Category Archives: The More You Know

Tweaking Zoom for Optimal Lessons

One of the reasons that we chose Zoom as our primary method of video conferring with all of you, our wonderful students and families, during this period of social distancing and distance learning, is that Zoom has better audio features than any of the other popular video conferencing programs or apps.  And because what we do as string musicians has so much to do with the quality of our sound, being able to hear each other as well as possible is really, really important to make the most of our online lessons together!

One of the concrete, tangible ways that we can achieve the highest quality of sound is by adjusting a few settings within Zoom.  Here’s what the following video explains:

  1. Open Zoom on your computer (it has to be on a computer – you won’t be able to adjust these settings and achieve this quality on a phone or tablet)
  2. Click on the the settings “gear” in the top right corner of your Zoom home screen
  3. Go to “audio” settings
  4. Switch off the feature “Automatically adjust microphone volume”
  5. Then go down to the bottom right of your screen and click “Advanced”
  6. Within “Advanced” options, click on the feature “Show in-meeting option to ‘Enable Original Sound’ from microphone

Following these steps allows you to get rid of “speech codex” that Zoom defaults to, which will allow the long, sustained tones of your instrument to come through at a much higher quality for me and Ms. Kirby to hear.  Let us know if you have any questions.  We want this period of distance learning to be of the highest quality that it can be for you!

The More You Know: The Importance of Self-Motivation

A fimg_0201ew weeks ago, I happened across a book on a friend’s bookshelf entitled Violin Mastery: Interviews with Heifetz, Auer, Kreisler and Others.  I had a chance to flip through the book, and the few snippets of interviews that I was able to read convinced me that this book should definitely go on my list of books to read.







One selection in particular stuck with me.  A few of you have heard me talk about it in lessons over the past few weeks, and I wanted to share it with all of you now:


What stuck with me from this selection wasn’t that this violinist practiced 8-10 hours a day from ages 5-12 (as impressive as that is!), but this final quotation: “No serious student of the instrument should ever forget that, no matter who his teacher may be, he himself must supply the determination, the continued energy and devotion which will lead him to success [emphasis mine].”

Above all else, this is something I want to help all of my students identify and develop in themselves – an inner motivation that leads to productive lessons, consistent home practice in spite of busy schedules, and the willingness to do the meet the challenges of difficult technical and musical hurdles that must be overcome to develop real ability.

So, as we put one set of recitals behind us and head into a season of new material and new challenges, I encourage all of you to talk with your children about what motivates them, and to help them develop their own internal motivations as they grow older.

The More You Know: Playing Less Hurt

Most of you who have studied with Kirby or me for any length of time know that pain – experiencing it, struggling with it, and working to overcome it – has been a big part of my musical journey.  My high school years and college years were something of a perfect storm of physical predispositions and poor practice habits (i.e. quantity over quality) that almost led to me putting my violin on the shelf permanently.  I’ve spent the past decade or so searching out ways to overcome pain, reverse physical tendencies, and learn to do things better.  As a result, I emphasize good posture (and the correct equipment to allow it), proper technique, and efficient practice habits with all of my students from an early age and stage.

That said, some how this book – Playing Less Hurt: An Injury Prevention Guide for Musicians by Janet Horvath – has somehow not cropped up on my radar until today.  Needless to say, I’m looking forward to reading it, but even before doing so I wanted to share it as a resource for those of you who  struggle with pain in your playing, or have children who struggle with pain in their playing.  Our culture doesn’t do a good job of setting us up for a pain-free life (sitting most of the day, hunching over electronic devices for extended hours, etc.), and playing an instrument can exacerbate those problems.  But it doesn’t have to, and I’m very excited to see what Ms. Horvath has to say about her journey and her discoveries.  I hope her book is of help to you, too!

The More You Know is a publication of West County Strings, intended for the edification of students and their parents in the St. Louis community and beyond. 

The More You Know: Tackling a Tricky New Piece

Early on in the Suzuki repertoire, pieces are fairly short; their tricky passages and subsequent practice spots are readily found and addressed; and the material can be learned fairly quickly with diligent listening to the recording and practice repetition.

As one progresses through the Suzuki repertoire, however – and particularly by the time one reaches the Vivaldi Violin Concerto in A minor in Book 4 – the pieces have become significantly longer and more layered and complex in the challenges they present.  Hopefully, as the student has been progressing in technical ability they have also been progressing in practice ability, and have learned a set of skills to employ when practicing something new and challenging.

Even so, I recently came across this article, entitled How to Approach Learning a Tricky New Piece, which I thought was worth sharing.  There is certainly no one “right” way to go about tackling a piece that a student would define as “hard” when they first hear, look at, or attempt to play through it; however, this article puts forth one helpful way, which shares a lot of principles that are widely accepted (Yo-Yo Ma always insists on getting the big picture idea of a piece before diving into the details, for example).

So, this may not ending up being the way for you, but perhaps it will be a way, or inform the way that you end up crafting for yourself.

The More You Know is a publication of West County Strings, intended for the edification of students and their parents in the St. Louis community and beyond.