Courante from Cello Suite No.1 in G Major by J.S. Bach

Cellists will instantly recognise this famous Courante from Cello Suite No.1 in G Major by J.S. Bach, BWV 1007, a natural inclusion by Suzuki in Volume 7 to follow the Gigue from the same cello suite. A delightfully quick dance, it has a memorable melody of attractive leaps and runs set against the deep resonances of bass notes, many of them on lower open strings.

Mischa Maisky

Mischa Maisky

As you’ll see below in the YouTube performances, this attractive piece has been arranged for several other instruments. Because it sounds so good and right on the cello, and despite what it teaches us musically, I can’t help feeling it almost seems a folly to play the Courante transposed for the violin. It makes us want to learn the cello!

Study Points

The falling staccato notes require cello-like resonance, which involves taking care with both the attack and the end of each bow stroke. Aim for a clean attack without extraneous string noise and  areverberant ending. Practise the finish of the stroke by lifting the bow off the string to listen to the ringing sound. Now try to achieve equal resonance gently leaving the bow on the string.

Even beats, even notes

Due to the surging melodic structure of the Courante, some students tend to rush the semiquavers (sixteenth notes) in relation to the quavers (eighth notes). Practise with a metronome to even out the beat before letting go of the reins for the right balance of time flexibility.

Tempo

When you listen to Maisky, Rostropovich, Casals and Carr play the Courante, you’ll soon realise that playing at the correct tempo is a vital part of the musical expression. Often it is played too slowly on the violin, and with excessively long bows for the staccato notes.

Quick Tech Tips

  • Begin in the upper half of the bow.
  • Take advantage of the open string notes to shift early into 3rd position in measure 2.

Courante-by-Bach-Ex-A

  • Leave 1st finger down in measures 11-12.

Courante-by-Bach-Ex-B

  • Watch out for the C# in measure 28.

Courante-by-Bach-Ex-C

  • Leave fingers down in measures 31 and 32.

Courante-by-Bach-Ex-D

Performances

Colin Carr, British Cellist

Mischa Maisky

Mstislav Rostropovich

The incomparable Pablo Casals. The Courante begins at 5:32.

Denise Djokic

Jeff Bradetich, double bass

Tariq Harb, guitar

Being a rather easy piece for Volume 7 players, it is tempting to move on quickly after learning to play the Courante. To receive real musical value, however, spend some time listening to some of the great cello recordings.

The score is now available for download in Resources.

Cheers and thanks for the emails. I love hearing your stories.

John

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Adagio from Sonata No 3 in F Major

Sonata No 3 in F Major, appearing in Suzuki Violin Volume 6, has long been attributed to G.F. Handel, yet understandably, music scholars have expressed doubts about its origins.

The Child Handel

Reading the story of its history solved a quandary of mine, as the Adagio in particular just seems to lack the Handel flavour. Where are the clean melodious voice and lucid harmonies? If you’re interested, you can read the convoluted story of pirated sonatas and the nefarious publisher Mr Walsh here.

Even though we don’t know who composed it, No 3 is an attractive sonata, with a very good second movement, Allegro, as we’ve seen in this previous post.

Adagio from Sonata No 3 in F Major

In some ways the Adagio tries to do too much – with too little. The rather plain descending theme returns in measure 18 in an altered state, and in part again in measure 48. The melody travels along pleasantly enough, yet never seems to get anywhere, except of course at the end.

Nonetheless it compensates for any austerity with some imaginative key changes and unexpected detours, without stretching belief or taking us too far from the path, to finally lead us with a clear sense of direction into the next movement, the excellent Allegro.

In the first of the YouTube videos below, violinist composer Gary Kuo makes an excellent job of transforming it into real music with his fine playing and compelling interpretation.

Study Points

Connecting the Notes

Unquestionably the melody comes together better with a sound understanding, if you’ll forgive the puns, of the way the notes are linked. Since there are practically no breaks in the melody line, not even to breathe very much between phrases, we must focus on the shape of connections between the notes – making sure to never lose the thread of where we are going. As Gary Kuo demonstrates, playing with a continuous vibrato helps.

Tempting as it may seem to regard the two opening sections as little sub-phrases, make sure that the minims (1/2 notes) in measures 2, 4 and elsewhere extend to their full value of two beats to connect well with the next part of the phrase.

