Protect the violin from dryness

Recently, the area I live in the United States has been terribly dry.

Beginning of February this year, I was surprised to see the scary number of 20% humidity on the hygrometer in my teaching area !

I use a humidifier almost every day, but the humidity does not rise easily.

It’s getting a little better today and it’s still 34%.

My eyes feel dry and hurt a little, and my cheeks feel dry too. In such a condition, one can get a sore throat and it is easy to get sick. It is not good for the body.

And, of course, it is too dry for the violin, too.

People in Japan may be more likely to suffer from humid conditions, but I heard that winters are quite dry there, too.

In such an environment where dryness is a problem, we want to keep the humidity at least around 40%.

In a humid environment, one should aim to keep about 50-60%.

Why is dry air not good for the violin?

Violins are made of wood, a natural material. Wood, of course, contains some moisture, but if the environment gets too dry, they lose their water through evaporation. The instruments are more in danger of developing cracks, and their sound would become harsh as well.

My Experience…

A few years ago, while I was teaching, I dropped my bow by accident. Perhaps it would have been prevented if it had fallen on the carpet, but unfortunately it fell on the tiles. It was terribly shocking to see the tip of my bow cracked into two pieces. I was terrified inside…😭

Fortunately, it was fixed very nicely by the professional, but once a bow breaks, and is then repaired, its value will drop dramatically. You can’t sell it for what it was once worth, so you can only use it yourself. When I was getting this advice by talking to my violin specialist, he said the sound should return to the same, but to my ears it didn’t feel the same. Now I forgot what the original sound was like, so I can use it without thinking about that any more.

Also, my student dropped a full-sized violin on the floor at home, recently, and the surface of the violin got a crack more than 20 centimeters long. I saw the crack and and it was really shocking and painful… Of course, it was repaired, but it was a very painful accident.

Such accidents are more likely to happen in a dry environment, so we have to protect our instruments from dryness.

How to increase humidity

When I feel the weather is getting dry, I tell my students (especially those who are using a full size violin), and encourage them to do something.

My suggestions are:

1. Use a humidifier in the room

2. Use a dampit (or its substitute)

Humidifiers are very helpful, not only to protect the violins, but also to help us stay healthy and comfortable.

A dampit is a very handy accessory that helps our violin to keep hydrated. It is a long rubber tube with holes in it and a long sponge inside the tube to hold the moisture. You can soak it in water for a while, wipe off the excess, and put it in your violin case or put it inside your violin’s F-hole to give moisture to the inside of the instrument.

dampit

If you do not have a dampit, substitute with your DIY dampit:

  1.  Soak a sponge or small hand towel in the water and squeeze out the excess water.
  2. Put it in a ziplock bag, and punch many holes in the bag with a needle.

Sometimes, I like to humidify the peg area a little more. If that is the case, I put a wetted paper towel that’s then squeezed out and put it under the pegs area in the violin case. Carefully place it so that it does not touch the violin, and keep it there overnight. The next day, you may find the paper towel to be dry after the moisture evaporated in the case.!

(I tried putting it under the back of the instrument, but at that time, it seemed to have touched the instrument, or the moisture was a little too intense for  the instrument and it turned whitish and I was very alarmed !! But in several hours, it came back to normal look and I felt very relieved. So, in any case, we have to be careful not too much moisture in the towel, or wet the instrument.)

Also, as I remember that my teacher told me that I could put my violin in the case, with he lid open, in the bathroom after taking a shower. It can be quite humid, so I used a fan to let out some the humidity.


For people who live in an area where the air is dry, we have to protect our instruments !

Fingering or Triplets? : at the lesson of Kayser 36 Studies for Violin (Svecenski) No.27

“Teacher, the first number 3 is not a fingering, is it? . . ? ? “

Kayser no.27 beginning

“You are right. The 3 is not a fingering. By looking at the note itself, which is B natural, you may think of the 3rd finger on the 3rd position, but in this case, the 3 is not a fingering.

The third A from the beginning is an open string, and the E comes after that is also 1, so it is more natural to start the beginning of this etude in the first position.

Do you see the number 3 is printed in italics ? as well as other numbers are in a different font ? “

“Yes, I do !”

Usually, 3 for triplets are printed in italics.

