So what do you make of my Dvorak?

November 19, 2017, 10:08 AM · Hi v.commers, I'd welcome your thoughts on how I'm playing the 1st movement of the Dvorak Sonata - I have a long list of thoughts of my own, but will keep them to myself for now!

You can find the score here for reference (I know it's not quite part of the "everyone knows this" core repertoire)

Thanks! :)

Replies (10)

November 19, 2017, 11:21 AM · I can't give you specific tips on this particular piece, as I don't know it. In general, your intonation could use some work. More vibrato would be needed for a performance situation. In terms of bowing, you can work at getting a bigger, fuller sound. Some potential things that may be wrong include:
- not using the lower half of the bow
- playing too close to the fingerbord
- crooked bow
- playing too far from the bridge
- more weight on the strings
November 19, 2017, 2:23 PM · Your notes all need to be more deliberate, both long ones and short ones, with more distinction through a percussive action of the left hand in the faster runs and more soundpoint control in the longer notes. I also feel like your bow distribution isn't properly planned out (perhaps you need to change some slurs?), so that a lot of the time you get "stuck" or "forced" into using less bow on a particular note, and thus the volume is overall inconsistent and seems somewhat random. Your sound is almost never "thick" enough, which of course could be due to the bow planning or a variety of other factors.

In a sentence, the best way I can describe it is that your sound seems like you're sight-reading the piece - or that you've simply played from the beginning to the end multiple times in a row in practice sessions, rather than working on the notes in chunks. It seems "diluted." The notes are technically there, but it doesn't seem like a lot of effort has been put into the individual quality of each note or each phrase.

Hope this helps!

Edited: November 19, 2017, 3:06 PM · Disclaimer: I am an amateur.

I enjoyed your playing. It's a lovely piece and you obviously really love it. I wasn't familiar with it but I'm happy to get my introduction to it from your recording. I think it will sound much better with pianist. Works like this generally do.

Your vibrato sounds nervous -- fast but shallow. (I'm sensitive to this because I have the same issue.) And unreliable. Some notes didn't get any.

In the opening line, please work with metronome. It is not rhythmically precise. In particular your triplets sound wrong.

Everyone will say your intonation isn't perfect. Well, you know that already. Besides just generally improving, which is the long-term objective of course, look at the line leading into [B] starting with the C on the E-string at the end of the first page. This is where it becomes noticeable. In the key of F major, the F needs to be low because the E is an open string and the E is your leading tone, which needs to be high relative to the F. So the C needs to be lower too. That is the kind of analysis that you need to apply to the whole piece. Consult Simon Fischer (Basics or Scales) so that you know which tones in a scale should be moved lower vs. higher, and analyze your piece to see where that applies. Work on the section at [O] and [P] where it goes into a lot of flats (is that a minor section?). Just before [R] your C# needs to be closer to your D and your D# closer to your E. Find your leading tones and give them a little lift (sharper). In the third measure of [R] I don't even know if the notes are right.

Articulations need to be more clear ... for example the section between [D] and [E], there needs to be more crispness, even roughness, in your sound. Modern violin playing has an edge to it. At the very end those little staccatos need to be really playful and crispy and tiny.

Look for the longer line. For example at [G], there's a four-measure phrase there. Shape it. Also the four measures leading up to [K] were not musical, but you can make them so.

Leading up to [L] you've got some shifts to clean up.

Again at [M] the reprise melody needs a quicker triplet at the end. You're playing those like ordinary eighth notes.

Overall I agree with Ella that your tone shows some squishiness that comes from playing too far from the bridge and too much in the upper half of the bow. As my teacher always tells me, your tone does not come from your left hand. And I agree with Erik that it sounds like a good start. It's time to break this down into passages and do the slow, difficult work needed to improve them and stitch them back together.

Finally I'd like to say that you're very brave to post your recording here. Thank you for including a link to the score. I admire you for sticking your neck out a little.

November 19, 2017, 5:41 PM · Hi Chris, I like Paul's, Erik's, and Ella's comments above. They seldom play the Dvorak violin concerto on our classical radio station and I have never heard of this violin sonata before. Just want to say that I think you made a fine recording and I enjoyed listening to it.
November 19, 2017, 6:20 PM · Intonation just needs some touching up (slow practice), also I agree the notes could be more determined. Try to make your fingers "ping" onto each note rather than just sliding there.

Continue to emphasise dynamics (I heard you doing it which was good but could be more emphasised) :)

November 20, 2017, 4:22 AM · Thanks all for the comments! Useful stuff!

Re tone, dynamics, and phrasing, I think I have problems sustaining these in this kind of performance situation. The only points where I could feel technical flaws in that area are some of the forte attacks which tense up and don't sound properly. Otherwise I think the problems are in my mind, breathing and overall tenseness rather than in the actual right arm technique. I'm sure Erik's point about planning bow distribution is important as well, I hadn't thought properly about that.

Vibrato - yes, my vibrato isn't technically consistent and then encounters all of the same issues as aspects of phrasing.

Paul - thanks for the detailed reply and for highlighting articulation, hadn't spotted that as an issue!

Intonation - just generally, yes. :)

What did people think about tempo? I think on the whole I was a bit fast. I think naturally the second subject is a little faster than the first subject, but I pushed that too quickly.

Maybe I'll post a video in a few weeks. :D

November 20, 2017, 1:03 PM · Chris, I also have very bad tension problems even when just recording myself. The effect is amplified further when I'm being recorded visually in addition to aurally, because then my thoughts go to how my form looks. This is good for my own improvement because it makes me especially self conscious of my form, but not so good for producing a good-sounding video.

On a relevant note, I have stopped posting update videos for my Bach Fugue in G Minor thread because it has been archived! (I don't know why). I don't want to start a whole new thread just to keep posting updates.

November 20, 2017, 7:58 PM · I have the impression that some threads may get archived when the site is running into performance problems.

You should certainly start a new thread, Erik, and link it to the old one. Your evolving Fugue and the commentary it has elicited has been quite interesting.

November 21, 2017, 1:14 AM · Erik, please start a new thread. I'd love for the updates to continue.

Chris, the first thing I would suggest you work on next would be rhythm with a metronome. Intonation and a fuller tone will take a while to improve (practice scales and arpeggios for intonation ala Simon Fischer and you could advance very quickly with both), but you can make progress with rhythm in a matter of hours or days if you work at it. Right now, as was said, your rhythm is all over the place, especially at marking A with the triplets, although you also significantly cut short some tied notes as well.

November 21, 2017, 3:25 AM · +1 to Erik starting a new thread, I found those videos very interesting (and encouraged me to post this).

So in last night's practice session I focused on slow metronome work, with attention to range of dynamics, phrasing, bow distribution, and articulation. I found like things like starting the first-subject phrase in the middle of the bow, and ensuring that my bow was on the string before making an accent, were making a difference. :)

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