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Chris
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Hello all,

Today I wanted to try out a new microphone, it is a ribbon mic kit I bought and put together last night, and having never tried a ribbon microphone I was curious to hear how the violin sounded  recorded by it.

I also thought I’d make an attempt at a reasonable ‘work in progress’ recording of ‘Minute #1’ but as you will be able to tell I’m struggling, after so many false starts I threw myself into “Simple gifts”. Before heading back to the Minuet.


I watched the video back, and the many, many takes I’ve saved you from, and I realised that I’m probably trying to play at a tempo I cannot play at with control, just look how my bow is irresistibly drawn to the fingerboard on the Minuet.

When I use my fourth finger I loose the foundation in my left hand, on the A string I can sort of keep it together… sort of… sometimes, but on the E string I’m wildly out and in a flap ;-)

Thank you for watching the video and I hope it’s not too painful ;-)

All the best,

Chris

p.s. Youtube has recognised ‘Simple Gifts’ and a copyright issue! Let me know if the video doesn’t play.

Chris
33 Responses
Posted: February 28, 2015
Last Comment: March 8, 2015
Replies

Cynthia Alpers
Posted: March 8, 2015
Hi Chris,

Thanks so much for explaining the mics and posting that demo video.  I could definitely hear the difference and I also liked the Ribbon mic the best.  I think that everyone should listen/watch that video, because they may not realize what their own videos would sound like with a better mic, acoustics, etc.  Sometimes, some of the vids sound like the intonation isn't quite there, when actually it may be OK, but it's just that the cheap mic on their phones, or cameras isn't putting out the best sound.

As for the other stuff...I'm just about at the same stage that you are in my violin learning and I'm practicing the same pieces: Minuets 1, 2, and 3, Simple Gifts, Happy Farmer, etc.  I have never had a personal lesson with a teacher, so when I get to the workshop this summer, Beth will certainly have her work cut out for her...straighten the posture, curve the fingers, relax the shoulders, etc.  This thread is really helping me take a look at my own issues.  Thanks for taking the brunt of the (constructive) criticism on my behalf.  :)

As for the bouncing bow...I thought I had that licked, but yesterday, it came back...AUGH!  Not really a bounce, but a small vibration...a teeny-tiny bounce.  I had just changed my strings, so that may have something to do with it.  Anyway, it goes away when I practice bow strokes on the offending string a few times and then go back to playing.  I must be more relaxed after that....I dunno.  Relaxing is the key though.  Of that I'm sure. 

~ Cindy




Diane in SOCAL
Posted: March 7, 2015
  Hi Chris.  Just a few quick things before I forget them : >).  I noticed in your video here that you tend to slump over your violin…you will want to stand tall…like this: I and not like this: ( .  When  you slump then you loose a lot of tone from the violin and you can sustain back, shoulder and neck strain.  When you stand tall with your head over your spine…this will open  up your chest and your shoulders…both of them can relax and be natural.  I did some Alexander work last Summer it has has done some wonderful things for my violin posture.  The other thing…don't let the scroll of your violin slope down…your bow will follow the path of least resistance and can slide forward over the end of the finger board when your not looking.  : >).  It will take some getting use to…all the changes you have made with your shoulder rest, your position of the violin at a more level angle and your posture….don't fret about the feet of the shoulder rest right away.  Give it some time to settle in and then after a week or so you might have to make some minor adjustments.  I would post a video of your new stance soon…so Beth can check and help
 you sooner than later.  So much to learn and so little time.  Ha….keep up the great findings and practice. 
Stay tuned. Diane in SoCal. 


Barb Wimmer
Posted: March 7, 2015
very good, smooth, well done Chris
Elke, you always have great ideas too
I am always working on bending my pinky more, you look relaxed

Kevin
Posted: March 7, 2015
PS. Chris, there's a huge thread here on the forum somewhere on bow bouncing and bow / gravity mechanics, with lots of discussion on index and pinky pressures. Maybe if you read it, you'll have some more ideas for working things out.

Kevin
Posted: March 7, 2015

Chris, on bow bouncing (since you changed violin angle and started dropping shoulder and elbow?) -- just be careful that when you drop your shoulder and drop your elbow..

