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Leopold Auer teacher of Jascha Heifetz...
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Uzi
Georgia
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April 28, 2014 - 11:28 pm
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I just read in "The Green Violin," that Leopold Auer, who taught the likes of Jascha Heifetz, Nathan Milstein and Mischa Elman, had his students play only open string bowings for the first 3 semesters. Until then, they were not allowed to touch the fingerboard. It goes on to say, "The modern violinist would benefit from expending comparable efforts into the practice if sound production, beginning with the study of bowings independently of the left hand."

What say you? Was it worth it?

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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DanielB
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April 29, 2014 - 8:50 am
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I wouldn't think there is actually a question of if it was worth it. Apparently that teacher used those methods to produce some undeniably great violinists.

I am sure there was a bit more to it than just going "la la la" on the open strings. Depending on how their practice was structured, they could have worked on dynamics, timing, and pretty much every known bow technique and still not have touched the fingerboard.

Power, tone, dynamics.. That's the main body of the sound of the instrument. It comes mostly from your bow hand, not your fingerboard hand.

I do 15 min of open string bowing in my daily practice. He probably had them doing considerably more than that, and most likely a more comprehensive practice routine with it than I've come up with for myself.

Most of us are in a bit much of a hurry to jump in to squeaking away on songs/melodies to spend much time on open string bowing. But violinists like those mentioned in your post obviously did something different than what most of us are doing. Maybewhat they did in that three semesters was part of the difference.

"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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Uzi
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April 29, 2014 - 9:33 am
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Yes indeed, there was more to it than going la, la, la on open strings. His instruction books comprised 8 volumes and the first volume was dedicated to bowing on open strings. That first volume, apparently, contained exercises for all of the various bowing techniques, of which, as you know, there are many.

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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DanielB
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April 29, 2014 - 5:49 pm
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I had a guitar teacher where an entire semester was almost entirely spent on doing just one exercise. It was just a simple finger exercise, with first finger on first fret, then second on second fret, third on third, pinky on fourth.. Just playing 1,2,3,4,4,3,2,1, then shift up a fret and do it again and so on.. all the way up the neck, then shift to the next string and play all the way back down, then cross to the next string and back up, and so on. Over and over, usually for the entire class period.

As we got better at it, he would do things like call out a change.. "3rd fret, A string, on my mark.. Now." and we all had to jump instantly to that spot and carry on the exercise without missing a beat. He'd also talk as we played through it, and go around and coach us on form and etc. Have us play with different dynamics. That sort of thing.

But no neat "licks" or fancy scales or etc. LOL Just the same mind-numbing repetition of movements while concentrating on various elements of form and dynamics and staying alert for any changes he called.

A lot of people dropped out of that one. We all griped about it. But those of us who stuck with it did get something interesting out of it. Knowing where every sound was on that fretboard and being able to play it with any finger easilly.

I was playing in a band at the time, and much as I didn't look forward to that class, it improved many facets of my playing.

Very few people who finished that semester signed up for the next class with him the next semester. I did, though. And it was more of the same, but worked into other techniques like doing it all with hammer-ons and pull-offs or slides, and that sort of thing. Second semester he also started cueing us by just playing a note on the upbeat and we had to be there by the downbeat, carrying on with the exercises. By the end of the second semester, he'd do things like play an arpeggiated chord and skip one note, and we'd know to come in with that note. He also would talk about different improvisation strategies and "war stories" from his life in bands and as a studio musician while we were working.

A semester or two of that, and there is no such thing as having a weak finger. LOL They all can do anything they need to.

Different instrument, but I think the principle may be related. Much as I griped about the classes at the time, they were very effective if you wanted to be a better player. 20 yrs later, I *still* do those basic routines, every time I practice on guitar. About 20 min every day, then I'll do a similar simple repetitive exercise to practice all the basic major and minor chord changes, then I'll put in some work on any new techniques I'm trying to pick up. Call it a total of 45 min to an hour. Then I'm done with practice, and I'll consider myself ready to cut loose and play some songs and etc. LOL

My violin practice is similar, since it is what I have found that I feel works for me.

"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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Fiddlerman
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April 30, 2014 - 3:13 pm
Member Since: September 26, 2010
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I have also read this but I don't believe it. I'm sure that Leopold Auer was a terrific teacher but this has to be exaggerated. Maybe, just maybe, the first three lessons. I don't think that Leopold Auer taught beginners.

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

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