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Vibrato - the annoying "Shake". PLEASE HELP!
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iDrayne
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September 11, 2016 - 10:10 am
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Hello,

 

so basically im having this problem since months now, and it just seems im not able to get rid of it.

Let me start off by saying that i THINK that i have taught myself a wrong technique on vibrating. Before i got into Violin-School, i was self-teaching and startet some vibrato exercises. Not-knowing the danger of getting something wrong, i thought im vibrating right, but today it seems like its totally wrong. My teacher doesnt know what im doing wrong, too. He said my violin-hold is very good, my bow-grip is good aswell and that im not clunching my head onto the violin or pressing hard with my thumb - theres no pressure at all, just a Little counterpressure when fingering, but not when vibrating.

So basically my Problem is: The violin shakes from the LEFT TO THE RIGHT (Not the opposite, from up to down or something else) completly restricting the bow to move smoothly. The strange Thing is it really feels right, it feels like a vibrato, but i can hear myself that its not a good vibrato at all.

I tried many techniques, like pulling the violin onto a wall with a Cloth and whenever i do that, the vibrato sounds wonderful, of Course because there is no shake at all.

Note that my teacher even said that my finger-knuckles are perfectly relaxed, theres no pressure between fingertip and finger-knuckle. My Hand is straight, not curved or something else.

What i noticed too is that when i vibrate, my left arm hurts a lot after 1-2 minutes. Cant say exactly where the pain is, but if i should guess, it could come from my shoulder and from the upper arm-part.

I hope you can understand what my Problem is and i hope you guys can help me out. Im freaking out since i really really want to vibrate like a good Violinist, i mean my teacher said im ready, i can Play scales fluently and he said my Intonation is good enough to start vibrato-exercises. I started those exercises nearly 9 months ago..

@Edit: I forgot to Point out that WITHOUT the bow, everything works fine. Of Course sometimes theres a Little shake but i think thats normal. But once i add the bow, everything is out of Control. Its really upsetting..

i really hope you can help me out.

Lots of Love~

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damfino
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September 13, 2016 - 9:31 am
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When you mention that it happens when you add the bow, it seems like there is something in the back of my mind from what my teacher told me when I first started learning vibrato, but I can't quite pull it out.

 
When you go back to a basic beginner vibrato, the slow "waaaa-waaa" two vibrations per bow stroke, do you notice this problem? Or does it sound clean? If it's clean, what is it like at 4 to 8 vibrations per bow stroke? 
 
I had something pop into my head about the bowing... when my bowing didn't sound clean enough with the vibrato in the beginning, my teacher said it was because I was thinking way too much about everything. I wasn't shaking the violin like you say, but it didn't sound right. She pulled me back to the basic slow "waaaa-waaa" but with a metronome, so I didn't have to think about my bow and counting and vibrations. It really did clean it up for me, it took away some of the work I was doing in my head. 
 
I'm sure other, more experienced players will chime in and help out 🙂 

~ I'm not torturing cats... I'm learning to play violin! ~

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Uzi
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Can you post a video, so that these guys can see what you're doing?  That would make it a lot easier.  However, I can tell you, based upon simple physics, that if the violin head is moving from left to right over and over as you vibrate, then that's because you're applying pressure with your finger that is not parallel to the string.  Instead, it has to be moving at an angle sufficient to push the neck off line.  The fact that it doesn't move when you are not bowing, would seem to indicate that you hold the fiddle differently when you are bowing than you do when you are not.  I hope this helps you diagnose the issue. 

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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Demoiselle
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September 22, 2016 - 4:57 pm
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I think we should be honest to ourselves. Humans are different and don't all have the same motor skills. Some have very good motor functions, others have not. And I think those with very good motor functions learn to play the violin easier, especially if it comes to vibrating. Another question is how good one is in multi-tasking if it comes to motor skills. Some easily learn to make their hands do different things at one time until their left hand seems perfectly independent from the right hand. Others struggle a lot with it. I think this is the problem, if you have to hold the violin still and vibrate with the other hand. I know I'm not good at this and that I'm a slow learner. I have developed my own very thorough and effective strategy to compensate it, but this will not help me in things vibrato. That's why I procrastinate it—maybe I will wait years before I'm ready to work on vibrato. I must be technically absolutely safe and relaxed before I dare it, otherwise it will make things worse. In baroque I hardly need vibrato anyhow.