Those motions cause a slight clockwise rotation effect in your wrist. If you don't counteract it by a corresponding amount of counter-clockwise wrist motion (perhaps coupled with a touch more index finger pressure), your bow will start bouncing and it will start to drive you crazy! :-)

This is going to sound terribly technical and full of physics, but (1) if your bow angle is correct (doesn't touch adjacent strings during the stroke), and (2) if your bow bounces along it's length, then (3) the problem is too much net upward pressure on your thumb - meaning that your hand (thumb) is riding a fraction too high in the plane of the bow on the down bow.

This may occur as a reaction to dropping the elbow - drop the elbow and the wrist moves up a fraction because of the slight change in angle.

To stop the bouncing directly, I suggest as a starting point that you aim for zero pinky pressure during the down bow, from about 5 inches from the frog all the way to the tip. Lift your pinky off the bow during that section to get the idea of it.

Technically it's not pinky pressure alone that is the problem in bouncing. You can have both high index and pinky pressures, and still get bounce. But if you drive pinky pressure to zero, there's no way to keep gravity from keeping the bow on the strings, so the bounce will go away. (Unless other fingers (eg third) are replacing the pinky pressure.)

Good luck!


Kevin
Posted: March 7, 2015

Hi Elke, I think maybe it was you who mentioned the Alexander Technique to me, and I bought a Kindle book called Alexander Technique for Musicians. I found it to be a fairly useful book, especially to people who are not naturally aware of what is going on with their body motions (or tensions). Is that the one you're reading?

On your awareness - throughout my life when doing physical motion kinds of things (ballroom dancing comes to mind), I found that a most useful technique is to do a mental "scan" of key aspects of my body posture and motion. (For example, in dancing, I started at my head -- head up, eyes looking down the dance floor, chin up, shoulders down, chest out and up, left arm hand not dropping, etc.)

Once you get your scan worked out, you can do it in less than a second to catch anything that might be wandering off from where you want it. Maybe that idea can help you.


Elke Meier
Posted: March 7, 2015
Chris, please do not stop listening to your shoulder! There is no point ignoring it - it will make itself heard and felt eventually it you do!

Do you do stretching exercises before you practice? I am much older than you, and my joints are not very healthy anyway, so I have always blamed my problems on my age. But it seems like younger people can have the same symptoms... On the resources page I found these stretches for violinists, and I have learned to be rather diligent with them. Sometimes I feel, oh, why bother, I just do a quick warm up for my fingers. But within a very short time I start to get this burning sensation in my left shoulder if I have not warmed up properly.

A lot of my recent quest for the right position has to do with my shoulder complaining, so at the moment I play rather very slowly, and watch how everything feels especially in my shoulder. While I play I often tend to ignore it once it starts complaining, and I just think, oh come on, it is just half a page more, you can start complaining once I am done with it. But this is just not good. I am reading the book on Alexander Technique right now and one very big point in there is stopping to do something. So I decided that what I need to get to is an awareness: I want to get to the point where my attention shifts instantly to the shoulder as soon as I notice anything out of the ordinary there. Once I notice it then I can consciously stop what I am doing, release the beginning tension. Sure, the flow of a melody is stopped, I need to readjust the arm, etc. - but I think in the long run it will be worth learning this! And in the long run I expect this to go much faster than it happens at the moment...

Chris
Posted: March 7, 2015
Hi Kevin,

I like the ribbon, it has absolutely nothing to do with having just bought and made it... well okay, maybe a little ;-)

My violin repositioning is interesting, and necessitated quite an adjustment to the length of the soulder rest legs, the one near the shoulder now cannot go any lower. Over all I think it will be more comfortable, the violin feels more level and the bowing on the e string less vertical. I think perhaps the scroll is also dropped a little. I also feel like the bowing is straighter, but I'll need to shoot a video to know for sure.

Using less bow, and I think less pressure as well, I feel like my tone has opened up a little, which seems a little contry to my expectations as less energy is going in to the string, but perhaps for the dynamic it's all working more efficiently, who knows I could be kidding myself.

