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Lydia Leong

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  1. The tone is obnoxious, when it sounds obnoxious to you! Some instruments require digging in to sound. Some don't. You will have to experiment to find out whether or not yours likes this. (Note that this is separate from whether or not the instrument CAN take digging in -- i.e., whether or not it can sustain heavy bowing pressure without the sound breaking up or becoming harsh.) Some players like to dig in. Others don't. This is part of matching the player to the instrument! You should still be able to produce a sufficiently powerful tone even if you don't dig in, though -- if your instrument does not demand digging in, in order to sound. (The "silvery" Milstein tone seems to be produced by using lots of bow, without digging in.) Make sure you are bowing at the middle sounding point between bridge and fingerboard. Suzuki calls this the "Kreisler Highway". Don't let the bow unconsciously slip towards the fingerboard. Make sure that you are pulling the bow straight. A Russian hold will get you the most power, at the cost of a little bit of flexibility. The hair is flat and the forearm is rotated to maximize the weight of the arm upon the strings, and the index finger can be used to regulate the pressure. The hair of the bow is kept quite loose.
  2. Perhaps at your age the question to ask is not, "What do I want to study?" but, "What job do I want to prepare for?" and find a course of study that prepares you for it. (No doubt someone will chime in with, "Follow your dreams to study what you're interested in," but given that you have a family, the reality of practical responsibilities intrudes.) You will have to weigh gratifying your educational interests, against your responsibilities to your family. No doubt this will affect choices like whether or not you really need to double major in order to do what you want. (Remeber that education doesn't stop once you leave college, and you could always choose to do what you need to do to get the degree that will get you the job you want, and continue taking interest courses part-time.) Another practical consideration: If you go the music education route, will you be able to find a job in your immediate area, or is it likely you will need to move? If so, what impact will this have upon your family?
  3. Are you basing this on hearing recordings, or hearing them live (or hearing broadcast tapes of live performances)?
  4. By the way, HKV: Now that you're free of medical school, what are you doing with yourself? I seem to recall you'd mentioned likely going into public health?
  5. As I consider this question at greater length, I find myself asking a much broader question, which is, "How does one judge the alteration of a player's interpretations over time?" I am thinking solely about interpretation, as it appears that technique peaks at an early stage, stabilizes, and eventually declines as body suffers the effects of aging. The interpretations of artists change, even over their mature lifetimes. It's often hard to say if they get "better" or "worse". Sometimes they follow a particular trend, and sometimes they don't: the older Heifetz, for instance, seems to be "cooler" than the younger Heifetz, and the middle-aged Stern is curiously distant. Milstein makes a particularly fine example of an artist whose interpretations change dramatically over his lifetime, without any clear trends (at least not that I can see), and for whom it is difficult to say whether or not earlier or later interpretations are "better". The very young interpretations (under the age of 25, let's say) do tend to be distinct from the interpretations of someone older -- no doubt the result of having heard and played a given work repeatedly upon the concert stage and discovered what does and doesn't work, as well as the increased maturity of years. The artists I named above did, I believe, did get better making the transition into adulthood. Whether or not they continue to "improve" with time is probably at least somewhat a matter of taste and judgement. Perhaps over time the imprint of the artist's personality (or lack thereof) becomes stronger -- and whether or not this is to one's taste determines how one feels about that artist's journey. [This message has been edited by Lydia Leong (edited 10-05-2000).]
  6. Yes, it does -- already tried it, too. (To play tenths, I put the thumb "forward", reach up with the 4th and then reach back with the 1st -- for a tenth below 4th/6th positions, I have to actually place the first finger literally on its side, not just touching the corner of the finger as most people do.) But thanks anyway! I have a much wider handspan in my left hand than my right, presumably as a result of plenty of childhood stretching in playing violin. (I played piano, too, but one would assume this would stretch both hands equally.) Doesn't help enough.
  7. On the violin: Don't press so hard with the left hand. You only need a little bit of pressure to stop a string cleanly, and hard smackdowns on the fingerboard wreck your agility and speed, too.
  8. You can get contemporary bows that sound excellent and play superbly, for $4000 or less. Composites have also really driven the price of a decent bow down by a lot -- a Coda Classic, for instance, holds up well against pernambucco bows several times its price. Go to a local-area shop that has a wide selection of instruments in a broad price range, and play the instruments without initially asking what they are or how much they cost. Jot down your impressions, then find out the provenance and price afterwards. This will give you an idea of at what price range you start noticing that the instruments are consistently better than the one you currently own. This will tell you approximately what you're likely going to have to pay (though you will of course find instruments below that price range that also sound/play better than what you have now). Sounds like you already have both a decent violin and a decent bow. Which are you unhappy with?
