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  1. All thoughts on improvisation are relevant in that the collective experiences can reveal an aspect that may make it easier for a would be performer/ improviser. Improvisations are often fleeting. That is what makes it bittersweet. The importance of live music is that whether "live" or "living," it occurs in that moment for the participants. It can be a heightened experience. As most must experience, the performance is not the best attempt of the piece by the player ( s. ) But perhaps the whole of the performance is greater than any slip here or there. My ballet digression, once more, is also the sadness I feel that live musicians are used less. Frankly, dancing to a recording should be easier or at least more predictable. An ( overly ) exuberant conductor can over work many a dancer who also has a matinees on the weekends. As for improvising continuo parts, figured bass "patterns" are what I suffer through. The intervals are there. Threading the notes, then stitching together other ideas is the learned task. But traditional classical improvisations are structurally easier to understand compared to contemporary improvisations in various genres. Like the improvisations of national musical styles, they sound, written down. Figured bass, thus played well, sounds written down unless the player maybe goes a little over or crosses that line. Music theory helps. But Gospel singers and Barbershop/ Sweet Madeline quartets participants that do not read music pick notes out of the air. One lady's advice was, "don't overthink it." She continued that the brain tells you where the notes go. From God to her lips. The notation is often so tiny that I have no idea what is being read in realtime. But after a few rehearsals, the flow becomes more apparent. There are notes that are shared between say the I and IV chord ( the root of the I chord and the 5th of the IV chord. ) In C and F major, spelt, CEG and FAC, they both share the C. Pretty safe. I to V, again in C major, CEG, GBD, where G is shared. ii to V to I ( or famously V7 ) starts DFA, GBD, CEG... a nice D > D > C landing. The beauty of the lower tones is the effect on the entire spectrum of the notes played above. One might prioritize the choices available. If one wants to move away from a chord tone, it should - at least initially - be tried in the weaker parts of the measure or the phrase. If there is a dissonance on the primary beats, one spends a great deal more energy trying to release that tension. And this assumes that the "improvisations" are based off of more conventional or traditional harmonies. Something with an ABA or AABA form allows for lots of experimentation. The first bit of fun might be from playing with rhythm on the same pitch, as a contrast/ syncopation or supporting under key lyrics. Octaves, then the 5ths, mid phrase or between phrases. Its often a question of how much attention the part deserves. Often low or bass mini- improvisations are fills that jump out of the chord tones. Fills, like drum fills often "fill" the sonic space of where a singer's words have tapered off. Short, sweet and hopefully interesting. I am sure there are great many suggestions for this type of improvisation, but when working with students, studying Vivaldi and Telemann scores has been helpful. There is far more space between the notes compared to JSBach. The score simply makes viewing the melodic ( and secondary ) movements visible. Density of the notes dictates whether to support or fill. Haydn quartets from a score is also a great tool. By studying the late quartets and going to the earlier ones, it is apparent that a cellist could play far more in the earlier ones, based on what the melodies were doing above. Doubling, response, harmonies in 3rds, 6ths, there are many ways to make something more lyrical or interesting. The study of Beethoven Quartets is in the development sequence. Ol' Ludwig takes motifs, flips, reverses and distorts in so many ways that intuitively some notes become patterns and others have to be discovered. This is important as the desk study of the score can reduce some practice time if the study and ensemble time is properly targeted. At weddings, decades in the past, low paying gigs were played as vln/ clo duos dividing the parts of a quartet into two parts. Yes, perhaps, some double stop attempts were out of tune. It took a few rehearsals but were able to make merry. It was fun driving to the gigs in an off white, a little rusty, Dodge Dart, windows down with instruments in the back seat. We could stop anywhere and just play. Anyway, slipping in the time to listen and play is often the most difficult thing in a busy schedule. I frequently use open back headphones to practice improvising off a score. The stereo was fine, but it is so much easier to pull off headphones than to reach for the remote. The last place I try before giving up, is to work through some improvisation is the Bartok Duos. Some are bold and capricious. Let the kids experiment. Some parents think it is a bit pricey to experimenting, but the hand- holding and the encouragement is important. I know, too much. Typed from coffee to lunch.