The bow bounce and the dropping of the elbow on down bows is beginning to drive me crazy, I've got to consciously drop the shoulder and allow the natural weight to flow into the bow, but that doesn't come naturally at all for me, yet what could be more natural?

It's acutally something that worries me a little. I have no idea when it happened but I think I must have dammaged my shoulder at some point, the only times in every day life I'm aware of it is when having to hold my shoulder in a static but extended position, imagine holding a flute, within a minute or so I'm in agony with a pain inside my shoulder, and the muscles tremble and all strength goes and I cannot keep my arm up. If the shoulder is in motion, no problem at all. My concern with the bow is that I can feel a slight tremble inside the shoulder on down bows, my hope is that if I can learn to relax that muscle group and allow the shoulder to drop I'll be okay, becuse if I conciosly do it the tremble goes away. Anyway, I'm trying not to dwell on that too much.

I wonder if my adjustments will be noticeable in my next video.

All the best,

Chris

p.s. Just been thinking about my right shoulder and the fact that I cannot think of anything that I've done to damage it, as in one particular incident, which has just made me wonder if it is to do with the computer and that infernal mouse! just a thought.

Kevin
Posted: March 7, 2015

Hi Chris,

Thank you for taking the time to make up that nice posting on microphones. I'm sure it will help anyone who is considering upgrading their microphone setup.

For the record, your violin sound has always come across very smooth and clear in your videos. Between your playing, room acoustics, and sound capturing, you sound great and have nothing at all to worry about for sound quality (IMHO).

On my computer, I think the Rode mic sounded the best. The camera and ribbon mics seemed to pic up more high end, whereas the Rode mic sounded (at least to me) smoother throughout the violin range.

I hope your violin position adjustments are going well. Everything is so connected to everything else in violin playing that it's often hard to change just one thing without having to readjust everything else a little bit.


Chris
Posted: March 7, 2015
Hi Elmer,

I think the only microphone you can use as a hammer is a Shure SM58 ;-) all others need to be treated gently, and you're right, the ribbon mic is probably the most delicate, a small blast of air  is enough to rip the ribbon, it is after all only 2.5 microns thick!

Hi Kevin, the short answer is that I wouldn't feel happy recommending any microphone!

I don't profess to be an expert or, even a successful enthusiast when it come to audio recording, but I do like the challenge. With the violin, I'm still trying to see if there is an acoustic sweet spot in the room, but with all the junk, a camera, hard surfaces and low ceilings and me playing, it's never going to sound wonderful.

Anyway here's the slightly longer answer...

Microphones are like lenses for cameras, and just like camera lenses they have their strengths and weaknesses, and what is a strength in one situation is a weakness in another.

You can have the most expensive beautiful mic in the world, but if the room you play in is acoustically poor then it will sound bad, not becuse of the player, instrument or mic, but the room. Most 'bedroom' musicians record using close mic techniques, this significantly reduces the room sound because the instrument is so much louder proportionally. But this will often give a false impression of the instrument because the dynamics will be exaggerated and the full frequency of the instrument is often not captured evenly.

Microphones also come in usually one of three pick up patterns, or are switchable:
Omni - from all direction
Cardioid - heart shaped from the front
Figure of 8 - from both the back and the front

If you have a really nice room sound then omni or figure of eight is often desirable, when wanting to control the room noise and or 'spill' from other sound sources, i.e. noisy computer or other instruments then a cardioid is often used.

There are four different Mics that might be suitable and would often be seen in a recording situation:

Large Diaphragm Condenser mic - usually fairly large, impressive looking and what singers sing into.
Small Diaphragm Condenser mic - looks like a small metal tube often pointing at an instrument.
Dynamic mic - The classic being the Shure SM57 impressively rugged used to sing into on stage.
Ribbon Mic - One of the earliest microphone designs, but fell out of favour when the condenser microphone was developed, now having a bit of a comeback.

I would make an educated guess that Beth probably uses a small diaphragm condenser mic, possibly omni directional, but I'd hazard a guess it's cardioid, I also think she has quite a lively room to play in. The back drop is visually clean, but will also help attenuate reflected sound. If you want to try something simular put a duvet behind you when you play. And quite importantly she's manually set the recording levels... more on that later.

