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"Classical Style"?
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kylesito
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January 26, 2015 - 7:47 am
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Forgive my inexperience but being late to the game with learning the instrument, I never had the 'formal' education many others have.

What exactly is meant by "learning in the classical style" or someone identifying themselves as a "classical" violinist?  How does this differ from other styles (what are the other styles)? 

 

Just curious, see this mentioned in many other posts especially by those who learned as kids but have no idea what that means.

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Uzi
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January 26, 2015 - 12:36 pm
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Hi, @kylesito

The term "classical" and "style", both depend largely on context in everyday usage.  

Strictly speaking, "Classical" is that period of music history between the early 1700's and the early 1800's and sandwiched between the Baroque and Romantic periods. During that period, the structure of symphony composition changed and the sonata became one of the most common  forms.  It became less formal sounding (although still adhering closely to it's own set of rules) and was lighter in texture.  The use of diminuendo and vibrato became more prevalent and new instruments were introduced, such as the piano. 

With regard to classical style, with reference to the violin, I think that most people are referring to the limited use of vibrato (vibrato as a seasoning rather than a main course) and the technique of shifting positions by gliding the finger lightly along the string during a shift as a couple of examples. 

Usually, however, when most people use the term, they mean orchestra music that was written before the introduction of rock and roll. 

A positive attitude may not solve all your problems, but it will annoy enough people to make it worth the effort. ~Herm Albright

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ElisaDalViolin
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January 26, 2015 - 1:32 pm
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When I speak of a classical violinist, I am refering to a person whose musical education was set on a traditional base structured by and in the academies or schools. That base has strict and "pre-defined" rules (I don't want to say rules but I can´t think of a better word :/ ). For i.g the way you hold the bow, the russian bow hold is different from the franco-belgian bow hold. 

Mainly, the classical violinist has a study path that is similar to all (pieces sorted by dificulty/books). Like the general education system, this sorts students by levels. Afterwards, you have "modern" methods like the Suzuki method which adds a new approach to learning music but still influenced by the traditional one. 

This would be my answer to your question :)

 
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DanielB
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January 26, 2015 - 5:48 pm
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It can get a bit confusing, kylesito, since learning violin takes both a "method"/"school" and a repertoire.

The "method" or "school" refers to the style of learning/teaching.  The fancy word for that is the "pedagogy".  

The oldest is "folk", where you learn mostly by memorization and ear and go immediately into the songs/repertoire.  Usually informal. 

Next is "traditional", which basically means you study how to read music and some music theory early on.  Usually in an academic and/or private lesson environment.  It sometimes can also require taking about a year of piano before other instruments, to get acquainted with reading and theory and often also at least some voice/ear training, since "voice is the first instrument".  For the past century or so, most places where you could learn by that method follow a classical music repertoire, but it can actually be applied to any repertoire.

Then you'd have the assorted methods like Suzuki and etc which all have their different ways of going about things that the people who developed them feel is the best order and priority for learning playing and/or music.  The repertoire can vary with the "school" or "method", but like the others, it can probably be used to learn the repertoire of any genre these days. 

 

Technically, "Classical" is a repertoire.  Or it can be a style of composition that follows a certain set of rules, but more often what you're talking about here would be the historical period Uzi talked about.  Although people do have the somewhat confusing habit of lumping all the older styles like Baroque and Romantic and etc in with Classical and calling it all "Classical Music". 

There is a somewhat accepted list of what a person should know at different stages of their development if they intend to play "Classical" that can be called the "Graded repertoire".  So if someone says they are "Classically trained grade 5" that would mean that they know (and have been examined on) all the pieces (including etudes) up through that "grade".  But that is not entirely universal either and different colleges/teachers vary somewhat on what they feel the pieces are that constitute each grade.

As ElisaDalViolin mentioned, it is most often coupled with the traditional structured teaching method.  Usually combined with a "style", meaning that the precise manner of the bow hold and some of the techniques are done follow the manner of one or more recognized masters. 

I was a bit surprised to find out how relatively recent that idea is, though.  When I was reading a book by Auer (Leopold Auer, one of those masters from the 20th century who taught a lot of great players of that century), he mentions that in his childhood, there was little to no standardization and every teacher pretty much just made up the method as they went along or copied parts of it from their own teachers of colleagues. 

So anyway, having said all that.. a "Classically trained Violinist" will most often mean someone who studied music via the traditional/academic method, knows pieces from one of the graded repertoires up to some point, and follows the manner or style of one or more of the acknowledged masters.  The repertoire will usually not be strictly Classical in the historical sense, since it will usually include some Baroque and Romantic and etc period pieces. 

