William Fitzpatrick - violin expert

Becoming Aware as Violinists

How can you improve your violin learning?

In this video, Prof. Fitzpatrick gives you an easy-to-follow path to optimize your violin learning for maximum results. It can easily be applied to any kind of repertoire.

Released on June 6, 2018

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DISCLAIMER: The views and the opinions expressed in this video are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Virtual Sheet Music and its employees.

Video Transcription

Okay. So, you work on a passage in your lesson and what your teacher tells you works. So, you go home full of confidence and exuberance, you can't wait to do it again at home. So, you start practicing, and little by little, it doesn't work anymore. You did exactly what the teacher said, but it doesn't work anymore. Sad moment.

Let me share with you a memory, a story. You see, I remember walking down the street with my violin in Aspen at the music festival and running into Mr. Perlman. Since we knew each other, we said "hello" and he asked me what I was working on. I said, "The Bartok concerto," and to my utter surprise, he then asked me if I wanted to play it for him. I, of course, said "Yes" and we walked up to his apartment. Side note about this encounter is always be ready. And so, he worked me hard and I got so much better.

The encounter lasted about an hour and a half and I was so thrilled with the results that afterwards I immediately went back to my apartment to practice some more as I didn't want to lose it, to lose what I had learned, to lose how great I sounded. Well, about three hours later, I stopped and went to the living room totally despondent as it was all gone. All that I was told to do was gone. It was very depressing. I had lost it. I didn't sound the same anymore. It took me quite a while to understand, wrap my head around what had happened. But finally, finally, I did.

You see, I had followed what Perlman had told me to do to a tee, but I did not try to understand how I was doing it. I just did it. I just did what he said to do. Subsequently, the end, the loss was written in the sand as I had no idea what I had done. I had not questioned or tried to understand the difference between what I had done before and what he had just asked me to do. I just did what he said and voila, the result.

This tuning out of my awareness lead to my inability to recall what I had been told, what I had learned. As I've said before in another video, one's ability to recall what has been learned is totally reliant on the way it was put into one's long-term memory. In this case, I did not have enough information to later remember just what I was doing. And so, it became lost, sadly.

Okay. So, exactly what do I mean? Well, for example, let's say you were studying Tha´s, you know, Massenet's Tha´s.

That one. And your teacher explains how to do the slide at the end of the piece. You know, the one after the...

Your teacher says that you need to slide up from the harmonic that you're doing with your fourth finger with your third finger. "You need to slide very carefully," your teacher says, "and not too fast, you know, slowly."

So, you do it and then you try it in context.


And it works. You are very happy. So, you've done what your teacher says, but you don't allow yourself to be aware of what it feels like, where the gesture originates from. This lack of information-gathering can lead you to not being able to do the slide later in the same way. You see, you in effect don't really know what you did, and because of this, you could encounter difficulties trying to do it again, trying to recreate the slide that you learned to do in your lesson.

Still not sure what I mean? Well, once Ms. DeLay told me in a lesson that this passage from Bartok's second violin concerto... She explained to me that this passage was not clean, not coordinated as I had played it, as I just played it. So, she suggested stopping the bow between each note as a way to fix this alignment. So, I practiced like this.

And the results were very good as one might've have expected, because she told me to do it. But what I did as well was to allow myself to be aware of what I was doing when I stopped my bow. I even asked myself, "What was the best way to stop my bow?" So, asking questions, I finally figured out that using muscles to squeeze and stop the bow was counterproductive as it created tension.

So, I searched for a way to do this with the least amount of tension possible. I would stop, check, and feel each stroke to be sure that I understood what it felt like with the pressure or weight in my right hand and in my left hand. I tried to understand as much as I possibly could. What does that feel like? Feeling where my left-hand fingers are. What does it feel like to stop? So, you see, I was accomplishing my goal of understanding what I was doing, understanding what I had been told to do, understanding how to do what I needed to do to do those things that I had been told to do.

And so, I guess the bottom line is to never simply follow what your teacher says, never blindly, that is, follow what your teacher says. You need to question. Become aware so that you will be able to recall it later. You need to turn your awareness on full blast so that you can understand as much as you can about what you are doing, what you've been told to do. Because if you don't, well, you risk losing it as I did, which was not one of my happiest memories.
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Comments, Questions, Requests:

LaurelGibson * VSM MEMBER * on June 13, 2018 @7:18 am PST
Thank you so much for this insight....Sometimes my students do what I say during their lesson, and then go home and re-practice their old mistakes right back into their piece. Now, I know why!
William - host, on June 13, 2018 @6:12 pm PST
Smile! Glad it was helpful!
David Andrew Essing on June 7, 2018 @6:07 am PST
Thank you Professor Fitzpatrick! Conscious learning is so important - indeed, it's really the essence of learning. I'm always wondering what kind of violin you play? Loved your Ted-talk btw! thanks for all your insightful videos!´╗┐
William - host, on June 7, 2018 @9:35 am PST
I had fun with the Tedx! Thanks for writing. Thanks for the compliment! ~Pedrazini
George Mahida * VSM MEMBER * on June 6, 2018 @9:58 pm PST
Bill I understand to make my learning experience my own so that I can internalize new concepts this way the concepts become part of me.
George M
William - host, on June 7, 2018 @9:31 am PST
Shirley Gibson * VSM MEMBER * on June 6, 2018 @9:41 am PST
Wonderful, and applicable to many learning situations in life. Than you, Prof. Fitzpatrick.
William - host, on June 6, 2018 @10:06 am PST
You are very welcome! Pleased that you liked it!
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