Reviews

Violin Left Hand

Hollis Taylor – Stringendo, April 2014
Andrew Lumsden – Stringendo, October 2013
Andrew Lumsden – Stringendo, April 2013

Violin Bow Technique

Laurie Scott – American String Teacher, Feb 2011
Daniel Panner – The Juilliard School, Jan 2010
Melissa Franks – Stringendo, Nov 2008
Catherine Nelson – The Strad, Sep 2008


 Stringendo

Journal of the Australian Strings Association (AUSTA) vol 36 number 1, April 2013

Hollis Taylor

Violin Left Hand – Volume 3

This ambitious DVD by Fintan Murphy is the third in his series devoted to the left hand. The topics of violin and viola intonation, vibrato, coordination, and practice are featured in video lessons, texts, and scores. While the written materials are excellent, for repetitive exercises of this type I always prefer to take on the concept and then work away from the score. Murphy anticipates this potential problem with his many short video examples. The close-up filming is terrific with Murphy and the others clearly demonstrating fine details of how to improve intonation, develop and improve vibrato, and how to practice (always useful). I highly recommend this DVD.

– Hollis Taylor

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Stringendo

Journal of the Australian Strings Association (AUSTA) vol 35 number 1, April 2013

Andrew Lumsden

Violin Left Hand – Volume 1

Violin Left Hand, Volume 1 complements Fintan Murphy’s earlier’Violin Bow Technique’ DVD and focuses on improving the left hand through advice, exercises, instructions and video lessons. Fintan is able to offer his experience not only to ‘new’ students, but to students at all stages, as well as teachers.

Throughout the DVD, all the elements of left hand playing are covered, such as left hand fundamentals, finger action, finger independence, facility and even the violin and your body. Of particular interest to me was topic 1 of chapter 3 (the introduction to ‘Finger Action’) which focused on solving problematic finger actions; as the title suggests. I sometimes find my fourth finger nail knuckle locking when I play double stops and I found this information very useful in solving the problem. Another area of interest for me was the reasoning for and against using a shoulder rest; my shoulder rest was stolen recently and I had to practice without one, which I believe turned out to be beneficial. Topic 2 of the Introduction, which explained ‘The lesson environment’ for teachers, was particularly interesting; it provided teaching strategies which in turn can be used during a student’s practice. The DVD also includes an enormous range of exercises, practice methods, hints and a relaxation routine which is very helpful while practising.

Violin Left Hand, Volume 1 is an excellent resource which I cannot fault. It is useful for violinists and violists of all levels and is easy to understand via the wonderful video lessons presented by Fintan Murphy. If students are experiencing any problems with left hand playing I would strongly recommend using this DVD.

– Andrew Lumsden
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Stringendo

Journal of the Australian String Association (AUSTA) vol 35 number2, October 2013

Andrew Lumsden

Violin Left Hand – Volume 2

Violin Left Hand, Volume 2 is another excellent publication from Fintan Murphy, following volume 1, with applications to viola playing as well. Once again, Fintan is able to offer his experience to players of all skill levels and ages.

This DVD focuses on shifting, scales, arpeggios, chords and double stops, all vital elements required for violin exams at all levels and of course used frequently throughout all music. I found topics 9, 10 and 11 in chapter 6 which focused on high position shifting particularly interesting.

As I progress towards a higher level of playing, I find myself moving more frequently into higher positions. These topics address the problems of a shrinking amount of finger space and how to use the thumb effectively as a pivot. I also found the deep analysis of double stop technique useful. The DVD, with its easy-to-follow videos, made even tenths seem easy to play through highlighting the key techniques in chapter 8, topic 13. As always, the introductory section on teaching and learning provided very interesting material such as effective practicing techniques.

Violin Left Hand, Volume 2 is an extremely useful and interesting learning source that I would recommend to players of all skill levels. Fintan Murphy successfully communicates his ideas to the viewers and his written text enhances his practical video lessons to provide a superb publication for all violinists.

– Andrew Lumsden

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American String Teacher

Journal of ASTA vol 61 number 1, February 2011

Laurie Scott

Violin Bow Technique by Fintan Murphy

In this efficiently-packaged DVD, Murphy, Head of Strings at Monash University School of Music, Australia, presents a vast amount of information about violin bow technique. The DVD contains 130 video clips with CD-quality audio of bowing techniques from the basic holding posture to advanced off-the-string strokes.

