Hi, my name is Liam. I am currently working on the Bruch Violin Concerto No. 1, first movement, and my teacher wanted me to criticise my own playing. Well, it is a lot harder than I thought; it is hard to pick what’s wrong since it is what I play after all.
My dad told me about this forum and suggested I post my video here for feedback. So here goes, please criticise my playing! I want to improve so don’t hold back!
1) Too much Rubato in the beginning leads to an aimless, wandering phrase.
2) Use a bit more time before big jumps so you can land them more accurately.
3) When the runs start at 4:05, you need to stay focused on what the bow is doing. You're too committed to figuring out the left hand there, and as a result your tone starts to get weak and uncommitted.
But on the whole, it's worth mentioning that I think it's good playing and I doubt I could do better!
1) For the most part intonation was pretty good. This makes the spots where it is not very obvious. Identify those and clean them up. It shouldn't be too hard.
2) Your improvisatory sections (beginning and end) need a little work with shaping. They tend to be a little self-indulgent. The beginning and end lack a fluidity in the line, as they are too segmented with too much rubato. They are overall a little slow as well. As others have mentioned, watch the slides. Rubato means to give and take. You are taking way more than you give. Think about pushing the faster notes forward and saving the time taking for musically important spots.
3) I can tell you definitely have not played this with orchestra and maybe not a lot with piano as well. Some of your choice throughout will not work timewise when you are playing with other players. Your fast sections have to be relatively well in time in order to play with a whole orchestra.
4) The slow section in the middle is too slow for my taste. I would also work on your legato (and its connection to vibrato) in this section. Instead of making a long line, your notes to kind of fade in and out. Think about making one really long line and shape the long line instead of shaping every single note.
5) Overall, you play with very nice, clean technique. Your runs are clear, your string crossings are clear, and they tend to be even. Your sound is good and your vibrato quite nice.
@Susan, I am 13. Playing since around 5-6 years old, with around 1hr practice daily, a little more recently.
From the discussion, the key problem seems to be intonation. I have to confess that this is a weak point for me. I have been avoiding scales for most part of my violin journey. In fact, I have played more scales since I changed my teacher 6 lessons ago, than the last 8 years combined! So I do not have a sharp/keen hearing on the pitch, and when I do hear the error, as @Bruce puts it, it is not quite easy for me to hit the spot. A lot of basic things I need to re-learn, and I will work harder on this point.
@Buri, my dad placed an order for Simon’s “Scales” from Amazon!
My new teacher advocates variety (@David will love him). In the short 1-2 months, he had taught me more on interpretation and many things to color my tone and playing (e.g. playing certain alternate notes off, in an ascending passage to make it sound more interesting). He would ask me to play a passage in a certain way in one lesson, and ask me to play the same passage differently at home, and discuss with him on the next lesson.
Self-critic is key for him but it is hard for me… I just play. Now, I want to know (and able to tell) if I am using the “tools” that he has given me in a right manner and at the right time. Changes in my playing should not be a random thing.
There are many things and thoughts discussed here that are new to me, at least, not something I pay attention to consciously. E.g. the musical line that @Susan mentioned, the slides that @Paul pointed out, or the rubato that @Erik/@Susan picked up, or even the habit of bow-racing that @Buri and @Helen caught me doing (btw, I call it poise :).
You all have given me a lot to think about, and help to put some concepts and things-to-look-for when I played in a certain way. Thank you!
(By drones, I mean a constant pitch in the background while you play...generally the ideal note to drone for scales is the key you're in, e.g. A for A Major)
Erik mentions drones, and they can be helpful as a start to get the idea of blending a note of the scale with the drone. This can only be done slowly. Listen for the best blend before you go on. (Singing in a choir will help with that.)
There is another thread running right now on intonation with some very good comments about intonation and tone. It's important that after working with a drone you'll make the resonating strings of your violin become your drone. Listen hard.
Also, in those passages where you really stand out in a performance such as the largamente and following entrance, practice the notes as if they are part of a scale so that you hear the interval of a scale (a 2nd, a 5th, a 4th etc.). For example, are you really playing an octave in bar 50? What important interval is that in bar 48? What is the interval between the F in bar 45 and the E in 46 and finally the D that get's repeated (always the same MHz D) in 48, 49, 50? Some harmonic understanding will help you play more in tune.
