Free Play: The Power of Improvisation in Life and the Arts

What is the source of a creative idea? What is the link between art and spirituality? How can we unlock our inner muse, find joy in the creative process and unleash the full potential of our imagination? Stephen Nachmanovitch’s book, Free Play: The Power of Improvisation in Life and the Arts delves into these questions. Nachmanovitch is an improvisational violinist and violist, computer artist and teacher. Musicians and non-musicians alike will find his book meaningful, inspiring …

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Four Points of Relaxation for Violin Playing

Relaxation is the key to all technique. Often when we’re on the spot trying to perform our best, the natural tendency is to tense up. The “fight or flight” instinct is activated. In violin playing, tension blocks the natural springy weight of the bow arm, leading to smaller tone and reduced control. Tension in the left hand causes fingers to push into the fingerboard and then lift too high, leading to loss …

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Vibrating Strings

Have you ever wondered what a vibrating violin string looks like in slow motion? Here is an interesting demonstration from the Discovery Channel. Notice that the E and G strings are vibrating sympathetically with the bowed A and D strings. As string players, our goal is always to draw the most resonant sound from the instrument. It’s possible for the bow to slip and slide on the surface, never fully catching the …

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Six Steps to Great Violin Posture

Good posture is essential for tone production, ease of playing and injury prevention. We’re all built slightly differently and there is no “one right way” to play the violin. However, these six steps are worth keeping in mind as a checklist for optimal playing: [typography font=”Cantarell” size=”28″ size_format=”px”]1. Fix Right Foot First[/typography] Start with your heels together and your feet in a “V” shape. Pick up your right foot and step to …

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A Question of Timing

Timing is an important element in music as well as comedy. A great comedian knows how to build up to the punch line of a joke . Similarly, great composers have an intuitive understanding of proportion in music. They know how long to repeat an idea before moving on. They allow the music to unfold organically in a way that seems “right”, as if the piece is composing itself. As musicians, we …

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Practicing is Problem Solving

Take a moment and think about your last practice session. Did you take time to imagine how you wanted the music to sound before you started playing? How attentively were you listening to yourself? Did you stay mentally alert? What did you do when you encountered a musical or technical hurdle? It’s easy to fall into the trap of playing through a difficult passage slowly until you “get it right.” This is …

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Josef Gingold on Violin Playing and Teaching

Recently, I found a few interesting links relating to Josef Gingold, the legendary violinist and teacher who died in 1995. If you’re not familiar with Gingold’s legacy, this short video offers insights into his life, distinguished career and great humanity. Having studied with the nineteenth century Belgian violinist Eugene Ysaye, Gingold was one of the last links to an elegant earlier style of violin playing. Here is an excerpt from his 1976 recording …

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