Welcome to the official blog of the Highstrung String Quartet!

Friday, July 10, 2009

Performance Tip #18

Famous last words: "You won't need to come to the rehearsal. The part is a piece of cake."

Friday, July 3, 2009

Performance Tip #18

If the other players won't budge, try "bowing chocolates" --one expensive, gourmet chocolate to whomever agrees with your bowing.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Downtown, Weddings and Hair

The amped-up lifestyle that typically frames a Knopp family day has poured on the esspresso as our sister, Michelle, is getting married! You can read the field report at Elizabeth's blog.

My time has pledged allegiance to arranging the ceremony music. Michelle requested a special song. So I've spent quite a bit of time under headphones listening to four beats at a time. It's been fun. Fortunately, there was an arrangement that I was able to draw from, but there was a major part missing. So I had to transcribe a piano and cello part --a lot of work.

I was taking a break and listening to "Metamorphosis", that got me thinking. The wedding is coming up, I should do my hair like Philip Glass.

This seems especially appropriate in light of the comments received about my looking like Michael Tree.

While all that is swirling around, a generous benefactor has sponsored some quartets to play in the parks in downtown Portland. We've gone out twice, entertaining anyone willing to stop and listen. It's been fun. Our locations, days and times are chosen at random. But know that if you're downtown, somewhere there could be an ensemble of musicians who'd love to see you.

8 days until the wedding!

Friday, June 26, 2009

Performance Tip #17

Always tape your music. Loose leaf music is the surest way to have a gust of wind whip across the stage.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Performance Tip #16

Throughout the performance, you may want to periodically check in with the conductor.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Performance Tip #14

Never loan your rosin to anyone under the age of 18.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Performance Tip #13

As a matter of fact, you can use your stand lamp to heat a Pop Tart.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Josh in Concert!

For those of you who don't know, Josh will be performing the first movement from Haydn's cello concerto with the Jewish Community Orchestra next Sunday, Jun 7th at Mittleman Jewish Community Center. This will be Josh's last public performance before he leaves for University of Missouri-St. Louise. You won't want to miss it.

Also on the program is John William's Theme from Schindler's List performed by violinist Nalina Bauer; Tchaikovsky's Serendate for Strings; and Symphony No. 2 by Rachmaninoff.

Tickets are $10 for adults $5 for Students.

Click here to download the poster.

We'd love to see you there!

Friday, May 29, 2009

Performance Tip #12

No. It is not okay to ignore con sordino.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Performance Tip #11

Never leave your instrument in a Taco Bell.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Performance Tip #10

Play at least one rehearsal in your performance dress.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Performance Tip #9

If you tape your music “accordion style”, you’ll treat the audience to a song and a floor show.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Plato and Compulsory Education

I really shouldn't be thinking about these kinds of concepts the week before finals' week, but I read this earlier this semester and I've been thinking about it ever since.

From The Republic by Plato (536d,e):

"...though we mustn't exercise any form of compulsion in our teaching."

"Why?" I asked.

"Because a free man ought not to learn anything under duress. Compulsory physical exercise does no harm to the body, but compulsory learning never sticks in the mind."

I don't necessarily agree with Plato, but I think he comes down on one side of an issue that, if you take a step back, raises the fundamental question to all education. Namely, the role of enforcement in teaching. I'm really intrigued by this concept.

But back to study.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Vocabulary Cards and Caffeine


Between various kinds of caffeinated beverages, lists of vocabulary and paradigms, and stacks of books that would easily intimidate the late Alexandrian scholars, there hasn't been much time to post an update for you, our dear readers.

In spite of all my efforts to the contrary, the calloused passage of time has been flinging me towards finals week with little regard for my internal sense of preparation. Thankfully, my load is quite a bit lighter than a lot of my peers. Just two comprehensive exams and a final paper. So I'm in good shape.

In the mean time, my students have been working very diligently as they prepare for the close of the semester. Is it just me or does Summer Breaks come at the worst possible time? It seems like we just make it over a major hurtle and then it's time to stop. Of course, all my serious students are taking through the summer, but still, I have no kind things to say about breaks.

The reason I bring this up is because this last week, most of my students played the best they've played all semester. I couldn't be happier. They probably don't realize that they're collective accomplishment has seriously up-ed the ante for summer and fall. Since I won't have college class laying siege to my every waking and hour (and beyond). I'll have a lot more time to dedicate to program/curriculum development. I've been teasing some very interesting ideas and approaches during this last school year and I can hardly wait to see what they look and on paper and then, God willing, in practice. There are some great new challenges on the horizon.