Adagio-by-Handel-Ex-A

Positions and Shifting

Violinistic fingering preferences are revealed in the first few notes. We start on 3rd finger in 3rd position and move immediately with 1st finger to 2nd position.

Leading off with 4th finger and remaining in 2nd position would seem more logical, but many violinists (including me) would rather use 3rd finger to produce a strong tone and vibrato at the the beginning.

In general, the shifts are quite easy throughout the piece, mainly within the first three positions.

In measure 35, to create a contrasting tone quality, the second D and several following notes are played on D string in 4th position, with a delicate pianissimo.

Adagio-by-Handel-Ex-B

Ornaments

From the many editions and arrangements of the sonata it’s interesting to see that not every violinist plays the same trills and mordents when performing the Adagio, sometimes omitting them completely. In our version however, the mordent should be played as shown below.

Adagio-by-Handel-Ex-C

The-mordent

Modulations

For such a short piece there are a surprising number of expertly crafted modulations and short deviations into neighbouring and related keys, such as C major (sharpening the B♭ to B♮), B♭ major (adding an E♭), D minor (the relative minor) and F minor (in measure 41), to show up the different colours and flavours of these keys in relation to the underlying home key of F major.

It’s valuable to identify these changes and bear them in mind when developing your own interpretation. Here’s a couple of examples:

In measure 7 it looks as though we are about to confirm the key of C major. Instead the melody slips down a semitone to emerge in B♭ major. How should you play the B♭?

Adagio-by-Handel-Ex-D

In measure 27 an innocuous half step back from D to C# marks the beginning of a pathway that eventually leads to a D minor cadence. What is the best way to convince the audience?

Adagio-by-Handel-Ex-E

Performances

As mentioned above, here’s a fine performance by Gary Kuo.

And it’s worth listening to the audio track below by the legendary virtuoso Yehudi Menuhin, to compare tempos, phrasing and note connections.

The score is now available for download on the Resources page. I hope you enjoy studying, teaching and playing this intriguing piece!

Cheers,

John

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Gigue in D Major by Bach

We’re in unaccompanied violin territory this week with the Gigue in D Major by Bach from Suzuki Violin Volume 7. This bright little dance was composed for cello in Suite No. 1 in G major, BWV 1007, part of the monumental works for solo cello Bach wrote around the time of  the great violin solo sonatas.

Gigue in D Major by Bach

The Gigue transcribes well from the cello-friendly key of G Major to the violin’s equally amiable D, exploiting the deep resonances of open strings. As expected, this effect is much stronger when played on the cello, and violinists have to work hard to create a corresponding sense of tone colour. Is it possible? Listen to some of the magic performances by cellists Mischa Maisky and Mstislav Rostropovich – and decide for yourself.

One feature of this piece is Bach’s use of repeated notes with slurs before and onto the beat, giving these parts of the melody a lilting rhythmic quality within the flow of quavers. Performers usually play these two notes in the same bow, distinctly separated and a little more weight on the beat note, creating surging shapes and runs within the stream of notes.

A Few Study Points

Bowing

The Gigue is an excellent opportunity to study the direct relationship between bow control, note connections and tone quality. For example, the right amount of separation between notes marked staccato (dot or dash) and the repeated notes with slurs depends on their role in the melodic line and phrase.

In measure 3 – and in similar patterns later in the piece – stop the bow before playing the staccato notes.

Gigue-by-Bach-Ex-A

Chords and Trill

Practise the chords without the trill at first, taking care not to rush and ensuring each lasts for the correct duration. Play with a smooth even sound – as if tuning up.

When you are happy with the sound quality add in the trill, focusing on clarity. For a little extra brightness, try slightly sharpening G, the upper trill note.

Gigue-by-Bach-Ex-B

Shifting in Measure 33

These semiquavers (1/8th notes) need to be strong and clear, so the shift must be quick and ‘invisible’. Practise slowly, lifting 1st finger as you place 2nd on C#, anticipating a seamless shift to 3rd position at D, taking care that D to E is a whole tone.

Gigue-by-Bach-Ex-C

Musical Expression

Before developing your own interpretation, you can do no better than to study how Maisky and Rostropovich play the Gigue. Don’t be put off by Rostropovich’s typically rather serious demeanour and the poor video quality in his performance. Despite this, his playing is unmistakably superb.

