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.

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.

All you need to know about Viola & Violin