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[Guest Post] Cruise Control – On Getting Ready To Practice Music (Part 1)

Most of our practice time as musicians (as it is in other professions as well) can be described as an attempt to turn much of our actions into automatic actions. When we perform we do not have the time to think about how we do this or that. Our performance is in a state of relaxed concentration much like cruise control . In order to be able to perform in this state of mind, our practicing has to be very conscientious.

Here are some crucial points to think about, regarding intention, preparation and practicing:

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What really DRIVES you?
This is a very important question to students and teachers alike. I have learned that once I understand what motivates me it is easier for me to work hard. Such is the case with my students. Over the past twenty five years… Continue reading “[Guest Post] Cruise Control – On Getting Ready To Practice Music (Part 1)”

[Guest Post] The Three Stages of Sound – Sound Practicing

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Perfecting your sound is one of the most important actions one could practice. Whether you’ve already overcome the technical difficulties of the piece you are playing or you’re trying to improve your overall sound quality on scales and studies, it is important not to neglect this aspect of your playing.
Practicing sound is not like practicing for a performance. In performance we always think forward into the future and only monitor what we just played. Our focus when practicing sound should be on the “now”. I discuss further the technique of practicing sound in the post the Beam of Light. In this post I like to share how I analyze mistakes and imperfections in the sound.
I divide the sound to three stages, which I call ‘head’, ‘body’ and ‘tail’. The ‘head’ is the moment my sound begins, i.e. when the bow touches the string. The ‘body’ is when the bow moves across the string, and the ‘tail’ represents the way I end the note. Different techniques have different requirements. For example, a fast spiccato is all ‘head’, the Martele’ bowstroke technique is partly about being able to stop the note at the end of it, while a slow high pitched note which ends the piece is very much ‘body’ and ‘tail’.

When I detect a mistake in the sound (using the Beam of Light technique), I define it under one of the three stages and thus understand what I should physically do to correct it.

For example: a scratch at the ‘head’ of the note indicates a problem in the approach and in the touch phase of the bow to the string. To correct this problem, you may want to alter the way you begin the note by changing the way you start (from the air or from the string). This can include: the amount of bow, the relation between speed and weight, the amount of bow hair in contact with the string or several other possibilities.

Note that starting a note from the air or from the string are two different techniques, each with its own timing in approaching the string and each with its own pros and cons. Some violin pedagogy prefers one over the other, but I suggest you master both.

If you detect a sound mistake in the ‘body’ part, you should check if your bow is straight, if you are controlling the movement of the stroke the entire way through, if the weight you apply on the stick correlates to the speed and the changing of the bow flexibility, etc.

A ‘tail’ problem is usually about bow control. You need to master not only your approach to the string but how you end a note and whether you decide to stay on the string or whether or not you need to lift the bow.

There are also mistakes in vibrato such as: overuse or underuse, unevenness either in the ‘body’ of a note or changing it for different fingers, too tight or nervous vibrato, and uncontrolled delayed vibrato. To keep it simple, most vibrato mistakes derive from holding on to the finger too tight, holding the neck of the violin too hard, and leaving too many fingers down on the string (such as when playing chords).

Recording yourself is a very good way of assessing your sound, and applying the Beam of Light as a practice method will help you clear your sound from these very common mistakes.

>Download Tonara, the ultimate interactive sheet music viewer for iPad here

Eyal Kless is the founder and violinist of Israel Haydn Quartet. He teaches in the Buchmann-Mehta School of Music in Tel Aviv University and conducts many seminars and master classes all over the world. For more information about Eyal’s concerts, teaching schedule, including “The Bach Project” please visit www.eyalkless.com

[Guest Post] The Beam of Light: Visualizing Sound

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Guest post by Eyal Kless

When I want to describe a beautiful, attractive sound, I use words like ‘pure’, ‘clean’, ‘full’, ‘colorful’ and ‘unified’.

As musicians, the quality of our sound is the most powerful expressive tool we have. However, I find that many students take their sound for granted, and focus their practice on playing either in tune or fast enough. As important as these issues are, nothing affects your listeners’ experience more than the sound that comes out of your instrument. It is your calling card, the manifestation of your artistic soul. With a good sound you can convince anyone to listen to you. Being in tune or technically correct will not help you, if in the process you create an unpleasant sound.

Performing well on the violin is very difficult. It involves putting your fingers in precisely the right place at the right time, remembering all those notes, battling anxiety, and trying to “do the right thing” technically. We get so absorbed with these things that we sometimes tend to neglect our sound, or ignore what we perceive as “small mistakes” such as scratches between notes, audible slides, uneven vibrato and so on. After a while, these imperfections become background noise to us, and eventually we even stop hearing them altogether.

My best tool for clearing sound is a practicing technique I call “The Beam of Light”. As I practice the piece slowly, I imagine a beam of light across my line of vision. The beam width represents the depth of my sound, and its surface – its purity. Within the beam there is a second, wavy line, which represents my vibrato in the same way a sound wave appears on a monitor.
As I play, I ‘watch’ the beam of light with my mind’s eye. If I scratch the sound my beam becomes tarnished; if I hit the string too hard it wobbles and shakes. Your entire focus should be on the ‘now’ and ‘before’, (as opposed to performance practice in which you focus on the future). It is important to practice slower than the performance tempo, and if possible – having already memorized the piece. I find this technique incredibly effective in developing sound awareness.

>Download Tonara, the ultimate interactive sheet music viewer for iPad here
Eyal Kless is the founder and violinist of Israel Haydn Quartet. He teaches in the Buchmann-Mehta School of Music in Tel Aviv University and conducts many seminars and master classes all over the world. For more information about Eyal’s concerts, teaching schedule, including “The Bach Project” please visit www.eyalkless.com

Free Interactive Music and Revolutionary Playback System in New Release

Tonara, First iPad App that Listens to Musicians and Automatically Flips

Pages, Offers Free Interactive Music and Revolutionary Playback System in New Release

Users Can Now Download Hundreds of Free Scores from the Tonara Free Zone and Practice with a Recording and Playback System that Shows the Musicians’ Location in the Score

Ramat Gan, Israel – September 22, 2013 – Tonara, the mobile music-playing app that listens, today released a new version of the iPad application that listens to musicians, shows their location in the score and automatically turns the pages of interactive sheet music. All Tonara users can now download interactive scores for free in the new Tonara Free Zone and review their music with an interactive playback system.

Continue reading “Free Interactive Music and Revolutionary Playback System in New Release”