So as you can see it's not straight forward just choosing the best mic for your situation, then it becomes rather more complicated... all these mics will have XLR connections, these don't readily plug into you average camera or computer. In the case of the condensor mics you will also have to feed phantom power at either 24 or 48 volts down the cable as they need power to work. So you need either a camera or an audio interface that can take XLR cables and provides phantom power.

There are now also USB versions of the condenser mics that do the analogue to digital conversion inside the mic for you and will plug easily into almost any computer, so there is that option, and quite possibly the best when considered from a price, ease of use and audio quality perspective. Be aware that if you record like I do onto two different systems you will need to bring them together and sync them up.

If there is one bit of advise I would offer, it is to see if you can take control of the recording level. 'Automatic Level Control' is not your friend, it listens to all the audio and is constantly riding the volume level, if you play quietly it thinks it can't hear you so increases the level, you then dig in and it flinches and quickly drops the level, so it 'pumps' the volume, often with distortion, bare in mind it was probably 'tuned' for conversation not music. One thing on level setting, in the old analogue tape days, 0dB was good, in these days of digital 0dB is bad, becuse any higher than 0dB and there are no more 1s and 0s to assign to the audio wave form, so if you see red, that's bad.

And I could go on, and on, I could get very dull on the subject... But I'm not a professional so I apologise for any inaccuracies or myths I may be perpetuating.

All the best,

Chris

Kevin
Posted: March 7, 2015

Hi Chris, nice video interleaving the three microphones - a little smooth video patching there at the end!

Which microphone do you like? What would you recommend to all of us? Thanks


E.J.
Posted: March 6, 2015
Chris, I listened to your microphone comparison with the small speakers in my laptop and couldn't tell much difference. But when I piped the audio into my hi-fidelity acoustic amplifier I could tell a difference. Both the condenser mic and the ribbon mic sounded better. But I think the ribbon mic bought out the lower frequencies better than the condenser mic. I have heard that ribbon microphones are more delicate, so don't drop it on a hard surface!

Chris
Posted: March 6, 2015
This discussion includes members-only video content

Hello Cindy,

I go back and forth between the Kun and Bon Musica too, as of two days ago I'm back with the Kun, and with a posture readjustment I was winding down the leg on the shoulder a lot, but following Beth's advise has made the violin a little easier to play, but it's now a case of retraining so that it feels like normal.

You asked about microphones, I can, willingly... But I warn you, I could get very nerdy about microphones, so I'll tone it down for this post but if you want more info just ask ;-)

I thought the best thing to do was to let you hear what three different microphones sound like positioned roughly in the same place. My condenser mic looks like this:


... And has the ability to change pick up patterns, I chose a figure of 8 so that it was a close match to the ribbon that can only pick up audio in a figure of 8 pattern. Have a listen and see what you think, Sorry it's me playing again!

All the best,

Chris

Cynthia Alpers
Posted: March 4, 2015
Chris, your playing was very nice and smooth.  I'm not going to comment on the technicalities because it would be like the blind leading the blind, but you're giving me lots of inspiration.  Beth, thanks for the videos. 

I will mention that I too, have issues with the level of the violin.  As soon as the violin slopes too much, my tone quality goes off.  I went back and forth between using the BonMusica and a Kun type of shoulder rest for awhile.  I finally decided that the Bon Musica just wasn't a good fit for me, no matter how I positioned it and no matter which chin rest I used.  With the Kun, the violin drops down slightly lower, giving me more opportunities to make adjustments.  I can make the violin slope a little less with it and my playing improves immediately.  In fact, if  I start playing funky and not getting a good sound, especially out of the E string, right away, I take a look at my shoulder rest.  Those little legs on it will spin a half turn, or so, every time I put it on so, it's easy for it to get out of position.  I have to readjust it to put it back to that "perfect fit."  My SR is just a cheapy.  I should look into getting a real KUN, or other type that has more stable legs.

