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In the blog about the violin you can find useful advice related to violin.

Switching from violin to viola

violin to violaLearning to play violin or viola can be very rewarding. Once you learn to play one it is actually simple to become proficient on the other instrument as well. There are just a few minor differences one should know when switching from violin to viola.

The viola is just a bit larger than the violin; the notes are a little farther apart on the fingerboard, so one has to stretch the hand a tad more. However, the finger pattern and positions are the same. The bow is slightly heavier for the viola but you still use the same bow hold.

Perhaps the biggest obstacle one might face when switching from violin to viola is changing the clef. Most people have some familiarity with the treble (or G) clef, which the violin uses, while the viola uses the alto (or C) clef. Some people claim the alto clef is hard to read; actually it is no more difficult to read then the G clef. Like anything in music, you have to practice to master it.

I highly recommend that whatever instrument you decide to play you learn aspects of the other and become a “switch hitter”. The big benefit is you will always be in demand, especially on the viola. Orchestras and chamber ensembles always need viola players, while finding a gig as a violinist may be difficult from time to time, as there always seems to be a glut of violin players, so if you can play both you will always have a place to play.

Both instruments have a rich repertoire. While there is less viola music if you like to play Baroque and Classical Period works, the composers of the Romantic period, such as Berlioz, Dvorak, Brahms, Wagner, Mahler, and Richard Strauss wrote wonderful parts for the viola. During the 20th Century up to the present such composers such as Hindemith, Elgar, Walton, Bartok and Penderecki wrote many beautiful works for the viola. One of the greatest musicians today, Pinchas Zukerman, switches back and forth from both instruments on a regular basis. Whatever instrument you pick to learn, you will gain years of enjoyment, but if you learn both you will more than double your pleasure.

8 Things Top Practicers Do Differently

violin-practice-Limassol8 Things Top Practicers Do Differently

by Noa Kageyama, Ph.D.

Synopsis
We’ve all heard the phrase “practice smarter, not harder,” but what does that really mean? What does “smarter” practice actually look like? A study of collegiate piano majors suggests that the key lies in how we handle mistakes.

As my kids were (begrudgingly) practicing their Tae Kwon Do patterns not long ago, I caught myself telling my oldest that he had to do his pattern five times before returning to his video game.

My goal, of course, was not for him to simply plod through the motions of his pattern five times like a pouty zombie, but to do it once with good form and commitment. But the parent in me finds it very reassuring to know that a certain number of repetitions has gone into something. Beyond the (erroneous) assumption that this will somehow automagically solidify his skills, it feels like a path to greater discipline, and a way to instill within my kids some sort of work ethic that will serve them well in the future.

It’s true that some degree of time and repetition is necessary to develop and hone our skills, of course. But we also know on some intuitive level that to maximize gains, we ought to practice “smarter, not harder.”

But what does that really mean anyway? What exactly do top practicers do differently?

Pianists learning Shostakovich
A group of researchers led by Robert Duke of The University of Texas at Austin conducted a study several years ago to see if they could tease out the specific practice behaviors that distinguish the best players and most effective learners.

Seventeen piano and piano pedagogy majors agreed to learn a 3-measure passage from Shostakovich’s Piano Concerto No. 1. The passage had some tricky elements, making it too difficult to sight read well, but not so challenging that it couldn’t be learned in a single practice session.

The setup
The students were given two minutes to warm up, and then provided with the 3-measure excerpt, a metronome, and a pencil.

Participants were allowed to practice as long as they wanted, and were free to leave whenever they felt they were finished. Practice time varied quite a bit, ranging from 8 1/2 minutes to just under 57 minutes.

To ensure that the next day’s test would be fair, they were specifically told that they may NOT practice this passage, even from memory, in the next 24 hours.

24 hours later…
When participants returned the following day for their test, they were given 2 minutes to warm up, and then asked to perform the complete 3-measure passage in its entirety, 15 times without stopping (but with pauses between attempts, of course).

