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This discussion includes members-only video content

Hello Beth and VLab,

Okay, this is the last time, I promise :)
I'm sure most of you are tired of hearing me play this piece by now but I'm enjoying it a lot and I still feel there is a lot for me to learn from it. 

I feel that my bowing and vibrato have improved immensely by practicing this piece, due to the long notes and the difficulty in playing the thicker G string.

The main thing I want to work on going forward is the addition of more dynamic contrast to my playing. I know that as I play I am consciously trying to play crescendos and diminuendo but they don't seem to come through at all on the video. I feel that if 
I try to play softer my tone suffers, especially on the G string.

I understand the concept of manipulating pressure, speed, and sounding point to change dynamics but I am not sure how to apply it to my playing. Even though I think I am, there seems to be little carryover. I would appreciate it if you violinlabbers had any recommendations/exercises I could look into. Of course, any other critiques are welcome as well.

15 Responses
Posted: November 12, 2015
Last Comment: November 14, 2015

Posted: November 14, 2015
Thank you so much for the video. I think this is a great format for you to critique and help our playing.

Yes, it took me forever to find a recording of this version of the Air.

That's very interesting about the downbows on the crescendos. I have been playing an upbow only because it is written that way on the arrangement I have, but playing it with downbows allows me to control things much better as you say, especially that bow change after the long note. I will have to relearn the bowing, as I have memorized it the other way but I think it will be worth the effort.

Deciding on bowings is a whole new dimension of learning a piece for me, but I am enjoying having the license to do it. I find the precise bowings in Suzuki very comforting for my OCD nature, but I am glad to have the freedom to experiment now with other songs.

As for the vibrato and left hand position in general, that is always an ongoing process for me. I am always experimenting with changing my hand position. The left hand that I am using now involves keeping the violin relatively deep in the thumb crook (not all the way, but supported by the base digit of the thumb) similar to Mr. Itzhak Perlman. This has allowed me to be very relaxed and consistent with my left hand and also helped me support the violin better with my hand. It has also allowed me to overcome my problem of playing a half-step interval between my third and fourth finger, which I previously could not do. Actually, that is why I took off the shoulder rest and feel comfortable, because with this hand shape I realized I don't need it. However, when I want a more intense vibrato, I have to subtly change my hand position to give my wrist more room to vibrate and have less friction from the base knuckle. It is not a difficult change, but I was avoiding it before. Essentially, it is always a tradeoff between a more free vibrato and a hand position that is consistent and comfortable for intonation in faster playing (or, in my case, most playing :)). I notice that you (and, really, most high level players I have seen) seem to subtly change their hand position on notes with a lot of vibrato also. That is something I am going to work with. Thank you for that observation. It is something I have not considered very much before. I can tell the difference, especially in the amplitude, between my vibrato and yours.

Thank you again for the video.

Posted: November 14, 2015
Thank you everybody and especially Beth for that wonderful video response.

Elmer- That is very heartening about the recording equipment. I might have to splurge and buy an actual recording mike.

Elke: Good tone on the G string is actually what I have been focusing on these past two weeks, so thank you for noticing :) And thanks for the compliments on the vibrato.
Changing sounding point is the variable that I have the most difficulty manipulating. It is a lot to think about while playing and I have a feeling that is something I should really spend some time working on. It is something I have been putting off, so that by itself is reason enough to focus on it. Time to take my medicine.

As for the shifts, absolutely they were out of tune. That open G after, the shifts is the moment of truth to tell if I played the previous passage in tune, and it was clear that I was off. I have been practicing that section since recording, however, and I am getting more consistent at it.

Thats a good point about the bowing, too. I am also experimenting with the bowing at 1:29. The arrangement I have shows them played as separate notes, but I have been experimenting playing them as a slur with a slight portato emphasize the notes, and it is sounding better to me.

Balazs: I agree. The only way to stay sane when learning a new skill is to understand it's a process and to be patient. As for the beard, I like to keep you all on your toes ;)

Maria: Thank you very much. I am glad you are enjoying my postings. I find that I improve much faster when I am posting videos regularly, probably because the slight nervousness of posting forces me to focus and be more productive at practice.

Mary: I agree. The dynamics add so much to this piece, especially. Just listening to Beth playing a few snippets she did in her video really shows how much of a difference it makes.

Nick, Simon, and Katja: Thank you very much.

Barbara: I went back and listened to my recording while counting and you are absolutely right, I tend to rush some notes and linger on others. In my mind, it sounds like I am playing some heartfelt rubato but it doesn't sound nearly as good as it does in my head :) That's a good idea about the marking and I should probably use a metronome more often when I practice.

Dean: I played this with my teacher playing the accompaniment last sunday and the accompaniment makes it sound much sadder.

Posted: November 13, 2015
It was fairly awesome overall. This time it sounds clear the whole way through, not just the first half. At approximately 3:30 in, there were about three successive repetitive bow strokes, that you could have possibly embellished with increasingly larger bow strokes in order to make the song more powerful, possibly? I don't even know if it is in the music sheet, but if I bought your CD than I might ask for that part done that way. It also didn't sound all that sad the way that you played it.

Barbara Habel
Posted: November 13, 2015
One of the things my teacher did with this piece is to put a vertical mark on each smallest unit to count. There are different printings of the Air around with different note messurements. Find the smallest unit and count and mark them vertically. Then use a METRONOME whilst playing.

