With the quarantine, last times I found myself recording a lot of my practice sessions, and I found disgusting my face expressions and specially the tongue sticking out, this happens to me a lot while I concentrate, but for me now I hate it, it looks very bad. Do you know some way I can improve in that matter? Also, what do you think about it in general? It's that bad?
Please ignore how bad is this one in tone quality, wasn't the best in tone and the technique but I think it's the most disgusting or exaggerated I could find.
Thanks a lot!
Perhaps memorize the piece and then watch your self play in the mirror. Then restrain your self from making these faces, or change the expressions into smiles.
I've been intermittently trying for decades to stop my mouth gurning in response to the music. It's definitely related to intonation (the bad kind) and trying to apply expression, tends to go away when I'm on auto-pilot. I think it has something to do with the proximity of the violin, so that it effectively becomes an extension of my voice. It looks pretty similar to Santiago in fact, although without the tongue. A conductor did comment on it once, but I've grown to accept it.
I just watched your YouTube video and was the first one to like it out of 26 views. You have put in a lot of hard work and diligent practice to get to where you are and would not worry overly about your facial expressions but if you are unhappy with them then over time you can work on eliminating them. I see Perlman sometimes making similar facial movements and then there is always the famous Maxim Vengerov.
The homunculus is pretty difficult to re-arrange, although with much practice and concentration, you might work with it to get a little better control. The motor system for the hands and face are very tightly bound... you can test it easily: play a piece from memory while reading a book (not hard). Then try the same thing, but try to read out loud (near impossible, at least for me). There's only so much motor capacity available, and if the hands are using it up, random noise operates the face.
Amputation and stroke are very effective ways of reorganizing your cortical homunculus. Less drastically, violinists have been claimed to have an enlarged area of the sensorimotor cortex representing the left hand, presumably thanks to years of practice. So too much playing may be the cause of the adjacent facial area becoming activated!
@Steve: If training "enlarges" the cortex, would that mean that handedness also plays into its size? If so, I wonder how that would affect the potential overlaps for left- vs. right-handed violinists.
@Benjamin. As far as I'm aware those studies of the early noughties haven't been repeated or elaborated and I really couldn't say how handedness might play into it, sorry.
You seemed a bit tense in that video, in the face, but also in the left hand, which was pretty noticeable in your vibrato. It's not something to freak out about, but something you can chip away at slowly during practice. I'm willing to bet that working on any bit of tension will start to release your face more and more, although it could just end up being a harmless tic.
It is pretty hard to stop doing something you are not conscious of. Trying to keep your "tongue" on the palate is one advice that can work, especially during tense passages.
Roger, looks like there was a typo in your response ;)
The simple answer is to practice with your mouth slightly open. In this way you will become aware of involuntary motions your mouth is making and make it possible to stop them somewhat.
Jeewon, I think your post was one of the best summaries on changing habits I’ve seen, absolutely spot on and thanks for sharing this for everyone.
Thanks a lot to all, specially to you, Jeewon! Your help is invaluable, i'm trying my best to get better on that field, and with this i think I'm making a improvement! Now i become more self-conscious and almost everything it happens to me i check it!
Don't you practice in front of the mirror? This is the first condition for the coach who is inside you. Today, even in the role of a mirror, you can use the camera of a smartphone or two smartphones, on both sides.
The example of Augustin Hadelich proves that facial contortions aren't necessarily symptoms of a deeper dysfunction that requires treatment. What you play like is more important than how you look
There is another approach to all this. Decide on a face that you can hold without consuming a lot of bandwidth to do it. Watch a few videos of the fiddler April Verch. She always has the same exact half-smile planted firmly on her face while she's playing. I have no way of asking her, and it would be a weird question to ask a stranger, but I have to wonder whether she does that just so that nobody is ever talking about her facial expressions while she's playing. She has figured out an entirely neutral "expression" that she can hold forever. Smart.
I'm convinced there's more underlying the perniciousness of facial contortions than tension or lack of moral fibre ("Try harder"!). Mapping of the human cortex is anything but a precise science and I suspect there could be considerable inter-individual variation in the degree and extent of overlap, regions that are distinct in some individuals tending to overlap in others. There's certainly some scope for plastic modulation of function, but only to a degree which is limited by the hard wiring of axons. Behavioural therapy (or "practice") may be beneficial to some extent, but we know it can also have the contrary effect since excessive repetitive movements can also give rise to persistent focal dystonias.
I think you are practicing at least 4X faster than you should be, maybe more. And at that slower 1/4 speed (or slower!)you should have time to think of every aspect of what you are doing with your fingers, your bow, and your face. When you can play the piece perfectly at a snail's pace, face included, only then should you gradually speed up. Use a metronome for this.
@Jeewon - I'm not disputing the value of pedagogy (this time..), just trying to understand what's going on. You mention people who can sing and play violin at the same time, but aren't they surprisingly rare? What could be more natural than to harmonise with yourself? I can play and I can sing, but I can't play and sing even the same notes simultaneously. When I play, it seems all the control I normally have over my vocal apparatus goes into playing and my mouth does its own thing. Fortunately it doesn't make noises like Pablo Casals!
What you look like when you're playing the violin doesn't really matter as long as you're not performing in public, up front on the stage.
Steve, any pianist playing polyphony can sing one of the voices and play the rest. If you want, you can start singing "Brother Jacob", accompanying yourself with a drone on an empty string, alternating between singing and playing the tune on violin. This is the very first stage in mastering the coordination between singing and playing.
My point is that it seems to be particularly hard for violinists but I'll get practising! Can anyone here talk at the same time as they're playing?
The problem of talking simultaneously with playing an instrument is related to the fact that each syllable pronounced is the result of a volitional motor impulse that spreads throughout the body (studies by pianist Ferrucho Busoni), which also relates to the rhythm and articulation of speech. In other words, a conversation during playing creates a collision of two volitional rhythmic impulses. On the other hand, we all know from childhood how to talk in any rhythm while walking in a rhythm unrelated to speech. There is a key point: since childhood. In other words: it is desirable to study different types of coordination as much as possible at the earliest age!
"In my experience with violin students trying to get suddenly serious about their studies, it's more often the case they don't actually want to do the hard work it requires. Once they accept the challenge, once they realize change is possible, progress is rapid."
How do you look like, when you play after 100g of brandy? ))))
BTW, walking with talk is an acquired type of coordination, which everyone can learn, but which not everyone retains until deep old age. For example, my late father at 90 could either have a conversation or walk, but not both at the same time.
My face is pretty amusing while playing difficult passages. Once while playing at a bluegrass open stage, I looked out into the audience and saw my wife sticking her tongue out at me. I took the hint and pulled mine back in.
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