Each of the pianists’ performances were then evaluated on two levels. Getting the right notes with the right rhythm was the primary criteria, but the researchers also ranked each of the pianists’ performances from best to worst, based on tone, character, and expressiveness.

That led to a few interesting findings:

Practicing longer didn’t lead to higher rankings.
Getting in more repetitions had no impact on their ranking either.
The number of times they played it correctly in practice also had no bearing on their ranking. (wait, what?!)
What did matter was:

How many times they played it incorrectly. The more times they played it incorrectly, the worse their ranking tended to be.
The percentage of correct practice trials did seem to matter. The greater the proportion of correct trials in their practice session, the higher their ranking tended to be.
The top 8 strategies
Three pianists’ performances stood out from the rest, and were described as having “more consistently even tone, greater rhythmic precision, greater musical character (purposeful dynamic and rhythmic inflection), and a more fluid execution.”

Upon taking a closer look at the practice session videos, the researchers identified 8 distinct practice strategies that were common to the top pianists, but occurred less frequently in the practice sessions of the others:

1. Playing was hands-together early in practice.

2. Practice was with inflection early on; the initial conceptualization of the music was with inflection.

3. Practice was thoughtful, as evidenced by silent pauses while looking at the music, singing/humming, making notes on the page, or expressing verbal “ah-ha”s.

4. Errors were preempted by stopping in anticipation of mistakes.

5. Errors were addressed immediately when they appeared.

6. The precise location and source of each error was identified accurately, rehearsed, and corrected.

7. Tempo of individual performance trials was varied systematically; logically understandable changes in tempo occurred between trials (e.g. slowed things down to get tricky sections correct).

8. Target passages were repeated until the error was corrected and the passage was stabilized, as evidenced by the error’s absence in subsequent trials.
The top 3 strategies
Of the eight strategies above, there were three that were used by all three top pianists, but rarely utilized by the others. In fact, only two other pianists (ranked #4 and #6) used more than one:

6. The precise location and source of each error was identified accurately, rehearsed, and corrected.

7. Tempo of individual performance trials was varied systematically; logically understandable changes in tempo occurred between trials (e.g. slowed things down to get tricky sections correct; or speeded things up to test themselves, but not too much).

8. Target passages were repeated until the error was corrected and the passage was stabilized, as evidenced by the error’s absence in subsequent trials.
What’s the common thread that ties these together?

The researchers note that the most striking difference between the top three pianists and the rest, was how they handled mistakes. It’s not that the top pianists made fewer mistakes in the beginning and simply had an easier time learning the passage.

The top pianists made mistakes too, but they managed to correct their errors in such a way that helped them avoid making the same mistakes over and over, leading to a higher proportion of correct trials overall.

And one to rule them all
The top performers utilized a variety of error-correction methods, such as playing with one hand alone, or playing just part of the excerpt, but there was one strategy that seemed to be the most impactful.

Strategically slowing things down.

After making a mistake, the top performers would play the passage again, but slow down or hesitate – without stopping – right before the place where they made a mistake the previous time.

This seemed to allow them to play the challenging section more accurately, and presumably coordinate the correct motor movements at a tempo they could handle, rather than continuing to make mistakes and failing to identify the precise nature of the mistake, the underlying technical problem, and what they ought to do differently in the next trial.

The one-sentence summary
“Success does not consist in never making mistakes but in never making the same one a second time.” -George Bernard Shaw

– See more at: http://www.creativitypost.com/psychology/8_things_top_practicers_do_differently#sthash.v5UnTtsh.dpuf

Few words of the world wide music school – El Systema in Venezuela

Ο Χοσέ Αντόνιο Αμπρέου είναι ο χαρισματικός ιδρυτής του συστήματος νεανικών ορχηστρών που έχει αλλάξει ριζικά την ζωή χιλιάδων παιδιών στη Βενεζουέλα. Εδώ μοιράζεται μαζί μας την θαυμάσια ιστορία του και αποκαλύπτει την επιθυμία του για το βραβείου TED που θα μπορούσε να έχει μεγάλο αντίκτυπο στις ΗΠΑ και πέρα απ’ αυτές.

