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Elke Meier
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Practice report...

Actually, this was supposed to be a progress report. After all, I had a long vacation, spent at home with quite a bit of time for practice and had hoped to see real progress. At the end of my vacation I was rather discouraged: what was there to see after all this time with Auer, Schradieck, Wohlfahrt #4, Kreutzer #4, Yost and Dowani?? Spiccato and staccato were just as bad as ever, left and right hand still did not want to work together well, and with the start of shifting intonation seemed to suffer even in first position.

Then, toward the end of my vacation, Roy posted a video of "Witch's dance", a piece I have liked ever since I heard it for the first time during a masterclass at last year's workshop - and he saved me from this bout of depression :). "Witch's dance" is still several pieces away from me in the Suzuki book. I am still stuck with "Hunter's chorus" and "Long, long ago" at the beginning of Suzuki 2. As Roy's post brought this piece back to my attention, all of a sudden I thought: Why should I wait?? I have been trying the bow stroke I would need for "Witch's dance" on open strings, and I have been practicing all sorts of arpeggios basically every day with Kreutzer #4. Why not give it a try? It is still very much a work in progress, but I have had such fun with this little piece!

Actually, as I said, it really is ALL a work in progress/practice... But I had a chance again to record today, so here it goes. If you don't want to watch the whole thing, here is what is in the video:
  • Beginning - Hunter's chorus - sorry for the ending. I played without the sheet music and all of a sudden couldn't remember what came next, so there is an extra repetition...
  • 1:35 - Long, long ago - I made two additional variations of this piece :). But I never can play it all in one stretch. I need a break between variation #1 and #2 (this is the one from the book), because I cannot switch instantly from one bowing experience to such a different one. And variation #3 is rather difficult for me, so it never works on first try.
  • 6:15 - Shifting - Geringas is called "progressive studies", which to me implies that it starts easy and gets more difficult. Wrong! I will probably still practice the #1 study in a year! It goes with one finger through all the positions from first to fifth without sliding (open strings in between the notes). #2 was much more learnable, so this is my first shifting post :)
  • 7:05 - Witch's dance - It is such a fun piece, but I guess the end will be hit and miss for some time to come. Today it was rather miss... Last week was much better... 
I look forward to your comments and suggestions :)
Elke Meier
30 Responses
Posted: September 13, 2015
Last Comment: September 20, 2015
Replies

Elke Meier
Posted: September 20, 2015
Roy, I don't think it is the powers of observation failing, I think our powers of observation are not quite well developed yet.

Let me explain: Your comment reminded me of a situation not long ago, when I tried to make some observations for bowing in a tricky place in the third movement of the Rieding concert. For the life of me I could not figure out at that certain point how this violinist did the bowing. It was just too fast to see when she would go up and down (not that it WAS that fast...). I could either observe her left or her right hand, but never both at the same time. And my ears just failed me completely. It just sounded nice :) - but no way could I tell when she would change bow direction. I had downloaded the video from Youtube so I could analyze it in VLC media player, where you can slow it down to 25% of the normal speed. But at that speed the coordination between the audio and the video did not work any more... It was PAINFUL - and it made me wonder what other people do that seem to be able to observe the bowing of someone else and actually SEE what is happening with the bow! I guess it is - like so many other things - just practice and getting used to observing it. Anyway, I finally decided that such and such was probably her bowing and copied that - but every time I get to that place I wonder: now, is this really right or did I just not analyze it correctly? - So you see why your comment struck a cord right away... :)

Roy Fraser
Posted: September 20, 2015
Oh yes, Elke, you are so right. My powers of observation are failing.What would one do without VL

Elke Meier
Posted: September 19, 2015
This discussion includes members-only video content

Roy, I think you got a wrong impression here. At least that it how I understood your comment about measure 25 in Hunter's Chorus. When you say "each one as down bows" - I would assume you think that I replace the bow for each one. I could never do that!! They are actually always down and up again. But the down-bow is on the slurred D and C (the sixteenth notes) and the up-bow is on the A, so then you are ready for the next down bow on the next group. The challenge for me in this one is that the up-bow on the A is supposed to be lifted off a tiny bit (see Beth's instruction from about 4:30, at 5:30 starts the specific explanation for this A-note). Actually, the down- and up-bows are very regular, each one using the length of an eighth note.