Maisky’s Gigue starts at 17.38

Below is a fabulous performance by Canadian cellist Denise Djokic.

The cello is such a marvelous instrument, but let’s not get distracted by it’s glorious warm tone and beauty. It’s just as much work as the violin, and way less portable!

The score is now available for download in Resources.

Cheers,

John

 

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Allegro by Bach

The Allegro by Bach in Suzuki Violin Volume 8 comes from the Sonata in E Minor for Violin and Keyboard, BWV 1023. The movement has an improvisational quality, like a fantasia, lending itself to a wide range of interpretative ideas and arrangements.

fantasy-picture

J.S. Bach was a fluent improviser who could extemporize with virtuosic ease. Some genres, such as Jazz, are more or less based on musical invention in the moment, whereas the score grew to dominate classical performance. Now there are signs that the art of improvisation in classical music, especially in cadenzas, is starting to return from its long decline in the 20th century.

Suzuki and Bach

Parents and students sometimes ask me:

Why is there so much music in the Suzuki violin repertoire by Bach, a German composer who lived over 300 years ago, especially when there’s an abundance of violin music by composers from later times that is equally suitable for violin study and performance?

It’s an interesting question.

During the time he lived and studied in Germany, Suzuki heard the works of the great German composers performed by German musicians at home in their native musical culture, and at this poignant period between the wars, this music enjoyed a refreshed authenticity.

It was like experiencing Italian opera at La Scala or Tchaikovsky at St Petersburg. We can imagine powerful musical awakenings in these settings. Suzuki’s well-known attraction to Mozart was formed through profoundly moving experiences with his music.

Yet the reasons for including so much of Bach’s music into the violin books go beyond Suzuki’s musical tastes. As any violinist knows, J.S. Bach’s music lives at the heart of string playing. After hearing, studying and playing his compositions, a musical world without his music is unthinkable, unimaginable.

Bach’s music teaches us so much, but we don’t learn to play it for educational purposes. We do so to live and believe in a beautiful world – and to fly.

Allegro by Bach

At first glance and at first hearing, it seems that the main technical point is associated with speed and tempo, yet for the most part the Allegro moves through a series of chords, which makes for relatively easy and simple fingering.

Melody

The musical points take more thought and practice, determining which notes to bring out to give clarity to the melody – principally on the first and third beat of the bar – and shaping the phrases. Starting in measure 5, the melodic line is set against a repeated B. The pattern changes in measure 8, moving by steps on the 1st and 3rd beats against repeated descending intervals – until measure 16, followed by a new pattern with a background of open E.

Allegro-by-Bach-Ex-B

Intonation and Shifting

When shifting, pay close attention to the intervals. In measure 10, for example, going from F# (4th position) to G (5th position) is a shift of a semitone, and so is G#  to A in measure 11.

Allegro-by-Bach-Ex-A

Leave down anchor and guide fingers as shown in the score and use the harmonic high E to check your intonation.

Performances

Here’s three fine baroque-style interpretations by Javier Lupiáñez, Penelope Spencer and Jennifer Roig-Francoli. (Note the different bowing.)

The score for Allegro by Bach is now available in Resources. For such a short piece, it took a surprisingly long time to complete. The scoring is more complicated to construct than it looks. The purpose of such an unusual arrangement is to clarify the musical structure and how it should be played.

Welcome to all of the new members and thanks for coming to visit Teach Suzuki Violin. I appreciate your interest and support, and enjoy hearing from you. Please write to me at john@teachsuzukiviolin.com if you have a question, a story or some helpful advice to benefit teachers, students or parents.

Cheers,

John

Coming soon – More Bach: the Gigue from Volume 7

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Overcoming Performance Anxiety – A Personal Odyssey

In this post, the second about overcoming performance anxiety, I relate how we handled it in our violin institute and my personal experiences. In the lead up to my final concert in Japan, I stumbled upon a solution to this mystifying nervous reaction. Later on I realised it is an old technique, used by many before me.

Graduation-Concert-87

(This photo from should get a few laughs from old friends and colleagues.)

It’s clear for teaching violin, or any of the performing arts, that there are two starting points when dealing with the problem of performance anxiety.