Right hand exercises for violin

Right Hand exercises by Yehudi Menuhin

How to get a better sound…Right hand exercises for violin

In this post I would like to suggest a very useful tutorial about right hand ( bow) and left hand made by the legendary violinist Yehudi Menuhin. In this tutorial you can learn about  the very fundamental  principles of violin technique  in explained in detail by the this great master. If you pay the required attention on these right hand exercises for violin you will have very soon a lovely sound which is essential part of violin playing

The prodigy Yehudi
The prodigy Yehudi

Yehudi Menuhin was born in New York of Russian-Jewish parents. He made his violin debut at the age of seven with the San Francisco Symphony in Lalo’s Symphonie Espagnole, and a recital in New York followed a year later. By the time he was eleven he had made his historic debuts in Paris and Carnegie Hall. At twelve he played in Berlin and at thirteen in London, launching himself at an early age on a lifelong career that was to take him all over the world, playing with leading conductors and orchestras. In addition to his fame as an exceptional musician he has been equally recognised as a committed humanitarian.

 

Violin Shoulder Rests. How to find the best possible for you?

violin viola shoulder rest. Limassol music lessons
A sample of how a shoulder rest look like

What is it actually?

Shoulder rests are  designed to comfort the violin holding and playing. Its a particular equipment placed under the violin in order to elevate the violin to the level of the chin,  reducing this way the gab between the chin rest and the jaw.That facilitates the the head (by resting on chin-rest) to take a role in holding the violin in straight position and releases the left hand. Shoulder rest are particularly useful for techniques like vibrato or position changing. They are not  however a must. The use of shoulder rests will depend on the physiology of the body of the violinist his technical habits and abilities and sound expectations.

 

 

 

 

Strategies for the best shoulder rest adjustment.

The way each violinist holds the violin should be very individual and in accordance to his body physiology. The shoulder rest (if used) should facilitate the posture. There are many different options out there, and it is very important to find the combination of shoulder rest and chinrest that is most suited to your body in order to maintain the appropriate posture for you.

Here are some brief, generally agreed upon guidelines for posture. First, think of sitting or standing tall. This natural stance should be maintained when you hold the violin. The end of the violin should rest on the collarbone, and the scroll should be level with the body of the instrument. Keep the head in a neutral position, turned slightly to the left. The head should not tilt or strain to reach the violin. The jaw simply rests on the chinrest. There should be no tension involved in holding the violin between the collarbone and jawbone, solely the weight of the head. A proper shoulder rest will make this possible.

 

Pads and sponges

violin pad sponges, music lessons limassol
Custom-made violin pads and sponges

For young children holding violins of smaller size  I usually suggest homemade violin pads (see the picture on the right

You can also get sponges and have almost the same result as the violin pads.

Alternatively for smaller you can buy shoulder Rests that feed the size of the violin and the length of the child’s neck. I usually suggest the cheaper choices where you can experiment a bit with minor  economic consequences. (Note : I usually discourage parents from  buying the wolf shoulder rests as they never adjust properly to the measurements of the violin and the child).

Shoulder Rests

More rigid shoulder rests that clamp onto the underside of the violin are usually good for anyone with an average to long length neck. They come in all heights and many are adjustable. Some of the more common shoulder rests are the Kun, Mach One, and Wolf. Others include Bon Musica, Everest, Comford, Resonans, and Viva la Musica.
Another option is to play without a shoulder rest or sponge. This is most common among people with shorter necks. Some people use a cloth over the end of the instrument. Most importantly, the violin needs to feel comfortable and stable where it sits.

 

Where to get them from?

Very often the shoulder rests are included in the package of a new violin. Otherwise wise  you can find some models in almost all local shops violin makers (there you can also make a customized one). You can buy them also online in music stores like paganino.de.

