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Violin Lessons: Bach - Air

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[MUSIC]
This air, also called Air on the G String,
by Bach actually comes from his orchestral
suite in D major.
And so in its original version, this
melody line is the first violin part.
And it's up a whole step in D major.
This violin, quite old violin arrangement,
is in C major and
just lets us use the open G string and
it's a, it's a friendly key for
exploring that lowest end, the most
sensuous part of the instrument.
So, what you're after, since we've only
got one string to work with.
We're going to be shifting a lot, and
these should be quite expressive shifts.
This is, if you like your Bach pure and
unpolluted by romantic leanings then this
is not the arrangement for you.
[LAUGH] If you're going to play this, it's
going to be expressive shifts up and
down the string, with an even sound, and
as with, with everything else,
the shapes you make should be should be
intelligent.
And, your bow is going to make them with
bow speed and bow pressure.
So the Kreutzer Number One is a great
etude to work on, in preparation for this.
For example right in the, the very first
bar you've got a crescendo on a down bow.
And so you have to be in great control of
your three variables, bow speed,
bow pressure and sounding point.
The very beginning here, since it's a
nice, soft start at the frog.
You can look at the, the beginning of the
going home,
the Dvorzak going home lesson for how to
make a soft start.
But the bow hovers just above the string
and
then the violin gently pushes up into the
bow.
[MUSIC]
Now there are so many shifts up and
down in this piece and a number of ways to
practice them
I mean the most straightforward is to know
what your guide finger is.
Let's take this first shift as an example.
[MUSIC]
So we're shifting
from a two down to a three.
[MUSIC].
So the guide finger is the two.
And it shifts down since we're shifting
down into second position, [COUGH],
it would shift down to a C.
So we're shifting down three positions,
from fifth to second.
[MUSIC].
And that's great to know.
You should know that for every shift you
make.
At a certain point, though, that becomes a
little bit limiting and
the sound of your shifts will start to
reflect that.
And so it's, in the end,
after you've done a lot of practice with
the Sevcik etudes, for example,.
It's most useful to simply hear the shift,
and
especially to hear the destination note in
your head.
So, I love practicing with alternate
fingerings,
fingerings that don't include the shift
that I'm working on.
[MUSIC].
I hear, most of us think we hear the notes
we're about to play in advance but
sometimes we're so caught up with a shift
or
what we're hearing in our mind is maybe
what we've done in the past.
So it's useful to clear that out.
[MUSIC]
Or.
[MUSIC]
That's the note I want.
[MUSIC]
And somehow this shift gets smoother,
it becomes less of an issue.
[COUGH] so in, in point of fact this kind
of a shift,
since we're shifting from a lower finger
down to a higher finger.
The, that, we call that an exchange shift
cuz the two fingers have to change places.
[MUSIC].
To make that sound smooth and expressive.
It's useful first to practice the shift
down to the same finger.
So that would be from two down to two.
[MUSIC]
To feel that dragging
motion, very smooth.
[MUSIC]
That's the, the motion with which you
want to start an exchange shift.
So it's almost as though you're playing.
[MUSIC]
And
then substituting the three at the end.
[MUSIC]
That helps many people, including me,
do an exchange shift expressively.
[MUSIC].
And eventually as you smooth it out it
becomes,
you hear less of the substitution.
[MUSIC]
We spend a lot of time on
this kind of shift because it's
one I think that is underused.
Many people aren't comfortable making that
kind of shift and so
they just never put it into their music.
It's important, especially when you're
practicing these,
to keep the bow pressure steady.
It's tempting to
[MUSIC]
to lift the bow subtly, out of the string,
to sort of cheat, and help hide the shift.
Now when you're practicing these kind of
shifts, or in fact, any shift,
it's important to keep the bow in the
string to keep nice bow pressure.
It's tempting sometimes to want to pick up
the pressure,
take the bow out of the string to a
certain extent to hide the shift.
[MUSIC]
Because we're often taught to let's you
know, let's not hear the shift.
But it's important in practice to keep the
bow pressure in so
that you know exactly how you're moving.
You always have the option in performance
if you feel the need to slightly
camouflage a shift.
You always have that option, but
it's important when you're practicing the
motion to keep the bow pressure in.
Now, in bar five here we,
to start the bar, we have a substitution.
This one, I think, we've had so many
shifts going on in this piece.
This is a nice one, maybe, to just do
silently.
[MUSIC].
It just gives a little bit of
articulation.
[SOUND] But, not a.
[MUSIC]
Even though, this is a romantic
arrangement of this Bach that may be a
little bit too romantic for
my taste, right there on top of everything
else.
In the second half of this
bar seven, we have
[MUSIC].
And here in fifth position it's wonderful
to, to just be able to feel where that is.
Sometimes coming from an open string it
can be difficult to gauge the distance,
gauge the feel you have a couple of
different markers you can use.
The most useful is the physical feel of
the hand up against the neck
of the instrument.
[MUSIC]
Just exactly how that feels
right up against the neck.
That's your most useful marker.
You can also, and I do this all the time
when I need to find a note and
I'm, I feel like I might not quite get it
accurately.
I can use a visual marker if I look
straight down
my violin at where my finger's about to
land on this instrument, and
you'll have to see how this is on yours.
On this instrument the place where the rib
meets the neck for
me is very close to an octave above the
open string.
So if I just put my finger right there
[MUSIC]
I can just visually see where the finger
needs to go.
And by the way I have that same marker on
the E string
side
[MUSIC]
to get an octave above the open string.
So that you can use to find fingers when,
let's say,
you can't hear anything that's going on in
orchestra, perhaps.
In bar 11, the pianissimo sound should be
very special.
[MUSIC].
Over the fingerboard, very light bow.
And, and 13, you see these little, you
might call them diminuendos or hairpins.
Those should be very expressive marks, and
the,
the expression is on the first note of the
slur.
[MUSIC]
So, it's a mini
diminuendo within a crescendo.
So, the overall, the line builds, but
[MUSIC]
might call it an expressive accent,
but that's what those hairpins mean.
And finally, at the very top of the line
in 16, up high on the G string,
you'll actually need to be pretty close to
the bridge.
Now, the string is so short because of the
high position we're in.
[MUSIC].
So keep it nice and close in with great
bow pressure and
then the sound won't break.
So this, this is really a study in
shifting and in sounding point.
Some of the other songs that we've
experimented with shapes.
It's more about a mounted bow here,
because we're staying on one string.
The most important variable is the
sounding point.
And you can look right down at your bridge
and see how you're doing with that,
see how smoothly you move from one to the
next.
[MUSIC]