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