latte art with violin thumbnail

This New Year, I decided to learn how to make latte art – simply out of enthusiasm. I bought my first espresso machine: the Breville Bambino. Small enough to fit on the limited kitchen counter space, with all the basic features one needs to make a good latte. Limited to non-dairy options, my first mission was to learn the basics: how to pull a satisfactory espresso shot with decent level of crema and how to time and angle the milk pitcher to achieve a specific texture of foam while steaming oat milk. Thanks to the wonderful world of YouTube for many free tutorials on this.


I have never worked at a cafe in my life but am quite an avid customer. Since I’m not serving dozens of people a day at home, this limits me to just a handful of practice sessions per week. As you can imagine, unlike with violin, these are very short practice sessions. There are no do-overs. There is no opportunity of consecutive trial and error when learning how to pour basic latte art with such a limitation – at least not in a row.

Continue reading “What Latte Art Taught Me About Performance Practice”

To execute a specific skill, an athlete’s movement goes through 3 phases: the preparation, the action (this can be a tennis serve or golf swing, for example), and the follow-through. String playing is no different when it comes to consistency in the beginnings and ends of our notes. The quality of these prep and follow-through movements will determine the quality of the note(s). Continue reading “Unilateral & Bilateral Motion for Healthy Prep and Follow-through Movements in String Playing”



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 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.

Continue reading “Essential Etudes & Exercises for Mastering String Crossings”


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.

Continue reading “Tips to Prevent Gripping the Neck & Relax Left Hand”

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”

interval practicing Beethoven sonata

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”

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..

Continue reading “Star Wars instead of Carl Flesch”

Tone by Simon Fischer

Last week on Tonebase, I was very inspired by the live interview between Daniel Kurganov and Daniel Rowland and their discussion on tone colors. In particular, their exploration of the first movement of the Franck Sonata prompted me to whip out Simon Fischer’s book Tone. Sometimes, when we look for that special sound in a piece, we can imagine it or sing it, but not always sure how to execute it on our instrument…at least not consistently. This is where a lot of experimentation comes in. But for successful experimentation, we also need a deeper understanding of how the different elements on the violin/viola work in tandem.

Continue reading “Exploring Dynamics and Color with Simon Fischer’s ‘Tone’”

bow hand

I’ve been thinking long and hard about where to begin the discussion on best practices to minimize unnecessary tension in the bow arm. The complexities of bow technique development for good tone production, various articulations, dynamics, and expression can easily lead one to develop bad habits somewhere along the way.


The most common problems with bow arm tension in players of ALL levels are: Continue reading “Unfolding Tension in the Bow Arm & Hand”