BTW, I love the sound coming out of the ribbon mic.  It's much clearer, with less distortion, that some of the others.  Please elaborate on it's set-up, where you got it, cost, etc.

~ Cindy

Kevin
Posted: March 3, 2015

Chris, just a tip -- if you change the violin angle to make it flatter, be sure to inject more wrist bending when you play near the frog. Right now you're getting away with very little wrist bending near the frog because of the relative angles of your arm, wrist, fingers, bow, and bridge (eg, around 0:22).

If you flatten the violin angle, the bow angle must also flatten out, and that will require various degrees of adjustment in your playing, everywhere along the chain of bow, fingers, wrist, forearm, and upper arm, (ie, everywhere between the bow and your shoulder/upper arm, which cannot flatten out any more).

These adjustments will take some time to get in place, especially for string changes near the frog, where the bow angle must change suddenly at the tempo of the song.

Good luck!


Chris
Posted: March 3, 2015
Hi Beth,

Thank you so much for your wonderful video response, you've picked up on things that I felt weren't quite right, (And things I thought were okay ;-) Your suggestions are different from what I was thinking, but make so much more sense!

For example the positioning of the violin, or rather the angle, I was trying to think how best to increase the length of the shoulder rest legs to flatten the angle... but your right it's posture, my natural posture isn't great, my head is not centered on my neck it's forward, so bringing the violin into that, probably isn't too secure, and also leads to that less than idea steeper angle. I'm excited to try and get the violin in a better position tonight.

Too much Bow! I've been trying so hard not to fall into the trap of only using a few inches that I think I've lost perspective, only last night (prior to your video) I was playing and watching the bow at the bridge and thinking, I'm still leaving inches of unused bow at the frog and tip! Thank you for highlighting that there is a right amount of bow for the tempo, sounding point and dynamic.

Oh, you've made so many good points on my playing, I really do appreciate you doing that for me, and I'll keep referring back to your video and hopefully you will see your advice put into practice in my next video.

Lovely chair by the way ;-)

Thanks again,

Chris

Jaime - Orlando , Fl
Posted: March 2, 2015
Chris, excellent performance! , love in particular how crisp and clear is your intonation! Beth have excellent points many of us benefit from! Thanks for posting your video. Keep it up! :0)

Kevin
Posted: March 2, 2015

I've been away for a few days, so this is for Elke's comment way back in this chain, regarding her tip about Todd's point about base knuckle angles remaining stable with respect to the fingerboard.

Elke, sorry if I caused any offense about saying that I was surprised that Todd would say something like that. It wasn't that I was questioning your word or Todd's point at all -- instead, I was thinking as a novice -- "Oh my goodness, I know my base knuckle line moves back and forth a lot -- am I doing something wrong?? Do I need to fix this? Ugh." So I apologize if my words caused you any grief. I'll try to phrase things more carefully in the future.

I felt better when you said the gist of his message was that stopping the notes should be done with finger motion, not wrist motion, because then I felt like my playing was ok in that regard. I find my base knuckle line angle changes quite a bit from low on the neck to high on the neck, especially with first finger vibrato.



Beth Blackerby
Posted: March 2, 2015
This discussion includes members-only video content



Chris
Posted: March 1, 2015
Hi Beth,

Thanks for watching my videos, I thought you'd take the weekends off ;-) And thank you in anticipation of your video, and your encouragement that I'm not a totally at sea with my technique.

Best wishes,

Chris

Chris
Posted: March 1, 2015
Elke,

I watched the video of Todd, thank you Diane for pointing out the timings on initial viewing I though it was just an interview! It's prompted me to look again at my left hand position, and was grateful that Todd does say that every hand is different and so every hand position is different. For a very small hand he would suggest the thumb going under the neck... Light Bulb Moment... I've not got a big hand but I have, I guess, longish fingers so... maybe I should have more of my thumb above the finger board. I tried it and it feels better, but also made my  tendency to pinch noticeable.

I then swapped the Bon Musica over to the Kun, which naturally places the violin at a different angle to my body bringing my left arm out slightly more in front of me. This angle feels more natural and I don't feel such rotation in my shoulder blade when playing on the D and G strings.

