Tag Archives: practice

More Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto

Well I’ve had a few sort of good weeks hacking away at the Tchaik (if you call little 30-45 minute sessions every other day a good practice!)

I’ve decided to start note bashing backwards – from the end first.   So far I’ve learnt 6 pages worth of notes – that’s about 5-6 minutes worth.   Not much for a 15-20 minute first movement depending on the speed it’s played.    I love learning things backwards..  it means that when you play through, you can keep on building on it, and you always finish the piece with a bang and that’s satisfying 🙂

Compared to the Sibelius, what I’ve noticed most is that there are just so many notes!!!  I can’t believe I haven’t even got back to the candenza yet.  I’m not sure I’ll be able to learn all the notes in time, and if so, be able to memorise all of them.   And then being able to play them at a decent speed from beginning to end without stopping!

Anyway, I’ll keep on pushing ahead… backward really.   

I hope to get a formal lesson on it as soon as I’ve note bashed the whole thing.

Learning the Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto

Well, I’ve had a few months break from my violin.  The little spurt of learning and performing the Sibelius is all over. 

And it’s now time to start thinking of the next concerto for the Freo Eistedfodd next year.  The closing dates are usually in March – only 7 months away – but with the non-existent number of hours of practice I do, that’s not very much at all!

I’ve always been in awe of the Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto.  One of my favourite violin memories was watching the documentary of Itzhak Perlman travelling to Russia, and performing it there.  These last few weeks, I’ve been listening to the album at work.   It’s not the most heart wrenching interpretation of it, but I love the electric and enthusiastic atmosphere of the Russian audience in the live recording.

The first movement is long.  I had the music out the other night.  Heaps of pages.  More than the Sibelius.  More notes.  I think of it as preparing to climb a mountain – it’s a long journey, but I can’t wait for the day when I can play through the whole first movement from memory at a reasonable standard. 

So I’m thinking – 7 months.  I can’t remember now how many pages it is, but if it’s ~16 pages and I’d want to be able to learn all the notes and passages by the end of February hopefully.  That’s learning and mastering just about 2.5 pages a month.  Should be doable right?

On a related note, Julian Rachlin just performed this at the BBC Proms 34 concert.  You can listen to it online here for the next week:  http://www.bbc.co.uk/proms/2009/whatson/1008.shtml

Sibelius Concerto Practice

It’s less than 1 week to the Freo Eistedfodd where I’ll attempt to play the first movement of the Sibelius Violin Concerto!  

I’m starting to feel the nerves.  I don’t know why – I have nothing to lose really.  I keep telling myself over and over that it’s not for the competition or glory – but really as a milestone otherwise I have nothing to work towards.   There’s no way I can compete against students who have time to practice daily for multiple hours at a stretch!   I can only practice for 30 minutes to an hour every odd day after the kids have gone to bed…  after helping to clean up dinner, make lunches, read the kids bed time stories, etc…

Had my first rehearsal with my accompanist last week.   It was great to hook up with an old friend and play through it.  But what a shock!   It was weird having to play “in time”!   I’ve been practising so ad lib that some of my timing was totally way off.   Margie had hinted this at my lesson and afterwards I practised some parts with a metronome.  But there’s nothing like playing with someone else!  Luckily it wasn’t a full symphony orchestra!

So for this last week, I’m starting to polish it up, continue playing through in one shot to build up my stamina – both mental and physical.  I find that by the time I reach the last 2 pages (the final fast bit), I start to get tired.  I can’t concentrate.  My arms start to lock up.  My intonation starts to go.   All when it’s the hardest part technically.