Of course, when you look at the music, you should be able to find the notes are triplets or not, by looking at the time signature and the groupings of the notes, even the music does not indicate the triplets with figure 3, right?  I’m sure YOU can! Don’t you think?”

“Ah … yes … (^^;)

“As you found today, if the music has the 3 for triplet printed, you should not confuse it with the fingering 3. Again, if the number 3 is in italics, it’s a triplet. Otherwise, it’s a fingering.

Thanks for checking.” ^^

Violin Strings ID Chart

One of my students was wondering which brand of strings she is currently using on her violin. She threw out the packages and does not remember the brand name at all. One can tell which brand of strings are on the violin from the colored wraps at the end of strings at the tail piece or in the peg box. However, I could not tell by looking at the color of wrap on the strings because they were not the ones I was familiar with.

I searched the information on the internet and found a wonderful resource, the Strings ID chart at Lashof Violins (in Gaithersburg, MD, USA) web site:

https://www.lashofviolins.com/string-identification.htm

Thank you for the beautiful chart, Lashof Violins !

Violin Etudes Repertoire List

I had to submit the application of ASTA-CAP: American String Teachers Association Certified Advancement Program, for my students and I was going over the repertoire with each of them. The exam is in April 2020 in our area.

“According to the exam guideline, at the level of your solo piece, your etudes are a little behind. You should had finished Kayser etudes and be working on Dont etudes.”

“Teacher, what kind of etudes will I study in the future?”

“Well, I’m going to list what I studied and what I use for my students:

violin etudes

Wohlfahrt 60 studies op.45

Kayser Elementary and Progressive studies, op.20

Dont 24 studies: Prepaatpry to Kreuzer and Rode studies, op.37

Kreuzer 42 Studies

Rode 24 Caprices

Fiolliro 36 etudes or caprices

Gavinie 24 studies

Paganini Caprices

Wieniawski 6 Etudes-Caprices (with second violin), op.18

Wieniawski Ecole moderne etudes-caprices, op.10

“OMG~ !! That MANY???!!!” *0*

For one of my students who came from another teacher, I continued to use

Mazas Etudes Brillantes, op.36

so that she could finish the book she already had.

Mazas 75 melodious and progressive studies op.36 no.18 Romance was one of the required audition pieces for NAfME 2019:

“The NAfME All-National Honor Ensembles (ANHE) represent the top performing high school musicians in the United States.So much more than a musical showcase, the ANHE program is a comprehensive and educational experience.”

from NAfME symphonic ensemble site: https://nafme.org/programs/all-national-honor-ensembles/

********

Mazas 75 Etude melodique et progressives op.36 is divided into three parts:

I Etudes speciales

II Etudes brilliantes

III Etudes d’artistes (considered to be a preparation for the Paganini Caprices)

********

I worked on very little on Hindemith Studies for violinists, too. (but very very little)

violin etudes: schradieck and sevcik

What I listed before are melodious and you can not only improve violin techniques but also music reading skill and musicality in general. Besides those etudes, there are Schradieck and Sevcik which is written for specific techniques such as dexterity, shifts, trills, double stop preparation, bowings, etc. I use these books according to students’ need.

The Double Bar: at the lesson of Kayser no.27 for violin

***student plays***

“Oh? You did not learn the notes on the next page?”

“I thought it was over at the end of the previous page … ^^;”

“In this edition, the last measure of page 35 is tacet (you rest for one full measure), but how do you know that this is the end? “

“… hmm …”

“You will see a double bar at the end of a piece.

A double bar is literally two vertical lines on the music staff.

There are two kinds of double bar:

One is two vertical lines of the same thickness, which indicates the change of sections, or the key change, or the time signature change.

The other is two vertical lines with one thick line on the right side, which indicates the end of the piece.

For example, the double bar of this Kaiser 27 at the page 36  looks like this:

Kayser no.27

It’s a bit hard to see, but this is the double bar with the thick line on the right side, and again it means the end of this etude.

double bar (end) @dearstudents

And, for example,

Dancla Air Varie op.89 no.5 for violin with piano accompaniment

The double bar marked in red, shown above; both lines are the same  thinness, indicating the first variation (one section of this piece) ends here, but the piece still continues.

In other words, if there is no double bar with a thicker right side, the piece is not over yet.