  9. Maxim Vengerov, Sarah Chang, Gil Shaham, and Midori -- to name four that are.
  10. Also: If anyone else is planning on working on this piece, my trill exercise recommendation would actually be the short-trill exercise in Dont op. 35 (I think it's #17; begins on a 4th-finger trill of B/A on the E string). It's a hefty workout for a 4th-finger trill (and other combinations to a lesser degree), combined with a fairly straightforward shifting exercise. Quick, fast, light trills -- exactly what you need for this sonata. (I picked this as a fluff piece precisely because I'm not personally worried about trills, though. )
  11. HKV: Duh. (You need enormous hands before you can NOT do any of the things you mention and yet reach extensions!) So, I actually tried it this morning. For those who don't know the piece: the section begins with the 4th finger on the G string on an E, and a trill on E/F-natural with the 1st and 2nd fingers on the D string. I set the hand as if I were reaching for a tenth, meaning: thumb set "forward" (which favors the upper half of the hand, maximizing reach), thumb below the neck and arm all the way around (maximizes the curvature of the hand), set the 4th finger and reach back for the 1st (again, as if playing a tenth). And yes, I've experimented with varying all of these things. The problem is that while I can (with strain) reach the unison, the 4th finger is insufficiently curved, meaning that quite a bit of the flesh of the 4th finger touches the D string, preventing the chord from sounding. The addition of the 2nd finger makes things even worse, by forcing more of the hand to remain backwards. (The later E-flat unison is even worse, since spacing at the end of the string makes that half-step quite a large distance, increasing the reqiured stretch significantly). The top segment of my 4th finger is as long as the lower two segments put together (and as long as the top segment of my index finger), making even the necessary curvature to play thirds in the lower positions non-trivial.
  12. A good starting point to that question would be, "How much are you willing to spend total?" (and "What do you have now?" for that matter.)
  13. Arpa, I assume your daughter still has child-sized hands, and plays a full-sized violin? Can you ask her what she does in order to span the notes in the "trill du diable" section of the last movement of the sonata? These involve unisons, a stretch which is more uncomfortable than a fingered octave due to the reverse position (which doesn't favor stretching the hand as much), combined with having to hold down the fifth and trill in conjunction, both of which anchor the hand down towards the lower note. (I expressed, to my teacher, a desire to play this sonata, and she pointed out that it requires a lot of stretches/extensions that are likely to be difficult/impossible for my hands, of which the trill du diable bits are the ones impossible to 'fake' through fast shifts.)
  14. Angela, I just glanced back in the archives at your old posts, and I have to ask: Why the heck are you taking lessons from a grad student, and not from a professor? You noted in a previous post that you were working on the Bruch concerto; I assume that the major concerto repertoire, the typical recital showpieces, etc. are the sorts of things that you typically work on (logical, given how long you've been playing). Has the grad student ever taught anyone at your level before? Indeed, is the grad student really all that much better of a player than you are -- i.e., can they really analyze the playing of someone who is very nearly a peer, and teach them in a constructive manner? The answer here seems to be clearly a resounding NO. I think you should be searching for another teacher. I've had teachers bounce me back and forth between Franco-Belgian, "Galamian", and Russian approaches to the right hand. At a certain point -- and you are old enough and advanced enough to answer this question for yourself -- you must choose which of the advantages/disadvantages of the various approaches will best suit the style that you want to adopt as your own. A teacher at the college level should be able to work to optimize your sound, given the choice you've made, even if they personally don't use this approach. (They might persuade you to switch, of course, if they can convince you that their way of tone production is really superior. I imagine that if one had the opportunity to study with the now-deceased Jascha Brodsky, for instance, learning that enormous amount of control and ultra-smooth legato that his students seem to exhibit would be worth a lot of retooling of the right hand.) Anyway, even if you're going to do those bow exercises, there's no reason you can't do them in conjunction with the usual technical routine -- scales, arpeggios, finger exercises, etc. Write off this teacher.
  15. 1) Please undo the caps lock. All-upper-case text is nearly impossible to read. 2) Are we reading the same site? A very large proportion of the Fingerboard's players are fiddlers, or classical players who do some fiddling. I don't see anyone bashing fiddlers around here. 3) I would guess that the vast majority of Fingerboarders can readily pick out familiar tunes by ear (at least after a couple of years of playing), regardless of what their training is.