Your note lengths are sometimes too short and sometimes are too long. Count, count and count your note lengths.

Here is my Air with rough counting and being creative with the counting:


And here is the Air with metronome and real counting:


Posted: November 13, 2015
Not tired at all of you playing Bach's air :). It is a lovely melody and you play it really well. It has been interesting to follow your path, how you have been working on this piece and see all the improvements from video to video.

Posted: November 13, 2015

Hi Rustam,

As you can see from everyones comments,we all love Bach air,so please keep posting as much as you like. Nice playing too btw.

Posted: November 12, 2015

Hi Rustam,

Very nicely played! A joy to listen to!

Don't make this the "last time", keep posting vids of your progress with this piece, you're progressing with each vid and we're learning so much in the process. Great vid Beth!

Posted: November 12, 2015
Excellent video Beth - very helpful.  What was noticeable was how much you were using your sounding point for your dynamics, letting that do the "work" for you.  The quick video lessons are fab, I look out for them, they are like mini master classes and thank you Rustam too.

Beth Blackerby
Posted: November 12, 2015
This discussion includes members-only video content

Here's the IMSLP link.

Hélène Mathers
Posted: November 12, 2015
Rustam, every time you post you show great progress and I'm another Bach fan who never gets tired of Air on G String!

Posted: November 12, 2015
I hear a big difference in the use of dynamics. This sounds beautiful. I am a huge fan of how you present the same piece over and over. In The last video I could tell that you were just getting yourself used to playing this and now the comfort level is very apparent. You are also playing a lot  more slowly and carefully with the tempo.  It is amazing how staying present with every part of the piece teaches a person how to play. Funny how this is the piece that taught me my first lessons in dynamics as well. The loud to soft sound is what makes it sound like Air. Sort of like delicate wind. Bravo keep posting your progress.

Posted: November 12, 2015

What a wonderful playing, I love this piece a lot and at some point I have played a passage by ear few months ago.

You have great stamina and still able to play this piece so beautifully and very pleasant to listen to...Playing on the G string is taxing and challenging...I remember when i want a quieter note i go near the finger board and adjust the bow pressure and louder away from the fingerboard and add pressure.

Wonderful thrills and vibrato and your notes sounded so sweet except the open string note is bit flat either you have to tune the G string  really well or the note before the open string must be .

No, not tired to hear you play, go ahead and post more of your progress and we would gladly listen to it...You are blessed and truly has the talent so don't hesitate to share your practice video.

I was not able to comment to most postings because i work nights and by the time i reach home i am already tired and sleepy. 

Posted: November 12, 2015
Very nice playing Rustam, don't dare stopping posting more Air videos!!

As for the more advanced techniques, I'm sure they will just come with time.

I compare learning to play and instrument to learning a new language.
My accent will never be perfect, my grammar has flaws, my vocabulary is limited, but all of these will just improve gradually the more I speak and more I *listen* to other people.
I prefer speaking more with flaws than seldom speaking perfect sentences.

Same with music - I don't struggle with every small detail; the fact that I already understand what I want to develop is good enough for me. I rather focus on expanding my repertoir, while I keep coming back to favourite/old songs.

Each video of Air you upload nicely shows a continuous progress, both in technic, feelings, articulation. Keep up the good work. You are one those guys on this forum who I constantly follow, and I get excited whenever you upload a new video.

I'm still looking for identifying a pattern with your beard style, that adds to the fun :)


Elke Meier
Posted: November 12, 2015
No worries, Rustam, at least one person is not tired of this piece yet - on the contrary, it is really, really inspiring to hear you work on this piece and see (and hear!) the change every time you post it! And I am pretty sure I am not the only one who feels that way :). I loved your clear notes! Even on the G-string. That means very good finger action! Your trills are wonderful, your vibrato is really nice, I could go on...

As for the dynamics: maybe it is also the microphone, not just your not applying enough dynamic. I still use my smartphone for recording and I have the feeling that the microphone is very efficient in leveling out changes in volume...
As for sound point/pressure/speed: Yesterday in my practice I had a long note that needed a big crescendo within the note. So for the first time I consciously tried to add bow pressure while I moved toward the bridge during this long note. And I was amazed at how it worked. Now, this does not mean that I can implement this while I am playing because then I am still very busy with concentrating on all sorts of other things... But at least out of context, in practicing just a couple of measures and concentrating on this, it really made a difference - so my hope is that eventually it will make its way into the whole piece :).
Two other observations, one that can easily be fixed, the other one where I have no idea how to fix it...
- watch the shifts. After the shifts (2:00 and 3:20) it was off both times and both times it seemed to be off about the same amount.
- about bowing: the notes really flow beautifully in the legato sections. At 1:29 and 1:34 there are some notes that are not slurred, and yet, I think they should still feel a bit like legato. Somehow they stood out from the others (kind of "chop, chop, chop" - well, not that exaggerated...) more than what would feel natural for this kind of piece. However, I have no clue how to change this - if I knew I would have tried to change it also in some places where I had the same impression in my own playing :).

Posted: November 12, 2015

Dynamics (crescendo and diminuendo) may not come through unless better recording equipment is used.