Or such is my understanding, anyway.  Hopefully that clarifies the matter you are asking about instead of just muddying the waters more. LOL

"This young wine may have a lot of tannins now, but in 5 or 10 years it is going to be spectacular, despite the fact that right now it tastes like crude oil. You know this is how it is supposed to taste at this stage of development." ~ Itzhak Perlman

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Jacques
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January 27, 2015 - 3:58 am
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I was put in private lessons when I was 10 or 11. Does that mean I'm classically trained? Hah although I didn't play at all during junior/high school. Although in the elementary orchestra I was the distinct second in profeciency next to the guy who was better than the rest of us. The teacher commisioned that him & I work and perform next to each other for that reason.

i remember inquiring about pairing the two of us next to each other because in my head i thought it was better to split us up in order to even out the sound of the orchestra. It turns out that putting two good violinist next each other in the front row can be enough to maintain the structure of the performance.

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DanielB
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January 27, 2015 - 7:14 am
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Jacques said
I was put in private lessons when I was 10 or 11. Does that mean I'm classically trained? Hah

Private lessons can be anything, including Suzuki and etc.  But if it had an early focus on reading and a bit of music theory (scale and chord construction) and ear training, most likely at least "traditional".

Whether it was "Classical" or not would depend on the repertoire you learned.  Classical is a genre, not a "school".  

However the graded repertoire used in many (but not all) traditional "schools" of teaching is intended as a form of training in itself.  "Graded" does not refer so much to getting grades on it as it starting with comparatively simple pieces in the earlier "grades" and proceeding to more difficult ones in the higher "grades".  The idea is that by learning the techniques necessary to play the pieces and etudes well, the student gradually acquires the techniques and skill to play more complex pieces.  

But if you want to know more about that, or would like to look at the syllabus of one of the most popular ones..

http://us.abrsm.org/en/our-exa.....lin-exams/

That would give you a pretty good idea of what is expected at each "grade", if you check either the whole syllabus or the one for the grade level you are wondering about. 

Or at least such is my admittedly limited understanding of the matter.  I am not a classically oriented player, so it is not a genre I have ever put much interest or effort into.  I don't come from that socio-economic strata.  LOL  I enjoy listening to it, though.  I can be considered "traditional" in that I took classes in theory and composition and was tested on sight reading and ear training and etc to get my music degree.  I know about graded repertoire and etc because it was discussed in some of my classes.  But I am definitely not "classically trained", since that really isn't one of my genres. 

You might be, though!   Only you could say for sure.  Check the syllabus and see if what you learned fits it.  A music college or conservatory would require proof of exams for the grade levels before recognizing it, as I recall.  But for an informal place like Fiddlerman.com, most people would take your word for it, I would think.

Hope that helps.

"This young wine may have a lot of tannins now, but in 5 or 10 years it is going to be spectacular, despite the fact that right now it tastes like crude oil. You know this is how it is supposed to taste at this stage of development." ~ Itzhak Perlman

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kylesito
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January 27, 2015 - 7:46 am
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I had no idea there were 'grades' associated with formalized learning.  It certainly makes sense.

 

Great responses and I am more enlightened now!  

 

I suppose it brings up an additional question for me though.  As a self-teaching hobbyist, does it make sense to follow the grades as much as practical?  Would one be effective at learning to follow a more a-la-carte approach?  I ask because this is largely what I have been doing...picking up pieces I like, working on them till I get it, etc.  

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DanielB
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January 27, 2015 - 8:35 am
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Well, it would certainly be one approach to self-teaching, kylesito. 

The advantages would be that it is at least some sort of a guide to follow, that likely requires learning and practising all the techniques and etc to play reasonably proficiently, especially compared to most hobbyists.

The disadvantage could the that the repertoire is decidedly "Classical", and if that isn't the sound/style you want to play eventually, you might be better served with a method/model to follow that focuses on the type of music you want to play.  It is harder to put a lot of time and energy into your practice sessions if the songs you're learning aren't really what you want to play.  The motivation isn't there.

Another possible disadvantage is that the ABRSM system wasn't specifically designed for self teaching.  No way to know for sure just viewing the syllabus what explanations or specific exercises a teacher might give to get a student to proficiency at each level. 

But that being said, there are probably worse options out there. 

The problem with self-teaching/self-learning by just working on whatever pieces you like most at the moment is that it won't necessarily result in you being able to play well.  You may skip over techniques that usually would have been learned early on, or try to tackle pieces that require techniques you don't know/understand and doing that can result in frustration because you just can't get it to sound right.  You might not put enough time into scales and arpeggios or learn how to construct them because it seems boring compared to songs. 