Hmm, as I read my own explanation here I was not quite sure how clear it was. So then I decided to do a quick "slow-motion recording" of this measure and include it here :).

I have really started to appreciate the tone of my violin anew with Hunter's Chorus, and I think it is because of all these lifted staccato notes. Most of those notes come on open strings or ring tones, and I wish the microphone could portray the sound that comes out of the violin! It is 100% different than when I did not lift the bow. The whole instrument seems to explode with sound!

Roy Fraser
Posted: September 19, 2015
Elke, I am really impressed the way you play "Hunters' Chorus".  I have always found that the piece 'runs away with me...'  When Beth plays this (and you also) she plays the triplet types in measures 25 et seq. (I know they are technically not triplets) each one as down bows, and I have never managed that successfully, and I have rather settled on alternate downs and ups.  So I still have that one to master (hence not posting yet).

Kind regards

Kevin
Posted: September 18, 2015
Wow, I want to say three things:

1. Elke, what a thorough practice video. Lots of good work in there. I don't think I've ever heard so many variations of Long Ago. (Makes me wish I could play them all.. :-)

2. Beth, wow, what a superb teaching response video. Excellent student video for input, and an indepth excellent teaching response video. It's a fine example of what Internet teaching is all about. 

3. Everyone else on the thread - lots of good positive feedback for Elke. Many eyeballs see things that the student doesn't. Also an excellent example of what good Internet / community teaching feedback is all about.

This is what Internet learning and teaching and community feedback should be. Well done, everyone.

Elke Meier
Posted: September 18, 2015
Ha, Nick, you seem to have a different perception of future than I do... - But I have decided to give up this dream of playing Sarasate only when I have to give up the violin, maybe because I get too old or my joints get completely stiff. So, I still dream and hopefully have a number of years to continue to dream  :)

About the forth finger: I have to confess that I am not that willing to suffer. I don't force it all the time. But I have decided that I wouldn't make special concessions for the forth finger either. If for the melody it sounds nicer if there is no open string, then I will use forth finger. That is the case for example in the sixteenth notes of measure 15 of Hunters' Chorus. It just about kills me every time because there is a first finger right after them. Well, to be honest, in one of the variations of Long, Long Ago there was one spot where I did make concessions for this poor little fellow. A low second finger followed by a fourth finger, and all of it on the G-string, that just does not work!

Learning from each other: that to me is the value of this community! In the beginning I was very excited about all the videos in the video library. But when I discovered the community I found that this is just as important as the videos. In the videos we are shown how it all works when it works well. However, it is in the answers to my own video posts as well as to others' posts where I got (and get) training in observing myself. You get alerted to all sorts of details. I don't think learning without a resident teacher would work if I didn't have this feedback from Beth and the community. Well, and Beth's low tech video answers surely are extremely helpful! 

Nick
Posted: September 18, 2015

Elke, I have no doubt that in the not-too-distant future, you'll post a video of your rendition of Zigeunerweisen and it will be wonderful. And your vibrato will be wonderful too!

Vibrato is just another skill that will come through consistent practise. Small 5 mins sessions everyday will go a long way, and is better than long vib practise sessions which may cause repetitive strain on the joints.  Before you know it and when you least expect it, you will have that Eureka moment where your fingers suddenly "get it" and you're vibrating! Hold off buying that baroque bow a little longer!

I forgot to mention this when I watched your video, you took the harder option using the fourth finger string-crossing in Hunter’s Chorus – that’s how I like doing it too! Whenever there is an option to play the fourth finger I take it! Even though it’s much harder (and may sound worse as I often touch neighbouring strings), but it’s good training J  ...Your fourth finger looks so very nicely curved, mine collapses so easily no matter what I do…

You’re making great progress - I’ve learned so much from your video and (Beth’s response vid). Thanks to you both!



Elizabeth Lacey
Posted: September 18, 2015
Elke,

Thanks for filling me in on how you make and edit your videos. I use a mac so I'm pretty sure I can do this in imovie. I'll have some fun with it. I hope to post a progress video soon too.

Elizabeth

Maria
Posted: September 17, 2015
Dear Elke,

Your practice videos were always impressive and inspiring, whenever you post a video besides watching you I was peeking intently on your violin..Looking at its shape in whatever available angle and finally I saw that distinguishing bump of the top plate that a Stainer violin has, mine has it too. I was satisfied at last to see it...

To end and to add more, I love to watch the shape of your left hand...