A brief glance at the table of contents reveals twelve major sections, each with many sub-sections. The sections are Bowhold, Bowing Fundamentals, Détaché, Slurred Bowings, Beginning Clicks, Bouncing Bowings, String Crossing, Chords, Tone Production, Planning and Practice, Integration, and Resources. The DVD ends with printable texts and scores. Many of the subsections feature standard etude and repertoire excerpts as material for the bow technique under discussion. The individual video clips are quick and to the point, each lasting usually under a minute. Murphy has isolated the details of each pedagogical segment and seems to have worked closely with the production of the video to ensure that the picture of the technique actually demonstrates the subject under consideration.

The later video clips dissect famous moments in the repertoire of bowing. The clips of Murphy reducing the Prelude of Bach’s E Major Partita or the cadenza of Kreisler’s Praeludium and Allegro to basic open string crossings are interesting and useful to any teacher or performer. In addition to being a highly useful tool for a student or teacher, this collection gives a rare and brilliant glimpse into the sequential thought process of a very good teacher. A student of pedagogy will have a field day here tracing the careful development of bowing technique from an obvious master teacher.

– Laurie Scott

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The Juilliard School

Daniel Panner

Violin Bow Technique by Fintan Murphy

I was so impressed by the clarity, thoroughness and quality of Violin Bow Technique. I think it is a fantastic teaching and learning tool and I will be sure to recommend it widely.

– Daniel Panner is a violinist & teacher at The Juilliard School, New York

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Stringendo

Journal of the Australian Strings Association (AUSTA) vol 30 number 2, November 2008

Melissa Franks

Violin Bow Technique by Fintan Murphy

Violin Bow Technique by master pedagogue Fintan Murphy is a wonderful resource for all violin teachers. From teaching the beginner to hold a bow, through to advanced articulations such as ricochet, Fintan Murphy clearly demonstrates all manner of bowings. Each succinct verbal explanation is reinforced with a demonstration, and a written description that goes into greater depth. The 130 video clips of selected excerpts are very well suited to each demonstrated technique and come primarily from examination requirements, making it even more useful. The DVDROM is remarkable for its simplicity of use with clear, visually appropriate backgrounds and headings. An invaluable resource which can be used by both students and teachers, I eagerly await Fintan Murphy’s next project of Violin Technique for the left hand.

– Melissa Franks, violinist & teacher, Queensland

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The Strad

Education focus, p.120 September 2008

Catherine Nelson

Violin Bow Technique by Fintan Murphy

This DVDROM is devised and played by Fintan Murphy, head of strings at Monash University School of Music in Australia. Murphy states that it can be used by players and teachers of violin and viola at all levels from beginner to professional – a bold claim, but it seems he’s right. The disc offers a comprehensive survey of bow technique, all the way through from finding a good, flexible bow hold to perfecting Sautillé and spiccato and improving tone production with advanced bowing techniques.

Though there’s a daunting amount of information here to be worked on and absorbed – 130 video clips in 11 chapters, plus excerpts from scores – it’s set out clearly, with chapters broken down into short exercises or teaching points, and it’s all very easy to navigate through. The chapter headings themselves give some idea of the scope of the project: Bowhold, String Crossing, Chords, Planning and Practice, Bouncing Bowings, to name just five. And within Bouncing Bowings, to take one example, there are 19 separate exercises, such as’Lifting the Bow at the Heel’; ‘Introduction to Reflex Bowings’; ‘Introduction to Sautillé’ and so on. The whole thing covers a lot of ground, and Murphy acknowledges his debt to four other pedagogues – Simon Fischer, Sheila Nelson, Kurt Sassmannshaus and Mimi Zweig – in some of the teaching exercises he uses.

It does take some browsing to get your bearings, and the presentation style is sometimes quirky. I found the introductory screens to the chapters disconcerting, with lots of dense type in an off puttingly small font size. The video clips of Murphy demonstrating his teaching points are much more effective, and have handy settings for ‘slow motion’; so that you can get to grips with exactly what he’s doing, or ‘repeat’ if you want to keep practising the same exercise.

It’s invaluable stuff: Murphy’s filmed demonstrations and explanations are incisive, clear, beautifully recorded and well focused. The first couple of chapters, Bowhold and Bowing Fundamentals, offer a really good grounding in the different aspects of what the bowing arm should be doing. The more advanced exercises are equally worthwhile. Murphy has a knack of pinpointing the exact train of thought or muscle instruction that will unlock the secret of a particular bow stroke. After five minutes with his section on Sautillé bowings I felt a dramatic improvement in my control. The sheer man-hours of learning potential on the disc might seem overwhelming, but taken in small chunks, Fintan Murphy’s approach can’t fail to work magic.

– Catherine Nelson
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