Violin Rosin

Violin Rosin, violin bow, violin lessons
Light Violin Rosin

Buying a Violin Rosin

Violin Rosin is one of the essential items to use in order to produce sound with the bow. When you buy a new bow and try to play with it you will soon realize that the hair of the bow is slighting on the strings without yet producing (if any at all) the expected sound. The reason is that the bow has no rosin applied on it. So the main function on rosin is to make the bow-hair stick better on the strings.

Violin rosin is a hardened tree sap that you apply to your violin bow before every other practice in order to give it the necessary grip when drawing the bow across the strings on your violin. Without it, the bow simply slides across the string without grabbing it, producing very little sound.

You can find rosins in various colors and shapes. Violinists are using darker or lighter rosins depending on the environmental/climate conditions and their personal preferences. Generally speaking lighter rosin help to create a smoother and softer sound while the dark rosins (harder and stickier) tend to make the sound bigger and sharp).

Some things to consider before buying a rosin

Climate conditions

In general humidity makes the rosin stickier than usual so it is preferable to use lighter rosins to smoother your sound and the opposite for dry climates. Extremely humid conditions however (like having to play in open air next to the see in Cyprus for example:) ) may wash out the rosin from the bow. In that case it is recommended to use regularly the dark rosin

Dust tolerance

Over time as you play, rosin dust accumulates on your violin that you will periodically need to wipe away with a soft cloth (there are special violin polishing cloths you can get specifically for this purpose).Darker violin rosin tends to produce more dust (i.e. you must clean your violin more frequently) than light rosins, while light rosins can take more time to wipe away when cleaning your violin.  The difference is subtle, but if you are sensitive to dust you may want to select a lighter rosin to cut down on the amount of dust in the air.In general good quality rosins produce less dust than others.

Allergies

For people that allergic to violin rosin there are some special hypoallergic rosins  that reduce the discomfort that the dust of the rosin causes.

Packaging (shape)

Rosins are coming in different package – shapes. Always note you need to consider this factor with care as the shape of the rosin will affect the way you will apply the rosin on the bow, the extent you will make use of it and the endurance. Children (beginner violinists) are usually given rosins with a square or rectangle shape with the sides being protected with wood and plastic. The reason is to facilitate the use of it (as the children are not yet coordinated enough to keep the bow on the rosin while pulling it along the bow)  and to protect it as rosin is extremely fragile. However, unless you have coordination issues, I strongly recommend against this type of packaging, opting instead for a round or square shape.

The round rosins are in general easier in use more economical as you can make use of all the available rosin by turning in cyclical motion while applying it on the bow.

Furthermore, I recommend getting rosin in robust packaging that can withstand shocks of traveling in your violin case, as it will be less likely to fracture prematurely, and will therefore last longer.

Here you can find a big variety of rosins.

 

Buying a violin/viola bow

Buying a violin bow

 

violin viola bow. the essential parts
The violin bow and the important parts

If you are a beginner i would recommend to buy a violin from a local shop or online. The bow, the violin-case and rosin are usually included in the package. However there are cases in which you might have to buy the bow separately, especially if you are looking to buy something more advanced. In that case you should visit several local music shops (in case of Cyprus most preferably Violin -makers) where you can try out several bows. In this article I would like to suggest some tips about what to consider buy choosing a violin bow. Keep in mind that you will have to spent some time playing and trying out several bow techniques ( if you are familiar with staccato, spiccato, Sautille, ricochet etc.) in order to find the right bow for you. Here are some factors you have to consider:

1. Price

The most expensive bow are not necessarily better, so try quite a few. There is always the option of choosing between wooden bow and carbon bow. The wooden are usually the more expensive but not necessarily the better. Carbon bows are becoming recently very popular, and the choice of many professional musicians

2. Warping

Check the length of the bow and make sure that it has now bold curve towards left or right. Have also a look at the mechanism of stretching (screw and frog) the hair  and make sure that function flawless ( you can also unscrew the frog to make sure that everything is fine with the socket of the screw)

3. The Quality of hair

The quality of the hair is also important especially in cheaper bows. I still remember my self trying to produce sound with a bow that had not the usual hank of horse hair, but something made out of fiber…

4. Weight

Bows come in a variety of weights. Have an experienced violinist help you pick one out that is neither too light nor too heavy for you. A bow that is too heavy can cause hand strain over time, while a bow that is too light makes it difficult to get a big sound.

