Preparing to possibly prepare for auditions?
I am going to make this a long first post...sorry about that, but there is just so much to say. I am searching for advice of sorts, so I figure I should probably tell the whole story - including a lot of details so that you all might be able assess as much as possible what I am wrestling with. Thanks in advance for reading and giving thought to my post!
I started learning to play the violin at age 14. i had wanted to for a long time, but lack of instrument, finances, and a teacher in the very rural area in which I lived prohibited that. I did, however, study piano from age 6 - that helped. The very first time I set bow to string, I knew that I had found what I could truly, endlessly love. I knew I wanted to make a life of it. As i was learning to play the Twinkle variations at the time, I kept this thought to myself for a few years.
I worked really hard. I performed the Bach Double on the exact 2 year anniversary of my first lesson. I found a music camp to go to in the summers I was 16, 17, and 18; there I got to experience playing in an orchestra for the first time, and I cried at the very first sound. It was incredible.
The first year at the music camp, with less than 2 years of playing, I made it into the advanced orchestra and was seated assistant concertmaster. That is, until the first rehearsal, when it became clear that I was really, really terrible at sight reading - (I had heard the sight reading excerpt for the audition played by 5 or 6 kids in front of me, and had eeked it out by ear, but could not keep up in rehearsal). Moved to the very back of the seconds!
I made it through book 6 of Suzuki by my senior year of high school and had started to play other things, as well. My teacher for my first 2 years of playing was a very advanced high school student herself (and I her first student), but when she left for college, her mother - a voice teacher - took over. She didn't play the violin, only knew a good deal from observing her daughter's lessons. So, I was really behind, especially technically. What's more, when I started telling people I wanted to study violin in college at around age 16, they all said, without exception (well, except my mom!), "you can't make it. it's a tough world. you started too late. you aren't talented enough." I knew I wouldn't be happy unless I tried it anyway, so I polished some piano pieces up along with preparing my violin audition pieces so that I could tell them “please accept me on my piano playing and let me study violin.” And I got in.
I went to a very small university, and the violin teacher there was really terrible. I won’t go into the details, but the worst part about it is that she insisted I play with an extremely bent left wrist, even though I insisted that it caused a lot of pain. I got tendonitis and neuritis as a result, and had to sit a large chuck of the year out (and go to hand specialists and physical therapists). My junior year, I petitioned to take lessons at a neighboring university, and was allowed to do so. That teacher was much better, and I started to play more standard pieces. I am still ashamed to say that I was incredibly behind on repertoire. For my senior recital, I played Beethoven’s Spring sonata, the full Bach g minor, and Romanza Andalusia by Sarasate. I had also worked on Mozart 4, but hadn’t played any other concertos. I felt like I had wasted my chance to get better during the first two years, and was pretty discouraged and ashamed. And everyone still said “you’re not good enough”.
There was one exception. I got into a music festival during the summer after my sophomore year, for an orchestral program. I was assigned a teacher who later told me that, after my first lesson, she met with the other teachers and said they should consider sending me home. She had asked me to play a 3-octave scale, but no one had ever taught me how to do that - she was shocked. She told me the fingerings, and when my second lesson came around the next week and I played it for her, she told me she thought I was incredibly naturally talented, that she thought I had the best ear that she had ever seen in a student, and that she was convinced I had just suffered under poor teaching. I cried and cried and cried. And tried to let her belief in me carry me through all the discouragement that still came my way - for example, a teacher at the same festival the next year told me that, if I couldn’t play an assignment from her perfectly the next week, it would prove I had no place in music. I failed - I was so nervous! and she told me to quit. I kept going, desperately trying to insist for myself, in my own head, that I could learn how to play well, how to make beautiful music with my violin. That’s all I wanted.
