How to Create Emotion in Violin Playing

Creating emotion in violin playing in some ways can be described and applied to a piece systematically. The violinist who overcompensates for emotion by swaying and moving around on stage does not always have the most emotional performance. Emotion comes from the way in which you approach the violin and the music you play. Playing the music very technically correct will ensure a perfect performance, but you need to be able to think about the music creatively and create your own original interpretation of the piece to play with emotion.

Step 1:  Learn the music at a tempo that is approximately 30 percent slower than the actual performance tempo so that when the time comes to add emotion you aren't worried about technique. Speed comes with familiarity. Forcing yourself to play too fast too soon will result in errors. Practice using complete bow strokes to get a firm sound and light strokes for a gentler sound.

Step 2:  Memorize the music once you have learned to play the entire piece without mistakes. Memorize one phrase at a time, and then memorize one section at a time. Memorization makes it possible to play the piece expertly by using muscle memory, thereby leaving your mind to interpret the music. Use the same violin fingerings and positions every time to ensure you memorize the music completely.

Step 3: Pay attention to every articulation, dynamic and score indication left by the composer. Listen to several recordings of the piece to see how different performers interpret these markings. Put the violin down and play the music in your mind. Visualize every bowing and technique as you would actually play. Evaluate the music and create your own interpretation by adding violin articulations that make sense to you. Down-bows and up-bows are largely up to you to determine. This leaves plenty of room for creativity.

Step 4: Use rubato to lengthen and shorten notes to increase the human aspect of emotional playing. Don't play as a machine would. Instead, allow important notes to linger for a moment or two longer than suggested by the note value. Avoid going overboard with this; you do not want to disrupt the flow of the music. The violin is unique in that it can elongate phrases and notes for indefinite periods of time. Take advantage of this aspect of the playing when the music calls for it.

Step 5: Close your eyes when playing and practicing. By shutting off the visual perception, more of your attention can be devoted to the sound of your instrument. Ensure that you practice with your pianist or ensemble so that they can learn to follow you, even if your performance changes on the day of the recital.

Muscle memory comes from learning a new skill. Riding a bike involves muscle memory since you don't have to think about how to keep your balance. Do not speed up the tempo until the entire piece is memorized. Once the piece is memorized, speed up the tempo by five percent each day until you reach the tempo required for performance.

Don't confuse emotion with theatrics. Just because a performer may sway back and forth on the stage, does not mean that emotion is being put into the music. Practice playing several different renditions of the piece with your pianist or ensemble. This will ensure that the pianist or ensemble will be able to follow you.


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