Liam's pitch bothers me a lot. A lot of notes aren't so out of tune that I'd remark on it to an intermediate-level student, for instance, but at this Bruch level, intonation not only has to be consistently correct, but artistic (harmonically aware).
It's not just the high notes that are out of tune. Many notes in lower registers and even in 1st position are not adequately in tune. It's sufficient that I found the intonation really distracting, since so many notes aren't quite right.
Also, in many cases, those out-of-tune notes get held and not corrected, suggesting that Liam isn't hearing that they're out of tune (otherwise he'd instinctively slide to correct or alter his vibrato to mask the pitch issue). That's especially worrying when the pitch is an A, D, or G, where the sympathetic resonance (or lack thereof) with the open string should be a red flag.
Liam, I suggest that you go back and listen to this video. Can you hear how much you're out of tune? If you can, you "just" need to slow down and be more careful as you're practicing -- slow it down, imagine every pitch in your head, make sure you're correctly matching those pitches.
If you can't (and I suspect this is the case at least part of the time, based on those held out-of-tune notes), try taking a pitch discrimination test, like the one at ToneDeafTest.com. You want your pitch discrimination to be 3 cents or less. Ideally as an advanced violinist, your pitch discrimination would allow you to differentiate accurately at a 1 cent interval. You gain this from consistently paying attention to pitch -- it's a function of your brain's audio processing, not physical hearing.
A young student can enter V.com, and after a thorough array of psychological batteries, learn that they're actually hopelessly insane.
Firstly, because in pretty much all music, with the exception of solo Bach, we are tuning to *another* instrument. We aren't listening for the ringing tones as much as we are harmonically matching to whomever else is playing.
Secondly, a drone is a *constant* source of pitch reference that is immediately obvious. Having to stop and check every single note with an open string is a great way of wasting practice time, although admittedly it is a nice strategy for forcing a person to slow down. Most of the time, we'll get a lot more done if we have the constant drone, especially because it allows us to match the intonation to a whole phrase, as opposed to just each individual note. Basically, it allows us to see either the "trees" or the "forest" depending on what we want to see at that given moment. Checking with open strings only allows us to see the "trees".
Thirdly (and perhaps most relevantly in this case), drones help to fix "wandering intonation", where a player's relative sense of pitch can be thrown off if they miss one note, because their ear is now going to use that wrong note as the reference for the next note. A good example of "wandering intonation" is when a student tries a 3-octave scale for the first time. They might start on a C, but end up on a C# by the time they reach the top of the scale, since each slightly off note leads to the next one being even more off. Little by little, they wander until they end up changing the entire basis of the scale.
Lots of chromatic scales will also help with the "wandering" intonation issue since assuming you've correctly learned the fingering , you should recognize the tonic at beginning middle and end. I've also caught myself wandering a few times while practicing thirds if I finger it without the open string.
Could this be about needing to reform your practice strategies? What I'm hearing isn't really a failure to recognize pitches, but a call to fix issues in a dedicated way during practice sessions. Sloppiness could become a habit if you're not constantly pushing yourself.
I see this happening when a student is cramming a lot of music, or practicing by rote, or simply not putting in the time.
This comment applies also to rhythm and tempo in some passages. Have you tried practicing with a metronome or accompaniment app? It sounds like you've been playing by yourself in a vacuum. Keep in mind that there is an orchestra or pianist with whom you're partnering. Metronome work is tedious, but it's fundamental and will improve the impression you make with your audience.
I recommend Sassmanshaus's videos (violinmasterclass.com) on intonation, including how to work on a piece from the beginning and increasing the tempo with a metronome. Warning that the advice will be to start at such a slow tempo that the rhythmic relationships among the notes are irrelevant.
Still though, I'm a little sad the thread has derailed into this. I hope the young OP doesn't feel bad reading all this, because I feel like some people are making the problem a somewhat bigger deal than it is even though I know working on intonation is super important, and doing it effectively is crucial.
And I agree with you. Intonation is a big issue, but so are a lot of things. Over all, he's on the right track and now just needs to fine tune his performance. Kudos to him for sticking his neck out. Recording yourself, being accurate, and then sticking yourself on a public forum, is not easy.