  2. I do agree with you. There have been many whom paths have been crossed where my feelings of contempt towards them were overwhelming. But in meeting their spouses or children have mellowed. We likely grew up in an age where bad behaviours were tolerated, but certainly by today's standards, unforgiveable. But the process of eliminating lesser candidates was always and on- going reality. In all that You did succeed. I should have prefaced the comment that there are Jazz teachers who teach with the methods learned. In some of my instruction, the hierarchical levels of power are built in. There was swearing and verbal abuse, and my rather thin skinned personality chafed at the belittling. But as I developed, it became the clear that they were teaching me the realities of playing with better players. That I should, if at all possible, not spoil the art of others. As much as Ballet is an art supported nearly by the thread bare sales of the seasonal productions of the Nutcracker, Jazz appears to neglected even more. Cynicism aside, I love ballet, but can spend years in a pit, while an ex-girlfriend had at best 5 years in a corp. Tearful masterclasses were ( are? ) a reality. But we came out of them stronger and there were auditions in our future, at that time. Jazz ensembles are far more difficult to find, and auditions even rarer. Kids I coached in ensemble who went to North Texas State and now University for Jazz generally went on to finish their DMAs or PhDs and teach. These were also kids from well-to-do families. There are awful teachers, yes. My reply is incomplete and not a true defense but will meditate on your comments.
  3. Add chord learning, by exchanging notes from D or G Major chords. Learn to hear the intervals. The 3rd, 5th, the tonic. They have a different feel. Add the rhythmic game by playing patterns on one pitch, then add different sequences. Most kids will be able to copy the patterns after a few attempts. They can written on the board and if the class is large enough, they can be split into different skill levels. The training to this point is about understanding and establishing a frame work. Ornamentation is the beginning of improvisation for many. The end of phrases, the peaks and valleys of melodies, trills. grace notes, mordants, slides make for interesting details. The lower and upper neighbors, within the scale, half or whole steps all might be explored. The kids will ( hopefully ) hear some differences. This is where group study becomes more individual. The kids can learn a simple fiddle - esque tune and learn ( teach themselves ) how to add embellishments. The slower the melody, the more can be added. A lovely, slower, melody like Ashokan Farewell ( by Jay Ungar ) has so many places to add ideas that kids generally enjoy the piece. From here, a mini- improv session can start with each student preparing just a phrase or an "A" section of an AABA tune, with everyone playing the "B" section. If they are nervous, flip the structure, so one student plays just the "B" section - when the school concert is coming up and everyone is petrified, there's at least one or two kids that likes showing off.
  4. The ear - training version of this game starts with pitch identification. One pitch to another. We are taking the simple domain of clapping or chopstick clicking into pitches. We can start with two notes. C or D, F or Bb. With instruments or voice. Then that expands into chord note choices. Write them down on the board or on cards. Add octaves of the same established pitches. With little kids, they can choose between high notes and lower notes. Change the rules. Again, increase tempo. With little kids, the game inevitably becomes a yelling contest.
  5. By "try," both instructor and pupil, make an effort in this struggle to spontaneously compose. First off, games help. It keeps most students alert. Quite a few fade if they feel success is out of their grasp. These kids have to be re - calibrated to understand that any success is a good thing. Short games. If in a group the "passing around in a circle," the exchanging of information from person to person works. It can work one - one too. Can't remember what this game is called but it is also done in acting classes. Improvisation, in a group, requires listening. It also has the benefits of being visual. Try this: Turn on a metronome and have a set of beat sub - divisions prepared to clap. A person starts the game by clapping a subdivision, like a triplet. The next person claps the triplet and the claps a duple. The next person picks up the duple, etc. Simple. Everyone participates. Then increase the tempo. Then add several people starting independent patterns if the circle is large. Timing is a very important aspect of improvisation as it smears the beat. Once the game develops and everyone is comfortable, a rhythmic "groove" can be created. Then the students are introduced to playing around with the beat. While the "groove" is maintained, the passing member clap patterns in front or the leading edge of the groove or behind. The goal is for this distortion in time to be passed on, but at first, clumsy attempts will be made. That's fine.
