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My Journey with My Violin Since May 1716.
A probably unusual way to learn improvising via baroque play-alongs.
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Demoiselle
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The certain church organist, I had a jam session with in August, has to struggle through 14 stanzas of this hymn on the German Thanksgiving Sunday in October. So he asked me to bring some variation into this. That's why I wrote this second voice for violin. I found it surprising that this works with trumpet as lead instrument and violin as second voice.

But there's more possible. I heard, the leader of the trombone choir plays violin very well. So I may have even a second violin.... Plus I want to get a good trumpet player, so I can focus on violin and trombone. From my old folk music days I know a woman who is a good percussionist. She should be able to play my timpani.

But even if it's gonna be just me and the organist, I can play my second violin under the congregation singing. Plus I will do an extra stanza where I will improvise hazardously. Which I wouldn't do during the first stanza in this hymn. It's good to start with a fixed second voice.

The good thing about this all is, that many will hear me and after the service I will mingle with those folks. And as I will have my instruments, they will of course ask me, whether it was me who played in the service. So that will be a good start for my propaganda: "Folks I'm looking for guitar players and a string bass!" Maybe I find a drummer who will play the timpani. My timpani are just two big hand drums, but maybe he will have real timpani.....

I have the feeling things are going the right way after I had been searching and hoping for years. 

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My violin is a 3/4 violin, made for right-handed players, though I play it left-handed. As I felt she was the best in the shop of all 3/4 violins I tried and the luthier agreed. I prefer Obligato strings together with Eudoxa E string.

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Demoiselle
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DSC00645.JPGImage Enlarger

I finally filed this upper edge round, where my bow hair at times hooked when I played the E string's open E. Also filed this edge from below, although it doesn't show on this photo. It had annoyed me for over 3 years and I always assumed it was the mistake of my bow technique. I don't think so. It must be a matter of playing a right-handed violin left-handed. But now it's really perfect and I have no more accidents on the open E.

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My violin is a 3/4 violin, made for right-handed players, though I play it left-handed. As I felt she was the best in the shop of all 3/4 violins I tried and the luthier agreed. I prefer Obligato strings together with Eudoxa E string.

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bocaholly
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Very interesting, @Demoiselle. I'm always surprised how tiny violin adjustments can make such a big difference in sound and/or comfort.

I don't think that catching your bow hair on that corner is specific to playing a right-handed violin lefty. I do that too playing righty. Now that my bridge has been shifted north 5mm and the fingerboard shortened by 8mm, I'm flirting more often than ever with that corner. I just may have to take inspiration from your DYI so thanks for sharing 🙂

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Demoiselle
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bocaholly 
Very interesting, @Demoiselle. I'm always surprised how tiny violin adjustments can make such a big difference in sound and/or comfort.

I don't think that catching your bow hair on that corner is specific to playing a right-handed violin lefty. I do that too playing righty. Now that my bridge has been shifted north 5mm and the fingerboard shortened by 8mm, I'm flirting more often than ever with that corner. I just may have to take inspiration from your DYI so thanks for sharing 🙂  

I don't know whether I understand you correctly: You also are left-handed and play a violin designed for right-handed players bowing with you left hand?

That's what I do at least. The downside is, the E string is harder to reach. And my bow hand has to reach down the hill (so to speak) because it's curved the other way. So the bow tip is coming more downside and therefore the bow hair sometimes hooked, when the tip moved up a little. Filing something off is no problem to my violin since I devarnished her anyhow 2 years ago. But of course if you do that to a varnished violin, it looks awful. In the meantime my violin looks a 100% okay after I applied a wee bit woodstain with a cotton stick. Well the little edge is rounder than the others, whereas the color looks exactly the same now.

I had devarnished her, since the instrument looked properly built and sounds well, but the varnish was very thick and looked cheap to me. Luthiers told me, that varnish made her sound darker and that's exactly what I don't want. I scratched it all off, partly with my fingernails, partly with the rear end of a fork.

My violin is a 3/4 violin, made for right-handed players, though I play it left-handed. As I felt she was the best in the shop of all 3/4 violins I tried and the luthier agreed. I prefer Obligato strings together with Eudoxa E string.

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bocaholly
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@Demoiselle 

I am right-handed, have a right-handed violin and play right-handed 🙂

Nonetheless, I occasionally get stuck on the treble side upper corner of my C-bout.
But as I said, my bowing is not as in control as it should be and with the modifications to my violin (bridge moved towards the scroll 5mm) my bowing area is closer to that offending corner than usual.

