Foundational Ideas of FiddleQuest

Rich, passionate sounds come from motivated violinists

After a concert with some students last year, a woman from the audience came up to me to talk about the performance. She was a former violin teacher and went into great detail about a student's bowing technique and how impressed she was by her bow hand. This was a pleasant surprise because many of my students typically have what can be described as a "very relaxed" playing style!

I nodded and smiled politely. But as she was speaking I was recalling other conversations like this one when I a boy. I attended countless violin recitals and performances growing up. At intermission, I would make a bee-line to the punch bowl and cookie table. And while I enjoyed my reward for sitting through another recital, I would listen to the conversations around me.

I noticed a recurring pattern. Teachers would gather together and talk about the technique of the student players. How the performers stood, used their bow, held their violin.

It was similar to the analysis one hears during ice-skating competitions. The perfect landing, the flaw in the jump, how hands were held as she spun. Complex routines were dissected into a series of moves that were either perfect or flawed.

The older and more skilled I became, the more I observed and judged the ‘visuals’ of violinists. It was the first hurdle I had to overcome when I started looking at and listening to non-classical violinists. For years, I would have to close my eyes while fiddlers were performing so as not to be distracted and prejudiced about their music.

At this point, I have seen and heard enough performers and students with wildly different technique to realize that it is not the technique, but the passion and energy and motivation from the violinist that creates the sound.

As a result, I will teach good technique and discourage harmful technique. But I no longer spend lesson time in pursuit of perfect technique.

-- Duane Whitcomb, Founder