How Covid-19 has Changed my Music Teaching for the Better. And Tips on Online Violin Learning and Teaching

Of late due to the Covid-19 Virus, a lot has changed around the world affecting the way that we work, study and interact. In order to move on with the times and not to put our lives on hold, we need to adjust and adapt to some of these changes even if it means being uncomfortable and experimental. Here is an entry from me about adapting some of my teaching styles in the past 24 years to finally transitioning to a complete non physical contact with my students.

Past Experiences

My first encounters with online learning were at law school at NUS (National University of Singapore) where I was doing my Graduate Diploma in Singapore Law. They tested out online lectures where we could be in our pajamas in the comfort of our own home taking down lectures notes. Being from a UK University, this was very new to me as we were used to taking down notes without handouts, armed with just a pen and plain piece of paper with perhaps a voice recorder. (No not those found in your mobile phones, there were none of these functions some 15 years ago). Most of our Professors used transparencies or no visual aids for our learning. In NUS, it was a bit of a culture shock where students brought in their laptops to class and lectures to take down notes with lecturers using PowerPoint presentations. The concept of open book examination and a massive stack of handouts to refer to instead of memorizing and doing your own thorough library research was also something that I needed to quickly adapt to in order to complete my short one year of learning.

That was my first experience having to adapt to technology and moving away from traditional educational medium of physical classroom interaction. When I had to leave my students in Singapore to move to Beijing, I took on the feat of teaching weekly online theory lessons to two of my existing violin students. It was through a lot of commitment from their part and mine to have completed our grade 4 & 5 theory grades (They both passed with high distinctions) within a short span of time. It entailed them scanning in their completed work, my marking the work electronically and then sending it back for them to take in the markings and corrections, On hindsight theory classes as they consist of constant paper work, is definitely a lot more work to do but not impossible as compared to practical lessons.

After I left Beijing, I continued pursuing internet online tutoring to some existing students I had, however this time, 6 years later, technology had advanced we did not have to use a separate webcam and simply did so via our mobile phones (through WeChat). Until today, I have students who would Skype me for one off lessons or regular lessons which is extremely useful if they have to move and we need to part ways.

When Social Distancing Started

This year, I had planned with my studio to conduct a “Tuning Workshop” where we would learn different methods and ways of tuning our instruments. This would have been also a compulsory event even for the very little ones as their parents would also benefit from helping them tune their instruments for them to have well tuned instruments to practice all week long.

However, on 7 February 2020 as Covid19 worsened and the DORSCON Orange was implemented. I also took measures in ensuring hygiene was up kept by social distancing (students to stand at least a 1 metre distance from my sitting area) this helped me to look at them at a better angle actually and listen to a better projection as I always felt they were too close. It helped me to look at their overall performance stance better at a further distance which I was more used to when at the Conservatory.

We had no physical contact which meant that they would have to apply their own rosins, tune their own instruments unless it was really necessary for me to do so (then of course we would ensure proper hand washing and sanitizing thereafter.) Automatically over time, the students young and old learnt how to tune their own instruments. Thankfully, we had a few weeks of doing so before we were no longer to physically meet.

Full Online Learning

1. Tuning their instruments

When we had to transition to no more physical contact, the aspect of the students’ abilities to tune their own instruments would be paramount to online learning. As without a well tuned instrument, I would be unable to conduct the class for them. But having said this, I did have a 6 year old student last week who managed to tune her violin (with pegs not fine tuners) all by herself with some instruction from me online, I was really proud of her effort and felt she had risen to a new skill to be able to distinguish tuning of her strings independently.

2. Independence to take charge of their learning

Online teaching, has taught my students independence. They would need to take down their own notes and certain fingerings where necessary – I’m the minimalist fingering sort of teacher who habitually writes minimal fingerings for the students unless it is a change in position not indicated or a very difficult part that just cannot do without jotting down the fingering in that particular few notes. This is because I believe it really does help in memorizing the piece to have a neater sheet of music put out in front of you, then one with scribbles all over. I used to simply write in what I wanted while they were playing during physical classes for efficiency, having them to put down their instruments to write something down at junctures of class time deemed too time consuming. However through this process that I am completely unable to help them, I realize that it is probably needful that they do these notes themselves as part of the learning and training process.

3. Understanding of orientation in the music

They are better aware as well of bar numbers which previously I would just ask them to start at a particular note, otherwise get up and point. This was definitely not a good habit, as only the ones exposed to orchestra would be able to draw their attention to referencing of bar numbers. These days, I cite the bar numbers first in order to bring their attention straightaway to the point that needs to be addressed. They would also be forced to understand the concept of beats as i would reference “first, second, third etc.” according to the meter time in the music.

