April 23rd, 2010


A: A is the note of the musical scale generally used for tuning.

A capriccio: in a fanciful, capricious manner

A niente: to the end

A piacere: at the performer’s discretion, at pleasure

A tempo: resuming the preceding tempo after a slowing or speeding up

Accelerando: ‘becoming faster’… indication that the music should be played at an increasing speed.

Accent: the emphasis on a beat resulting in that beat being louder or longer than another in a measure.

Accidental: a sign – a sharp, flat or natural – indicating the raising or lowering of a note.

Accompaniment: an accompaniment is an additional part for a performer of any kind that is less important than another, which it serves to support and enhance.

Ad libitum: freely; like a cadenza, abbreviated ad lib.

Adagio: ‘quite slow’… is sometimes used to describe a slow movement, even when the indication of speed at the start of the movement may be different. Quite slow. The diminutive form adagietto is a little faster than adagio.

Affetuosamente: tenderly, with feeling and emotion

Affrettando: hurrying, pressing forward

Agitato: restless, hurried, agitated

Al fine: to the end

Al segno: return to the sign

Alla: ‘in the manner of’… may be found in titles like that of Mozart’s ‘Rondo alla turca’, Rondo in the Turkish Style.

Alla breve: 2/2 or 4/2 meter.

Alla marcia: in march style

Allargando: slowing down, usually accompanied by crescendo

Allegramente: Brightly, merrily, happily, cheerily

Allegretto: the diminished form of the tempo marking allegro. Generally indicates a meter should be played a ‘little less fast’. Pieces scored allegretto are also generally lighter in attitude than pieces scored allegro. When categorized in lists of tempos allegretto is found between allegro and andantino.

Allegro: ‘lively, fast, merry, cheerful’… is generally taken as fast, although not as fast as vivace or presto. Allegretto is a diminutive, meaning slightly slower than allegro. These indications of speed or tempo are used as general titles for pieces of music headed by instructions of this kind. The first movement of a classical sonata, for example, is often ‘an Allegro’, just as the slow movement is often ‘an Adagio’.

Allegro guisto: quick, with exactness

Allegro moderato: moderately quick

Amabile: sweet, lovable

Amore, Amoroso: lovingly, tenderly, fondly

Andante: ‘walking’… at a walking pace,  moderately slow.

Andantino: less than andante; correctly means slower than andante, but often used to mean a little faster than andante.

Animando, animato, anime: getting livelier; animated, spirited, lively

Antico: ancient

Aperto: broad, majestic

Appassionato: passionately, with intense feeling

Aria: a solo vocal piece with instrumental accompaniment, as in an opera; An air; a melody.

Arco: ‘bow’… used as an indication to string-players that they should use the bow, rather than pluck with the fingers (see pizzicato).

Arpeggio: broken chord in which the individual tones are sounded one after another instead of simultaneously.

Articulation: the degree to which notes are connected, such as staccato or legato.

Aspro: rough, harsh

Assai: qualifier meaning ‘very’… appears often in indications to performers of the speed of a piece of music, as in allegro assai, very fast.

Attaca: ‘attack’, proceed without a pause between movements.

Atonal: atonal music is music that has no specific tonality, is not in a specific key and therefore has no specific ‘home’ note or chord. The word atonality refers technically to various forms of 20th century music not in a key.

Augmentation: statement of a melody in longer value notes, often twice as slow as the original.

Au talon: bow at the frog

Avec: qualifier meaning ‘with’

Avvivando: becoming livelier

Badinerie: ‘teasing’… indicates a piece of music of light-hearted character.

Bar: the vertical line through the staff to mark metrical units or bars (measures). The double bar or double bar-line marks the end of a section or piece.

Bariolage: the undulating up and down motion of the bow between two strings.

Baroque: used in music to designate a period of musical history from about 1600 to about 1750. Composers of this era include Bach, Handel and Vivaldi.

Bass bar: a specially carved and fitted piece of wood attached to the back of the top of the instrument. Its purpose is to support the ‘down’ pressure of the strings on top of the violin and spread the sound vibrations.

Beat: regular pulsation; a basic unit of length in musical time. The beat or pulse in a piece of music is the regular rhythmic pattern of the music. Each bar should start with a strong beat and each bar should end with a weak beat. These may be known as the down-beat (strong, at the beginning of a bar) and the up-beat (weak, at the end of a bar).

Ben: used as a qualifier meaning ‘well’. E.g. Ben marcato meaning ‘well-marked’.

Ben marcato: well-marked, sustained, or well-accented

Bewegt: moving, agitated

Binary form: the term for describing a composition of two sections. AB, each of which may be reported.

Bowing distribution: the correct distribution of the bow throughout a passage which maintains a uniform evenness of sound, and no distorted or loud notes which stand out and ruin or disturb the fluidity of the music.

Bravoure: bravura, bold, virtuosic

Bridge: transitional passage connecting two sections of a composition, (also transition). Also the decorative, carved piece of wood placed on top of the belly of the violin and adjacent to the f-holes. Holds strings in place, up and away from the body. The way it is fitted on the instrument has a major effect on the transmission of vibrations.

Brillante: brilliant, showy, sparkling

Brio, brioso: ‘vivacity, fire or energy’, vigorously… appears as an instruction to performers as, for example, in allegro con brio, fast with brilliance and fire.

Burlesco: comical, jesting

Cadence: a resting place in a musical phrase; a cadence usually consists of two chords that provide musical punctuation at the end of phrases or sentences.

Cadenza: virtuosic solo passage in the manner of an improvisation, performed near the end of a movement or a concerto. A cadenza, based often on an extended and embellished final cadence, at least in classical concertos, is a passage originally improvised by a performer in which virtuoso ability might be shown. Cadenzas are now more often written by the composer, although some modern performers continue to improvise. In classical concertos the cadenza often leads to the last section of a movement.

Calamando: becoming calm and quiet

Calmato, Calamato: calmly, quietly, tranquilly

Calando: dying away, gradually becoming softer and slower

Calore: warmth

Canon: type of polyphonic composition in which one musical line strictly imitates another at a fixed distance throughout. A canon in music is a device in counterpoint in which a melody announced by one voice or instrument is imitated by one or more other voices or instruments, entering after the first has started, in the manner of a round. The word canon may describe the device as it occurs in a piece of music or a complete composition in this form, like Pachelbel’s well known Canon.

Cantabile: singing quality, melodious

Cantando: singing, smooth, flowing

Cappricio: a light-hearted, improvisational, usually quick instrumental or orchestral piece.

Capriccioso: capricious, fanciful, fantastic

Cédez: French for poco ritardando; a slight holding back

Cesura: indicates a complete break in sound. Often called ‘railroad tracks’.

Chamber Music: ensemble music for up to about ten players, with one player to a part. Chamber music is music for a small ensemble of instruments, intended for performance in a room or chamber, as opposed to a church or larger building.

Chamber Orchestra: a chamber orchestra has come to indicate an orchestra smaller in size than the usual symphony orchestra.

Chanterelle: note or passage on the E string.

Chord: simultaneous combination of three or more tones that constitute a single block of harmony.

Chromatic Notes: chromatic notes are those that do not belong to the key in which the piece is written. If an ascending scale is taken from the note C, in the form C, D, E, F, etc., chromatic notes would be C# (C sharp), D# (D sharp), etc., notes not found in the diatonic scale of C major, which has no sharps or flats.

Circle of fifths: the succession of keys or chords proceeding by fifths.

Classical: used in music to designate a period of musical history from about 1750 to about 1820. Composers of this era include: Haydyn, Mozart and Beethoven. In the most general meaning of the word, classical music may designate fine music or serious music.

Clef: the five lines generally used in musical notation have no precise meaning without the addition at the left-hand side of a clef, a sign that specifies the note to be indicated by one of the lines, from which other notes may be gauged.

Coda: a supplementary ending to a compostion. The last part of a piece, usually added to a standard form to bring it to a close. This may be very short, but in a composition on a large scale may be extended. The diminutive codetta may be used to indicate the closing part of a section of a composition.

Codetta: in sonata form, the concluding section of the exposition. Also a brief coda concluding an inner section of work.

Col, coll’, colla: qualifier meaning with or ‘with the’

Colla parte: following the solo part

Collé: an off the string lower-half détaché. The attack of the note should be on the string, and the moment the bow is suddenly drawn horizontally it begins its lift away from the string. It is possible to play collé at the tip, though not usually musically desirable.

Common time: the time signature 4/4

Comodo, commodo: comfortable, moderate, at an easy pace, easily, quietly, moderately, at a moderate pace, without haste

Con: a qualifier meaning ‘with’

Con amore: with love, tenderly

Con anima: with animation

Con brio: with brilliancy

Con calore: with warmth

Con delicatezza: with delicacy

Con fermezza: firm energetic style

Con forza: with force

Con fuoco: with fire, impetuous

Con furore: with furor

Con gusto: with taste

Con grazia: with grace

Con moto: with motion, movement, animation

Con passione: with passion

Con rigore: with rigor, strict

Con sordino: with the mute

Con spirito: with spirit, animated

Concertante: a concertante part in a piece of music is a part that calls for some element of solo performance, as in a classical concerto. The word is found in the phrase Sinfonia concertante, which is used to indicate an orchestral composition with two or more solo instruments, a title used from the late 18th century onwards.

Concertmaster: the leader of an orchestra (that is, the principal first violin).

Concerto: instrumental genre in several movements for solo instrument (or instrumental group) and orchestra. A concerto is a piece of instrumental music that contrasts a solo instrument or a small group of solo instruments with the main body of the orchestra

Conductor: person who, by means of gestures, leads performances of musical ensembles.

Conjunct: smooth, connected melody that moves principally by small measures.

Contrast: contrast of music materials sustains our interest and feeds our love of change; it provides variety to a form.

Countermelody: an accompanying melody sounded against the principle melody.

Counterpoint: the compositional art of combining two or more simultaneous melodic lines; term means ‘point against point” or ‘note against note”. Counterpoint is the combination of two or more melodic lines, the second or later additional melodies described as counterpoints to the first. If harmony is regarded as vertical, as it is in conventional notation, signifying the simultaneous sounding of notes in chords, counterpoint may be regarded as horizontal. The adjective from counterpoint is contrapuntal.

Crescendo:  ‘growing, becoming louder’… the dynamic effect of gradually growing louder, indicated in the musical score by the marking “<”

Cue: indication by the conductor or a spoken word or gesture for a performer to make an entry. Small notes that indicate another performer’s part.

Cut time: synonymous to the meter 2/2: two half-note beats per measure. Cut time is denoted by a 3/4 circle with a vertical line through it.

D.C. (or Da capo): ‘from the beginning’… an indication to return to the beginning of a piece. Abbreviated to the letters D.C. at the end of a piece of music or a section of it, means that it should be played again from the beginning (De capo al fine) or from the beginning up to the sign (Da capo al segno).

Da, dal or de: qualifier meaning ‘from’

Da ballo: in dance style, light and spirited

Da capo (or D.C.): ‘from the beginning’… an indication to return to the beginning of a piece. Abbreviated to the letters D.C. at the end of a piece of music or a section of it, means that it should be played again from the beginning (De capo al fine) or from the beginning up to the sign (Da capo al segno).

Dal segno: repeat from the sign

Declamatory: ostentatiously lofty in style

Decrescendo: ‘growing less’… the dynamic effect of gradually growing softer, indicated in the music score by the marking “>”

Détaché: a fundamental bowing stroke used when a passage is made up of even up and down bows. One note per bow. The bow should be firmly on the string at all times, and this stroke is usually played in the middle of the bow.