Those are just a few examples of how you can end up with gaps in the knowledge or experience that would be needed to eventually become a good player.  Having a teacher or following some method at least presumably makes sure you are made aware of the things you need to learn in a sensible order and that all gaps are eventually filled.

Not meaning to discourage you from self-teaching/self-learning.  Most of the instruments I've learned over the year I taught myself how to play.  I am a believer in it as a possible option.  But at the same time, I feel it is best to also point out the difficulties.  If you can find a teacher or a good self-teaching method, it is way easier and faster.  But if that isn't an option for you right now and the ABRSM syllabus looks interesting to you, I'm pretty sure you can do a lot worse than that as a basic pattern to follow and some pieces to hunt up and listen to and see if any of them appeal to you.  At least for the first couple "grades" to get going with some basics, anyway.  It is widespread enough as a system in the US and Europe that sheet music for the pieces and examples of people playing them are probably easy to find on the internet, maybe even tutorials as well.  (I haven't really looked into it)

Glad to hear you are finding at least some parts of the answers you were looking for in the replies.

This forum rocks!

LOL

"This young wine may have a lot of tannins now, but in 5 or 10 years it is going to be spectacular, despite the fact that right now it tastes like crude oil. You know this is how it is supposed to taste at this stage of development." ~ Itzhak Perlman

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DanielB
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January 27, 2015 - 9:40 am
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Ok an update on my last post, kylesito.

Having looked a bit more into the matter, I see that there's *lots* of demos, tutorials, study helps and etc for the ABRSM repertoire as well as the scales, arpeggios and etc.  Look on youtube and around the net and you can find at least a lot of the material covered.  I only checked for a few pieces of the sheet music, to give some of it a quick playthrough, and found those over on 8notes.com for free. 

So yeah, it would actually be a pretty good basic program for a beginner (at least the first few grades) to get started.  If you already know how to read music, it'd be easy, and if you don't, most of the early pieces are simple enough to be good to learn that on.

Grade 1 is just learning 3 pieces, 4 scales, 4 arpeggios, and probably even the aural (ear training) section is covered somewhere on the net.  I ran across a site for that a while ago and worked through the practice exams for the grades, so you could probably google it.  If you do even just that much of the "grades" it would at least make sure you know enough basics to have plenty of fun with other pieces you may wish to try.  You'd know enough by the time you were done with that to definitely participate in the Fiddlerman group projects or find something to learn and play to jump in on a "party" thread here, for example.

So yeah, it would be good.  I think it would probably work better than just picking a few pieces you like with no idea what techniques and etc they might need, or how much you are actually going to learn about music and playing in general from them.  The songs in the ABRSM syllabus may not be your cup of tea.. But at least the first "grade" or two would be a pretty decent start.  It may not be the same songs as you'd pick on your own, but it has the advantage of being "tried and true" since it has been used by a lot of people that did well.  And if you go in to formal lessons a little ways down the road, you'd have a bit of a head start.

If I was just starting out from "ground zero" and I ran across this stuff, I'd take a couple months and work through the first grade or two.  Maybe more, maybe not, depending on how it was going and if I could find pieces in it that were to my interest.

And with a community/forum like this one for getting advice, encouragement, asking questions and etc? Definitely a good place for it.

"This young wine may have a lot of tannins now, but in 5 or 10 years it is going to be spectacular, despite the fact that right now it tastes like crude oil. You know this is how it is supposed to taste at this stage of development." ~ Itzhak Perlman

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coolpinkone
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Very interesting topic. 

I know when I was seeking out lessons.  I found a lady that would take me as an adult beginner, after talking to me she said she taught folk fiddle.  (I wasn't really familiar with Folk Fiddle.)  I had to remember that a violin is even called a fiddle.  (true story).  I came to this instrument COMPLETELY ignorant.

Anyway, the very lovely nice lady, said, "I believe you are looking for classical training and probably not folk fiddle."   I asked her if it was different and she said yes and she referred me to the teacher that I used. That teacher started me out in the Essential Elements books.   :)

Love to read all of this input and feedback. 

Vibrato Desperato.... Desperately seeking vibrato

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Jacques
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January 27, 2015 - 5:46 pm
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@DanielB @kylesito 

Across all methods of learning - practicing unwritten scales and arpeggios must be somewhat prestigious.