After university, I arranged with a teacher I had met at the festival (but not had lessons with) to move to where she was and take lessons with her privately, while working a day job, in order to improve technically in order to apply for a master after 2 years. I worked on more Bach with her and started the Mendelssohn Concerto, but we hit a standstill. She told me that she could see that I didn’t really think I could improve. She told me that she believed I could - she believed I could play beautifully and well - but my belief that I couldn’t was making me not progress past a certain point. She asked me to consider whether I could believe her, or whether I would continue to believe I couldn’t do it. This really surprised me. I went home and thought really hard. I recognized that, along the way, I had gotten so used to being so cruel to myself in my head that practicing was anxiety-producing, that my words to myself were incredibly toxic, but that I didn’t know how to change that. It’s like all those years of insisting to myself that I could do it, I just had to keep trying, even when people told me not to, had been secretly piling up in my soul, and that was all I really heard anymore. I called my teacher and told her I was going to stop playing.
And I did. It was the hardest, most painful decision of my life. I felt like a failure for giving up, but I didn’t feel like I could not give up. I had a sense that something else needed to change in my life, that I needed to learn how to think differently, and I had a sense that this couldn’t happen if I continued to pursue playing. Five years went by, lots of things happened - it would be far too much to say it all here. I am not sure why, but one summer I was ready to play again. A friend was getting married, and I offered to play Meditation from Thais for her wedding. I prepared it, I was nice(r) to myself, something was different in my mind. “Performing” at the wedding, I felt I was able to give to my friend and not focus on the fear of not playing perfectly. People told me they had been moved by the music, and that was incredible for me - I didn’t care that I had played some notes of out tune or missed a certain shift.
So now…it’s a few years later. I played as much as possible after that first performance, while working full time. I performed at every chance I got. Then I moved to Germany about a year ago to do a master in literature and cultural studies, which I find interesting, but I still feel this bug in my soul that playing the violin is the only thing I really, really want to do. I found an orchestra to play in here, and serve as the assistant concertmaster, and have performed in various other gigs. I started taking lessons again with a good teacher, and with him am focusing on some technique that I never learned. I’m playing Bach at the moment (the d minor, but not yet the Chaconne!)
So, my questions have to do with 2 things. First, I think I would like to work on a concerto. I am nervous - I think I still have a mental block about concertos, that “that is what good people play”, and “I am not good enough”…but I think that is a falsehood. I have only played (besides Bach A minor) the Mozart 4 and part of Mendelssohn. I don’t think I can go back to Mendelssohn. Does anyone have any opinions as to what might be a good next one to try out?
Secondly, I am wondering if I should/could make the decision to try to get into a master program in music here and, one last time, give it a shot. Give it my all again, and see if I can succeed (and by succeed, I mean love playing, learn how to give more and more freely with my playing, and not become overwhelmed with discouragement or negative thoughts if I try to pursue this.) It isn’t a practical thing, at 32, to be thinking about starting a whole new chapter (again), but I so often have the impression that if I don’t try it again, I will always regret it.
I am scared that it really is true that I am not talented enough. I am scared to hear more people say that. I am scared that I won’t be able to keep a clear head. But oh, if I were talented enough! If I could not be thrown by what people say, especially when they figure out how old I am and what my history is. oh, if I could keep a clear head….then being a violinist is the thing I would (still) choose.
So, to sum it ALL UP, I guess I am asking for any thoughts about what concerto might be a good one to study (I can answer any more specific questions about repertoire, etc, if need be, but I really haven’t played as much as would be considered normal)…and for any thoughts about how to decide whether I should give this all one more go.
Oh my. You have truly suffered with poor teaching.
I don't have the expertise to address any aspect of your question but I did want to say that your story is so poignant and compelling, heartwrenching but also so inspiring re your tenacity. I think you are a very taletned writer with quite a story. I hope to read your happy 'ending', maybe in print one day!
