William Fitzpatrick - violin expert

What does it mean to Break a Passage Down?

Learn the right way to study and master the violin repertoire

In this video, Prof. Fitzpatrick explains how to focus on specific passages of any violin piece to overcome any difficulty. This is actually the process to "break a passage down" in order to master it to perfection.

Released on March 7, 2018

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Video Transcription

So here is the question. What does it mean exactly to break a passage down? What are the ways to break a passage down? How many ways can you break a passage down? Are there ways to learn how to break a passage down? Well, why don't we use a three-octave B flat major scale to explore and understand or try to understand the possibilities, you know, try to understand how we can break a scale down, how we can transfer that into breaking passage down?

So, B flat major, three-octave.

That was ascending. And descending.

All right. Let's start. First off, we can practice or break it down string...one string at a time. For example, what am I playing on the G string?

Well, when you look at it, that's on the G string, not only it is on the G string, but the pattern. You remember those Mint's patterns that I talked about in another video? Well, the pattern is half-step, whole-step, whole-step. Half, whole, whole. Now, like I've said before, no matter what scale I play, C, B flat, it's all the same, any of it. That's the pattern, that's the G string.

On the D string, whole, whole, whole. On the A string, why don't we give a first position first? Whole, whole, half with a shift. And then, whole, whole, whole, together, on the E string. Whole, whole, half but with the shift there, and then whole step, put it all together.

Well, you see, each one of those instances I can now practice at an even deeper level. Let's see. What can I do? I could...I don't know. How about a rhythm? Or I could do...I can check and see where my elbow is to be able to do this. I can look at my fingers. I can go very deeply into the anatomy, into the how I'm doing this just from here, or just from here or here.

Oh, another thing that I could do is to figure out the shift.

Well, let's see. Why don't I invent a way to deal with the shift? First, I need to know where it is, so three, four. Now, I need to figure out how will I do the shift. I can do that on the E string.

All right. I figured out a way to do the shift. So, what else can I do? Why don't I look at the string classics from...oh, I could do...and see, looking at how I'm going from one string to the other. I can do it through here, here, there.

Let's see what else could I do? I could work on the sound one bow to a bow. I'm noticing where my point of contact is. I'm noticing what my hand is doing. I'm noticing speed to do a two, three, four, six, eight, 12, 24 notes. What else could I do? I could work on the pitch.

Let's see how am I going to find that B flat? I could relate it to my first finger, all right. And then search for the 13th tone.

There, you know, that third sound, that third note that, sort of, rings in your head when you've gotten a double stop in tune. You see, I can go really deeply into all of these things. Figuring out where my hand, my wrist my fingers, figuring out where everything should be. Now, once we've understood this, it's time to use our vertical learning strategies. For example, using a metronome because now, we know what to do with our fingers. We know what to do with our hands, both hands. We know what to do with our arms to make it happen. We know how to do it.

Now, we could work on doing it faster and building, you know, like a house. We're building towards a goal. So with this in hand, with this information in hand, we can now apply what we've learned to passages and concertos, I don't know, like in Wieniawski, for example, the...

I could practice every...

I'm breaking it down just like I was breaking down the scale. So, we can do it in concertos, sonatas, and throughout our repertoire. And with that, he's hoping that this information helps you to create even more beautiful performances in the future because you'll understand better how to break things down.

Have a good day.
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Cheryl * VSM MEMBER * on March 16, 2018 @3:15 pm PST
Looks like you're playing on a different violin!
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