My name is Colin and I am in love with the string family (including arco on the double bass). My aunt gave me her fine viola, and it's the only string instrument in my possession. I enjoy double bass but it's expensive and not portable. The violin is a bit too strident, though it definitely has its place. The viola is such a great instrument, such a shame it gets no coverage.
Now, from my experience on piano I know that technical success will come if I diligently study all the scales and arpeggios. I will do this, but first I want to approach the instrument a little differently.
Beginner methods usually focus on music reading and playing very basic "pieces" in first position.
But times have changed. I have begun by playing freely improvised pieces with no emphasis on tonality, but rather on quality of tone, intonation, development of finger dexterity, vibrato, bow techniques, portamento slides, trills, and effective bowing, among other things.
I usually check my intonation by bowing an open string while I have stopped another string. I am surprised that my sense of tuning is so accurate. It seems like I've picked up the basics of this instrument quite nicely, but I'm afraid of developing any bad habits. My vibrato, for instance, shakes the entire viola. Therefore, I don't know if the perceived vibrato is coming from the bow bouncing a bit on the string, or from a variation of effective string length. How can one develop a cleaner vibrato.
One other concern is my difficulty in keeping the bow going in a straight line; the bow tends to move all over the place. This is a bad thing to do, and I'm trying my best to fix it.
I know that for every instrument, keeping loose is key. This is exceedingly difficult to do on the viola, especially an instrument that is tucked under the jaw in such an awkward position. If I loosen up, the viola falls out (yes I'm using a chin-rest and shoulder pad), but if I tense up, my muscles get fatigued. I'm not sure how much of an angle the viola should be in relation to my body.
No, I have not had a single formal lesson. I should probably have a few lessons to get some of these basic techniques down.
Those are just a few of my concerns. I've run into a technique of teaching that uses free improvisation and gradually puts more and more guidelines onto the improvisation until you are improvising seemingly pre-composed pieces. I really like free improvisation, and it seems to be a field that hasn't been explored very throughly on the standard string family of instruments. Are there any solo recordings of violinists\violists\cellists\bassists doing free improvisation, or modern compositions written for a solo string instrument?
How are scales taught on the viola? Should all 24 major and minor scales\arpeggios be mastered? Do you usually go up and down 3 octaves? I like to improvise step-wise in the scales in order to gain more freedom, aside from simply running up and down them with the metronome.
I love how the color of the note can be so aptly changed on these instruments. Slight variations in the tuning of the note really provide interesting degrees of color.
Anyway, that's my brainstorm. Any thoughts would be appreciated.
Re: Brainstorming viola ideas 21:24 on Saturday, March 08, 2008
the improv sounds cool, but i would suggest lessons too. your bad bowing is most likely due to an incorrect bow hold and because your using your arm wrong. the only reason i can think of without seeing you for your viola slipping is that your not holding up the viola high enough with your fingering hand. your not really holding your viola up with your head and shoulder it kind of just rests there.
i would get lessons to correct vibrato, its really hard to explain in words, but i had the same problem when i tried it myself. some people just get it, others need some guidance.
Re: Brainstorming viola ideas 14:47 on Thursday, May 01, 2008
go for lessons. ive been playing viola for five years now and was horrible until the end of sixth grade when i finally got lessons. i am now a freshman in high school and can play much better than the seniors in my section. a question... can you read alto clef? Violas dont play on treble or bass and have their own special clef. Scales definately shold be mastered, but on the two octave level before three.