on your decision to learn how to play the
viola, whether you switch from violin or not (even if you decided and
started already years ago).
is a beautiful
instrument, although a lot
of people can't even tell the difference between viola and
Many think it's very hard, like violin, you can only start
have to suffer months of horrible screeching noises...
happy to reassure you that all this is not
true. Like any
other activity, as long as you really want to learn how to play and
it, you can start at any
age. It may take longer or not, you may be come more or
less skilled, but you can start.
another myth is about very difficult initial times. Everything people
"know" about horrible noises that family and neighbours (not to mention
the learner) have to suffer for months if not years is not
we don't have to. This fear of horribly hard times is what discourages
people from starting to learn how to play the viola. Also,
do experience hard times at the beginning, due to lack of correct
information on how to play, a lot of those who actually start then give
up soon because can't see much progress.
All this can
When you want to learn
to play the viola the difficulty is not physical, it is in the concentration, in
the ability to focus
that is required. In today's society we are so used to doing many
at the same time, such as making a phone call while writing at your pc
Internet and having a tea and... more.
The cause of
a lot of other problems too
horrible sound, or rather noise, that beginners think they have to
endure is caused by tensions
in the body, by the right hand gripping
the bow and pressing on the strings, by the left hand and shoulder
instrument for fear of dropping it and pressing the fingers down on the
not only produces
physical tension that
causes horrible noises (especially at the beginning), faulty
intonation, inability to play fast and to play double stops and
chords, in the most serious case it causes physical injuries
(tendinitis) following which some players have to completely
stop playing, after having surgical
tension also causes more or less pain
in the back, neck, arms, thumbs and nerves,
stage fright. Physical tension and emotional tension are
connected, like everything else in playing (and not only...).
Also, pain is nothing else than a message your body is sending
you, it's telling you that you are doing something wrong, you are
can have a beautiful tone from the beginning
notorious that the viola is a more recalcitrant instrument, it is more
difficult to produce any sound from it than from the violin, not to
mention a beautiful tone! one has to be even more careful, gentle with
However, any player can produce a nice
tone from the beginning and if
you are not a beginner you can also have a better quality tone. A
beautiful tone is a rich and warm tone, and this depends
both on intonation and the way the tone is produced by the bow contact
(not pressure) on the strings and by the softness of the left hand,
that leaves the hand supple and able to play fast, play chords so that
the player can focus on expressing himself or herself rather than on
the technical problems.
What is really important in
to play (or to improve if you can already play) and
quickly, is the ability to control
every single movement of your body and to do this you need to focus your
mind on one thing at a time, one movement at a time and
then, once you can control individual movements, put them together.
How to prevent
when you play the viola
That of physical injuries
nowadays is something a lot of players are well aware now (if you are
not, you should start now, before you have problems). The necessity of
preventing injuries is especially important if you play the
viola, because being it bigger than the violin it's easier for players
to strain their body to cope with the instrument. Players may tend to
press more with the fingers, with the bow, with their chin and hunch
their shoulder to support the viola, causing themselves tiredness, pain
in the thumbs, shoulders, back, neck etc. and worse.
on the basics of how to learn to play viola
(as well as
this subject of preventing tension and
injuries from the
very beginning when one starts to learn to play, I recommend you to
watch the following videos where the famous violin and viola teacher Kato Havas
explains the basics of playing. The concepts exposed here
which means they are the foundation for any player,
not for beginners. So if you've already played for many years but have pain here and there,
when you have to play for any sort of audience or find many things very
difficult, the advice in these videos is for you too.
no matter what you are, a beginner, an advanced student or a
professional or even a teacher, if you want to save time (I mean, years)
and save yourself a lot of frustrations
and wish to learn how to play the viola, or improve your playing or
teaching, in a way that
leads you to your target in an easier and
more effective way, start right from the beginning, watch these videos
and read Kato
Havas's books, particularly about stage fright.
video deals with a specific aspect of playing. I recommend you to watch
them in sequence and then focus on specific ones, all of them will last
just over an hour, but you don't have to watch them all at the same
time. They are for practical use,
don't just sit there and watch them, see yourself at the workshop, grab
your viola and do the exercises, one video
at a time, one exercise at a
time and feel comfortable.
What she teaches applies to the violin
and to the viola as well, because it has to do with how to use our body
to play. I
studied with Kato Havas for many years, I
translated three books of hers and I've seen a
between the way I used to play the viola and what I've learned from
Therefore, I was happy to take part in these videos to help
her explain some aspects of her teaching.
teaching is quite different from what most people know about how to
play viola or violin, that's why she's special. I myself have
when somebody has a really serious physical or emotional problem
to playing, with her they find the solution.
The audio is a bit low,
make sure the subtitles
are on. After starting the video, move your mouse over the CC
on grey background, in the bottom right corner, then click on it: the
background will become red and you'll see the picture below and you'll
be able to select the subtitles you prefer. Click on English (o other). They can even be translated in many
languages (other translations are not mine, I don't guarantee the results).
The rhythmic pulse
to prevent and eliminate physical problems and stage fright, the
importance of the rhythmic pulse in any music, of imagination, how to
learn to play from the very core of your being, not from the fingers.
The first, simple exercise to achieve this.
importance of having light arms, suspended arms, how to achieve it.
With exercises: the winging, flip flop, the "no viola-hold".
right arm movement, 1: the
right arm movement, in the lower half of the bow, Allegro quavers.
Where the arm movement originates, the two hinges in the right arm, the
"no bow-hold". The connection between the touch, the eyes and the
voice. What stiff wrists cause, how to prevent this.
right arm movement, 2: the
right arm movement, in the upper half of the bow, Andante quavers.
Where the arm movement originates, the two hinges in the right arm.
Teach your body what to do, focus. Cause of problems with the elbow,
the connection between wrist and elbow.
left hand action
simplicity of the New approach, the left hand movement, the interval
shapes, there are only three intervals in your hand. The importance of
a soft hand, you play with the hand, not with the fingers.
bridal, a folk tune
lovely English jig: sing and clap, to get the feeling, then play. This
applies to all playing, at any level. Try!
reason for the trembling bow, how to prevent, eliminate it; the
importance of the thumbs, what stiff thumbs cause.
thumbs - Telemann
importance of the thumbs in string playing, what stiff thumbs cause.
Use imagination to create. A real example applied to Telemann's viola
Sing the note names
importance of singing the note names, the left hand power,
the drama of the intervals. A real example applied to Telemann's viola
"What I learned from the Hungarian gypsies"
is what Kato Havas says she learned from the Hungarian gypsies
about music and playing. I
think this final video is very appropriate as a conclusion, it really
purpose of music and playing, the new approach is not just about doing
the right movements and playing all the right notes. I wish you to
enjoy your playing much more and that also your listeners
enjoy your music much more.