Yesterday I decided – let’s use the practise technique I used for the YouTube Symphony Orchestra audition – RECORD MYSELF!   That really starts to put the pressure on.   So, first thing in the morning after breakfast, I did this take..  fresh..  no warming up.   I’ve uploaded it in all its raw, scratchy glory for all to hear 🙂  

Sorry about the clipping, and I obviously made a few mistakes but I wanted to march to the end, just like a real performance.   But listening back to it, I now realise I need to work on a few things.   For example:

  • I’d love the intro to be more legato
  • Intonation of my fourths was shocking
  • Intonation of one of the first arpeggios needs work (Eb arpeggio)
  • Gotta nail the huge shifts
  • Need to work on right arm (bowing) and left hand (fingering) co-ordination at the beginning of the fast section at the end
  • More dynamics throughout
  • Some parts need to move on more, they started to sound stodgy

Sibelius Violin Concerto – 1st Movement by Jason Chong

I’m more than welcome to constructive feedback.   Please let me know your thoughts and suggestions in this post’s comments.

Sibelius violin concerto

Don’t know why, but I’ve decided to enter the Freo Eisteddfod and play the Sibelius violin concerto!

Wifey thinks I’m having a mid-life crisis.  But I told her – adults who play sports enter amateur sporting competitions, adult photographers enter amateur photography competitions, why can’t adults enter amateur music competitions?  Why do we think they should be for primary, high school or uni students learning music only?    Actually, I think there are some “adults” who enter the choral sections – good on them!   Being an amateur, I really have nothing to lose right??  Besides spending my free time practising!

So, I basically set a target to learn the first movement and bring up to scratch in about 7 weeks only.  Pretty tough…

Here’s my plan:

March 23rd week – learn last 2 pages, commit to memory

March 30th week – learn previous 2 pages, commit to memory, be able to play these till the end

April 6th week – learn previous 2 pages, commit to memory, be able to play these till the end

April 13th week – learn the rest and play all from memory, maybe go for a violin lesson this week

April 20th onwards – practice with accompanist, maybe organise another lesson during this time, work on playing from start to end non-stop

May 12th – the heat!

Haven’t been able to practise much this week, but tonight I practised a bit and then did a run through from the cadenza until the end.   Whoa, by the time I got to the last 2 pages, I was quite tired (physically and mentally) – but that’s when all the fingered double stops hits ya!   I need to practise more run throughs I think, so I can be mentally on top of the last few pages by the time I get there.

Giving up the violin

We’ve had a bit of a struggle with our 8yo.  She just doesn’t seem to be connecting to her violin at all.  You may have read some previous posts about music practice with the youngest one.  In the last few months, it’s just been really really hard to get her to enjoy the violin and practice.  Each practice is a real struggle.

Is it the parents?  Is it her?  Is it the violin?  Is it the teacher? Is it the music she’s working on?  Is it too many other things on?  Is it the fact I play the violin too?

What a decision to make as a parent – after much thought, we’ve decided to give it a break.  I don’t want to force her to learn something she doesn’t have any interest in.  I know there’s the virtue of not giving up when it’s getting hard, but in this case, I’m pretty sure, the violin is just not the right instrument for her at this moment in time.

Wifey borrowed a book on choosing the right instrument for your child.  We had a bit of a laugh reading through it as there are major generalisations on personality and instruments – but there did seem to be some truth behind it all.   I think the personality of our 8yo just doesn’t fit the meticulous fine motor skills required for the violin right now – maybe, and I really do hope, she will come back to it in the future.

We don’t want her to give up a musical instrument altogether.  So as a compromise, we asked her if she’d like to learn the piano properly.  And she’s loving it!   She actually can’t stop playing it, even every time she walks by it.  I’m not sure if it’s the excitement of a different instrument, but it’s rewarding to see her so excited and enthusiastic about it.

The only problem I have with the piano is that it’s not an orchestral or band instrument.  It would be good for her to pick up an instrument with regular large ensemble capabilities in the future…  but that can wait… she’s only 8!

Music practice frustrations

In this last week of musical instrument practice, we’ve been changing focus a little.  So far, we haven’t been too fussed about actual practice technique.  The kids have some natural talent, so that they have been able to get by with some practice only.   Talent can seem like a gift, but it’s a double edged sword – a day will come when they need to actually work extra hard to get a passage/piece right, and not right just once, but master it.  And that’s when major frustration sets in.  

