Ben

Welcome to your online lesson notes page Ben!

Grade 8 scale fingerings (/=shift)

  • Scales:
    • A flat/G#: …..A string 12/1234; E string 12/12/1234321\4321; A string 4321\21…..
    • All other keys: start 2nd finger on G string. Then same as above but 44 at the top.
  • Arpeggios:
    • A flat/G#: 131/131/1314131 then shift to 1st position 4th finger.
    • All other keys: 2421/132/13431 then 4 on E string. Stay in that position til the end.
  • Dominant sevenths:
    • A flat: 1st position until E string. Then 23/1234 and back the same way.
    • A others: start 2 on G string. A string 1/13; E string 12/1234321\431. End on the D string with an extension back with the 1st finger on the penultimate note.
  • Diminished sevenths:
    • 2 octaves: 24,13,134,24 and back.
    • A flat 3 octaves: 13,024,13,13/1234 and back.
  • Chromatic scales:
    • 2 octaves: start the E string 12 then do 123 until you reach the top (E will also need a 4 at the top).
    • 3 octaves: you decide if you’d like to start the E string like above, 12/123….with 123 at the top, or you could start 123/123……12344 at the top.
  • Double stops:
    • Octaves are obvious!
    • 6ths have the tonic at the top, so start G0 D1. You can choose to stay in 1st position, or two each in 1st then 3rd position.
    • 3rds have the tonic at the bottom, so start G2 D0, G3 D1, G4 D2 then you’ll do 2 pairs in 3rd position, 2 in 1st position, 2 in 3rd position etc.

Let me know your decision where you have a choice and I’ll edit the above to only list your chosen fingerings.

Tue 19th Jan 2021

Bach P3 Giga

  • Great work on this! I don’t need t hear it anymore.

Bach P3 Bourée

  • Find your favourite speed from a few recordings and work out how fast it is. Work out your current speed and notch it up a bit each practice.
  • Aim for less break between the first and second half. It should sound like a natural breath, not an almighty gasp!
  • Identify any places your right elbow is moving a lot and try to make the movements shallower and/or more gradual.
  • Lean into the slurs in 25 and 26 to highlight the harmony.
  • Make sure you’re using open strings in ascending slurs that go up onto the next string.

Start looking at P1 Double 3 (p.14)

Fri 15th Jan 2021

Leclair 1st movement

  • Not too much bow on the first note but make sure it’s connected melodically to the second note. Same applies in similar places.
  • Aim for a clean tone from your bow at all times, letting the string resonate.
  • Hit the ground running with your trills from bar 5 onwards.
  • In 15, phrase the slurs but have a forward feeling.
  • Phrase your slurs in 17 and 18 to help with doing the right bowing.
  • In 18, use less bow for your p.
  • Try the second half with a metronome until you’re familiar with the rhythm. Keep the triplets leading forward to the next crotchet.
  • Stay in 3rd position for 47, 48 and 49.

Tue 12th Jan 2021

To warm up, pick a string and a hand shape and play 5 note scales up and down to wake your fingers up. Make sure all notes are in tune before speeding it up.

Bach P3 Bourée

  • Make more of the dynamics, making it just as much about contrasting characters as volume.
  • Careful of any bowings you’ve got used to doing the wrong way and train yourself out of them.
  • Spend a bit more time on bars 13-16 to get used to the finger placements.
  • Research what tempo you’d like to end up playing this movement.
  • Aim to neaten up the bowing of the chords – keep it light and clean.

Fri 8th Jan 2021

Leclair 1st movement

  • Practice the beginning for boldness vs. calm p chords. Start in the upper half.
  • Practice the start of line 2 slowly, even without the bow, to keep the left hand relaxed.
  • Add turns to the trills on the second line and start on the upper note. Don’t feel you need to squeeze too many notes into your trills.
  • Careful of the tempo at 15 and 30-31.
  • From 17, try to get both strings ringing with a good tone throughout the bow.
  • Careful of the duplets vs. triplets at the top of the second page. Keep the crotchet pulse in your head.

Tue 5thJan 2021

Scales

  • Start looking at the Grade 8 scales. Ask me when you come across one that needs help.

Bach P3 Giga

  • Work on neater bowing (push out a bit with your right hand for a strighter bow). Also remember to stay in the lower half.
  • Start any 3 note slurs closer to the heel and use less bow for the subsequent semiquavers.
  • Be on the lookout for any patches of insecure tuning. Isolate those places to see if you can get them more reliable, either by working at a slower speed or by playing it up to speed but pausing on any suspect notes.

