How can I overcome nervousness at auditions and concerts?
How can I memorize music more easily?
Is it dangerous to listen to recordings in order to help with memorization?
I've studied the Whistler Introducing the Positions books, but I still need more work on shifting - what other materials are there?
Good supplements to the Whistler books for additional shifting practice material at this level are:
Samuel Flor - The Positions (published by Elkan) - exercises, scales and musical examples through 7th position; Exercise No. 1, for finger independence, is a classic for players of all levels.
Hans Sitt - Practical Viola Method (Carl Fischer) - the portion pertaining to shifting includes half through 7th position exercises as well as melodic, short etudes
For more challenging shifting exercises, check out:
Carl Flesch - No.'s 1-4 in each key, one octave scales/arpeggios on one string, played slowly in slurs of one or two beats to a bow
Sevcik, op. 8
various shifting exercises buried in Sevcik, op. 1, Parts 1 and 2
Mazas, op. 36, Book I (Etudes Speciales), No. 20
Kreutzer No. 11
Dounis, op. 25, Specific Technical Exercises for Viola
Dounis, Daily Dozen (for violin), Sixth Exercise
Schradieck, vol. I, especially No.'s 19 & 20
And to really get acquainted with your fingerboard, tackle:
Sevcik, op. 1, Part 3 (Bosworth edition) - No.'s 6, 9-12
Sevcik, op. 1, Part 4 (Bosworth edition) - end of No. 3
Dounis, op. 12 (for violin)
Dont, op. 35, No. 15 (mere mention of this etude can make even famous violinists shudder in recollection of student days)
How do I work a fast passage up to tempo?
For clean fast passagework your practicing should include much work at very slow tempo with metronome, gradually speeding up the metronome after success during each practice session, and frequently taping yourself without metronome to hear how well everything is going. Alternating with this type of work, it is very helpful to practice the passage in
various rhythms (see staff one below)
or for triplets (see staff two below)
It is important to keep the actual bow stroke (type, amount, region and weight) as realistic for the final product as possible, i.e., if the passage is separately bowed then use separate bows in all the rhythms, if slurred then use the same slurred configuration. In the case of separate bows, this may make a gritty sounding stroke and may necessitate some silence after each long note in the rhythm, but this is all a part of gaining control over the synchrony of the two hands' motions, and when playing it without rhythms the gritty sound can be eliminated by varying the bow's weight (pressure) or amount.
After the dotted rhythms, those with larger groups of fast notes and displaced beats are really helpful. In a group of four notes, there are four possible rhythms using three fast notes, the easiest being to make either the first or the fourth note the long one. The odd rhythms (with the long notes in boldface) would be: 12 3412 3412 and 123 4123 4123
One can also do this over groups of six or eight notes. To ensure a rhythmic and cleanly bowed final product, it is very important to arrive on the long note within a steady beat -- keep a controlled tempo rather than freeform fast notes. Even the rhythm pattern has a tempo, which can be forced faster as you become more proficient. The left hand's fingers should stay close to the strings, playing with a light touch, and the hand shape should anticipate the next bunch of fast notes.
Memorization helps to put the mind in control of the fingers. Play from memory in slow practice and rhythms as well as up to tempo, even if just a fragment of a longer passage. The ultimate mental test is to hear the passage in your mind -- from memory and up to tempo without the viola and bow in your hands. And this kind of mental work can be done anytime, even while walking or doing something else.
My teacher says I'm playing out of tune, but I don't know where to begin to fix it.
How can I use a drone to improve intonation? Does it matter what kind of drone you use? Is it better to use an electronic tuner or to run a passage against the next open string?
How can I improve intonation beyond 3rd position - especially up high on the A string?
How can I strengthen my left hand's 4th finger and stop my fingers from flying?
Keeping the 4th finger aligned over its next notes and close to the strings is an issue which nearly everyone needs to address in the daily warmup, and even a professional player returning from vacation may focus on special exercises for this purpose to get back into shape quickly. Violin and viola pedagogues over the past two centuries have designed many such exercises for all levels of player; it is extremely important to find one appropriate for your degree of left hand strength and experience, and to gradually progress through the pedagogy to more demanding ones over time in order to prevent frustration and/or injury.
My notebook of these exercises breaks down into two categories: 1) exercises which train the 4th finger to stay down by making you hold down fingers 1&4 in either an octave or a second configuration while moving the others, and 2) finger combinations which try out the skill, played very fast with light touch, or in rhythms to force them into fast tempo. Combining these two categories is not unlike the combination of strength training and aerobic exercise done by many people for general fitness of muscles and areas well beyond the fingers... Make sure that your left wrist keeps a straight line (does not bend outward) in the lower positions.