  16. I agree with Toscha's recommendations. The fingering for arpeggios in op. 1/III is a little odd, by the way. If you have the Flesch scale book, you might want to substitute Flesch's more modern fingerings for Sevcik's (or practice both, which will give you a better workout). I would also add Sevcik op. 8 to that, which is the "basic" shifting book, with a methodical set of shifting patterns (as opposed to op. 1/III, which is sort of semi-random in its organization). The methodical organization of op. 8 makes it easier than op. 1/III, in my opinion. The shifting patterns can be practiced in any key, which make them an excellent substitute for/supplement to scales. I also like Sevcik op. 9, which contains double-stop patterns laid out in a methodical fashion (it's to op. I/IV when op. 8 is to op. 1/III). It's worth getting all four books (they're cheap) and picking an exercise regime that makes sense to you. If you just want a general tour of Sevcik, see if you can find "Best of Sevcik", edited by Applebaum. It's a volume that goes through the first seven positions, with finger-pattern, shifting, and double-stop exercises in each. I like Schradieck's "School of Violin Playing", op. 1 book I, for left-hand strength and agility. The first exercise is especially worthwhile.
  17. Thoughtful musicianship hopefully increases over one's lifetime. At some point in time, technique deteriorates for physiological reasons, though. Some prodigies have musical personalities that are entrancing because they have a natural innocence and spontaneity that is, well, childlike. I think the young Menuhin is a terrific example of this; while he played with enormous musical maturity, there was also a quality of, I don't know what to call it, childish wonder? that was absent in his later years. Not all prodigies fulfill the promise of their childhood, and become extraordinary adults. After all, the definition of a prodigy is essentially a child who does something with the maturity and skill of an adult. This doesn't mean slower-developing peers will not eventually catch up. Not all prodigies become better musicians throughout their adult lifetimes -- and the same is true of non-prodigies as well. Some interpreters become more and more idiosyncratic as they age, for instance. "Prodigy" in the classical music world, especially the violin world, seems to almost be a worthless term now, though. There are plenty of children playing highly complex music to a demanding technical standard (and musical standard) at a very early age. Most modern concertizing artists could be termed prodigies in their youth.
  18. The amount of force you use putting a finger down, and the quickness of the 'snap' back when you take the finger off the string, affect the degree of articulation of the note. The amount of pressure that you use to hold down the string will affect the tone. To hear this for yourself, play a full bow with a constant, normal degree of pressure at your central sounding-point (i.e., a non-extraordinary mezzo-forte). Play a 3rd-finger D on the A string. First, press down on the string all the way -- as if your finger were glued down to the fingerboard. Gradually release the pressure, and listen to how the sound changes as you do. (Be careful to keep the bow pressure steady, even when the finger pressure is variable!) You can take advantage of the change in timbre with differing amounts of finger-pressure to add to your range of tone colors. The amount of pressure it takes to "cleanly stop" a string (i.e., tone is clear, no whistle) varies from string brand to brand. Of the various things I've tried, Helicores are noticeably extremely easy to stop. Obligatos can take a lighter touch than Dominants. (A light touch, IMHO, is good, since it fatigues the muscles less, and allows for greater agility/speed.)
  19. One suggestion about dealing with the luthier problem: Perhaps you could get the parents to agree that, as a condition of lessons, that you will take student instruments to be repaired, adjusted, etc. and bows rehaired once every six months, and they owe you a fee for this service, as well as the cost of any work done. Alternatively, you could set up the equivalent of a carpool list, for parents who are taking children's instruments in to be worked on. It probably wouldn't hurt you to learn to do things like reset a soundpost for an emergency, though...
  20. Do a search for a topic from within the last few weeks, called "Best E strings".
  21. Didn't you say in an earlier post, HKV, that you didn't find much benefit in practicing things slowly? What's made you change your mind? As a kid, I could play without a warmup. Now -- whether as a result of my adult physiology, or just too many years away from the violin, I don't know -- I find that a warmup is absolutely necessary. In the first few minutes I play, I play rather badly -- I have neither the left nor right hand entirely under control. So I find that exercises for establishing control are most helpful to me, at the beginning of a practice session. I also feel that they condition the muscles appropriately -- just as useful as stretching and calisthentics before an athletic practice.
  22. HKV makes reasonable points, but none of them exclude the possibility of things sounding better with strings that better suit the instrument. It is not outrageous for people to look for the best strings they can for their instruments, especially since strings are CHEAP. They are also "quick fixes". Making technique-based improvements in tone, obviously isn't! And while I'm all for the Old Russian style of tone production, I am hesitant to assert its supremacy, given the very large number of players -- both "old masters" and contemporary violinists -- who have produced a large, beautiful tone with a different approach.
  23. quote: Originally posted by Michael Darnton: 30 minutes, at least, possibly more, cutting a new post because the old one's so bad I can't in good conscience send the violin out with it, but I can't charge for this because I'm doing it to satisfy myself. I found this statement somewhat amusing -- I'm wondering just what percentage of the luthiers are rather compulsive about their work.
  24. Go to www.google.com and type 'violin brain' into the search engine box. You'll get a list of a lot of different interesting articles.
  25. If you are playing Bach Partitas, you are NOT a novice, man.
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