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Demoiselle
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bocaholly said
@Demoiselle 

I am right-handed, have a right-handed violin and play right-handed 🙂

Nonetheless, I occasionally get stuck on the treble side upper corner of my C-bout.
But as I said, my bowing is not as in control as it should be and with the modifications to my violin (bridge moved towards the scroll 5mm) my bowing area is closer to that offending corner than usual.  

I also read you had your fingerboard shortened, which is exactly what I'm planing..... only in my case it's not millimeters but about two inches. Plus throw off my tailpiece, get a wooden one without fine tuners and pegs instead you can fine-tune.

My violin is a 3/4 violin, made for right-handed players, though I play it left-handed. As I felt she was the best in the shop of all 3/4 violins I tried and the luthier agreed. I prefer Obligato strings together with Eudoxa E string.

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bocaholly
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2 inches... yikes! 

Curious as to what is prompting you to shorten your fingerboard that much. Do you have a hypothesis as to how it will affect the the timbre of your violin? Or are you just doing this for a comfort imperative? 

If I didn't love the rosewood pegs on my violin so much, I would also be considering Wittner pegs.

When you choose a wooden tailpiece, I hope you can try different sizes. That will determine your string after length to some extent and, as per my recent experience, will make an audible difference (too short and my violin started sounding a bit tight and strident.) 

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Demoiselle
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bocaholly said
2 inches... yikes! 

Curious as to what is prompting you to shorten your fingerboard that much. Do you have a hypothesis as to how it will affect the the timbre of your violin? Or are you just doing this for a comfort imperative? 

If I didn't love the rosewood pegs on my violin so much, I would also be considering Wittner pegs.

When you choose a wooden tailpiece, I hope you can try different sizes. That will determine your string after length to some extent and, as per my recent experience, will make an audible difference (too short and my violin started sounding a bit tight and strident.)   

I talked the tailpiece over with a luthier. They even make historical string instruments and I hope they know which tailpiece is right for my violin. I will also ask the consequences of shortening the fingerboard. It looks more baroque then.

My violin is a 3/4 violin, made for right-handed players, though I play it left-handed. As I felt she was the best in the shop of all 3/4 violins I tried and the luthier agreed. I prefer Obligato strings together with Eudoxa E string.

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Demoiselle
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bocaholly said
2 inches... yikes! 

Curious as to what is prompting you to shorten your fingerboard that much.   .......................................

So that was me in 2016, and if you've seen baroque violins, my fingerboard is too long. Not if you never wear historical clothes, but I do. And therefore I want to dump my plastic tailpiece first and use a wooden one without fine tuners.

Demoiselle-avec-violon.jpg

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My violin is a 3/4 violin, made for right-handed players, though I play it left-handed. As I felt she was the best in the shop of all 3/4 violins I tried and the luthier agreed. I prefer Obligato strings together with Eudoxa E string.

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bocaholly
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I googled baroque violins and, indeed, there is a much bigger bowing area (amongst other differenced.)

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Demoiselle
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bocaholly said
I googled baroque violins and, indeed, there is a much bigger bowing area (amongst other differenced.)  

Pre-classical music wasn't as extreme as classical music. They were down to earth and therefore didn't think of playing extreme high-notes you can reach on a long, modern fingerboard. The philosophy of the baroque era criticized overdo, exorbitance a lot. That's why I stick to baroque dance: it's simply moderate and healthy, since old dancing masters emphasized all the time how unhealthy the extreme is. Whereas I knew a girl in the 80s who ruined her spine with ballet already before she got her high school diploma. Her doctor told her to stop dancing. I understood that warning too and never forgot it. I'm far from striving for virtuosity on the violin either. I want honesty and very personal expression.

My violin is a 3/4 violin, made for right-handed players, though I play it left-handed. As I felt she was the best in the shop of all 3/4 violins I tried and the luthier agreed. I prefer Obligato strings together with Eudoxa E string.

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Fiddlerman
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@Demoiselle - Cool picture. Where was it taken?

"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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Fiddlerman said
@Demoiselle - Cool picture. Where was it taken?  

SonntagsClub, Berlin - open stage October 2016.