Mary Ellen knows far more about the career prospects than I - she is being informative and straight with you. However, I can add that you sound rather similar to my current situation. Though I am much older I also dream of being a professional. On the other hand, I am also rational :) I have followed the course of a dedicated amateur violinist. This takes the pressure off you because you no longer have to set yourself up in comparison with the professional track. Face it, people as talented or even less talented than either of us have been playing the instrument for many many more years than us (in my case over 40). This has made me think not about competing but about what do I want to achieve? And my conclusion is to play the instrument to mend and melt hearts. After over 10 years of work (since I returned) I am at that goal. I really can play to bring people to tears and I can sit on the first desk of a community orchestra and perform to a crowd of 500. Not only that, but as an amateur violinist I take lessons, I hire and fire teachers as I choose, I go to summer festivals and perform sonatas and chamber music, and I play the music that I choose, not that I have to because of a pay check. In short, I am much more of the musician than many of the pros that I have met along the way that have had to compromise their artistic goals to the need of finding income.
So it sounds like you have a career and are studying towards it? And in your spare time, you are studying with a private teacher, practicing the violin, serving as the assistant concertmaster in an amateur volunteer orchestra, and playing some pro gigs?
All that is great advice.
It's hard to recommend anything without having some notion of how well the OP actually plays, regardless of repertoire learned.
First of all, thank you all for your replies - I very much appreciate it. I have a big paper due in a few days, so I am having to be quite disciplined about how much I interact with other things - so I am sorry for the late reply!
Paul, I did suggest the first movement of Kabalevsky in my previous post.
Some advice for people who want to audition for professional orchestras: Don't make the mistake of thinking that, by just winning an audition, the hard stuff is behind you. Nothing can be further from the truth. The higher levels of the repertoire are VERY difficult--certainly more difficult than a Mozart or Mendelssohn concerto.
One of the hardest things about music as a professional career, in my opinion, is not actually the playing level or "talent" or training required - lots of people have that. It's the psychological aspect of coping with constant criticism and rejection - everyone, even the ones who started at four and went through juilliard pre-college and to the big conservatory etc etc etc, gets told "no" hundreds of times more often than they get told "yes". And your playing is constantly critiqued, whether by yourself, your peers, a coach or teacher, a reviewer, and sometimes this can feel very personal. I think the constant rejection - going to audition after audition and not winning, submitting tapes and resumes etc - is why so many conservatory-trained musicians leave the field in, say, the first ten years after graduating. Is this something you would want or be prepared to deal with?
Yes, Mary Ellen, I agree Kabalevsky would be a good option too. Sorry! I didn't read carefully enough! And I agree with Lydia that some of the violinist-pedagogical concertos could be very useful. For example Spohr No. 2 is nice and it's not super long. In terms of technical difficulty. I would put it between Mozart 3 and Bruch.
I find Scott's list interesting; other than the Schoenberg and Hindemith, I played all the other works in either youth symphony or a (semi-pro) community orchestra when I was still in my mid-teens. Back then I had the chops to learn them very quickly; I'm not convinced I could do that now as a less technically in-shape adult. :-)
Not really relevant in the case of the OP, but: I'm always struck by the posts of the late starters, whether teenage or adult, who dream of an orchestral career but have never played in an ensemble.
So, this is kind of off the subject of the original post, but since it was mentioned...perhaps I could ask: how does one practice efficiently?
Oh, and to be clear...I think there has been a little bit of a misunderstanding re. the title of the post... I am not preparing for orchestral auditions, nor do I have grandiose notions about the likelihood of that happening!
Yes, start with listening. You play the violin with your ears and memory as much as anything else. The anticipation of what's coming should result in automatic finger patterns and shifting, as well as automatic bow distribution.
When I took the first movement of the Beethoven Concerto to an audition I was told that I played better than I normally do. That doesn't mean I was good (They might also have said it about my playing of the Brahms if I'd taken that along - the only problem is, I can't manage the notes!)!
"But at this point, it is still shaky in terms of expression and bow technique and phrasing. Here is where I get lost."
I am jumping in to say that I too suffered from poor teaching as a kid. It's a miracle I was able to do what I did, and I am sorry that you too suffered from poor teaching. What Paul said rings true for me to (except I am not a university professor).
"how does one practice efficiently?"
If something is going to take 2000 repetitions, I generally look for another way around it, like rhythm practice for instance.
I am sure I did well over 2000 repetitions of the Schumann Scherzo (mostly well under tempo) when preparing for the audition for my current job, which obviously I won. That’s not to say rhythm practice doesn’t have its place; it does. But the more important and the more high stress the performance, the more a very high number of correct repetitions is money in the bank.