Development: structural reshaping of thematic material. second section of sonata-allegro form; it moves through a series of foreign keys while themes from the exposition are manipulated.

Diatonic: melody or harmony built from seven tones of major or minor scale. A diatonic scale encompasses patterns of seven whole tones and semitones.

Diminuendo: ‘becoming less’… is used as a direction to performers to play softer.

Disjunct: disjointed or disconnected melody with many leaps.

Disperato: desperate, hopeless

Divisi: divided, each part to be played by a separate instrument

Dolce, dolcemente: sweetly, softly, suave

Dolente: sad, weeping, mournful

Doloroso: grievingly, painfully, pathetically, mournful

Dominant: the fifth scale step, sol. Also, a brand of quality violin strings.

Dominant Chord: chord built on the fifth scale step, the V chord.

Double exposition: in the concerto, twofold statement of the themes, once by the orchestra and once by the soloist.

Double-stop: playing two notes simultaneously on a string instrument.

Downbeat: first beat of the measure, the strongest in any meter.

Duet: a piece of music written for two performers.

Duramente: firmly, boldly, harshly

Dynamics: element of musical expression relating to the degree of loudness, or softness, or volume, of a sound.

Effreto: the effect of music on an audience

Embellishment: melodic decoration, either improvised or indicated through ornamentation signs in the music.

Emphatique: emphatic, decisive

Encore: ‘again’; an audience request that the performer(s) repeat a piece or perform another.

Energico: vigorous, spirited, decisive

Elegy: an elegy (French: élégie) is a lament, either vocal or instrumental.

Ensemble: a group of performers. It may also refer to the togetherness of a group of performers: if ensemble is poor, the players are not together.

Eras: classical music is commonly grouped into six eras: Middle Ages (500-1420), Renaissance (1420-1600), Baroque (1600-1750), Classical (1750-1820), Romantic (1820-1900), 20th Century (1900-present).

Espressivo: expressively

Etude: a study piece that focuses on a particular technical problem.

Exposition: opening section. The exposition in sonata-allegro form is the first section of the movement, in which the principal thematic material is announced. In the exposition of a fugue (a fugal exposition) the voices (parts) enter one by one with the same subject: the exposition ends when all the voices have entered.

Expressivo: expressively

Facile: easy, fluent

Facilité: ease, fluency

False tone: refers to the tone of a string that is no longer true to pitch and which cannot be tuned to stay in pitch. Sometimes called a ‘dead string’.

Fermata: a hold or pause; when placed over a note it indicates that the note is to be held longer.

Fiddle: a fiddle is a violin, but the word is used either colloquially or to indicate a folk-instrument.

Fieramente: flashy, fiery, energetic

Fine: ‘the end’

Fingerboard: a long strip of wood fixed on the neck of stringed instruments against which strings are pressed in order to vary the pitch.

Flat: the word “flat”, indicated by a sign derived from the letter b, shows that a note should be lowered by a semitone.

Flautando: the bow is played lightly over the fingerboard, creating a hazy sound. See also: sul tasto

Flying Spiccato: like regular spiccato, but instead of remaining stationary the bow is drawn along the strings as it is bounced, producing a virtuoso effect.

Form: the structure or shape of a musical work, based on repetition, contrast, and variation; the organizing principle in music.

Forte: ‘loud’…indicated in a musical score by the marking ‘f’. It appears in the superlative form fortissimo, very loud. The letter f is an abbreviation of forte, ff an abbreviation of fortissimo, with fff or more rarely ffff even louder.

Forte-piano: accent strongly, then diminsh at once to piano (soft). Indicated by the marking ‘fp’.

Fortissimo: ‘very loud’… indicated in the musical score by the marking ‘ff’.

Forza, Forzando: with force, accented. Indicated by the marking ‘fz’.

Frequency: rate of vibration of a string which determines pitch.

Frog: the portion of the bow held by the player’s hand.

Fuoco: fire

Furioso: furiously, wildly

Genre: general term describing the standard category and overall character of a work.

Giocoso: ‘jocular, cheerful, gaily’…sometimes found as part of a tempo instruction to a performer, as in allegro giocoso, fast and cheerful.

Gioviale: ‘jovial’.

Giusto: ‘just, exact’… indicating a return to the original speed of the music after a freer passage.

Glissando: rapid slide through pitches of a scale.

Grace note: ornamental note, often printed in small type and not performed rhythmically.

Grandioso: with grandeur, pompously, majestically, loftily

Grave: ‘slow, solemn’… is used as an indication of tempo and mood, meaning very slow and serious.

Grazioso: gracefully, elegantly

Guisto: strictly, exactly

Gut string: a string that has a gut core and is wound with some other material. A gut string has a beautiful sound with less volume than a steel string and has a short life expectancy before it goes false.

Half step: smallest interval used in the western system, the octave divides into twelve such intervals; on the piano, the distance between any two adjacent keys, whether black or white.

Harmonics: individual pure sounds that are part of any musical tone; in string instruments, crystalline tones in the very high register, produced by lightly touching a vibrating string at a certain point.

Harmony: the simultaneous sounding of two or more notes and the technique governing the construction of such chords and their arrangement in a succession of chords. Following the convention of writing music from left to right on a horizontal set of lines (staff or stave), harmony may be regarded as vertical, as opposed to counterpoint, which is horizontal. In other words harmony deals with chords, simultaneous sounds, and counterpoint with melody set against melody.

Imitation: compositional technique in which a melodic idea is presented in one part, then restated in another while the first voice continues with new material.

Impetuoso: impetuously, vehemently

Improvisation: the art of creative expression derived from a spontaneous individual interpretation. Improvisation was once a normal part of a performer’s stock-in-trade. Many of the greatest composer-performers, from Bach to Mozart and Beethoven, were masters of improvisation, but in the 19th century this became a less common part of public performance.

Incalzando: Growing more vehement, to chase.

Inflection: small alteration of pitch by a microtonal interval.

Interval: distance and relationship between two pitches.

Intonation: the exactness of pitch or lack of it in playing or singing.

Issimo: a suffix that when added to a word means ‘more’. E.g. presto is ‘fast’, prestissimo is ‘very fast’.

Key: defines the relationship of tones with a common center or tonic. The key in which a piece of music is written indicates the scale used and the key note or home note, on the chord of which it must end.

Key Signature: sharps or flats placed at the beginning of a piece to show the key of a work.

L’istesso tempo: ‘the same speed/tempo’… signifies that the tempo remains as before, after a change of time signature.

Lamentoso: like a lament

Langsam: slowly

Largamente: in a very broad style, not quite as slow as largo

Largando: growing slower and more marked while also making a crescendo

Larghetto: ‘broad, wide, large’… is a diminutive form of Largo usually a direction of tempo, meaning slow. Larghetto is slowish, not as slow as Largo.

Largo: broadly and slowly but not as slow as grave.

Legatissimo: exceedingly smooth

Legato: long, smooth bow stroke; smooth and connected, opposite of staccato.

Leggiero, Leggero: lightly, delicately, nimble, quick, airy

Legno: ‘wood’; appears in the phrase ‘col legno’, with the wood, an instruction to string players to hit the strings with the back of the bow.

Lentamente: slowly

Lento: very slow and in a calm, deliberate manner. Slower than adagio, but not quite as slow as largo.

Lesto: gay, lively, brisk

Lirico: lyrical

Loco: play as written (generally used to cancel an 8va direction).

Louré: a slightly pulsating legato, also sometimes referred to as portato. The notes are purposely separated (only slightly and within a slur) and a slight vibrato emphasis may be used to draw out each individual note.

Lusingando: coaxingly, teasingly

Ma: a qualifier meaning ‘but’.

Ma non troppo: but not too much, without rushing

Maestoso: ‘majestically’… used to suggest a majestic or dignified manner of performance, either in mood or speed.

Maggiore: major

Major Scale: a collection of seven different pitches ordered in a specific pattern of whole and half steps. (whole whole half whole whole whole half).

Marcato: marked, distinct and accented

Marcatissimo: with much accentuation

Marcia: a march

Martelé, Martellato: hammered notes played with a sharp, decided stroke; very strongly accented

Martiale: in military style

Mazurka: a Polish national dance in triple time; music compsed for dancing the muzurka.

Measure: a rhythmic grouping that contains a fixed number of beats; in notated music it appears as a vertical line through the staff.

Melody: a succession of single tones or pitches that together express a distinctive sequence and idea.

Meno: qualifier meaning ‘less’… used in musical directions to qualify other words as in meno mosso, with less movement.

Meno mosso: slower, less motion/movement

Mesto, mestoso: ‘sad’… used as an indication of mood

Meter: organization of rhythm in time; the grouping of beats into larger, regular patterns, notated as measures.

Metronome: device used to indicate the tempo by sounding regular beats at adjustable speeds.

Mezza, mezzo: qualifier meaning ‘half or moderately’… found particularly in the compound words mezzo-forte, half loud, represented by the letters mf, and mezzo-piano, half soft, represented by the letters mp.

Mezzo-forte: ‘moderately loud’… indicated in the musical score by the marking ‘mf’

Mezzo-piano: ‘moderately soft’… indicated in the musical score by the marking ‘mp’

Middle Ages: used in music to designate a period of musical history from about 500- 1420. Composers of this era include Euripides, Ventadorn and Halle.

Minor Scale: a collection of seven different pitches ordered in a specific pattern of whole and half steps (whole half whole whole whole half whole).

Minore: minor

Misterioso: mysteriously

Mode: scale or sequence of notes used as the basis for a composition; major and minor are modes. Modal scales are found in various forms. The first church mode is the Dorian, the third the Phrygian, the fifth the Lydian and the seventh the Mixolydian. These are the ‘authentic modes’, their range from D to D, E to E, F to F and G to G respectively. Theorists later distinguished two further pairs of authentic and plagal modes, the Aeolian, A to A, and the Ionian, C to C. The Locrian mode, B to B, is inaccurately named, but was early distinguished as Hyperaeolian.

Moderato: ‘moderate’… an indication of the speed to be adopted by a performer. It may be used to qualify other adjectives, as allegro moderato, moderately fast.

Modulation: the process of changing from one key to another.

Moll: minor

Molto: ‘very much’, a great deal… often found in directions to performers, as in allegro molto or allegro di molto, molto vivace or molto piano.

Mordent: ‘biting’. An ornament consisting of an alteration (once or twice) of the written note by playing the one immediately below it (lower mordent), or above it (upper, or inverted, mordent) and then playing the note again.

Morendo: dying away slower and softer

Mosso: ‘moved, agitated, energetically’… is generally found in the phrases più mosso, faster, and meno mosso, slower.

Motif / Motive: a short melodic or rhythmic idea; the smallest fragment of a theme that forms a melodic-harmonic-rhythmic unit.

Moto: ‘motion, movement’… is found in the direction ‘con moto’, with movement, fast. A moto perpetuo is a rapid piece that gives the impression of perpetual motion, as in the Allegro de concert of Paganini or the last movement of Ravel’s Violin Sonata.

Moto perpetuo: perpetual motion

Movement: complete, self-contained part within a larger musical work. A movement is a section of a more extended work that is more or less complete in itself, although occasionally movements are linked together, either through the choice of a final inconclusive chord or by a linking note, as in the first and second movement of Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto.

Mutes: mechanical device used to muffle the sound of a violin by controlling the vibration of the bridge.

