Welcome to your online lesson notes page Don!
Tue 20th July 2021
- As you play your scales this week, think a lot about the swing in your left elbow. Are you reaching the notes on the A string by kinking your wrist or are you moving your elbow?
- Remember to think about shifting to a semiton above your 2nd finger.
- Keep the bow strong throughout.
- In your open string warm up, think of the 2 up bows adding up to the same length of bow as the first down bow. Imagine a nice big stretch first thing in the morning!
- Make sure you keep returning to the heel throughout.
- Work on bow distribution bars 7-12.
- Focus on the tuning meticulously at the start of your practice to set yourself up well.
- Do some left elbow swings to help with bar 20.
- Aim for a richer sound from 37, really getting into the string but using the bottom notes as springboards rather than heavy weights.
Tue 29th June 2021
- Try the first bar +1 open strings many times. Think about tone, direction and fluency. Only when it feels like it’s on autopilot can you then add in the left hand. Do this every practice.
- From bar 2, let the line of the melody lead your phrasing.
- Try some right wrist circles on two open strings before then practising the ends of bars 7-12.
- Watch out on the A string in particular that you’re not going slightly sharp.
- Spend some some time from 19 working on your bow distribution, staying as much in the lower half as possible.
- From 27, consciously choose which bars you want to emphasise the starts of.
- At 38, 40 and 42 make sure you’re not getting stuck on the middle note of each slur.
- From 45, try to keep your left hand as relaxed as possible!
- Practice 45 open strings to get the right tone, flexibility, evenness of rhythm etc. before putting the left hand back. You may need a slightly higher elbow for this (but keep that shoulder loose!).
- Aim for a pensive feel at the start with incredibly smooth bow changes.
- For your shift in 3, aim for late but in character!
- In 7, start stronger from he very beginning of the E and then crescendo gradually.
- From 19, make sure the left hand is alive on quavers as well as minims.
- In this section, when you’re shifting make sure your bow is accelerating smoothly, perhaps from just before the shift.
Mon 7th June 2021
- In places where you have to pause to get your fingers around the notes, ask yourself if you might have rushed in the previous beat (ie. 19 into 20).
- Practice 45-60 without the 3rd note of each 4, focusing on tuning, tone and keeping to the lower half of the bow. Keep it like this until your tuning is reliable.
- Start looking at the next movement.
- Explore the idea of the bow sinking into the string in the lower sections. Show off the tone of your viola a bit more! Leading with your elbow on the down bows will help achieve this.
- Work on the shift at the end of 34 so that it honours the diminuendo.
- Keep the bow flowing smoothly from 36.
Mon 17th May 2021
- Use the long bows in this piece to think about how your bow hand changes shape as we travel up and down the bow.
- For the start of the first note, come to the string from beyond the heel, and have a gentle touch-down just before you play.
- Watch out in the middle section that you don’t stray sharp with your intonation.
- Think warmth with your vibrato – keep it constant rather than thinking of individual fingers.
- Make sure your crescendos are even, especially if you are shifting (eg. 12-13).
- Think about how you land on the downbeat of 26 – it should serve the phrasing.
- Warm up with a D minor scale.
- Let the piece’s character lead you rather then any worries you may have about notes.
- Practice any bits that have an open string drone underneath and work on the clarity – only play the open string but do the left hand fingers at the same time. Check the bow is straight as you practice this.
Bach 3rd suite Prelude
- Try not to waste too much bow in sections with 3-note slurs, especially when srting crossings are involved.
Mon 10th May 2021
- Watch your right elbow isn’t too high.
- To get the sinking into the string feeling at the start, play the first down bow slur a few times with some nice big bow circles in between.
- Imagine the down bows as exhaling and the up bows as inhaling.
- Keep an eye on your vibrato – experiment with widening it a little. Always use your ears as a guide, imagining the sound you’d like rather than how the vibrato feels.
- Listen out for tuning fro 19.
- Don’t run out of steam on your cresc. in 38!
- Don’t be in a hurry whilst you’re getting used to the new fingerings.
- Even at a slower tempo, keep it light and in the lower half (especially on 3-semiquaver slurs).
Mon 19th Apr 2021
- Make sure you have the heart-on-sleeve character in your mind before you start playing.
- Work on putting some more heaviness into the tenuto quavers – I feel most of the piece’s emotion and anguish is in these notes!
- From 25, focus a bit more on what your bow needs to do to get the desired tone and flow.
- When changing bow on a long note, keep the energy flowing over the bow change.
Bach Suite 2: Menuetto n.1
- Keep this a little slower for now to take any panic out of finding the chords.
- Wrist down for the first chord so your hand feels nice and open.