Some exciting family news: our sister, Michelle, is engaged! We're all very happy for her and her fiance. She told us this morning that the wedding is in 70 days. But, thank goodness, all the plans are coming together without much of a hitch --well, I guess I should say, in hopes of an stress-free hitch. Of course, it helps to be in the wedding/special event business.

Also, Josh just returned from a visit to his future Alma Mater, the University of Missouri--St. Louise. He'll have to tell you about that trip himself.

Elizabeth is back on the conference circuit. Her latest stop has been Texas.

Eric and Justin are joining me in the "finals cram". Nothing new to report.

That's the news from here. We'll be back to regular blogging as soon as the academic dust settles. Have a great weekend!

-David for the others.

Performance Tip #8

Pack and an extra for you and and an extra for everyone else.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Performance Tip #7

White Dress Shirts + Food = Disaster

Friday, April 17, 2009

Performance Tip #6

Never turn your back to the audience. But if you insist, do not bend over.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Performance Tip #5

Let the back of your leg touch the edge of the seat before you commit yourself.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Performance Tip #4

If your instrument case feels extraordinarily light, follow your gut.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Taking Responsibility for Their Own Environment

There are moment in my playing, or when I’m listening to others, that I sit back and ask, “Who’s in charge here?” The poor musician seems chained to the music stand, eyes unblinking under a furrowed brow, as they desperately grasp after the phrase. The problem is that the player is chasing the music rather than leading it.

Most of the time, this is symptomatic of an over-ambitious tempo. But there's another, more subliminal issue: we do not understand our role as a musician.

Music was written for us, we were not made for the music. So often the servants of our circumstances --heeding the bidding of our academic masters-- that we, as students, tend to assume the master/slave relationship of our youth is also the relationship between ourselves and our music (music that is usually assigned to us rather than picked by us). Therefore we humbly genuflect before our piece, graciously beseeching it to “go easy”. Then we start and it’s off to the races.

The bigger problem in this common scenario is that the we're not in control of our environment. We need to learn how to reign in the music’s perceived authoritarianism. That takes time. But in order to develop that confidence in my students, I’ve been engaging in a little experiment.

I don’t know if any of them have noticed, by I’ve been placing the music stand on the wrong side of my student at every lesson for a little over a month. For those of you non-musicians: when a musician plays, they need to face their audience, which means the music stand needs to be on their left. So I have purposefully placed the stand on their right side before they come into the room. My goal for this has been to see which of my students are willing to take take ownership (read: responsibility) of their environment and which of my students just take the environment as it comes.

It’s been fun to watch their reaction. Some will waltz up, grab the stand and move it to where it’s comfortable. Others (especially the younger students) will just put their books on the stand and hardly notice until I ask them to move it.

My goal, eventually, is that all of my students will get into the habit of quickly adjusting their environment until it’s comfortable. It’s a small thing, but a start.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Performance Tip #3

Your stand partner doesn’t have the music.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Vaughan Williams imitates...Vaughan Williams

I love Vaughan Williams. I had the great pleasure of working two Vaughan Williams' pieces, Suite for Viola and Orchestra, and Four Hymns for Tenor, Viola and Piano. They are fantastic pieces. But whenever you play multiple works from one composer, you begin to notice what that composer likes. For your enjoyment, here are two excerpts from both works (I've included audio for those of you who can't read music, or refuse to read alto clef). Notice Vaughan Williams begins both pieces with "Up a fifth, up a whole step, down a whole step". Hey, if it ain't broke...

This from Suite for Viola:

Click for Audio featuring Helen Callus on viola.

This from Four Hymns:

Click for Audio featuring Matthew Souter on viola.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Performance Tip #2

Make sure you have your music. Then make sure you have the right music. Then make sure you have the right copy of the right music. Then make sure you have all the pages to the right copy of the right music…

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

"...except where it is necessary..."

I was reading an introduction to alto clef for (I'm guessing) composers and stumbled upon this statement. I nearly fell out of my chair laughing:

"...but the extreme upper notes would preferably be written for the violins except where it is necessary to carry the viola into the high register to preserve continuity of tone color in a passage or where the peculiar tone quality of the viola A string was purposely sought."