Natural: a natural is a note that is neither a sharp nor a flat. A musical symbol which cancels a previous sharp or flat.

Nel, nella, nell’: in the, at the

Neoclassical: a style in music which indicates a 20th century eclectic return by some composers to various styles and forms of earlier periods, whether classical or baroque. The style is exemplified in the score for the ballet Pulcinella by Stravinsky or by the same composer’s opera The Rake’s Progress.

Niente: ‘nothing’ (as in a niente, ‘diminishing to nothing’).

Non: qualifier meaning ‘not’, no

Notation: the method of writing music down.

Note: either a single sound or its representation in notation.

Obbligato: a secondary part added to a composition to enhance.

Octave: interval between two tones seven diatonic pitches apart; the lower note vibrates half as fast as the upper and sounds an octave lower. The octave is an interval of an eighth, as for example from the note C to C or D to D.

Open Strings: the strings of a stringed instrument when played without being fingered.

Opus: ‘work’; is generally used in the listing of a composer’s works by opus numbers, usually abbreviated to Op.

Orchestra: a performing group of diverse instruments, usually comprised of multiple string sections (violin, viola, cello), with various woodwind, brass and percussion instruments.

Orchestration: the art of arranging music for the orchestra or the way in which this is done.

Ornamentation: formalized decorations of a melodic line, such as the trill or mordent. Embellishment.

Ostinato: a short melodic, rhythmic, or harmonic pattern, element or phrase that is repeated throughout a work or a section of one.

Ottava: an octave, an eighth

Ottava alta: the octave higher

Ottava basso: the octave lower

Overture: an introductory movement; also an orchestral work for concert performance.

Part: a part may indicate the line or music intended for a particular performer.

Passionato: passionately, fervently

Pastorale: pastoral, country-like

Pedal point: sustained tone over which the harmonies change.

Peg box: the portion of a stringed instrument that holds the tuning pegs.

Perdendosi: dying away; gradually diminish in volume, rhythm and tone

Perfect cadence: the chordal progression of dominant to tonic, in a major key V-I, in minor V-i.

Perfect pitch: the ability to hear and identify a note without any other musical support.

Performance practice: the attempt to perform music in the way envisaged originally by the composer.

Pernambuco: a very hard wood which is the preferred wood for making a very fine bow.

Pesante: heavy, ponderous, firm, vigorous.

Philharmonic: the adjective Philharmonic and noun Philharmonia are generally used as adopted titles by orchestras or by music-loving societies of one sort or another. The words have no other technical meaning.

Phrase: musical unit; often a component of a melody, generally ending in a cadence of some kind, and forming part of a period or sentence. Phrasing in performance has a less precise use, indicating the correct grouping of notes, whether as phrases in the technical sense or in smaller distinct units, corresponding to the various possible syntactical uses of punctuation.

Piacere: ‘pleasure’. E.g. A Piacere or Suo Piacere: at the performer’s discretion, at pleasure

Pianissimo: ‘very soft’… indicated in the musical score by the marking ‘pp’

Piano: ‘soft’… indicated in the musical score by the marking ‘p’. Pianissimo, represented by pp, means very soft. Addition of further letters p indicates greater degrees of softness, as in Tchaikovsky’s Sixth Symphony, where an excessive pppppp is used.

Pie, plus: qualifier meaning ‘more’

Pitch: the highness or lowness/deepness of a tone, depending on the frequency (rate of vibration). Perfect pitch is the ability to distinguish the pitch of a note, according to generally accepted nomenclature. Relative pitch is the ability to distinguish the pitch of one note with relation to another, given note.

Più: ‘more’… is found in directions to performers, as in più forte, louder, or più lento, slower.

Più mosso: more motion, more rapid

Pizz.: see pizzicato

Pizzicato: performance direction to pluck a string of a bowed instrument with the finger. A return to the use of the bow is indicated by the word ‘Arco’, bow. Pizzicato notes on the violin, viola and cello are normally plucked with the index finger of the right hand. The great violinist Paganini, however, introduced the technique of left-hand pizzicato for occasional use, notably in one of the variations of his 24th Caprice, where it produces a very special effect.

Placido: placid, tranquil, smooth

Play position: the correct posture (including stance, bow hold, violin positioning etc.) of readiness before beginning to play or perform.

Poco: ‘little’… is found in directions to performers, as in poco allegro, although un poco allegro, a little fast, would be more accurate. Poco, in fact, is commonly used meaning un poco, a little.

Poco a poco: ‘little by little’.

Polonaise: heroic or ceremonial polish dance

Polyphony: the art of counterpoint, or combining melodies.

Pomposo: pompously, loftily, majestic, dignified

Ponticello: bowing is down near the bridge and creates a glassy sounding tone.

Portamento: a mild glissando between two notes for expressive effect.

Portato: a lightly emphasized détaché, with added inflection possibly aided to a slight degree by a more expressive vibrato. This can be bowed with several notes in the same bow, or separately.

Postlude: is played at the end of a piece and indicates, in particular, the additional piano phrases that may appear at the end of a piece, after the performer has stopped. The word is more widely used to describe the closing section of a work or to indicate a piece of music to be played as the conclusion of some ceremony, the opposite of a prelude.

Prelude: a movement or section of a work that comes before another, usually larger, movement or section of a work, although the word also has been used for short independent pieces that may stand alone, or even for more extended works, such as Debussy’s Prélude à l’après-midi d’un faune.

Pressez: ‘quicken’…

Prestissimo: as fast as possible. Indicated by ‘pp’ or ‘ppp’.

Presto: ‘quickly’, rapidly… is used frequently as a direction to performers. (Faster than allegro.) An even faster speed is indicated by the superlative prestissimo or even il più presto possibile, as fast as possible.

Presto assai: very very fast.

Prima volta: the ‘first time’

Primo: first, principal

Profonda: profoundly

Programme music: music that has a narrative or descriptive extra-musical content. Music of this kind has a long history, but the term programme music was coined by Liszt, whose symphonic poems principally attempt to translate into musical terms works of literature, such as Goethe’s Faust or Dante’s Divina Commedia. It seems preferable that the term should be limited to instrumental music for concert use and should not include either incidental music or ballet music.

Progression: a series of harmonies.

Pronto: promptly, swiftly

Purfling: ornamentation or decoration inlaid around the edges on the top of a stringed instrument.

Quadruplet: a group of four notes played in the time normally occupied by three.

Quarter-tone: Divisions of the tone smaller than a semitone are occasionally found in art-music, particularly in the 20th century. Quarter-tones occur in the solo violin part of the Second Violin Concerto of Belá Bartók.

Quasi: almost, ‘as if’, in the manner of

Quasi sognando: dreamily

Rallentando: ‘becoming slower’… gradually growing slower, not as slow as ritardando

Range: distance between the lowest and highest tones of a melody, an instrument or a voice. This span can be generally described as narrow, medium or wide in range.

Recitativo: a style used in operas, oratorios, and cantatas in which the text is declaimed in the rhythm of natural speech with slight melodic variation and little orchestral accompaniment.

Register: specific area in the range of an instrument or voice.

Relative major and minor: the najor and minor keys that share the same key signature. Thus, the E major is the relative sharp of C minor, since both have four sharps.

Relative pitch: the ability to determine the pitch of a note in terms of its relationship to the notes that precede and follow it.

Religioso: in a reverent, devotional style

Renaissance: used in music to designate a period of musical history from about 1420 to about 1600. Composers of this Machaut, Dufay and Josquin.

Repeat sign: musical symbol that indicates repetition of a passage in a composition.

Resolution: conclusion of a musical idea, as in the progression from an active chord to a rest chord.

Resonance: the phenomenon by which several strings tuned to pitches that are harmonically related will vibrate even if only one of the strings is struck.

Rest position: stance or posture (feet together, violin under arm) a player takes directly preceding a bow.

Restez: stay in the position

Rhythm: the arrangement of notes according to their relative duration and relative accentuation.

Ricochet: rebounding/springing bow. Bow rebounds on several notes in the same bow.

Rinforzando: suddenly reinforce the volume of tone by an abrupt heavy accent (rfz)

Risoluto: in a resolute, vigorous, decided style

Ritardando: ‘becoming slower’… abbreviated often to rit. or ritard.

Ritenuto: ‘held back’… directs a player to slow down at once.

Ritornando: holding back, getting slower.

Ritornello: a short recurring passage that unifies an instrumental or vocal work. It became a frequent element in baroque solo concertos by composers such as Vivaldi.

Romantic: used in music to designate a period of musical history from about 1820 to about 1900. Composers of this era include Mendelssohn, Brahms and Tchaikovsky.

Romanticism: commonly applied to a period or the predominant features of that period, from the early 19th century until the early 20th. Features of romanticism in music include an attention to feeling rather than to formal symmetry, expressed in a freer use of traditional forms, an expansion of the instrumental resources of music and an extension of harmonic language.

Rondo: musical form in which the first section recurs. Rondo form involves the use of a recurrent theme between a series of varied episodes, often used for the rapid final movement of a classical concerto or symphony.

Rosin: substance made from the hardened tree sap, rubbed on the hair of a bow to help it grip the strings.

Rubato: flexibility of tempo within a musical phrase for expressive effect. In ‘robbed time’… taking from one note and adding to another.

Ruvido: rough, harsh

Saltando: rebounding/springing bow. Bow rebounds on several notes in the same bow.

Saltato: bouncing or ‘jumping’ bow. Usually two or more notes per bow are used.

Sans: qualifier meaning ‘without’

Sautille: fast spiccato acquired through a completely relaxed hand that permits sufficient elasticity to allow the bow to bounce itself. A rapid bounce, half on and half off the string, relies on natural rebound.

Scale: a series of tones or pitches in ascending or descending order.

Scherzando: ‘playfully’… in a sporting, livey manner.

Scherzo: a joke

Score: the full copy of written music that shows all parts. A conductor’s score, for example, may have as many as thirty different simultaneous instrumental parts on one page.

Scroll: the curved head of a stringed instrument where the tuning pegs are set.

Segue: proceed without interruption

Semplice: simple and unaffected, natural, with simplicity

Semi-tone: also known as a half step, the smallest interval commonly used.

Sempre: ‘always’… is found in directions to performers, as in sempre piano, ‘always soft’.

Sentimentale: with feeling

Senza: qualifier meaning ‘without’… is found in directions to performers, particularly in phrases such as senza crescendo, ‘without crescendo’.

Senza Sordino: without the mute

Sequence: a successive transposition and repetition of a phrase at different pitches.

Sereno: in a serene, tranquil style

Serialism: method of composition in which various musical elements (pitch, rhythm, dynamics, tone, color) may be ordered in a fixed series. Serialism is the important 20th century compositional technique that uses, as a basis of unity, a series of the twelve semitones of the octave in a certain order, which may then be taken in retrograde form, in inversion and in retrograde inversion, and also in transposition.

Sforzando (or sfz.): giving a strong accent.

Sharp: represented by the sign #, added before a note, raises its pitch by a semitone. In general terms music that is sharp may be simply out of tune, at too high a pitch.

Siciliano: a fairly slow dance with swaying rhythm in compound time, usually 6/8 or 12/8.

Simile: ‘similarly’… continue in a like manner.

Sinfonia: in earlier usage indicated a passage or piece of instrumental music, sometimes an introductory piece, leading later to the Italian overture, known as the sinfonia before the opera, the origin of the Italian symphony.

Sinfonia Concertante: a concerto that uses two or more solo instruments. The title was used in the later 18th century by Mozart, Haydn and their contemporaries, and has occasionally been used by composers since then.