Be sure to learn all the notes till you see the double bar.”

How to put a shoulder rest on the violin

My seven-year-old beginning student always repositions her violin many times before she starts playing.

“I wonder why you always need to reposition the violin. 🙂

I’m sure it is uncomfortable for you.

May I see your violin? “

I checked the position of her shoulder and her violin and found that the position of the shoulder rest was not very good.

When I teach a small child, I do not use a shoulder rest, but use a hand towel or handcachikef  folded in order to prevent slipping.

In the case of this student, she has been using the KUN shoulder rest, since she had been studying with other teachers for a year and a half and was used to it.

I reattached the wider side of the shoulder rest to the largest curve of the violin on the chin rest side and had her hold the instrument. She seems a lot more comfortable and she did not reposition her violin. Ta-la~♪ 🙂

Let me explain a little more. Let’s say the widest part of the violin is 12 on the clock, and we hook the wider part of the shoulder rest there, then the thinner part of the shoulder rest will naturally come to about 5 o’clock on the violin.

I always start with this position.

For many young students,like this 7-year-old student, it well usually settle very comfortably with this positioning.

This student’s mother comes to watch the lessons as well as help her practice at home, so I explained to the mother how to attach the shoulder rest. However, there are some students at her age, who come to the lessons alone. If that is the case, I indicate where to attach the shoulder rest by marking with four small stickers on the violin.

By their late teens, most students develop their own sense according to their physical strength, flexibility, and their natural posture.

Some students wanted to feel the shoulder rest to be close to 11 and 4, as shown in the photo above. When I was a teenager, I remember putting a shoulder rest in this position, but now I feel more comfortable with 12 and 5.

In theory, the shoulder rest could be at 1 o’clock and 6 o’clock, but this would be very uncomfortable due to the structure of the human body. You can try and see. 🙂

By the way, I think my shoulder rest shown in the photos is “double leather” of Mach One. I went through a long journey !! of searching MY shoulder rest in the past, and I finally settled with it and have been using it for quite some time. My first Mach One was the plastic with sponge + leather, however, as time goes by, the sponge wore out and came off, so I upgraded to plastic with leather + leather (“double-leather”) . Since Mach One has been always developping their models, the exact model of mine may not be available anymore.

This is my favorite model for a very long time, but I sometimes still wonder if this is the best shoulder rest for me. There may be something even better out there.

It may be interesting to make reviews of the shoulder rests.

One thing I can say is that this shoulder rest has a unique curve, so I don’t think it can work for everyone. This can be said of any shoulder rest, but I highly recommend trying it first, before purchasing.

Elmar Oliveira International Violin Competition 2020

The Elmar Oliveira International Violin Competition (Boca Raton, Florida, USA), took place during January 14 through 26.

19-year-old Julian Rhee (USA) won first place.

Congratulations! 🙂

Second place was Jun Min Choi (Korea), age 25

Third place was Igor Khukhua (Russia), age 27

Another finalist, Vikram Francesco Sedona (Italy), 19, was awarded Honorable Mention.

Of the four finalists, three played the Brahms Concerto and one played Saint-Saens.

Based on the choice of repertoire, one might think that the winner is one of those who played Brahms.

However, the winner, Rhee, played the Saint-Saens, not Brahms.

I haven’t had a chance to watch his performance, but it must have been great!

Many of my students, (and probably many others), want to play Tchaikovsky, Brahms, Sibelius and Beethoven and go for competitions with them.

I appreciate their great enthusiasm.

And if one is capable of, it’s wonderful to approach those big works at a young age, and then come back to them many times in order to deepen their understanding and perform them comfortably.

However, if one really wants to establish solid technique and deep understanding of music,  one needs to study many different kinds of music, preferably not only concertos, but also unaccompanied works, chamber music, and orchestral repertoire.

I am reluctant to say that many young students and their parents think that playing a difficult work will bring resuls in winning at competitions.

I think that the students who is talented, especially should focus on growing strong roots in the ground first in order to make their flowers and fruit to be big and of high quality.

Of course, Rhee is younger than everyone else, and his future possibility may have been considered. However, I would like many students to be informed of the fact that 19-year-old Rhee, who played Saint-Saens, won this competition. And I’d like students to think,  as well as be inspired.

https://www.elmaroliveiraivc.org/