Podcast 001: The G’Day Violin Warm-up

Have you ever tried pumping up a bike tire, only to find out that the air you’re working so hard to push in is just escaping out a leak that you can’t even see?

Well, you may not notice it, but you might be leaking a good part of your violin tone. Yeah, that tone you’re working so hard to create, and it’s leaking like a cheap inner tube.

This isn’t about how loud you can play. And it’s definitely not about squeezing or forcing tone out of your instrument. That never goes well.

Keeping all of that in mind, here’s this week’s warm-up routine.

The G’Day Warm-up

Today’s were sharing a violin routine called the G’Day warmup. Not because it’s from Australia, but because this tonal and bow control warmup goes through all 4 strings, G, D, A and E. And actually, we’ll be playing two open strings at once, either G&D, D&A or A&E. No need to use the left hand for this warm-up, and I suggest you use it to help support the violin.

If this is your first time playing on two strings at once, be a little patient, there could be a little bit of a learning curve.

One more thing, this particular warmup comes in three flavors: slow, medium slow and medium fast bows, each played with the bow at an increasing distance from the bridge. Choose the contact point that produces the richest tone and most comfortable control.

Practice Circle Members-Only Video Version appears here:

G’Day (GDAE) Warm-up (3-5 mins) Instructions:

  1. Carefully tune your violin. We’ll begin on the D/A to A/E string combination. Starting at the frog of your bow, Draw a full 1/2 bow of rich tone on D/A, briefly stop the bow and pivot your bow arm to A/E, then drawing the remainder of the bow.
  2. Now, keep your bow in place, don’t change your contact point, and reverse bow direction, with 1/2 bow up on A/E, a brief pause, then pivoting back to D/A.
  3. Repeat a few times and enjoy the buttery feeling of drawing a that rich tone that two strings can produce together.
  4. Perform the same combination using the G/D and D/A strings. When you feel comfortable, no need to stop the bow between string changes. Just pivot seamlessly between strings.
  5. Now link the up and down bows seamlessly without a pause, paying special attention to the fluidity and ease within the bow hand when the bow changes directions.
  6. Finally perform the same motion on a single string of your choice. Go for the same buttery, connected feeling.

Tip: You can this warm-up early in your practice routine to establish great bow technique for your entire session.

Today’s Violin Inspiration

Well, if you play the violin, you don’t have to worry about dealing with your impatience, because my dear friends, your impatience is already dealing with you. More than anything else that’s what your violin can teach you.

Sooner or later you’re going to come across the work of the famous violinist Ivan Galamian. He once spoke about preparing for performances and said, “we tend to do too little, too late.”

He’s speaking truth, folks!

The takeaway is that, so often it takes a lot longer than you might think to reach your true potential on any given piece of music. Be kind to yourself if you’re unhappy with the way something sounds today. Be kind, patient and keep a positive attitude.

Today we’re so often pushed to prepare things far too quickly. If you play in orchestras or do freelance work you can probably relate. Tightening budgets translate to shorter and shorter rehearsal schedules which amount to a lot of stress, and for me, the hollow feeling of performing something long before its truly ready. That’s not the fulfilling experience that drew us to performing in the first place.

In orchestra, you don’t call the shots. But in your own practice, it’s a gift to yourself to take Mr. Galamian’s advice. Whatever you’re practicing, take your time, go deeper and start a lot sooner than you might think is necessary.

A great idea is to play informally for friends and family. Give yourself the space to experience what its like to be on stage.

The bottom line; music is meant to be shared. Practicing performing on stage is equally important to learning your instrument and learning new music. So get out there and play for others. A lot.

But beyond all of that, the one great lesson that our instruments teach us is to be patient with our practice, it’s the wisdom to understand that things will unfold in their own time.

If you’re feeling inspired, I hope you’ll help support this podcast by joining our Practice Circle. Inside the circle you’ll get a clear video demonstration of this week’s practice routine along with access to support for any questions related to the lesson. It’s only $9.95 a month which really helps me with the many costs of running this blog and podcast.

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Click Here to Join the InvincibleViolinist.com Practice Circle and access a video version of this training along and personalized support for the lesson. Thank You!

The Easiest Approach to the Violin

1. Consider all the new songs/pieces, the scales, the bowing exercises. Everything you’re currently working on. It can add up fast!

2. Grab a yellow pad and put it all on a list.

3. Move half the items to a new list, called “coming attractions.”

4. The remaining items: this becomes your working list. Use all your new found time to go deeper, twice as deep as you could have before. Now without the burden of a long list, notice how you can indulge your creativity, curiosity and sense of fun.

5. Then, after you’re feeling good about your working list, go back to your coming attractions list. Now repeat the process: go twice as deep with these items too, but now with the added benefit of everything you’ve learned.

Enjoy the benefits, and this radical idea: the easiest practice is also the best.

 

In Discomfort I Trust

If you’re seeking to create positive change in your violin playing, it’s almost certain you’ll feel discomfort during that process.

