Top positive review
4 of 4 people found this helpful
A genuine claim to being the best ever resource on violin technique
on 8 September 2015
I make a strong claim in the title of this review, but I think it's justifiable. In discussion on violinist.com there seems to be a general consensus that this is a unique and remarkable resource. I suspect that any serious student or teacher will gain important insights from a study of this material.
So why is it so important?
As a student of Dorothy DeLay, Fischer has direct insight into the teaching of Galamian, and he draws on many other teachers. But he also builds on these traditions with his own insights.
Essentially, Simon Fischer has been on a decades-long project to demystify the teaching of violin technique. Beyond the introductory level all too many teachers focus more on teaching music than on teaching violin. so students are often left to find their own way on the technical side. Fischer was inspired to write this book after watching an orchestral professional struggle with issues he knew he could fix quickly in the studio, or which she could fix for herself if only the information was available. His aim is to provide teachers with a better resource to help their students, and students with a better resource to become self-teachers.
In this book Fischer uses his "big idea" that everything can be described and analysed in terms of proportions, and applies this systematically to all aspects of technique. This gives it a coherence I haven't found in other pedagogic materials. He draws together the essential insights of his earlier books on Basics (technical exercises), Practice and Scales and structures them into a comprehensive survey of technique. Compared to Basics it's less detailed but more structured and step-by-step. It could be used as a starting point for analytically oriented adults, but it's really aimed at helping intermediate and advanced players by providing a systematic approach to identifying issues and determining next steps. It provides a strong foundation, with an overview of the key issues in each aspect of technique along with fundamental exercises, and gives a sense that learning this uniquely challenging instrument is actually workable. With an understanding of this material, even an average learner like myself can become an autonomous problem-solver.
From this sound platform, students could then delve into the other books for additional detail once they feel ready. If you're new to Simon Fischer's approach, this is the place to start, I feel.
As a self-learner I'm using the book for a ground-up review of my technique and almost every day I'm identifying new issues and solutions. He clarifies the more controversial areas of technique with balance and lucidity, and some of his insights are simply brilliant and can lead to immediate improvements.
The coverage is comprehensive, and as always with his books the production values are exemplary.
Here are the main topics covered. If you are an advanced player and feel they look basic, Fischer encourages all players to return to check their foundations on a regular basis.
- Holding the Violin and Bow
- Setting up the left hand and bow arm
- Tone Production (his famous exercises in their clearest exposition so far)
- Intonation (this was an eye-opener for me - a systematic approach to improving this elusive skill)
- Playing with ease and avoiding injury (with new insights from his work with the Alexander approach)
- Position changing (a single idea in this section has resolved many of my difficulties)
- Bow strokes
There are also a number of broader ideas on musicality, practice and problem-solving.
For a 340 page large-format book of this quality the price is not unreasonable, and for less than the cost of a lesson with a good teacher you are gaining a resource for life.
An exceptional contribution to the field that's destined to become a classic. Wholeheartedly recommended!