Bach P3 Bourée

  • Don’t skip the warm-up for the opening chords!
  • Try to prepare your 4th finger before you start.
  • Great job on the bowing!
  • Work on making the dynamics really obvious using bow angle, amount of bow and proximity to bridge.
  • Play the second half more than the first half.

Fri 18th Dec 2020

Il’yinsky

  • Start with a G flat (think F#!) major scale, starting 2nd finger on the G string. Aim for great sound quality first time!
  • In the piece, aim for no gaps between notes unless there’s a rest – remember you don’t have a sustain pedal on your violin!
  • In 3 and 4, 7 and 8 try not to crescendo: think about where each phrase is going.
  • Constant small vibrato.
  • Practice this with the viola track from a few weeks back.
  • My main advice: know your intervals, especially when shifting!

Tue 15th Dec 2020

Bach P3 Giga

  • In the warm-up scale, watch out for the tuning of the F# and E before your shift down.
  • Land smoothly on the slur in bar 12.

Bach P3 Bourée

  • Don’t forget to do the warm-up for the first two chords of each section.
  • Identify moments of rest, like the crotchet in bar 4. Convey this by not rushing off the crotchet.
  • Practice the bowing for places like bar 6 by playing thee bowing pattern on one note.

Fri 4th Dec 2020

Ding Dong Merrily

  • Prepare really early for your first note, building up the fingers and getting your bow ready very close to (if not, on) the string.
  • Practice mainly with the track in your ear now to get used to how that feels. You’ll need to be even more aware of which notes are staccato and which are not.
  • When it comes to filming, try a practice run then watch it back to see if you’re happy with the set-up and how you played. You can then practice a few corners if you need to, or change the camera angle.
  • Don’t forget – several takes is the norm! If it doesn’t go as well as you’d hoped, use it as an aide to help you improve next time.

Il’yinsky

  • Settle your tuning for the start by playing a slow G flat major scale starting 4th finger on the G string.

Tue 8th Dec 2020

Bach P3 Giga

  • Careful tuning the sharps, especially in scalic passages.
  • Alternate between playing it under speed in one practice and up to speed in another.
  • Focus on tuning the first not of bar 2 (D#) and the F# in the middle of bar 15. Also focus on getting to these notes without a hesitation.

Bach P3 Bourée

  • Practice the fist phrase with no double stop to get the mood and right part of the bow, then put the double stop back in.
  • Use the warm-up exercise to help prepare your 4th finger for the double stops.
  • Practice the passages with an editorial slur without it, then aim to recreate that sound with it added back in.
  • Keep a constant speed. Perhaps do this with a metronome?

Fri 4th Dec 2020

Ding Dong Merrily

  • Great work on the shifting in the first half! See if you can get the shifts in the final section just as seamless.
  • Aim for neater bowing on the separate bow quavers. In general, I think you can be a bit more concise with how much bow you’re using, except on the “glo-o-o-o-ria” slurs.
  • Practice bars 37-44 the most and try not to slow down in 43.

Il’yinsky

  • Great tuning when you’re sure of the notes – aim to get the rest of the notes just as secure.
  • There’s the beginning of a brilliant sound quality here – keep developing this, with your combination of vibrato and bow stroke.
  • Don’t let your shifts distract the listener from the melodic line.
  • Sing your way up the arpeggios on the last line in your head and you’ll get the right notes!

Tue 1st Dec 2020

Bach Partita no.3 Giga

  • In the warm-ups, keep your bow straight and careful it doesn’t end up over the fingerboard.
  • When up to speed, Bach is like a roller-coaster! So keep looking ahead so you know what’s coming. Keep the bow moving and the fingers will keep up.
  • Aim for bar 6 to be light and off the string.
  • You’re mainly now just getting used to the new speed.

Bach Partita no.3 Giga

  • Play at a speed that you can comfortably play it without too much hesitation.
  • Try to plan your bow distribution – if you find yourself running out, go back a few bars and see how you could have prepared better.

Keep up the good work on Ding Dong!

Fri 27th Nov 2020

Ding Dong Merrily

  • Smooth over the gap between 16 and 17 – let the bow sing through the string crossing and shift.
  • Make sure any negotiable fingerings and bowings are decided upon and written in.
  • Record your video whenever you’re ready! Here‘s Mimi’s video to give you a bit of an idea of set-up.

Here’s the guide track for Ding Dong Merrily on High. I have added a rall at the end so you’ll have to listen carefully to my quavers and work out where to start ignoring the metronome! When you come to recording your video, I would recommend using headphones and having this playing in one ear.

