Welcome to your lesson notes page Vicky!
Tue 29th Mar 2022
- Play the quavers with a lighter bow stroke (think banana bows!), listening especially for the down bows.
- Keep an eye on your bow hold – is your little finger curved?
- Keep your 1st finger on as you play your 4th finger. Think low with your tuning.
- Aim for a really neat string crossing at 11, having the bow as close to the G string as possible in the previous bar and preparing your right elbow early enough.
- Generally, experiment with using a little less bow.
Down by the Riverside
- Make sure you have placed your fingers for both of your first two notes before you start.
- Do a little tear-drop-shaped retake in every crotchet rest in the first section.
- From 21, try to keep your elbow between the E and A string positions, and imagine a bird scooping into the water when playing on the A string.
- Before you start, imagine the flowing sound quality you want from your nice relaxed bow arm.
- For the tuning to really work at the start, focus on low 2s (except for the B natural of course!).
- As this is a slow piece, always be thinking ahead for note spacings (11-18 is a great place for this).
- Practice F natural, D, B natural a few times before you start (bar 7-8).
- From 49, check your 1st fingers with your open strings and keep your bow relaxed!
Tue 15th Mar 2022
- Play some semiquaver Bs on the G string to get the string resonating well before you start.
- Listen to the sound quality in each dynamic and make sure you’ve always got good contact with the string – this might mean using less bow in the semiquavers.
Down By the Riverside
- Not too fast.
- Start this in the lower half of the bow, nice and short on the staccatos.
- Make sure your tone is big enough between the first two notes.
- Get used to the slur in 5 and 13.
- From 21, use your bow index finger to help with the clarity on the lower string up bow.
- Warm up with D minor in 4th position. Think “lazy fingers” – but not pressy fingers!
- Think about the journey of your 2nd finger in bars 7-8.
- Keep checking if your 1st finger is working as a good anchor.
Air de Ballet
- Make little circles with your bow to get the recurring down bows. They don’t need to be too big, and should feel like a stroking motion.
- Practice the bow stroke on one note whilst checking in the mirror to see if your bow is straight.
Mon 28th Feb 2022
Old Joe Clark
- Play the first section in the upper half of the bow.
- In the second section, do some practice hands separately to get things working a it better on autopilot.
- Get used to the new 3rd position bits.
- Practice 19 and 20 for a smooth string crossing onto the double stop. Make sure you’re not pressing too hard!
- Work the second half up with a metronome. Start at a comfortable speed.
- Practice the last 2 notes of 22 and first 2 notes of 23 quite a bit.
Down by the Riverside
- Start the first 3 notes quite near the heel, using a bit of squeeze from the bow on your right index finger to get the “bow pizzicato” effect.
- Do a little retake at the start of 7 and 9 etc.
- Warm up with a 2 octave D minor scale in 4th position (starting 1 on the G string). Make sure your thumb is opposite your 4th finger before you start. Don’t come all the way back down though – stop on the A string ready with all the notes you need for the first 4 bars.
- Keep checking your 1st finger with the relevant open string.
- Keep asking yourself about tones and semitones.
Mon 14th Feb 2022
- Warm up with a slow G major scale with your eyes closed to really listen to tuning and sound quality. Let the bow arm relax so the bow is just floating over the string.
- More forward movement in the opening section, especially through the slurred passages.
- Practice some long bows thinking about bow shapes – how smooth can you change bow, especially at the heel.
- Work on not disturbing your bow as you shift in the melody lines.
- Practice 13-16 open strings and get it as neat as you can.
- Try to do as little work with your left hand as posisible in 17-31.
- Practice bar 30 + 1 note until it’s secure, then add a note and keep going until you have all the way to the end of the phrase.
- Play the section at 64 slowly with single notes in 1st position a few times to really centre the tuning. Then try the same way but with the right positions.
If you want to listen to Itzhak again, the piece is called Dance of the Goblins.
- Touch each fingertip on the side of your thumb and wiggle the top joint.
- On your violin, rest the left fingertips on the string. Open and close from the elbow, sliding the fingers lightly up and down the string. Gradually localise the movement and squeeze slightly with the fingertip you want to land on. Repeat several times on each fingertip.
Thu 3rd Feb 2022
- Warm up with G minor with a crotchet and quaver on each note in the lower half of the bow. Use less bow on the crotchet and a lighter bow on the quaver. You can then practice it in quavers: GA (slurred) G (up bow) etc.
- In the piece, try to keep the muscles in your right really relaxed.
- From bar 5, make sure your F naturals can’t be mistaken for flat F#s, and keep the Gs low too.
- Each time you practice it, always have one run-through where you are solely listening out for tuning.
- Start taking more notice of the dynamics too.
- Well done on keeping a consistent tempo between sections!
- Practice 31 with 3 notes until the bowing feels natural, then add a note and repeat that until it feels natural.
