The Cello is a string instrument that produces a slightly lower sound than a violin. It is played in a seated position in between the knees. The name cello is actually short for violoncello which means 'small large viol' in Italian! #MusicMonday
The first sound you hear on Prince’s Piano & a Microphone 1983 is the singer’s speaking voice—a low, surprisingly sonorous deadpan. Prince employed a panoply of different vocal stylings across his officially released oeuvre, many of which are also represented here: the mellifluous croon of opener “17 Days,” the gravel-voiced pimp rap of “Cold Coffee & Cocaine,” the gospel scream of “Mary Don’t You Weep.” But he rarely used his natural speaking voice in his music.
The intimacy is most striking thing about this slim but reverently presented recording of Prince at the piano just a few months before work began on his 1984 album and film Purple Rain. Recorded live in the artist’s home studio, the 34-minute rehearsal is preserved in its entirety, interrupted only by the engineer flipping over the tape. The songs here are improvised, and seemingly not intended for public consumption.
The first half of Piano & a Microphone 1983 unfolds as a kind of stream-of-consciousness medley: Prince is barely a minute into “Purple Rain” before he drifts into the next song, a sublime but equally fragmentary cover of Joni Mitchell’s “A Case of You.” Even the album’s more fleshed-out tracks—such as “Mary Don’t You Weep,” feel less like finished pieces than fleeting glimpses into Prince’s creative process. Elsewhere, the more familiar songs are mere sketches of their studio versions: The effervescent “17 Days” is performed as a bluesy vamp, while the syrupy “International Lover” is halting and exploratory.
The album’s three previously unreleased songs are also of note, even if they’re just rough drafts. “Wednesday,” intended at one point for protégée Jill Jones to sing in Purple Rain, is pretty but oddly stilted, pitched somewhere between a Joni Mitchell homage and a showtune, with a jarring line about contemplating suicide. The closest thing here to a buried treasure is closing track “Why the Butterflies,” an anguished tone poem on the maternal themes of “When Doves Cry.” Prince’s performance of the few, half-enunciated lines is spellbinding, his fragile falsetto slowly finding the melody, almost as he were feeling his way through a darkened room.
THE CHICKEN OR THE EGG? — Student violinists at different points must choose whether to focus on bowing or the left hand (fingerings and pitch). Quite a few teachers, artists, students, and observers consider bowing to be the primary difficulty and more important than the left hand in order to get a jumpstart on artistry.
I generally disagree, and my studies hinge on that. Intonation and left hand technique are by far the most complex. At the end of the day, any passage of music can be simplified to note-by-note bowing to work on intonation and left hand speed. Bowing can easily be applied second.
With music as a gestalt, however, bowing is also a crucial component. Thus-far, my focus being on securing the left hand has kept bowing on the back burner. In the last few days, I have finally been working bowing studies into my practice program. A mirror is proving crucial, which I have setup in an ideal spot in my practice space.
My biggest goals coming in have included bowing in precisely one spot on the string and not “swimming” or relocating out of carelessness, keeping perpendicular to the string, relieving shoulder and arm tension while improving my posture form, and keeping my chosen bow hold consistent.
One of my greatest surprises and challenges has actually been introduced by Ševčík in double stopping. It is my first real work with double stopping, which proves difficult not just with the left hand (down the road), but also with the bow arm. It's extremely difficult at first to sustain two pitches at once and requires a lot of stability in the bow.
Enjoy viewing my first steps at isolating my bowing…
SCALES — There is almost no instrument that scales are considered more vital for than a stringed instrument. And with the violin being the smallest stringed instrument, with therefore the intervals being closest together, that makes it all the more crucial. With a piano, at least the keys will always visually be in the same place and with set tuning.
With the fretless nature of the violin, however, a player's abilities are often gauged by their ability to play scales. Scales are the roadmap of the location of each note on each string. In addition to multi-string scales, one-string scales are also crucial to learn the precise locations of notes on each individual string. In Carl Flesch's method, Flesch includes single-string scales FIRST. This fits my own approach to learning the violin, considering single-string playing and shifting prerequisite to string crossing.
I have included a standard three-octave, all-strings scale as a fifth video. C Major is an excellent scale to start with, because it begins in second position which is not too high to start with but outside the typical first position “default.” Enjoy! I hope you find watching my beginner experiences valuable, as I start to tackle this crucial cornerstone of violin technique… . . . Videos from Ševčík's bowing method coming soon, a new study I have been just beginning…
Today I got my bow back from the luthier with a fresh rehair! It hadn't been rehaired since I bought it online, and it didn't play near as well as their shop bows. So I left it on Friday to be redone. I also asked what rosins they see a lot of professionals use, and she immediately went for this P. Guillaume. So I got a cake of it, too. I haven't been too thrilled with my Larsen rosin, though I'm no expert on the matter, yet. But it doesn't hurt to try a recommendation.
I can't wait to get some new videos up for all of you! I've been very successfully working on several exciting things I'll be sharing soon. So Follow if you haven't yet, and stay tuned! 🔥 New videos with the new violin, new bow hair, and new rosin coming soon! 🐸☕️
I'm glad I saved sharing this progress for after the new shoulder rest arrived! Reaching the lower strings and playing left-hand pizzicato are both far easier, when the instrument is tilted closer to a 45° angle than my old shoulder rest allowed for. It sat closer to a 20-30° angle.
Enjoy! I plan on now beginning to implement the second finger in first position with new exercises!
BEHOLD: Il Cannone, by Larsen Strings
As you can hear, these strings have a great core to them, and there is such a wonderful balance from the lowest string to the highest! I no longer am faced with a dull, muffled G string sound! I am truly in love!