Showing a student where to begin on the score is still possible

4. Tone

It helps that both teacher and student situates the lesson close to a WiFi router. I rely heavily on Skype for classes as I find the sound and picture quality best. I can actually hear their dynamics better online than in my usual teaching place, I find this especially so for piano and pianissimo dynamics. Perhaps , there is an echo which only in a well acoustically tuned large concert hall you would be able to hear the dynamic changes. I am also not as distracted unnecessarily as the screen automatically provides a portrait and silhouette of the student in focus where I can see their posture clearly. The broadcast over a “recording medium” also offers an audio that sounds more like what we are used to hear in a recording on a CD, DVD performance or YouTube videos. This enables me to be able to judge and give my critical comments fairly. I also find it easier to focus on their sounding points and bow distributions somehow on a screen rather than live and experiment more accurately on what is affecting their tone, be it a bow hold or bow movement problem or too much pressure etc.

I have found that if the student is standing in a smaller room, like a studio, the violin tone would be more accurately gauged rather than in a larger room where there may be some feedback or echoes which would not be as effective to listen to the true tonal production.

5. Angles

It helps if the student provides a different angle of filming at each class as I will be able to check all aspects of their posture and not leave out anything due to the “2D” nature of a video. However, it is necessary that their bow movements and their left hand movements must be visible within the frame of the video at all times and angles they choose to stand in. Make sure that they are not blocked by their music stand or that the camera is placed too high or too low.

As I also get to see them in their natural practice environment, I have found it extremely useful to check that their stands and usual practice positions and postures are correct. This would not be possible if I am not “let into” their rooms. Over the weeks I have corrected many badly angled music stands which had caused all sorts of bad posture habits. Some of the stands I learnt were not able to go any higher for example, and for these, i had to put my foot down to recommend buying a more suitable one which could be angled well and fit the height needs of the student.

Somehow in their own rooms, they also tend to be bolder in their performance and less “shocked and shy” playing in another foreign environment. Initially, there were some apprehensive stances on our first week of video online lessons, but past that, the students adapted and got very used to how it was. I also felt that as they had a video in front of them, likened to a mirror, they were able to be more self aware of their own performance and could also correct some of the problems themselves without me having to address it in the first place than in a live physical class.

Furthermore, when I had to bring their focus to a particular posture or angle I could move myself around to show them what I wanted them to see which if in a physical lesson, this would be difficult to frame what I want them to notice.

Focusing and zooming into the angle and posture I want the student to pay attention to

6. Younger Students

The absence of physical touch means you would need to be more descriptive in what you would like to convey to the students or teacher. Younger students (6 or under) are harder to teach online, as you cannot use much worded descriptions to convey a thought process as effectively than an older student. For these students, it helps greatly for a parent to be there at the online lesson with them just like in a physical class, i would encourage parents to sit in the class till the child does not prefer that or the child is 9 years of age.

The younger students fare better through imitation, hence this would mean our online lessons have enhanced their aural training and abilities. I would play something and ask them to echo instead of going through a whole of lot of descriptive words which I may do with an older student.

Lastly, remember we have fun together! Till we get to meet physically again.

Some other Tips that may be Helpful to have a Successful Online Class

  1. Always get your instrument and materials ready, books and scores (preferably in the same edition or publication as your student for quicker referencing) that you would need to refer to during the lesson; stationery like pencils, plain paper and markers should be within reach.
  2. Dress up nicely as if you are having an actual lesson. Although it is home based, it is also important to set the tone of the seriousness of the class by dressing appropriately to show the other party respect.
  3. Get battery packs or chargers ready if you are using a mobile or tablet and locate yourself close to the WiFi router for clear picture and audio quality.
  4. Try to locate yourself also in a position that you are able to look out of the window. Some days of lessons for me involve a good 10 hour long almost non stop sessions. These days looking out of the window now and then really does help with eye health.
  5. Do not be embarrassed to do some stretching exercises in front of the students. These days with technology especially during a lock-down, there is just too much screen time and not enough activity. I even try to do these stretches with my students to educate them on some ways they could prevent playing injury.
  6. Keep a student diary on what they are working on and what they should be improving during the lesson so that you can refer to this the following week and pick up from there.
  7. Make sure your instrument is in tune before the class begins to save class time.
  8. Set yourself up at a good camera angle so that you don’t have to take up the class time to adjust your position.
  1. Always get your instrument and materials ready, books and scores (preferably in the same edition or publication as your student for quicker referencing) that you would need to refer to during the lesson; stationery like pencils, plain paper and markers should be within reach.
  2. Dress up nicely as if you are having an actual lesson. Although it is home based, it is also important to set the tone of the seriousness of the class by dressing appropriately to show the other party respect.
  3. Get battery packs or chargers ready if you are using a mobile or tablet and locate yourself close to the WiFi router for clear picture and audio quality.
  4. Try to locate yourself also in a position that you are able to look out of the window. Some days of lessons for me involve a good 10 hour long almost non stop sessions. These days looking out of the window now and then really does help with eye health.
  5. Do not be embarrassed to do some stretching exercises in front of the students. These days with technology especially during a lock-down, there is just too much screen time and not enough activity. I even try to do these stretches with my students to educate them on some ways they could prevent playing injury.
  6. Keep a student diary on what they are working on and what they should be improving during the lesson so that you can refer to this the following week and pick up from there.
  7. Make sure your instrument is in tune before the class begins to save class time.
  8. Set yourself up at a good camera angle so that you don’t have to take up the class time to adjust your position.
1. Stationery and writing equipment
Photo by Frans Van Heerden on Pexels.com
4. By a Window
Photo by Taryn Elliott on Pexels.com
6. My Teaching Diary

Stay inspired and be THE Inspiration

The Covid19 Pandemic is by all ways an unfortunate event which has cost people’s lives, opportunities and economic value. I am thankful for technology which probably would not have been even as available about 10 years ago when I started online teaching (but not in such a prevalent manner.). The support technology has for online music classes are more than sufficient for something different.

