Tuesday Improv *RARE Recording*

Edited: January 29, 2019, 7:53 PM · Hey guys, since the topic of sharing more audio/video has been discussed lately, I thought I'd share this:

To give a bit of background, I often record myself whenever I'm testing the sound of something new (like new strings, a different bow, or perhaps just to hear myself to see if something new has magically happened in my playing). Almost every time I do this, I just improvise something for a few minutes, then listen back, and then delete the recording. I've done this probably hundreds of times over the years.

I've never actually saved/posted any of these "improvs", since I generally see them as incomplete/imperfect, and the recordings were always designed to test something new for my own understanding, and not intended to be shared.

Anyways, today I was testing the sound of a bow, and I thought it would be interesting to share one of these improvisations after I recorded it. So here it is, imperfections and everything. It's worth noting that there was no warm up for this, or anything of that sort. It was a one-take sort of deal, not a bunch of takes that I picked the best of.


Replies (22)

January 29, 2019, 5:55 PM · Loved it. Very lovely playing.
January 29, 2019, 6:12 PM · Lovely indeed, thank you for sharing!
January 29, 2019, 6:49 PM · Thanks for the positive feedback!
January 29, 2019, 10:01 PM · Actually even though it's obviously all improvised, a better term for what you are doing might be "vocalization." I do this with my violin a lot too ... but (perhaps inspired by Dexter Gordon) I find myself quoting all the silly tunes that come into my head which can be just about anything.
January 30, 2019, 3:50 AM · Why would you delete the recording?

1tb HDD is 50 bucks now.

Good sound, nice playing. I would use a softer rosin, and a fresh alcohol clean of the bow hairs: there was some bow noise, but not a lot. Your lucky, your violin is mic friendly.

January 30, 2019, 4:04 AM · Lol it's worth noting I was recording about 12 inches from the mics. This is the reason behind the bow noise. Also, remember, alcohol is bad for synthetics now!

I usually delete them because I just don't see them as being worth keeping. I don't like holding onto the past. To me, improvisation is more about making something new out of thin air. When I hold onto them, I feel it holds me back in a way, like me saying "look how good I was before" rather than focusing on making something new/better the next time.

Innovation tends to be what drives me, and I just feel less weighed down when I know that I'm starting fresh each time I do something.

January 30, 2019, 5:49 AM · I would like to play like You one day in a very distant future
January 30, 2019, 6:39 AM ·
I remember that now, the alcohol brings the dirt and grease to the core of the string: causing them to become dead. I need to find that link now. I think the best thing to do is wipe the strings regularly with a dry cloth.

January 30, 2019, 6:55 AM · Very nice, and very well played !
Edited: January 30, 2019, 7:39 AM · Playing and improvising like you would be my dream. It’s awesome!
January 30, 2019, 7:42 AM · Charles - I think I know what you're talking about. I believe it was an article by Warchal on their strings and how to take care of them. Look up Warchal string care, and it should be there.
January 30, 2019, 8:30 AM · That was very nice, thanks for sharing!
Edited: January 30, 2019, 5:02 PM · Yes, Warchal was the one who studied the effects of alcohol on strings.

Edit: and once again, thanks to everyone else for the nice words.

February 3, 2019, 5:55 PM · Beautful! I would go to hear an improv performance like this.
February 3, 2019, 6:08 PM · Lol Karen, thanks. It's funny that you mention that: I've pondered the idea before of a solo violin career where the performer would improvise something new for each concert they played. In this way, each audience would be hearing something unique, and it would be a novel sort of performance in the way that watching a chef create a brand new dish would be interesting to watch.

However, one of the big issues with this is that inevitably in improvisation, we develop patterns, and with multiple concerts it's very likely that although different, they would start to resemble each other.

Anyways, something else I thought of: I would like to hear others besides myself playing what I would call "romantic" or "melodic" improv though. Every time I hear "violin improv" it's always jazz, and it gets pretty tiresome to me.

Edited: February 4, 2019, 6:01 AM · Erik while your sound and general intonation is very nice (and your vibrato too!) I am with Paul that this is not really improvisation, more vocalisation. It's nice to listen to for a few minutes but I think it would be quite boring to an audience sitting there and listening to it for an hour or so. Real improvisation follows some harmony set up in advance, has themes, developments, counterpoints, etc. In short good improvisation really should give the impression of composed music, it certainly needs a lot of preparation and does not sound like someone testing a violin or another instrument. I am not saying you cannot achieve this, but it is still going to be a lot of work, practicing, preparation. Note that jazz players practice their solos a helluva lot and their improvisations are based on the harmonic progressions of the fixed standard tunes they perform. At the actual performance it will not be exactly what they practiced, but it will be very similar. If they had wanted (they don't because they don't need to) they could really have written it down in advance. Same situation with classical improvisers, a top example is Gabriela Montero on piano.

(edit: correct name is Gabriela Montero, not Monteiro)

Edited: February 4, 2019, 8:45 AM · Thanks for posting this, Erik! I enjoyed listening to it.

Improvisation is something I did a lot on guitar, I'd participate on Reddit to this One Take Sunday in which you'd record an improvisation over an accompaniment you have not heard before/practiced. Usually I didn't even warm up!

Here's something improvisatory I did on guitar in one take (single take for each guitar part)


I hope I can soon start on violin to play something similar as I love recording like this!

February 4, 2019, 3:07 PM · Jean, I didn't intend to imply that I would ever want to pursue that sort of career myself; more so that I had pondered the concept in general.

I agree that good improvisation should sound more complete and thus have more preparation. However, it's an interesting conundrum where I wonder: how much preparation is involved before it stops being improvisation and starts being a performance with ornaments/freedom?

I will also add, when I'm playing over chords or a riff of some sort, the "vocalisation" much more closely resembles actual improvisation. When I'm just testing a bow, it sounds like me testing a bow :)

Coming up with themes and a complete sound in the violin without any chords backing you (loop pedal or otherwise) is nearly impossible. Hard enough to make solo violin sound full even when you're composing for hours, let alone coming up with it on the spot!

February 4, 2019, 11:03 PM · Masterful, Erik!
So what did you think of the bow?
February 5, 2019, 12:44 AM · Thanks, Aiki. The bow is terrific and adds a lot of color and focus to my sound. As always, it's pretty hard to get a good idea of how much better one bow sounds over the other only using a recording -- the difference is much more pronounced in person. However, the recording did allow me to objectively confirm my suspicion that this bow is the better sounding one.

I prefer the feel of my other bow but this one, without a doubt, sounds better.

One of these days I need to go bow shopping so I can get something that feels right in my hand while still giving me the tone this one does.

February 6, 2019, 9:31 AM · Really beautiful! Thanks for sharing this.

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