I will be adding the second finger, soon, in my newest exercise set I just finished. I will, however, share a few final first finger (first, third, and fifth position) exercises and my progress before moving on! I look to share some more progress videos Monday or Tuesday before putting these exercises to bed.
Oh how I long and look forward to learning the études of Schradieck, Kreutzer, Ševčík, Gaviniès, Rode, and the Paganini Caprices…apart from repertoire.
But isolating the fundamental positions first is crucial, alongside developing a growing, theoretical understanding of playing and the violin in general. I only very recently realized players keep their hands completely and totally still, when they move their fingers to play a fingering pattern. Only the fingers move, nothing else. I have also been discovering the importance of proper finger arch in accuracy and repeatability of finger placement.
But more than anything else, correctly landing in a position is extremely difficult. Until you can accurately land on the main positions with the thumb and first finger, repeatable each time, how can you even justify adding a second finger, even in first position? Once I do indeed begin and manage to add the second finger through the three main positions, I plan to fill in the second and fourth positions. Chromatics will come later, with the sixth and seventh positions to follow.
It's a truly long process, but learning something intelligently is crucial. I find myself more and more fascinated with detailed work on tuning and accuracy, and I am increasingly grateful to myself for not overcomplicating the process prematurely. The new Larsen strings and rosin are fantastic upgrades to my studies, as well! The strings are astonishingly responsive, and the rosin leaves minimal dust!
Happy Easter weekend . . .
The Internet is truly an amazing thing. Even though I live in rural Oklahoma and can currently only get decent Internet via satellite and cellular (that's supposed to be about to change), not only am I able to purchase quality violin parts such as chin rests from the East Coast, and not only am I able to order materials such as strings and rosin handmade in Europe, online media has taught me so much so quickly in learning violin.
I'm sure to some people, using a pencil on the string grooves in the bridge and nut is a no-brainer. The same is probably true for using the tube that comes on your E string to keep the string from cutting into the bridge.
But to many people, this is not conventional wisdom. People deal with broken violin strings very regularly, whereas these things supposedly eliminate breaks almost entirely. Did you also know to lift your strings (minus the E, which does not need it in using the tube) gently and slightly up off the bridge, individually, after tuning? This allows the string tension to equally distribute itself on either side of the bridge, another important factor to keep strings from breaking. I'm glad to now know these things before buying the Larsen Il Cannone strings in a month or two as I plan to do… YouTube is a marvelous thing…
This is probably my favorite exercise from this set! The G string is an extremely important string for a soloist, and my instrument in general tends to lack in power on the G string. When I buy new strings, I plan to get the Larsen Il Cannone strings. The A and D will be Medium, but the G and E will both be Soloist grade. Soloist is brighter and more powerful!
This exercise has really allowed me to spend a great deal of care improving my ear to tuning on the lowest string and develop the hand coordination necessary to reach around that far. I look forward to more exercises that continue this process!
I promise I haven't forgotten everyone! I know the point of sharing practice videos is to share your development, but there is still a certain personal standard I think we all possess in what shouldn't quite yet see the light of day!
What these exercises begin to allow me as a student to start hacking away at is what I'm finding to be the genesis of playing the violin. The first finger accompanied by the thumb is where every position starts, and first, third, and fifth are the major positions on the violin. Everything else starts to fill in the gaps from here.
Precision in position location is crucial in tuning. Technical areas such as knuckle position, rotating the hand around the fingerboard to the lower strings, sliding silently but accurately up the string, and accurately judging where a position begins when going to that position cold (without a slide) are all keys to the many locks on the door of precise tuning on the violin.
By adding fingers more slowly than in other methods, I am at much more liberty to focus daily on these keys that will make learning the violin a joy and not a frustration. It is indeed often frustrating even in my limited focus to get tuning exactly right, but it is universes easier than if I were dealing with the fine coordinations of using more fingers than I am ready for in my playing.
I may possibly make one more video very (hopefully) soon from this exercise series I've been working diligently on, but I will mostly be working toward adding a second set of exercises covering these three major positions with the first finger very soon. I am hoping for just one more set of exercises on this before adding the second finger!
One of the most difficult things with playing the violin is down-shifting, especially when you're going from a position over or close to being over the body of the violin to a position away from the body.
I've worked a lot so far on other exercises from this series, as well, but the first is by-far the most difficult. Nothing is better for getting those upper positions on lower strings more and more in-tune! Upper strings are much easier. It's the lower strings you have to really focus on the most, because they take a lot more stretching to reach them!
And yes, I'm not doing full bow strokes as written! I've decided I might as well get used to splitting them up, when I'm practicing under-tempo! 🤣🎻
Well, after about 2 weeks studying these exercises, I'm finally ready to move forward to first finger, fifth position. Developing these exercises has seen installing my new Whittner, center-mounted chin rest and later my new Dov-Music, harp-style tailpiece! I am loving both! I used my condenser mic for this, and it got a much better, acoustical sound.
It also saw me get on an OCD spell with my bow hair. I was getting a lot of benign squeaks, and my bow wasn't responding as immediately as it should have been. I had noticed some bow hairs would slacken faster than others, and others would slacked way-more-slowly. About 15 clipped hairs later, I had a clear tone. No one tells you to clip bad hairs that haven't broken yet…
Anyway… My approach in not learning the entire first position first is paying huge dividends. I am excited about the progress of my bowing, progress in my tuning accuracy, progress in changing strings with the first finger on the string being changed from without chirps, progress in thumb posture, and progress in sliding without gripping or leaving the thumb behind.
Onwards to the breach!!!!