Get inspiration from others online. There are many artistes and fellow violinists sharing material and their performances online. Here is a list of some musicians that I follow on instagram (they are not in an order of any preference):

1. Augustin Hadelich – A violinist who has a series of advice on violin technique and more on his “Ask Augustin” segment. He also shares his home concerts of himself on both the violin and piano. Recently, he also shared an interesting joint concert of 14 musicians playing Bach’s Chaconne initiated by Julia Fischer.

2. Itzhak Perlman – A 16-time Grammy Award-winning Israeli-American violinist, conductor and pedagogue who teaches at Juilliard School. He tells interesting stories and accounts and would play a short segment of music at the end.

3.Nicola Benedetti – A violinist who initiates interactive chats with other musicians.

4. virtuoso_violinist – A violinist who demonstrates practical tips from the Dounis Method.

5. Maxim Vengerov – A superstar violinist, violist and conductor who shares his performances with his children and friends. Very privileged to be able to have him share these with us as his concerts are often sold out quickly.

5. Anna Savkina – A violinist who shares tips on practice and how to troubleshoot difficult passages.

6. Nancy Zhou – A violinist who shares her practice and also references to what she has learnt.

7. Nikki Naghavi – A violinist who shares some tips on practise and her own practise from time to time.

8. Kimberlee Dray aka “Greencasegirl” – A violinist who is an enthusiast of the violin who shares topics centered around the violin.

9. Ray Chen – A very popular and entertaining Violinist who engages others to join his live streams centered around the violin and his interests.

10. Stefan Jackiw – A violinist who shares his practice performances with us.

11. The Violin Channel has been featuring artistes recitals on demand recorded from their living rooms.

12. Yoyoma – A famous cellist who is famed for also being an great humanitarian. He shares his playing with us in a series #songs of comfort.

This list is definitely by no means exhaustive. There are many wonderful musicians out there sharing their practices, thoughts and advice on a regular basis. You too can share something to inspire someone during this difficult stay home time be it within your family, your own group of friends or community, especially dedicate something to the front line workers for encouragement could be a great idea as a musical project. It does not have to be on the World Wide Web. But it is a good chance to use your music capability to touch someone or send an uplifting message that would brighten their day.

Moving Forward

In some institutions such as the Central Conservatory of Music In Beijing, they had already started with online exams using an app about 2 years ago. The ABRSM (Associated Board of the Royal School of Music also indicated last month that this may be in the works to keep our examinations going as there is a temporary suspension at the moment due to Covid-19.

Keeping up with the times is important, it would be wise to be practiced and comfortable playing in front of a camera and not just leave these experiences to the last moments of taking an exam. Submitting a video of yourself for a music competition is also these days a trend rather than an option as it was before, where the candidates had to be physically present for auditions (which escalates costs for going for such competitions having to pay additionally for hotel and air tickets). I am glad that we have a chance to explore these experiences for every student not just for the selected few who do competitions or have the guts to be on a video recording, but every student will be getting the same valuable experience in the coming concert that I am planning “Our Perfect Number”.

Further to this, we have definitely learnt to raise our own hygiene standards to also prevent the spread of other bacteria or viruses which would be beneficial for health in the long run!

Thanks for reading 🙂

Remembering a great teacher and mentor, Luo Cheng

In our recent recital, Pianist Lynne Huang dedicates the song by John William’s debuted by the great Itzhak Perlman, “Theme from Schindler’s List”. I had the privilege of being able to play with her to express our gratitude of thankfulness for such a wonderful human being who not only taught us about music but how to be joyful and love those around us with every opportunity we get.

FAQs

Covid 19 updated policies (as of 7 Feb 2020):

1. Due to the DORSCON level at orange in Singapore. For hygiene reasons customers are not able to view the violins at our gallery before purchase but we are happy to send you the actual photos of your violin before collection. The gallery studio will be strictly reserved for entry for our own students.

2. Only collection or by professional courier service (for this period there is FOC professional courier service for all regular priced instruments). No trying or testing of instruments are allowed due to hygiene reasons.

3. Refunds and exchanges at this time is not possible due to hygiene reasons. Please measure yourselves carefully and read this article written by Vivienne Eio to deduce your correct violin size. (In doubt buy a size larger if your child doesn’t fit you may purchase the smaller size and you can keep the next size for future use, usually kids outgrow within 1-2 years of each size. All adults 150cm and above use 4/4 size)

4. Repairs and replacement of parts and free servicing are still available to our own customers (with proof of direct purchase) however we would try to take measures to limit the necessity of them by helping to troubleshoot the problem via a series of consultations with us on your problem before advising you to send your instruments in.