  1. Bypassing it from the very beginning;
  2. Overcoming it when you’ve already got it.

This rather simple and obvious division helps us determine which teaching and learning strategies we need to use for playing on stage with serenity and confidence.

1. Bypassing Performance Anxiety

As a result of some of my own experiences and those of my musician and music teacher friends, focus was initially centred on the second point: how to help students overcome performance anxiety. I wondered if predisposition (or luck) played a significant role in whether or not a performer suffered from nerves on stage.

The picture changed when we saw the concerts and classes of young violinists from the Suzuki Institute in Matsumoto. Performers of all ages appeared remarkably composed on stage. They were very well prepared and rehearsed, played securely from memory and with rare exceptions, seemed quite happy and relaxed to perform in front of large audiences.

Suzuki-Violinists-at-the-Budokan

Watching them confirmed to me the answer was training, learning and teaching – and not luck or natural propensity.

So on returning to teaching at our violin institute, we made a policy of giving all players lots of regular opportunities to perform publicly, as soloists and in groups, making sure no one was left out, regardless of age or level. Soloists played for our enthusiastic audience of parents in the last session of group class and we held extra solo preparation classes leading up to concert performances.

This was very successful, especially when we changed to regular weekly group classes. Students became accustomed to playing with confidence and flair in public, in both group pieces and solos, to the point where it became normal.

2. Overcoming Performance Anxiety

When I coached older students or trainee teachers for a special purpose, such as an audition for university entrance, an exam or an important concert, we occasionally had to contend with some stage fright issues, particularly if they hadn’t grown up nerve free, so to speak.

Some of the symptoms can be reduced by:

  • Thoroughly preparing and memorising the music;
  • Regular practising the whole performance over an extended period, including graceful entrance on to stage, taking a bow, acknowledging audience applause, working on stage posture and presence.
  • Rehearsing in the actual concert performance space and becoming familiar with the stage environment and acoustics.

Even after these measures, some players still experienced the performance jitters.

Finally I began to teach the simple single strategy that changed everything for me.

My Experience

Public performances became rarer when I started teaching, but for several years prior to going to Japan I’d played in my students’ lessons and at large classes more or less free from nerves. I’d believed performance anxiety was mostly under control – until it rose again, without warning.

Here’s the story as I wrote later to friends…

There are ample opportunities at the institute to play in public – at Suzuki’s morning group classes, Monday Concert solos and other public concerts through the year, but the Graduation Concert is different. It is every student teacher’s premier performance here, marking the culmination of studies and the launch of new teaching careers.

The concert requires meticulous planning and preparation: we must choose a piano accompanist and orchestra members from among our colleagues and work with them to develop our ideas about the music; produce the concert programs and the shuji scroll; invite guests and of course, prepare the music itself.

During my final year I work harder than ever. Practice time in the latter months expands to ten and ultimately twelve hours a day outside of classes. (Except for the last week, I still teach English in the evenings to support us.) It is exhilarating to be extended to the limit and to finally feel like I’m making real progress in my playing.

As the day approaches I rehearse with the orchestra and accompanist two or three times each week. All is going well, until during one rehearsal just a week out from the concert, I make a nervy gaffe in the middle of the Bach concerto that I’d been playing well for over a year!

What is happening? I ride my bike home in gloom and ponder over my preparation. It doesn’t make sense. I know the music so well. Every note is like an old friend.

Eventually it dawns on me that I’m sometimes thinking ahead about a passage coming up – or reflecting on a section I have just played. I’m not living in the music as it’s happening.

During my next practice I resolve to just listen to the music as I play, and keep my attention in the present moment without wavering. It is easy to do for short periods of time, but invariably my thoughts veer off again to a difficult section ahead or back to an earlier one that could have been a little better.

Only after several hours of persistent concentration am I able stay in the zone for longer periods.

As the next rehearsal approaches I am more confident that I can stay focused. Happily, the rehearsal goes off without a hitch, as does the next ones and I sense I am on to something. It’s working.

All during the week I practise hard at keeping in the present.

Winter this year is particularly cold. There are heavy snowfalls and we sometimes have to struggle through a metre of snow to get to the institute. On the day of my concert the temperature goes down to -20°C, yet I love the cold, it revives me out the years of hot Australian summers. Despite the heating in the concert hall, I have to immerse my hands in warm water before going on stage.