Yes, indeed. Unless an extraneous situation dictates otherwise (a.k.a. the peculiar tone quality of the viola A string), let's leave the high notes to the professionals.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Top 10 Practice Tips (Part 1)

[EDITORS NOTE: This is the second entry in a three episode series concerning practice. You can read part one, “Philosophy of Practice” by clicking here. –David]

In the last post, we explored three philosophies of practice. Now, we’ll look at the top ten practice tips. This post will look at the first five. Keep in mind, there are many, many practice suggestions (which I would love to read about, so please post your practice tip in the comments). But these are the ones I heard most often from my teachers to me and from me to my students. Also, these suggestions will be most helpful for the beginner to intermediate player. But it’s a good refresher from those of us who have become lazy in our practice.

10. Scales, scales, scales.
A scale is the easiest thing you will ever play. It’s one note after the other; up for three octaves, down for three octaves. Piece of cake. Which is why it’s the hardest thing you will ever play. The simplicity of a scale quickly displays your mastery or lack-of-mastery of the basics. If you can master your scales, you can play anything. All music is just fancy scales. Master the scales, master everything else.

9. Watch your progress not the clock.
You can always spot a beginner’s piano. The piano bench is pulled slightly away from the keys. A stack of method books rest while one stands dutifully opened to where the student left off. There’s a pencil (if the student is wise), then a metronome (which I love) and a timer (which I hate).

I know this is probably the most controversial of the ten, but I am convinced that students quit because they’re bored, frustrated and/or discouraged. The primary source of that reaction is how much time our art takes. Therefore, I propose we de-emphasize practice time.

Clock hostages are the most unmotivated of all music students. If you practice for an hour and don’t accomplish anything, then you haven’t practiced for an hour, you’ve wasted an hour. Clock hostages know this. So they then conclude that practice or music is a waste of time. Because of this, I tell all of my students’ parents (not the students, just the parents) to not mention practice time. When my students think about their music studies, I want them to think about musicianship and technique, not how much time it takes them. Practicing is hard enough by itself, putting a timer on the project will simply divide your attention between what you’re supposed to be doing and how much time you have left to do it.

Some may object that without a time limit, the student will only practice for fifteen minutes. While I agree not much progress will be made in fifteen minutes, I would like the objector to answer the following question: If a student feels like he has accomplished everything he can accomplish in fifteen minutes, what will forcing him in there for another fifteen do?

While the objector cannot guarantee further progress, I can guarantee it will teach the student to daydream, practice thoughtlessly and waste his practice time. I would prefer to give that student better practice technique, bigger assignments and more challenging material. Forcing a student to “practice” for longer than they think is required completely ignores the root of the issue and goal of the practice.

8. Your brain is for thinking, paper is for remembering.
You won’t remember that bowing. You won’t remember that sharp or flat. Don’t even try. But, thank God, that’s why we have sheet music and pencils. If you come to rehearsal or practice without a pencil, you don’t understand what practice is about. Nor do you understand the limitations of your own abilities. So keep this in mind: Your brain is for thinking, paper is for remembering.

7. Train yourself to read everything on the page.
If you think #8 isn’t for you, you might be one of those “over markers” who circle every dynamic, write in every bowing and have four or five conversations with your stand partner on the back of your Adagio for Strings part. Too many marks on your music wreak havoc on your music reading. If your brain has to cut through mangled knot of superfluous markings, then you’re training your brain to ignore what’s on the music. That is never acceptable. Careful, purposeful markings that you will read every time is what’s needed for successful reading. Along those same lines, use your eraser as well. If a marking isn’t helping, get rid of it.

6. Stop and Think
Most students' practice lives would be much simply if they would follow this two step rule: stop and think.

Typically, when we get somewhat familiar notes, bowings and dynamics, we tend to blow past sudden stops resulting in a mostly-OK performance that isn’t great because of the random glitches scattered throughout the piece.

"Mistakes" trigger an instant, subconscious stop. The problem with the insta-stop tendency is the thoughtless restart that follows. Most students seem to think the only thing worse than making a mistake is not being able to get back on track. This is true for performances and sightreading. It's a death sentence in the practice room.

If we make a mistake, we need to really stop and seriously analyize what is causing the mistake. If we fail to do this, we will be locked in to a stop-go-stop-go cycle of failing redundancy that makes a Windows Vista process seem stable (And all God’s Mac Users said…). The difficult task is training.ourselves out of insta-stopping and into an actual, thoughtful stop.

I cannot tell you how many times a student has struggled with a piece for a week, only to come into a lesson wherein we identify the hic-up, we clean it up and the piece sounds great. But this isn't something special that only happens in a lesson. This is a do-it-yourself process availible to every student at every practice (I could argue that this process is practice, but I digress).

