What happened to your dynamics?
In a recent lesson with a middle school age book 5 violin student there was a discussion about dynamics. Although playing notes, rhythms and articulations accurately, and mostly with beautiful tone, there was no sense of dynamic interest. The movement-long play through did not project any drama appropriate for this late romantic period showpiece.
“It’s too scratchy when I play loud.”
When I asked the student how they felt about not even following the printed dynamics, the response was that to their ears, louder dynamics in particular produced a scratchy, unpleasant tone quality. I asked the student to demonstrate the scratchy tone quality. As I suspected, the performance became more exciting without any scratchiness.
Record and decide for yourself.
Even though I’m sure we’ve had this conversation in the past, it was worth repeating that the sound under the violinist’s ear contains more surface sound and higher, squeaky frequencies that do not travel to the listener. To verify the veracity of this statement, I suggested that the student record while practicing and listen for themself.
Dispell myth and gain agency
Students put off recording themselves but teachers can continue to encourage them to do so. Ultimately we want students to feel secure in their performing and develop independence. Hearing your sound for yourself is a huge step towards dispelling myth and gaining agency.