Sinfonietta: a small symphony. The word is sometimes used to indicate a small orchestra.

Sforzando: perform the tone with special stress, or marked and sudden emphasis, indicated in the musical score by the marking ‘sf’ or ‘sfz’ or ‘sffz’.

Slur: a curve over notes to indicate that a phrase is to be played legato, in the same bow stroke. E.g. Up up or down down.

Smorzando (or smorz.): fading away, growing slower and softer, dying away to a whisper

Soave: smoothly

Sognando: dreamily

Solo: a composition for a single instrument

Son Filé: sunstained tone

Sonata: The title sonata originally designated music that was to be played rather than sung. The baroque sonata developed in two parallel forms. The first, the sonata da chiesa or church sonata, was generally of four movements in the order slow-fast-slow-fast, the faster movements fugal in character. The second, the sonata da camera or chamber sonata, was in essence a dance suite.

Sonata-form: based on a triple division of a movement into exposition, development and recapitulation. The first section normally contains two contrasting subjects, the first in the tonic key and the second in the dominant key or in the relative major of a minor key movement. The section ends with a coda or codetta. The middle section, the development, offers varied treatment of themes or parts of themes that have already been heard. The recapitulation brings back the first and second subjects now in the tonic key. The movement ends with a coda.

Sonatina: a ‘little sonata’, simpler in structure and shorter in length than a sonata.

Sonore: deep, full, rich tone

Sordamente: with a veiled, muffled tone

Sordino: mute

Sotto Voce: ‘very softly’… in an undertone.

Sostenuto: ‘sustained’… prolonged, is a direction to performers to play smoothly, slower than before.

Sound Post: A dowel-like stick specially carved and fitted and placed inside the violin through the f-hole in a certain position near the bridge. The sound post greatly influences the tonal capabilities of the instrument and also supports the top of the instrument against the tenison of the strings.

Spiccato: a type of bowing in which the bow is allowed to bounce rather than be drawn across the string.

Subito: suddenly, quickly, rapidly

Spiritoso: spiritedly, animated

Staccato: short, detached notes, marked with a dot above them. Play sharply in an abrupt, disconnected manner.

Staff: indicates the set of lines used for the notation of notes of different pitches.

Stentato: forced, loud

Stretto: quickened in tempo

Stringendo: pressing forward; sometimes erroneously intepreted as a combination of accelerando and crescendo.

Strings: String instruments are chordophones, instruments that sound by the vibration of a string of a certain tension. The string section of the modern orchestra uses first and second violins, violas, cellos and double basses. A string trio consists of violin, viola and cello; a string quartet consists of two violins, viola and cello and a string quintet either of two violins, two violas and cello, as in the case of Mozart’s work in this form, or of two violins, viola and two cellos, as in the case of Schubert’s famous C major String Quintet and the Quintets of Boccheri. Other numbers and combinations of string instruments are possible in other ensembles.

Study: a piece of music originally designed primarily for the technical development of the player.

Style: characteristic manner of presentation of musical elements (melody, rhythm, harmony, dynamics, form etc.).

Subdominant: the fourth scale step, fa.

Subdominant chord: chord built on the fourth scale step, the IV chord.

Subito: suddenly

Subject: main idea or theme of a work.

Suite: an instrumental piece consisting of several shorter pieces. The baroque suite generally contains a series of dance movements, in particular the allemande, courante, sarabande and gigue.

Sul G: play the passage on the G string only.

Sul Ponticello: bowing is down very near to the bridge and creates a glassy sounding tone.

Sul Tasto: the bow is played lightly over the fingerboard, creating a hazy sound. See also: flautando

Suono: sound

Suspension: the use of a nonharmonic tone to delay the resolution of a chord, frequently as it occurs in a cadence.

Symphony: large work for orchestra, generally in three movements. Interchangeable with the word ‘orchestra’ when describing a large ensemble of musicians.

Syncopation: accent on an unexpected beat. Deliberate upsetting of the meter or pulse through a temporary shifting of the accent to a weak beat or offbeat.

Tacet: remains silent. Indicates that a performer is not to play.

Tanto: ‘so much’… is occasionally found in tempo indications, as in allegro ma non tanto, similar in meaning, if slightly weaker than allegro ma non troppo, allegro but not too much.

Tempestoso: stormily, passionately

Tempo: rate of speed or pace of music.

Tempo I: resuming the opening tempo

Tempo giusto: in strict time; the correct tempo

Tempo rubato: irregular or robbed time; flexible with some beats slower and others faster

Teneramente: tenderly, delicately, softly

Tenuto: ‘held’, sustained. Is to touch on a note slightly longer than usual, but without generally altering the note’s value.

Ternary Form: three-part (A-B-A) form based on a statement (A), contrast or departure (B), and repetition (A).

Tertian harmony: a term used to describe music based on chords arranged in intervals of thirds.

Texture: the interweaving of melodic (horizontal) and harmonic (vertical) elements in the musical fabric. Texture is generally described as monophonic (single line), heterophonic (elaboration on a single line), homophonic (single line with accompaniment), or polyphonic (many voiced).

Thematic development: musical expansion of a theme by varying its melodic outline, harmony or rhythm.

Theme: melodic idea used as a basic building block in the construction of a composition.

Theory: the study of how music is put together.

Third: interval between two notes that are two diatonic scale steps apart.

Timbre: the quality of a sound that distinguishes one voice or instrument from another. (Also: ‘tone color’.)

Time: unlike the word tempo, which means speed or pace, ‘time’ is used in music for the metrical divisions or bar-lengths of a piece of music. These are indicated by two numbers at the beginning of a work or at the introduction of a changed time by two numbers that form a time-signature. The higher of the two numbers shows how many beats there are in a bar, while the lower number shows what kind of note it is. In this way a duple time-signature of 2/4 means that each bar consists of two quarter notes or crotchets or their equivalent in notes of shorter or longer duration. An indication of compound time such as 6/8 shows that there are six quavers or eighth notes in each bar, although in faster speeds these will be in two groups of three. Prime higher numbers such as five or seven necessitate asymmetrical groupings of notes.

Time signature: the two numbers that indicate the number of beats per bar of a piece of music, given at the beginning of the first staff, and whenever the number of beats changes. The lower number shows the length of note assigned one beat (i.e., 2 as the lower number refers to half notes, 4 refers to quarter notes, 8 to eighth notes, etc.) and the upper number shows how many of those notes are in a single bar. Thus, 3/4 means three quarter notes to the bar; 5/16 means five sixteenth notes, and so on.

Tonality: principle of organization around a tonic, or home, pitch, based on a major or minor scale.

Tone: a sound of definite pitch.

Tone cluster: highly dissonant combination of pitches sounded simultaneously.

Tone color: the quality of a sound that distinguishes one voice or instrument from another. (Also ‘timbre’.)

Tonic: the first note of a scale, which serves as the home base around which the other pitches revolve and to which they ultimately gravitate.

Tonic chord: triad built on the first scale, the I chord.

Tosto: quick, swift, rapid

Traditional music: music that is learned by oral transmission and is easily sung or played by most people; may exist in variant forms.

Tranquillo: quietly, calmly

Transcription: music may be transcribed or arranged for instruments other than those for which it was originally designed. Well known transcriptions are found among the short pieces arranged for violin and piano by the famous violinist Fritz Kreisler.

Transition: transitional passage connecting two sections of a composition, (also bridge).

Transpose: the process of re-writing music to suit a different key signature, pitch or instrument.

Tre: three

Tre corde: three strings

Treble: treble instruments are instruments of higher register and the G clef in use for this register is commonly known as the treble clef.

Tremolo: (Italian: ‘trembling’) indicates the rapid repetition or alternation of a note(s).

Triad: the basic form of three-note chord on which all diatonic harmony is based; it consists of a tonic plus the notes that lie a major (or minor) third and a perfect fifth above it.

Trill: a musical ornament consisting of the rapid alternation between one tone and the next above it.

Triple meter: basic metrical pattern of three beats to a measure.

Triple stop: playing three notes simultaneously on a string instrument.

Triplet: group of three equal-valued notes played in the time of two; indicated by a bracket and the number 3.

Troppo: ‘too much’… warns a player not to overdo an effect, as in allegro ma non troppo, allegro but not too much.

Tutta, tutti: ‘all’, the whole… is used in orchestral music to distinguish the part of a solo instrument from that of the rest of the section or orchestra.

Twentieth Century: used in music to designate a period of musical history from about 1900 to present. Composers of this era include Bartok, Prokofiev and Stravinsky.

Un poco: ‘a little’

Unison: the simultaneous sounding of the same note by two or more singers or players.

Up-beat: the beat before a strong beat; also, the conductor’s signal immediately before the first entry.

Upbow staccato: there are many kinds of upbow staccatos: normal/loose, stiff, off-the-bow. To execute properly, set the weight with your arm. This weight is constant and never varies. The bow stick should remain down, as opposed to jumping up and down. From there, the secret is in the wrist. Do clockwise motions with your hand so that the third finger is doing the work. Use the first finger as the pivot point with the third doing the motion. Combine that with a smooth arm.

Variation: a formal principle in which some aspects of the music are altered but the original is still recognizable. Variation form involves the repetition of a theme in changed versions.

Vibrato: is an oscillation in the pitch of a note designed to add interest, warmth, tension and character to the tone of a note.

Vigoroso: vigorous, with energy

Violin: a bowed instrument with four strings, which is used to provide the soprano and alto parts in the string section of the modern orchestra and the string quartet. It was developed in something approaching its modern form in the 16th century, gradually coming to occupy an unrivalled position because of its remarkable acoustical properties and its versatility. Particular distinction was added by the great violin-makers of Northern Italy and of the Austrian Tyrol, while the later 18th century brought gradual changes of construction of bow and instrument to provide greater resonance. The violin’s four strings are set in vibration (usually one at a time) by drawing a bow across them with the right hand while the fingers of the left hand stop the strings, changing its vibrate length and thus the pitch.

Virtuoso: performer of exceptional technical ability.

Vite: rapid

Vivace: lively, animated, brisk. Faster than allegro.

Vivo: lively, spirited, briskly

Volta: time (2da volta = 2nd time through)

Volta prima: first time

Whole step: interval separated by two half steps, or semi-tones.

Whole-tone scale: scale pattern built entirely of whole step intervals.

Wolf tone: A tone that is not clear

Zeitmass: tempo

April 23rd, 2010

Welcome to my New Site!

My email was down yesterday while I was changing servers and setting everything up, so if you tried to email me during that time, it probably didn’t go through (please re-send any emails from that time).  But we are on track now, and over the next few days I will be uploading pages and making adjustments, so please check back in periodically to see what is new!

April 23rd, 2010

My Background

Little Bonnie

I began violin lessons at age 3, encouraged by my mother, an orchestra teacher with a Masters in Music Education, and my grandmother, a violinist, and past President of the Utah Valley Symphony.