Stephen, Los Osos, CA
Posted: September 17, 2015
Hi Elke,

I was away on vacation and just saw your post and
viewed all your pieces.  Just wanted to say that I think 
your progressing very well.  Always nice to see your posts!
I have been working on "Witches Dance" on and off.  The
last couple of measures are the most challenging for me.

Best,

Elke Meier
Posted: September 17, 2015
Music-Me, I am normally very stuck on reading sheet music - and always have been with all the instruments I have ever played. The rest of my family likes to improvise, but this has never been my strength. Nor has playing by heart been a strength of mine. However, with the violin I have started to make a real effort to also memorize pieces. With these short pieces though, there was not much effort to memorize them. I have practiced them so much that I got to know them by heart kind of automatically... - well, and for two of the "Long, long ago" variations there is no written music to begin with :)

Music-ME
Posted: September 17, 2015
To Elke

Congratulations on Your Violin Practice report...

I enjoyed the play.... It's ALWAYS Great to have Music Scores "under your belt"

May I ask... Did you MEMORIZE all the Music.Pieces? Or read from sheet music.

>>>If you ask an Expert... I believe "sight reading scores" at Early Stages has Enormous progress values... But I know a multitude of different opinions arise on the issue.

Posted... by Music-ME.... 17th September 2015
++++++
For Absolutely CLARITY to ALL...My Username is... Music-ME.... and as >>>An Act of Kindness.... Please ...Do NOT Abbreviate it ..or replace Music with VIOLIN.. I am Not Violin-Me etc....etc 
++++++


Beth Blackerby
Posted: September 16, 2015
The Picardy Third :)  (It was the smiley face emoticon at the end of a piece in a minor mode)

Elke Meier
Posted: September 16, 2015
It is pretty late already over here, but I really want to thank you all for your encouraging comments! And they REALLY were an encouragement! I thought I should have posted something several weeks ago - you would have given me a different perspective even then! At the same time I wondered, now why is it that they saw things I did not see? What is it that made me think that I hardly made any progress when everybody else says that I did? - I think I had kind of lost sight of the big picture while noticing all sorts of little details. Like with bowing: you are right, I find it much easier to keep the bow straight than some months ago! But this had become "normal" and instead I noticed other things. Like in the up-bow staccato exercises I find it a challenge to keep the bow moving and just dig in with the index finger a bit to give the next note a crisp beginning, but not stop and start the bow with each note. The tone is very different if I keep the bow moving! This was just one of the details I really got hung up on. So, it was very good and encouraging that you made me step back and look at the overall picture again :) - thank you! I will practice some more and post a follow up in a little while.

And here are some specific comments to suggestions you had:
  • Beth: Thank you so much for such an in-depth answer! Wow, this was very special indeed! I have started to try out the things you suggested. I like your addition to my double stop version :). Actually, it made me realize that even more can be done there! This started just because of your suggestion in the tutorial to play this with an open string drone. But there were then several places where I just couldn't bare the open string drone, so I looked for other harmonies I could manage. But it is true: the open string drone is a practice tool, to make it sound nice now I could well introduce more harmonies. I look forward to that!
    You used a word for what I did at the end of the minor variation when it changes to major. Could you (or someone else with more music theory background) write down this word? I am not familiar with it, and just cannot make it out.
    Haha, a rhythmic variation on the minor one? No, I just wanted to play with all my soul, stress notes or prolong them just a wee bit when I felt they needed more emphasis to bring out the heaviness of the melody. When I watched it I noticed that it sounded more than anything else disorganized... And your example, even with very even notes, conveyed a lot more emotion than my uneven playing. So I will try to undo this habit :).
    The comment on the opening elbow for arpeggios was SO helpful! I discovered that this is a very big part of my problem between left and right hand coordination in faster passages (at least after my practice this afternoon I think that this might be it)! I have noticed before that when I just relax, let go and just play faster passages without much thinking, then the two hands are much better coordinated. And the arm comes into play when I am NOT relaxed any more but start to tense up. I'll see what difference it makes when it becomes more natural :)
  • Janice: Very true! I learn a lot from performances I don't like. I had the same experience with one performance in Youtube of Kreutzer #4. It surely showed me what to pay attention to...
  • Nick: I practice Kreutzer #4 rather very slowly, so don't call it advanced material... But you know what: I feel that practicing this etude really helps me with string crossings. I find it much easier to have enough weight during a string crossing = they get cleaner!
    Vibrato is not coming along at all at the moment. My wrist gets very painful after just a few minutes of practice, so I have done hardly anything with it lately. I started to practice arm vibrato instead of wrist vibrato seems to be better on the wrist joints, but I find it hard to change to this movement, and I have started at zero again with the exercises. Sometimes I wonder whether I shouldn't buy a baroque bow and forget about vibrato... :) - well, but I still have the dream about the Zigeunerweisen, and that would not work with a baroque bow.
    Dynamics: There could be much more, you are right, but one problem is that you cannot even hear what is there. I found that my smartphone equalizes the sound level within a split second to make it all sound "nice" and level. I really should get around to buying an external microphone to get a more realistic portrayal of the violin's tone.
  • Elizabeth: I record the video with my smartphone. Then I copy this file onto my computer and import it into the free program Windows Movie Maker. There you can very easily cut out the sections you don't like. Actually for this recording I had made a number of videos and imported them into Movie Maker. And from each one I used only that little part which I did not mess up... :). In Movie Maker you can also add captions, titles, etc. Then I export the finished movie as a new mp4 file, and that one is then uploaded to YouTube.