My violin is a 3/4 violin, made for right-handed players, though I play it left-handed. As I felt she was the best in the shop of all 3/4 violins I tried and the luthier agreed. I prefer Obligato strings together with Eudoxa E string.

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Demoiselle
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On a radio program I recently listened to something new, by French jazz musicians who also love baroque music. They call it "Baroque Jazz".

Actually I hate crossover since I love baroque music on the one hand and jazz on the other. I would never try to mix my violin style with jazz phrases. In the 70s "Play Bach" stuff was pretty popular, backing baroque music with pop or rock rhythm. I never wanted to go down that road. But what above French musicians recently did I find fascinating. Although it wouldn't be my way either because it was jazz phrasing with sort of baroque violin expression.

Here's what I tried now and I'm very happy with the result of this experiment:

A couple days ago I recorded my usual practice chaconne improvisation, backing my violin with a synthesizer harpsichord. The day after that I dared to improvise a jazz trumpet over that violin. And the  result is my very personal kind of "Baroque Jazz". The violin strictly sticks to my 1600s chaconne style and the trumpet ads jazz phrases to it. Partly the trumpet adjusts a bit to the style of the violin adding a second voice. You cannot tell what style the trumpet exactly plays in those moments. So the trumpet managed to create a connection between baroque and jazz. Finally even my baroque violin could possibly be something close to jazz. After all it was all improvisation, one of the preconditions for jazz.

My violin is a 3/4 violin, made for right-handed players, though I play it left-handed. As I felt she was the best in the shop of all 3/4 violins I tried and the luthier agreed. I prefer Obligato strings together with Eudoxa E string.

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Demoiselle
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The violin in my recent "Baroque Jazz" production, joined by my Tromba plastic trumpet, needed an extra remix. I was just practicing and randomly recording it, before I added the trumpet part. So here is that violin without trumpet.

It's actually not music by Lully. I just took the chords from his chaconne in Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme. Very similar to my Ciacona by Biber. The difference is just the fourth added to the dominant chord of the fourth bar. It is not in Lully's chaconne, so I left it out here. Not too spectacular detail.

My violin is a 3/4 violin, made for right-handed players, though I play it left-handed. As I felt she was the best in the shop of all 3/4 violins I tried and the luthier agreed. I prefer Obligato strings together with Eudoxa E string.

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bocaholly
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just keeps getting better and better! Bravo!

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Demoiselle
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bocaholly said
just keeps getting better and better! Bravo!  

The point is, I started with a very small pool of tonal possibilities and repeated myself all the time. Over years this pool of tonal possibilities was growing slowly. If you now listen into what I play today, you still get the impression I'm constantly repeating myself. But not so much anymore, because the pool I'm swimming in is much larger now. It's clear where I'm heading to: The possibilities will keep on growing, while I will keep on repeating myself. If you listen to all works Bach has composed, you will also be like, "There he's repeating himself again." Repeating himself on an incredibly high level with huge possibilities! Most people will tell me like, "This is so stupid, you're playing the same over and over again -- every piece you play sounds the same!" And because these people are so negative, they miss the road to perfection via improvisation. Well, I don't have to be perfect, like Bach. The way is the goal and finally becoming half as good is still a wonderful gift. 🙂

My violin is a 3/4 violin, made for right-handed players, though I play it left-handed. As I felt she was the best in the shop of all 3/4 violins I tried and the luthier agreed. I prefer Obligato strings together with Eudoxa E string.

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Demoiselle
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I just recorded a Ciacona/Chaconne by the Austrian Composer Biber (1644–1704). I more and more prefer baroque organ sounds coming from my synthesizer. I programmed this organ since there were no ancient organ sounds on that synthesizer. Even I just thought, "Oh, what is that recorder doing in the background of my violin?" It is that organ, which sounds so natural that you easily mess it up with recorders if it's in the background.

The violin recording again was rather me rehearsing and randomly recording. After that I decided to also make a version for flutes and chose tenor and alto recorders. I also added some improvised singing. The lyrics were not written, but also improvised. I like it very much, because it's really my natural baroque voice, without trying to twist my voice in any direction. Just letting my voice go like it naturally works. Years ago I tried to force my voice into precise notes, which is not like the human voice works. That's the lesson I've learned over years: Singers need to free themselves from the conpulsive idea to have to hit precise notes. This here is technically correct singing. So it was about time to get my actual baroque singing style on my YouTube channel too.