1. How do Belcanto Violins compare with other brands?

We are a premium violin studio taught by Vivienne Eio with prize winning students and perform regularly in Singapore and around the world. Belcanto Violins are our choice instruments to use as they are affordable yet very well made and have good projections for use from beginner stages to professional levels. Even best selling BV1001 Model which comes in 1/16 to 4/4 size, is substantially handmade with stiff, low density specially sourced wood which gives it our signature crisp tone and light weight body to endure the hours of practice.

2. Where are our Violins made?

Unlike other brands, our Violins are made in one single workshop in Beijing. This is to ensure quality and a flow from one model to another (BV1001-BV8001 and our professional series). This is from a collaboration with the founder of Belcanto Violins Vivienne Eio and her friend from an American Violin making school to come up with violin models that work for musicians. Such as lightweight instruments, substantial handmade quality, responsible wood sourcing. Just to name a few considerations and thought into making the instruments the best that they can be.

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3. Why do we have special promotions?

As our company is largely an online retail business, we are able to provide promotions to the customers. We also do not provide special commissions to teachers at the moment which helps to enable the sale of the Violins genuinely to customers who come back to buy from us repeatedly due to the quality and value of our instruments and not due to other reasons.

4. How many years have we been in this business?

We have been globally supplying our instruments to other countries with large markets such as China, Japan, Europe and USA since 2012. However due our founder Vivienne Eio being now based in Singapore, she has a large customer base and students here that require the business to be in Singapore as well now. And thus she being here the choice instruments would come to Singapore.

5. Can I come and try and purchase the instruments?

Yes you May, with an Appointment. Use this form or Mail to belcantoviolins@outlook.com or contact/WhatsApp +6586942694.

6. Are there servicing, refunds, exchanges or warranties?

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No refunds are allowed. We unfortunately do not give warranties to our instruments due to the acoustic nature that it either works or does not. Be rest assured that we check every violin take photos and send them to you before each dispatch to give you the added quality assurance.

We do allow exchanges for example if your size was incorrectly purchased, but only for a violin to the same or higher model and Belcanto Violins remains at discretion on a case by case basis if such an exchange can be made. Otherwise as a general rule, no exchanges can be made. In all exchange scenarios, you would need to make an appointment to come down and do so personally with the instrument. The instrument must be in new condition as it was shipped to you for the exchange.

There is a 6 month warranty for Belcanto E-Series Violins for 6 months against mechanical failure but not against any accidental damage or wear and tear or any damage due to negligence.

If you have the original receipt and can proof your Customer ID, all servicing is done for free. For minor repairs or part replacements due to wear and tear or damage, we will charge for only these parts, no service fee. For serious repairs we would need to refer you directly to shops that we work closely with a full professional service workshop, the service and costs will be borne solely by the customer. You can contact us to check for the repairs that you need to be done and we could assist you from there.

7. Do we offer trade ins?

At Belcanto Violins we do not have any trade in policy as we only sell freshly made violins from our workshop. A trade in system will also mean that we will need to buy back the instrument at a lower cost from our customers.

If you have bought a Belcanto Violin and wish to resell it, we will encourage you to price it for at least the same cost that you acquired it for as our violins are priced at an internationally fair price reflective of the quality and value of the instrument truly (without markups). If a seasoned instrument is sold it should not be devalued provided that the instrument has been kept well and in a same playable state that was sold to you by us. Strings, Bows and cases can be replaced or rehaired. Please contact our customer service to enquire.

Tip: To keep the fingerboard height correct in a humid environment, throw some desiccants in the violin case. If the fingerboard height “collapses” due to humidity and neglect you may want to have that realigned by a professional luthier before selling off the instrument. The cost for this correction is usually about $150-250SGD. It is best to have a professional luthier to look at your instrument before selling it to make sure the next owner does not have to pay for unnecessary cost.

Best wishes Team Belcanto

Guest Blog Article: Music Therapy and How It Can Help Your Child with ADHD

Last year, we had Life Coach Julie Morris share about “Learning New Hobbies at any stage of your life”.  Click here for that article.   Today, she shares with us the benefits of music in relation to ADHD.photo-1481207801830-97f0f9a1337e

By Life Coach Julie Morris

website: http://juliemorris.org/

Music Therapy and How It Can Help Your Child with ADHD

Parents of children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) are always looking for new ways to help their child, and their efforts are often met with frustration and dead ends. Many parents are wary of relying too heavily on medication, and thus want to find natural, safe, holistic methods to help their children focus and succeed. While there is no blanket solution for ADHD, there is growing evidence that music therapy can be of great benefit.

Anyone can participate in music therapy

According to the American Music Therapy Association, music therapy is a practice in which “music is used within a therapeutic relationship to address physical, emotional, cognitive, and social needs of individuals.” One does not have to be a skilled musician to benefit from music therapy, and it can encompass listening to, performing, or even composing music.