Tue 24th Nov 2020

Bach Partita no.3 Giga

  • Add an E major scale to your warm-up, starting in 1st position and playing the second octave in 4th position. Play it carefully so as to get your ears listening out for good intonation.
  • Do some listening research and choose a speed you’d like to play the movement at. Then practice your warm-up exercises at this tempo (but start slower if they aren’t sounding completely clean).
  • In the warm-up exercises, aim for smoother starts to your down bows.
  • In the Bach, you can be a little longer on the quavers.
  • In 12, work on the sound quality of the slur.
  • In 15, make the F# the end of the slur’s phrase.
  • Trust your finger positions from bar 17.
  • In 21 and 22, think of the two different voices in the first and second half of each bar.
  • Careful of the B’s tuning in 23.

Start looking at Bourée. Use as many open strings as you can and be observant of the bowings from the offset.

Fri 20th Nov 2020

Il’yinsky

  • Here‘s a piano version to listen to! See if you can recreate the flowing feeling.
  • Keep the mood gentle with a slower tempo and a constant light, slow vibrato. Then complement the vibrato with your sound quality (how you use your bow).
  • Notice how the pianist plays the grace notes – not too fast, not too slow, but always before the beat.
  • How seamless can you make the shifts from 4th to 5th position? Reach into the new position, then bring your hand to meet that finger.
  • When you’re comfortable with the notes and fingerings, play along with the duet track in Fri 13th’s lesson notes.

Tue 17th Nov 2020

Bach

  • In warm-up exercise no.2, hold the first note of bar 6 as a long note and step your first finger back and forth between the A and E strings, trying to only move the finger and not the wrist.
  • Choose the speed you’d like to play the movement at and use a metronome to practice the warm-up exercises at the same speed.
  • Before you start the piece, make sure your hand is ready to play the first TWO notes.
  • For the p in bar 6, you can use a lighter bow and come off the string slightly.
  • Work on the tuning in bar 14.
  • Practice bar 15,thinking about really shifting to 1/2 position and back to 1st position again.
  • At bar 20, lighten the second notes of slurs.
  • Embrace the open strings!

Fri 13th Nov 2020

Eliza Aria

  • Play a short scale with 4 quavers on each note to set your bow arm correctly before you start. Elbow a little higher and wrist down (make sure the shoulder stays down too).
  • Slightly shorter on the quavers in the first few sections.
  • A little vibrato on the crotchets, but careful to keep the left wrist down.
  • At F, imagine the mood you want to achieve with your vibrato before you play and keep the bow light and flowing.
  • Play I arco to work on intonation.
  • At J, a rich sound quality but listen for the sound at the start of the first note.
  • Count long notes like b.91-2 carefully and don’t come in too soon after the rest.
  • Be meticulous with your dynamic change and shift at 109.
  • Work on the dynamics at M.

Queen of Sheba

  • Let me know when you’re ready to play this through for me again.
  • I think one of the reasons your left hand got so tense today is linked to what we talked about before – the palm of the hand should stay as impartial as possible with most of the movement coming from the base joints of the fingers, just like the Janine Jansen video I shared a while back. If we don’t get into good habits in our practice, problems like that get magnified when we’re in a situation of heightened pressure.
  • Find a video to play along with.

Here’s a viola track to practice your Il’yinsky with:

Berceuse viola part

Tue 10th Nov 2020

Scales

  • When starting any scales, place all fingers on the G string before you start to get your elbow in the right place. As you go up the scale, fight gravity so your elbow doesn’t fall too quickly.
  • Check all your scale speeds.
  • Control your string crossings in the arpeggios and make sure you really know where they are.
  • In everything, make sure your thumb shifts with the rest of the hand.
  • Always keep your sound quality strong at the top – this may mean using a more focus, shorter bow.
  • 3 8ve Dominant 7th fingerings reminder:
    • In D: 1st finger on every A going up. Coming down, stay in position for the top 8ve then come down to 3rd position for the rest of the scale.
    • In E: shift on the A string 1-1, then 1234 at the top. Come coming down, 4321 then 1st position (B on the E string).
  • 3 8ve diminished 7ths fingerings reminder:
    • A: 13 13 024 13 1234 then retrace your steps
    • B: 2 024 13 13 13 134 ” ” ” ” (sorry I think I told you something else in your lesson!)
  • In the double stop scales, connect the up bows to the down bows.

Bach Partita No. 3: Giga (p. 66)

I will post up a list of bowings and fingerings to write in later in the week, but here are the bowing warm-ups.