My "Traditional"  experience:

Lv1.: Sight reading 

Lv2.: Improvised arpeggios and scales

Lv3.: Harmonizing (multi-stop cords)

Lv4.: Composing and/or memorizing

 

edit: dare I include proper intonation of key signature. *shudders*

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DanielB
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Well, scales and arpeggios are some of those things that apply to every genre of music you might wish to play.  And practising scales is one of the more obvious ways of improving any transition you may eventually be called on to play in a piece of music.  While working on scales and arpeggios, you can also be working on your timing and intonation.  Scales and arpeggios also are easier to memorize for practice than pieces or most etudes.  

Just too useful to not be used quite a lot.

"This young wine may have a lot of tannins now, but in 5 or 10 years it is going to be spectacular, despite the fact that right now it tastes like crude oil. You know this is how it is supposed to taste at this stage of development." ~ Itzhak Perlman

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kylesito
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@DanielB - Great info, thanks.

 

Just to keep the discussion going a bit, do you think that someone who is primarily focused on playing folk music and not so much classical would actually benefit from not following such a grading program?  

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DanielB
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I don't know if someone mainly interested in playing folk would necessarily get a huge advantage from working through the whole ABRSM program.  Maybe they would, maybe they wouldn't.  I'm certainly no "Grade 8" on violin at this point, so I really couldn't say from experience how much of it is useful on "non-classical" playing.

What I was suggesting is that the first couple of grades would be pretty much useful for anyone playing any sort of music.  The technical part covered is an assortment of commonly used scales and arpeggios that would be very useful.  

If you look through the repertoire for those two grades, you'll see that a fair bit of it *is* folk music.  And a lot of what people call "classical music" is often folk songs from the time or was at least very strongly influenced by folk music of the time.  It was just dressed out by composers in a particular style that we can call classical.  Certain rules about the harmony and how many times to repeat sections and that sort of thing.  Pretty much any melody can be done classical style or folk style or any other style, really.  

I'll give just one example that is specifically composed by a violinist, Paganini wrote a piece called "Tricorne" based off a German folk song (probably a children's song, for that matter) of the time called "Mein Hut der hat drei Ecken".  Furthermore, the melody is known as "Carnival of Venice" and it was literally carnival music.  Fun pop music of the time.  Barney the purple dinosaur of kid shows even covered it (in English as "My Hat It Has Three Corners").  If I recall correctly, I'm pretty sure someone told me once there is even a ballet based off it, but I never checked into that.

There isn't as huge a divide in the different genres or styles of music as some people seem to think.  If you look up some of the ABRSM repertoire on youtube you'll find a lot of it sounds just like folk, but maybe with a little different feel and the accompaniment will be different.  "Classical" just reflects the musical values that were popular in a certain period of history with certain people. 

But to get to the point, it uses the same notes, scales, chords and arpeggios.  So I'd stick with saying you couldn't go far wrong with working through the first couple grades.  That way you make sure you have some basics to work with.

 

Now if what you are really asking is if avoiding any sort of "formal stuff" like scales and arpeggios might be somehow better for people wanting to play types of music other than classical?

No, in my experience it doesn't help, it just makes things harder than they have to be. 

When I first started on guitar, back in the 1970s, the first few years I didn't practice scales or chords or etc.  I learned songs, one at a time.  Pretty much the only way I could get a song to improve much was to play it a lot.  It would mostly only improve how I could play that one song.

It took me a few years to figure out that if I practiced the scales and chords, that tended to improve all of the songs I played.  My fingers also had a pretty good idea of where to go when I went to learn new songs and so it took less repeat plays before I could get it starting to sound good.

So in my experience, not practising the basics as actual practice/exercises did not help me at all.  Didn't make me folksier, more rock-n-roll, punkier, more metal, bluesier or better in any of the sorts of music I played.

All it did was make it slower and harder than it had to be.  At the time, I thought it was more fun to just learn songs and I didn't need scales or chord exercises.  But really, where the fun starts is when you can get things starting to sound kinda good.  And the more of that you have, the more fun it is when you go to play the songs.

And then it took me another decade or so to figure out that learning to read music and some music theory also wouldn't hurt my playing.  LOL  But that's another story.

 

Anyway, probably not what you were hoping to hear.  But sometimes when learning something like music or an instrument, what seems like "the long way around" actually is the "shortcut".  You can save yourself some time and frustration by learning at least the basics. 

"This young wine may have a lot of tannins now, but in 5 or 10 years it is going to be spectacular, despite the fact that right now it tastes like crude oil. You know this is how it is supposed to taste at this stage of development." ~ Itzhak Perlman

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