The-car-at-Suzuki-Kaikan

In the audience are all the other students, teachers, my family, friends and others. This is it – the pinnacle of my studies with Suzuki.

From that special moment, I walk on to stage in the space-time of now. When I begin playing, the sense of time disappears completely and I am carried along on the river of music to the end of the concert. As the last notes of Beethoven’s Spring Sonata ring out in the auditorium, it feels as if the beginning and the end are connected, part of the same whole, an experience that affects me profoundly and I carry to this day.


My concert experience was similar to how our Buddhist friends describe meditation as they watch the rise and fall of the breath.

The link to meditation is an interesting one. For both musicians and listeners, music exists only in the present and calls us into the world of the timeless now.

buddhist-meditation

Is this a cure for performance anxiety? For me it was, yet I notice how easy it is to slip out this state of mind into self-consciousness and its accompanying nervous reactions. Like the music, it needs practice to become a habit.

Further Reading and Resources

Mihaly Czikszentmihalyi’s Ted Talk on Flow

Zen Habits – The life changing website created by my friend Leo Babauta, writer.

Cheers,

John

Coming soon: Allegro by J.S. Bach from Volume 8.

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How to Overcome Performance Anxiety

Performance anxiety or stage fright, has afflicted musicians throughout history, even famous virtuosos such as cellist Pablo Casals, tenor Luciano Pavarotti, violinist Kennedy and pianists Vladimir Horowitz and Arthur Rubenstein. Frédéric Chopin disliked performing in public for the same reason.

hands-over-face

Photo courtesy of Abigail Keenan

For some musicians, it fades away with lots of playing on stage or becomes controllable enough to add a little spark to the music.

In a newsletter two years ago, I told of my first experience of these perplexing sensations of nervousness while playing in public at the age of 6 or so. After years of regular performances as an adult it more or less stopped bothering me, until suddenly appearing again like an old ghost a week or so before my solo graduation concert at the Suzuki Institute in Japan.

I learned a very important lesson and experienced an epiphany which has stayed with me ever since. I’ll tell this more personal story and how we handled stage fright in our violin institute in my next post, but for now I want to look more broadly at the phenomenon.

What does it feel like?

The symptoms range from mild to severe, including perspiration (an aptly named cold sweat), increased heart rate, uncontrollable shaking or weakness in the hands and fingers, difficulty in concentration, memory lapses and feelings of panic and dread – triggered by the release of adrenaline into the bloodstream. An accompanying reaction is an intense self-consciousness, which seems impossible to avoid or control.

seal

Photo courtesy of Alec Weir

The sensations are highly individual. They may decline gradually, arrive in disconcerting surges or persist throughout the whole performance. Some performers experience a crisis point, marking a lessening of anxiety.

Origins

Talking with other musicians, it became clear that in many instances stage fright originated from a single stressful experience during childhood. Typically they remembered a difficult exam, recital or other significant stressful situation where it first became a problem. Many described it in terms of a personal flaw, an affliction that was part of their makeup. Several lost interest in playing in public altogether, preferring to play their music in private or make recordings.

How to Overcome Performance Anxiety: Some Common Strategies

Regular Performances: By starting with low pressure situations and playing long programs of well prepared easier music, some performers have been able to gradually reduce the effects, similar to desensitizing an allergic reaction.
Practice, Practice: This strategy has some merit for many students, since lack of adequate preparation creates doubt and uncertainty during the performance.
The Mental Approach: Cognitive restructuring involves changing your patterns of thought and working with a coach or counselor enables performers to understand more clearly what is happening and to develop long term strategies.
Pharmaceuticals: Surveys have shown that up to 30% of professional musicians use beta blockers and other substances such as alcohol or cannabis, to help them through difficult performance situations.

Further Reading

The Bulletproof Musician – an excellent website by Noa Kageyama, Ph.D. about performance anxiety and related subjects.

CMUSE – another great site with articles on this subject and other aspects of music.

Being Musical Being Human – 5 Big Mistakes in Dealing with Performance Anxiety.

Anxiety Coach – Good in-depth analysis with actionable tips.

Michael Murray – excellent down to earth article from an experienced performer.