  6. This made me sit down and ponder responding. With coffee in hand typing with one hand, it would not be worth replying, but this is a serious question. It is important for students ( all of us, I suppose ) of music ( and other disciplines ) to understand how important the act of improvisation, is to me. Yes You! All of you must recognize the importance of improvisation to me. And that is not the way to teach improvisation. But it is important to those who care and are interested in learning, that developing the skill takes time. Toe-dipping is fine and is highly encouraged, but it is important to commit some practice. There are some skill sets that help in the accelerated advancement, including the ability to sing, to intuitively settle into a several chord tones ( basic harmony at first ) if not having perfect pitch. Before making suggestions, let us acknowledge that there are good, confusing, kind, stressed, teachers out there. But I do not think there are "bad" instructors. There are methods and experiences that teachers rely on, and many famously do not work. For these teachers, the process of stripping out the least skilled is important. It is the old school Conservatory style. For the rest of us, trying to uniformly teach a group of students to do well is our goal. Unfortunately, if the student is motivated, the former likely produces better, more skilled players. This is true in many fields, so the best thing that can be taught to those willing to learn - in my puny mind - is to "hang in there" and try. This is told to many of my older students as my teaching becomes more difficult, more harsh. Prepare to be more flexible in attitude and try to be enthusiastic. Ok, some suggestions...
  7. The stick can dictate what the maker will ( must ) do. The playability requirements can limit what might be used, for materials. Some makers are known to have artistic features and those might be important, but in your commission, the freedom to have options is nice. The appearance of the wood, if beautiful or unique can be a feature in itself. The last two bows that were made for me... there were no choices and the maker delivered the bows after hearing and watching me play. When delivered, the wood had many visually distracting details and the jet black ebony that was possibly proposed was not used. There are many, I am certain, that would be less than pleased as these bows did not appear perfect. One bow was slightly stiffer ( I thought too stiff ) than the other with a more difficult balance point, but a year or two later both bows allow me to perform more works, more expressively than with virtually any other bows I have tried to this point. Duane88's thoughts are important as his are practical points. There are limits to what a stick can do and the behaviour as it is shaped and cambered may dictate what might suit the bow you enjoy the most. If the maker is reasonably close by, the experience of having the bow made might also be valuable to you.
  8. This is practical. With a collection of wood and specialized tools, shelves, despite the lack of aesthetics, becomes practical. Bookshelves also take up space. The size of that space is awesome. There are many many shops that are smaller in square footage. Truly envious... In place of paint, unfinished Baltic birch plywood ( sheet ) as it is replaceable, light in color and acoustically reasonable - has been used. It is pricey now, but has been affordable in the past. Thought about finishing the ply, but the unfinished wood is also pleasant. Sonically ( and thermally, ) it can also work as a buffer, though it appears it would not be an issue for your space. And protects the walls, necessary or not. To contrast, there is also a small, acoustically dead room that is full of foam and very dark. For some reason, cutting bridges often happens in that space. Perhaps the contrast in light allows for mental focus necessary to seat and shape a bridge. The sounds the blades make against the bridge make for an enhanced experience. Interesting topic.
  9. On the west coast of the US ( where I have caused some trouble ) it appears many in the business do not care what others think. So must be upfront about my brash opinions. Granted, most European instruments and bows from the forgotten-era came through the East. But in my experience, this comes down to complexity in more expensive ( French ) bows. My thoughts were incomplete. If the bows to be evaluated are without a doubt what they are stamped, or at least the work of related maker, a better shop can give you that information. Many throughout the US are capable of offering opinions. But if something might be special but unsure of origin, then those experts should be pursued. Also, I demonstrated a better, stamped, student "German" bow against a French bow that cost 200x, the other evening and the player sounded better with the "German" bow. So playability is not always the issue when it comes to pricing. It is worth your time to search out a group of experts. Older bows are absolute pain.
  10. I am no one to offer opinions on this. But Mr Swan makes a valuable point, as I read it. Expertise is established and developed by the individual. Not everyone can be an expert on everything. And some experts are willing to offer their expertise, but not at writing papers ( though perhaps Maestro Babbitt does. ) But as opinions are offered freely here, there are those who are valued as experts in their areas of expertise we read what is expressed. What do I know? I value Maestro Dorsey's posts. But I have internally disagreed with some of Maestro Childs' opinions, for example, but his credentials are quite excellent. I own his books and hold is writings in great esteem, but having seen this or that, there are some doubts and some surprises when some owners show me papers. Maestro Jerry has been has been absent for awhile but his low-key assessments that I have heard have been amazing, insightful. You are looking for, perhaps, the best forum for your bows? Are you near NY? Is it work flying to the UK? It is worth going through the archives here and if it too much trouble, one can approach an auction house. For insurance purposes, there are many who are helpful in writing papers for potential increases in value. Not sure, but one of insurance agents wanted evaluations every 5-ish years.