5. Flexibility of the arc

Get the bow in your hands press the bow against left hand as shown in the photo.  Then you can also test to make sure it maintains a good arch and has a good spring when pressed against the violin strings.

6. Balance

The bow should be thinner and lighter at the top and heavier at the frog (lower part). Note however that it should not be too heavy at one end or the other.

 

Final note:

As said above the best way to judge how good the bow meets you expectations or needs is to play with it for a while. If you have the opportunity to borrow the bow and try it out for a couple of days, DO so.

 

Violin Chord charts

Violin Chords Charts

 

Have you ever wondered whether it is possible to accompany melodies in a way that a guitar or a piano would do?

Violin is traditionally the solo instrument playing the basic melodic lines (replacing usually the voice or accompanying it  with parallel melodic lines). However it is possible to take the accompanying role of guitar in  popular music, Jazz -swing, Gypsy, and other styles just by playing the chord sequences in which the piece bases.

This post is created in response to many request for a brief catalog of violin chords charts arranged in photo diagram forms for maximum understanding and playing.

The following diagrams are designed for the left hand. The bowing techniques with which you can play the chords will follow in coming posts.

Lets start with clearing what the numbers in the fingerings represent.

The fingers of the left hand are numbered with following way.

 Finger numbers

violin, finger numbers, fingering chart
Fingering – violin.

 

It is also very useful to know all the notes in the first position. The following chart gives you a brief picture. However violin has no frets. It is thus essential to hear the notes and tune them correctly  using your ears.

violin fingering chart
Violin Fingering chart in first position

 

Based on that we can see now how we can play few of the basic Chords.

Basic Violin Chords Charts

A Major

A major
A (g string) and E with first finger C with 2nd and A with 3r
A Major. A & E on the G and D string with 1st finger C sharp with 2nd and A with the 3rd
A Major. A & E on the G and D string with 1st finger C sharp with 2nd and A with the 3rd

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 D Major

Violin Chord chart
D Major Chord with A (on g string 1st finger) F sharp 2nd and D&A with the 3rd finge.
D major accord on the Violin
D Major accord on the violin. A with 1st finger F sharp with 2 and D& A (on A & E string respectively) with 3rd finger

G Major

Violin chord chart
G major chord. 1st finger on B (A string) and 2nd on G (E string) G and D open strings
Violin chord chart
G major chord. B with 1st finger and G ( on E string) with the second

F Major

F major. £rd finger on C( G string) 2nd on F ( D string )and 1st on F ( E string) A open string)
F major. £rd finger on C( G string) 2nd on F ( D string )and 1st on F ( E string) A open string)
F major
A major. 3rd finger on C 2nd on F and 1st on F ( E string). Open string A

A minor

A minor - Chord on the violin
A minor chord. Similar to A major with on C ( 2nd finger) natural.
Violin chords in simple charts
A minor. A and E ( G and D string respectively) with !st finger, 2nd on C and 3rd on A.

 

 

E minor (Violin Chord Charts)

E minor
1st finger on E and B ( on D string and A respectively and 2nd finger on g (e string)

 

violin chord charts. Violin viola lessons
Violin chord charts. E minor

 

B minor

 

B minor
B minor chord (2nd finger on B and F sharp and 3rd on D. We avoid to play e open string)
Violin chords charts
B minor chord. 2nd finger on B and F sharp on G and D string.3rd finger on d

Inspiring Films about the Violin

Inspiring films about the violin

Have you ever looked for some sources of motivation for your children to start practice? Some nice music to listen or, to visit a concert or even to watch inspiring films about violin?