Music Therapy and ADHD

Why is music therapy increasingly being used as a treatment strategy for children with ADHD? One theory is that it may have to do with the structure music provides, which enhances one’s executive functioning. ADHD is, in essence, an inability to focus and lack of structure. Music is all about structure, cohesiveness, and the ability for many parts to work together as a whole. The subtle introduction of music into the activities of kids with ADHD can help to improve multitasking.
Psychology Today has another thought on why music therapy is so helpful to those with ADHD, and it’s backed up by a lot of science. ADHD is characterized by a lack of dopamine in the brain. Stimulants are often prescribed to those with ADHD, because they spike dopamine levels. Dopamine is crucial to the brain’s ability to work on a synapse level. You may see where this is going … music is proven to cause the release of dopamine in the brain. Thus, it’s a natural way to achieve similar results to prescription medication.

How you can practice music therapy at home

Regardless of you musical knowledge, start experimenting with using music to help your child focus and calm down. There is no perfect music therapy method. Every child is different. You should try a combination of listening to music, singing, and even composition or writing lyrics. See what works for your child. The jury is still out on the best type of music for ADHD music therapy, as it kind of depends on what you’re trying to accomplish. Experiment with your child and see what promotes the desired effect. A good place to start is with some wordless, rhythm-heavy pieces. Try these classical masterpieces.

Using music in conjunction with a calm, organized home environment

Unfortunately, you can’t solve everything with music (as nice as that would be). Music needs to be used as therapy in a therapeutic environment. You must create a safe, calm, and organized home environment before you begin to experiment with music therapy.

“Children with ADHD often function better when their environments are conducive to learning. Maintaining a neat, orderly home, implementing routines and systems, and teaching your child the skills she needs to stay organized and on-task will help her cope more readily with the demands she faces at school and at home on a day-to-day basis,” according to HomeAdvisor.

Every child is different. ADHD can affect a child’s behavior in different ways at different times of the day, and it can vary from week-to-week or month-to-month. Music has a proven track record of helping people with ADHD focus, remain cognitively engaged, and improve their self-esteem and social skills. You can surely consult a licensed music therapist — and that may be your best option — but music is music no matter where and how it’s consumed. You can begin to experiment with music therapy to help your child today, at home

 

Photo by Alphacolor 13 on Unsplash

Secret Tips for Playing the Violin with Piano Accompaniment: By Austin Consordini

At the moment, I am currently working on a project with a very talented pianist Miss Gillian Hu.   In our collaborative efforts of interpreting the Brahms Sonatas for Violin and Piano, we have been practicing regularly together.  It is unmistakably important to have chemistry with whom you choose to play with and I am privileged to share an alike passion with her to deliver our best performances each time.  This journey has been so rewarding thus far: sharing ideas together,  striking just the correct balance to achieve what we feel Brahms would have wanted, and just making music together for a change from playing a completely solo unaccompanied piece.

On this note, as unaccompanied pieces are rare on the violin (aside from the more frequently played unaccompanied pieces like the Bach Sonatas and Partitas for Solo Violin and Ysaye’s Sonatas for Violin Solo), I am very happy to host Guest Blogger Austin from Consordini Musical Instruments to give us some important insightful information and tips to play with an Accompanist.  This will be a very helpful read for anyone who has an examination (as most examinations require an accompanist), or anyone participating in a competition or for any reason or event to have to present your piece.  These will be good pointers for sure.

 

Secret Tips for Playing the Violin with Piano Accompaniment

Written By Guest Blogger: Austin Consordini

Web: https://Consordini.com
Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/c/ConsordiniMusicalinstruments

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Playing the violin is fun, but it’s even better and exciting when you are playing with other musicians or when you are accompanied by a pianist.
It might be difficult especially if you are a beginner because it requires specific skills and techniques to play as one.

If you want to play the violin with a piano accompaniment, it’s always helpful to know some tips and tricks such as the following:

Set the Tempo

Playing in tempo with an accompaniment requires your brain to focus on the music. You can try to practice by playing with a metronome alone so that you can master the timing. Then, you can record yourself and listen after.
In short, learn your part ahead of time. It might be boring but lots of practice time can help you get your part and your partner’s part perfectly synced.
Once you are sure that you can play the music in the right tempo, you can practice together.
It might be confusing at first to read sheet music with two parts (yours and your accompaniment), but it is recommended that you play along as a duet.

Counting is Key

This can be the same as setting the tempo. But it is better to dedicate a separate pointer because counting is the key to playing with accompaniment. Some opt to use a metronome, but you may count off quietly as you wish.
You can start both in slow tempo until you are both ready to gradually speed up.
Remember, it is vital that you both count in harmony and play together than just follow the written tempo on the music sheet.

Study the Pieces Individually and Together

One of the major pitfalls of playing the violin with a piano accompanist is that both musicians do not understand the music thoroughly.
The key to playing well together is to study the piece individually and get together to discuss things like character, style, and features of the piece that you both want to bring out.
You should also discuss who should play what part or when to enter and not, as well as if there are ‘echo’ phrases you want to show.
Talk about how you would like to deal with any tempo changes and cues that both of you should listen to. It will require a couple of practice sessions, but it could be worth the effort.

