Let’s Get to Work

For all the good advice about musicianship and technique available today, one of the most powerful lessons a student can learn is how to train his or her own mind – in other words, how to practice.

There is little mystery in the process of developing a solid violin technique.  Famous pedagogue Ivan Galamian referred to the training of a young violinist as being a “scientific” process, meaning the fundamental skills could be analyzed and broken down into teachable elements.  My own teacher, Michael Frischenschlager, noted in his treatise that the countless young virtuosi at today’s international violin competitions stand as evidence that an astonishing technique can be deliberately and systematically trained by anyone willing to undergo such deliberate and systematic training!

It is a teacher’s job to share correct techniques of playing – a map and path up the mountain – but it is the student’s job to summon the mental will and vigor to complete the training.

It is not necessarily in our nature Continue reading

Practice, Practice, Practice!

Every violinist knows that practice, practice, practice – followed by more practice – is essential to making solid progress.

My own teacher, Michael Frischenschlager, often said, “It all begins with practicing.”  The daily ritual of taking the instrument out of its case, warming the fingers, finding one’s beautiful sound, spending time with the gorgeous repertoire – this is like an incubator for the musician’s soul.  Whatever wonderful ideas we have – whether how to hear the intonation in the exposition of Beethoven’s Violin Concerto, an idea for an interesting performance project, or a new concept of inner pulse in unaccompanied Bach – these ideas only flourish in our minds if we spend daily quality time with the music and our instruments.

For the sake of this post, we will allow practicing to include not only the time consuming work of analyzing and overcoming technical obstacles in the repertoire, but also Continue reading

Dont Op 37 No 5

The fifth etude in Jakob Dont’s Op 37 deals with a particular type of left hand stability and finger preparation.  It is very useful for developing secure and accurate intonation, especially in passages with awkward fingerings and unusual keys or accidentals which, without training, may destabilize a player’s concept of pitch.  Because of this, it is essential to prepare both the left hand technique and the ear while studying this etude.

Finger Preparation, a Special Example

In the very first measure, we encounter an example of finger preparation which will return many times in this etude.  With the hand securely in second position, Continue reading

Dont Op 37 No 3

The third etude in Dont’s Op 37 poses its primary challenge to the bow arm: long, sweeping bow strokes that flow from the E-string, back to the G-string, and up to the E-string again, all under one stroke, with many string crossings along the way.  To play this etude smoothly and with a good Allegretto feeling, it is necessary to combine the intricacies of sting crossing at the various parts of the bow with an overall feeling of freedom and forward motion in the long bow stroke.

First, however, as with most etudes, it is necessary to secure a comfortable left hand position and solid intonation.  This will be a foundation upon which to gradually build up the tempo and apply the bow techniques.

Left Hand and Intonation – A Solid Foundation

According to Galamian’s Principles of Violin Playing and Teaching, Continue reading