Correct mindful repetitions = Reliability.
Repetition has its place, once you are satisfied with how the passage sounds. I was referring to mindless repetition before the player has actually worked it out. i.e. "repeating to learn it" rather than "repeating to master it"
"Mindless repetition" is a waste of time whether it is times ten or times ten thousand.
Thank you, Lydia, for your book suggestions! They are new to me, but look very, very helpful.
Anita, these three books by Simon Fischer will be an endless source of help and inspiration for the rest of your life: Basics, Practice, and The Violin Lesson. Their titles are self-explanatory but Simon Fischer website gives summary of contents. These books are expensive but invaluable. You should also be warned that the process of getting more and more advanced on the violin may be highly addictive for certain persons, and I suspect you are one of such persons :-) So make sure to maintain balance with your non-violin life, work, studies, your future.
Anita, getting into music school may be a worthwhile goal for you, and I don't know exactly how the music scene is in Germany, but you can do a lot of good work with a good private teacher - Music school is not necessary for good instruction if you have a good teacher, although for someone looking to be a professional, it will provide many things you won't be able to get or that will be harder to get privately.
I was so inspired to read that Mary Ellen did 2000 repetitions of something. Now I don't feel like an idiot if something still needs improvement after 100. Thank you!! You maybe don't know how uplifting it feels to see that someone who is actually a good player would need to work on something the same way they're teaching us to do it. Sure I know that seems obvious but for those of us who were taught as children to revere our superiors, it's nice to know that they practice what they preach.
This post (and others I have read here) have really been so helpful to me! I wish this site had been around when I was 14! My practice these last 2 days has felt very different to me, and I think I made a (mini)-breakthrough regarding tone...it is so motivating! I think this breakthrough stemmed in part from a mindset shift - the encouragement to not think about talent and instead think about practicing well (thank you Mary Ellen and others!)
Given that you have a good teacher, I wouldn't necessarily feel compelled to get any of the Fischer books unless there's something specific you're looking to fill a gap with.
Anita given that you have a history of bad teaching, but currently have a good teacher who can help you with individual problems you encounter in technique or in practicing, I would choose "The Violin Lesson". It offers some really deep fundamental insights, and moreover has things copied from Basics and Practice.
Agree with Lydia (it's weird how the two threads I happen to open touch on the same point!)
Whoa, just read the thread in more detail. Hope you're having a better time of it with your current lessons Anita!
Anita, I think you're already asking better questions now than at the beginning of your thread.
Jeewon, thank you for these suggestions! I will take a look!
I have been working on the Corrente from the Bach d minor for the past 2 weeks or so, but do not know where to go further with practice - how to correct the problems, what to focus on, how to make it more "reliable", etc...is this an occasion where I could post a video and get expert direction from you all as to where to go from where I am with it, or should I just wait until the next time I see my teacher? (I haven't brought it to him yet, due to the Christmas break).
Anita, feel free to post a video. There are a couple of folks here who post awesome suggestions.
"The Violin Lesson" seems to be the "central" Fischer book. It's huge. Also rather expensive. Does your teacher have it to borrow?
I was able to get my hands on a copy of "Practice" by Fischer...I have read through the contents, tried to asses what would be the most helpful for me, and am trying to decide how I should approach going through it. I think it will help me even to read through it and understand some general principles I seemed to have missed. For example, during my first lesson, my teacher said "of course you know there are several different zones you can draw the bow in (by the bridge, over the fingerboard, in the middle, etc)...I didn't know that! He said I was adjusting automatically most of the time, based on sound, but I think things like this will help me be able to diagnose problems when I am otherwise stuck.
I will post a video in hopes to get some good advice. I am, of course, nervous to do so, as I know that there is much that is cringe-worthy in what I recorded, but I would really value direction and thoughts and tips.
I agree with Jeewon.
