William Fitzpatrick - violin expert

Six steps involved in Problem Solving

Learn how to break down a passage

In this video, Prof. Fitzpatrick gives you some directions to make your practice more effective by breaking down difficult passages and focusing on what really matters.

Released on March 6, 2019

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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 why don't we start with exactly what I mean by breaking a problem down? To me, this is the process by which, from which, all practicing is born. I mean, you can't just play something over, and over, and over again and expect it to get better. You can't just start at the beginning of a piece and stop when something goes wrong, work on it awhile, and then expect it to be better, expect it to stick. So it's with all this in mind that I want to discuss problem solving with you. To me, this process breaks down into six areas. So why don't we use Wieniawski's D Minor Concerto, the first movement, as a way to explore those areas? That first area, for me, is identifying the problem area. Next, we need to define the elements of the problem, that's the next area. In this case, from the end of 192 to 193. It would seem that double stops are the issue. Now, we need to explore these elements and determine the root cause of the problem. It would appear that the movement of the elbow would be one of the root causes. You see, I have to move my elbow under. Here, have a look. You see, it went under. Well, along with that, understanding which way the fingernail is pointing. These fingernails might be another one of those root causes, as here they're pointing this way. When I'm doing...but when I go here, they're pointing over there, so it's a different direction. Another example of this is here. As I go over for the D and the A, elbow has to come under.

Now, we should develop strategies to address the problems. For example, what about this problem? I'm going to do it again. What if we played each node to get an idea of where we're wanting to go? Now, what could I do? Let's see, how about if I get that shift in there? What if I did that with the fingering, but I'm only playing the top note? Let's see, what else could I do? Well, what about in between the nodes? Now that, I'm getting to here and getting through all that, then what about nodes 5 to 7? Five, 6, 7. What about that? I could... Hmm, wow. What if I did it backwards? I'm starting from where I need to be to where I'm starting from. So I know where I need to go now. All right. What about nodes 10 and 11? Well, what's the problem? I need to get from here to there. Hmm, seems to me the big problem is, okay, that shift. Not only that, because my first finger is on the E string, how am I going to get it over? I guess...might be a way. Here's what I did. I'm going up on the A string, which allows my first finger time to get over to the F. And now, I simply release my third finger and my second finger's already there. Let's see. I don't know, just trying to be very creative about it.

Last thing is how to get from here to here. Obviously, elbow has to play a part, but I have this sort of rule that when doing 10th, 4th finger is always placed first and we pull back. Let's see. So the stretching is actually happening back, not [groan]. I'm not doing [groan].

It's at this point that we need to translate those strategies into physical realities. So to do this kind of a translation, I need to focus on what it feels like now, when I go from, for example... What does that feel like with my elbow? Or when I'm doing...what does it feel like with my bow? What does it feel like on my fingers, in the pads? I need to ask myself all of those questions. It's like, "What does my wrist feel like?" All of these things are going to allow me, going to help me to focus. They're going to give me those things that I need to understand to be able to accomplish the goals that I've set. Now, is when a metronome becomes your friend, but only because you have a deep understanding of what it feels like to do what you're trying to accomplish. Because of this, you can turn that feeling into a reflex through repetitive practicing.

So how do you do that? Well, begin by setting your tempo goal. Obviously, you are in to get as clean and in-tune as possible. But be pushy. Go beyond the goal tempo that's set. You never know. Set a time limit. Randomly, I'm saying four days. So on that fourth day, make an assessment as to the effectiveness of your strategies in addressing the problem. In other words, did it or did it not work? If not, continue this process till you've accomplished what you needed to achieve.

Now, let's make it a part of the fabric of the work. Here, let's work outwards. Start a bit before and go a bit after, expanding outwardly, until you've made it a part of the larger picture. So this is a first look at problem solving, which I consider to be a major part of practicing. I do hope that this challenges your imagination, challenges you to go even further, challenges you to be really really creative in finding solutions, in dealing with your problem solving.
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Comments, Questions, Requests:

Mary Cosey * VSM MEMBER * on May 25, 2020 @5:09 am PST
Some of the best advice ever! Loved this, and thank you for saying....be a little pushy with yourself...my thoughts exactly.
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