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Fiddlerman
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September 23, 2016 - 10:58 am
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No-one can vibrate perfectly forward and back. There will always be a slight amount of right and left going on.
The pain in your arm is coming from tension.
Relaxation while playing is an art in itself. 🙂 As a player new to vibrato you may be using more tension than necessary, even if your arm seems relaxed.

"The richest person is not the one who has the most,
but the one who needs the least."

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Demoiselle
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September 23, 2016 - 6:31 pm
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Fiddlerman said
No-one can vibrate perfectly forward and back. There will always be a slight amount of right and left going on.
The pain in your arm is coming from tension.
Relaxation while playing is an art in itself. 🙂 As a player new to vibrato you may be using more tension than necessary, even if your arm seems relaxed.  

I know I would have more  tension! That's why I stay away from vibrato until me playing the violin will be almost as easy as walking on clouds.

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Demoiselle
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September 23, 2016 - 6:43 pm
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Especially wanting something too badly is the safest way to tension. Like the old bachelor who desperately looks for a lover day and night and therefore is way too uptight to look sexy.

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Demoiselle
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September 24, 2016 - 5:16 am
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Having started this morning with an improvisation over an adagio out of a Bach sonata, which is 8:42 long these thoughts: This is the longest Edition Peters play-along I know and I can only play almost 9 minutes because it's a very slow adagio. At 2:00 I feel very fresh, my violin is warmed up and sounds great and I'm relaxed, just enjoying my own music. At 8:00 I try to keep being relaxed, but it's a little difficult, because my wrist feels tired. That's the reason why I'm now pausing. If I had continued with the next track/movement, my hand, my harm, my shoulder would now hurt. Pain makes the body automatically tense. I need discipline to stop playing, because something inside my head wants to play on, but I know, a relaxed technique is only possible if I pause now and then.

These days I'm successful with an exercise I 'invented' (it probably isn't new) in May, but I wasn't on a level to consequently practice it: It works like drumming with fingers on the table. With four fingers it's possible to drum nice rolls on the table and I can do it on the fingerboard as well. It works best in G major pieces and I can do it up and down. Down sounds like "deedle-up" and I can connect it with an up like "deedle-up-doodle-ip". I think this is a fairly relaxed thing and it helps to relax my technique a bit more. But it's also very dangerous, because too much of that medicine is poisonous again! Because if I practice this again and again, my wrist tires very soon and then it's painful.

We must watch what we're doing and constantly 'listen' into our hands and arms, to hear the warning signs. Are my hands and arms still happy or is it already beginning to be torture? Then pause.

I'm very sure, practicing vibrato to long is torturing my arms. You feel it in the wrist very soon and then it's time to stop and then probably do something else. Wanting vibrato too badly, especially if it's to early, is very poisonous to the technique. I've tested that too and I found it bad, bad, bad. It it felt like the safest way to tension. Beginners should learn to be happy with playing the violin without vibrato and wait, wait, wait. But somehow the idea these days it, that people find violin vibrato very touching, feely and downright sexy. It has to do with ideas about love and happiness and has become sort of mass hysteria. It seems, many young people feel like, if they can beautifully vibrate on a violin, they will be loved by the rest of the world. It seems to be and expression of human yearning for love in our western culture. Which is resulting in beginners wanting it too badly and too early, which makes it very harmful. Just clear your head and try to be reasonable. Play for yourself and not for other people to make them love you.

I can use vibrato in ancient music now and then and someday I will. I also like mushy 30s music and there you need it a lot (I have been an old-style crooner since the 80s). But I certainly wait--possibly years. For learning to play a musical instrument we need lots of discipline and patience.

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Demoiselle
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September 24, 2016 - 7:32 am
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So, after typing the above, I did the same adagio again, but I did not finish it, because I tired sooner. I have allegros which I rarely play to the end because I find it very exhausting to rave on them. They're all under 3 minutes, but I rarely play the whole 3 minutes. And afterwards I  pause and mostly then change to an adagio or lento. In the evening, after having played a lot, I will likely tire even sooner. On weekends I often come to a point where I pack my violin in, because I definitely feel I'm done—in exhaustion I can only unlearn what I've learned before. Doing this too late is a bad idea. Forcibly is good for chopping wood, here I have to think twice, carefully watch myself and beware of any kind of overdo.

I hope this will help those who struggle at home and wonder why it doesn't work. This goes for any kind of musical instrument.

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Fiddlerman
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September 25, 2016 - 4:30 pm
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Thanks for your input 🙂

"The richest person is not the one who has the most,
but the one who needs the least."

