going beyond the technique

said: Sep 7, 2008
 56 posts

Dear teachers,

my teacher has commented that my child is able to play technically, read the notes, etc. However, we need to work beyond this, that is, we need to be able to “feel” the song and make the violin sing.

We asked how ? She gave a very cryptic tip : more practice. I will appreciate if anyone can advise a more structured approach with bite-sized steps ? hehehe. thanks !

Talent is not born, but created

Jennifer Visick said: Sep 7, 2008
Jennifer VisickForum Moderator
Suzuki Association Member
Viola, Suzuki in the Schools, Violin
998 posts

It’s possible that what your teacher may have meant by “more practice” is that, once the someone has grasped how to do a particular technique, more practice will make it easier and easier until the student has only to think of the end result, and the technique comes automatically. At that point, it becomes much easier to “feel” and “sing” the music through the instrument.

It’s the same way I have only to think what I want to say and I can speak (or type) it. That ability to think or feel something and then immediately speak about it only came after years of practice, beginning with months of daily listening to multiple other people express different thoughts and emotions through speech, and then moving on towards acquiring the ability to produce sounds accurately, then words, sentences, building vocabulary, moving from baby talk to toddler talk to child talk…. then to formal study in school…. etc.

So it is with music. Your teacher may mean that you are, for whatever reason, at the same stage as a person who has progressed past babbling and has acquired the ability to make most sounds, string them together in words, and form basic sentences. But moving to the next stage means becoming so comfortable with your current “vocabulary” of musical techniques and sounds that they can be produced when you think of them, easily and automatically. Then you can imagine the kind of singing the violin should make, and it will come out with ease.

But you should do your best to follow your teacher’s instruction by investing a little more practice and then ask your teacher for a more in depth explanation at the first opportunity.


P.S. When you aim for “more practice” in this context, remember that Dr. Suzuki considered listening (to the best artists’ recordings you have available to you—or going to see an artist live!)—and lots of review (playing old pieces, perhaps in new ways!)—as much a part of practicing as working on new techniques or pieces.

Gabriel Villasurda said: Sep 8, 2008
Gabriel VillasurdaViolin, Viola
81 posts

Here’s a trick that usually works.

Musical playing depends on going “beyond the notes.”

I got the following idea from watching an old episode of Sesame Street in which Bill Cosby did an interpretive recitation of the alphabet. He didn’t miss a trick to deliver this mundane content in a totally spellbinding way.

I ask the child to recite the alphabet from A-P (abbreviated to save time). Usually they will drone it out in a very bored way. Then ask the child to make the recitation a “dramatic reading.” Model it yourself by injecting as many moods and styles as you can—scary, joyful, doubtful, pleading, assertive. What one really does is vary loudness, pitch range, pacing, tone quality, etc., etc. Ask the child to make more variations along these lines as he/she tries again with the alphabet. Ask the parent to recite the alphabet; they usually do a bang-up job.

Another trick I use is the clasp right hands with the student. I then sing a phrase squeezing more firmly at the top of the phrase and releasing as the tension subsides. (I like to use Bach Gavotte in G minor for this because there are so many rises and falls.) Sing it again asking the child to squeeze and release the same time as you; don’t leave the interpretation all to one partner. Good phrasing and interpretation is based ton Tension and Release. This trick is fun in a group lesson; usually the boys pair up and try to outdo their partner bigtime!

As I am composing this response I am looking at the computer screen that comes up when posting a comeback to forum questions. On the left are 22 round yellow “faces” portraying various moods. Why not apply these to the interpretive process? Assign several faces even within a single phrase.
:D :) :( :O :shock: :confused:

Comments welcome.

Gabe Villasurda

Gabriel Villasurda
Ann Arbor MI

Connie Sunday said: Sep 8, 2008
Connie SundayViolin, Piano, Viola
667 posts

What Davidovici used to do, with me, is to play it the way I played it (and then—he is so kind— he said, “I’m exaggerating, of course”), and then play it with feelings. Demonstrating the difference can be very effective.

Free Handouts for Music Teachers & Students:

said: Sep 8, 2008
 4 posts

In general (especially for young children) it helps to make up a story to go along with the song. Think in terms of feelings and actions when making up your story. Then have your child use dynamics, tempo, bow speed, et. to animate the story. You can even make up different stories for each song. The songs in book 2 are great for this, like 2 Grenadiers, Witches Dance, et. (viola/violin)

said: Sep 8, 2008
 56 posts

thanks to all for your tips,

i have made up stories, e.g. for Vivaldi’s A minor concerto, I imagined we are riding on horseback, galloping through a dark forest, betwen tall trees, and a fierce storm is coming up from behind us. It does help my child a bit to imagine the intensity of the song.

However, I do notice that when my teacher takes up my kid’s violin, and plays the same song, immediately we noticed the difference, the song “comes alive” ! My first observation is the deftness of my teacher’s bow hand, in the way she commandeered the bow, and correct me if I am wrong, and the bowing makes a huge difference !?!

Sincerely wish for some guidance, some handle to bridge the huge gap :D Yet i know that experience cannot be bought, it has to be gained thru hard work. But I recognise that we also need to practice in the right direction. Otherwise we are just practicing the wrong way or the wrong thing several times, which makes things worse.

however, I noticed that for a simpler song such as Bach’s Minuet, my child was able to play it sufficiently and the song did “sort of” come alive, :D

Talent is not born, but created

Laura said: Sep 12, 2008
Suzuki Association Member
358 posts

When my child is learning a new piece (end of Book 2), it sounds pretty robotic. There are a lot of things to concentrate on, and it is very much like a academic exercise. But anything in Book 1 and early Book 2 really “sings”, as you put it, because the muscle memory is sufficient to bypass all of the little details and realize the bigger picture of the music. Very little has been taught about how to make it more musical—it just happened naturally as things got more confident.

I used to worry about the musicality too. But now that I’ve observed the process, I don’t worry as much.

I think the progression seems to be:
1. I am learning the notes and bowings.
2. I can play the notes and bowings.
3. I can play the notes and bowings without mistakes.
4. I can play this piece in group class and keep up with everyone.
5. This piece is pretty easy.
6. Are you kidding me? No problem.

The natural musicality seems to set in somewhere between 5 and 6. But I should add that other environmental elements need to be in place too: not just regular listening, but some sort of “in the blood” understanding of the music that comes from within—which results not just from regular listening, but from everyone’s general reaction to that regular listening. It must seem alive before it is played alive. (Like how your average person might sing “We Wish You a Merry Christmas”… or even “99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall”!

said: Sep 30, 2008
 36 posts

do the student know how to read notes? you cannot feel it if you don’t know what your feeling? This is why traditional Suzuki does not work. Language is more and listening and speaking, It’s also about reading and writing!!

said: Oct 3, 2008
 8 posts

I’ll second Purple Tulip’s comment!

My daughter has a new violin teacher this fall. We switched from a “modified” Suzuki studio to a more traditional one. The biggest difference between the two is that in the first studio she did NO review at all (there were no group lessons either). With the new teacher she is always working on a review piece (beginning Book 2) along with her current stuff (mid Book 3), and what a difference it has made! She plays her review piece beautifully. She even moves with the music, and absolutely makes it come alive. Her current piece, um, not so much! Stories have helped somewhat, but I don’t think the current piece will truly come alive until oh, maybe a year from now! The point is, my daughter is getting a huge confidence boost from working on review pieces, and she is enjoying her violin much more than she ever did before.

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