William Stewart Violinist, theviolinist, and Ian James Stewart improvise some blues.
Today I took posession of a violin for a review. It came all the way from Singapore, arrived in excellent condition, and, I was really surprised at the quality!
It is a “cheap” chinese-made violin, but they have obviously made progress these days!
Anyhow, I now need to make a promo video, which will be a pleasure to do!
Here is a picture of the violin.
Are you happy with your bowing. Is your arm is “tight” and does your sound suffer? Is not a great sound the basis of all music – and violin playing?
If you are unhappy with your sound how do you change this? You practice your scales, your studies, and sometimes things actually sound better. Then you go on to practice your pieces and somehow it all breaks down.
What do you do?
The answer lies, as usual, in slow practice with attention. Obvious you say. So how do you actually practice and what? Would it not be great to have a continual line of progress, to finish your violin practice knowing that you have actually achieved something instead of the empty feeling of having spent the last hour or so for no audible improvement?
Well you can achieve this rather easily, if you can concentrate and practice 100% awareness in everything you play and practice.
This awareness, coupled with slow practice is what you will learn at all the best academies of music and from the best violin teachers. When the great Russian violinist David Oistrakh was asked the secret of his legendary sound and control he said it was quite simply down to slow practice.
Simply playing everything at half speed is, however, just as much a complete waste of time as any other wrong practice.
Do you sing your music? Including your scales? All the great violin teachers are famed for making their students sing all their music. Even if you have no great voice you will be able , or should be able, to hear everything you play in your head. This is, after all, violin playing. You use the violin to express your music. Your music exists, (or should do!) in your mind before you even touch an instrument and you use your chosen instrument to express it.
So. Here the first exercise, and one that you will continue to employ no matter how “good” you become.
I call it the “long-slow-bow”.
In the beginning this will probably seem like a complete waste of time. This will probably be because it needs a massive amount of attention and concentration. That is also why it is so very effective!
Take any note, (later you can do this on scales and can choose a new scale each day) and starting at the heel of the bow draw a long slow down-bow – right to the tip of the bow.
Sounds easy? Well, now do it again, and this time decide a tempo and a count before you even put the bow to the string, ie count of 8 at 60bpm.
Now play that same long slow bow. Did you arrive at the tip too soon? Did you run out of bow? Did you decide whether you wanted to play ff or p? Did you want a diminuendo as you arrived at the tip? As you can see, there are many things to think about even in one long slow bow!
Start again. Think of the sound you wish to make before you play, and then try to make it. And repeat until you can do it perfectly.
Try it with different dynamics, from ff to pp, from pp to ff. Imagine that that one long slow bow is the last note of a piece of music, or the lead into something else. Use you imagination all the time, and never, ever, just put the bow on the string and wait for what comes out. You are in control, or should be, and mindful practice is the only type of practice that will eventually improve your violin playing!
Only try to do this for about 15 minutes maximum each time at the beginning – because it is very tiring if your mind is not trained to concentrate!
You can, however, repeat this several time per day – indeed it is very advantageous to do so.
Relax! Remember, as the great Hungarian violinist and teacher once said: “Violin playing is either easy, or impossible.”
That’s it for the first lesson. I hope you enjoyed this little mini-lesson, and, more next time!