- At 36, don’t retake your bow after the previous note.
- Make sure you’re really in tune at 56, thinking of the two tones between your 1st and 3rd fingers.
- Practice from 64 just with long smooth bows – “slowly and politely”!
Mon 10th Jan 2022
- Try to practice the problem spots in smaller chunks and in a more relaxed way.
- Practice from 64 in slow crotchets. To start, reverse the A flat, E, F in 66-7. When you go back to the right notes, make sure the 2nd finger is still finding the f when you shift.
- You’re getting much more fluent with this, especially towards the end of the scherzo but try to get this flow right from the start.
- Warm up with a G minor scale, practising the bow stroke: crotchet and quaver on each degree of the scale, staying in the lower half.
- Watch out for the tuning of your E flat in 2 and 3.
- Keep an eye out for slur patterns.
Tue 14th Dec 2021
Warm up with one octave scales alternating in pairs of notes a few times, focusing on the fingers moving from the base joint. Doing the recorder stretch before you start will be good for finding the crenellations!
Mon 6th Dec 2021
Elgar Serenade for Strings
- At C in the 1st movement, keep the bow as smooth as possible.
- Keep as many fingers down on the string as possible and try to get your 1st finger on both strings.
- At L in the 2nd movement, try to think of the notes almost like trills – this should help you play enough notes in one bow whilst keeping the bow relaxed.
- Mark any fingerings you need which aren’t shifts in brackets.
- Any shifting fingerings can be marked with a / or \ before them to help you know whether you’re shifting up or down.
- At 17, make sure you sweep back to the lower strings as rhythmically as you did when gravity was helping you!
- Try to end each bar with your bow towards the D string.
- Keep your 3rd finger on in bar 23.
- Careful of the 4th finger tuning in 31.
- At 64, practice the notes as mp crotchets first so you can hear the intonation properly.
- When you put the staccato back in, make sure you aren’t too heavy so that the string is allowed to ring.
Mon 15th Nov 2021
- Keep the first section light and check the main notes for intoination.
- Practice the bowing for bar 17 in 2 parts – with a relaxed bow slurring DA (rest) AD, then resting your elbow on your stool and playing the middle two notes of the bar by dipping your right wrist.
- Work on the section from 64 by making up some Sevcik-like shifting exercises.
Mon 1st Nov 2021
- Start by working on the last few bars, building the scale up one note at a time. Always have something in mind to improve on for the next playing.
- Leave this for now and come back to it in a few months.
- Try to keep this in the lower half of the bow.
- Play the first 4 bars holding your bow higher up to simulate a baroque bow. Make sure you are playing very close to your bow hand as you do this and notice how you’ll tend to use a slower bow for the crotchets (nearer the bridge) and a faster lighter bow (further from the bridge) for the quavers).
- Listen to how it sounds and try to recreate that articulation holding your bow normally.
- Let your bow flow more freely when you have 3 note slurs.
Mon 11th Oct 2021
- Practice the shift just as far as the first note in the new position quite a few times before putting it all together.
- Practice at about crotchet=60 with a relaxed bow and light left hand fingers.
- Think where you need to be in the bow before you start this.
- Have an upward feeling in the bow throughout bars 2, 4, 6 and 8.
- Low shoulder high elbow always, especially in the last section.
Mon 13th Sep 2021
E major scale
- Bring your left thumb up to the body of the violin.
- Set all your fingers up in the right places before you start.
- Spend some time just playing the E and letting your bow sink into the string – remember the analogy of letting a dog loose in the garden to get the vibrations really going.
- Practice with minims to work on the sound quality. Think in slow motion with both hands.
- Practice the chromatic scale with a tuner for a minute or so first.
- Practice 3-6 adding a note each time in at least 3 practices. It will get more secure each time.
- Keep the last crotchets of 3-6 long.
- Listen out for the tuning of F naturals.
- Aim for punchier crotchets at the start.
- Start practising the bowing pattern at 39 on an open A to find the right part of the bow. Then seamlessly add the notes once your bow has settled.
- Keep your right hand as relaxed as you can and keep the movements small.
Tue 20th July 2021
- Always think of sound quality as you play these.
- In the scales, keep your fingers down on the string once you’ve put them on.
- Try the new fingering for chromatic scales. Remember you don’t need to squish your fingers together too much as you have very slender fingers!
- Pick any super tricky bars to memorise (notes and bowing) one note at a time.
- In the last section, keep your right arm as loose as possible.
- Aim higher with your 3rd fingers in bar 52.
- Be bold at the start.
- Keep the bowing concise as possible on the semiquavers.
- From 9, make the quaver bows swooshy and the semiquaver bows concise to help with co-ordination.
- Keep those 1st fingers right next to the nut.
- Try to keep most of it in the lower half.