Basic strength exercises:
page 4, Whistler's book Essential Exercises & Etudes for Viola
Ex. of Independent Fingers, first exercise, Samuel Flor's book The Positions
Try these out in:
Hans Sitt - Practical Viola Method
Dancla - School of Mechanism
etudes such as Mazas #19
selected Sevcik op. 1, parts 1-2
Schradieck, vol. I, first position exercises
first four of the Carl Flesch ex. in his Art of Vln. Playing, vol. I
The more advanced exercises below depend upon successful completion of books at the level of Dancla, Kayser and Mazas:
Kreutzer - #9 (Blumenau/Schirmer edition features those square notes for the 4th finger to hold silently); then progress through the trill etudes at mid-book
silent exercises in Flesch Urstudien
Dounis Daily Dozen - silent ex. and #1C
Sevcik op. 9 doublestops
rest of Sevcik op. 1, parts 1-2
last ten or so Kreutzer etudes with doublestops
Flesch #5-7 in Art of Violin Playing
broken thirds doublestop scales at end of Flesch Scalesytem sections devoted to parallel thirds and sixths
The absolute best, most timesaving and most physically demanding exercises of this nature are:
Sevcik, op. 1, part 4, #2
Dounis Daily Dozen - #1C played in doublestops at string crossings
Korgueff Doublestops (available from IowaMusic@aol.com)
The considerable amount of attention devoted by pedagogues to this 4th finger alignment issue is justified by the fact that so many left hand technical skills besides intonation depend upon a relaxed alignment close to the strings - speed, shifting and especially vibrato are all sabotaged when the hand shape is inefficient. The dilemma is to find the most personally logical exercise in proper dosage, because they can be both the prevention and the cause of physical injury.
How can I get a big sound?
What are the differences between the various editions of the Hoffmeister Concerto?
Are there classical style concerti other than Hoffmeister and Stamitz?
Are there Romantic era concerti on the same level of difficulty as Hoffmeister and Stamitz?
Which edition of the Bach Cello Suites should I get?
Comparison of both scholarly and "corrupted" editions of the Bach Suites can be quite enlightening, showing us a lot about how perception of Baroque style has changed over the ages. It is important to realize that there is no definitive urtext of these works, and even the modern editions based on early manuscripts differ considerably because so do the manuscripts.
To get an idea of what Watson Forbes and Simon Rowland-Jones had to work with, and how they arrived at different decisions, you can see facsimiles of the Anna Magdalena Bach, the Kellner and two later eighteenth century anonymous manuscripts in the book published by Bärenreiter in 1991. An easier to read, printed compilation of them is the 1988 Bärenreiter Neue Ausgabe, and for comparison's sake you can also get the 1988 Dover reprint of the Bach-Gesellschaft (first published) edition of 1879. Bach's own transcription of the fifth suite for lute can also be seen in the Neue Ausgabe edition. There is also a new Bärenreiter publication in paperback offering all of the facsimiles bound separately in a boxed set. Indications of slurs, ties, and even some actual notes vary tremendously among these sources, and in many cases it is up to the editor and performer to choose from several historically valid and vaguely notated possibilities. The choice of whether to play the articulations literally (and which version), to devise linked bowings which convey the intent, or to go your own way entirely is up to each player, but at least if choosing this last possibility you know that you are doing it and why. The problem with consulting only one edition of these works, whichever it may be, is that we tend to take the printed page literally, forgetting that other historical choices exist which might be preferable, depending on the player.
While I would not recommend learning the Suites from the heavily edited "corrupted" editions for stylistic reasons, it is interesting to compare the dynamics designed by others in the quest for your own plan. An inexpensive way to compare scholarly performance editions based on the articulations in the early manuscripts would be to purchase both Forbes and Rowland-Jones versions. Forbes has included some rather inappropriate metronome markings at the head of each movement, but they may be easily ignored. Differences among the scholarly editions beyond articulations are that the Forbes edition offers Suite V in non-scordatura notation, while Rowland-Jones offers it both ways. Forbes puts Suite VI in G major; Rowland-Jones keeps it in D major but in the original high register, which is not attractive for the Allemande and Sarabande. For those of us who prefer all movements of Suite VI to be in D Major, with Allemande and Sarabande in the lower octave, the Lifschey edition offers a version with minimally intrusive octave breaks; you can use the notes from Lifschey and add bowings from a scholarly edition.
I like very much Suites I-IV in a new attempt at an urtext for the Cello Suites on viola which has been prepared by James Nicholas, and is available from him at 35 Wright Road, Rocky Hill, CT 06067, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. He offers Suite V only in scordatura and Suite VI in G major instead of D. Nicholas has also published the best urtext edition for viola I've seen of the Violin Sonatas & Partitas.
Are there any helpful tips and approaches to practicing that notorious sixths passage half way into the first movement of the Walton Concerto?
What music should I play for a college or conservatory audition?