- In bar 8, keep the bow light as you approach the heel.
- Keep reminding yourself that the left hand needs to be as relaxed and open as possible.
- Try the 3rd bar from the end without the top notes of the chords several times for tuning.
Bach Suite 2: Menuetto n.2
- To avoid the trill holding us up right at the start, think about the melody and how it fits within your ideal tempo.
- Try not to let the big string crossing get in the way of the overall flow – use the middle strings as a pivot, and keep the tempo steady just before you change to the C string.
- Work on the opening with open ears for good intoniation – it needs to match the accuracy of your style!
- Try 67 and 68 slower til it feels really secure.
Thu 1st Apr 2021
- A slow piece like this is a great opportunity to think about how straight your bowing is.
- Work with a tuner on sections like 14-17 that you’re not as secure with.
- Pay particular attention to the dynamics and how they affect the mood, not just the volume, of the music.
- From 27, make sure you really count the long notes – find out what the piano is doing in this part so you can really feel the music.
- For the shift between the E flat at the end of 29 and the B flat at the start of 30, practice sliding down and up between these notes til you have it spot on 5 times in a row. This way you will really understand the size of the shift. Then put it back into context.
Bach Suite 2: Menuetto n.1
- Work in great detail on the first 4 bars, leaving notes out of chords to get the shape of the melody, then work on the chords in bits like we did in the lesson.
- Work in 4-bar chunks and split it up within your practice so your hand doesn’t tense up too much!
Bach Suite 2: Menuetto n.2
- In bar 5, use your 4th finger for the F# then stay in 1st position.
- Listen as if you’re not playing it yourself and notice how the phrasing is shaped.
- Think “elegance” – it can feel more laid back.
- At 2, keep the flow going over the quaver rests.
- At 3 use less bow and listen for good rhythm – it’s tricky with the combination of finger movement and string crossings.
Mon 22nd Mar 2021
Keep going with your spiccato scale practice – make sure the bow is straight as you do these and try at a slightly faster tempo.
We worked from the 2nd page today.
- Practice keeping 99 p.
- Start the trills at 101 on the note.
- In 111, bigger movements to help open out at the top of the crescendo.
- Think of the sinister mood you can create at fig. 6.
- Be sure of the last note of 129.
- Work on the quavers from 137 under tempo a few times for tuning.
- A nice clean start at 158, nice and strong for the whole bar.
- At 184 put your energy into the start of each note rather than the length of bow.
- Imagine the sound you want before you start and preapre your vibrato so the balance of your hand is ready.
- Practice 16 for flow and security.
- At 21, careful not to make the staccatos too abrupt.
- Watch the tuning of your E natural in 29.
- 40 and 47 bowing needs to sound connected.
- 43 think of where you would like your arm for the down bow, as if there was no semiquaver. Then add the semiquaver but keep that feeling in your bow arm.
- Shorter staccato at 59.
- Work on the tuning slowly at F.
- Be convinced of where your C# is at 64.
- Think of how 66 and 67 work together, in terms of tempo and whether or not you slow down at the end of 66.
Mon 8th Mar 2021
- Warm up with an E minor spiccato scale with 4 on each note, then a version with 4 quavers and a crotchet on each note.
- Follow this by practising just the spiccato sections, maybe without upbeats first.
- You could try the spiccato at 2 with double notes.
- From the start, try to feel it in 1.
- Start at bar 9 with your bow on the string for a strong start.
- Can fig.1 be mysterious? A bit less bow, in the upper half.
- Be on the lookout for how clean the beginnings of staccato notes are. They should almost always start with the bow on the string.
- Remind me to do the 2nd half first next lesson!
- Pick a speed that the fastest nots feel relaxed in (ie. bar 21) before you begin.
- Think about the sound quality at the start of your first note. Practice just the first note a few times to get the right feeling in your arm – imagine a plane gently touching down, or putting your hand in water causing as few ripples as possible.
- Focus also on how you’re starting each note after a rest – each one will be slightly different, depending on the dynamic, but think about starting each one on the string in the right part of the bow.
Tue 23rd Feb 2021
A general point: be a doctor and analyse where problem points are – then you can work out how to fix it.
- Spiccato bowing – very little movement from your arm, and just a tiny bit more in the wrist. Keep as relaxed as possible.
- In the second movement, focus on tuning in the opening section.
- Practice the start of the 3rd line just as far as the first note of fig. 2 to get the shift really secure.
- Practice any bars from figure 2 that aren’t quite in tune by starting with two notes, then add one etc. Stay on each stage til you’re super secure, checking each last note with a tuner.
- At 3, lighter staccatos to enable you to travel when the bow is off the string.