As a child I studied under: Dr. Steve Goodman, Dr. Percy Kalt, Dr. Lawrence Sardoni, and Barbara Williams

At BYU I studied under: Nell Gotkovsky, Dr. Harry Curby, Dr. Ralph Matson (Concertmaster, Utah Symphony)

After graduation I studied with: Meredith Campbell, Dr. Lynette Stewart (Guarnari String Quartet), and Monte Belknap

Presently I study with: Amy Galluzzo (Carpe Diem String Quartet), Calvin Wiersma (Manhattan String Quartet)


Winner of the Huff Music Contest (violin) for five consecutive years, winning the Sweepstakes Award (overall winner, all instruments) in both years of eligibility (’86-’90)

Superior ratings for State Solo and Ensemble competition, (’87-’90)

Sterling Scholar recipient for music at Payson High (’90)

Full four-year scholarship from the BYU music department (’90)

First prize Utah State Fair Advanced Violin Competition in (’92)

Professional & Recording History

Barlow Bradford’s Utah Chamber Artists (’94-’01)

Kurt Bestor ensembles (’96-’15), Mannheim Steamroller Concert (2015)

Concertmaster, Temple Square Christmas Concert with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir under the direction of Craig Jessop (’98)

Recorded with L.A. East Studios, recording television and movie soundtracks (’98-’02)

Tuacahn Pit Orchestra (’03)

Recorded with Spiral Studios (’05)

Concertmaster, Southwest Symphony (’04-’06)

Concertmaster of orchestra with Peter Cetera, Dionne Warwick concerts (’05-’06)

Helena Symphony Orchestra (’12)

First violinist, The Empyrean String Quartet (present)

Solos & Ensembles

BYU Philharmonic under the direction of Clyn Barrus (’90-’94)

BYU honors quartet coached by David Dalton, Bryce Rytting, and the Roger Drinkall/Diane Baker Duo (’92-’94)

Toured the USA with the BYU chamber orchestra (’92-’94)

Played in over 30 quartets, trios, and orchestras, soloing on many occasions including with The Lyceum Chamber Orchestra (’86-’89), Utah Valley Symphony (’91), and a performance of Prokofiev’s Violin Concerto No. 2 with the Southwest Symphony (’04)

Education and Teaching History

I began teaching at age 11 when my orchestra teacher at Payson Middle School, Denise Willey, began sending me students (’83)

Bachelor of Music degree in Violin Performance and Pedagogy, BYU (’96)

Suzuki Teacher Training with Jeanne Grover and Denise Willey, and extensive observation with Deborah Moench (’95-’99)

I’ve taught in the public school system, several different children’s orchestras and chamber groups, and coached many quartets

Dixie State University Adjunct Private Teacher (’04-’09)

Judge for Sterling Scholar, Salute to Youth, State Festivals, Las Vegas Bolognini Scholarship Competition

Workshop presenter Tuacahn Summer Arts Institute, Castle Rock Music Camp

Presently, I annually study chamber music at the Chamber Music Conference of the East in Bennington, Vermont, and the Moab Chamber Retreat in Moab, Utah, and have a private studio based in Santa Clara, Utah, where I teach violin students around the globe via Skype.

My Students

My students have earned scholarships to the Eastman School of Music, BYU, the University of Utah and many others.

In the past ten years I’ve had:

23 students win Music Sterling Scholar, with three winning Regional Music Sterling Scholar, and three more Regional Music Sterling Scholar runners-up

20 students selected to perform in the Salute to Youth Concert with the Southwest Symphony

20 students selected to All-State orchestra, including two concertmasters (2010, 2011), as well as the concertmaster for the St. George Youth Orchestra (2012)

April 23rd, 2010

Parental Role with Practice

Parental Role 1Certainly the most advantageous teaching situation is one wherein the teacher, student and parent work in concert. I’ve had several inquiries from parents on what they can do at home to best help their child progress in their lessons, and I want to help more clearly define the role of the parent with these general suggestions.

1. Help find the best time of day for practice, and encourage consistency.

2. Be interested and involved in your student’s practice routine and process, as well as their inner experience.

3. Ensure they are following what is outlined in the practice chart – especially the weekly FOCUS – and that they keep careful track of their practice by marking their chart daily.

4. Ensure they are using a timer, metronome, and are practicing slowly and carefully, making the most out of their practice time.

5. Help your student enjoy making music by praising what they are doing well and offering enthusiasm and encouragement.

When Practice is Difficult:

1. Offer Praise Not Pressure – keep practice-time light by being supporting and loving even when they are accomplishing small feats. Tell them how much you enjoy listening.

2. Ask Them For Their Input – do they need/want more help from you, or less? Let it be the student’s project, but let them know you’re always on their side.

3. Find New Motivation – take your student to a live classical performance, listen to inspiring music from great artists, encourage them to read about inspiring musicians, suggest they play music with a friend.

4. Create Practice Incentives – sometimes practice incentives or rewards, especially for small children, can get them back on track or over a hump.

5. Set a Goal – provides focus & direction, and accomplishment & reward in the present (rather than some future date) as they make even slight gains. Create smaller goals within a larger goal until momentum is regained.

6. Find Best Time/Place – if your student is having trouble focusing, try two shorter practice periods, or a different time of day. Find a quiet room, or a different setting, away from interruptions, siblings, radio, tv, phones etc.

7. Change up the norm– E.g. Make up a story about what your song is trying to express. Play dramatic extremes. Try to bring back some fun.

These are excerpts from ‘The Practice Revolution’ by Philip Johnston, which is filled with wonderful guidance on how best to work with your child.

1. Be Interested

The single best thing parents can do to help their child practice is to be genuinely interested in what’s going on with their music lessons. To be hungry to find out what happened in the last lesson, and how their child plans on being ready for the next one. To want to know how the flute fits together, or how to apply rosin to the bow, or which hand pushes those buttons on the trumpet. And what that left pedal on the piano is called. What’s the highest note their child can play? How fast is that new study supposed to be? What are they most looking forward to showing off at your next lesson? How is their child feeling about their next recital? What made them decide to choose to play this piece? Which scale do they hate the most and why? Which composer do they enjoy playing most? What do they mess up most often in lessons? Such questions can happen in the car, at the dinner table, straight after lessons, while they’re getting their kid dressed for school, at the checkout at the supermarket…wherever. But they should happen a lot. Parents who ask questions like this won’t have to feign fascination—they’ll end up with greater insights into what their child is doing, and in turn be more interested as to how things are progressing. Most children are delighted to be the center of their parent’s attention, and will tend to view favorably any activity that thrusts them into the limelight like that. If music lessons can feature on that list of positive attention-getters, then a large part of the practice battle has been won already.

2. Encourage

Parents don’t need to be gushing over every correct quarter note, but calculated positive feedback from parents is a great way of reinforcing behavior. The logic is that if the parent catches their child doing something right, and then praises them for it, the child is likely to want to repeat that behavior in the future. This can be even more effective if the parent is well-versed in which issues the teacher is trying to develop, allowing for selective targeting of such praise. So if the problem for the past few months has been that the student practices too fast, the next time the parent hears a passage of slow practice—however fleeting—they should pop in and mention to the student how careful their practice is sounding. They can also keep an ear out for when the student may be sounding frustrated with what they are doing—not so they can sweep in and fix the problem, but just so the child knows that there is someone in their corner. Depending on the situation, they can gently encourage the child to try the section a couple more times, or try it a different way, or try a different section altogether, or even to take a break for a while and come back later. The point is that when the child battles with practicing demons, they do so with support, and with plenty of encouragement to persist.

3. Reflect

At the heart of successful practice is the need for students to understand exactly what they are trying to achieve in the week ahead—well before they start the first practice session. This means that instructions from the teacher, and feedback during the lesson are more important than ever. Parents can ensure that the communication between studio and home is complete by having the student reflect back to them the essential information for the week ahead. The student should be able to explain exactly what their tasks are, together with the practice techniques that were recommended to complete them. They should also be able to answer questions about key points that were raised last lesson, together with any details of upcoming deadlines or performances. The questions from the parent are designed to help the student cement their understanding of what’s required, and are probably best conducted as soon after the lesson as possible (in the car on the way home is ideal!). It’s also useful to pop into practice sessions at random and have the student outline again what their goals for the week are…that way, if the practicing has been wandering from the task at hand, the student will be gently reminded to get their eye back on the ball, without anyone having to ask.

4. Steer

Even when kids are completely clear on what their goals are for the week, and have a comprehensive list of practice techniques to use to pursue those goals, they can sometimes be confused as to how to organize it all. Sometimes three pieces, five scales and some theory papers can feel like a lot, and a little help from parents can go a long way. The parents can’t actually do the practice for them, but they can help the child work out how many practice sessions will happen, when they will take place, and how long will be available for each one. Once that’s been done, they can build together a plan for getting everything done. Parents can also keep an eye on the practice sessions themselves, keeping a look out for any obvious appearances of the common practice flaws outlined earlier in this book. For example, if they hear the student spending twenty minutes on a section that they can already play, it’s time to go in and tell the student that the section already sounds great, and that they could be done practicing sooner if they concentrated on tasks for the week that they haven’t mastered yet.

5. Enthuse

While praise can be useful for reinforcing what a student is already doing, being enthusiastic can help motivate students to be excited about things they haven’t even started yet—affecting practice sessions that may not take place for months, or even years. So for example, the parent and child might be listening to an advanced violin sonata on the radio in the car, and the parent might turn to the child and tell them: “You know what’s really exciting? I love listening to this piece, but if things keep going the way they have been, by the time you finish high school, you’ll probably be able to play it! Probably only one person out of every ten thousand who start violin lessons are strong enough inside to make it that far—when I tell you I’m proud of what you did in your lesson today, I’m not kidding.” It’s over the top. But it’s entirely appropriate, because coming from mom or dad, words like that can ring in the child’s ears long after the conversation ends. Parents can enthuse about the new piece their kid has been given. They can enthuse about the fact that their child has almost finished their new book, and may even get through it all before the holidays. They can enthuse about the new instrument their child now has. They can enthuse about how much everyone applauded at the student concert, and how their child was one of the few to play from memory. And the best thing about these various moments of enthusing? They don’t have to be done to the student. They just need to be said within earshot of the student. (In fact, such enthusing will have its greatest credibility and impact if the child believes they were not supposed to hear what was said). So if the parent’s little aside was about how little Matthew is playing so well that it won’t be long before he is playing some Beethoven, don’t be surprised if little Matthew requests some Beethoven in a future lesson. Why? Because being able to play Beethoven is obviously a yardstick for being musically grown up—they know, because they heard their parent say so once. As a mere teacher, no superlatives we may deliver about Beethoven would count as much as that.

6. Progress Checks

With the practice model being based around the student having specific jobs to do, rather than practicing for a set time, knowing whether or not they are ready for their next lesson is more important for students than ever before. Students need to know early in the week if they are starting to fall behind, so that the lesson itself doesn’t sneak up and ambush them—a week can go by awfully quickly if they’re not paying attention. One of the best ways to assess progress is with a couple of well-spaced midweek Checkpoints, and the parent is the perfect audience for the student to show off what they’ve accomplished up until that point. The whole process is similar to the regular inspections that take place on building sites to ensure that the job is running to schedule. So if the student’s job was to learn two pages of music, then by half way through the week, they should be able to play one of them. The check doesn’t exist so that the parent can lecture the student about keeping up. Even if the session reveals that the student is behind, all the response needs to be is a discussion about how to restructure the rest of the week to still meet the deadline—no mention needs to be made about the student having been sub-par at the beginning of the week, because there is absolutely nothing anybody can do to change that now. But there is plenty they can do in the remaining days to ensure that the bad start to the week simply won’t matter at the lesson. If all jobs are completed, as the teacher, you shouldn’t care at all that they had taken things easy for the first three days of the week. This restructuring is not just a conversation about how to fit in extra practice sessions. It should also target how the student is planning on practicing. Often students fall behind because the way they are practicing is not working, not because they are spending insufficient time in the practice room. The parent can go through the list of suggested practice techniques, and help the child look for alternatives to the one they had been using. For those teachers who have their own studio website, midweek checks can also allow students to call for help between lessons—long before the problem grows into a big one. The thirty seconds it takes you to quickly send some advice in response to your student’s help request can transform the thirty minutes of the next lesson, and will be greatly appreciated by parents.

