William Fitzpatrick - violin expert

Using Vowels and Consonants

How can you use vowels and consonants for your violin practice?

In this video, William explores a new approach to violin practice: how can you create words with your violin?

Released on October 7, 2020

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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

Can you imagine developing a musical language through vowels and consonants, like singers do, except for violinists? You see, as all sounds have a beginning, middle, and end, using a vowel or a consonant to describe that beginning articulation could be an effective tool to help us to shape a phrase. How did I decide to explore this out-of-the-box world?

One summer, I had decided I wanted to learn Robert Schumann's Dichterliebe or A Poet's Love. I decided that I would do this with a vocal coach who was a pianist. We worked on it. It was really fascinating because I was trying really hard to emulate the sounds that the voice made when saying those words.

At the end of our exploration, she asked me if I would like to play it at a little house party she was doing on forte-piano. I said, "Sure." I did, but I didn't have the words in the program. I wanted to see if I could evoke that world, those words just through the sounds that I made with my violin with my bow.

It was successful, but afterwards the vocal instructor professor at the local university in Nashville, George Peabody College, he came up to me. He said, "William, I have to tell you. I did not like what you did, but I must say that you played it like a singer."

I was so happy with that. That started my exploration into this idea of trying to create words with the violin. Looking at vowels and consonants, what do we have?

We've got A, E, I, O, U. We've got the consonants, which... Can you imagine using vowels and consonants in the beginning of say, Saint-Saens Introduction and Rondo Capriccioso? Let's see. How could we... What could we do?

First, let's explore a vowel. A, A, E, I. There's no articulation, no click at the beginning of the note. A, E, I, O, U... Probably deeper, which gets me to this. If I want to make it lighter, I probably want to raise my two middle fingers. If I want to make it deeper, like a U, I'm probably going to lower my two fingers.

What about those continents? Let's see. What about a K? If I lower it a little bit, let the weight settle? Or, an M not so guttural maybe? Okay. Getting the idea?

Let's see. If I want to do the Saint-Seans, do I see that opening E as a vowel or a consonant? What if I put two together like an M with an A, MA. MA. Let's see. Oh. You know what I could do then with the F? I could make it maybe a little brighter with a FA. I'm going from MA to FA a little lighter, brighter.

What am I doing? I guess I'm organizing these cells. Oh, I forgot because if this is MA, what is MA? Me, I can start to really create phrases. I can build to go to the top of a phrase, to recede, to the end of a phrase all by using my vowels and consonants and matching them up.

What about Tzigane? If I were to, okay. I'm going to start with my fingers lower. Is it a KA? Is it a W? I think TA is probably good. TA. How about I bring my fingers a little together? You see, I'm exploring the different possibilities, the different tonal possibilities to bring the music to life. I'm using my vowels and consonants to help me organize it, so you see this out-of-the-box solution is very useful in helping us to understand that all notes are not played in an equal manner. That we can build using that starting point. That starting point could be vowels and consonants.
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Comments, Questions, Requests:

Mary Cosey * VSM MEMBER * on October 8, 2020 @5:23 am PST
Very informative and inspirational to begin to make more music instead of just playing notes. Above and beyond! Here we go.
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William - host, on October 15, 2020 @9:31 am PST
Thanks! So pleased you liked it!
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