Liam, if I understand the assignment correctly, your teacher wanted YOU to develop your own ideas and opinions, and it sounds like you are being asked to listen to yourself with more detail. That's really the key to teaching yourself. You're totally talented, and you'll do just fine.
What's the point of trying to drink through this firehose? I still think that it misses the point of the assignment, and I think that this forum has misapprehended its own capability to take on duties best left to a teacher.
I'm of the mind that teenagers that are posting and looking for feedback are either pretty good, and mostly just need a kind word so that they can keep going on their path, or they are pretty delusional, in which case I'm not the one to burst their bubble (or perhaps I unfortunately have been in the past). Master teachers in masterclasses are far more circumspect in their advice than this thread is.
Don't mind my deep skepticism/optimism. Skeptimism.
All kidding aside, I guarantee the OP is smart enough to be able to sort through the extraneous info here. Take some, leave most, and gain some insight in the process. It's often useful to know what other people think, even if you don't intend to take their advice.
I used a link to the first one that I found that might fit the bill, but I didn't go through the test myself. If someone else has a suggestion for an alternative pitch-discrimination test it would certainly be appreciated by many, I'd bet.
I think a student looking for feedback at this level should receive the most honest feedback available. None of this is meant unkindly.
Going back earlier in the thread, the finger-patterns-in-a-key exercise that Buri mentioned is Basics #255. I love that exercise. I often use it in lieu of playing scales, because I find doing things that are intervalic is more useful for my intonation than the stepwise sequence of a scale.
Fischer's recommendation for how to work on scales, though, is terrific. You start by playing just the tonic. Then you add the fourth and fifth, since they are perfect intervals. Then the third and seventh, since they are treated like leading tones. Then the second and sixth, where you have more discretion.
Because the brain will throw away pitch-discrimination information if it isn't important, routinely not paying attention to the precision of your intonation teaches your brain to ignore small pitch differences, so you literally cannot really hear yourself out of tune. I took a decade-long break from the violin, and it took a full year for my pitch discrimination to fully return -- even though I have perfect pitch. During that year I really needed to pay close attention, and even then I sometimes couldn't tell if I was too high or too low, though I could tell I was off. So Liam, you might have some difficult months ahead of you as you try to make your brain pay proper attention.
But you're already a solid enough player that this kind of detail matters. (It's great that your teacher is trying to help you learn to critique yourself.)
You say you have switched teachers only six lessons ago before posting, so a matter of weeks, and that you have already played more scales than you have all your life.
Sounds like the teacher has immediately pegged an area in which there is great room for improvement, and already has a plan to help you improve, playing scales and arpeggi as so many have recommended. But it appears that you have not quite figured out yet how to apply what you’re learning by practising scales to your playing, how to translate it into clearer intonation.
I think your teacher wants you to learn to listen, really listen to yourself.
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There's an obvious slide in the first phrase, from the Bb to the D. I know this is late Romantic-era music, but you're executing this particular slide on a bow change, which means it's an affectation (purposeful, rather than organic). Are you sure you want that? I heard another one at 1:52. I'm not saying all slides are bad, but when you bear down on your bow at the same time, it's kind of "in-your-face." I thought the one at 2:20 was tasteful, also at 3:15 and 3:20.
Around 4:00, just when things started to get hairy, you lost your sound point. My suggestion is: When things get tough, don't let your scroll drop. Your bow will surely follow. In general your scroll could be higher. Look at your sound point at 4:30. That's high-intensity bariolage, and you wanted a more aggressive sound point. Toward 4:40 you recovered some.
Your vibrato sounds very full-throated and lush. Well, it's good that you can do that, but be mindful not to overvibrate in softer passages. I heard this some in the beginning of the piece but then I didn't notice it so much later on.
You have an admirable technical command. You know the high notes, octaves, and chords that were not in tune -- I don't need to point them out to you. Work on your octaves, you will need them again for Mendelssohn. Scales and chromatic scales in octaves will help. Sixths, too, for this piece.
I know what my teacher would say: Don't rock back and forth so much with your whole body when you play. You're consuming energy to do that, and it can't be good for your overall physical balance. Better physical balance will make your shifts more secure. Make sure your overall stance is very solid with your feet well separated and your knees slightly bent so that you can be the athlete you need to be for this task.
As well as you're playing this piece, you should have it memorized.
Again, nice playing overall. You have the makings of a fine violinist.