William Fitzpatrick - violin expert

How do we learn music on the violin?

Learn the basic concepts of learning music on the violin

In this video, Prof. Fitzpatrick talks about how you learn and understand music with your violin by explaining some simple and advanced thinking applied to the violin repertoire - all this by taking as an example the beautiful Concerto No. 2 Op. 22 in D minor by Wieniawski.

Released on October 7, 2015

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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

So, just how do we learn our music? Is there a good way or a bad way? Is there a more efficient or a less efficient, a more effective or less effective way to learn? Simply put, is there a learning process that can help us to understand how best to structure our practicing to get the best results possible in our performances.

And so, on that thought, welcome to VirtualSheetMusic.com's Meet the Expert. My name is William Fitzpatrick and I am the Henry Tamianka Professor of Violin at the Hull-Musco Conservatory of Music, which is located on the campus of Chapman University in Orange, California. I am, as well, Director of MusiShare and the MusiShare Young Artist Program, which is located in Irvine, California.

Let's get started. First of all, as we see the music, we transfer this information to the playing of the violin, which obviously allows us to hear the music coming from the instrument. This information, which is gathered by seeing, touching, and hearing, then travels through our sensory memory into our working memory.

Why don't you have a look at this chart? So, once this information is put into our working memory, the goal is to successfully put that information into our long term memory. This is accomplished through what is called rehearsing or what we as violinists would call practicing. Now that the music is successfully lodged into our long term memory through our practicing, we must retrieve it, bring it back into our working memory, as it is there that we will construct our performance.

It's during the rehearsing and retrieving part that I become very intrigued. As you see, it's how we put the music or we practice the music into our long term memory that will determine how easily it can be retrieved. Failure to retrieve it is one of the causes of that dreaded memory slip. You see, if we practice it into our working memory the wrong way, it can result in our inability to retrieve it. So, now we understand how critical it is to find a way to organize the notes we are learning to play.

Here is one example of organizational strategy that might work. If I were to give you 50 random numbers from one to nine, could you remember them in order after, say, 10 minutes? Probably not or at least I couldn't. But what if I asked you to name five telephone numbers of family or close friends? Could you do that? Well, those numbers divide the fifty digits into rememberable chunks of 10. For example 946-234-5718 and guess what? You see, with this, the numbers aren't random anymore. You see, we remember phone numbers all the time, and this organization, this way of thinking, can help to organize those 50 random numbers into little pieces that we can remember.

Now that we have this information, let's explore just how this understanding can be more helpful to us in further developing and organizing our practicing skills. Let's look at a chunk, the first phrase, of the opening to the Wieniawski Concerto in D minor. Here, let me play it for you.

Okay, let's look at what just happened. As you see, it's extremely important to be aware of everything that's occurring while you are playing. This information is critical to the retrieval process. It's critical to getting it out of our long term memory. So, first, let's ask questions about what just happened when I played the phrase. For example, from the E to the C sharp. You remember at the beginning, well, was this an extension or was it a shift?

Well, I did an extension. Well, okay, what kind of shift was there from the A to the F on the E string? Remember?

Well, I did a shift with an intermediary note, which was the C natural. How did that shift occur? Well, my elbow was involved. It certainly led my hand around. Okay, what about after. . . ? How do I find that? I'm here at a C natural. So, it's a half step up from my C natural. All right, what happens then? All right, got a minor third or half step, whole step in terms of my pattern.

And there was another shift, again, led by my elbow. So, does understanding about my shifting, about my extending, about those patterns, do you think that's helpful to us? I think so. You see, that is being aware. That's what we're looking to try to understand, how we do what we do. Now, that's all about the left hand. What about the right hand, because I started it not here, not here. I started about here. Now, I need to know that so I can replicate that all the time. Where were my fingers? Were they here? Were they here? What did I do? I see. They were about there.

What about my point of contact? Was it here, here? Well, it was about right there. Now, I need to be able to do these things all the time if I'm going to be consistent and this is what my awareness is leading me to. Well, as you can imagine, there's a lot more but I should stop here. Anyway, I think you get the idea. If we are to achieve a successful performance, being aware of all these details and practicing them into our long term memory will help to retrieve the phrase, which is, after all, the goal.
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Comments, Questions, Requests:

Rodney Arcega on February 17, 2017 @6:36 am PST
Seeing and playing those notes on violin makes me sick, not until I do often. I'm starting to liking it. Now, I'm practicing Ennio Morricone's Love Theme from Cinema Paradiso and I'm having difficulty on rolling notes, any tips? I practice rolling slowly until I get it but when I play the piece all over again, I struggle.
Sue Fuller * VSM MEMBER * on October 8, 2015 @6:45 am PST
Thank you! I found the video very helpful.
Sue Fuller (music.suefuller@hotmail.com
William - host, on July 14, 2016 @11:30 pm PST
You're welcome!
Cynthia Faisst on October 7, 2015 @11:11 pm PST
I find myself asking students to photocopy music several times so they can analyze it with pencil marks and highlighters for different layers of technical problems embedded in their performance.
Cynthia Faisst on October 7, 2015 @11:08 pm PST
Good stuff.
William - host, on July 14, 2016 @11:33 pm PST
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