So, when your practicing and get tripped up, don't tolerate the insta-stops. Take the time to really stop, identify the snag, figure out the solution, teach your muscles and then play the section again. If you’ll do this, your progress will soar.

These are the first five. Do you agree? Disagree? I’d love to hear your feedback! Also, if you have a practice tip of your own, please post it. We’re always looking for new ideas!

Saturday, March 7, 2009

It's true.

There is a universal truth about violists that very few people realize. It is absolutely true:

Violists cannot name the lines or spaces of the alto clef.

I'm not kidding. Ask your viola playing friends (for those of you who are curious the lines are, F, A, C, E, G; the spaces are G, B, D, F).

Someone --probably a violinist-- will then ask, "Then how do they read music?" Well, that's a trade secret.

Friday, February 27, 2009

We're still here!

We know it must feel like we've dropped off the face of the planet, but we're still here and still loving our music. The day after our last concert, life hit us fast and we really haven't had a moment to breathe since then. Over the next few weeks we will be posting about the direction our lives have taken after our last concert series.

Stay tuned, more on the way!

- The Cellist

Friday, February 20, 2009

What your best work looks like.

I've enjoyed perusing through John Holt's "What Do I Do Monday?". Very little is as interesting to me as reading about educational philosophies and practices. John Holt is considered one of the greats in this field. On page 244, he makes the following observation about his writing thatI think it is applicable to all the arts.

This happens to me, as I think it must to every writer. When I read over, now and then, some of what seems to me my best work, I often think, as if seeing it for the first time, "But this is good!" I sometimes think, "Did I really write that?" It is almost more as if it was written through me than by me, if that makes any sense. The effect of this is to make me very dissatisfied, as I write, with anything that seems much less good. From what I feel is my best writing in the past I get a standard that I want all my work in the present to reach.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Today's Program

For those of you planning to join us this afternoon, here's a sneak-peek at today's program. We'll see you there!

Quartet Op. 74....................Franz Joseph Haydn
Largo assai

Quartet No. 2........................Alexander Borodin
Allegro Moderato


String Quartet.................................David Martin
Movement 1
Movement 2
Movement 3

Quartet Op. 18 No. 4..........Ludwig van Beethoven
Allegro ma non troppo
Menuetto – Trio
Allegro – Prestissimo

Saturday, January 10, 2009

What does "Final concert" actually mean?

Time to correct the rampant misunderstanding of the phrase "final concert". This does not mean that we are all quitting our instruments never to return to them or that the quartet will never play again. Quite the contrary, we are all planning to continue our musical pursuits --just less formally.

Putting these types of concerts together is a ton of work. With David starting his second semester, Eric and Justin working their tales off and me headed in every which direction, this seemed like the best time to have one last major performance together.

So this simply means that we will no longer be preforming formal concerts, like the one tomorrow, again. We will still be actively playing as a group for different events like weddings and church.

Thank you all so much for your care and concern. We look forward to seeing many of you tomorrow.

-The Cellist

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Highstrung Concert THIS SUNDAY!

We've waited a long time for this day. We're very excited about this next Sunday. Allow us to take this moment and extended a personal invitation to all of you. We would love to have each and every one of you come enjoy the music.

Here are the details:
Location: Rockwood SDA Church (1910 SE 182nd Ave., Portland OR 97233)
Time: 3:00pm

For those you who have been faithfully following this blog, we'd like to offer you the "inside scoope" on what we're planning. You already know we're playing Haydn, Beethoven and Borodin. Well, we may not be able to play all of the Borodin (the notes are easy, the music is hard and it's just not yet up to our standard). We'll see. We've scheduled a coaching for Saturday morning. But more importantly, we're planning a surprise visit from a fellow musician. You won't want to miss that.

Hope to see you there!

But enough about us...

While most of you are here to see what we’re up to, but it’s been fun for us to see all of you. Below is a map of where our visitors are coming from:

Congratulations to all you Washingtonians! You all come in first place with the most visits. The next four are Oregon, New Jersey, California and Missouri. Honorable mentions go out to Colorado, Texas, Indiana, Louisiana and Georgia. Thank you all so much for stopping by. Also, special greeting to our recent visitor from Serbia. Welcome to the site!

