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Edvard Grieg’s Sonata no. 3, second movement: “Allegretto expression alla Romanza” - the title implies a song, with or without words.

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We oftentimes unnecessarily constrain ourselves when it comes to choice of bowings. Looking at the score, the beginning of this second movement contains few slurs, and when there are slurs, they often render our right hand movements physically uncomfortable / awkward. I’m trying to at this stage reconcile physical comfort with selective choice of bowings based on how I would speak and sing the phrases. Often enough, I find that certain parts call for a more speaking nature, and other parts more lyrical. I’ve come up with a temporary system of separating bows or using the parlando technique (drawing one full bow while making ever-so-slight “accents” along the way) when wishing to speak, and playing legato when wishing to sing.

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When speaking the music, one starts again realizing how connected poetry is with much of music. Groups of notes (pairs, triplets) resemble various metrical feet. So far, I’m resonating with many trochees, in different degrees.

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The parallel between poetry and music made me further think about how breathing impacts the body, which provides form to the music that we play. I often think that the right hand is in and of itself a living entity, thriving in inhales (up bows) and exhales (down bows). What can the body do to align itself with the right hand and therefore assist it?

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#violin #violinist #edvardgrieg


“Your body is a beautiful machine with many movable parts. If any part is made immobile, it affects the efficiency of the whole machine.” This quotation by D.C. Dounis grounded me as I plowed through this last variation in the third movement of Ysaÿe’s Solo Sonata. It was a mess yesterday in the sense that the notes were there, but I couldn’t grasp the structure, which is a permutation of the Dies Irae hymn. Frenzied mess...!

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Today I focused on letting the springiness of my joints guide me, while my mind became much more aware of certain impulses in the variation. Perpetual motion necessitates these impulses - it is easy to fixate on each note during slow practicing, but the second the tempo kicks up, the brain has no time (and no need) to think of each individual note. Rather, the notes are grouped, as manifested in the idea that each active impulse is automatically followed by a group of rebound, passive notes. One feels more comfortable physically and more lucid musically and structurally.

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#violin#violinist#eugeneysaye


Essentials, every now and then - vibrato. Vibrato is a bit of an elusive subject, as everyone has different rates of nerve conduction. Slowing down, quickening the vibrato can be trained though.

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I’ve always struggled with a vibrato that would spazz out, many times unfavorably so in regards to the specific character of a phrase - especially when the adrenaline rush hits. Over the years, I’ve learned to not “slow it down” per se, but rather develop specificity in how the mind conceives the motion at hand.

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I’ve realized that it’s more helpful to un-categorize finger, hand, or arm vibrato, as the impulse I believe comes from the finger pad. The distal joint ideally is flexible. The questions in turn then are: what are the active and passive movements in vibrato? Are there differences in the pressure the finger has on the fingerboard? How does one achieve continuity and evolution in vibrato?

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I’ve experimented a bit, and I find that thinking of vibrato as consisting of an active, forward impulse initiated by the finger pad / distal joint followed by a passive, rebound movement back helps. The pressure as such changes - leaning into the string as the finger goes forward, and releasing a bit as the finger moves backward. Essentially, the springy nature of the string (which is suspended) is at work and facilitates the vibrato. Speed and width perhaps depends on how the mind conceives of the motion and which participating joints are more actively involved. Generally, the narrower the vibrato, the smaller the joint, and the less active the bigger joints - vice versa for a wider vibrato.

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Doing some nitty gritty but mindful work with vibrato - leaning my wrist against the side rib to encourage the isolation of the hand from the larger parts of the arm. Focusing on feeling that precise, active forward movement. Different rhythms used (dotted rhythm, inverted dotted rhythm, quavers, triplets, semi-quavers). Haha, I’m also paying homage to David Oistrakh my releasing my head from contact with the violin to eradicate any emerging pockets of tension. Closing eyes to tune into my tactile and kinesthetic awareness.

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#violin #violinist #dounis