- Build the tension from 140 with an intense vibrato on the tied notes.
- Practice the last 3 chords on their own a few times.
- Sing through the phrases – let this dictate how you use your vibrato.
- Focus on tuning here too – stop yourself if it’s not quite on the money, as fixing tuning early in a practice session will help get it settled much quicker so that you won’t need to work on it as much for the rest of the session.
- Make sure each long note (i.e. minims and dotted crotchets) have some shape to them.
Tue 9th Feb 2021
Rebecca Clarke Passacaglia
- Imagine the mood before you start – a sombre, deep viola sound.
- Shift to 2nd position on the second note.
- Change the colour at the mp section.
- Memorise as much of the chordal section as you can, but certainly bat 26.
- In general, try to broaden and slow down your vibrato.
- Make sure you have at least one word to describe the mood of each section – the dynamics need that extra dimension in this piece.
- Keep bar 75 just as strong as bar 74.
Mozart Sonata No. 4
- Tell a story – who are the different characters in this story? Within this, think whether each section is out-going or introverted.
- At figure 2, use a bit more little finger. Practice the bow stroke on one note, then try the whole passage almost quarter speed, imagining the coloured pastel analogy. Keep the right elbow on the higher side for this bow stroke. As you speed it up, keep the control at the start of each note and the sweeping feeling at the end of each note.
Tue 26th Jan 2021
- In the small rit sections, ask yourself if you’re already doing them naturally before making a bigger thing of them. They should be very organic. Listen through with the piano part to make more sense of these, and the little crescendos at the end of phrases starting a few lines above the Coda.
Mozart Sonata No. 4
- Mysterious mood at the start. Aim for the first downbeat – how neat can you get your first two quavers?
- In line 2’s f, keep the upper arm heavy and the lower arm flexible. Nice short bows near the heel.
- On the 4th line, how invisible can you make your bow changes on the long notes? Keep your left hand constant.
- From 2, think poise!
- Keep the double stops consistent at 4.
- In the trill section after 5, keep the bowing as neat possible. Not too early on the trill terminations.
- Higher G#s in 54 and 154.
- Sustain the minims at 184.
Rebecca Clarke Passacaglia
- Aim for heaviness on the tenuto notes.
- Chords: flatter bow hair and aiming for the bottom two then top two notes.
- How light can you be in the pp passages? And how loud in the loudest parts?
Tue 12th Jan 2021
- In the chromatic scale, climb up the A string 123123… and then do 12344 at the top.
- Warm up with a 2 octave D minor scale, then warm up your bow playing the scale with semiquavers, maybe two on each note, thinking abuot which part of the bow you’re using and how consistent a sound you’re getting throughout the scale.
- Try starting the movement a little lower in the bow.
- In the chords, try to never have the bottom or top note sounding alone.
- Take good care over your intonation in the first bar of the piece and of the second half.
- Have a few goes through with a comfortable metronome beat, but also do some slow practice without the metronome with a focus on intonation.
- Don’t be in a hurry to come off your dotted crotchets in 9 and 10.
- Try not to let it sound rushed ever – keep a laid back feeling.
- Keep an eye on where the melody line is going, trying not to let the chords get in the way.
- Aim for gently elegant.
- Start near the middle of the bow and think more about your bow distribution in the first phrase.
Mon 14th Dec 2020
- D minor scale warm-up – see if you can become an expert at scales! You could visit the MTB website and pick a level you’d like to start at.
- In bar 3, roll your chord.
- Careful of the rhythm in bar 6.
- In 10, start the trill on the upper note.
Schumann 2nd Romance
- A major scale to warm up.
- Aim for higher harmonics – like with the 1st Romance, start your practice by practising all the harmonics and start your shift by getting the finger of the previous note into 4th position.
- Try to read ahead more so you know which route each phrase is taking.
- Keep the bow running smoothly on grace notes.
- Remember the tempo direction!
- In the first bar of the 2nd half, make sure the high 2nd finger is very different to the low 2nd finger in the next bar.
Look at the Sarabande too if you have time and please send me a photo of the Courante with some bar numbers before next lesson.
Have a lovely Christmas!
Tue 1st Dec 2020
Great work on In The Bleak Midwinter!
- Try the 3rd line slower for tuning.
- Try at crotchet = 45 so you can enjoy the scenery!
- Keep a constant tempo – slurs tend to rush and separate notes tend to linger. We can add some of these nuances back once you’ve got a good skeleton set up.
Mon 16th Nov 2020
- In your warm-up scale, try not to lift your elbow as you approach the heel on up bows, especially on the way down.
- We looked at the Bach from b.30. Highlight the individual notes with a fast, light bow rather than by giving them more time.
