As musicians, we climb up to some important events along the journey here and there. One might call these milestones, highlights, or significant check-ins. These moments can take the form of a concert, an exam, a recording project, an audition, or even just a lesson. Sometimes it feels like a lot is at stake. For example, final audition results can vary even with the best preparation. Not to mention that auditions can get very expensive! However, if we zoom out, one thing becomes certain. These big events take up a very tiny percentage of our overall growth as musicians. Continue reading “The 24-48 Hour Rule”
This is a follow-up to my YouTube video The Art of Effortless String Crossing.
Here is a compilation of important etudes for string crossings not mentioned in the video. There are thousands of variations and options out there. You can use this guide to help select studies that would be most helpful based on the repertoire you’re currently working on. Please note that this set is mainly recommended for intermediate and advanced players. All these etude books are in the public domain and available for free on imslp.org. However, if you do wish to own a hard copy, I will provide affiliate links wherever possible. Most of these have a viola version available as well.
During the last third of July, I performed in the MostArts Festival Orchestra, along with some chamber music in the small village of Alfred, NY. We had many musicians from regional orchestras around the state, but some came from overseas, including Hawaii and Sao Paulo, Brazil. Considering the limited rehearsal time to prepare for 5+ performances in the course of a week, I was very pleased with the teamwork, comradery, overall quality, and respect for one another. It was great to see old colleagues and meet many new ones.
For me, the most challenging part of the festival was its annual Youth Pianist Competition. Part of the final round of the competition involves the candidates to perform a Mozart piano concerto with the festival orchestra. We played two all-Mozart programs on consecutive nights, along with dress rehearsals with the soloists just a few hours before each concert. Out of all the repertoire we played, Mozart proved to be physically the most challenging, even though it’s not as “technically demanding” by comparison. In addition to the concerti, we also played a couple of Mozart’s famous overtures and the famous serenade Eine Kleine Nachtmusik.
The Challenge of Mozart in Orchestra
Anyone who has played any Mozart in a chamber orchestra knows the challenge of creating an elegant ensemble blend, expression, balanced dynamics within the string section, and full commitment to staying engaged from beginning to the very end. Everything is exposed. Here are 17 tips on playing Mozart well in a string section. Continue reading “17 Tips for Playing Mozart in Orchestra”
We all know that gripping the neck or squeezing with the thumb is a big no-no because it causes unnecessary tension and makes playing even more difficult than it already is. This is a concept that’s simple…but NOT easy! Pretty much all violinists and violists struggle with some form of this at some point, and sometimes without even realizing it especially if it’s an ingrained habit. And for so many of us who mean well and do our best, this problem most often occurs when the music is emotionally intense and/or physically demanding.
Here are 5 ways to train your left hand to feel lighter. Spending even 3 minutes on these a day can help to improve your stamina, dexterity, shifting, and vibrato.
The past 5 days have been especially fruitful for me. I participated in a long, in-depth online workshop about the pedagogy of Paul Rolland. His principles and Action Studies focus on creating healthy movements with good balance, which allow one to develop stellar technique (including the basics of advanced skills within the first 2 years of playing the instrument), find more potential for musical expression, and play with minimal to no excess tension in the body. Continue reading “A Holistic Approach to String Playing with Paul Rolland’s Principles”
We have to put in the hours! There are no shortcuts! However, repeating the same passage too many times in a row can create an illusion that we’re improving (since we’re working SO hard on it in the moment). About 20 minutes in, it might even seem like you’re really nailing those 16th notes! That may be true in the moment, but with this kind of practice there’s a good chance you might sound worse on day 2 or 3… almost as if you forgot what you accomplished during that long, productive day. One reason this happens is Continue reading “Unlocking Efficient Progress: The Power of Retrieval Skills and Interval Practice in Music”
Last week I enjoyed being a participant of the Starling-Delay Symposium at the Juilliard School. It left me overwhelmed to say the least – I haven’t felt this inspired and lit on fire in a very long time. In the spirit of Ms. Delay’s legacy, much of the Symposium revolved around discovering “one’s own truth”; self-discovery, authenticity, possibilities, and purpose. Over 150 participants from around the world gathered to learn, play, absorb, interpret, and exchange ideas and personal experiences. Within this review and reflection, I decided to share some (paraphrased) quotes and notes I took. I hope that they inspire you too.
It recently came to my attention that many professional orchestras (of various ranks and sizes) have collectively decided to put on a Star Wars concert around this month. The New York Philharmonic just celebrated John Williams during their spring Gala and several other orchestras have a concert lined up exactly on May 4 (i.e. – May the Fourth be with you). For your own entertainment, this is not a complete list but.. https://www.starwarstickets.com/
With constant email notifications, text message alerts, and infinite scrolling, modern technology has slowly reprogrammed many of our minds to get used to frequent distractions. In the culture of smart phones, the ability to focus for prolonged periods of time has gradually diminished and got worse than ever during the COVID-19 pandemic as many had transferred to remote work. Coming out of the worldwide lock-downs, the culture of remote work continued to thrive, but unfortunately, not without overwhelm and anxieties that the tech culture brings. The amount of great content online has increased dramatically and it makes people want to take advantage and absorb as much of it as possible. But the human brain isn’t a computer. There is a limit to how much we can learn in a given period of time. So what does this have to do with memorizing music?
Sometimes orchestra rehearsals and concerts are not held in the most ideal spaces. Have you ever sat in a section with so little room that you had to contort your body and hold your instrument in the weirdest and most uncomfortable ways to make room for your bow and the musicians around you? Now imagine playing in a 3-hour rehearsal like this. To make things worse, the chairs are terrible and don’t allow both sit bones to distribute your weight evenly to align the back properly. Oh yea, and you also have to make sure that you can see your music and the conductor reliably.