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Philosophy of Practice

[Editors note: It has been mentioned that some students are quite encouraged by our ramblings herein. So along with the fun and pictures, this post and it’s follow-up posts are designed to show the “work-your-tail-off” side of music. It’s not always about concerts , cookies, friends or even talent. It’s about hard work. This is the first of three posts regarding effective practice. Hopefully, you will find some helpful truths for your own practice. –David]

Trapped between the subtle nuances of effective pedagogy, most teachers struggle to distinguish between persistence and redundancy. In English, that means, “Every teacher feels like they say the same things over and over again; but he or she is not sure if it helps or hurts.” Perhaps this maxim will aid: The fundamentals are oft forgotten in the clouds of “advanced” technique. Meaning, students everywhere, myself included, forget the basics. Therefore, the basics must be repeated often. This is not good news to my students who stand on the business end of my Basics Campaign. Truth be told, I don’t hear complaints from my students (they have all been raised much better than that). However, I am a student myself. I know what it’s like to hear a teacher say the same thing over and over again. But I do not teach for that passing moment of annoyance. I teach for the moment when the student suddenly grasps the concept. Good teachers know what that looks like. Good students know what that feels like. Both should be seeking it.

In honor of this, I have written a top ten list of the basics to aid all you musicians who are not in my studio and to make all of the students in my studio sigh and grumble. These ten truths, if taken to heart, will dramatically improve your practice and encourage you in your pursuit of fine music.

But before we get to that list of practical advice, I’d like to give four philosophies of practice. These ideas are more abstract, but if you incorporate them into your thinking about practice, your practice will be much more successful. And if you incorporate them into your thinking about life, well, you might find living to be more successful as well. These four philosophies are:

a. Getting started is the hardest part about practice

b. “Get it right.”

c. Accomplishment breeds accomplishment, failure breeds failure.

d. Your instrument wants to play well.

Getting started is the hardest part about practice

This one-liner has been a mantra in our home as long as I can remember. It’s been a truth passed down from teacher to beginner for quite some time. Getting your instrument out of the case and your music on the stand is the greatest challenge to anyone’s will power. If you can push yourself past that point, The rest will be intuitive (providing you have established proper practice habits). By way of practical advice: don’t wait until you “feel like practicing”. If you’re waiting for it, that moment never comes.

Understand what it means to “Get it right.”

In a subjective craft like music, it is essential to know what it means to “get it right”. (Some would argue that using objective language for subjective activities is not only philosophically inconsistent but also confusing. This question is outside the scope of this post, so for the sake of argument, we will assume that “getting it right” is a worthy goal). The problem with “getting it right” is that every students wants to, but few students know what it is. Most students will assume that “getting it right” means playing something until your teacher says it’s good. Or, in private practice settings, “getting it right” means fulfilling a practice assignment (the logic is something like: my teacher told me to play this section twenty-five times, I played it 25 times, therefore I “got it right”). That’s a best case scenario. More commonly, a student will approach his or her instrument with a vague assumptive notion of what their music should sound like or feel like and they try to replicate that experience in their playing. It almost never works.

There is a better way: educated, intentional, thoughtful, goals.

Goals: You must have a goal every time you pick up your instrument. You have to aim for something, anything. Many times, when my students have finished a piece, I will ask, “What do you think?” They look at me blankly (probably because I’m “suppose” to tell them what I think, not the other way around), but invariably, they don’t have any thoughts on their performance –except to point out the wrong notes or rhythms. Meaning, the only thing the students know about their playing is what they get wrong. How terribly discouraging. To avoid this discouragement, set a goal before you start every time. It’s not enough to have a goal for your practice. You must have a goal for your playing for every stroke of your bow.

Thoughtful: But goals by themselves are empty. You must have a certain type of goal, namely thoughtful goals. Thinking in cause and effect terms will do more for your practice than any other tool (mental or otherwise). When you do A then B happens. When B happens, C happens et cetera ad infinitum. For instance, when you start with your bow on the string you get a much better response than when you start from above the string –every time. The students who see the connection struggle much less with starting notes (especially fast-paced passages). To set a thoughtful goal means to look at your music and think analytically –finding patterns, similarities and differences. Armed with that knowledge, your practice will be more proactive and far more interesting.

Intentional: Every student practices. Not every student practices on purpose. Most students find a “good practice” to be a wonderful surprise that happens occasionally. They don’t know what causes it, they don’t know what, if anything, they had to do with it. But out of the clear blue sky came a productive practice. This is Reactionary Practice, not Intentional Practice. Intentional practice is to plan your practice in such a way that guarantees progress. Gone are the days of staring at your music books wondering where to begin. Intentional Practice is walking into the practice room with a list of needs to be accomplished and a clear game plan to accomplish it. It’s practicing on purpose.