- Anywhere with several separate semiquavers in a row, check you’re bowing straight – remember Bobby Bow!
- Practice the last beats of bars 37, 38 and 39 for tuning and smooth string crossing.
- Work on this section (from the top of the page) with a fine toothcomb listening out for any intonation issues.
- Practice from the end of 42 listening for in tune Es. Then notice that the middle of bar 44 is the only place in this area that reaches out of a position instead of properly shifting.
- Play 49 plus one note til you fee you could find the C# in your sleep! That bar line should be the bottom of the roller-coaster dip, propelling us up to the dotted quaver.
Bach Allemande, 1st half
- Practice the first 2 notes a few times, but just with the top 2 notes of the chord.
- In all chords, just play as much of it as you can manage whilst maintaining the musical line. Once it’s completely confident you can add one more note.
Mon 2nd Nov 2020
- We did D minor as a warm-up. Keep your left hand as relaxed as possible, especially on shifts, and work on keeping your bow straight at the tip, especially on the C string.
- Go through the piece once to mark in figure letters.
- Think about the opening phrase in particular in terms of moments of rest and moments of travel (like a roller-coaster!).
- Turn on your supersonic listening to find places where string crossings could be cleaner, i.e. bars 9 and 10. Careful not to get tense and abrupt with them though – keep the bow rolling, just plan ahead a bit more.
- End of bar 11 as clean as possible.
- Practice the first note of bar 22 for clarity (it’s on a new, thicker string).
- How can you use your bow to realise the dynamics?
- Work on the string crossing in 35.
- For sections of tough tuning, set a metronome to help you practice it slowly.
- At bar 59, practice just the bottom two notes of the chords, especially the last two bars. Keep this practice relaxed and listen carefully for tuning. Always try to get to the right tuning from the chord before, rather than adjusting once you’re there.
Mon 12th Oct 2020
- Keep warming up with A minor and the harmonics exercises – maybe add a G# to the second one?
- Add a one octave A minor scale up the A string to your warm up to help set you up for good tuning in the first phrase, with the harmonic at the top: 01212344.
- We cleaned up bar 21 (the bow change and string crossing) – practice this way a few more times if needed.
- Try to get bar 22 5 times in a row.
- In bar 30, practice placing the 3rd and 4th fingers together.
- Practice from 59 slowly to combine a silky sound quality with good intonation.
- Aim for contrast from 71 with scherzoso staccatos.
- Go through the piece a few times to isolate harmonics with a focus on the dismounts!
- I really enjoyed listening to this version. Try her fingering in the opening phrase and see what you think! She also has a good Andante tempo. Remember to keep thinking ahead in dotted quavers.
Mon 5th Oct 2020
A minor warm-up – Think through the arpeggio before you play it, especially clocking where the second octave starts.
Schumann Romance op. 94
I have had fun dreaming up these harmonic exercises for you!
- Try the opening phrase from cold as much as you can – every time you walk past your viola!
- More contact with the string at the start – imagine something strong far away. Achieve the p by bow tilt and sounding point (fingerboard).
- Pick a phrase and imagine the sound you want from your vibrato, then try to recreate it.
- Use the bowings from YouTube only as a guide – sometimes you could change bow a little less.
- Practice any problem shifts just up to the first note in the new position. I would suggest repeating until you’ve hit the nail on the head at least 3 consecutive times, but be honest and only move on when it feels ingrained!
Start looking at some more Bach.
Fri 25th Sep 2020
A minor warm-up – Scale and arpeggio in 4th position. When descending in the scale, anticipate string crossings with left elbow swing. Try the arpeggio a little slower to really centre the tuning.
Schumann Romance op. 94
- Be brave with the harmonics – they are higher than you think! They are 4th position, but the light finger pressure means you’ll need to aim a little higher.
- Listen for smooth bowing in the shifts and make the first note in the new position as beautiful as t would have been without the shift.
- Add more drama in sfps and sforzandos with bow speed.
- Watch the YouTube video for ideas on more bow changes.
Mon 7th Sep 2020
A minor warm-up – Scale and arpeggio in 4th position. Keep the 3rd low, especially in the arpeggio as this is the only note which makes it minor!
Schumann Romance op. 94
- Start by playing the first 3 notes strongly
- Keep the tempo quite slow to make sure you centre the notes well – within this, use free bowing for now. Whenever you discover a brilliant bowing, write it in! You’ll often find the 2nd quaver to be a good changing place.
- Look through to find every place you have a harmonic and play each one as an exercise, just with one or two notes either side, very slowly and listening for a ringing tone.
Wed 31st Jan 2018
Your first lesson with me! 😄🎻