Beth Blackerby
Posted: September 15, 2015
This discussion includes members-only video content

Elke, I forgot to mention Witches' Dance. The main thing there is to work on keeping the elbow opening and closing on the triplets. For some reason the arm wants to start moving from the shoulder. Take a look at your video and I'm sure you will see what I mean. Loosening the arm by getting a good, nice detaché  will also help with the timing of the string crossings

Andreas
Posted: September 15, 2015
Great playing Elke, you have very good control over the bow and your left hand looks really relaxed (as mentioned before ;)). And I see a lot of finger motion on your bowhand
The ending of witches dance made me smile :D That variation seems familiar to me, I think I used the same notes from time to time XD
Can´t wait to see your next video because you made so much progress *thumbs up* :)

Janice
Posted: September 15, 2015
Elke - you play so well!  I can not believe you have advanced so quickly (well I can actually, from reading your posts) and you are so musical too, your bow strokes - apart from being extremely straight - have tone and colour, a beginning and an end.  I listened to a video someone had posted a couple of days ago (not on this site) it was a piece I play and that person played it so..... one level, boring, no character (in my opinion) although the notes were mainly there, that I vowed to myself to always think about the music.  You see even things done "badly" are inspiring!

Mary Freeman
Posted: September 14, 2015
Elke
When I watch your videos you make me want to aspire to be more polished with my playing. I is so easy for me to slip back into some of my sloppy habits. your video has been most inspiring. 

Beth Blackerby
Posted: September 14, 2015
That was really amazing,Elke!  I am quite blown away at some of the sophisticated techniques you are incorporating into your practice. I love your Long, Long, Ago variations, and as I mentioned before, you will be a great violin teacher someday! The variation with the lifted strokes near the frog were done with the perfect Galamian bow hold!  I am currently editing Liebesleid  (believe it or not),  but tomorrow I will try and shoot off a quick video response. I'd like to give you some tips on polishing your brilliant variations!

Kim Thomas
Posted: September 14, 2015
Elke,
Your video was great!  I know how you feel getting frustrated.  Always remember violin is a LONG journey.  I have to remind myself at times.

Your video was great actually!  

Your playing has really come a long way, and sounds much more clean!

Your finger motion is great on the long bows!  You can also use a little finger motion on shorter bow strokes too to make it more legato as well.

Your tone and intonation have greatly improved!  I really liked how in your Hunter's Chorus you played the staccato notes nice and short and crisp! :)

For your Long Long Ago, variation #2, it sounds very minor.  Is that one of the variations you made yourself?  I liked it in Gm instead of the written G Maj. :)   On your 3rd variation, your off the string bowing is really good!  Can you try to make the second note of the down bow slur longer to match the value of the first note?   It seems like you're cutting off the second note of the down blow slurs in preparation for the off the string up bows.  But it sounds great!

For the last part of Witches Dance, try practicing it with different rhythms (dotted eighth-sixteenth, then sixteenth-dotted eighth) For dotted eighth-16th you'll have long down bows with short up bows, and the other is short down bows and long up bows. It'll help get the finger and bowing coordination, and string crossings down.

