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1 Responses
Posted: February 22, 2012

J. David
First Recital: the longest, scariest 3:41 of my musical journey.

While rummaging through my hard disk recently, I came across this clip and thought I should share.  At the time, I had returned to lessons after about a 16 year "break" and had just finished 5 months of weekly instruction culminating in this annual recital with about 80 people in attendance (fiddle students and families).

For me, it was the one of the most heart pounding, adrenaline pumping activities that I can recall. Fortunately I had practiced quite a bit, which was a good thing because I was completely on "auto-pilot" throughout the performance.  The only things I can recall while playing are thoughts like:
  •     why is my bow bouncing like this, that shouldn't be happening;
  •     this sure is taking a long time, and I'm not even half way through;
  •     now, how does the next tune start;
  •     don't look at the audience or you'll surely crash and burn;
  •     oh, that didn't sound good;
  •     hmm, I wonder why my vision is getting a little blurry;
  •     wow, she's (my fiddle teacher) really picking up the tempo,  hope I can keep up.
How the notes managed to come out at all in that turmoil is beyond me.

Looking back at it from an adult perspective, I can only say that the emotional anxiety that builds up leading to a recital is exceeded by your feelings of accomplishment and satisfaction once it's complete.  I've since started doing the annual recital as a solo with my teacher providing piano accompaniment - yes, all those feelings remain although they do seem to get a bit more manageable each time.

Hope you enjoy!
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15 Responses
Posted: February 20, 2012

Book Review of "12 Etude-Caprices in the Styles of the Great Composers"

After many weeks on back order, I just received "12 Etude-Caprices in the Styles of the Great Composers" written by Amy Barlowe, a Juilliard trained violinist/composer.

First off, I think Ms. Barlowe should change her tag line from violinist/composer, to: violinist/composer, researcher, historian, philosopher, pedagogue, writer, and speed-skater (ok that last bit was just wishful thinking). I say this after reading the preface 4 times and knowing that I am going to read it again and again because it brings me great comfort to know that there is living/breathing composer and pedagogue out there championing a more holistic approach to learning an instrument. 

The Barlowe approach is one that develops technical skills in tandem with musical expression. It invites the imagination to be a full partner in the journey toward self-expression. In fact, the preface concludes by coaxing the curious player to learn more about the composer/period in order to transform one of her pieces from etude-standard to concert-standard. WOW! Not that I don't already take some liberties within my reach with pieces that I study, but here we have an author/composer who designed a set of studies with that as one of end goals in mind. So before I touch on the hard-core aspects of the book, I urge you to read the preface and tell me -- Should (or should not) Ms. Barlowe change her tag line ? ;-)

The "12 Etude-Caprices" is a progressive set of studies that address not only the technical but also the musical challenges of an intermediate player. There is no shortage of hints on how to overcome these challenges.

Even if one puts the amazing feat of composing a book of etudes in 12 different styles aside, this book is in a league of its own with respect to how skill-building books should be designed, developed and delivered. For each piece, the technical and musical elements are stated upfront, and then followed through with an extraordinary practice guide that prescribes section by section, measure by measure a variety of ways to to approach the piece structurally, technically and artistically. Add to this opus, 8 meritable appendices: general practice hints, tips on improving intonation using the "stop-bow method", sounding point principles and application, rhythmic development, double stop strategies, advice on playing chords; AND A bibliography?.?.?..How wonderful is that? … I'm in an altered state of scholarly bliss.

And did I mention the biographical details, relevant historical info, and the art du jour woven into each period/composer/piece?

Now, there is no CD with this package which may disappoint some. I am prone to thinking the absence of it is by clever design …something the inner pedagogue nixed in favour of coaxing out genuine self-expression. 

As an intermediate player without a personal teacher for most of the year, I am very thankful to have stumbled across this tome of delight.

Ms. Barlowe has made a free sample of the book available on her web site:

…be sure to linger on the home page, and enjoy the inspiring virtuosic performance in the background before entering this Wonderland. The background piece, Hebraique Elegie (composed by Amy, and played by Amy and her husband Alan) is a stunningly inspiring composition that goes right to the heart - filled with pain, strength, defiance and hope.

7 Responses
Posted: February 20, 2012

Jim Gross
I have a question That is bothering me at this time.  It refers to the fact that I am rather tall, and long in the arm.  To make the characteristic box when bowing, in order for my forearm to be parallel with the strings, I end up with only about six inches of bow to the tip.  This makes it an awfully long way to the frog, consequently I am not using all the bow.  Your thoughts?

9 Responses
Posted: February 20, 2012

Jennifer Nankey
FYI - Anyone wanting to buy a Bon Musica shoulder rest, the type Beth uses, can be found the cheapest (I think) on Ebay. I've compared many sites for prices. Brand new and genuine. $41.89 and free shipping. Here is the link:

20 Responses
Posted: February 10, 2012

Nick Thorpe
Dear All. Forgive me if I am stating the blindingly obvious here but it might help someone - especially those left hand grippers and squeezers out there.

I have recently been practicing G major scale which necessitates using all four strings and stopping them down. I was fine on the lower G & D strings but as I moved up to A & E, I could feel my left hand pulling the violin neck to the left and downwards. I tried rejigging my hold to get a vice like grip with my chin but to no avail.

But then I remembered one of Beth's videos (it's a slow process this end),  where she talked about how little pressure is required to stop a string down. I tried lightening my left hand finger pressure when stopping a note and bing - it worked - perfectly. That really was one of those Homer Simpson doh! moments. Best wishes. Nick.

See 05mins:58secs at Beth's VIDEO

8 Responses
Posted: February 11, 2012

Hi everyone :)
Another month another video...
I tried to improve bowing again and I think it got a little bit better, but it´s not easy for me ;)
My tiny camera doesn´t seem to be capable of the loudness, I´ll try out an external mic in the near future (that is the reason why my playing sounds out of tune sometimes hahaha :))
Feel a little bit lost in my practice at the moment, perhaps I should take a look at the beginning videos again and get a better "foundation" in my skills
A few days ago I got my copy of "Superstudies for Viola 1&2" :D

Your comments are highly appreciated and required ;)

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25 Responses
Posted: February 14, 2012

Just thought I would share this wonderful talk given by world renown percussionist  Evelyn Glennie on how to listen. I listen/watch this video about every 6 months and find something new in it each time ... of course that could just be early Alzheimer's setting in:-)

2 Responses
Posted: February 16, 2012

Hello my friends! you were all wondering if I am still playing lately since I've been so miserable having been recently 'diagnosed' with hypothyroidism and being SO TIRED all the time and COLD!

I used to practice my violin EVERY DAY for 3 hours up to a few months ago, then it went all DOWNHILL and these day (since 4 months+ ago) you won't believe it but I only practice 20 minutes ONCE A WEEK!!! :'( whaaaa! that's how miserable my 'illness' has made me :(

But I hope now that I am on medication I will get back to be my 'old' self by next year hopefully (it takes a long time to 'recover').  I am 'committed' to get back to full health and I am about to start a new 'diet regime' as well!

In the meantime with the little time I practice I have learnt this new piece in the last 2 and a half months and this is me practicing it just 2 days ago.

It does sound as nice without the piano accompaniment, it really sounds like 'something's missing' but I could not find ANYWHERE an MP3 piano accompaniment for it, so apologies, it will sound strange 'violin on its own', but here I am... and apologies for the 'sub-skilled' violinist too HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA :D
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13 Responses
Posted: February 15, 2012

HI Beth!

Since you have this app, could you tell me if the app allows you to create/enter your own notes?



18 Responses
Posted: February 13, 2012

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