St. Louis Post-Dispatch – Sarah Bryan Miller writes about the use of Beta Blockers and more.

Cross-eyed Pianist – Essential reading from Frances Wilson, London-based pianist, piano teacher, writer, music reviewer and blogger.

Composed – Yet to be released documentary about performance mentioned in Frances’s blog. Looks like it will be a ground-breaker. Check out the great links.


We want to hear from you! Write and tell us about the highs and lows of your experiences with performance anxiety. If you’ve discovered or developed ways to overcome stage fright, others can benefit.

Cheers,

John

Coming up in the next post: How I overcame performance anxiety with just one strategy (if you can call it that).

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Violin Concerto in A Major, by W.A. Mozart, I – Part 2

As we study and master Mozart’s Violin Concerto in A Major, we become aware of his extraordinary gift to music. Students by this stage have learned the Veracini Sonata with all its thrills and trills, encouraged and excited by the expressive possibilities of bouncing and springing bows. Arriving at Volume 9’s Mozart A Major Concerto, however, students enter a new musical world.

New-World

Violin Concerto in A Major, by W.A. Mozart, 1st Movement

This brilliant concerto is played every day by professional violinists and orchestras around the planet, and although there’s not much new technique to acquire, Mozart’s buoyant melodies depend on fluent athleticism to sound right, and need to be played with unforced and unfettered vitality.

Semiquaver Passages

Mozart creates the energetic character of the first movement with passages of rapid semiquavers (16th notes), transparent melody lines ascending and descending in exuberant steps and leaps.

Without overdoing it, use accents on the beat to give clarity, energy and drive to these passages, especially when bringing them up to speed. Concentrating on the rhythmic underlay makes it easier to play at the correct tempo.

Also, in a few situations, the bowing may need rearranging to suit your interpretation. At the end of the first phrase, for example, experiment with the slurs for the run down to G#, as shown below.

Concerto-in-A-Major-by-Mozart-Ex-C Read More →

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Violin Concerto in A Major, K.219 by W.A. Mozart – Adagio

The Violin Concerto in A Major, K.219, nicknamed The Turkish,  was written by Mozart in 1775, living in Salzburg under the patronage of Prince-Archbishop Hieronymus Colloredo, already having composed such wonders as his other four violin concertos, five piano concertos, 28 symphonies, and a great host of quartets, piano sonatas and church music, just to name a fraction of his previous works – when he was merely 19 years old!

sunlight-on-the-mountain

Mozart’s Violin Concerto No. 5 in A Major is considered by many as the finest of the five and the most adventurous, featuring the “Turkish” melody in the key of A Minor within the 3rd movement, Rondo.

After a lively 39 bar introduction by the orchestra, the tempo falls to Adagio as the solo violin enters alone with a simple A major arpeggio. Looking at my score, I see pencilled in several alternative fingerings for this first measure. Not only had I experimented myself with these opening notes, I’d watched the concerto played many times by other players, taking careful notice of their choices of fingering, reflecting their particular interpretations. More about this later.

Some players preferred a little glissando, flavouring it with a taste of melancholy, and the bolder purpose of an intense vibrato. In any case, to be convincing to the audience, the intent must be clear and of one mind. Although the Adagio is preparing us for the approaching Allegro, it also stands alone as a vision of stillness and beauty like beams of sunlight on a mountainside.

Following the poignant pauses in measure 45, we are off on an ebullient run, fired with energy and cheerfulness. The happy mood continues unabated right through the movement.

The Main Points

High Positions

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Motivation and Practice Habits – A New Course on Teach Suzuki Violin

Perhaps we’ve all heard the old joke attributed to violinist Mischa Elman, who answered tourist’s question, “How do you get to Carnagie Hall?” with the witty answer, “Practice!” And clearly, all musicians understand he meant consistent and regular practice of the right things – and plenty of it. There’s a world of meanings and implications in that simple word.

young violinists practising

If you’re a musician, it’s an unavoidably important part of life, since we spend far more time practising than actually performing!

How we practise is crucial, because – as every instrumental teacher knows – it’s possible to implant poor technique as much as good. Moreover, in spite of the mountains of material and advice available in textbooks, online and elsewhere about what to practise, there’s precious little about the elephant in the room: how to achieve consistent practice.