  11. Have explored this in the past when the internet allowed us to share music files somewhat easily. The first Sonata is in G-dorian and opens and closes with some very nice open g-strings. Hardly anyone starts with an out of tune instrument, but they are there and the intensity of the pull of the first of the chord can de-tune the instrument. Nervous micro-tuning backstage does not always help. The Ciaconne ( sic ) opens with stopped strings so we often hear the behaviour of the instrument, clamped by that nervous violinist. Not fair to the instrument. I am joking of course, but that opening phrase is often the biggest technical hurdle, if not emotionally, to start this long journey down a path of exposed roots and jagged rocks. One of my instructors told me that they had performed the work in NYC over fifty times. I guess it was far more popular then. I asked where it was, that he felt more comfortable, that the finish line was felt or visible. He never answered and reminded me that the fingers had to be released as the bow rolled across the strings. I thought seriously about compiling a series of stories of player's relationships with the Bach series ( S&P, Suites ) but was too lazy ( couldn't negotiate an advance from to get that sweet but powerful Voirin ) and too damn unpleasant to get anyone to speak to me. A majority of these lovely and personal recordings of students ( students of Bach ) performing not-on-Strads, not-even-on-Burgessi, are wonderful records of hundreds, if not thousands of hours of work. But because of a variations in recording methods, it was difficult to get great data off these files. There maybe a better way to evaluate the sound, but it did not work for me, as this was the inexpensive way to approach an easier subjective analysis. It would be great to find one hall and one miking method to evaluate instruments. The suggested recording when studying the works in my teens was the Phillips, Grumiaux. These were the days of the LP and I did own several including the Big H and Szeryng - DG, which did make sense to me at the time.
  12. The descriptions are important in context. "You had to be there," was/ is a common refrain. So am curious has it was explained. Resistant. is one I like. Guarded, is another. In front of many people or on the record, there are the more diplomatic words that might be necessary. One might not have had the opportunity to explore an instrument fully, or even had a chance to be acquainted with it, before the questions are asked. There have been instruments that I have wanted to praise, own or dismiss, but the time had run out, did not have the cash or the maker was standing there infront of others whom I did not know. It is awkward, but given a host, determined to show their wares, is still the the Host. At times, I believe that the player's opinion is unreliable as we are hearing the instrument only from one perspective. The Point Of View may not be the correct as those hearing it at a distance find it excellent while the player finds the instrument burdensome. I try to listen to and "feel" the space but as a player, the circumstances can still be unreliable. There was a demo, once, where the maker with setter in hand, made an adjustment and it was as if he performed the Heimlich on the instrument. It was at a store, and to the owner's surprise, it was not set up very well.
  13. The charm in many of these works is in the details. The flutter of a fine bagpiper's ring finger is often a joy and difficult to reproduce. The breaths of the flurry of long and short bows and the gasps of the retake make for a lot of fun when the tempi are not quick nor stable but frantic. SO for cello and viola, the tenor banjo transcriptions have floated about read in treble clef, but in C. The better tunes I have learned have been in bars nursing hand temperature beer as no one transcribes these pieces. Must sit through six rounds of unison melody making. I have sort of refused to write out the melodies as they seem sacred the way they are and learned. I worked with an south asian master and it was also without music, as it was a distraction to what was being taught. Certainly was a different type of mental workout. Mapping out long rhythmic and pitch patterns from memory was completely different from sight- reading. Hearing well played and enjoyed "learned" music is truly wonderful. But style counts, so hearing the chimed hammer dulcimer and working in the thumping of the Bodhran to solo performance is challenging. A simple ditty played well is excellent.
  14. That were made. He was often also a catalyst.
  15. He was great at many levels: playing, teaching, advocating, touring, and encouraging younger players ( any musicians, singers ) to perform. He toured often enough that catching him once a year in a club or hall was possible. It would be interesting to better understand how he acquired instruments. When showing off his latest, he'd just smile and offer up as long as I would be willing to play. They were fine, solid instruments. With him, actions were more important than words and he'd play or show something without much chatter. Byron was easy to like and respect. I do not know anything about his finances but he worked and he made music and supported what he believed in. I truly appreciate the efforts that he made.
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