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Violin Lessons: Bach - Partita in D minor: The Allemande

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The first movement of Bach's D minor
Partita The Allemande is like almost all
the Partita movements with dance.
Now it's a slow dance.
But, it's a dance nonetheless, and so
there needs to be direction in everything
you play here, and that's gonna be the
thing we come back to again and again.
Gonna talk about a few other concepts here
expressive intonation being one of them.
And what I mean by that is mostly half
If you think about the very beginning of
the movement.
Where does
that C sharp go?
Well you know, how high or how low is this
C sharp?
So when I talk about expressive
I would really want that C sharp to lead
to the D, so
I want it as high as possible, as close as
possible to the D.
That's just the first example of,
of many that would be in this movement,
you know if you were to play that C sharp
with a piano.
It would sound, you would sound too high.
It would be a little bit on the sharp
side, but
this is unaccompanied violin music, and so
that's absolutely fine and
part of violin playing is using our
We don't have frets, we get to choose
exactly where those pitches go.
And so that's what I mean by expressive
intonation, and, and
you'll hear it in the performance.
And so that's something to think about in
this section.
Matching pitches is going to be another
important part of playing this in tune.
Some of this kind of meanders around in
the same register.
The very first line, it doesn't travel all
that far on the fingerboard.
It's not that much of a range,
so pitches come back over and over again.
Each time they do.
In general, they should be the same.
Expressive intonation can play around with
that a little bit.
But generally those pitches need to be the
And so a nice way to work on it is,
is simply to listen for all your Ds or all
your As.
And make sure that those stay the same.
Also wanna make a beautiful sound.
Well, we wanna make a beautiful sound in
almost everything we play.
But when you're thinking about other
the intonation and direction, sometimes it
can be easy to settle into a,
a normal sound, but not necessarily
And, some of that has to do with the, the
left hand vibrato.
So rather than just
I want it smooth, and
I want a little life where it's possible.
And that doesn't just mean vibrato
on the long notes, although th,
those are the most obvious places to
I actually want enough flexibility and
life in my hands that
the hand is moving a little bit even
during the 16th.
So I, I'm not vibrating every 16th note,
but I am allowing the hand to vibrate.
And so that gives a ring and a life to the
And it also, keeps us healthy.
It's not great to play in a stiff fashion.
And finally you'll notice that an enormous
help in this movement is to
leave fingers down when possible.
That just maintains the frame of the hand
makes everything easier to play in tune.
So look at bar two.
It's that C sharp that I was talking about
How to finger that there, because I'd
rather not shift.
That's a tough shift to hide
during a slur, so I'd rather reach it.
And then I reach down for
that A as well.
And I want that C sharp high also.
Now here's a chance to talk about
We've got the first series in this
movement, and
there are gonna be tons of series in all
Bach, really, but here's one.
So naturally, since those notes go up,
I'd like each iteration, each one of,
of that series to crescendo a, a little
Now that note where I just ended that A,
the first note of the fourth measure,
that's an ending because I've been
phrasing all
of these from the second note of the four.
So that's an ending but
it's also a beginning.
Because these groups,
I like to phrase from the first note of
the four.
It just helps things, it prevents things
from sounding too square.
If you always have the same phrasing, the
same shape throughout,
it gets a little repetitive.
So I'll play this a little bit quicker
than performance tempo.
That was so that you can hear the
different phrasings and
how they kind of balance each other versus
from the second note of four and
then the first note of four.
And here we have just gotten to
bar six, even though it is all
straight 16ths it is useful
to think of this as two voices,
a low one and a high one and they,
each voice has its own character.
So there I exaggerate the,
the difference in
the character there.
But that's another thing that you can look
for in this movement.
Again to make it a little bit more
interesting because it can
get deadly just to play a lot of 16th
notes a little dark.
In this movement, the bowings, the
slurrings are Bach's original
slurrings and you can certainly keep those
exactly as they're written.
They're not always very convenient,
You start working your way to the end of
the bow,
where you get accents you don't want.
So for example, in bar eight, if you keep
the original bowing,
there's a danger of sounding like this.
And those accents don't really make
any sense and, and they're repetitive.
So, what I like to do and what most
violinists throughout history have done.
It's convenient for the bow and
that way you get to decide where your
emphasis is.
It's so, it's not enough just to make it
convenient for yourself,
you have to use that convenience to make
some intelligent direction,
some intelligent phrasing.
And it's also your responsibility to
maintain the sound of the original bowing.
So I'm not slurring.
But hooking with a little articulation.
And this I'll do in various places through
the movement just so that I get to choose
where the accents are.
Look at bar 18 with me this is a great
place to change the character.
Because of where we're going with the
So it's gentler and,
I would call that a pretty
sudden character change.
There are gonna be lots of gradual dynamic
and sound changes in this movement, but
that's one place where I think it's
appropriate to,
to do it pretty dramatically as the
register changes.
And finally look with me into bar 24.
Here's the place where you have to make a
decision as to,
what direction you're going to go is 24
going to start at a higher dynamic or
a lower dynamic, cuz you've got a series.
So, of course,
there I came into 24 at a lower dynamic
then I build each series up, and
I could also do the reverse.
And some of you prefer
that because that takes
each number in the series
down as the notes go down.
So that's really up to you but it should
be one or the other so
it's not all the same.
So let's play the Allemande, it's a dance,
it's a chance to show off you
beautiful sound, and it's a chance to be
expressive, all in Baroque music.
Isn't that great?