7. Knowing When Not to Help

Sometimes the best help is not to help at all. Some students work best when they are given room to move, and will actively resent parents leaping in with solutions for every practice problem they face. If a student is undergoing temporary difficulties in their relationship with the parent concerned, they may also undergo temporary difficulties with their music lessons if the parent tries to involve themselves in the practice process. (The same student would probably have temporary difficulties with chocolate ice-cream if that same parent announced that they really should start eating some.) Independently of the state of the relationship between parent and child, as students become more autonomous with their practice, the parental involvement model moves gently from helping regularly to simply being available should the student need it. But no matter how independent the practicing becomes, parents continue to set the enthusiasm levels with their own attitudes towards what is happening in music lessons. It can be as simple as eye-contact and a small nod at the end of an obviously good lesson. Parents don’t need to compose a sonnet for their kids to know that they are proud. And they don’t have to be sitting on the piano stool with their kids for every second of practice for the child to feel thoroughly supported, and to feel that the excitement surrounding their progress in lessons is being shared.

The following is an excerpt from ‘How to Get Your Child to Practice… Without Resorting to Violence’ by C. Richards.

“For children, leaving any rewards of practice to be realized only when they finally begin making music sound beautiful may be one of the things that causes such a high drop-out rate among children studying music. Each step of progress should be congratulated and enthusiasm for work on the next step encouraged.

While an adult might be able to wait for results, a child must realize some kind of return for efforts now. That is why it is important for parents and teachers to set specific goals in music study which can be realized by the child, preferably within the practice period itself, or no later than the next lesson.

Once the time for practice is decided, it should be upheld, and practicing should become as much a part of the daily routine as eating meals. When it becomes a habit, an expected part of the day, a part of life, there is no room for argument. The mere presence of a structured routine is conducive to motivation. If practicing is left to be done whenever the child feels like it, it is too easy to be distracted from it, and then the parent starts to nag. Parents, too, must be careful to give practicing top priority during the designated practice time, not allowing other chores or responsibilities to interfere…If the child senses the importance of practicing and receives encouragement in upholding the time commitment, he or she will usually not question what is expected for that period, even though at times the motivation may be weak…Teachers understand that life is not always stable and that occasional bad practice weeks must be tolerated or even expected. But the child learns to judge the importance of practicing by how lightly it can be set aside.

I would not give my own children a choice as to whether or not they were going to brush their teeth. In terms of basic education, why should the study of music be any different than that of math or language or science? Children are not the best judges of what is good for them. However, you can lead children into wanting music by giving them many musical experiences in early childhood.”

Recommended Reading

1. ‘The Practice Revolution’ by Philip Johnston

2. ‘How to Get Your Child to Practice…Without Resorting to Violence’ (Ideas and suggestions to overcome the negative image of practicing. Ideal for frustrated parents.) by C. Richards.

3. ‘I Love to Practice’ (63 Games and activities designed to help in practice sessions.)’ by P. Steiner & Y. Halls

April 23rd, 2010

Parental Role at Lessons

taking notesTo help ensure we get the most out of our weekly time together, here are a few suggestions to encourage the most effective and enjoyable lesson possible:

1. Please ensure your child is on time with violin tuned, practice chart filled out, and with all music and materials. (This includes promptly purchasing books/music, making copies etc.)

2. Should the parent be present during the lesson? Most definitely for children under 8, and older than that, as needed. I will give detailed practice instructions that most students can easily follow by themselves, but every child and situation is different. At a certain point I find it is more productive for the parent to not attend lessons, as this helps the student feel more independent, and makes learning violin their own project. By this time, it is generally better for the student to be completely alone in a quiet room for the best sense of focus and attention.

3. If present, actively and quietly observe the lesson, and take notes if desired. It is important to leave your child completely in my hands for the duration of the lesson. It is distracting for students to take direction and input from two sources during lesson-time, so please hold all advice until the lesson is over.

4. If present, please do your best to not show disapproval or displeasure so that we can foster a safe learning atmosphere. It’s not easy to learn an instrument, and there will be many missteps along the way.  Smiling and other non-verbal cues offer much needed encouragement and support.

5. Please ensure all siblings, blaring TVs, frolicking dogs etc., are in another room.

April 23rd, 2010

Performance Preparation

performance preparationWhy do we study music? Why do we perform? These are important questions to ask ourselves so we never lose sight of what’s truly important in life and all that we do.

If we seek to aggrandize ourselves through music, we’re mistaking the essence of creativity and expression. The soul of art is found in the experience of joining and sharing, and we can only ever truly share what’s worth sharing when we are humble.

Before you perform remind yourself you are sharing your love of music, and the love inside of you in general, with whomever is present.

When you perform you are sharing your experience of the music. What the music means to you. Since we’re all essentially the same beneath our various external appearances, authentically sharing your experience will touch something meaningful in those who are listening.

And whether people are listening closely or not at all, here is the key to every moment on stage or off:

Express to yourself your love of the loving melos, the inner melody of love.

What could be more beautiful or fulfilling or loving to yourself and everyone present?

Remember, we do not study music to become perfect performers, but to share the perfection of love. And this is possible no matter how many mistakes we might make. So let the inner melos be your focus, not a perfect performance. Let love do the work. Let love be itself.

With the above in mind, here are some practical reminders to help with the mechanics of performing.

1. Is your piece thoroughly prepared? This will aid your confidence greatly. Try it out first on your parents, best friend, baby brother, cat, grandmother – anyone who will listen – as often as possible. Pre-performing for others is the best way to reveal any weak spots that need further work (and to help you practice expressing to yourself your love of the loving melos).

2. Practice saying your introduction (name, title of piece, correct pronounciation of the composer & accompanist) and getting smoothly from rest to play position, to your ‘beginning breath’. A pre-performance routine will make the performance more automatic when the time comes, allowing you to lose yourself in the music as much as possible.

3. Learn what helps you to relax. Each time you perform notice the thoughts that trip you up and the ones that help you relax. When you have a thought that trips you up practice allowing it to be there without fighting it, judging it, or pushing it away. Just let the thought be there without any judgment whatsoever and it will eventually lose its seeming power.

4. When you make a mistake – this is inevitable, so make peace with it beforehand – know that it’s a normal part of performing. Don’t make a face and don’t lose confidence; accept it in stride and go forward with the idea that you will be calm if you make a mistake or don’t make a mistake. They really don’t matter at all. What matters is being kind to yourself and having a peaceful experience no matter what happens.

5. Have ‘safety ramps’ – a spot every couple of lines that you know well and can start from should you get lost. (Where you can call up the beginning note and immediately know how the piece proceeds from there.) Shadow practicing will greatly assist you in mastering this ability.

6. Listen to and enjoy the music you are making. Find the soul of your piece, and let its theme, mood and emotion completely envelop your heart and mind so that you play it with abandon, wholly absorbed in the authentic and heartfelt expression of the music you’ve chosen to share, and your personal interpretation and experience of it.

And, in the end, all that matters is the melos, and that is always there with you no matter the outcome.

April 23rd, 2010

Posture Checklist

Posture ChecklistA masterful violin posture is the single most important component of learning how to elicit a rich, full sound from your violin, and allow you to perform at the highest levels.

If you experience pain while playing it is most likely related to muscle tension; either you have proper posture and are unconsciously tightening muscles, or your posture is improper which in itself forces your muscles to tighten to compensate for the lack of correct physiology.

When either occurs, stop and review the steps below before playing again.

1. Are you completely relaxed? Gentle stretching and “rag dolls” are an excellent way to prepare for a practice session, lesson, or performance. Make slow, deep breathing a priority for all practice sessions.

2. Is your bow hold correct? Your right hand should be relaxed and rounded, with all fingers hanging over the stick (except for the pinky which is lightly curved with the very tip touching the bow), ring finger on the dot. The index finger leans against the stick between the two finger knuckles. Thumb is bent, with tip gently biting into the stick to provide control and strength. Wrist should be relaxed and very soft.

3. Stand up straight with feet shoulders-width apart, knees slightly bent, legs and trunk relaxed and balanced wherein your weight is evenly distributed and can shift easily. Make sure your torso is not twisted or turned.

4. Is the violin placed correctly? Put it on your “shelf” (violin rests on the collar bone – no shoulder involved!!), tuck in comfortably, and let the weight of your head hold it easily in place. Don’t squeeze or use tension in shoulders or neck or chin to support violin (left hand helps support lightly).

5. After the violin is in place, bring the left hand up and place fingers lightly on the fingerboard keeping the thumb soft and below (or just peeking over) the fingerboard level – don’t grab. Look in the mirror to be sure your left wrist is relaxed and soft (flopping slightly open).

6. Once you are ready to begin moving the bow, play some detache strokes on open strings and use a mirror to determine if your bow path is correct (bow pulls towards the bridge, slight “oval bow”), and your bow hand flexible.

7. Consciously keep every muscle in your body relaxed, fluid, and soft, while continuing to breathe slowly and deeply.

April 23rd, 2010

Structuring Practice

time to practiceThere are well-established, proven paths to violin advancement. Each week the guidance and practice assignments I give you are deliberately chosen to help you take the next step on that path. Remember, the curriculum I have developed will help you get there as efficiently and quickly as possible. If you trust me and follow this path dilligently and patiently, a step at a time, you will achieve the same results as the people who have taken the same path before you (this includes me, my teachers, and any violinist you may admire and aspire to be!).

Don’t waste your time or frustrate yourself! More advancement can be made in 15 minutes of good practice than in an hour of shabby practice. I’ve constructed my practice chart to help provide a very easy-to-follow, step-by-step framework for a typical practice session. Here is a brief explanation of each section, and its intention.

1. FOCUS – Each week I will emphasize a particular element in your skillset that needs extra attention in order to achieve the next level of playing. This will be detailed in the “Focus” box and should be foremost in your mind during every step of the practice chart. Challenge yourself to make these fundamental changes permanent habits, and you will see palpable and significant improvements in your abilities.

2. TECHNIQUE – Scales and Arpeggios are two basic components of mastering the violin that we will address at nearly every lesson. I will tailor the execution of these to fit your level and will give you detailed instructions on how to practice them that must be undertaken with focus, precision, and discipline. There are two blank boxes beneath these that I will fill with additional technical exercises for your advancement. Whatever technique assignments I give you I prefer quality practice over quantity. What is crucial here is not the amount of time, but the amount of focus.

3. ETUDE – This category is level-dependent and will be handled differently from student to student, ranging from developing note-reading and rhythm skills, to vibrato, shifting, and complicated bow strokes — whatever you most need help with. Careful practice of an etude is important as they are chosen to shore up whatever skills are lagging behind the rest. (Whichever skill is weakest, will drag the rest down.)

4. PIECES – Play through each assigned piece slowly with the metronome (more than once, if possible). Play carefully, with much attention to detail and musicality. Identify problematic sections, then zero in on them, normally 2-4 measures at a time, to dramatically improve them. Drilling these bite-size pieces will usually employ methods like “The Breakdown” mentioned on the practice chart, metronome practice at slow-medium-fast tempi, rhythmic distortions for accuracy and agility, the “trill drill,” “elbow bow,” and the use of “Intonia.” During the course of our time spent together, we will discuss and explore many different ways to help you make these dramatic improvements. Drilling small sections like this has a contagious effect that will automatically help the rest of your piece.