Practice! Practice! Practice!

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Practice is an essential tool to maximize the impact of training. After all, the only way to master a skill is to practice. It is the only way to get better and is the building block of expanding, developing, and maintaining skills in violin playing.

Stay Focused

The hardest part of playing with accompaniment is getting used to another person playing a different part.
Practice and train your ear to adjust. If you can’t, it might be useful to ignore his/her part and focus on counting with a metronome.
Just be sure to play the same tempo as your partner. Focus one line at a time before going on to the next. Play the song line per line together.

Trade Melodies

When playing with a piano accompanist, it is often useful to let the accompanist play the melody once in a while. The alternating melodic material between the piano and the violin creates musical variety and texture.

End Together

There’s nothing worse than having a fantastic performance and then falling apart at the end because you and your accompanist never decided on an ending!
How the piece ends is just as important as how you commenced. If you want to get creative, you can arrange your own ending or have your partner finish with a chord accompaniment pattern.

Play Musically

Playing in a duet is an artistic endeavor, so no matter what the piece is, try to play musically. It might sound weird, but not all musician plays and performs artistically.
Music is not just about following and doing what the notes say; it is about expressing and making music touch everyone’s lives.

3 Main Points of Utmost Priority
in Playing with a Piano Accompaniment

Of all the tips listed above, with regards to playing the violin with piano accompaniment, three main points should be of utmost priority – time, tone, and tune. All of these three are to be regarded.

Time

Playing in perfect timing seems to be the most challenging skill to harness when playing the violin with piano accompaniment. It is of course, very challenging for the accompanist if the violinist keeps awful timing.
But it must be remembered that the violinist must be the leader, just as a singer should lead when singing with piano accompaniment. If the violinist makes a mistake, the pianist should help and try to cover it.
Playing with accompaniment is a complicated matter, and it is not sufficient to be just a good musician. To facilitate correct timing, some of the tips mentioned above should be done such as practicing individually and as a group, setting a congruent tempo, and continuous practice.

Tone

In playing with piano accompaniment, there should be congruity between the tone of the violin and the piano or any instrument used as accompaniment. Pianos may vary considerably in terms of tone, so much so that a connoisseur can tell the piano maker’s name by just listening to the instrument.

The tone of a cheap “beginner” violin may not be as accurate as other expensive and handcrafted violins like Stradivari, Guarneri, or Amati. Indeed, one violin may differ from one violin to another.

However, co-existence in sounds and tones can be practiced. The key is to keep practicing together until both of your tones match and blend well together.

Tune

With regards to tune, there exists a difference between the violin and the piano. A piano’s tune is absolute, relative, and depends on the piano tuner. While on the other hand, the violin’s tune depends on the violinist.
To be able to sound good together, the secret is to keep the piano perfectly tuned, and the violin played in perfect tune.

Bringing Performance out of the Recital Halls

Recently, I had the privilege of interviewing for my upcoming book, violist Dr Michael Hall who is an active soloist and currently teaches at Vandercook College of Music.

Dr Hall giving one of my students Haley a fun filled masterclass at the recent 7th Performer’s Festival and Chamber Music Competition

His life story is both unique and captivating with a motto to “Make indispensable yourself as a musician to your community at large”.

This led to my inspiration for my students to do something out of the ordinary not just to enjoy their performance in a confined concert setting, but to find others in the community out there to share this love for performance and music with.

Typically in a year, my students go through two mandatory annual concerts in a formal recital hall where we would film their performance and I would give them constructive reviews to improve (for some students who enter competitions have more opportunities for this to happen throughout the year), so this rare chance to play at the PassionArts Festival in Ulu Pandan was a good opportunity to put that motto into action.

We had only 3 weeks from start of getting the songs printed and learnt to the performance date due to the National Day festivities.   This was also the first time the kids got to play together as a team.  The outcome was that they worked hard (they had to do this on top of their usual violin practise and curriculum) and thoroughly enjoyed themselves so much…and we will indeed do this again! The residents of the community were so happy as some of them had never heard a violin played live, some of them even shared photographs and videos with us that they took of our performance.  It did bring us closer together and smiles all around 🙂

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We also got a chance to play for and meet Member of Parliament Chris DeSouza who so graciously took time off his rounds to talk to us.

We will definitely be doing more informal stage performances perhaps this time amongst the adult students (Stay tuned!) who are most susceptible to stage frights in our usual concerts, so hopefully these more informal settings and group playing will help them greatly to overcome these fears and become more used to being on a performance platform.

Thank you Dr Michael Hall for your wonderful advice to adding color to the lives around you! Best Wishes! From Belcanto Violins

Watch their full live performance here.

Guest Blogger Julie Morris on Learning New Hobbies at any stage of your life

Earlier this year, something terrible happened to me that I nearly lost my life.  I haven’t been writing because there have been adjustments that I’ve had to make due to the trauma and had to recover to get my health back.  I am still in this process of recovery and although I can now see the light at the end of the tunnel, there is no inspiration to write short articles for now.

