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Violin Lessons: Brahms - Symphony #1, 1st Mvt, opening - Reh. B

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The opening of Brahms' first symphony is a
grand opening in C major.
And that's what you have to keep in mind
the whole time you're playing this
The sound can never go out of bounds, it
can never sound pressed.
Once upon a time I was confused about why
this excerpt was,
was really asked in auditions.
It, it seemed, it almost seemed like
nothing was happening.
And so I asked the concert master in
Chicago, why it was on the list.
And he, he just said, well when people
start playing loud on the E string and get
up there higher and higher, weird things
start happening, and we want to hear them.
So it's true, it,
it takes a great degree of control to, to
pace your sound, vibrato,
and the pitch, when you're up high on the
E string, and staring at a forte.
So that's why what you have to remember is
sound quality, first and foremost.
The bravado should match that.
Now we all know that in auditions, when
you get nervous, things happen to vibrato.
So, what happens to me, as to many people,
is that vibrato
finger pressure gets a little a little
stronger, vibrato gets a little faster.
Now for some people, it gets faster and
narrower, for other people, faster and
But whatever it is, you need to know your
You've been nervous before, you know
what's likely to happen.
And so you need to prepare for that
For myself, if I know that it's gonna get
faster and narrower,
I concentrate on relaxing my finger
pressure, and allowing the vibrato to
travel a little bit, so that it's not too
focused and tinny like a laser.
Of course the higher you go and you, you
get up to a B-flat at the top of that,
the vibrato can't remain the same width
that it was nearly an octave lower.
If you keep the same width it's suddenly
gonna sound
a lot wider because you're covering more,
more parts of the half-step.
So again, use your ear, have a nice
comfortable vibrato in the beginning, and
then just focus it as you get to the top
so that it's still an appropriate sound.
You'll need to listen carefully, for
the intonation too, you have all real
The bowing, of course is,
that's a phrase bowing, you're free to
break it up however you like.
I take, by the,
by the time I get to the top, I'm taking a
bow for pretty much every note.
So then, of course, the challenge is to
have the smooth bow changes.
And you do that by having the same sound
at the end of one
bow as you do at the beginning of the
The main problem that most people have
with bow changes is that they don't
sustain the sound to the end of the bow
well enough.
Therefore, the next bow sounds like an
accent, especially that very first bow.
When you don't sustain it that last
inch of bow,
then almost no matter what you do that
next note's gonna sound like an accent.
So you have a series of smooth bow changes
you save your most sound for the top of
Just musically that's, that's what sounds
the most satisfying.
It sounds strange, of course, to dim on
the way to the top,
which you would never do.
But it sounds strange also to plateau too
early, or even worse,
just to keep the same sound all the time.
Now once you reach the top, you've gotta
figure out how to get back down.
That's where a lot of intonation problems
happen, and you don't want those.
So there are a couple things you can do
that, that they're safer fingerings,
although they require some reaching, so
you need to be comfortable with that.
And it may not be possible for every hand
size if your hand is particularly small.
But if you can manage these reaches with
they're gonna make your life a lot easier.
Starting from the top of the line.
So, from the A-flat,
I, simply scoot the three down, and then
it's a little fingered octave.
Now, this is the bigger reach, from two to
one, it's an octave.
Next I scoot the four down a half-step.
That prevents you from having to shift the
other alternative's shifting down
onto a fourth finger shifting through
those octaves instead of reaching them.
This allows you to maintain the line, and
as long as you still do it with
vibrato and without any bow accents, it'll
sound nice and it'll sound in tune.
Now, when you reach the four-note chord
many people are concerned about getting
that pizzicato right in rhythm after.
You don't need to worry about it.
If the excerpt that you're given for an
audition includes playing that chord and
going all the way through the pizz, just
take your time and get a quality sound.
The, a far greater crime would be to rush
to the pizz and, and,
forfeit the nice sound on the chord, or
get an accent on the pizz cuz you're
really trying to rush into it.
Looking ahead now, to the allegro section
you need accurate rhythm.
This is now in, in three, so many people
have problems coming off that first tie.
You need to hear eighth notes running
through your body.
Yup, ba da da, daga, daga, dum.
And come off the tie strictly in time with
You also need direction there.
It's, it's easy to wanna play that
four-note chord and, and
just let the sound die.
But really it should go all the way to the
end of the next bow.
Cuz we are in C here, we're not in G, so
just playing the first chord in G, that,
that's not the whole story.
Now in Brahms, we often associate the word
weight with Brahms,
so this is a, a weighty allegro.
That means that all your cutoffs, the ends
of the notes,
the ends of the bows, need to be in that
And, one of the best ways you can do that
is by cutting off,
accurately and to the rest, with a strong
rather than letting it taper as you might
with some other composers.
So the way that I end those bows, that's
in character, and
it releases, it zings right into the rest.
It doesn't have an actual accent at the,
at the end of the note, but
it goes right up until the rest and it
builds anticipation for what comes next.
So let's talk about a couple fingerings.
I would, I do not stay on the E string for
the whole passage.
I come down right there.
I've, I've experimented, I,
I don't find that there's much advantage
there to staying on the E string.
You can just play it much better in tune
when you cross.