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Violin Lessons: Flight of the Bumblebee

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[MUSIC]
For Flight of the Bumblebee there isn't
a lot of mysteries to, to what the
challenges are.
It goes really, really fast, and so
everything you've learned
about coordination and stamina will come
into play here, and
this is certainly a piece where you want a
good plan for the left hand.
The right hand's gonna be doing the same
thing all the time, but for
the left hand you'll probably want to mark
in some fingerings and
although I give mine here, there are a
million possible combinations.
The point is that you want to be organized
and to try to do the same patterns in
the same way each time so that you're not,
so that your hand doesn't get confused.
At slow tempos it's okay, but once the
tempo starts moving up
you'll want your hand just to fall into a
basic pattern.
So let's start with the basic one here
which you
finally get in bar five excuse me bar
seven.
[MUSIC]
I always like to start that on a third
finger when I can, and I'll just mentione
now the difference sort of old school and
new school fingerings, for chromatics.
It used to be everybody played chromatics
like this, with the.
[MUSIC]
And about 100 years ago
there was a bit of a shift where
it became into fashion to,
to play those like this, with little
shifts.
[MUSIC]
So that's a,
a basic difference between old school and
new school.
What ended up happening, I think, is that
people got so
far away from the old school, the
glissando with one finger
that it actually took away some expressive
possibilities.
And so it's useful to be able to do both
kinds of fingerings and, in fact,
in this piece, although I like the
so-called new school fingerings for
cleanliness, there are going to be many
instances in here
where you'll gliss on one finger and so
you need to be comfortable with both.
But in general because of the cleanliness,
because of the exact coordination,
I'm gonna be doing more shifting than
glissing.
So [COUGH]
the fingerings are there.
You can see what I do and probably why I
do it.
The real question is how to practice this,
how to get it up to tempo and accurate.
Intonation is not the same kind of
challenge here that it is in other pieces
because it's, almost everything is a half
step and so, you're generally going to be
in tune if you're moving your fingers to
the right places.
[LAUGH] The bigger questions are how to
get it steady
clean and coordinated, and how to get
through it all in one go.
So, I like to start by marking the places
that are not half steps,
in other words, the whole steps, and just
to put a little mark.
If it's below the staff, I use a little W
for whole step.
Some people say that represents two half
steps,
and if it is above the staff it looks more
like an M, but the same thing.
That is just a visual marker when I'm
going through it at a quick tempo that
lets me know, hey, this is the one spot
that's out of the ordinary.
Once I've done that, I may start by
playing.
I may start by finding the comfortable
speed.
What's the speed at which I'm very
confident that I can get
through a section?
And I may not even bother with the right
hand just yet, so I'll slur.
[MUSIC]
That's a way for me to test out my
fingerings and get very comfortable.
It's a temptation with this one to always
push yourself, to always try and
practice at the fastest speed at which you
think you can play, and
that leads to tension and
it leads to breakdowns once you try to
actually get it to performance tempo.
So you find your comfortable speed and
spend some time there, get confident.
[LAUGH] You wanna succeed with this piece
at whatever tempo.
Once I feel like I have a good fingering
plan and
I've found a comfortable speed then I'll
start to play with the separate bows.
[MUSIC]
Just to start getting used to
the coordination.
The fact is that this piece eventually
goes off the string.
[MUSIC]
And I wonder whether you've considered
recently [LAUGH] that the timing between
left and
right hand is different if you're on the
string and
if you're off the string.
When you play it off the string,
the finger has to cover the next note
while the bow is in the air, and obviously
you can't be [LAUGH] thinking about this
at the moment of, but it's just a fact.
If I slow this down but
still play off this string,
[MUSIC]
you'll see that my finger reaches the note
in the space between the bows and
one great way that I got from Simon
Fischer's
book Basics about how to practice this
kind
of thing is to practice it pizzicato.
[MUSIC]
You'll see when you do that,
that you automatically, your hand finds
the right timing and
your fingers get used to preparing the
notes because you can't
make a pizzicato without the finger fully
covering the note.
Now there's only so fast you can pizz.
[MUSIC]
But even that's useful for
building that timing, and
when you put it back to a staccato stroke,
[MUSIC]
you'll see that your fingers are now
preparing early.
[MUSIC]
[MUSIC]
Dotted rhythms can really help
build that coordination and
you can do that both on and off the
string.
[MUSIC]
Perhaps it should go without saying but I,
I'll say it anyway that the dotted rhythms
for
a really fast piece like this are only
useful.