Also, my second impression is that tone is fine in general, but it deteriorates when you experience trepidation about what's coming in the left hand. I suspect you tense up, and that tension transmits itself to the right hand, and combined with the hesitation, there ends up with a little more crunchiness in the sound. This happens even when it's not a double-stop.
Jeewon and Lydia, thanks for your responses.
It's not either/or really. Even if you decide to go the analytical route, you still have to learn how to practice well :) Your plan sounds like a good one.
Oh, I forgot to add, your natural abilities allowed you to learn and play music without a lot of the usual pedagogical building blocks, like scales, and technique. That's what I mean by natural performer, you play by instinct, you produce the music without having to put together the finger patterns and bow patterns.
...and consequently... :) for me it raises the question of whether you just need an insistent, demanding coach or teacher in your face, directing you to produce the sounds in your mind and in the score. That's a great way for people with a good musical memory to learn because once you've produced those sounds with your teacher you tend to internalize them, and the way it felt, and continue to practice from memory even away from the instruments. You can get through a lot of rep while learning applied technique at once.
To Jeewon's point about your right arm, when I watched the video, I thought your elbow looked high (even for a Russian-style arm) but the angle of the video may have contributed to that impression. I also noticed that you are dead center between bridge and fingerboard with pretty much no deviation, but as a result you aren't drawing the range of tonal colors that would otherwise be available. Your playing is very careful, and I'm not sure if that's an effect of the newness of the piece to you, or if you always approach the instrument this way.
Here are a few discussions on left hand finger action.
Finally watched the video. Thanks for posting that!
I can't say much in response at the moment, between work and classes, but firstly, thank you for the thoughts and links and feedback, and secondly WOW. I hadn't noticed that I was playing the rhythm wrong! Thanks for pointing that out! I am itching to get back to my fiddle and try to think/play it correctly!
Anita your playing is smooth and linear. It's enviable that you can do that after having been at this piece a short time. But ... my violin professor said this piece should feel like a jolly country dance, and as such, it can have a rougher feel. Of course you can always dial that in later (and obviously the tempo makes a difference too), but my professor marked a lot more subdivided bowing than you're doing. Bow changes are opportunities to add that sense of roughness. And about the dotted rhythms, we've all played orchestra and solo pieces where the dotted rhythms are a little exaggerated to convey a more angular sense of rhythm. In my view that's what is happening here except the written dotted rhythms are really an exaggerated triplet. With that in mind, my own sense (a prerogative of amateurs!) is that you can experiment with exaggerating them even further in a few spots and see how it sounds and feels to you. Time is not you only means of exaggeration, of course. You also have dynamics and articulation.
Anita based on what you just posted I think you are doing just fine and you should just continue improving without looking back. At least to me it is not obvious that you must rebuild everything from scratch, or that you are bumping into some serious how-to-practice issues. Some natural things to work on in the future: tone (awareness of bowing on the five different lanes, with different bow speeds, always adapting pressure to achieve the maximum resonance, and including focused practice on bowing close to the bridge); Hrimaly and Flesch scales; Kreutzer; speed.
"At least to me it is not obvious that you must rebuild everything from scratch, or that you are bumping into some serious how-to-practice issues."
Anita, I think Nathan Milstein does a great job of making the rhythm snappy. Try listening to this:
I've been skimming the discussion and haven't listened to / watched the video carefully but just wanted to point out there is a school of thought among the HIP people that promotes playing the dotted eighth-sixteenth rhythm as triplets in this context - the idea is the notation is one of convenience and would not have been performed as a cross rhythm. See for example Rachel Podger's recording. I think the key is maintaining a sense of lightness.
Most welcome, Lydia. It's a great book!
I am having such a good time with these rhythms, it makes the piece so FUN to play!! :) :) It also makes me need to rethink certain things I had already gotten used to, so it's a bit rough...but in a good direction, I believe. I had to slow it down even further to think about the rhythms and the characters of the different parts. Paul, I think the rhythm differentiation will help the dance-like, rustic quality you talked about!