Educated: You can’t teach yourself forever. Let me acknowledge my interest in this point: I’m a teacher. I make my living from teaching. But I would gladly teach free of charge, I just can’t afford it. So my students and my student’s parents pay me so that I don’t have to work someplace else. I’m a teacher, not for the money, but because I believe a student under my tutelage will flourish. He or she will be immeasurably better off than those students who try to teach themselves. A good teacher can save you hours of work. A good teacher can show you the way to where you want to be because they’ve been there before and they regularly guide students there.

So “getting it right” means having goals and achieving them –no matter how small. But it’s not just any goal, it’s educated, intentional, thoughtful, goals.

Accomplishment breeds accomplishment.

The difference between encouraged students and discouraged students is the difference between accomplishment and failure. Most of my students have transferred to my studio from another teacher. There are two kinds of transfer students: eager students and discouraged students. Eager students have experienced success in their playing. Discouraged students have experienced failure.

Nobody enjoys being bad at things. This is why people who are good at math love math and people who are good at writing love writing. Typically, you won’t find someone who hates math doing math just for kicks. Nor will you see someone who hates writing penning a poem for the fun of it. Therefore, if we want to stay motivated, we must continually experience success in one way or another.

This is not to say there is nothing to be gained from struggle. But we have to guard ourselves from unachievable goals –especially in the practice room. A student who thinks they can learn an entire piece in one practice session is on a course for failure. A student who plans to learn the recapitulation is a student on a course for successes. Both of these will be a challenging, but one tunnel has a light at the end. The more we see that light, the more we will practice. In this way, the goals are the same, but the portions are different. A failing goal is one big goal. A succeeding goal is five small goals. Both lead to the same result, but one produces accomplishment, the other produces discouragement. Five tiny accomplishments is far greater than one major failure. If you’re not experiencing at least one victory per practice, your goals are too lofty. Aim smaller.

Your instrument wants to play well.

When you look at the great musicians of today, it’s difficult to distinguish between the musician and the instrument — as if the two entities have melted together. The Instrument is as much a part of the musicians as the musician is part of the instrument. The two are a couple so in love with each other that you can hardly tell them apart.

When you look at the lousy musicians of today, the musician and instrument look like a blind-date with a one-way ticket to breakdown. There’s no connection. No comfort. No joy. Just awkward, clumsy, frustrated interaction between two halves that don’t seem to belong to each other.

The difference between the successful relationship and the failed relationship is the musician’s expectation of his or her instrument. If you assume that your instrument is the barrier between you and musical success, you will never play well. If you view practice as a battle between yourself and your instrument, your practice will be a warzone rather than a courtship.

Consider this: Our instruments were conceptualized, designed, crafted and sold in order to make great music. Our instruments want to play great music. Our job as musicians is discern what needs to happen to make our particular instrument do what it was created to do. To begin a relationship with your instrument, you must understand that you and your instrument are on the same team.

In order for that relationship to work, you both will need to make adjustments. If your down bows always crunch, you may need to adjust your bow weight or bow speed. If your instrument sit comfortably, the chin rest or shoulder rest may need to be adjusted or replaced. This process can be frustrating, but any relationship can survive if the members of that relationship will always remember that they are in it together. Your instrument is not your enemy; it’s your friend. And a very dear friend indeed.


So there you have it. Four philosophies of practice. There are more, but these will get you thinking and, hopefully, practicing with new vision. In the next post, we’ll look at ten practical approaches.

From Pateros with Love

We enjoyed a very leisurely trip to the Wenatchee, WA area where we met some wonderful new friends, ate a lot of really fantastic food, endured temperatures in the single digits (which welcomed a snow fall that broke a ten year record) and performed for a very appreciative and kind-hearted audience. Below are some pictures.

The view from our host home. I'd never been to eastern Washington. I would move there next week. It's amazingly beautiful and peaceful (click to view full).

This poor plant illustrates the way we all felt about being outside.

Playing (for business)

Eating (for pleasure)

Our new friends: Luke, Isaac the harmonica player, and Emily our hostess-ette who could make more food in an hour than the four of us could eat. Trust me, that’s an incredible talent. Not shown: Mr and Mrs. Wall and dear Ethan who apparently are very camera shy as we don't have a single picture of them.

We really enjoyed our visit to Pateros. Special thanks to the Wall family for making it happen and giving warm beds, great food and delightful company. Your hospitality was both generous and gracious; Also thanks to Uncle Kevin and Aunt Jen for their greeting us at the Homestead; to Grandma and Grandpa for inviting us and to Josh McPhearson for a really great sermon last Sunday.