Appreciating the violin and the music - how to help people get interested

Edited: December 22, 2022, 8:42 AM · As a life-long amateur violinist and music lover, I have always gone out of my way to try to find ways to help people listen in such a way that they begin to really appreciate and enjoy this great art form. I have talked to individuals and occasionally given presentations for groups throughout my life.

Of course, this is a real challenge, and I don't pretend to have nearly all the answers, but here are a few things I have found effective.

1. Find the beat. Most people who listen to any kind of music immediately and instinctively look for the beat (usually 2, 3, or 4 to a measure).

2. Look for off-the-beat accents. Most people who like popular music and jazz and folk music are attracted by off-the-beat accents. And many do not realize how much is in classical music. I'll bet you can add a jazz beat to a lot of Bach's music and it will work.

3. Of course, look for the melodies and harmonies and counterpoint, etc.

4. Listen to the violin as if it is a human voice. Often there is a sense of hearing it "speaks."

5. Listen to (and look at) the often incredible technical mastery of the violin in performance. Watch those fingers and that bow.

6. Obviously, give a bit of the history of the piece and of the composer and the violinist.

Anybody have any other ideas?

Replies (11)

December 21, 2022, 9:20 AM · Good suggestions Sander. I would NOT recommend using pop adaptations like those Waldo de los RĂ­os albums. Better to get a beginner hooked onto a few things, but the real stuff, and give them a chance to savour and digest them.
Edited: December 21, 2022, 9:53 AM · I wouldn't presume to tell anyone how to enjoy music since I'm very aware that most of the music the rest of the world enjoys goes straight past me. If somebody asks for guidance on the classics don't get academic with beats, harmony, history etc but suggest something passionate, exciting, awe-inspiring, something that goes for the gut. Please, not "relaxing".
December 21, 2022, 9:58 AM · When doing presentations at schools or senior living centers, I am always pleasantly surprised at how much interest there is in the actual mechanics of a violin. I take a few minutes to explain how the bow causes the string to vibrate, the string causes the bridge to vibrate, the bridge causes the top to vibrate, and the sound post transmits those vibrations to the bottom so that all of the air in the box is vibrating to amplify the sound (versus plucking a rubber band with no amplification). Renaissance technology in action!
December 21, 2022, 1:07 PM · Music, in the most simple terms, is ubiquitous. We live in a world of sonic wallpaper. People hear, but don't listen. They "Know what they like".

Orchestral, Operatic, Chamber is made to be an acquired taste. It takes exposure and sampling. The biggest detractors are those who make some kinds of music either the epitome of music or the trash of music.

As Duke Ellington said: "It it sounds good, it is good!"

Our Violins, Violas, Celli,... are just instruments to make music. People make the music happen. Music speaks to and evokes our emotions.

Even some of the musicians that are held in disdain (Andre Reiu comes to mind as one example) are making music popular including music that is decidedly classical.

We're no longer in the age where both orchestra and audience is dressed in formal attire. The barriers are falling and the prospects opening. "Black Violin" "Two Set" and many others are mingling all the genres of music and opening new audiences.

Invite a person to a concert, get their impressions, and listen to their responses. Become a bit like "Mr. Holland" and show people that the music they already like has classical roots. People like Bach, they just don't know its Bach."

"If it sounds good, it is good!"

December 21, 2022, 1:23 PM · Mary Ellen's comments about the physical and tactile aspects of the violin and their appeal to children remind me of the many stories of Helen Keller enjoying a symphony performance by touching a radio speaker, or a private recital by Heifetz, wherein she touched his violin while he played.

December 21, 2022, 2:03 PM · Thank you all for your interesting responses. Yes, there is something I've found about simply pointing out the beat. A lot of people who don't care for classical music but who love the beat of pop music just don't listen for rhythm when they hear classical pieces. They don't even think it's there.

Sometimes when their attention is called just to the beat or the the syncopated rhythms, then in paying attention to the rhythmic aspect they automatically really listen to the melodies and so forth and then it dawns on them that there is something here worth listening to. I've found that more often than not.

It's not necessarily telling them what to feel, but indirectly calling their attention to something they ordinarily wouldn't pay attention to. And then it's the music or the performance that pulls in their attention.

December 21, 2022, 2:32 PM · We're all just resonating cavities
December 21, 2022, 2:57 PM · Well, I don't know about resonating cavities.

But we each have an enormously complex brain with individualized experiences, strengths, needs, functions, etc. And one highly significant aspect of that brain is its ability to focus its attention. And I believe that sometimes if we can suggest something that someone can focus their attention on, their own inner mental and psychological processes take over and find things about it to understand and appreciate and utilize.

After all, isn't one of things a teacher does is to find ways to help the student focus his or her attention so that the student's motivation to learn and master and appreciate the subject is stimulated?

December 21, 2022, 3:19 PM · Sometimes a teacher can find a way of resonating their chest and vocal chords such that the student will resonate in sympathy, allowing the student to resonate the violin cavity in a way that then resonates the cavity of the performance space so that the audience members' inner ears resonate in a way that produces a resonance in the brain that understands itself to be pleasure.

Vibes all the way down.

December 21, 2022, 8:41 PM · If my daughter's teacher was doing that, we'd be looking for a new teacher.
December 21, 2022, 8:48 PM · Of course, Paul, take your teacher to a luthier if they have wolf tones

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