Keep this light and in the lower half of the bow:

Keep the bow the same as in the scale above whilst playing this:

Still keeping it light and in the lower half but with the added challenge of co-ordinating the string crossings:

Fri 6th Nov 2020

Eliza Aria

  • Keep your right shoulder low and think of staccatos horizontally to stop them sounding chippy.
  • Practice the sift to 3rd position at the end of the first few sections.
  • Practice the bowing of bar 11 a few times – a tiny retake, then not too much bow on the slur and connect it to the next bar.
  • Legato (but not slower!) at figures D and J.
  • Keep left wrist down from D.
  • Use some light vibrato at F – imagine the sound you’d like before you play. I’d suggest re-instigating your vibrato practice!
  • J – make sure you know all your shift distances.

Tue 3rd Nov 2020

Well done on all your work with the Kreutzer. It may not have been perfect, but you made such a big improvement on things like rhythm reading and double stops, and I was especially impressd with how you embraced the big shifts, so it will have massively increased your confidence in moving around the violin.

Eliza Aria

  • Try to work out the bowing instinctively rather than writing everything in – three notes before a bar line always starting up for example.
  • Keep your right little finger curved.
  • The main bow stroke is lower half but light.
  • Try to incorporate the dynamics straight away, using different bow techniques – this will be good practice for your sight reading. In general, the sooner we observe dynamics the easier they are to achieve convincingly, as we have then learnt them as part of the fabric of the piece, not as an add-on at the end.

Fri 23rd Oct 2020

Queen of Sheba

  • Think lot about your left wrist staying as relaxed as possible on string crossings, stepping fingers across the strings.
  • Practice from bar 11 under speed.
  • Keep the poised feeling in your bowing – near the middle, away from the fingerboard, straight and neat.
  • Troubleshoot any untidy bits (sometimes using open strings) so that you can work up to a performance for me in your next lesson on this.

Tue 20th Oct 2020

Scales

  • Slurred chromatics – think of a 3/2 time signature. Keep the same bow tone up into the higher octaves.
  • Double stops – try to be less sudden with your string crossings, keep left wrist down and fingers as light as you can.
  • Octaves – practice each line separately (fingers on for both). Remember to move your whole hand as a unit.
  • Octaves – practice like this:

Kreutzer 28

  • From Z1 – keep the flow going as best you can, thinking horizontally instead of vertically.

Fri 16th Oct 2020

Queen of Sheba

  • We started at D. Practice bar 49 with open strings.
  • Remember the two voices at E.
  • Try 59 half speed for intonation.
  • Don’t be too musical at 66.
  • We’re just tidying things up with this piece now really, so take it figure by figure and stop to tidy up any messy bits.
  • Careful to keep the tempo 70-73.
  • 85 onwards don’t let string crossings slow you down.
  • Use your metronome tap function to find a tempo you like on YouTube and make this your new target speed.

Tue 13th Oct 2020

Scales

  • Let me know if there are any casualties next week!

Kreutzer 28

  • Start at Z1 and familiarise yourself with the notes. If you have time left in your practice, move back to Z, then Y1 etc.
  • Add a little vibrato to long notes – you’ll be less likely to cut them short.
  • At Y, hover your 3rd and 4th fingers more to keep your hand in shape.
  • Spend a bit more time on the section from 3 before Y through to Y1.
  • Practice the semiquavers from Y in rhythms.

Fri 9th Oct 2020

Scale in One Position

  • This can still be slower! This way you can plan ahead and avoid slides.
  • Use it also to work on good tone all the way along the bow.

Queen of Sheba

  • Careful of 4th finger tuning.
  • Use a metronome set to 80.
  • 37 and 38 – clarity and tuning of 4th finger As.
  • In 36 and 46, focus on the left hand to help keep tempo.

Videos

Tue 6th Oct 2020

Kreutzer 28

  • We worked from letter X.
  • Keep the trill slow in these double stops. Stop practicing them if you feel any pain and gently stretch your hand back the other way. You might like to warm up with these musicians’ stretches before you play – I’ve found them super helpful if I’ve ever had hand or arm pain when playing.
  • For any high notes, you know how they should sound now but don’t only rely on your ear – also think about the geography (where your previous finger will end up). The combination will make hitting the right note almost a certainty!
  • Practice Y in slow double stops and think carefully about your shifts.

Fri 2nd Oct 2020

Queen of Sheba

  • Check previous weeks for any points you may have missed, including for the scale in one position;
  • Finish bar 40 gracefully and start 41 clearly (same 2 bars later).

