A few weeks ago, when Tim Fain played his Kevin Puts encore, I noticed that when he played all alone in the upper register I could hear a huge amount of air in addition to the pitches he was playing. His fiddle is probably the best fiddle I have heard played all alone in a hall with acoustics like the hall in the Krannert Center's "Great Hall," and he is probably one of the best violinists I have had the pleasure of hearing sustained in the high register, all alone.
Since I am preparing to play a violin recital that happens to have many sustained notes up in the ledger-line register, I decided to switch into flute mode when I was practicing today. When you play high in the flute register, the air is part of the sound. It is, after all, what you use to make the sound. It was only today that I realized that when I play the violin in the highest register, and I listen for the air in the sound, the sound is far richer and better in tune that it is if I don't listen for the presence of air in the sound.
So I played long tones today, and I used the Moyse Sonority Etude #1, which was my first warm-up of the day for all the years that I practiced the flute. Rather than starting on B above the staff and going downward to C chromatically, I started with high B, and made my way down to open G, listening all the while for air. I was able to keep the air going for a long time, even onto the G string. It was really fun, and after practicing this exercise I even felt a little bit lightheaded. I guess I was doing the kind of breathing that I do when playing the flute, which proves another point: how you breathe affects the way you play.
I tried it on the viola, but I couldn't hear any air in the upper register. The brightness and body of the sound must cover it all up. Maybe this is one reason that it is difficult to play both violin and viola well: you have to listen for different things in the sound and adjust your physical equipment accordingly.
Technorati tags: violin playing, viola playing