If you really make that fast note as fast
as possible,
has to be the tightest possible dotted
rhythm.
And do practice it on and off the string
[SOUND] and
[SOUND] you're getting small chunks of
this up to tempo.
And it's important, I say find your
comfortable speed but
it's important not to spend all your time
at the comfortable speed.
So rather then now trying to play the
entire thing as fast as you can,
pick a small chunk find some part of it
that
you're confident playing at performance
tempo.
Maybe it's just bar seven through nine or
bar seven through ten.
[MUSIC]
And you say to yourself, well that's
an easy pattern, I could do that all day
that's great, that's what you want.
So you play that again
[MUSIC]
and now you add just four notes
before bar seven.
[MUSIC]
And you play the whole four bars again and
you've added four notes.
And then you play all of that and you add
four notes to the end.
You could add four notes, you could add a
bar, whatever it is.
But a small chunk, so you keep that core
of four bars that you started with.
The easy four bars and then you're adding
to both ends of it.
This helps retention and it helps actually
memorization.
You may find that once you've worked
through the whole piece this way,
that you've memorized it at the same time.
But this is maybe even more than dotted
rhythms.
For this piece, this is the essential
practice technique
to start with that core of something that
you're confident with at tempo and
to add things front and back in tempo.
And that's [COUGH] gonna be much more
valuable to you than simply
practicing the whole thing slow that has
its limits.
When you do practice slowly,
practice with the kind of hand movement
that you're going to use in tempo.
In other words, I, I see some people
practicing a fast piece like this,
they'll practice it slowly and their left
hand looks like this.
[MUSIC]
That's very mechanical, each finger is
just going down right at the instant that
is needed and
my, my hands even feels tense practicing
like that.
Now I'm gonna practice that same tempo but
you gonna notice a very different a very
smooth hand motion.
[MUSIC]
The fingers are preparing early and
they're in motion for the next thing.
Let me take it up just a little bit.
[MUSIC]
The hand feels very easy, I'm using
the least amount of finger pressure, that
I need.
Also when I'm practicing slowly since it's
easy to play
the notes I want to concentrate on my
sound and my shape.
So maybe I'll go to bar 29.
[MUSIC]
I would never just practice this slowly.
[SOUND] Why would I, when I could practice
it the way I'm gonna perform it?
[SOUND] So that goes for all of it and
in fact all your slow practicing.
You'll practice with the sound and the
shape you'll need.
And I'll say too that it's important
to accept that you're gonna have two steps
forward, one step back.
Maybe even sometimes the reverse, one step
forward, two steps back, it's okay.
You have time with this piece and nobody
gets it all in one go,
so as long as you do steady work those
gains are gonna add up and
you'll end up at a nice nice fast and
steady clip.
Just a couple details now about the piece
23,
I do play sul ponticello near the bridge
as I get to the bar 24.
[MUSIC]
So you make it obvious that
that's what you're doing.
And finally two thirds of the way through
this in bar 72 there
are a lot of whole steps happening here.
And it's important toward the end of your
work on this piece to
start playing the whole thing through.
Because sections near the end of the piece
that felt easy when you practicing them
isolated.
After you have two whole pages of all that
stuff [LAUGH] in your hand,
the hand starts to get maybe a little
tense, a little tired.
Those whole steps are gonna feel a whole
lot bigger so be prepared for
some, some really wide intervals there.
And get some practice playing the piece
through so
that you know how that's going to feel in
context.
And then finally, toward the very end of
the piece, when you know that you're going
to make it and you have a little bit of
energy left in the right arm.
You can let it out by going more
on the string and so instead of
[MUSIC]
it's
[MUSIC].
In fact, you can do that other places in
the piece as well but
it's safest to do it toward the end when
you know that you're gonna get there.
Last thing is just we've talked mostly
about the left hand even
though this piece has considerable right
hand challenges.
But the spiccato just keeps going, you
know,
you obviously don't attempt this until you
have a reliable spiccato.
It's important to find places even when
the hand and
the arm are moving to sort of release.
In other words, not to use the same
muscles for
the whole piece to make the spiccato.
Sometimes you may feel it coming from the
hand.
[MUSIC]
Which is great.
And other times you may wanna free up the
arm so it's not just sitting there.
So,
[MUSIC].
And that's perfectly fine and natural.
So that you have a little bit of free
motion during this otherwise relentless
piece.
[MUSIC]