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Posts posted by DR. S

  1. I'd say most of the viola repertoire - aside from the Bartok Concerto is forgotten and rarely played in public.  It's too bad.   I think in my lifetime I have had live opportunities to hear the Bartok maybe 4-5 times, the Walton once.  And that is it.  I think they played the Piston concerto on the local classical station once and Hindemith's der Schwanenderer once (which is such a beautiful work - Hindemith could only compose beautiful works for the viola it seems). 


  2. There are only 4 variable.   1. Bow Speed, 2. Bow Pressure  3. Sounding point (where on the string the bow makes contact) 4. How much hair is in contact with the string - bow angle as held in the hand.   Of course this assumes you have mastered pulling a relatively straight bow, and are not doing anything dumb with rosin (don't over rosin, just as much as you need - I only rosin up every few times I play, a little more as my hair wears out), and have serviceable hair on the stick - a cake of rosin will last years and years.  I've never come close to using one us - it goes old well before that happens - and I play a lot.  

    Play with these variables until you get the best sound possible.  The one bit of advice or visualization tool that did it for me was a concept, when pulling or pushing the bow, best described as the feeling of 'pulling taffy' - to feel a smooth but constant resistance.   Practice pulling the bow closer and closer to the bridge, listening to how it affects the sound - it gets more focused, but there is a point where it becomes harsh, you want to to that limit to get the best projections, but back off for warmth and a fluffier tone.  You cannot play 'lazy' and have a great tone, you must always be 'working the sound - constantly adjusting these variable, but you can have such a pallet of colors to use once you get the hang of it, only the human voice is more expressive.  

  3. I believe the galamian hold is more versatile and less stressfull in general as it brings in more wrist and takes stress of the arm, so it is better for an Orchestra musician to avoid repetitive motion injuries.  A soloist csn use a Russian grip to goid effect because it is grest for projecting, it sets up for a lsrge tone.  But there are plenty of big tone soloists who use the Galamian Grip, Perlman, Zuckerman to name two.  A user of the Galamian grio can certainly roll the  bow flat, it certainly was one of the tone varianles I leatned go use.

  4. We all have up and down days, in any endeavor.  Natural biorhythms, nutrition, sleep, etc.  However, working through these presents an opportunity to make a breakthrough.  Often the most frustrating days are those right before a breakthrough.


  5. Schradiek Exercises.  Excellent fluency exercises.  And yes scales and arpeggios, but scale study needs to be systematic.  Stand in front of a mirror and pull straight bows over and over and over.  Get a good teacher.  Do NOT get a bad teacher.  A good teacher can lay out a plan, tell you what they want to fix with your technique and why (and why the technique they teach works).  They should always be pushing towards relaxation and low stress positions.  Playing the violin is very easy.  Learning how to play easily is very hard.   Look for a teacher who plays effortlessly and also has a good background in who they studied with.


  6. Theo Glaesel, Markneukirchen Germany, 1965.  This was one of a group of instruments he made specifically for William Moennig and Sons to sell in their shop in Philadelphia.  16 5/8ths inches.  Bought it around 1974, as an advanced student instrument.  But struck gold on it. I tried several times to find something better, but even Jacque Francais in New York could not show many an instrument that had a superior sound or sonority, though a few very old and expensive violas were a little smoother and easier to play, but paled next to this instrument in projection and richness.  

    Here is a couple of old clips with a pretty good sample of this viola.  http://www.fortestrings.com/images/32_-_Track_32.mp3 , http://www.fortestrings.com/images/42_-_Track_42.mp3 

    These were not enhances in any way.


  7. To get a decent instrument in your price range, you have to get lucky.  Used market or Chinese market, and you'll have to be patient.  I lucked into a professional/solo quality viola for $1500, but that was in 1975!!!  And it is of a relatively unknown maker so it will never have a value indicative of it's playing quality.  That is the good and bad about instrument prices - pedigree is the most important aspect of it's value - generally, instruments from makers or makers from places that have good reputations are valued higher - irrespective of how well the individual instrument sounds/plays.  I have a $4000 (at least that is what I payed for it) violin from a totally unknown maker, that can play circles around 6 digit priced violins I have played on, and while it is good, I have played on many better violins in the 5 - 30K price range.  I have never played on a viola that is better than my $1500 instrument, though I'm sure they exist.   

  8. I was familiar with the Salchow name from my time in New York - he did some work on my bows.  I tried some of his bows but nothing struck me as special about them - at least not for me - but he had a good reputation.    There is bow maker here in Texas, Mike Sheriff, who now has his own rosin formulation he sells, supposedly he spent many years refining his recipe.   I've tried it (a friend has a cake), seems fine, but again, nothing that made me say 'wow', and it is somewhat expensive. 

  9. I detest Eva Pirazzi's - at least for my viola, but I paid so much for them that I kept them on my instrument for full year (thus the depth of my hatred).  I knew that what I did not like about them probably did not project past my own ears.   I found them annoyingly tinny under my ear.  But people always told me my instrument sounded as good as always with them on it. 

    However, that being said, I certainly would not refuse to try out an instrument because of the strings it has.  Maybe he has an endorsement contract with another brand of string?  Did he have a string logo on the back of his tux? :-P

  10. Been playing for over 50 years.

    I have never scratched my Rosin, nor have I had any problem with a 'coating' on a new cake of rosin.

    I have never replaced a rosin due to aging.  In fact, up to about 15 years ago I had only gone through about 3 cakes of rosin - good ol' cheap Hidersine - and only replaced a cake because they got broken. 

    I use very little rosin, even when I played many hours each day, every day, I only rosined every few days, unless my bow hair was getting old - though I tend to need rehairs due to loss of hair/breakage rather than wearing it out - I'm a pretty aggressive player. 

