Wohlfahrt Etude 8 - Practicing dynamics

Violin dynamics

This month I’ve started practicing dynamics on the violin. I had received several comments about this, people telling me that I should tell a story with each piece and not just play the notes. Now the thing is that in my mind the story is always there. While I play the piece, in my head I can hear the story and it sounds great! And then when I record it, I notice that there is nothing of the story there… That’s what made me realize that the dynamics don’t come automatically. It’s an entire process.

And some of the things we can do to add dynamics is:

  • use more or less bow pressure
  • play in a different lane: closer to the fingerboard is softer, closer to the bridge is louder
  • move the bow faster or slower
  • play at the tip to play softer, and at the frog to play louder

Practicing dynamics

The weekly proficiency exercises of Heather Broadbent from weeks 8 to 10 are really helpful since they are about playing piano and about playing crescendos. I’ve learned a lot already. And I understand now that to play the dynamics I have to think for each phrase in which lane I will play it, where on the bow I’ll start, how fast I will move my bow etc. I’m just in the beginning of this process so I still have a lot to learn but it’s very interesting!

My recording of Wohlfahrt Etude 8

So etude 8 by Wohlfahrt seemed like a perfect way to practice the dynamics in an actual piece of music instead of just with a scale or so. This etude was useful too for many other things, like using the whole bow, working on intonation, sustain, slurs, … It would have been nice to add vibrato in there too but it was too complicated. It was already hard to try the dynamics and maintain good intonation at the same time. The other steps will follow later. :-)

You’ll hear in my recording that playing soft is still very very hard. There are three parts where I have to play very soft, but it’s still a bit too loud and the bow starts to bounce there. :-( Any suggestions are welcome.

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