New Violin Book

After the success of the “How to Play Violin”. .comes a deeper study.  More philosophical in nature, more in depth in physics, for those who wish to understand the “why.”


Let me ask you a question. Do you think, that, in order to learn violin you have to study the “X” method? Do you think you have to learn the methods of Professor “Y?” You are wrong. You need to think and you need to move, be able to move, your body the correct way. And, of course, you must be able to sing the music you wish to play, in your head.
The idea of things being small, of things being separated, is a modern invention. An animal does not use its “wrist”, a cat does not walk on it’s paws, it uses it’s whole body. This is the same for little cats and big cats. Violinists should do the same.

There is no such thing as bowing. No such thing as the “Left Hand” or the “Right Hand.” There is only intention.
Most violinist use far too much bow. Sawing away as if they wished to cut the violin in two. This is not violin playing. It certainly does not sound like real violin playing. Real violin playing is economy of movement. You only move what you need to make the sound you wish to make. And there is the problem. In order to make the sound you wish to make you must first know what kind of sound you wish to make. It must be heard before moving the bow, before using the violin. You must hear it in your head. You must be able to sing it. Then, and only then, can you learn to move your arms in such a way as to implement the sound you heard in your head. And for this you must be relaxed enough to let your body do what is needed.

This, and only this, is the biggest “secret” of every famous teacher, of every famous Conservatoire of Music, for every instrument. It is not about how to move the bow, how to hold the violin, how to place the fingers of the left hand – it is all about how well you hear, how much you can relax and how well you can visualize the music and make the visualization become sound.

The human body is very smart. The unconscious mind is far, far more powerful than the conscious mind. Every “mind-doctor” knows this. This is the secret of “the secret” and visualization techniques now used by Olympic sportsmen- and women throughout the world. What you can imagine is what you can do. There are no other limits. Why does a Heifetz exist? Because he is faster? Because he has more talent? Because he worked harder? Perhaps it is the working harder, combined with a greater trust in his body to deliver the goods when needed. Training, practice, is just telling the body what you are going to want. It is telling the body to be prepared to respond to your wishes. What will those wishes be? That depends on the music, and the moment. Why is he faster? Maybe he just wanted to be. Maybe that is just how he imagined music to be? It is who he was.

If you wish to play violin well then you must exercise. Why? Because the body works better with exercise. It really is that simple. If you do ten or twenty minutes of Tai Chi Quigong exercises before playing the violin then the “physical” difficulties will disappear. Why? Because your mind is bored with your body. Your body no longer rules your mind. After Quigong you feel energized and alive. Why Tai Chi Quigong? Because it promotes balance, and works. Because it is like violin playing. You cannot use force to achieve a movement. The movements follow from intention and by doing you learn how to do.

As a young adult hoping to enter the Conservatoire you must go home. You have been studying here for a year. You know you must leave and climb that long hill to your house. It is far. It is raining. You do not want to climb up that hill. You check your locker before you leave. There is a letter for you. You have been accepted. You start in September on a scholarship to the Conservatoire. The letter tells you that you have everything you wanted. You want to jump up and down with joy. And you cannot wait to get home to tell the others. You must tell somebody! Suddenly it does not matter that it is uphill. That is is raining. You run. The hill is nothing. You are not out of breath. You love the rain. You know it cannot stop you as you run and run and run with joy! This is mind over matter in practice. This is Quigong and violin playing. Right now, you could play anything and you know it.


The Zen of Violin Playing.
William Stewart.



Violin Lesson 1

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!
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How to Improve you Violin Playing Fast! Amazon

Improve your Violin Playing Fast

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Did you ever feel there is never enough time to get all the practice done that you want to do? Here are the most important things you should be doing.
First of all:
Write down your weakest points.You must be really honest here! And be as detailed as you can.
For instance, if you think your bowing arm is weak, or a certain stroke, then write this down, and if you can, what you think is wrong with it.
Does your vibrato need work? Is it wobbly and weak? Write that down.

Continue until you have written down all of your most important weaknesses.

Next, decide how much time you have, really, to practice each day.

Write down everything you wish to practice. This will include your weakest points from above!

Now for the most important things you should be practicing each day:

1) Scales. Yes, everyone hates scales, but that is because mostpeople practice them the wrong way. Scales are a brilliant way to totally control every aspect of your playing. They are not just empty repetitions – they are musical ladders, leading to the heights of control.

Practice your scales very slowly! Really slowly! And play them as if they were (which the are) units of music. Scales are found in every type of music – play them as music! Practice in as many octaves as you feel comfortable to play – ie, start with one, then move on to two, then three etc.

Play your scales with long , slow bows, one note to a bow, then, at the most 4 notes to a bow.
Listen to your sound, and take note where things “go wrong”.

Listen to your intonation. Hear the notes before putting your fingers down. As you are playing really slowly this will be possible. “Aim” your fingers to match the sound in your head – and if the note is out of tune, take off your finger, “hear” the note again, and try again until you get it right.

Sing everything you play!  And if you can’t, for any reason, sing out loud, then sing internally – but sing you must!
Playing the violin is just using that instrument to express the music you have inside. You have to get that music onto the violin. If you cannot hear your own music how can you expect to transfer it to the violin?
Divide up your practice time into short segments covering all your weaknesses. Even if you then only have five minutes per weakness, practicing 5 minutes every day, slowly, will improve your playing much faster than doing one hour of work where you are not listening, singing and correcting everything you play.
Try to get through all your weak points once per day, and if you cannot, then start the next day where you left off.
Listen, concentrate, and never, ever, just play without directing your every move. In time these moves will become more and more automatic and your playing will improve greatly.
Leave at least 10 minutes at the end of every practice session for just playing. In this last session, after all the work is done, you get 10 minutes to “play”. In this session you don’t worry about anything other than expressing yourself. Try if you can to play with a backing
track – there are many, many of those, midi and audio, for free on the internet.

Play along in time to the track and have a good time. And in time your hard work will bear fruit. Intonation will improve as will co-ordination and sound.
Then you will be playing the violin!

1) Long slow bows.
2) Keep the bow parallel to the bridge.
3) Make as even a sound as you possibly can, with the same speed of bow from frog to tip to frog.
4) “Hear” the bow change. Don’t try to change the bow, let it happen because your ears demand it.
5) Be aware of any tension and relax it. In time this will become automatic.
6) Enjoy you playing. Violin playing is a pleasure, not a chore.
Have fun!

Session Violinist for hire


Internet session work as a violinst. If you would like me to play violin on a track or song, please contact me here:

Classical training and experience, over 40 years of music,  I can improvise to anything.

Contact and rates at above link.