William Fitzpatrick - violin expert

Developing your nervous system with your violin

What's behind practicing and playing the violin?

In this video from a new series titled "States of Playing," Prof. Fitzpatrick talks about the relationships between the nervous system and violin playing.

Released on April 7, 2021

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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

I've always wondered about the nervous system and never realized until recently that it can be developed. That is to say that new neural pathways can be developed, even at my age. So to understand about the development of our central nervous system, or CMS. This is the part of the nervous system that consists of the brain and spinal cord, which connects to sensory organs such as the eye, the ear. Well, one must deal with concepts such as neuroplasticity. To go into detail about this is perhaps outside of my field of expertise, so I'm not going to go there. But I can bring forward elements that aid in the development of these neural pathways. And that is what this graph is all about. It is important to understand that our practicing methodology depends on this. Just for your information, though, it takes around three to four weeks to create or map a new neural pathway. This information should be helpful in our creation of practice strategies and tactics.

So, first of all, one must be aware of one's body. As violinists, this means paying attention to our fingers, hands, arms, shoulders, et cetera. Being aware of these areas is a big step in understanding what is needed to develop and create, or map, the neural pathways we need as performancers, we need as violinists. So we need to use our body awareness to become aware of what our body is doing when it is in motion while we are playing. For example, when we create a sound that we love while performing a passage, we can, because of our body awareness, locate specifically what we are doing to make these sounds happen. Or if we're not making sounds we like, we can begin the process of breaking down our movements to discover what we need to do to improve, as what we do as violinists is sometimes extremely acrobatic.

We need to as well be very aware of the timing of our movements between our two sides of our body. The performance of where it's like this Mozart excerpt, or this Sending excerpt, obviously require this coordination. So in fact, with every change of bow, this requirement leaves forth is necessary. The better we are at doing this, the cleaner our playing will be.

But just being aware of what you need to do is only the beginning of the journey. That said, it is necessary to have this information to be able to proceed to the next step. That's that being aware of how you need to do it, what kind of strategy is needed to continue and enhance our neural development.

Finally, when all of this is accomplished, we can create a sustained repetitive practice strategy, incremental practicing. Say, for example, doing five minutes of this and seven minutes of that is a tool made for this moment. So hopefully this gives a little bit more insight into this graph on developing your nervous system.
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