So in the last few practises, we’ve tried to get them to repeat passages or commit the designated piece to memory until they got it right 3 times in a row.  It was hard.  For both the kids and the parents!

I could see the concentration and effort put in by our 7yo daughter but she eventually learnt some phrases she’s been having problems with and it paid off.  Just have to watch the time spent on this next time as we did go a bit over and it gets less productive the more tired and frustrated they get.

But with our 9yo, she tried to commit a new piece to memory, and she was trying so hard but just couldn’t get some bits right all the time – so much so that her eyes started to well up with tears 😦   We decided it was time to stop the practice session then, chill out and come back to it another day.

It’s hard to be supportive, yet directive in the kids practice.   I want to push them just a little bit more so that they realise what they are capable of, and to learn that it often takes a bit of hard work to get somewhere.  But at the same time, they’re just kids, and it’s just music…

How to get the kids to practise

One thing that makes parenting hard is getting your kids to do things that they should do but don’t want to do.

And practising their musical instruments falls right into that category for our 7yo. She just wasn’t motivated to practise her violin. She complained that practice is “boring”. The thing is that she’s quite good at the violin – her posture and bowing seem to come to her so naturally. And she pick things up relatively quickly – it’s just when it comes to new stuff or tricky parts that need some repetition that she loses the motivation.

We had tried practice charts in the past, but they never seemed to work. We tried to mix it up, lots of shorter practice sessions, fun and games, I play the violin along with her, I not play the violin, rewards, etc but none seemed to really work.

But with Christmas coming up, she started asking if she could get this or that for Christmas. The latest request was, “Dad, can I get a DS for Christmas?”.

We pounced on this and decided that yes she could… but only if she did her singing and violin practice as scheduled on a practice chart.

And so we made one up and it’s amazing! She hasn’t missed a practice since. And she even picks it up to play out of the blue!

I guess I better investigate where to buy a DS now. I wonder if my plan will backfire after Christmas… hmmmm…

Violin practice critique requested

Back to my violin again.  I had it out on the weekend to play some Secret Garden music and other standards at Church.   Then, I had all the recording gear set up to record our 9 year old singing.

So I thought – why not record my violin playing?  It’s something that I used to do once in a while as part of practising.   It’s weird, but what you think you are producing and playing is not always what comes out.  Not just on technique like intonation, clarity, etc, but also in interpretation.

I’m going to try something that I’m not sure others have tried before – I will record myself once in a while and ask for advice over the internet.   It can be to do with anything – performance, interpretation, technical, etc.   I’m open for suggestions!

So, first up is the Adagio from the Sonata No. 1 by Bach for solo violin.  It is a beautiful piece that I always wanted to play when I was really learning the violin.   Last year I had a look at it and worked on it a bit 🙂  I practiced it a little last night and recorded this.

Bach Violin Sonata No. 1 Adagio

Next up is the Fuga, the second movement from the same Violin Sonata.  I only started working on this after the Adagio, but I haven’t finished learning the notes by far.   I recorded this raw with no practice beforehand as a snapshot of what I have to work on.   As you will hear, I need to practice quite a few things including mastering the 3 and 4 note chords more fluently.   Unfortunately, I also whistled the E string quite a few times but I didn’t want to go back to re-record it yet.   Listening back, my playing sounds a bit all too uniform and needs much more contrast, in dynamics and articulation and interpretation.

I made a little recording mistake and didn’t watch the recording levels and ended up clipping the recording a few times.   You’ll also notice that I did cheat a little – I played with music and had to stop to turn the pages – I tried to remove the gaps, but they’re not totally seamless.   However, I’d still like some feedback on it overall.

Bach Violin Sonata No. 1 Fuga

My plan is to take the feedback, as well as continue to practise, and post up a few more recordings as I go along.