Tue 22nd June 2021
- 2nd fingers can be much lower, especially in bars 7 and 28.
- Relax a bit with the line of 22 to help the swing and try it lower in the bow.
- Aim for a ghostly sound from 36.
- Practice the shift at 22 with a G ghost note, keeping the bow as smooth as possible as you approach the heel.
Tue 8th June 2021
- In your C major warm-up scale, check the tuning of your long tonics to make sure your whole hand is staying in 2nd position all the time.
- At 22, accent the crochets a little to really define the rhythm.
- Make sure you’re minor again on the next line!
- Count yourself in to make sure the bars with rests are correct.
- In 23, mimic the springing action in your bow with your left hand as you shift.
- At 37, speed the bow up on the accents. If you’re finding the slurring tricky to get your head around, give yourself a little gap between each slur.
- Find your A flat before you start.
- Practice the opening phrase whilst holding down the pedal and some A flats.
- Get your bow flowing smoothly before you start with some A flats and E flats.
Tue 18th May 2021
- For slurred scales, use a 4-syllable word to help you, or notice which finger you need to change bow on. Keeping your bow moving at a constant speed too.
- For E major, place your 3rd and 4th fingers on the string before you start to make sure your elbow is in the right place.
- Try the chromatics with the book closed!
- Low 2nds can be lower.
- Let the bow glide across the string – relax your bow arm and your jaw to help with this!
- Warm up with some bow shapes, maybe even on a straw to make sure you’re not too tense.
- For the middle section, move from the shoulder but with a flexible wrist and bow hand. Start slowly and speed it up gradually.
Tue 4th May 2021
Add scales to your practice, from the from the front of your G4 book.
- For the separation between notes, notice how you play the double ups in 6 and 7 and try to mimic that elsewhere.
- In 4 & 5, careful of the rhythm – you’re cutting the ties a little too short, yet we still need a bit of air between the notes.
- Use a small cuddly toy to help you get the right feeling in your right hand for the bow hold.
- From 10, make sure you’re keeping the quavers in the lower half.
- Practice the bow stroke from 21 starting with air bowing, then just open strings.
- Watch out for the tuning of the F#s in 27 and 35.
- Also careful with the tuning of Gs and As on the E string.
Tue 20th Apr 2021
Keep practising pinkie push-ups.
- Warm up with a G major scale using the bowing from the first line. Keep it nice and light in the lower half.
- Practice just the first section. Were you still in the lower half even by the end of line 2?
- Practice the last bar and a half of the first section open strings, getting a good tone and repeating til it feels comfortable. Then add in the fingers (no trill), then add the trill.
- No need to retake for the 2nd section. Keep this section light – ballet dancers with an impressionist backdrop!
- Try to sink into the string a bit more in the f sections, especially in the crotchets at the start of the end section.
- In bars 13 and 14, use your knowledge of the finger spacing to help you find the notes. Approach it like you would when helping your daugher: pick a small section, then add more bit by bit.
- Check your little finger is curved before you start, and start quite close to the heel.
- Make sure anywhere with double up bows doesn’t sound slurred (eg. end of bar 1).
- Practice the shift in bar 4 with a slide to E (your ghost note).
- Check the speed to make sure it’s relaxed enough.
- Aim for a little air between each note, and don’t hold onto the last notes before rests for longer than the others.
Mon 15th Mar 2021
Warming up: try warming up each hand separately, so start with tlong strong bows to work on core sound and straight bow, then do some slow finger exercises (something like DEDE F#EF#E F#GF#G AGAG on the D string). The try some bow strokes that you’ll need for your pieces.
- Imagine a snowball rolling down a hill in the first 4 bars, gathering momentum into bar 5.
- Count yourself in to make sure your minims aren’t too long – also don’t feel like you need to use too much bow!
- Try not to use too much bow from 21 and keep it in the lower half. Practice the first bar on a loop, starting with air bowing and gradually lowering the bow onto the string. Listen out for the down and up bows sounding equal (don’t press on the down bow).
- Keep some contact with your 1st finger at all times, especially when on your 4th finger.
- Check the metronome mark – stately character.
- All quavers here should be slightly detached, mimicking a baroque bow.
- Watch out for your tuning in bar 14.
Mon 8th Mar 2021
- Keep the bowing quite dainty, especially in the quiet sections.
- A bit more separated on the crotchets in the second and last sections.
- In 14, try to open the hand to find the 4th finger, rather than tensing up.
- Even in the f sections, use a more concentrated bow rather than scooting through the whole bow.
- Practice a long bow before you start, alternating between B and C on the A string. How many notes can you fit in with a good sound quality?
- Careful not to put too many upper notes in your twiddles!
- Watch out for slurs in bars 1 and 2, 5 and 6, 9 and 10.
- Keep the Gs on the E string nice and low.
