Please feel free to share. “The Little Drummer Boy Project”
Have you only been playing for 2-1/2 weeks? If so you're doing fantastic!
Your bow hold appears to need to be a bit more relaxed. Bend the fingers and don't lock the pinkie like it looks your doing.
Fiddlerman has a video demonstrating a relaxed bow hold that you can watch. Otherwise, I think your doing great! Keep up the good work.
Bob in Lone Oak, TX
Bob in Lone Oak, Texas
I watched it without sound first, so I could concentrate on what I was seeing:
1st, a side note - this is not a critique, just a comment. You're playing with the violin fairly close to flat, side to side. Most people play with the treble side down a bit more. There's nothing wrong with the way you're doing it, it just means you have to go up quite high to play the G string. If you're comfortable with that and like it, stick with it. If you find it hard on your right shoulder, though, you can twist the violin so that the treble side is lower than it is now. Only thing you have to watch out for is that you don't go so low that your bow goes all the way to vertical to play the E string. You want to keep at least something of an angle on that. I'm not suggesting that you change it, just making sure you're aware that it's ok to if you want to.
You started out with little or no movement in the upper arm, but as you went on, I notice more, and before you started moving the upper arm, I noticed the bow angle going back and forth. That's because your wrist is not moving. You want the wrist to to be cocked down (about as far as it will go) when you're at the frog, and cocked up about as far as it will go when you're at the tip. This will make the bow hairs flat when you're at the tip, and on the edge (the one away from you) when you're at the frog.
The physics of the thing means you put a lot more pressure on the strings when you're at the frog (as much as 10 times as much), which is why you want the bow tipped over when you're down there. The decrease amount of contact area compensates for the increased pressure. The change from the wrist all the way down at the frog to all the way up at the tip should be smooth and steady.
That motion is also what will work with the elbow to give you a straight bow, obviating the need to move the upper arm. Don't beat yourself up too much for moving the upper arm - it's by far the most common beginner mistake - but you're quite right to want to nip such mistakes in the bud. One way to practice so that you can detect if you're doing it is to hang a towel over something like a shelf, so that your elbow is just barely touching it. If your arm goes back, you'll feel it drag. If your arm goes forward, you'll feel the loss of contact.
Another option would be to put some kind of obstacle in front of your upper arm (a pole of some kind - you still need to be able to move it up and down). Make sure it's either suspended from the top, or sturdy enough not to get knocked over. For most people, it's the arm going forward that's a problem more than it going back.
There is an issue for some people, depending on where you hold the violin, the length of your arms, etc. You may find that to get the last 4-6 inches near the frog, you have to move the upper right arm forward, or move the violin forward towards the bow. You have three choices - move the bow arm, move the violin, or accept that you can't get at that part of the bow. There are pros and cons to all three. I'd experiment with all three and find out which one you like best (and consider the virtues of having all three in your repetoire - it's not like you have to choose one of the three options and never use the other two for the rest of your life.)
To quote my teacher's all time favorite phrase to me: "Use more bow". I haven't heard what you sound like at all yet, but I can see that you're using less bow than you could on many of the notes. It's very easy to use less bow if you ever need to. It's challenging to use more that you naturally would, so when practicing/training yourself, use as much bow as you can manage.
The reason is simple - the more bow you use on a note, the better it will sound. You don't want to wildly flail at it, trying to use the entire bow for a 32nd note, but get in the habit of stretching yourself to use more bow than you're comfortable with when learning new pieces, and especially when practicing simple things like scales or older, easy pieces. It's a habit you can never get into too soon. As I said, using less bow (if you should ever need to) is easy, so don't worry about that end of it.
Final critique before I listen to things - I'll second what Bob said - relax. Given that you're 2 and a half weeks in and making your first video of the stuff, some tension is normal, but tension is the sneakiest enemy you've got when it comes to violin playing. If you know any techniques for forcibly relaxing yourself (I go back to self hypnosis class I took many, many years ago), use them.
Ok, comments after listening:
Intonation had some minor bobbles, but for 2.5 weeks in, it's excellent. As I'm sure you could tell, it still needs practice, but according to Pierre (aka Fiddlerman) violinists are never completely happy with their intonation. You are progressing quite well, though.
Were you doing a vibrato on a few of the notes in "Over the Rainbow"? I thought at first you were just putting too much force on the strings, but on a second watching, it looked too deliberate and I wasn't seeing any shaking of the violin. I'm much better at the theory of vibrato than the practice, so if that's what you were doing, I can't help a lot with making it better, but given the violin was NOT shaking and the note modification was audible (if a bit weak), that's not too shabby at all.