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iDrayne
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October 7, 2016 - 6:17 pm
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Thanks everyone for those informative answers 🙂

Okay so: When i practice with a Metronome, everything is completly fine. Even 4th Finger-vibrato, believe it or not. I have to say, vibrating with my first finger is harder for me than with my 4th finger. No clue why, but after i heard many debates about 4th-finger being the hardest to vibrate on, im happy that its working.

Only if i try to apply Speed onto my vibrato, it sort of goes out of Control.

i forgot to mention, i think, that my violin only shakes when im in the Frog-Zone of my bow. once i go towards the frog, i get a strange Feeling saying that its a Danger-Zone, hard to describe.

My big thought is that, when i was learning vibrato without my teacher and without School, ive learned something wrong and now im paying the Price. I mean, if you learn something wrong on the violin its really hard to make it different.

 

And i have to mention that a very slow, wide vibrato is possible, even without Metronome.

And im asking myself since weeks now if theres a Speed-Limit on vibrato, or is there a normal Speed or should i practice a fast, narrow vibrato or a wide, slow vibrato or should i stick onto those exercises with my Metronome and slow vibrato-motions?

I also have a very big desire on vibrating fast and wide, like a romantic-vibrato sounds. Its my dream to vibrate fast while having a wide Motion like the vibrato you Need in the Czardas-Largo..maybe that desire is making all worse?

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Demoiselle
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October 8, 2016 - 4:59 am
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I think vibrato should be a natural thing, which grows naturally. It comes from singing since vocalists inspired instrumentalists to imitate it. We are thinking too much in our western culture. I concentrate my thinking on really scientific things in music, like harmonies. I watch carefully whether the tuning is right and my fingers hit the right places on the fingerboard. I also watch my body kinda like a physician, to avoid tension, control the duration of playing and then give myself order to pause. In these things I'm extremely intellectual. But I refuse to ponder all things which have to do with expression in technical ways. In the beginning there is a point where I think how but then I just let it go.

Learning an instrument takes at least about five or six years. Until then you cannot be perfect. Vibrato is also something that grows over years. Investing into a huge pile of CDs of good players is always a useful investment. The intellect is not much help in this matter. It goes into your heart when you listen and spontaneously comes out of your heart while playing. You have to listen to a lot of vibrato in order to under stand it by heart. Nonetheless the speed of vibrato will grow slowly and can't be forced. We are no robots which can be programmed just like that, human learn slowly.

Wanting too much and too hard leads to tension. The intellect abusing the body—the kind of violence people do to themselves.

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Demoiselle
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October 8, 2016 - 7:19 am
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iDrayne said
.......

My big thought is that, when i was learning vibrato without my teacher and without School, ive learned something wrong and now im paying the Price. I mean, if you learn something wrong on the violin its really hard to make it different.

I guess this is not your idea since it's general talk. But there's another narrative going on as well: The bad teacher who ruined the student. (Maybe the teacher wasn't all that bad and it was the fault of who know...)

We hear a lot of negative talk and I don't listen to that. I decided to learn playing the violin my way and I will not listen to negative talk because that's just as poisonous as tension. It actually is kind of mental tension, which can negatively influence the body while playing. I am looking straight ahead, trying to improve this or that, but people will not make me doubt that everything I started was wrong.

In case I will consult a teacher in the future, I will not allow him to tell me everything I did was wrong and I had to start from scratch. Negating everything radically is wrong thinking in all things of life.

What is "wrong"? The wrongest thing is tension. But if you have a teacher who constantly tells you like, "Don't play it that way, play it this way," it can also lead to tension.  Many teachers criticize too much and really perfect teachers are rare and often very expensive. You're not going to study violin at a music college, so there's no reason to rush and have headaches over it. Many students fail at music colleges and end up depressed. It is a merciless system. I'd even say, it's cruel. Why should we pressure ourselves that way?

We should enjoy the moment while playing and not allow us to be impatient. Otherwise we are only abusing ourselves. I cannot play anything after 17 months, so what? My ring finger can't trill as fast as the first and second finger yet. So what? It will come over time.

Having TRUST is very important. People who have trust are self-confident and don't get confused by negative narrative. They will listen to a useful tip any time. Improving many little things over time is the only way to progress and change.

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iDrayne
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October 9, 2016 - 9:21 am
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Actually to be honest, if your teacher says that the movement is wrong, then you should listen to him because he will know better until the Moment you know as much as he does, and this takes years and years of playing and understanding the Instrument.