I'll try this out for a few days, I've noticed the way I can make a small adjustment and feel all excited because it feels like an improvement only to discover  it's not better just different! but I'm quietly hopeful this has helped.

That's a great video you pointed me towards of Kirsen Yon, Elke, thanks I'm going to watch the rest shortly.

Hi Diane, thanks for pointing me towards video #20, it's good to get back to basics every now and then as I'm certainly guilty of forgetting what I should be doing and pushing on regardless.

Hi Maria,

The mic was placed back towards the camera and to the right if looking back from my perspective in the video. It's far to big and heavy to attach to a violin ;-) have a look at the pic. I'm glad I'm not the only one who feels the pressure of the camera, hopefully it will get better the more we do it.

 


Hi George,

I know how you feel, concentrating on the reading the notes and my left and right hands decide to take liberties, I concentrate on the bowing and the intonation suffers and I loose my place! It's all good fun though!

Beth Blackerby
Posted: March 1, 2015
Hi Chris. Great playing and I cracked up at your B-roll video!!! Maybe I'll do a B roll vid sometime. I haven't done a response video in a long time. I'd like to do one for you. I think you're doing so many great things. Your technique is basically sound,so with a few minor adjustments, I think you'll see big improvement. I'll have one done hopefully in a few days.

george #
Posted: February 28, 2015
HI CHRIS, THERE ARE SOME VERY CLEAR OBSERVATIONS AND SUGGESTIONS FROM THE FOLKS ..I SAW SOME GOOD REMINDERS IN THERE TOO....I HAVE FOUND THAT MY--''RIGHT ARM-MUSCLE MEMORY''--SUFFERS WHEN I AM CONCENTRATING ON THE MUSIC READING..AND IF I'M NOT CAREFUL...I'LL GET MYSELF IN THE EYE !! LOL :-)....IT TOOK ME A WHILE TO DEVELOPE MY ABILITY TO ''REMEMBER''' TO CONTROL MY BOW , AT THE SAME TIME AS READING A SCORE---ESPECIALLY--WHEN IT'S STILL NEW OR UNFAMILIAR....WE ALL TEND TO DO BETTER WHEN WE KNOW WHAT COMES NEXT ON THE PAGE AND CAN RELAX OUR FOCUSED CONCENTRATION AND INCLUDE ''TECHNIQUES '', IN OUR TRAIN OF THOUGHT......"techniques"-a word Diane hasn't 'Beat' me up with lately !!...I think I miss that !! LOL!!!!! GEORGE

Maria
Posted: February 28, 2015
Chris,

Such a lovely playing and the sound was smooth and even...

I am just curious where was the mic. attached?

I love the second song I hummed along quietly as you play...

Beautiful playing and beautiful intonation [Minuet] from beginning till the end just 4 or so notes missed hit but probably you're a bit conscious and tensed in front of the camera plus I do that too all the time- so please don't let this disappoint you at all.

TFS

Elke Meier
Posted: February 28, 2015
Thanks for the B-roll - it made my evening :)

About intonation: If you hadn't just bought the Dowani book I would have recommended to you to start using drones because there were certain notes that were sharp more than once :). But since you just started on Dowani I thought, this is perfect, this will really make it clear where the troublesome notes are and correct itself in time.

For intonation you should also watch the short video of Kirsten Yon which I think has the answer to the intonation problems while changing strings you just mentioned! It is only 5 minutes, but it turned on a number of lights for me when I stumbled over it a few weeks ago.

And one note about Diane's comment of the use of your right wrist: for me Beth's daily exercises for the bow hand were the most helpful in developing some flexibility in the wrist. For many weeks I started my practice with this video (which was not difficult at all since I love Pachelbel...).