Anita, I think you don't just hunch the shoulder. I think that it might be tight a significant percentage of the time, but becomes more so in some instances, especially at G-string level. I noticed that on the video as well, but wasn't sure if it was an artifact of the angle. For the level of the bow arm, think "forearm resting on a table" not "elbow flared" (which is the way that the Russian arm is sometimes described, but the "table" description is a better description of the way it actually works). My guess is that the hunched shoulder and the overly high elbow are paired.
Sorry to be unclear on those exercises, Anita. I will get back to them soon.
Anita YOU choose which lane you want to play in, you are the artist! the general idea is to play louder you play closer to the bridge. nevertheless one can play also piano close to the bridge, if the bow speed is very slow, and one can play quite loud close to the fingerboard with very high bow speeds. indeed there is this enormous soundscape mentioned by Lydia to discover and to choose from. from your video I would advise you to practice once in a while on playing with full fast bows, using enough pressure to get the full resonance, in order to get some feeling of the "soloist" sound. it will be loud! make sure to use earplugs and practice in a dedicated practice room, or in lack thereof in a cellar or a woodshed :-) there are various Kreutzer etudes in 16th notes that you can work on with full bows even if that may not have been Kreutzers original intention.
Talent, for the most part, is complete BS.
I couldn't watch 20 minutes of that. That guy could have said the same thing in a small fraction of the time.
There is just so much here to take in, and I really appreciate all the time you are spending to send guidance my way! bless you!
I do roll my shoulder forward! I also do tighten/seize the muscle below my armpit (and periodically suffer from pain there as a result).
Anita, for most players, the
Agree with Lydia.
I have been enjoying this thread! I relate to you quite a lot. I got lucky in my violin re-start a year ago with the exact right teacher. Many of my issues were mental, related to anxiety, and were tying up my joints and confusing my whole body with extraneous movements.
Jeewon, I am so glad you are "dumping"all this info on me! :) I don't mind one bit - au contraire, I feel really lucky. As soon as I have a slow morning, I plan to write down in detail in a practice journal all of the helpful suggestions from you and all the others who have added to this conversation, to make sure I have a clear vision of everything I am learning here. :)
Just have a minute to say good luck, Anita! I think it's always better to know than not know, in this case, whether your teacher is able and willing to help you achieve your goals (once you know what they are.)
If you want to audition for a master's, you should tell your teacher now. That may change the prioritization for some technical work, plus he needs to think about what the repertoire might be.
I'm grateful you started this thread Anita! As I stated way back, I feel for you as I did not get the proper training when I was young and am suffering for it now. I spent my first 6-12 months after returning rebuilding my technique, and sometimes I think I still need to strip it back and start all over again. I cannot imagine I played decently as a kid knowing what I know now other than just "doing it" as you (and Leslie!) have stated.
It's so nice to "meet" other people in similar situations! Thank you for chiming in, it is nice to feel the community. :)
It's always nice to see videos from people open to input. :-)
Yes, feel free to post as many as you like:) And no worries Anita! I think you need to be comfortable with this. As much as I thought you needed to involve your teacher in your plans, I also wondered whether it would be a bit premature. Should probably live with it a while.
Have I just gotten lucky, or is it the norm for teachers to ask new students what their goals are? I've felt that my teachers, dating back to relatively early in my childhood, had a notion of what short-term and long-term goals they had for me, and the older I got, the more I was explicitly asked what my goals were.
I don't think I've been asked more than once or twice what my goals are. I think my current teacher has (correctly) assumed based on various observations, but no discussion has taken place.
Here's a pretty good video of exercises, based on Fischer's Basics:
There is an elephant in the room here in this thread that I have been wondering about since the beginning. On this forum people are routinely being discouraged of dreaming about becoming a professional violinist. However here it seems Anita is being actively encouraged?
Yeah, that's very odd.
Anita's goals aren't unreasonable. She's an adult that already has an undergraduate music degree, is in the midst of schooling in another discipline and a profession that can pay the bills in a flexible fashion, she has time to practice, and she lives in a country where pursuing further education is free. She has functional technique and has studied some advanced repertoire, and she lives somewhere she has access to good teaching.