Also i found my issue: I seriously teached myself to do a strange Motion on wich my fingers move. My arm moves too, but the real movment Comes from my fingers, wich of Course lets my violin shake. Also the movement is from my Body back-and back to normal, Kind of back-and-forth, and MY movement was a mixture of back-and forth plus left-and-right.

Now im practicing with my Metronome and i have to say im stunned. The shake is gone, sure ist hard to be consistent because i learned something different, but i guess this will come over time. Im really glad 🙂

Also thanks to everyone helping me out!

And thanks @Demoiselle for the motivational words 🙂

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Demoiselle
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Well, the trombone teacher I had in the late 70ies was weird. I was just your age and a big fan of big band swing. So he gave me a piece composed by Tommy Dorsey, insisting on the pronunciation "Dörsey" (like "worse"), "Americans say Dörsey, I know how Americans talk" (of course he said that in German). Dorsey was my idol and I listened to the Big Band Countdown on AFN every Sunday! Years later, when I performed with a swing band, Americans from New York mistook me for a New Yorker because of my accent. How could I trust a teacher like that? My parents payed him and it was difficult to fire him, but today most certainly I would.

Of course if I'd find a great teacher I would trust him. Although, in my age I have different ideas and might disagree in things interpretation. If it's a question of style and taste there's plenty of opportunity to debate a teacher. If he's open to that he's the right open-minded teacher for me and possibly a friend.

The movement is wrong? Well I do improvise over Bach's movements (MusicPartner play-along CDs) and he would possibly be like, "Why, I don't recall it that way, I thought it was different? Where are the notes?" That's what a Berliner recorder teacher said years ago who I consulted just once. That was funny.

I'm also a German but we gotta speak English here, otherwise it's like Chinese for everybody else. 😉

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Fiddlerman
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October 10, 2016 - 10:26 am
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iDrayne said

Let me start off by saying that i THINK that i have taught myself a wrong technique on vibrating. Before i got into Violin-School, i was self-teaching and startet some vibrato exercises. Not-knowing the danger of getting something wrong, i thought im vibrating right, but today it seems like its totally wrong. My teacher doesnt know what im doing wrong, too. He said my violin-hold is very good, my bow-grip is good aswell and that im not clunching my head onto the violin or pressing hard with my thumb - theres no pressure at all, just a Little counterpressure when fingering, but not when vibrating.

True. Learning something incorrectly makes changes much more difficult than learning correctly from the start. Habits are hard to break.  We can help you better if you make a recording for critique. If you are shy, just record long notes with vibrato.

So basically my Problem is: The violin shakes from the LEFT TO THE RIGHT (Not the opposite, from up to down or something else) completly restricting the bow to move smoothly. The strange Thing is it really feels right, it feels like a vibrato, but i can hear myself that its not a good vibrato at all.

Left to right sounds like a guitar vibrato. A bit of shake is natural and laws of physics.
What you hear is more important than what you feel or see. 🙁

I tried many techniques, like pulling the violin onto a wall with a Cloth and whenever i do that, the vibrato sounds wonderful, of Course because there is no shake at all.

Perhaps do the violin wall support for longer periods and on a daily basis to find the feel.

Note that my teacher even said that my finger-knuckles are perfectly relaxed, theres no pressure between fingertip and finger-knuckle. My Hand is straight, not curved or something else.

What i noticed too is that when i vibrate, my left arm hurts a lot after 1-2 minutes. Cant say exactly where the pain is, but if i should guess, it could come from my shoulder and from the upper arm-part.

Are you attempting arm, wrist or finger vibrato or a combination of a few?
I would focus on one type of vibrato at a time. If you can't decide, from the description of your pain, perhaps wrist. Easiest to begin with is arm.

I hope you can understand what my Problem is and i hope you guys can help me out. Im freaking out since i really really want to vibrate like a good Violinist, i mean my teacher said im ready, i can Play scales fluently and he said my Intonation is good enough to start vibrato-exercises. I started those exercises nearly 9 months ago..

We'll do our best to help. Look forward to the answers to my questions and possibly a video.

@Edit: I forgot to Point out that WITHOUT the bow, everything works fine. Of Course sometimes theres a Little shake but i think thats normal. But once i add the bow, everything is out of Control. Its really upsetting..

