Lessons from “Itzhak”

The world-renowned violin soloist Itzhak Perlman needs no introduction for many people who love the violin or classical music.  I grew up with his name spoken with a reverent tone; among my teachers it went undisputed that he was one of the best living violinists. Very early in my violin studies,  I was privileged to see…

Before you play a note… – Violin warm-up exercises

Playing a musical instrument engages many parts of the brain, but it is not only a mental activity. Violinists, perhaps especially, are being continually reminded of our embodiment – that we play music with our physical selves. The noise we make uses almost every part of our bodies, and so violin playing involves a focus…

The sheet music reader’s guide to chord charts

Music is, in many ways, is a language.  It has its own grammar (structure for melody to follow) and vocabulary (motifs, “riffs” or “licks” that cluster sounds together).  Also like music, language (with the exception of signing) is first and foremost aural communion. (What matters is one person’s mouth reaching someone else’s ear). However, that…

Mark Wood and Lindsey Stirling – a comparative review

Whether it was mourning the loss of George Martin, Prince, and David Bowie, or awaiting new releases from Beyoncé, The Julie Ruin, and Itzhak Perlman, 2016 has been a very noteworthy year for music.  On top of everything else –two of the most widely recognized names in the non-classical violin world released new albums within…

the gift of permission to fail

  One of the main challenges of learning the violin is the lack of instant gratification.  You will not be able to play perfectly after one lesson. Or two, or a month’s worth. As a student, you may spend several weeks practicing nothing but bow holds, or playing a single note on an open string…

10 Violinists Worth Getting To Know…

The violin is an incredible versatile instrument, and can express itself a wide variety of musical styles, emotions, and contexts. A creative and competent player will pour all of her or his culture, ideas, and personality into the instrument.  The simple physical motions of dragging a bow across strings can tell a story of where…

free and creative from the beginning

A teacher is always continuing to learn, and must always be open to new ideas and challenges. Learning is a lifelong process of continuous evolving and tweaking how we do things. I once heard in a class that one of the more important sentences for a teacher is, “I used to think ___ but now…

being musically multilingual

In a previous article, I briefly brought up the concept of being musically multilingual as an important goal for my students. Just as a multilingual person is able to communicate with people from a wider range of nationalities, a musician proficient in multiple cultural or musical traditions can perform with a wide variety of people,…

Why we need both a Suzuki and an O’Connor method….

… I was prepared to not make a comment on this at all, but recent discussions about violin pedagogy and which method books to buy have reached a level of passion and vitriol I usually associate only with religion and politics (and that usually sends me looking for the door.) For those of you too…

what I learned about violin teaching from a hamster…

  A few days ago, my wife and I became the proud owners of a very adorable longhaired hamster, mostly not by choice. A neighbor knocked on our door and handed us a shoebox of the adorable but feisty creature, telling us she had too many animals and was looking for a nice home for…