Todd Ehle - advanced violin expert
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How to approach the Mendelssohn violin Concerto

Useful tips from Todd Ehle for approaching the most famous violin concerto

Released on April 30, 2013

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Juan Pieresko on July 17, 2013 @8:10 am PST
Dear Todd Ehle, thanks for showing the play of Violin. Can you tell me what are the more difficulties pieces to play in Violin. I no will go to any Competition; but my understand is if I traied to play these dificulties, then is ease to play comun partitures. I have some pieces , but may be you can suggest anhotherThanks a lat, Juan Pieresko. For you wnoledge, I no play like you, but I close to you, so you can figurate what I looking for.I play in Church orchestra..
Rat on June 5, 2013 @8:32 am PST
Thank you very much for wonderful how to approach the concerto

Do you mind showing how to approach the 3rd movement

Thank you
Todd Ehle - host, on June 6, 2013 @8:55 am PST
Hi Rat, thanks for the request. I will definitely take it under consideration. I believe the 3rd movement is easier, and know a teacher that starts with it when she assigns the concerto to a student. The sautille' technique is the main hurdle, plus learning to play fast. Best Regards.
Val * VSM MEMBER * on May 15, 2013 @5:58 am PST
Thank you very much for the high standard of these great video lessons Todd. Viewing the score edition is very helpful, and matching the bowing styles to the dynamics and tension is very interesting. Alternative fingering is helpful also. In older age when arthritis bends fingers, I find I use the longer 3rd finger for higher notes, rather than the short 4th. Is this a sin?