Perhaps the problem is in your bowing and not your vibrato. Except for the pain in your left arm I don't see a problem at this point. Having a great bow technique allows you to elevate some improper movement.

i really hope you can help me out.

Lots of Love~  

Love back at you. 

"The richest person is not the one who has the most,
but the one who needs the least."

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Gabriel999
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October 10, 2016 - 5:47 pm
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Fischer's Basics has an exercise addressing this problem. No .288 in the book.

I hope that copying the exercise won't cause any copyright issues. Please delete if this is a problem.

Keeping the scroll still

The aim of this exercise is to be able to make a forceful vibrato without the scroll of the violin moving. This is not possible if the hand is tight.

1. Play a very slow, very narrow vibrato.

2. Look at the scroll. If it moves even the smallest amount, relax the thumb, hand and fingers, or change the direction of the vibrato, until the scroll stays perfectly still.

3. Gradually increase the speed and width of the vibrato. If the scroll bgins to move even slightly, gradually decrease the speed and width until the scroll is still.

4. Discover what makes the scroll shake: right thumb? - side of the first finger clamping against the neck of the violin? - inflexible finger? - right wrist? - wrong direction of the vibrato movement?

5. Relax the hand or alter the movement, and then gradually increase the speed and width again.

6. Continue until the vibrato is very fast and wide without making the violin shake.

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fulfillingsoul
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October 14, 2016 - 7:10 pm
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Gabriel999 said
Fischer's Basics has an exercise addressing this problem. No .288 in the book.

I hope that copying the exercise won't cause any copyright issues. Please delete if this is a problem.

Keeping the scroll still

The aim of this exercise is to be able to make a forceful vibrato without the scroll of the violin moving. This is not possible if the hand is tight.

1. Play a very slow, very narrow vibrato.

2. Look at the scroll. If it moves even the smallest amount, relax the thumb, hand and fingers, or change the direction of the vibrato, until the scroll stays perfectly still.

3. Gradually increase the speed and width of the vibrato. If the scroll bgins to move even slightly, gradually decrease the speed and width until the scroll is still.

4. Discover what makes the scroll shake: right thumb? - side of the first finger clamping against the neck of the violin? - inflexible finger? - right wrist? - wrong direction of the vibrato movement?

5. Relax the hand or alter the movement, and then gradually increase the speed and width again.

6. Continue until the vibrato is very fast and wide without making the violin shake.

  

This is an interesting exercise - using the scroll to gauge. I'll give it a try!

"Music washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life."

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Fiddlerman
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October 14, 2016 - 8:13 pm
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Nice share and great exercise. That being said I also want to point out that it's ok that the scroll moves a little bit. Nice to be able to eliminate that when you want to but it's also ok to have the movement when it fits in with the sound and the piece. It's all about control. If I really want to I can vibrate with a perfectly still scroll but only if it's necessary or my sound is compromised by the movement.

"The richest person is not the one who has the most,
but the one who needs the least."

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Demoiselle
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October 15, 2016 - 5:06 am
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Natural music is never mechanistic. That's why music created via midi-synthesizer doesn't sound natural—because it is too even in a mechanistic way. The personal sound of a human will always be a little uneven and that's natural and beautiful.

I fooled around with midi a lot in the 90s, considering it a great chance to create any kind of music. Finally I came to the result it's dull and dead. Interesting to compare my keyboard harpsichords before last summer to what I play on my spinet now. The keyboard is dead, its sound is too perfect and simply not beautiful.

Perfection can be a dangerous trap. In the New Orleans Jazz community (I was part of in my young days) I met many who consider musicians dull who technically are too perfect. And I agree: there are examples of musicians who lost warmth over the years, while gaining technical perfection. Amateur bands can more warmth than that.

Thinking about teachers of classical music again: some of them aim at a level of perfection I can not approve. I might go on with a teacher some day, but will carefully choose. That person must be more open-minded than the average.

Interesting the discussion about pianists who play with flat fingers. That's a bad mistake in classical piano teaching. In jazz there are examples of great virtuosi who do exactly that. As long as they are beginners, people will criticize them, later they will praise them like saints. Then it's called "alternative technique"! See there, that's what I'm aiming at right now.... Let them talk!

I've tried vibrato a week or two ago and now don't consider it a problem. But I have no time to work on it, since I'm working on more basic and important things in my personal violin style. But some day I will just start doing it now and then. I will start it in very slow pieces and  then slowly raise the tempo level. And I will not practice it, I'll let it come.

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