    I wear my cakes down evenly, constantly rotating the cake so my hair will always lie flat on the cake and get and even coat. 

    After I rosin my bow, I always run it over a rag first to get the excess off.

    Starting about 15 years ago, I decided, just for kicks, to try some other brands (found some I didn't like - Dominant - waxy - but nothing that made me sound like Zucherman either.) Most did what they are supposed to do quite well.  

    I now keep three active cakes of Rosin, one in each case (a violin, viola, and violin/viola)   Hidersine, Salchow, and another brand I can't recall at this time.  No preference for one over the other even with regards to violin or viola.

  11. Okay, I know that every instrument responds to strings differently, so no one can tell me what strings to use.   My question is pretty specific.   I need to find an e-string that plays harmonics more easily than what I have now.  Really having trouble - it is not a technique issue, I play harmonics just fine on my viola and the lower strings on my violins, but fingered harmonics on my e-string are giving me fits. 

    I am going to try a bunch of e-strings to see if it fixes the problem, but there are so many out there.  So help me put together a list of 5-6 e-strings that I can try that would give me the best chance of finding the right one.   Especially those of you that have already done some experimenting.   My violin is a modern - 1969.  Big sound, very even tone across the range, but a bit on the heavy side. 

  12. If people like it and it gets some decent music in front of them - okay, I guess, and I'm not going to begrudge someone making a living and doing no harm.  But I'll stay at home thank you.  Not everything has to be my cuppu-tea - I can co-exist.


  13. A topic I am interested in.  Too bad it at least partly degenerated into a "how too vibrato' thread. 

    There is another quote from Leopold Mozart - in a letter he asks something like:  "Have you heard this new fad from Italy that sounds like the braying of sheep."  I always assumed he was talking about vibrato - period, but he may well have been talking about continuous vibrato, obviously done poorly as well.   In soloist playing I have always wondered if and how much vibrato Paganini used.  I know that in orchestral playing it was often forbidden.  I think the last holdout to allow vibrato by it's members was a German Orchestra and it was in the 1950s or 1960s that it finally relented.   Not too long ago, there was a conductor going around and for his concerts he would teach his orchestra to play without vibrato, and perform, not Renaissance or Baroque works , but symphonies by Beethoven and Brahms.   I never heard a concert, but have been told it was quite effective and interesting.  Most people do not know how to play without vibrato - you need to get up more on your fingertips and attempt to affect a cleaner stop of the string - as close to an open string sound as you can get,and intonation is very, very important.  But you can achieve a ringing vibrant harmonious sound that goes fuzzy once you start to vibrate - especially in small string ensembles, such as quartets.  Many of the really great quartets use non-vibrato often in certain passages.  My quartet at conservatory used this in a chorale section of a Mendelssohn String Quartet to a most marvelous affect, but it took tremendous work to tune it to where it needed to be.  Even today, vibrato should be used as an enhancement.  And the player needs to have a widely varied ability for vibrato, from slow and small to fast and wide and every combination in between.   

    As far as how to learn it, I too never found anyone who could really explain it, but I was fortunate to have developed a very nice ability here, my best tips - relax relax relax, and start at the top and vibrate downward or back (pitchwise) - for two reasons - the ear hears the highest pitch in determining intonation, and if you don't put your finger down at the highest point of the vibrato, then when you fail to vibrate, you will be flat. I know quite a few violinists that put their fingers down vibrate up to the note, they sound flat all the time - especially up high or in fast passages where they cannot vibrate on every note. 

  14. I cannot relate to this in the least.   Of course we are all wired differently and react to stimuli differently and I am sure the author is baring her soul in this article and I respect that.   But i cannot fathom how gaining greater mastery of the instrument cannot open up one's ability to better express their musical voice.  I, didn't get this type of training until I was in University, and I so regretted not having that earlier in my training.  I have never felt my abilities as an instrumentalist has ever allow me to express what was inside of me musically, and thus my frustration.  I know I am not bad, and I frequently get asked to play solos, and people seem to enjoy it, but I literally cringe when I hear myself play.  There is plenty I hear that is good, but there is always something musically that was inside of me that I was unable to express through the instrument or some technical slip that mars the performance for me. And there is so much music out there that moves me that I would like to play that I will never be able to play due to technical limitations.  

  15. No order - except I'd say Perlman #1 in his prime (# 2 all time of those we have decent recordings of)


    Hillary Hahn
    Anna Sophi-Mutter

    Julia Fischer

    Perlman (past prime - should he be on "past" list?)


    Cho Liang "Jimmy" Lin

    Maxim Vengerov
    Sarah Chang

    Josh Bell

    Jame Ehnes


    (Despite all the complaining here, there is no shortage of great living violinists!  I could add 10 more easily)

  16. You can not play better unless you play in tune. Most practice time is spent to achieve good technique together with good intonation. There is no one without other.

    True, But I know plenty of players who play very well in tune, but know very little about theory. They just have a 'good ear.'


    The intonation I speak of related to theory is how to push or pull leading tones (for example). many players do this naturally without conscious theoretical reasons - it just sounds right.   But knowing theory can help identify those tones to be raised or lowered for the less natural or more intellectual player.   This refinement is one that 95% of the audience will never be able to pick up on.

  17. It will not make it easier to learn the violin technically, but is will make understanding the music you play easier, and if you ever want to learn to improvise, it is very helpful.   I disagree that music theory is the same as ear training, though both are often taught at the same time, and learning to hear not only intervals but chord progressions can be very useful and reduce the amount of time it takes to learn new music, if you can more quickly grasp the structure of that piece.  But again, this will not directly help you technically play the instrument better, EXCEPT in helping you to fine tune intonation.