyone!

I am in the middle of learning the Bruch concerto and am having trouble on some of the chords, double stops, and octaves on the first page. (I am using the Schirmer Edition)

4th line: B flat +D and A+C chords, D +B flat chord
Both octave passages
Triple stops section (line 7)

For the octave passages, I feel like one of my fingers is always off and I don't know how to fix it. In general, I don't know how to practice these chords and octaves and feel like many of them are slightly out of tune. How do I make this sound clean?

Thank you!

Replies (11)

November 22, 2018, 5:01 PM · Find an anchor finger and build the chords around that.
November 22, 2018, 5:21 PM · Octaves...
I like to play the scale / melody with just the top finger, then just the bottom finger, then broken, and then as written. That helps me a bit.

Practise it slowly, fixing each note. Work on an etude in octaves like Kreutzer 25 if it's still a problem, and then come back.

November 22, 2018, 5:26 PM · I haven't played the Bruch, but the following should still be relevant.

For the octaves, take turns playing the passage as normal, but bowing only the lower string. Then repeat with only the upper string. Make sure that these are both in tune. You can also practice the passage slowly, for each octave, bowing the lower string, the upper string, and then together, and then shifting to the next octave.

If you aren't playing octave double stops with your scales, then you should start, and if you want some extra octave practice beyond that, you could always work on the Kreutzer etudes in octaves.

November 23, 2018, 5:01 PM · One scale exercise that might help is to play your scales as first-finger followed by the 4th finger harmonic (on the same string) to get both the fundamental and the octave as the harmonic for good 1st to 4th finger positions; then the octave scale with 1st finger on lower string and 4th finger on the next string; finally both 1st and 4th fingers and both strings at the same time as octave scales.

Edited: November 24, 2018, 11:40 AM · For octave passages, also practice them as 1-4 harmonics. The distance between 1-4 has to be exactly correct for them to sound at all, and it forces you to do the correct thing, which is ; lead with the first finger, the 4th finger stays light.
November 24, 2018, 3:29 AM · I'm currently working up the first movement of the Bruch to perform next weekend, so I feel your pain!

Christian's advice is right - practice lots of octaves (and fingered octaves) as part of your regular scale practice. Practice each of the two lines fingered as you would for octaves, but playing only one string at a time. Practice with the octaves, but sliding very very slowly over the transitions to practice getting both fingers in the right place at the same time. Practice the shifts up to the first octave from whatever comes before particularly anchoring the first finger. (On the passage that goes up to the high b-flat, for instance, practice that shift as if you were shifting up to play an octave, and that will help you get the lower b-flat in the right place when it is actually marked one note later.)

I'm a bit sceptical of the 1-4 harmonics idea - if it works for people great, but surely it's better to just practice the octave across the string? The hand position is different when you're double-stopping, and the fact the harmonic won't sound if it's wrong is a bit of a cop out...

November 24, 2018, 3:18 PM · If i recall correctly when i learned this concerto last year, I think the secrets to tuning octaves is to not move any one of the fingers independently, or else it'll be out of frame.

Instead, I'd suggest helping the shifts with a bit of wrist movement, that way you have more securities on the distance b/w your two fingers.

November 24, 2018, 4:33 PM · Frank - what does "help the shifts with wrist movement" mean? If you mean moving the wrist and hand together from the elbow, surely that is what a shift is in the first place? Or do you mean moving the wrist joint so the hand ends up in a different position - if so how does that help?
November 24, 2018, 4:55 PM · I had a teacher once for whom octaves (and scales in octaves) were the key to all intonation. He made me practice those scales as practically the only non-repertoire material. He said you have to have have your hand position correct with 2nd and third finger on the string beside the fourth, then move the hand to shift and make sure both strings keep sounding about equally. Then your ear will correct the intonation "by itself". Alas, my ear heard how off I was but that was all it did.

It turned out though that it helped me to have fingers 2 and 3 on the string. Also, if you practice enough you can get those shifts right. I find it useful to practice extremely slowly and always with both strings sounding. I repeat the same interval a number of times, slow up shift on the down bow, slow down shift on the up bow (or the other way round). I find the exercise useless with only one of the strings sounding while fingering both. Intonation is what you need to get right here and if a string does not sound you have no clue what it would have sounded like. Hence you have no idea if your mute finger was even in the neighborhood of correct.

Don't assume I am now good at this; I am just better than I used to be. The only octave passage I ever got performance ready is the one in the first movement of the Dumky trio and I practiced those few shifts for a long time. This stuff is hard. I do believe my teacher was right though: Those exercises tend to improve intonation over all.

November 25, 2018, 9:43 AM · @Chris Keating - yea i think by shifting i just meant moving to different notes. Anyhow, my previous mistake was to rely on the 1st finger to move around, but it doesn't really play in tune. Using wrist helps locking the hand frame in place
Edited: November 25, 2018, 12:50 PM · continued-- Agree with Andrew V. For me, the intonation challenge happens between the octave pairs, caused by friction while shifting. The 1-4 harmonics variation trains the fourth finger to be light, but to train the 1st finger, do this: 1st finger down to the wood, then lift just enough to come off of the wood, but stay in contact with the string, then move to the next spot, then set the 1st finger down to the wood. This trains the hand to release immediately before shifting.
The work-up for any octave passage, scale, or arpeggio, is:
1st finger alone, 1-4 octaves but only sound the lower note, 1-4 harmonics, slurred triplets 1-4-1-1-4-1, add grace notes from the lower octave to the next, and then, last, not first, as written.
I would not try working on fingered octaves until the 1-4 octaves are fairly reliable. For high position octaves try 1-3.

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