The past few weeks of In-Depth, I’ve been continuing to work on my previous skills. I also did some research on vibrato, sight-read some pieces from the Suzuki books, and continued practicing and planning my presentation (if there’s still going to be a presentation).
I guess isolation and social distancing has its positives; I now have plenty of time to practice. The G major scale with shifting is still challenging, but it’s feeling less and less awkward. I’m also still regularly working on the tone exercises and other scales to warm up.
I sight-read some pieces from the Suzuki books too. It was a fun challenge, and playing something unpredictable actually helped me get more familiar with where the notes are on the violin when I played new music with new rhythms and patterns.
I conducted some research on my own about vibrato, because I think having a little vibrato in my presentation (if there’s still a presentation) would really take it to the next level and sound great if I can learn it by then. For now, though, my main focus is still on practicing my pieces and technique.
There are two types of vibrato: wrist and arm vibrato. Wrist vibrato is from the wrist up and is usually faster, and arm vibrato is the whole arm and is usually slower. To start learning, it’s easiest to begin practicing with the first or second finger (index or middle) on the A or D string. The first and second fingers are usually the strongest; the fourth finger (pinky) is the hardest to vibrato with. The A or D string is usually the most natural place to put your hand, so they’re easiest to begin learning on. It’s also helpful to practice without the bow at first, to get a feeling for how the movement works. The speed and amplitude of the vibrato is also variable, depending on the piece.
As to how the vibrato itself works, here is a breakdown of the process. First, push the wrist back; the angle of the finger should change and become flatter, so the string is more on the pad of the finger than on the tip, and your finger is extended straighter. It sounds lower than the real pitch of the note. Then, pull the hand forward; the finger should be more bent, and the note should sound like the actual pitch. It helps to start with a slow, exaggerated vibrato, without the bow, to get familiar with the movement at first. Expand the movement to your whole arm for arm vibrato. Another helpful tip I found was to practice with the metronome to keep vibrato even – start with 60 bpm, with one oscillation back and forth every two beats. Trying vibrato for the first few times, my whole violin was shaking, so some of the videos I watched suggested practicing against a wall at first, which was helpful. It was interesting to note that vibrato starts at a lower pitch; the high point of the vibrato should be the “correct” pitch. I did not know that; I thought that the correct pitch was supposed to be in the middle of the vibrato, so I’m glad I know that now.
Two of my research sources:
My presentation plan, if there’s still a presentation and however the presentation might work, is to put together a medley that consists of “Part of Your World”, “Reflection”, and “When You Wish Upon A Star”. I found preview sheet music online, but it usually didn’t show the whole song without me having to pay, so I just extrapolated by ear based on what was there and it was fine. I’ll be continuing to practice these songs going forward.
My next mentor meeting with Jiwon is on Thursday (April 16) over video call, but I was able to message her earlier to discuss the questions for this post.
What kinds of learning opportunities does the mentor provide to expose you to new learning?
Jiwon has provided a variety of tools such as scales, practice books, different tone techniques, and the bow rhythm change exercise, which exposes me to lots of new learning that I can do with the instrument beyond the musical notes it can produce. By giving me the building blocks of how to make sounds and play notes properly, I can also learn more independently, and learn new pieces on my own.
What kinds of learning opportunities exist to reinforce new learning?
The scales and Suzuki practice books help to provide a base for me to develop my technical skills which indirectly help to reinforce the final piece(s) that I’ll be playing at In-Depth (however In-Depth will look like). Practicing the basics and building a solid foundation with good-quality tone and correct tuning, rhythm and notes is important so that when I want to play more complex pieces, I can rely on knowing the basic skills that I can apply to any new content that I’m trying to tackle.
What kinds of opportunities exist that might accelerate learning?
Jiwon says that we could take more advantage of the fact that I know piano already and know the musical notes, especially because there is distance in the mentoring process now. I can try more pieces at home without her teaching them to me directly because I know the strings and where to put my fingers now for what note, et cetera. I agree; I found that it worked well to learn “When You Wish” and “Reflection” on my own, especially since I can only meet with her online now.
When you get together what do you talk about?
Sometimes we talk about other goings-on in TALONS, and it’s nice to talk about them with someone who’s been through it and understands. Right now, fair amount of concern for what’s happening with Covid is worth discussing for sure too. We talk a lot about what’s going happen at In-Depth night and my plan of attack for the presentation (although that may have to change, I was going to do a video anyways so however In-Depth might end up looking like it probably won’t matter). Also, we talk about how much I’ve practiced; sometimes is fluctuates a lot, so Jiwon helps keep me accountable.
What is going particularly well in your mentoring relationship right now?
The fact that Jiwon has experienced In-Depth before and is already familiar with the process makes interacting with her as a mentor work well. We’re closer in age too, so we can be more relaxed and have casual conversations which might enhance our working relationship. Music is also a field that we’re both interested in so there’s more of a natural flow to our conversations, which is great.
Thanks for reading!