Thanks again, all, for your helpful replies. :) I am just so grateful.
To relax your shoulders, raise both shoulders up toward your ears and then let your shoulders drop. (To do this you just have to release the muscles and the shoulders will drop down by themselves.) Try this first without the violin. This will show you how your shoulders feel when they are relaxed.
Yes, but if you do more than core technique, you have to be extremely careful not to revert to old habits.
Hey you got rid of the 'hunch' in your right shoulder! That was fast!
Ah, this makes a lot of sense to me! I’m excited to try it all out!
Hope it's useful!
Yes, I think what I hadn’t thought of before was that I might be in a particular hand frame and have to still extend “out” of the frame, but that I should use the frame that makes it most comfortable for my weakest finger...I don’t know why I hadn’t thought through that before... :)
Fantastic 'group lessons' on this thread!
I do better with "feel this general image" rather than specific technical instructions in many cases. For me, my teacher said, "Imagine that there's a towel flying behind the bow, and when you change bow, you want to do it in a way that keeps the towel flying".
See how easy it is to fix your technique? All you need to do is 3-octave Galamian scales, Sevcik (various opuses), Dont, Schradieck (No. 1 only, tear it out and throw away the rest of the book), thirds, octaves, tenths, chromatic scales, and trills (Kreutzer and Nathan Cole). Man do I ever wish I had gotten this advice sooner. LOL
I think the answer to your question is basically yes. This is the sort of thing that Simon Fischer will probably address in detail in one of his 37 books.
HAHAHA Paul. Seriously.
Too bad you cannot "like" on here. :)
I just watched your scale video. In addition to what Jeewon mentioned, I noticed that your shifts aren't really "launched". The note before a shift should be properly set, there should be a mental aim, and then your hand should release and shoot upwards with a finger landed on arrival at the target spot. This has to be coordinated with the bow. This is really important for getting clean shifts, without any smearing of a shift after the departure note, or before the arrival note.
Yes, shifts! I didn't formally "learn" them, and they still scare me because I don't really know how they reliably work, beyond "hope for the best!" and to try to hear the note that I want in my head. I am sure there is a way I can work on this...I will start with Fischer, and see what he has to say. Other than that, I feel like I am just practicing bad habits when I try to work on shifts...
I am posting another video of the left hand from behind, this time with the first half of the Corrente. I am unhappy with so many little things in the piece, but I hope that it gives a good view of my fingers...
I'm convinced most back issues are from bad sitting.
accidental empty post
Look at your thumb. See how it's bent back, even from the very start of the piece? It's at almost a 90 degree angle. I'm guessing you are hyperflexed; I couldn't do that even if I wanted to. And it's too far back relative to the rest of the fingers, forcing you to reach forward rather than reaching back.
Hey Anita, am having a busy weekend. I was thinking about what to say about thumbs and shifting but am still thinking about what would be useful for you.
I have (crossed fingers) time to practice again, and have been thinking about what type of technical routine I want in my mornings -- figure 20 to 30 minutes of pure technique.
Paul, I am such a huge fan of the pun. I appreciate that. :) Yes, I had heard that the note before the shift is really important. My teacher just instructed me to play the note after the shift with almost no finger pressure, like for a harmonic (just for practice). Not sure why...but what you said made me think of that - perhaps it is related?
Try your largest local violin shop -- they are the ones most likely to have a wide inventory of chinrests and shoulder-rests. Go at a time when the shop isn't normally busy.
If you look at top soloists their violins are very often farther back on their shoulders. That's what I've noticed anyway. I think it helps them reach the higher part of the fingerboard.
Holding the violin further left is more of a relaxation thing, I think. You can feel where your arm is pretty relaxed, versus where you have to rotate the shoulder a little if you want to hold it there.
Hey that's great! If you want to read up on movement from the perspective of Feldenkrais,
To Jeewon's point, when I say "shoot", the image I use is that of a rail that connects your start point to your target point. Your hand moves smoothly and with very high velocity along the track. But the whole track is envisioned very clearly in that process, so your hand can zip along it.