It’s mainly left up to that old workhorse, motivation, either from internal sources like self discipline, determination and willpower, or externally from the dedication of an Amy Chua-like parent. Remember the agonies Lang Lang went through from his father?

Does it need to be such an arduous struggle?

music books

Unsurprisingly, this emerged as a leading issue when I surveyed Teach Suzuki Violin readers and members a year or so ago about their biggest challenge in teaching, studying and playing violin.

How to keep the practice going happily along without losing momentum is a problem experienced by most young musicians at some time or another.

Many parents reported a parallel problem: how to keep their child motivated to practise without turning into a tired tiger mother/father, becoming a bribing ATM machine, a cajoling cheerleader or worse, a hassling nag.

money

We’d all like to be inspired and enthusiastic about practice all the time, but even if it was possible, we don’t actually need to be. What we really need is an infallible practice habit. Then we can put all our energy, enthusiasm and love into where it’s most needed: the music.

As expected, students feel good when they sense progress in their playing – which, let’s face it, is only possible with regular reliable practice. With irregular practice comes a stop-start roundabout of guilty feelings, relieved by bursts of activity and, don’t we all know, unsatisfying lessons and slow progress.

A perpetual practice habit eliminates the guilt-binge-guilt cycle and gets you where you want to go without the hassle, but how exactly do you create one?

For most of us, the answer is curiously different from accepted common knowledge, mainly because the habits we acquire are mostly formed without our conscious awareness of the process. They seem to happen by themselves – especially the unwanted ones.

In our violin institute, understanding and solving this pivotal question created and sustained the fastest and most consistent advances for all of our students. We want to make this knowledge and training available to all who need it, and we’ve created the Motivation and Practice Habits Course, now available on Teach Suzuki Violin.

Here’s some of the video tutorials and topics from the course:

What is Motivation?
Working Together for Parent and Students.
The Morning Practice Session.
How to Build a Good Practice Habit.

A key part of the Motivation and Practice Habits Course is access to the teachers who created it. We want you to experience the success our students and parents achieved. It’s not a magic formula or some secret knowledge, it is a proven way through the practice forest.

How much does it cost? There’s a once off payment of A$39 (about $27.50 US or £19.)

If you’d like to join the course or read more about it, click on the button below.

 

Cheers,

John

P.S. Almost all of the resources on Teach Suzuki Violin are forever free and continue to be published freely available to all who need them. (And if you decide to purchase the course, your support will help us to keep going. Thanks!)

Coming Up Next: Mozart’s Concerto No. 5 in A Major K.219 (Vol. 9)

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How to Conduct a Violin Masterclass

Masterclass! Arriving early, we head for seats at the front of the auditorium, close to the action. Faint fragments of a Sarasate showpiece escape from a back studio as the room fills with eager faces. The murmur of conversation subsides as the Teacher appears through the door and walks purposefully to her place on the right of stage. A “world artist on tour” as she’s described on the concert hall’s programme, she takes her Guadagnini violin from its case and and flashes a quick smile up at the audience. It’s time to start!

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The first young violinist, a dark haired boy in a bright purple shirt, steps quietly forward and raises his violin. We wait in the suspended moment, admiring his delightful appearance. I am expecting Sarasate, but he launches into a dark, strident piece I’ve not heard before. There’s a patter of uncertain applause at the piece’s unresolvable finale, and the Teacher rises with violin in hand, smiling. What will she choose to work on? Our guess is off the mark as she goes to a key point that seems entirely obvious – in hindsight. Several weeks later, I’m still absorbing some of her insights.

For teaching the final polish of a piece, this kind of class is invaluable, providing deeper musical, expressive and interpretive study points after the music has been memorised securely and is played fluently at the right tempo, that is, when it has been mastered. In some cases, this means studying it for a whole year or more. Since the class is mostly about musical matters and performance presentation, the better the music is known, the greater are the benefits.

How to Conduct a Violin Masterclass

The Audience

Encourage a good size audience of parents and other students to come to the masterclass. It enables others to benefit – unless the piece needs to be kept under wraps for an imminent concert.

The Setting

If the masterclass is part of preparing a student for a concert, try to anticipate the expected performance setting and procedure as closely as possible, including entry, stance and position on stage, how to finish and exit.

Teaching Tips

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