Feedback on tone in Gigue from Bach Partita No. 2

December 12, 2017, 11:04 AM · I'm an amateur violinist in high school, and I've been playing for a little under three years now. I'm working on a few movements of solo Bach right now, and I'm having some issues with the Gigue from Partita No. 2. I was hoping that I could get some feedback on my playing.

I recorded the first half of the Gigue, which I can play comfortably from memory. I'm not playing it for any sort of audition, but I'd like to bring it up to a respectable level regardless. I'm focusing on the right hand for now, but all advice is greatly appreciated.

One of my biggest issues right now that I'm attempting to fix is that I find my tone on the A and E strings to be very shrill. I'm using a full set of Pro-Arte strings since my Gold Label E broke, and I think that's part of the problem, but I sound fine in slow melodic pieces. Does anyone have any tips on how I could get a deeper and richer sound in the sixteenth note runs on the upper strings?

Also, are there any particular exercises that I should be doing to try to eliminate the unwanted noises during string crossings?

Thanks in advance!

Replies (7)

Edited: December 12, 2017, 12:42 PM · Disclaimer: I am an amateur. I am not a violin teacher.

Okay well! For three years in, you're doing fine! Since you asked about tone, all I can say is that you should take the tempo down and focus on playing maybe a little lower in the bow and a little deeper into the string, without wandering close to the fingerboard. That's the advice that my own teacher gave me when I studied this piece years ago. Look at your part and see the places where there are three-note slurs. Concentrate on working your bow back a little more toward the frog before each one of those slurs (especially those you want to play forte) so that you can draw more bow through those -- so that's a bow distribution issue.

As far as your string crossings, you practice them individually by stopping right before each one and learning to coordinate your LH precisely for each one -- one by one, very tedious work but it will pay off in whatever you play in the future.

Make sure your violin is well in adjustment. If you are not getting the tone you want in the treble, you might need a different E string, or you might need your soundpost moved a little. That's not DIY stuff.

I know you're not LH focused right now but slow down and work on the intonation in the sequence that takes you into 3rd position and then 2nd position, because your shifts are not accurate. OK, I realize you know that already. Dont studies are good for working around among 1st, 2nd, and 3rd position. (I think it's Dont Op. 37, but there is some of that in Kayser too). Another really good workout is to play Kreutzer No. 2 entirely in second position. That's in C major so it's close enough to your home key for the Bach Gigue that it'll be applicable.

December 12, 2017, 1:08 PM · Have you used a metronome extensively on this?
December 12, 2017, 3:25 PM · I wish I was a much of a natural as you are, I certainly wan't anywhere close to that after three years. You look very relaxed and your right arm is fluid--this is all very good.

Slow metronome work, as Erik suggested, is a great idea. That will allow you to train your reflexes to a greater level of precision, which will improve your tone and intonation.

Doing some whole bow exercises as well as string crossings when you warm up would be very helpful, as well as some scales (accelerated like Galamian taught are very good).

As I said, you're clearly talented, so some old fashioned hard work will pay real dividends!

December 12, 2017, 3:46 PM · That is good work, especially for only three years. The biggest problems I see are intonation and a lack of proper coordination between the right and left hands.

On the intonation, I can see that there's quite a bit of tension in your left hand. That pinky! It also looks like you're squeezing the neck. The first joint of your index finger is collapsed. This tension is causing some of your intonation problems- tense fingers are harder to aim. Very, very slow metronome work can also help you hear the intonation misses. Play a note, rest, think the next pitch in your mind, then play it.

Your bow is changing directions before your left hand has put the fingers in place. To break yourself of that habit, it's again, very slow practice. Place your left finger, move the bow. Repeat and gradually get faster. Using advance fingering and leaving fingers down unless you have to move them will also help you be more efficient with your left hand.

December 12, 2017, 6:01 PM · Your intonation is generally good, but could use some work in some places, as others have pointed out. Your A and E strings may be too old as they sound a bit scratchy, your bow hand may be too tense (especially thumb), or you could use slightly more bow in some places. For this piece, I'd stay around the middle of the bow. You don't need the whole bow for this piece because the notes are short. In terms of your string crossings, I would focus on keeping your movements small, quick, and precise with slow practice. Virtually no upper arm motion is needed for a lot of the crossings, especially the small ones. Also, you can practice in rhythms or broken-up sections. What does your teacher think?
December 12, 2017, 10:42 PM · Something that helps with tone in this piece is using a flat bow where possible (rather than tilting the bow one way or another). Try to stay in the middle area of the bow too.
December 13, 2017, 5:30 AM · hi Evan well done, as to your concrete question regarding tone it seems to me you might be playing too close to the fingerboard with a bit too much pressure there so that you are actually crunching your own tone. try playing closer to the bridge and do the tone production exercises in Simon Fischer Basics. keep it going!

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