That's a cool distinction, Lydia! I guess it's the difference between "spraying the shot" and sinking the shot (even before shooting.)
I remember Nathan Cole's video on how to hit notes "out of the blue." That was very good.
Lydia - my teacher uses the same imagery of a rail/track to follow.
I don't have a lot of time to respond today, but thank you all!
"Does it depend upon finger length?" Not sure but Ray Chen has very long fingers.
Shifts should use one finger lightly on the string as a guide, if possible. Otherwise you get no tactile feedback and distance estimation is more difficult.
Classical shifts are the first principles of finding pitch along the fingerboard: position + finger pattern for a given key. They help find the shift pattern (the sequence of same finger shifts) plus prepare the finger pattern of the new position using the fingers of the actual passage. (Clear as mud.)
Paul, I will check out that video!
I just came back from a party where the hostess has a daughter studying cello at a good conservatory. One of the topics of conversation was the role of physical training and conditioning in stringed instrument study. The young woman's teacher apparently is very much of the mind that a musician needs to take the approach of becoming an athlete -- stretching, weight-training, etc. My wife finds that weight-training works wonders on her "computer back" too.
Anita, I've tried both Feldenkrais and Alexander Technique. They are different but I find Alexander to be superior. With Feldenkrais, you do a lot of exercises which can be translated to some extent (maybe more than I was able to) into daily life. With Alexander, there are exercises, but the focus is more on how you can integrate changes into your daily life, including violin playing of course, but starting with the very basics of how you organize yourself. I find Alexander to be a lot like violin playing, in the continual refinement of your movements. And I find Alexander to be very helpful for violin playing. But I also do Feldenkrais exercises on ocassion.
I do think that being strong enough AND knowing how to properly use your body are very important in the long run, if not in the short. When I developed neuritis and tendonitis in college, the hand specialist I went to said that the problem stemmed from weak back muscles - which I've had since I was a toddler...weak and overly stretchy, is the non-scientific way to describe it? :) Now, I know it stemmed from a lot of other things, too, which he couldn't see because I didn't play in front of him - poor setup, bent left wrist, etc - but still. A stronger back, he said, would have helped my arms be able to handle what I was asking of them.
Hi Anita, I just read this thread for the first time. I just want to say that I relate to your story SO much, there are so many parallels (even a traumatic aborted attempt at the Mendelssohn concerto, followed by a long break, then coming back in a better place). You also wrote about it really beautifully. I'm sorry you've gone through so much bad teaching, it sounds like a lot of bad luck, and think it's amazing you are continuing to perservere. I am rooting for you in your music journey 100%!!
Hi Sylvie, nice to hear from you! I would love to hear more of your story - how did you decide to go back to music? what has that process been like? thank you for your sweet support. :)
Sounds like finding a good playing setup and learning better body movement is priority #1. I would strongly advise learning those before piling on more time. Do everything in short, short spurts, multiple times a day, rather than longer sessions. I'm an extremist, so I tend to go all out with changes too. But... it's better to make small gradual changes :)
All such great shift tips. I came to lessons last year in a similar place in regards to shifts, I mean I had learned them, but maybe I'd forgotten all the detail, and I was trying to shoot and land on the spot, hope for best etc. My teacher had me insert the shift finger "guide" note (which for me currently is the first finger) into the scale for half of the length of the note following the shift, and then gradually shorten it over a umber of weeks, then up the tempo. Doing the 3-octave scale split into 2 bows now. The goal is not to make it totally invisible, she says, because the timing and speed of it have expressive possibilities and also there's no reason to hide the the skeleton of the shift, so to speak. "X-ray the shift" she was saying too.
The chinrest has immediately made some tension feel better! I think it’s going to be super helpful. There is still some left-hand and arm and pectoral and shoulderblade (all on left side) tension left, but my guess is that it’s mostly from things which became tight, and with some time and light playing, they will resolve. I will keep try to keep my tension awareness heightened and go light for a while - perhaps mostly Sevcik and scales and open strings.
Hey, that's great news Anita! Best wishes on your new start!
Dear Jeewon, thank you again :)