It is important to consider that only one hour a week is spent at the lesson, while the vast majority of your time on the violin will be spent practicing at home. With this in mind, the purpose of your weekly lesson is revealed: Your lesson is meant to teach you how to practice at home. It is this time at home, closely following the practice program I outline for you, that will determine how much progress you will make, so please make sure you understand all instructions before leaving, and follow them faithfully at home. I don’t mind questions, or repeating instructions, so please ask!

The progress you make is up to you! Cheerful students who follow the directions eagerly will generally make much quicker, and more painless, progress.

April 23rd, 2010

Violin Care

Violin CareThis quick guide is intended to help you better understand and care for your violin, and to recognize when it needs to be professionally serviced. Proper care and prevention is essential to prolong the life and quality of sound of your instrument.

*Remember: Most questions should be referred to a qualified luthier. This is meant only as an informative guide and not as a repair manual. If you have any questions or problems with your violin, bring it to me and I will help will help you decide if it needs professional help. Never attempt any home repairs on your violin or bow as one mistake can destroy the value of your instrument.

1. Cleaning Your Violin

Quick Guide: use a dry natural-fiber cloth for cleaning, use only violin-specific cleaners/polishes

After each use, gently wipe (don't rub!) rosin dust, dirt and moisture off the body, strings and fingerboard using a soft, dry, lint-free, natural-fiber cloth. (Launder frequently to remove dirt and rosin.) Rosin left on the strings will hinder their vibration, and affect the resonance and clarity of tone by preventing the bow from grabbing the string properly. Left on the instrument body, rosin can scratch or eat away at the finish causing your violin to depreciate. The varnish is an important part of protecting your violin, and the sound it produces.

There are many violin-specific cleaners and polishes on the market. (Do not use commercial cleaners, furniture polish, solvent, alcohol, or oils, to wash your instrument! Do not polish more than once every couple of years, as it can cause unsightly build up. Polishing only serves an aesthetic purpose, and will not enhance the sound of your violin. Instead, use your breath and a soft cloth to help bring out its natural lustre. If you do choose to use polish, do not get any on the strings or bow, as this will cause your violin to play improperly. Do not use hot water to clean your instrument.)

2. Strings

Quick Guide: student players replace every 6-10 months, use graphite pencil on nut and bridge grooves, clean frequently

Most strings with regular use (1/2 hour to an hour a day) should be replaced every six to ten months (some sooner, some later), as they lose their brilliance and responsiveness. (It mostly depends on the string and how often you play.) The biggest criterion is: do you feel the strings should be replaced? If the answer is 'yes', then replace them. When doing so, only change one string at a time. Removing all of the strings at once will lose the proper placement of the bridge, and the lack of tension may cause the sound post to fall down. Lubricating the grooves on the nut and bridge with a graphite pencil will help the strings slid more easily, reduce the chance of string breakage, and extend the life of the strings. It also helps the bridge remain in the proper position when tuning.

Occasionally inspect the strings to see if they are in good shape where they contact the bridge. If the winding has been separated, the string can dig into the bridge and should be replaced. Also, if a string is pinched against the side of the peg box the friction can break the string and possibly crack the peg box. It’s also possible for strings to become squeezed between the peg and the bottom of the peg box; this can cause the string to break, damage the peg, or damage the hole in the peg box.

New strings will stretch and need frequent re-tuning for about a week. (They will go flat as they stretch out.) When tuning your instrument, try not to go above the correct pitch of the string, as this will stress the string, making it break sooner.

The top nut is the ebony piece at the very top of the fingerboard over which the strings go into the peg box. The only real maintenance here is to lubricate the string grooves with a bit of graphite from a pencil lead. You must also keep an eye on whether the string has worn the groove down too low and onto the fingerboard. If this is the case, the string will start to buzz or be difficult to play.

Strings come in a great variety! Many violinists like the sound of Dominant strings for their resonance and richness. Other favorites include Infeld Blue, Evah Pirazzi, Tonica, Infeld Red, Pro Arte, and Zyex. The perlon (or Kevlar) core strings tend to have a smoother sound and last quite well. Each violin has its own tonal qualities and as such each responds best to different strings, so experimentation and experience will help you choose your best string.

Remember to wipe the rosin from the strings frequently.

3. Bows

Quick Guide: loosen hair after playing, don't use tip of bow to tap objects, replace hair once a year

When not in use, the hair of the bow should be loosened until it is touches the stick; otherwise the hairs, over a period of time, will stretch and not play properly. More importantly, it removes the tension from the bow and prevents the stick from warping. If this is not done, the stick will straighten, making it impossible to tighten the bow properly, and the metal ferrule holding the hair may break as you attempt to tension it more. If the bow has been left tensioned long enough that the stick appears to have lost its natural arch, loosen the adjuster and leave it for a day or two. The stick may then resume its natural shape.

While playing, do not over-tighten the hair. It should only be tight enough so that it is approximately the width of a pencil.

When applying rosin (round rosin is best), rotating it will make it last longer and not become grooved. Approximately 12 times up and down the length of the bow hair is sufficient. (If the bow is new, it will need to be rubbed thoroughly with rosin before it is used. Rosin provides the essential friction required to make the strings vibrate.) If a lot of white dust can be seen on the instrument after playing, you're probably using too much rosin. If you notice rosin dust accumulating on your bow stick, wipe it off with a soft cloth.

Avoid touching the horsehair with your fingers. The oil of your hands can create a slick spot on the hair, preventing it from holding rosin, and thus deplete the ability of the horsehair to catch or grab the strings and produce good tone.

Be careful not to tap the tip of your bow against anything solid (even gently). This very delicate part of the bow breaks easily and is very difficult to repair. If any parts of the bow should fall off (such as the ivory button or slide), hang on to them and take the bow for immediate repair: these can be quite expensive to replace.

The quality of your bow is important to the quality of sound you elicit from your instrument. Bows should be kept clean (done at the time of a re-hair), and the hair should be replaced regularly (once a year is plenty for a student violinist). A good indication of the need for a re-hair: missing hairs, the hair becomes very dark or greasy, doesn't bite like it used to, needs more and more rosin to make the hair grip the strings, the hair starts to break frequently, or when the hair, at its loosest, hangs well below the stick. (As it gets older, the hair stretches and may become too long to tighten properly. When this occurs, attempting to tighten the bow can seriously damage the stick.) When a single hair breaks, use scissors to cut it from the bow. Pulling the hair will slowly loosen the knots that hold the hair in the tip and frog.

After a bow has been freshly rehaired, you may feel the bow has lost some of its sound quality (more noise, sandy sound, rougher feel). There is no need to return the bow for different hair. It simply needs a week or two of playing. The hair has an uneven, 'scaled' surface that holds the rosin in place, and until the rosin is worked in, the bow can sound sandy. Eventually, through usage, these natural scales are worn off, leaving a smooth surface on each hair follicle. When this occurs, the bow will need to be re-haired.

It is important not to force a bow you are having trouble tightening or loosening; take it to a repair shop before further damage occurs. Ignoring a bow in this condition can lead to damage of the inner workings, specifically the eyelet, and may cause cracks in the butt of the bowstick.

Occasionally, the eyelet screw will strip and must be replaced. The eyelet connects the end screw and the frog. You will notice that it's stripped when you are no longer able to tighten the hair and it is possible to pull the screw out.

If all of the hair pops out of your bow at once, don't panic. The bow is not ruined, it has merely lost the 'wedge' holding in the hair, and can be fixed easily by a professional.

Other things that occasionally need replacement are the grip and the winding. The winding is made of steel wire, silver wire, whalebone, leather, or plastic. It adds aesthetic and functional value to the stick, however it sometimes un-winds. The grip is made of leather or lizard skin and allows a comfortable positioning of the hand.

4. Seasonal Care

Quick Guide: keep at room temperature, out of direct sunlight, in moderately humid (50 – 60%) conditions

Changes in temperature and humidity cause instruments and bow hair to expand and contract (or sometimes develop mold), both of which can lead to open seams (most likely to occur in high humidity) or cracks in the long-term, and an un-focused sound in the short-term. Always try to keep your instrument at room temperature whenever possible, and in an air-conditioned room in the extreme heat of a St. George summer.

If a problem does occur, the glue holding the instrument together is water-soluble, therefore allowing the seams to (hopefully) open rather than forcing the instrument to develop a crack(s) (which are most likely to occur in low humidity), which are more difficult to repair. If your violin does develop a seam or crack, loosen the strings and have it repaired immediately to prevent it from spreading further (never try and glue it yourself!). Do not touch the crack as the natural oils in your skin will contaminate the wood and lessen the bonding capacity of the glue, making it more difficult to make an invisible repair. Re-gluing seams is a fairly simple procedure that involves washing the old glue out and running a bead of new glue in and clamping it, and should always be done by a professional.

Weather-related places to avoid leaving your violin: in the car (the varnish might bubble; glue dissolves in heat, leaving your instrument vulnerable to open seams; your rosin might melt and ruin your case), in direct sunlight, near a window, beside a heat or AC vent, in rooms that have marked changes in temperature or humidity.

5. General Care

Quick Guide: keep only in safe place, off floor and chairs, and in a suitable (and closed) case

Most violins that are broken or damaged are done so accidentally. Some common things to avoid are: leaving your violin or bow on a chair, on the floor, hanging from a music stand, in an open case (especially with the shoulder rest still on), within the reach of young children, or any other precarious position. Jewelry, watches, bracelets, dangling earrings, jacket or shirt buttons, and zippers often cause unforeseen scratches, dings and dents.

If you use a shoulder rest, take it off before returning your violin to its case. The shoulder rest can get jammed down if the case is forced closed, and create a crack in your violin. Also be alert if the rubber tubing on the metal feet of your shoulder rest is deteriorating, so that they don't scratch off the varnish. The rubber tubing itself is an abrasive and can eventually rub off varnish and leave a scar on the wood if you repeatedly slide it along the edge of the violin when you're removing or (re-) positioning the shoulder rest.

If you are the owner of a valuable or irreplaceable instrument, be sure to invest in an appropriate case. A suspension case will elevate your instrument away from the shell of the case, and will hold it firmly by means of a neck restraint and cushioned pads at the upper and lower blocks.

6. Bridge

Quick Guide: regulates sound, watch for tilting, do not move unless necessary, use graphite in grooves

The bridge is one the most important parts of the set-up of the violin. It regulates the sound of the violin by setting the height and relationship of the strings to the instrument, and is held in place only by the tension of the strings.

A well-cut bridge should give a string height higher on the 'G' side than the 'E' side. The feet should fit the contour of the top of the violin so that the bridge stands perfectly upright, and the feet perfectly flat. If the bridge becomes tilted in either direction, the violin will lose sound, and the bridge might warp, fall over, or crack. Check the bridge for warping by viewing it from the side. The bridge should be centrally aligned between the inside notches of the f-holes, and at a 90-degree angle (at the back – i.e. the side facing the tailpiece) to the plane of the instrument. If the bridge curls forward it may be time to have it either flattened or replaced. If needed, adjustment should only be attempted with care and confidence but is important as this will improve the sound and help prevent warping. (I can show you how; otherwise I recommend you get a personal demonstration by a violinmaker on how to straighten the bridge.) The feet can be brought back down by bracing the violin against the chest with the scroll pointed down and using your fingers (thumb and forefinger) to gently pull the bridge back into position.