This is why I am absolutely very much delighted to have a special Guest Blogger Julie Morris who is a life and career coach to write something on my blog to keep this blog of mine going for now (Incidentally we are both each writing our very first book!)

This article is written with much experience of her own, taking up the guitar at this stage of her life.  She hopes definitely to inspire more to thrive on a new found hobby! So do enjoy her sharing.  Thanks for reading as always 🙂

How To Learn Fun, New Skills At Any Age by Guest Blogger Julie Morris

 

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Photo credit by Pexels

One of the benefits of living in the digital age is having easy access to online programs that can teach you a fun new skill, no matter where are you in life. You may even be able to learn a skill that gives you a professional boost or allows you to indulge in a creative hobby.

The Benefits Of A New Hobby

Most people don’t realize that a hobby can be good for you. Here are some of the ways that different groups of people benefit from learning a new hobby:

  • If You Suffer From Stress
    Don’t take my word for it? Science proves it’s true! Current research shows that these seven hobbies from Simple Most can alleviate stress.
  • Seniors In Addiction Recovery
    Hobbies can provide therapeutic relief for those dealing with alcohol and/or drug addiction, particularly when used as a creative outlet. Additionally, they can help eliminate boredom, which can often lead to relapse. Learn more about how hobbies can benefit seniors at Fitness Essentials.
  • Those Who Feel They Lack Purpose
    Hobbies can provide a creative outlet and build your skill set, allowing you to set out on a new career or enterprise. Read more ways they can give you purpose at News Cult.
  • People Who Want To Be Healthier
    Research shows that hobbies may lower your risk of depression and dementia. Many people also claim they help with reducing both blood pressure and stress.
  • People Who Need Socialization
    Today, many people struggle to get offline and interact with others. You can learn a hobby online and then use that skill to improve your social skills. Here are five hobbies that can help you socialize from com.

Skills You Can Learn Online

Now that we see these benefits, here are some skills that you can learn online.

  • Dancing
    One of the best benefits of dancing is that you can do it in the privacy of your own home (provided you have the space) or in a classroom setting, which can help you socialize. It’s also a great way to get in shape and learn about your own body’s abilities and limits in a healthy way.
  • Learning A Musical Instrument
    There are so many mental and emotional health benefits to learning a musical instrument that it’s hard to list them all. Some include improved memory, better reading skills, boosting creativity and staying Discover how learning an instrument after age 50 can benefit you at Sixty And Me.
  • Learning To Cook
    This is a skill everyone can use or improve. Whether you are setting out to learn the basics, want to learn a style of cooking such as gourmet, or are seeking to create old favorites in healthier ways, there are lots of videos that can help guide you. Simply prop up your phone in your kitchen, and you’re ready to go. The next thing you know, you’ll be hosting parties to share with your friends. Check out these seven recommended cooking sites for beginners from Make Use Of.
  • Photography
    All you need is a smartphone and you can learn photography! Of course, if you have a traditional camera or are in the market for a DSLR, there are many more courses you can take. Photography is not just fun, it’s also a marketable skill. Once you have some skills in place, you can make money by selling photos to stock houses or work with brands to share photos. Learn the basics of photography at ExpertPhotography.com.

Hobbies can help improve our physical and mental health, help us to socialize, and even teach us useful and marketable skills. There’s no downside. What hobbies will you choose today?

Overcoming Stage Fright

At our recent Concert Finale 2017, a student of mine came up to me and said that she would not perform again (this is her second performance on the violin) and may quit her violin if part of our music course were to entail her performance again in our next bi-annual concert in 2018. I told her of course I would rather she continues with her lessons than to quit the violin completely, which would be a waste. I am glad that she is following my recommendation and not giving up with lessons altogether, and may enter the stage if she ever feels ready again.

Playing any instrument’s main goal of instruction is to eventually perform. Just like training a basketball player to shoot hoops everyday, which would result to participating in a game of (competitive) basketball at some stage. So if taking up an instrument like the violin, I have in mind that the eventual result of that besides for personal enjoyment would be to perform one day. After 20 years of teaching and performing, I am not immune to nerves, in fact I am still looking for an antidote for decompression after a concert. But I have come up with the following things that may help with stage fright:

1. Be prepared. – this means that you should do the adequate practice for the pieces for performance.

2. Practice in every way possible. – whether it means listening to many versions of recordings or videos of the same song and also a visualization of the score in your head while humming the tune outside of the practice room.

3. Visualize yourself performing. – this includes seeing yourself on the stage performing the piece, visualizing every note and position change with your fingers. ( I always find myself memorizing the steps of my fingers on the fingerboard of the violin like a ballerina finding her steps on stage)

4. Have adequate everyday technical practice. – at every practice and lesson, I make sure that my students show me a very slow bow on whether a note or an open string, this greatly helps with grasping a good bow control so as to avoid “shaky bow” syndrome. Being technically apt on the violin also ensures that you are confident in playing your instrument. If you have a really bad case of nerves on stage, never choose a piece for performance out of your technical ability. You should ideally find a piece of music that you are comfortable to perform which corresponds with your technical ability at whatever learning stage you are at. It will also help to like the piece that you are performing if you have to overcome stage fright.