Diane in SOCAL
Posted: February 28, 2015
  Hi Chris.  Wow.  I love the recording of your video.  It is clear and your violin sounds great.  Nice playing.   Here are a few suggestions:  Beth has a video called First Bow Strokes…it's No. 20 from the top.  I think this video might really help you with your right wrist.  During this video I noticed that your opening your right elbow for the bow strokes but your right wrist is fixed and tense.  To help create a beautiful tone the right wrist has to be involved.  So look at video #20 and see how Beth uses her right wrist…it bends up with the up bow and bends down and slight out with the down bow.  This act of bending the wrist will help you keep the bow straighter and the bow more perpendicular to the strings for the best tone.  Your doing a great job.
Elke, I did check out the video you posted below regarding Todd and it was at 13.30 - 15.30 approx. where he talks about the thumb and its relationship to the pinky.  I enjoy Todd's videos very much and Beth invited Todd to her first Austin workshop in 2012. Todd did a MasterClass and I was one of the students in that Master Class…he did work 
with my left elbow and left hand to help me realize the potential of moving the left elbow to support the left hand and fingers to be arched up and over the fingerboard when moving from one string to another…thus preventing the wrist from being crooked and preventing a potential wrist injury from using the wrong technique.   This video you listed is excellent.
Thanks for including it…I watched it part-way and will look at it again tonite. 
Keep up the great practice Chris.  Way to go. : >)
Stay tuned. Diane 

Chris
Posted: February 28, 2015
Wow Kevin, thanks for all the feedback, and for pointing out that perhaps it wasn't the train wreck I'd felt it was ;-)

Long fingers are an advantage! And there I was thinking how smaller hands and fingers are going to be so much easier for the low second finger, I feel like I can't get it back far enough and there's too much finger! I guess it's horses for courses.

I'll do the long smooth bow strokes you suggest, in fact I've just started study one in "Easy Studies Vol. I" (Dowani) and it's a perfect piece for that.

Vibrato already? I was thinking my intonation is still a bit shaky, and I'm noticing how the tension build in my left hand... although maybe starting to use vibrato might help with that? I'll look up Beth's vibrato videos.


Hi Elmer, I was surprised at the ribbon mic, they have really low output so you have to crank up the pre amp gain, but even so it's remarkably noise free. I've still got no idea of the best placement though.


Hi Elke,

I did you a quick B roll video ;-)

Don't worry I'm not being hard on myself, I know what I'd like to be able to do and I'm (hopefully) realistic in seeing what's not quite right.

You've picked up on my left hand insecurities, I don't feel like I've got the geometry right, and that probably extends to the elbow as well. It's difficult to work out how it should be because it's such a dynamic thing. You've mentioned the knuckles being at 45º to the fingerboard, but I feel like I need them more parallel to the finger board especially when on the e string or I feel like I'm miles away!

The other insecurity with the left hand and the e string is that the placement of the note is higher than the corresponding note on the a string. This become really noticeable in Minuet #2 where if I play the F# on the E string and then  play the B on the A string I've got to shift the position down a little or it will be sharp.

What's that you say about my elbow? it moves more than it did, just probably not enough ;-) don' tell Beth, she pointed that out last time.


Thank you all for taking the time to watch my video and give me such valuable feedback,

Best wishes,

Chris

Chris
Posted: February 28, 2015
This discussion includes members-only video content

For Elke ;-)

p.s. I do smile, honest ;-)



Elke Meier
Posted: February 28, 2015
Don't nail me on what Todd Ehle said or not, Kevin! The gist of the information was: the movement to stop a string needs to come from your fingers not your wrist. And the other thing: changing the wrist angle is a "waste" of movement that can be avoided.

Kevin
Posted: February 28, 2015

Gosh Elke, I'm surprised to hear that Todd advocates the same angle between the base knuckles and the fingerboard all the time. For sure, my knuckles open up on the first finger in 1st position, and close up (get parallel to) the fingerboard on the pinky in higher positions. Also the angle varies a LOT between the E and G strings.

My compliments on your thoughts of elbow moving for Chris, given his long fingers. I thought, "Oooo, she's got a really good point there." Long fingers surely help for the far-away G string, but you must move them "out of the way" (to use your phrase) for the up-close E string. If long fingers are a problem, it's surely a high-class problem for violinists! :-)


Elke Meier
Posted: February 28, 2015
Congratulations, Chris! First of all: Don't be so hard on yourself! I really liked your playing - and the recording sounded very nice, not scratchy at all or something the like. And I agree with Kevin: you are to be envied for how easily your forth finger can reach its place! Well, but on the other hand I know exactly how it is to do recording number so and so and not be content with it... At my last recording I was wondering whether I should add a B-roll at the end like you did at some point, remember?