Nick
Posted: September 14, 2015

Hi Elke,

I really enjoyed your video - there's no reason to feel "down-in the-dumps" about your playing at all! In fact, you should be very very pleased. You are displaying a great range of different skills in this one video!

You're using some quite advanced materials (Kreutzer etc) so you're doing very well tackling the challenges of all of these. I was very impressed with your bow control on the Witches Dance (a piece you haven't really studied yet!) it's difficult to get the bow to stop and go again cleanly in this piece - you did this very well as it's deceptively difficult....One small bit of advice which my teacher gave me: in bar 15, when you place your finger on the D, place the second finger on the F (on the D string) at the same time, it will make for a much cleaner transition/string crossing...

Hunter's Chorus was very controlled (it doesn't matter that you had an extra repeat in there, the horses needed a few extra gallops to catch up to the fox!) you gave a very good overall interpretation to the piece, you also had great bow distribution (in general, not just here). One thing I noticed which is definitely not a big issue is your left pinky, when not in use it is sometimes below the fingerboard level. This is not the perfect position for it (as you probably know). I am sure this is an issue which will be addressed on it's own as you practise more. I had the same problem with my third finger but it resolved all on it's own - I now have a problem of an upright pinky- totally opposite to you!

Long, long ago: Great intonation! No doubt helped by the fact you have practiced this double stopped which helped your intonation a great deal. You have great intonation generally, not only for this piece. Your legato bowing was very nice and consistent and I loved the flick at the heel. Very smooth! This piece will really take off once you apply vibrato. How is this coming along?

The only critique /observation I can give is to give greater emphasis of dynamics. I could see you were applying diminuendo at the end of the phrases but I feel you could emphasise this even more. The forte at bar 9, should really be emphasised (heavier bow) and contrasted with the piano at bar 11 and then mezzoforte. It would sound nicer I feel if there are three distinct and markedly different levels of sound. This emphasis of dynamics would really breathe life into this piece. The variations were quite beautiful and your spiccato was spot-on!

Your shifting is very impressive - you are tackling so many different skills concurrently which really is an impressive feat in itself and you are making them all sound very good which is even more impressive! Well done!


E.J.
Posted: September 14, 2015
I will repeat what others have said. You have shown that a lot of hard work has paid off and you have made great strides. I know you are looking for ways to improve and reach the next level; you probably need someone with better teaching skills than me to do that. But congratulations on how far you have come in a few months. 

Stacy R.
Posted: September 14, 2015
Like the others said, I think you're being too hard on yourself! I thought this sounded great. I was especially impressed with all the different bowing styles you demonstrated. Nice work!

Jaime - Orlando , Fl
Posted: September 14, 2015
ABSOLUTELY fantastic indeed! BRAVO! I like you intonation , the full use of bow, the  tempo and rhythm, the relaxed shoulders... Paying attention to every detail in your performances! Great job! This was like a graduation performance , so now you are ready for your next level... Without tape markers on your bow! Hehe

Congratulations Elke! :)



Elizabeth Lacey
Posted: September 14, 2015
Elke,

I can see that your dedication and practice time is paying off. I love how your left fingers move independently of each other and how they also form a nice frame even while change strings. You are sounding very nice. I thoroughly enjoyed watching this video over my morning coffee today.

I'm curious about how you seam the videos together and add the text. Are you adding the text in youtube once it's uploaded? 

Elizabeth

Hélène Mathers
Posted: September 14, 2015
I loved your video Elke!  I really liked that you included several pieces and studies.  You are working very hard and it shows!  I envy your very straight bowing, very good intonation and clear tone!  You're doing very well!

Katja
Posted: September 14, 2015
I think you are too hard on yourself! You are doing great!

Rustam Gill
Posted: September 13, 2015
Hi Elke,
I think you sound great, and I can definitely hear (and see) improvement from your earlier videos. You seem much more at ease while playing, and finger motion while bowing seems very natural to you. Great job.

 It's true that we are our own worst critic. It's good as long as it drives you to improve, but don't get frustrated.

Mary Freeman
Posted: September 13, 2015
A pleasure to listen to 
I can tell you have been working hard


Barb Wimmer
Posted: September 13, 2015
That sounds great Elke, you know those songs well. Your intonation and bowing is great 0 just a thought wondering if maybe even more movement in the wrist on your bowing, looseness, if it would add more.   Sounds great.