On the violin it got much better over time, but still I don't have the easiness I enjoy with my recorders, just playing and improvising a little singing part too. Whenever I play violin I have to concentrate on my violin. That's why I'm not experimenting much, but just practice via improvising. It will take quite some more time.....
On the other hand I sometimes feel sleepy while trying to do something on a recorder because it's to easy and therefore can become a little dull if I play to much. Blowing into a recorder is to effordless to feel like real work.

My violin is a 3/4 violin, made for right-handed players, though I play it left-handed. As I felt she was the best in the shop of all 3/4 violins I tried and the luthier agreed. I prefer Obligato strings together with Eudoxa E string.

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bocaholly
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@Demoiselle, the version with the recorders really made my heart sing. 

On the "baroque voice" thing, having been the girl in the school chorus who was told to just move her lips, of course I understand little. I did do some googling, though, and noticed that there are raging debates on "healthy" application of voice in early music. Also plenty of debate about voice vibrato (I think you said previously that you're not a fan.)

So thanks again for expanding my musical horizon just this little bit more blurry_drunk-2127

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Demoiselle
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bocaholly said
@Demoiselle, the version with the recorders really made my heart sing. 

On the "baroque voice" thing, having been the girl in the school chorus who was told to just move her lips, of course I understand little. I did do some googling, though, and noticed that there are raging debates on "healthy" application of voice in early music. Also plenty of debate about voice vibrato (I think you said previously that you're not a fan.)

So thanks again for expanding my musical horizon just this little bit more blurry_drunk-2127  

Still trying hard to match up with my recorders on my violin.violin-student

Just move your lips?? Did they ban you from singing along?! That would be pedagogical collapse. Teaching students to do meaningless things is absurd. I'm afraid it can only hurt the soul of a child.frown

I have a vibrato on the last note of my singing part in my latest video. I discussed that a bit and came to the conclusion that it's a fairly natural vibrato. Vibrato is actually natural to the human voice if you don't put it on. In classical opera singing teachers require sustained vibrato, so it's really trained and put on. Often you hear a very hysterical vibrato in the opera world. I worked many years to rid my singing technique of what my teacher taught me. That's why I often sound so very anti-vibrato. Because it's damn hard to get rid of it. I mostly managed to get rid of it, but whenever I forget myself for a moment it may come back. On the other hand there are singing parts which are hard to sing without vibrato. And here I'm strictly again suppressing it. It's never good to force a voice -- be it putting something on or suppressing it!

I have a book about baroque singing technique, written by a Swiss baroque singer. She is not working with original sources, just worked with secondary literature. From those books she cited a lot of original statements from the 1600s and 1700s. But she did not cite a very important part by Johann Mattheson (Handel's old Hamburger friend) which is very important to me. I have the reprint and constantly look up matter in Mattheson's book. Where he's talking about the organ he compares its tremulants to the vibrato of the human voice. He's like, "Like the human voice at certain times on long notes." That's what baroque violin players actually do too. Usually in ancient music they don't apply vibrato on long final notes today. But I don't know any original source which would be like, "Never on final notes." So after all I don't know whether the vibrato on my final sung note is historically correct. I will always defend it because it's improvisation and came out naturally. Whenever I sing from notes or out of my memory I will likely avoid vibrato on final notes. Because professional baroque singers mostly sing that way and it can't be wrong to follow that because maybe they have certain original sources I don't know. Although it could be as well just a modern habit in today's ancient music.

Interesting my La Folia version I sung during a jam session with a guitar player in 2016. In situations like that it's hard to concentrate on my technique and sing just from my heart. And what came out was rather modern chanson than ancient voice. With sort of crooner vibrato which reminds a bit of Marilyn Monroe. 😀

There are violin players who also show a vibrato which sounds very natural. I would never criticize that or dispute the beauty of such natural violin vibrato! Just if it sounds technically trained and put on, it pains me and this is a disease I hear from many professional violin players: a hysterical vibrato which does not sound natural to me. I said before that Pierre Holstein has a very warm, natural vibrato I always enjoy to hear. He is always able to play vibratoless as well, which is a good sign. You hear many professional violinists on YouTube, who obviously can't even play a scale without vibrato.

My violin is a 3/4 violin, made for right-handed players, though I play it left-handed. As I felt she was the best in the shop of all 3/4 violins I tried and the luthier agreed. I prefer Obligato strings together with Eudoxa E string.

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