Note: The bridge will sometimes be pulled slightly forward by the action of tuning, and, ideally, should be examined each time you tune your violin.

A little graphite from a pencil lead rubbed in the string grooves of the bridge will help the strings pass over the bridge a little a more smoothly. This should be done perhaps once a month, or when the strings are changed.

To protect the bridge from the 'E' or 'A' string slowly cutting into the wood of the top, a small, thin piece of leather or parchment is usually glued into place over the string groove. If your bridge doesn't have one, use the small sleeve provided with most new 'E' and 'A' strings.

Bridges are made to fit in one place, and moving the bridge from its original placement is not recommended. Have it routinely examined by an expert, especially whenever the strings are replaced.

If your bridge breaks or falls, remove the strings and tailpiece, bridge and tailpiece from the instrument. This prevents the tailpiece from scratching the top. Bring the instrument to a violinmaker for repair.

7. Sound Post

Quick Guide: essential to sound quality, located inside violin, can be disturbed if violin dropped/banged

Known in some cultures as the 'soul' or 'spirit' of the violin, the sound post is located on the inside of the violin, and its relative position to the bridge – acting as a support for the top, and a nodal point which directs the patterns of vibration and hence the sound – is essential to, and can dramatically affect, the tone of the instrument.

The ends of the post are beveled to fit the inside curve of the violin. The post must fit in length so as not to be too tight or too loose, and the fit should be snug and clean. Since it is not glued into position, it can move – especially with hard knocks or climate changes (The tops and backs of the instrument expand and contract with changes in humidity. Because these pieces are glued onto the sides all around, the height of the arching changes slightly. This can cause the sound post to be either too tight or too loose, resulting in sound quality variation.)

If you notice a change in the sound quality of your violin over a period of time (i.e. from a full, rich tone, to a shallow, dry, harsh or gritty tone), it may be that your sound post needs to be adjusted. If you hear something rattling around on the inside of your violin, it's possible that your sound post has fallen down. (If this happens, loosen all your strings and immediately have it serviced.) This can occur if you drop it or bang it into something, or if you take all your strings off (at the same time) when replacing them. It will only take a few moments to set it back up, but this is very much a job for a professional. It's a good idea to be present when it is being fixed, so that you can play your violin and work with a skilled luthier to create the exact sound you prefer.

8. Pegs

Quick Guide: responsible for tightening strings: can stick or slip due to humidity, temperature, improper winding

Pegs are often prone to slipping or sticking due to changes in humidity and temperature, or because they are improperly wound.

With pegs that slip, a simple cleaning is recommended. Simply unwind the string and wipe the peg with fine steel wool and replace. Additional cleaning inside the peg hole may be necessary. Remove the peg and very carefully scrape the build-up on the inside of the hole with a penknife, and take it in for refitting as soon as possible. Never force a peg into the hole when the peg is slipping as this may crack the peg box. With pegs that stick, try a little dry Ivory soap on the peg where it touches the peg-box (never force it to turn). Peg dope is the best bet to help sticky pegs turn a little easier, but use it sparingly as it can build up and cause the pegs to slip.

Occasionally pegs fit poorly, and it is recommended they be replaced. Pegs that don't fit can slip, have a "bump" in them while turning, or stick out on the other side of the peg-box. If pegs stick out too much, or if there is a crack in the peg-box, a bushing may be required, which should be done by a qualified repairperson.

Occasionally check any fine tuners to make sure they are not wound too tight. If they are, loosen them and retune with the pegs. It is possible for tuners to get stuck; in some cases the tension can cause a string to break.

9. Buzzes

Quick Guide: check variety of items for looseness or contact, also for cracks and seams

Buzzes on instruments have many possible causes. Here is a checklist of what to look for:

1. Is there any jewelry or buttons touching the instrument?

2. Is your mute loose?

3. Is the chinrest secure?

4. Are the strings wound properly around the pegs?

5. Are the strings old?

6. Is there a loose winding on the string?

7. Do the strings travel over the bridge and top nut without obstruction?

8. Is there anything touching the top, such as a part of the tailpiece?

9. If you use fine tuners, are they all properly tightened down to the tailpiece?

10. Are there any open seams between the ribs and the top or back?

11. Is there contact between the tailpiece and the chinrest, or top?

12. Are there any cracks developing on the top?

13. Are the top-nut grooves worn down too low, onto the fingerboard?

April 23rd, 2010

Violin Purchase Guide

Purchase GuidePurchasing a violin is often a significant expenditure, a long-term investment, and determines the quality of instrument you’ll be playing on for years to come. For these reasons it’s important to invest enough time to get it right. These tips are meant only as a guide, not as a fully comprehensive purchase manual. Please take your time, ask a lot of questions, test drive the violin, and use your best judgment.

1. Involve Your Teacher

Teachers are great resources because they have a wealth of knowledge and experience assisting many different students in their purchases with various dealers and makers. They can also help you determine the appropriate violin range based on their intimate familiarity of level, progress, motivation, commitment, and future goals. When you are trying out an instrument, bring it to your teacher so they can help look for more subtle distinctions in quality and value.

2. Determine Appropriate Instrument

A. Personal Requirements: What does the range of your playing include: solos, orchestra, chamber music, personal enjoyment and expression? Will you be pursuing music academically or as a career? What is your level of playing ability, progress, motivation, commitment, and future goals? What is the proper size?

Sometimes a poorer instrument may be holding a student back, cause frustration, lack of motivation and even injury. A good instrument can accelerate progress, increase motivation, increase technical skills and musical expressiveness by allowing a student to play on a better sounding, more responsive instrument.

B. Personal Taste: Each player has their personal preferences suited to their tastes and individual ear, personality and expressiveness. Some may prefer a brighter sound, while others a richer, warmer tone. This may change as you play a wider variety of violins, but before heading to a dealer have an initial idea as to what you feel best suits your tastes.

C. Establishing Price Range: Pre-determine your price range and have it in mind when you call to make an appointment to see instruments. That way the shop you are dealing with can ready instruments in that range for you to consider. If you don’t want to spend more than a certain dollar amount make sure to communicate this to the seller. For the education of your ear or for your curiosity, you may want to ask to hear instruments in the next range up or down.

Once you’ve established both need, taste and price range, you can then embark on finding the best possible instrument that meets your requirements, and gives you good value for your investment. This can best be accomplished through a bit of research.

D. Research: Discover the key qualities you’re seeking in a violin for the price range you’ve selected. These can include: craftsmanship, present condition, response, expressiveness, projection, ringing tone color and sound quality, durability, re-sale value etc.

Educate yourself on the differences between lower, medium and higher quality violins. Learn how a better violin can enable you to develop your sound. Also research makers and sellers/shops (see below). Once you start test driving violins, part of your research will be in seeking the opinions of a variety of people.

3. Finding The Right Seller/Maker/Shop:

A. Reputation: Are they well-known? Respected? Have a reputation for superior craftsmanship and durability? Been in business for a long time? Regarded as honest and fair? Do they have an expert staff fully capable of and willing to patiently answer all of your questions and concerns, and work with you to find the best violin suited to you, and one that makes you happy? Are they known for being honest? Look for a shop that provides information and guidance without pressure, and sales representatives who are willing to listen to your needs and the preferences of your teacher. Do they want your long-term business?

B. Selection: A good dealer will offer a selection of instruments by different makers and understand the national and international markets. Ideally, find a shop that sells both to students and professionals.

C. Trial Policy: Most reputable establishments will let you audition more expensive instrument for 1-2 weeks. This trial time is essential in making the right choice!

D. Stated Trade-in Policy or Warranty: Ask about the trade-in policy (or warranty) of the shop. If in the future your child needs a better quality instrument or a larger size, what value will your present purchase be given in a trade situation? Also try to determine what selection the shop has available in the range or size that might be the next step-up if trading is important to you. if the seller offers 100% trade in value. In that way the seller will have an interest in the upkeep of your instrument and will keep you advised of whatever is necessary to maintain its value.

E. Build A Long-term Relationship: Try to find someone who is interested in building a long-term relationship with you, someone you can trust and work with throughout the course of the student’s musical education and career.

F. Good Repair Shop: Are they professionally trained and well-known for their skill and workmanship in proper set-up and service of instruments, sound adjustments, and quality maintenance for both your violin and bow? Fine stringed instruments are designed to last for hundreds of years; during that time you will need a repairperson to make certain your instrument is healthy and sounding its best. It is in your best interest if the seller provides this service, especially if they are the ones offering a trade in policy. They also would know the instrument and its history best.

Fixing violins is an art and requires great skill. I can personally recommend a great violin repairperson should you need expert help.

4. Test Drive…Test Drive…Test Drive

Play on a wide variety of violins and bows. This will help you determine what you like and don’t like, and help you to better determine your price range.

Once you find a violin you love, ask if you can have it on trial for a period of time to ensure it’s not an impulse buy, and that it stands up to your standards over a period of time, situations and demands.

Play in a variety of locations (store, home, theatres, concert hall, school) to hear how it projects, play a variety of styles (legato, staccato, chords, pianissimo, fortissimo etc) to hear how it responds, and play for a variety of people (teachers, colleagues, other students or violinists, family) to hear a wide range of reactions. Also allow these same people to eyeball and play it so they can give you first-hand feedback and advice. The more eyes and ears and players and opinions, the better!

5. Communication

Learn to communicate what you hear (or don’t hear!) to the professionals so they can determine whether changes can be made to that particular instrument, or to assist them in finding one that can produce the unique quality of sound you’re looking for. Sound will be affected by a change in strings or bridge and a sound post adjustment. If you like certain things about an instrument or bow, but not others, talk about this with whomever is helping you. It will help you get what you want in the most efficient way as many violins can be adjusted to better – or perfectly – suit your personal tastes.

6. Purchase Good Value

When everything else has been settled, make sure you’re getting a lot of violin for the price. Buy a fine violin from someone who has something at stake in being honest and providing good value, such as a good reputation in the community, or a business relationship with your teacher. In most instances, since there is no Blue Book or Consumer’s Report for violins, the buyer is quite dependent on the seller’s expertise and perspective on the market place to price instruments and bows accordingly – this is another important reason to consult you teacher before any purchase. With that in mind, value of fine instruments can be said to be based largely on the following:

A. Origin: Who made the instrument? Is it a master instrument, a master shop instrument, trade name instrument, amateur instrument? When was it made? Where was it made?

B. Quality of Craftsmanship: quality of materials, artistry and craftsmanship

C. Condition & Proper functioning: no open cracks or seams, cracks repaired neatly and securely, conformity of basic critical measurements, angle of fingerboard, neck length, exactness of proportions, smooth turning pegs, proper arching, position and length of fingerboard, proper string spacing, proper length and position of sound post, proper height, contour, fitting and position of bridge etc.

D. Sound: quality of tone, projects easily, warm and consistent, ringing, expressive, and suited to your personal needs, preferences, and playing environment.

E. Re-sale value: Condition of instrument or bow, ease in terms of ability to trade or resell, or to increase future options for “trading-up”.

7. Remembering The Bow & Case

A quality bow makes a big difference in the way a stringed instrument sounds and responds. Once you’ve decided on an instrument, begin a similar search for a bow that best meets the above requirements and accentuates and responds to the qualities of the violin you’ve chosen. A good bow is strong, flexible, responsive, carefully crafted of superior materials, and carries a long-term warranty. Please consult with me for additional information.

The value of your new instrument and bow is only as secure as the case. Determine how much risk you need to guard against and choose carefully. Be sure to ask about the quality of materials and craftsmanship, suspension features and warranties.

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