- Slow the bow down as you go through bar 24 to have enough bow left for the quavers.
Wed 17th Feb 2021
- Practice a G major scale with the piece’s bowing before starting work on this piece. You could also try it as one crotchet and two quavers on each note to practice the two slurred, two separate bowings.
- Practice bar 7 on its own, really thinking about how your bow arm feels so you can tap into that feeling when you get there.
- Be on the lookout for pairs of quavers that you’re automatically slurring by mistake.
- In general, Mozart happens more in the lower half of the bow with a bit of a lift between notes (banana bowing!).
Between now and next lesson, why not bookmark any pieces you’d like help with next time or even make a list of any questions you have for me.
Wed 3rd Feb 2021
- Try E Major in 4th position.
- Don’t be in a hurry – play them at a steady tempo.
- Practice any shifts in isolation.
- Think about the pulse a bit to hep with slurring.
- Always play the relevant scale before playing a piece to get your fingers and ear used to the new pitches.
- Make sure the first two notes are super in tune before you start.
- Play the first few notes of the third line a few times to make sure you stay in tune as you transition between these two sections and change position – remember it’s only really 1.5 position!
On Loch Lubnaig
- Try to keep your bow really smooth when you’re shifting. It’s sounding great when you’re staying in position!
Have a week or two of sight reading new pieces. But remember to always play the relevant scale as a warm-up for each one!
Wed 20th Jan 2021
- Now focus on the right hand – aim for a light bow and consistent tone throughout each note, rather than having a bulge just before your bow change.
- Let me know if you need anything clarified in the Grade 4 scales book.
- Practice bar 14’s shift by sliding from F natural up to the A. Remember the Czech King’s cup-bearer!
- Keep the bow light and soaring from 21.
Have a go at the Peentatonic pieces in this book and, in general, feel free to move between pieces a bit more – you’ll find many of them have technical things in common, and encountering them in lots of different guises will help you get more used to them.
Mon 4th Jan 2021
- D minor – try to keep the bow relaxed, especially in the upper octave.
Stringbuilder book 3
- Ex 2 – practice finding 3rd position from scratch several times each practice.
- Make sure all Fs are natural.
- Start with line 2. Only do line 1 if your left arm feels up to it.
- Play a few bars of Fs to get the bowing settled before you start.
- Keep your right shoulder blade relaxed and don’t feel the need to take the bow off the string too far. Make any lifts vertical rather than disturbing the angle of the bow.
- Try to keep the same articulation even when you reach over to the G string. The bow arm should still be moving in the same way, you just lift your elbow slightly to get to the lower string.
- Try to stay in the lower half of the bow, especially after the dotted crotchets.
- Try not to let your 4th finger in bar 13 alter your left hand shape.
Send me a WhatsApp picture of any Stringbuilder pages you’d like to work on for next lesson.
Mon 14th Dec 2020
- Try to keep your bow smooth when shifting.
- In D minor, practice A – B flat – C# – D up and down a few times to isolate the shift.
- Warm up with F major in 2nd position to get your tuning spot on.
- You could also practice this scale with 4 bows on each note, practising banana-shaped bows (using a few inches of bow in the lower half and letting the bow lift slightly at the start and end of each bow).
- Keep the bowing light, and no need to use the whole bow.
- Count your long notes carefully – maybe using a metronome a few times.
- Try to think ahead a bit more about finger placements.
- Be aware of whether your bow is coming closer to the bridge as you shift up into higher positions.
- Play bar 18 a few times each practice session just as crotchets in a slur.
- There are plenty of places throughout this piece where you can check your tuning against your open strings.
- Be aware of your bowing – almost every bar starts down bow, so if you’re upside down stop and start again from a suitable place.
If you see any Stringbuilder books on your ebay hunts, it might be worth picking up books 2 and 3 as they have things like bowing and shifting exercises in them as well as pieces. They’d be good books for you to work through by yourself and then come to me with questions about!
Mon 16th Nov 2020
If you feel tension in your left hand, try this harmonic exercise:
- For E major one octave, use your 4th fingers instead of open strings so it’s very similar to the other two keys.
- Use 4th fingers on all strings for the B flat major scale – this will help when we try D major starting in 3rd position in future.
- For now, stick to your fingering for the D keys. Use this exercise before you play, remembering to move from the elbow so that your whole hand (including the thumb!) shifts as a unit:
- In the chromatic scale, think about G# being lower than your usual 4th finger position.
- For the opening p, bow closer the the fingerboard and with the wood of the bow tilted slightly away from you.
- Careful not to hold 13 and 17 too long!
- You could try the last note of 16 tucked into another down bow so you don’t need a retake in 18.
- Practice 37 using this exercise:
- Play F major 1 8ve in 2nd position to warm up.
Wed 17th Jul 2019
Your first lesson with me! 😄🎻