5. Go to the venue. – do not be late for rehearsals and if there is a chance to rent the venue at an affordable rate, you should by all means do at least one or more rehearsals on site, this will help you to visualize and have a feel of the atmosphere so that you are not caught off guard completely during a performance. Of course with a full house at the venue, the atmosphere and even acoustics may be different, but at least you have sized up the room and you can also practice the vision of yourself on stage playing the piece many times before the actual performance.

6. Be your worst critique during practice but your biggest fan on stage.- this holds true, I purposely record a lot of my practice and try not to allow the slightest mistake to slip during practice as if I can hear it, chances are somebody else will too. But on stage, before any performance, I psyche myself that I can do it and that I have already been so prepared and will give the best performance there even if there was only one person really listening out there. I also like the suggestions in the recent strings magazine article especially on visualizing how the first notes will sound like and even feel like for five seconds before going onto stage.

7. Be focused on the emotion of making music.- it is that passion of music that leads us to making music for others to enjoy it with us. So therefore, instead of being focused on the emotion to be nervous during the performance, it will be better to really get deep into the emotion of the music and bringing that energy into communicating the emotion and passion of the music to the audience. It would be a waste to be caught up with nerves and lose that opportunity to. I really personally find getting into the focus of the music very helpful to survive during a performance on stage.

8. Be practiced and perform as much as possible.- I am sure that for the first time a surgeon does a surgery, would be very nervous no matter how trained or well researched he is. However, over time doing the same surgery even with different patients, the entire affair would turn out to be more of a routine. He would also better his reaction and ability to deal with situations arising during the surgery. A well seasoned performer will also be able to tell you that the more practice being on stage and the more frequently that you go on stage, chances are with some few exceptions, most of us would also be able to become accustomed to the feeling of going onto stage, and that yucky feeling of nervousness would transform only to the exhilaration and excitement of wanting to transmit what you have prepared to the audience for the day. Also, do not underestimate small menial performance opportunities such as performing for friends at your own home. I never forgot a good piece of advice from my Professor’s wife who was my accompanist for my entire duration while understudying him, she told me to grow a really thick skin (which she already has) and just not be afraid of making mistakes. Some days, performances will not turn out the way you want them to be but at least you tried and you will do it again.

9. Professing you love to perform.- I am naturally shy as an individual and feel that if I were to say this might be telling a lie, but part of my job as a musician is to perform; rather than always saying I do not like to perform because I am scared on stage, I’d rather focus on how I like to perform because having a gift for music really does bring happiness to others when you share it.

I do certainly hope that some of these advice would help. If you have anymore suggestions, I would really love to hear them and do feel free to comment or let me know them. Thanks for reading!

Invited to Careers Education Day at Singapore Chinese Girls’ School

This was my first ever time speaking about my Career officially at any event so I was not sure what to expect.  We had a couple of speakers for the different art groups, for music it was just my fellow Alumni Lin Si Tong (Instagram linsitong, is a Chinese lyricist and Music Producer for Dramas and other Mandarin Songs) and I.  This was great as she covered the students who aspired to go contemporary and I addressed the students who were interested in sticking with Classical.  Though both of our Careers do overlap somewhat as we still need to practice a lot and be good with our pitch; and we both love to teach!

It was nice to be back in my old school after leaving for so long and meeting most of the teachers who still almost looked the same (to me). Talking to the students and meeting others from the art industry made me realize that it is really not out of necessity that we do what we do every day but for the passion and love for our art that we wake up an try our best with our careers even though what we do sometimes seem more obscure than a more conventional job.

It is truly a blessing to have a talent to share with others, so those of you reading this who is good with any form of musical or artistic talent, do try your best to nurture it. Your creativity is unique and original and even if it seems insignificant, there will be an eager someone who will be truly inspired by your art! Thank you SCGS for giving me the opportunity to share and realize this ❤️

How to Encounter Phrases of Music with Sudden Dynamic Changes

The article in the link below by cello Professor Miranda Wilson, gives useful practice tips on how to carry out the sudden dynamic changes found in Beethoven’s compositions.

Other than Beethoven, Bach’s compositions also have sudden dynamic changes in parts that echo from forte to sudden piano with no diminuendo or crescendo.

I often practice these sudden changes by stopping after the end of the dynamic, just before the sudden comparably soft or loud dynamic change.

For example, complete the forte portion completely without any hint of diminuendo, give a slight halt to prepare for the next piano section. This is an additional way to this author’s idea of practising out a sudden drop or increment of dynamics. You can do the same with a piano portion, practice without a hint of crescendo, stop before the forte section then prepare and continue with the forte.

After a certain while of practicing in this fashion, you will be able to execute your the sudden dynamic changes more effectively for the listener and your ear and muscles get used to not committing any unnecessary diminuendo or crescendo which is not intended by the composer, the sections will be kept distinctly and the character of the piece will be executed well. Do try this method of practice and let me know if it works for you too! This method is not confined to violinists but all sorts of other instrumentalist should try it too.

Here is more from the original article from Strings magazine that inspired this blog post.