That being said, I'll tell you what I think the reason for your insecurity on the E-string is. I noticed the same thing in my hand, even though I do NOT struggle at all with long fingers...

It was in one video that someone said that you should really make sure that the position of your hand is firm and stays the same for a certain string (can't remember, who it was nor what the context was, I am terrible in remembering these "details" - I just remember the fact because it really hit a sore spot). That means the angle of your knuckles to the fingerboard is the same ALL the time (something like 45 degrees). Mine changed depending on which finger was playing. My first finger (and the low second finger) has as hard a time bending as the little one has stretching. So I noticed that when I have to play first finger I often bend my wrist exactly like you do at 2:22. That way the bending is easier, but the whole hand is out of frame, the knuckles no longer parallel to the fingerboard, no longer at the 45 degree angle, but opened up and the hand needs to find its place again - thus the insecurity and the fingers flapping around. Oh, now I remember, I think it was Todd Ehle who mentioned this and it was about preventing injury (it might have been in this video, however, I am not sure - and don't have time to rewatch it just to make sure...). He said that bending the wrist (like you do at 2:22) was a great risk for getting carpal tunnel syndrome. This constant change of the handframe also will be a hindrance for other techniques. What to do against it? I am not sure. I just keep doing the stretching exercises and try to keep my awareness up and hope that one day it will be automatized in the right way.

Another thought I had when I watched it was: hmm, does he really move his elbow from string to string? Just now when I wrote this all of a sudden I had another thought: maybe to switch between the A and the D string you don't have to do hardly anything with your elbow, your fingers are long enough to reach from one string to the other (mine are short and I definitely need to adjust the elbow position for every string to even reach the string). But when you get to the E-string, all of a sudden your fingers need to be moved out of the way (at 2:12 you noticeably moved your elbow). So maybe to find the source of the problem you should observe what the whole arm does (elbow, wrist, knuckles, fingers) in each of the strings. - As I said, this was just a thought that came to mind, I don't know whether it is a worthwhile observation.


E.J.
Posted: February 28, 2015
The microphone is a winner!

Kevin
Posted: February 28, 2015

Hi Chris, here's my two bits on your video:

1. The microphone and violin sounded fine -- very smooth. So you have no worries there, I think.

2. The first thing I noticed was your long fingers, especially your pinky. Looks like you've won the genetic prize for violinists there -- you'll have zero problems reaching the G string with your hands and fingers. Lucky guy!

3. I thought your playing was really good overall, just with the odd intonation and smoothness glitch here and there (to be expected for beginners especially). In particular, I think you easily have all the basics in place to become a really good player. It looks to me like you're got a really nice fluid bow arm, going tip to frog, and a freedom of movement in that arm that is not constrained at all.

Already you're doing some hooked bows and staccato bows quite well.

4. Sure, your bow wanders a bit at the tip and frog, but that's only because  (I think) you have such freedom and range in your bowing that you're having a bit of trouble controlling it at the tip and frog. Your elbow and wrist aren't quite doing enough straightening or bending at the ends of your bow stroke, and here and there the bow bounces because of some tension in your fingers and wrist.

Practice long smooth bow strokes at different speeds on each open string for a week or two, and those problems will go away very quickly, I think.

5. If I was your teacher, I'd say (1) work on those long bows to fix the small wandering and bouncing issues with better grip, wrist, and elbow control; (2) continue to work on keeping it all (bowing and fingering) together on those same songs, and (3) start working on some vibrato exercises.

You are already so fluid that once you get your bow motions down, and your bow/finger coordination down so that you don't lose intonation, you'll easily be ready for some vibrato.

I don't have much to say about selection of music pieces; they seem about right to me for your current playing ability. It's like everything is about 80-90% there, so it wouldn't surprise me to see you advance quite quickly.

Just my two bits -- keep up the excellent playing!