If you were NOT trying to do a vibrato, then I'd say that would have to be a critique, although I'm not sure what of. 🙂 If you were, ask questions about it. I can help some with the theory, and there are people on here who know a lot more about it than I do.
Hope this helped.
Thank you for listening/watching. Relaxation has been one of my more profound hurdles to date. I am naturally a bit on the rigid side... I removed the dots from my instrument to better tune my ear, and I noticed the intubation problems that were mentioned after watching it again. As for the vibrato, I haven't built the sustain in my hand muscles yet, but I'm glad you could tell I was trying. I definitely need more bow. It's likely due to the lack of full bow control, which my grip and stiffness are contributing to. Thank you again for the advice and assistance. I have a long way to go, but I'm willing to put in the work. ??
The only thing necessary for evil to triumph, is for good men to do nothing...
First of all, damn! That is so fantastic, the level you've already achieved, so well done, and keep the good work up!
One of my main criticisms would just to really watch your bow hold. For quite a while now, I was doing exactly what you're doing until I recorded myself, and could see it, and that was a straight thumb. You could do this by making sure the tip of your thumb always touches one of the edges of your bow (I've kinda got a octagonal bow, not a cylindrical one, so that's why it works on me). Watching out for this will definitely create a good habit 🙂
Second of all, your vibrato. It's great that you're having a shot at it and quite early too. If you're really dedicated and want to learn it, I would recommend using a slow-down version when playing pieces so you can really focus on technique. This means rolling your finger back slowly instead of trying to speed the vibrato up to a regular speed (which is faaaaaast). Doing this, (or just other slow vibrato exercises) can help prevent something that you're doing which may create a bad habit, moving your wrist too much.
Finally, bow strokes. If you're keen on improving your tone, really pay attention to bow pressure, speed, wrist flexibility, and where on the bow to play (for different pieces and styles). Include them in your practice, and you'll see your progress skyrocket, and your tone will change. I think for you a big thing would be looooooooooooong bow strokes, going all the way from the frog, right to the tip 😀
Of course, this is just my advice and opinions, and you don't have to listen to them, but all I can say is that you've already come so far (I'm not kidding it took me about a month or so to get all my fingering nailed), so keep the hard work up
You're doing great 🙂 Welcome to the forum 😀
The only things I noticed were mentioned already, working on relaxing your bow hold and pulling back on the vibrato and doing slower practice to get the technique down. You don't want to start vibrato going full speed, you want to start slow and work your way up.
Keep up the great work 🙂
World's Okayest Fiddler
Thank you all so much for the advice. I've started attempting to correct my bow hold and using longer bowing. It has definitely improved tone quality, but has shown me my bow control needs a lot of work. I have slowed my vibrato to get the waa woo sound, but my fingers start tensing after about 5 to 10 min of practicing that way. All a work in progress. ?Again, I thank everyone for the great advice and help you have provided. I hope to share again when I get some of the basics down a bit better.
The only thing necessary for evil to triumph, is for good men to do nothing...
An exercise you might find useful for improving basic bow technique is one my teacher calls a "bow stretcher". He swears by it, says he still does it every day himself.
You'll need a metronome (these days, that usually means a metronome app for your phone - there are plenty of free ones; there's also a metronome page here on the FM site). Start out at a speed that you can go from one end of the bow and back with control, probably 30-40 BPM.
All strokes are full bow, from frog to tip and back. Do a few at one stroke per beat, then slow it down so you're doing two beats per stroke (i.e., going half as fast). Then 3, 4, 6, 8, 12, 16... 12, 8, 6, 4, 3, 2, 1. The exact numbers aren't important. What matters is doing the exercise at a wide range of speeds while maintaining good form and good tone. Once it becomes easy to do it at the starting speed, crank it up (40 BPM, 50, 60). If you can start at 60 BPM, and go to 32 beats per stroke and have good form and tone at all speeds, you're not going to have to worry about your bow control in actual music. That's both faster and slower than anything you're likely to need in real life.
While the 2 and 3 beats per stroke stuff is usually easier than 1 beat per stroke (if you're at the edge of your skill), most people find that doing the really slow stuff is harder than doing the really fast one.
Since I don't know who may be reading this on down the line, a note for the world at large - this is an exercise for practicing your bow technique. Therefore, about the worst thing you can possibly do is try to practice it too fast for the sake of bragging rights on the initial number. That will mean you're practicing bad technique, and your subconscious (or your muscles, however you care to think of it), doesn't know the difference. It'll learn whatever you practice. If you have a mix of good technique and bad technique, then things will be confused and you'll just find it "hard to learn". (If it's all bad technique, you'll learn it relatively quickly, but be sorry you did. 🙂 )