Violin has always been inspiration source for film makers who often based their films on biographies of great violinists or musicians.Here are some suggested films.

Inspiring violin films
The Red violin

The red violin

A perfect red-colored violin inspires passion, making its way through three centuries over several owners and countries, eventually ending up at an auction where it may find a new owner.

Director:
François Girard

Writers:
Don McKellar, François Girard

Stars:
Carlo Cecchi, Jean-Luc Bideau,

 

 

 

 

kinskis paganini violin Film
Paganini

Paganini  (Klaus Kinski)

Italian violinist Nicolo Paganini (Klaus Kinski) lives with his wife (Debora Kinski) and son (Nikolai Kinski), and drives women wild with his music.   Initial release: May 25, 1990 (Italy

Director: Klaus Kinski

Running time: 95 minutes

Screenplay: Klaus Kinski

Music composed by: Salvatore Accardo, Niccolò Paganini

 

 

violin paganini film
Devil’s Violinist

Devil’s Violinist

The life story of Italian violinist and composer, Niccolò Paganini, who rose to fame as a virtuoso in the early 19th Century.

Director:
Bernard Rose

Writer:
Bernard Rose

Stars:
David Garrett, Jared Harris, Joely Richardson |See full cast and crew »

 

 

 

violin films, J.S. Bach, ein musikalisches Opfer,  Organ teacher
Mein Name ist Bach

Mein Name ist Bach.

Bach visits his famous Son in Vienna where he meets the mentally disturbed prince who develops a passion for father Bach’s genius and music.

Mein Name ist Bach is a 2003 Swiss film directed by Dominique de Rivaz. It was Switzerland’s submission to the 77th Academy Awards for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film, but was not accepted as a nominee.

(Wikipedia)
Initial release: April 8, 2004
Director: Dominique de Rivaz
Running time: 99 minutes
Genres: Biographical film, Drama

 

 

Violin, Beethoven, Music, teacher, score
Copying Beethoven

Copying Beethoven

Anna Holtz (Diane Kruger), a student at the Vienna Music Conservatory, eagerly accepts an assignment to work as a copyist for composer Ludwig van Beethoven (Ed Harris). The temperamental maestro develops a growing affection for his new companion, but she has plans to marry her longtime beau.

Initial release: October 19, 2006 (Israel)
Director: Agnieszka Holland
Running time: 105 minutes
Initial DVD release: April 3, 2007
Budget: 11 million USD

The oldest surviving Italian violin

Taken from cmuse.org

 

The violin first emerged in northern Italy in the early 16th century especially from the Brescia area. Many archive documents testify that from 1485-95 Brescia was the cradle of a magnificent school of string players and makers, all called with the title of “maestro” of all the different sort of strings instruments of the Renaissance: viola da gamba (viols), violone, lyra, lyrone, violetta and viola da brazzo. While no instruments from the first decades of the century survive, there are several representations in paintings; some of the early instruments have only three strings and were of the violetta type.
Because documents show that the Brescia school started half a century before Cremona, it is debated whether the first real violin was built by Andrea Amati, one of the famous luthiers, or lute-builders, in the first half of the 16th century by order of the Medici family.
The oldest surviving violin, dated inside, is the “Charles IX” by Andrea Amati, made in Cremona in 1564, but the label is very doubtful. The Metropolitan Museum of Art has an Amati violin that may be even older, possibly dating to 1558 but also this date is very doubtful. One of the most famous and certainly the most pristine is the Messiah Stradivarius (also known as the ‘Salabue’) made by Antonio Stradivari in 1716 and very little played, perhaps almost never and in an as new state. It is now located in the Ashmolean Museum of Oxford

Amati violin
Amati Cremona 1564