Want to improve your tone? Making changes in your bow hold or adding vibrato will certainly feel awkward in the short term. Hoping to play better in tune? Your developing pitch acuity will make you crazy until things settle in.

It’s feels better to simply learn a new tune, or jam with some friends.

Usually, when we’re ready to improve our technique, we think, “this is going to help me move ahead, and create more opportunities. I’m excited about it.”

That’s all well and good, but what’s a lot more difficult (and also more helpful) is to say all of the above plus, “and this is going to make me uncomfortable.”

When (and How) to be Negative During Your Violin Practice

It’s fairly clear that we humans all share a bit of a negativity bias. When presented with a situation that could go two ways, we’re prone to predict it will go badly more often then not.

That’s a great quality if you’re a caveman worried about being eaten by a saber tooth tiger.

When it comes to violin practice, we often generalize in the same way, though it’s not quite as useful.

Recently, in the middle of a practice session I was thinking “there’s no way I can play this etude properly,” when in reality the situation was a lot more nuanced. Large sections of the music were totally fine.

I had generalized the problem in a way that wasn’t helpful.

Better to just think about the specific challenges in a more granular way. It turns out that problem was isolated to a specific motion on a specific string.

Looking past all the misplaced negativity allowed me to focus my practice much more efficiently. I fixed the problems quickly.

Negativity as an emotion is toxic to practice. Instead, use your “negativity” in more of a left brain context. “This specific problem in this specific spot isn’t what I want.”

Certainly, critical judgment is an important part of practice. It’s a positive way of being negative.

Next time you’re feeling down on your playing, stop and notice the emotion of the moment. What triggered this feeling? Take a break, do some stretching and hit the reset button.

Can you separate the emotion from what’s actually happening on your violin? Can you get clear about the actual problem(s), right now?

Feeling stuck and depressed during practice?

Clearing the negativity cloud will soon create a spacious attitude in your right brain. You become more sensitive, more aware. Creative solutions will appear without effort!

Try it yourself and let me know what happens!


Bach Peasant Cantata Left Hand Practice

InvincibleViolinist.com Song of the Month

June 2017: Bach Peasant Cantata Part 3 – Left Hand Practice

Update: Over the last couple of weeks we’ve focussed on preparing a practice of Bach’s music. View and/or download these related resources at this link.


Already this month we’ve created a clarified vision of our final musical result and instilled a bit of variety in our Peasant Cantata bow strokes.

It’s great to divide our practice into these discrete but related activities. This “simplify” strategy creates an atmosphere of ease around our practice time.

I can say unequivocally that a practice defined by ease will always connect you to your instrument (and your life) in a more mindful and joyful way.

Said more simply: with easeful practice, your skills and enjoyment will both improve while boredom and struggle fly out the window.

Continuing with the simplify strategy, this we’ll discover to play the Bach with improved left hand intonation. We’ll learn practice tactics that give us better control over pitch.

The ability to play well in tune is a hallmark of good musicianship. Every level of violinist from novice to professional needs this in her toolkit.

Luckily, Peasant Cantata, draws upon a relatively modest palette of pitches. We only need to control a single finger pattern within the A major scale. That’s great news, since the A major scale is perhaps the most accessible in all of violin technique.

Instructions

  1. Begin by placing your fingertips in a row, lightly on a pencil. Think “light touch” as if typing on a keyboard. Learn the A major scale pattern by gliding your 1st and 4th fingers along the pencil. I also call this the “red” pattern in my full course.
  2. On the violin, balance the 3rd finger on the A string in its approximate normal position. Then spread the fingers into the red pattern as noted above.
  3. Use the plucking match to fine tune the pitch of the 3rd finger note (D) by matching to the open D string. You can pluck both together until they sound like a single pitch.
  4. Keep your hand comfortably stretched in the red pattern while you bow the “twinkle” rhythm up the scale from open A up to the 3rd finger. Use a full rich tone.
  5. Follow the same pattern up the E string. You have now completed the A Major scale.
  6. Once you’re comfortable with all the pitches, use the twinkle rhythm to perform all the notes of the Peasant Cantata, one after another.

Tips:

  • The second finger will be right next to the third. If you have thick fingers, 2 and 3 might even be touching.
  • The first finger will stitch back quite considerably from the second. You can test the pitch by playing it alongside an open E string.
  • While “twinkling” though the cantata, begin with small groups of notes, then later expand until you can comfortably play through every note of the piece in sequence.

By separating the pitch from other challenges in this music, we can create more ease when later adding back other elements of the music.

This would also be a great time to review last week’s bowing practice on open strings. At our upcoming live class, we’ll begin to reassemble all the elements of the piece into a unified performance.


Register for the Free June Class

Create a violin practice that really works! Learn how to bring a joyful ease to your practice in my next live online class on June 24, 2017. The June class is The Violin: Your Companion Along the Journey to Becoming Fully Awake and Alive.

Click here to register for the June class.

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