I'm particularly interested in your comments re Violin/Piano pitch adjustments for equal temperament tuning. Playing my violin or viola with piano accompaniment is my least enjoyable musical experience. I struggle with the intervals. When a cappella singingm the group pitch often flattens. I want closer intervals of sharpened 7th or flat 4th where my violin ear tells me they should be. I wish more singers knew about this. Do you agree?
Todd - host, on May 17, 2013 @9:51 pm PST
Hi Val, Nice to hear from you, thanks. With issues like arthritis, I say you do what you have to do. No sense making your condition worse! As for the intervals; I will probably give you much more than you actually want. The way I understand it, when using "Just" intonation (how we naturally tune double-stops to be 'beat' free), you create a lower 3rd scale-degree and a higher leading tone, then when using Equal Temperament. This actually creates a condition called the 'greater and lesser' half step, meaning the 3rd to the 4th step is a larger half-step than the 7th to the root. Make sense? People tend to dislike the low 3rd scale-degree in a melody or scale, but played as a double-stop with the root, it is smooth, and very acceptable, while the ET third creates 'beats.' A high leading tone (7th degree) is acceptable to most ears, and helps create 'tension-release' when resolved to the root. As for the 4th degree, I tend to match the piano here unless playing it as a double-stop with the root (P4 tuned in 'Just' is beat-free). It's all really complicated and even most professionals tend to get confused, or ignore it and just follow their ears.
Matthew on May 11, 2013 @9:19 pm PST
I'm learning the Fiocco Allegro and am not able to play the middle section fast enough. The ornaments starting at measure 37 really slow me down. Any tips to help with this? Thank you in advance!
Todd - host, on May 12, 2013 @8:18 pm PST
Hi Matthew, that is a common problem for students. I do have a couple of tricks I teach my students for this. Perhaps it would make a good video lesson - it might be easier for me to show than write it out. I'll think about it some and get back to you. Thanks.
suecarole volovsek on May 3, 2013 @6:31 am PST
Love your "stuff" Todd! Have even more fun with your "Let's get started." You can 'play' with this til 'your phrase' emerges. I hope 'make music' will make it into your phrase. Let's make music; time to play; ready for this?; vibrations commence; but thinking of Amy, now, "My turn/your turn" certainly comes to mind. This is just me teasing you and your family as I enjoy recalling all the joy and excitement you (plural) brought to us while here!
Todd - host, on May 3, 2013 @1:46 pm PST
Nice to hear from you, Sue! I miss those days, and think of everyone from the Conservatory very fondly. best!
Tosh * VSM MEMBER * on May 2, 2013 @9:02 am PST
There's a seemingly similar passage in Saint Saens Rondo Capriccioso at bars 279 to 293...I've seen concert violinists play these arpeggios two different ways: in one bow to each arpeggio as in the Mendelssohn, or with separate bows to each of the notes...this latter obviously being the more difficult mode. What are you views on this? The music as written would seem to require a separate bow stroke on each note.
Todd Ehle - host, on May 2, 2013 @1:14 pm PST
I believe Heifetz starts separately, then goes into saltando. I don't have anything against separate or saltando, assuming one has the reflex speed to play it separately at tempo (which I'm sure I do not). The thing that you'll notice in the music is that Saint-Saens doesn't repeat the high and low notes, or add the staccato indication, so he was probably writing arpeggios and not thinking about a specific bow technique.
Tosh * VSM MEMBER * on May 1, 2013 @4:18 pm PST
re the staccato passage in the cadenza, I found the easiest way to learn to do this was just to begin practising it in legato, then increasing the speed of the bow until the staccato or bouncing notes appeared automatically.
Todd - host, on May 2, 2013 @6:16 am PST
Whatever works best for you, Tosh. I just watched a current virtuoso play this last week and she didn't appear to ever leave the string. She seemed more interested in listening to what the orchestra was doing at this moment, and even turned to each section of the orchestra. I liked the fact that it was all about the music, and not just technique and show.
Tosh * VSM MEMBER * on May 1, 2013 @4:15 pm PST
Have a question about relative and tempered pitch...the piano has tempered pitch, while the violin is capable of relative pitch...When a violinist plays with piano accompaniment, must the violinist then have to also play tempered pitch?
Todd - host, on May 2, 2013 @6:35 am PST
Tosh, It is a very complicated subject. The answer is yes, we have to match, but then I would say that playing with a piano doesn't really force equal-temperament, simply because the piano is very forgiving. This is due to the multiple strings in a piano playing the same note. I find playing with a harpsichord, guitar, or wind ensemble to be harder. Did you ever notice that it's easier to tune to an oboe or electronic tuner than a piano? Intonation is tricky business, from a scientific perspective, however Equal-temperament is fast becoming the standard, and people are afraid to use interpretive intonation for fear of being called "out of tune." There is a famous book; How Equal Temperament Ruined Harmony (and Why You Should Care). It's an interesting read.
suecarole volovsek on May 3, 2013 @6:35 am PST
Thanks for your perspective on this, Todd, and for the suggested reading. You dah best!
Austin on May 1, 2013 @9:56 am PST
HI Todd! I have a question. I'm Working on the Havanaise by Saint-Saens. I need help with the 10ths starting in measure 273. Going up isn't too hard, but coming down, I get disoriented and lose the pitch. Please offer any suggentions on how to approach this problem. THANKS!
Todd - host, on May 1, 2013 @1:34 pm PST
That is a fairly common problem, Austin, and perhaps it would make a good video subject. Thank you for the post.
aMaudPowellFan * VSM MEMBER * on May 1, 2013 @1:37 am PST
Are you still looking for suggestions? How about fast runs in thirds? Like shorter ones in the Viotti 22, or extended ones in Paganini concerto 1? What are good foundational exercises that we can do now, so we are prepared when we get to that type of repertoire in a hundred years?

Or fast runs up into the stratosphere, like at the beginning of Sarasate Gypsy Airs.

Or different kinds of accents, sfz, fp, >. I am practicing Appassionato from the Four Pieces by Suk, and it has all of them.

There is so much to learn on the violin. Anything you do is highly appreciated.
Todd - host, on May 1, 2013 @5:34 am PST
I am always looking! Thanks for these excellent ideas, I will think about them carefully and see if I can come up with anything beyond, "slow practice at first, work up speed with metronome." I know just how hard it all is! Thanks for writing in.
aMaudPowellFan * VSM MEMBER * on May 1, 2013 @12:33 am PST
Interesting. I learnt the two-flicks method with the saltando passage, but will try yours. Impuls and reflex, looks natural. Looking forward to next month already.
Todd - host, on May 1, 2013 @5:35 am PST
Thanks again!
Sabriya Rayford-Lester on April 30, 2013 @11:11 pm PST
Thank you so much for the video, I have learned so much. Keep them coming. I am a violist, at a beginner level. I would like to see a vibrato for a viola. Thank You
Todd - host, on May 1, 2013 @5:40 am PST
Thank you, Sabriya. I spent a year working on the viola exclusively. I actually think my vibrato sounded better on the viola! My natural speed is slow, so I have to work harder to create excitement, while trying to avoid any excess tension. I think I was able to relax more with the viola vibrato, but the size of the instrument more than made up for that in the end! Really, the techniques I teach for the two instruments are the same. Good luck with your viola!
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