Tuesday, August 30th, 2011
Here is a quick, no nonsense finger stretching warm-up that allows you to start playing immediately with greater safety and confidence.
Less advanced violinists should simplify this exercise by placing all fingers on the same string.
Remember to take it easy as you begin, no over stretching allowed.
If you start with small easy stretches, your hand will gradually tell you when you can reach out just a bit more.
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Tuesday, August 16th, 2011
If one were fortunate enough to study with well known violinist and teacher,Raphael Bronstein, one heard many, many times during the lesson, “No, no, Z note! Z note! Z note before”!
As New York professionals, we used to laugh and tease each other with this well known quote from lessons with the master.
But what a difference this advice made in our playing!
When we became aware of exactly what Professor Bronstein was trying to do with such persistence, our performance changed dramatically for the better.
What is ‘Z note’?
- ‘Z note before’ is first encountered in our shifting from one position to another. Because we are never exactly sure of where our finger will land in the new position, we tend to shorten the duration of the note before the shift
- Professor Bronstein would insist that we consciously lengthen ‘Z note before’ ever so slightly or perhaps even accent ‘Z note’ with the bow. Increasing the left hand finger pressure on ‘Z note’ was another option that also helped. If we were able to really focus on ‘Z note before’,the shift magically became so much easier. We began to feel better, sound better, and even finally identify when we were ignoring ‘Z note’
- We gradually became more sensitive to other examples of ‘Z note’. How about ‘Z note’ before the string crossing? ‘Z note’ before the bow change? ‘Z note’ before the sudden change in dynamics? ‘Z note’ before the dreaded fourth finger? These new possibilities all opened up more technical control and gave us increased ability to shape the musical phrase the way that we wanted.
‘Z note before’ … three very powerful words.Professor Bronstein’s simple formula continues to give us the ability to take control of our basic performance anxiety and create better music.
Listen to Z note before, share and enjoy!
Tuesday, August 2nd, 2011
When we don’t want to be heard …
Maybe we are in the Green Room surrounded by all those ‘great’ violinists, maybe we are waiting for an audition or lesson, or everyone in the house is asleep, or maybe we have just started to practice and can’t stand to listen to ourselves before we get our bearings.
We could start to tune the violin quietly at the tip like the polite pros do to get the feel …
or maybe we can just start silently with …
That Important Up Bow
- Gently rest the bow at the tip on A string. Did it bounce when you put it down? Do it again until it behaves itself and you are in complete control. Check that the bow is parallel to the bridge.
- Now, lift the bow and put it down at the middle on the same string, the same distance from the bridge as before. Check that the bow has remained parallel to the bridge.
- Again, lift and rest the bow at the frog. Without turning your head, can you see or almost see the tip of the bow or … is it closer to your left ear?
What went Up bow must come Down bow
- Lift the bow again, returning to the middle of the bow.But before you complete the down bow … remember that the upper arm will move forward as you move to the tip.
- As the bow rests once more at the tip, is the bow still parallel to the bridge? If not, go back to the middle and repeat that challenging motion from middle to tip, watching the elbow closely until you see how your arm must move to maintain a parallel bow.
Onward, Upward and Downward
Try this on your other strings as well. If your arm is too short to go all the way to the tip, don’t worry, just adjust according to your arm length and stop short of the end of the bow.
If you repeat this simple 2 minute exercise when you first pick up your instrument, you will automatically program your bow to move correctly for the remainder of your practice. And if you have more than two minutes … you can have some fun deciding where you will touch down next, maybe in the middle on G, then at the tip on E, wherever you determine … go for it.
If someone is watching, all the better. They will know you are practicing fine bow control and be a bit envious.
Your real reward will be a beautiful sound as well as greater confidence in your control of your bow. Enjoy!
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