Hands that stayPosted: June 28, 2011
It’s funny how unnatural almost everything about the violin is. When anyone picks up the violin for the first time, it’s impossible to rest it comfortably under the chin. It’s also impossible to make any kind of good sound and pulling a straight bow? Forget about it. Whenever playing anything, at least for me, it’s always been the case that the most natural, normal-feeling thing is probably wrong.
This is, of course, why consistent quality instruction is essential for pretty much all people torturing themselves with this whole violin thing. During the Center Stage Strings camp (which is now over!), we had a guest artist recital given by Elizabeth Pitcairn, owner of the famous Mendelssohn Red Stradivarius (the one the movie The Red Violin is based on). She was a student and teaching assistant of Bob Lipsett at USC and The Colburn School, and in fact, she was Danielle’s first post-high school violin teacher when Danielle went to USC. (Speaking of teachers, I don’t know why this popped into my head, but one of Danielle’s current students is an 8 year old Japanese boy and we just learned that he and his mom refer to Danielle as “Belen Sensei.” I don’t know why, but I got a kick out of that).
Elizabeth’s recital was last Saturday, and the Friday before she gave a master class. Here she is working with Danielle’s student Erin: (photo by a wonderful photographer up here named Geoffrey Glass who generously donated his time to take countless photos of the camp. If you want to check out Center Stage Strings photos go to http://geoffreyglass.com/p309840640)
Elizabeth is an incredibly accomplished performer and teacher, but she said during her class that she still sees Mr. Lipsett once in a while for a tune up. It’s very difficult to get a perfectly accurate picture of one’s own playing, so instruction is always a good idea for a seasoned player and absolutely vital for the beginner. It’s essentially impossible to take up the violin without getting lessons.
For example, when playing variation 2, Danielle told me that my fingers should just hover right above the strings when not playing. Naturally, I would want to keep them as high as possible out of the way, but having them ready to pounce in on the action is much more effective. Here’s a look at my fingers too high:
Here’s them doing a little better job of hovering:
OK, so it’s not THAT much better, but doesn’t it seem like they’re closer, ready to work? (Oh, and I know my second finger is high…I’m working on that too 🙂 Either way, it’s something I should work on and I never would have considered it without Danielle telling me. This project is pretty difficult, but luckily I have a pretty good lifeguard.