Blindfolded?

Edited: September 18, 2019, 9:24 AM · Have you ever practised the violin blindfolded (or with your eyes closed)? Do you think it's a good idea or a bad idea?

Replies (12)

September 18, 2019, 9:49 AM · I don't think it would make a hill of beans difference for me. I have to make myself look at the violin normally. But there again, I used to do competitive dance with my eyes closed too :D

Note, when you sight read you don't look at the violin either.

OTOH it might make you get into the music better...

September 18, 2019, 10:41 AM · I would find a sense of "not looking" only if, once in a while, one can have a check and look the position, etc, for example in a mirror, like i often do.
Otherwise, in my opinion, playing blindfolded is not much useful.

But maybe, you could find an usage in it that i can't see.
Maybe, concentrate more on pure sound.

Edited: September 18, 2019, 10:55 AM · As a martial artist, I often practiced with my eyes closed, and usually in slow motion. I have closed my eyes while practicing violin, and found my bow immediately drifted toward the bridge. Now that you've raised the question, I believe doing long, slow bowing with eyes closed (I do it regularly with eyes open) would be an interesting exercise. Peeking
-- opening eyes -- would probably be necessary, at least at first. While doing it, I'll try to ask myself the following:
1) Does my bow drift? How is its position at the frog, at the tip, in the middle? (Peeking required.).
2) Is my wrist relaxed and flexible (the bane of we beginners)? Can I feel my hand tracing a straight path, rather than a curve?
3) Is my pinkie curved (my own personal nemisis) when at the frog, in the middle, at the tip? If I begin with a curved pinkie, can I feel when it straightens? If I reapproach my bow grip, is it better?
4) Can I maintain a smooth tone?

Again, through the martial arts, I've learned that it is possible to feel fine muscle movements when going slow and closing my eyes, things totally missed when using our eyes and/or moving at normal speed.
Thanks for the idea!

September 18, 2019, 11:52 AM · Sometimes when working specifically on shifting or intonation I practice with my eyes closed. I'd stop short of saying that it's a good habit in general, but it doesn't seem to have hurt me and does seem to help, at least in this (narrow?) context. YMMV, of course.
Edited: September 18, 2019, 1:15 PM · I like to close my eyes sometimes when I practise. It helps me focus.
Edited: September 18, 2019, 1:40 PM · I can honestly say that in the past 70 years I have not looked at my violin or viola when playing - except if I hear something that has gone terribly wrong and must see why. All of my playing is done reading music and that is where my eyes must focus. More than 70 years I cannot recall but I suspect it must have been the same because that is when I was learning to sightread.

Cello is something else and while I can play the lowest octave of each string by "feel" once I am in thumb positions a glance at my hand on the fingerboard can be helpful from time to time and it is within my peripheral vision when reading music - even after 70 years.

Frankly, other than checking your bowing straightness and "sounding point" I don't know what one can actually see of fingers on the fingerboard except for those who play using a very high chinrest - and I would find it strained my neck to look at my fingerboard with any constancy because my arms are very long and my instruments point rather far to the left.

Edited: September 18, 2019, 4:11 PM · I sometimes close my eyes when playing from memory. It makes no difference to me.

I only look at my viola while practicing if I'm practicing some aspect of technique, such as soundpoint, bow distribution, or left hand mechanics, and want to see what I'm doing and what may need correction. When playing in ensembles, my eyes are already going back and forth between the music, the conductor (if an orchestra), and other musicians. There's no time to look at my viola.

September 18, 2019, 4:11 PM · Although not even near his 70 years, I'm completely with Andrew. To be honest, I even have to force myself from time to time to look towards the bridge for checking soundpoint or the direction the bow goes, especially when practicing long slow bows or doing bow steering exercises. Looking down the fingerboard is completely pointless for me and even worsens my intonation - maybe because the visual input interferes with the acoustic, and I don't rely anymore on my ears only?
I prefer looking at the music, at the conductor when in orchestra, keeping eye contact with fellow musicians when playing chamber music, or with the audience if there happens to be some, or just at a random point in the room (e.g. while practicing scales, and other drills). It opens up so many options of communication if you don't have to look down the instrument. And you rarely have to, except a shot check now and then if everything is "in place". I've never tried completely "blindfolded", but this is what I'm doing most of the time anyway. I don't think it would make much difference, as long as I wouldn't have to read music or had to communicate via visual contact. When polishing on something that I already know well (like the Bach double on violin, or the Maerchenbilder on viola - yeah, finally I dared to approach them!) I enjoy doing this in the darkness of a silent evening, lights off.
Note that I'm a late starting adult amateur, not much more than 3 years in, with a 60+hrs daytime (plus nigttime) job, two kids, and anything else but a genius. So I suppose there isn't anything extraordinary about this, but that it's rather common and applies to almost anybody.
September 18, 2019, 5:29 PM · I thought that to play with the eyes closed was to enhance the other senses for playing music on an instrument, and to maintain focus, because if you're just looking around the practice room anything may catch your eye and distract your attention.

With the sight decommissioned one can give more focus to developing the faculty of listening for pure intonation, and the imagery of patterns made over the entire fingerboard.

Of course the music must be memorized, and once achieved one could also try playing and reading the newspaper, that'll test your muscle memory.

September 19, 2019, 3:43 AM · Andrew, I do the same thing. Eyes are at the music, unless something is wrong
September 19, 2019, 11:36 AM · I practice late at night so it's usually the opposite problem of keeping my eyes open.
September 19, 2019, 12:59 PM · Paul nailed it again.


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