Tue 29th Sep 2020

Kreutzer 28

  • Full-bodied crotchets from the start – flat bow hair and consistent sound all through the bow;
  • Make sure you hold crotchets for long enough – you could try using a metronome with a first beat accent so you know you’ve not lost a beat somewhere;
  • Careful in dotted quaver-semiquaver rhythms that your semiquaver isn’t too short;
  • At X, try to keep your wrist down;
  • Practice the double stops like this, always listening for good sound quality:
    • Double stopping open G and the notes on the D string;
    • Double stopping open D and the notes on the G string;
    • Playing the D string only but fingers on for all notes;
    • Playing the G string only but fingers on for all notes.
  • If your fingers don’t seem to want to reach, loosen up the base joints with the recorder stretch.

Fri 25th Sep 2020

Keep warming up with the scale in one position. Here is a video of Janine Jansen (playing from 3:15) which I think demonstrates really well the idea of having a low left wrist and letting the fingerwork happen all from the base joints of the fingers, especially in the faster passages.

Queen of Sheba

  • Less bow, a little lower down (around the middle), creating good contact with the string. Within this, check in the mirror and look closely at the tip of your bow – is it twisting and turning, or running in a straight line?
  • Try a little faster – the semiquavers should be machine-like (not too musical!).
  • For accents, start with the bow on the string for a clean. punchy start.
  • Troubleshoot any corners that slow you down, eg. bars 31-43.
  • Practice 49 slowly for keeping 2nd and 3rd fingers down, perhaps even in chords.
  • Try not to waste bow on quick string crossings.
  • At E and G, think of two voices interjecting.

Tue 22nd Sep 2020

Kreutzer 28

  • Aim for a top speed of crotchet=50. I would start each practice with a metronome, either playing sections through with it, or listening to it for reference before you play.
  • Start almost completely at the heel, and return there in your first rest.
  • Keep trill speeds relaxed to match the tempo and mood, and make terminations part of the trill, leading seamlessly into the next note.

Fri 18th Sep 2020

Scale in One Position

  • Keep this nice and slow so as to use all your bow and focus on accurate finger placement.
  • Read over last week’s notes on this too.
  • I suggested thinking of a different bit of technique each time you play it. Choose from:
    • Standing posture (straight back);
    • Violin position (scroll as high as chin rest);
    • Elbow levels (left, right or both) to facilitate smooth string crossings;
    • Accurate finger placement;
    • Bow hold;
    • Straight bowing;
    • Sounding point (distance from bridge);
    • Left wrist position.

Queen of Sheba

  • Read last week’s notes;
  • When working slowly, use the opportunity to zone in on good tuning and look ahead so you know what’s coming;
  • Keep left wrist down as much as you can – fingers should be dropping from the base joint, independent of the palm of your hand – and try to keep the fingers as close to the string as possible when you lift them (think lazy, not tight);
  • Keep an eye on the sounding point (distance from bridge).

Tue 15th Sep 2020

Kreutzer 1

  • Your last week on this!
  • Troubleshoot the scales (mostly on up bows) at about crotchet=60 in two ways:
    • 3 notes, then 4, the 5 etc. (maybe spend a bit longer on the ones that end in a shift)
    • play half-beats with a quaver rest in between
  • Make sure your violin is stable on your shoulder so that the shifts don’t upset your bow
  • Know where the string crossings are.

Find another to start looking at next Tuesday.

Sat 12th Sep 2020

Scale in one position

  • Play in B flat major as a warm-up for Q of S
  • nice and slow, 4 notes per bow – use the full length of the bow
  • Check bow hold before you start – curve pinkie and thumb
  • Watch your left hand in a mirror if you can – make sure 4th fingers are hovering over their spots at all times and you’re not having to adjust your hand shape for them

Queen of Sheba

  • Crotchet = 60 for now, then notch sections up as you get comfy with the notes
  • Just below the middle of the bow
  • It’s an uplifting piece so try to keep an upwards feeling rather than emphasising the main beats
  • Your bowing is nice and neat when on one string – aim for this in bars with lots of string crossings too ( not too much bow)
  • When working on tuning, think in chords. Tune the notes as double stops and try to keep all fingers available at all times, like your 4th fingers in the scale in one position.

Tue 8th Sep 2020

Scales

Add this scale (4 notes per bow) to work on consistent hand shape and finger drop:

You can play it in any key – perhaps choose the key of the piece you’ll be playing afterwards.

You can read about modes here and here.

Kreutzer 1

  • Work backwards to get more familiar with the end of the piece – G to the end first, then F etc. so that you are able to do the bowings comfortably.
  • If you find yourself regularly running out of bow anywhere, or realise you need to get through the bow quicker, stop and write yourself a note at the start of the slur.
  • Listen to the sound quality to make sure you’re not starving the sound anywhere. If you are, work on the balance between a slow bow and not too much pressure on the string.

Sun 25th Sep 2016

Your first lesson with me post-KAM! 😄🎻

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