There are many violin and viola books around (actually, mostly violin books). Here you'll find some books (I also translated them into Italian) that I think are very good. They are:
The principles explained in Kató Havas' books can be applied to violin and viola playing.
William Primrose's book is his autobiography. I translated it and published it. You can find Primrose's book in English.
Kató Havas' books can be found in several languages. Although their titles refer to violin, their principles and practice apply to the viola as well and also to all string instruments. Indeed, they deal with how to use our body (and not only the fingers!), particularly all the upper part (shoulders, arms, back) to play in a natural way, to prevent or eliminate various physical injuries and emotional problems (there is also a teaching DVD on this) caused by an incorrect use of the body in playing and at the same time, facilitate the performance and make it more enjoyable for the performer. Well, who plays knows what the problems are, right?
That's the meaning of "New approach"; the violin is always referred to because Kató Havas is a violinist and started with the violin (the first book, the New approach, was published in 1961!), but there are other people and books who apply this method to other instruments. I found them very useful and that's why I accepted to translate them when I was asked. If you have any doubts about how to solve some problems and so far you haven't found answers, I warmly recommend them to you!
Here you can see the original book cover and my Italian version's covers. Soon you'll be able to read here a description of them. I've added a link to a website where you can buy them in several languages, since quite often people asked me where they could find them (especially the Italian ones).
new approach to violin playing
This was the first book published in 1961, when nobody was talking about physical injuries caused by playing an instrument. Nowadays everybody is well aware of this issue, there are even clinics for musicians' injuries.
This book was praised by Yehudi Menuhin.
“It is a sad
comment on man's perennial ignorance that the rare and the original are
usually the obvious. Miss Havas is original in her approach to violin
playing because she insists that violin technique must be reducible to
basic motions involving more than just the fingertips. … It is also
heartening and equally ‘original’ to find a kindred spirit who holds
the whole body to be engaged, thus offering non
resistance anywhere - only support - and who realises that of all
things - the state of continual balance, the equilibrium of all parts,
fingers against thumb, arms against shoulder-blades, etc., is the
object of all training…”
Here is the cover of the Italian version that I translated: Un nuovo approccio al violino
To use the words of Kató Havas herself,
“The aim of this approach is not
so much the imparting of knowledge. The aim is rather the elimination
of all existing obstacles, both physical and mental, so that through a
relaxed control and co-ordination, the player may be able to release
the full force of his musical imagination.”
or in Italian
Also check Kato Havas teaching DVD
Causes and cures
I consider this book like the Bible for violin and viola players. It was the first book to ever mention address these issues, very commonly talked about nowadays. This is another book that was praised by Yehudi Menuhin and that I translated into Italian. Here is Menuhin's comment.
“Dear Kató Havas, I would like to write
you a second fan letter, as I believe I have already done so some years
ago, to congratulate you on your book "Stage fright". It is the most
realistic and practical approach imaginable. It stresses the real
reasons and not the false ones... a book that should be worth its
weight in gold to every student and many a performer.”
This book examines in detail
the causes of all the fears most of players have, giving
practical solutions to them:
These are the chapters:
I) A GENERAL SURVEY
1.THE SHAME ATTACHED TO STAGE FRIGHT
a) What is anxiety?
II) THE HUNGARIAN GYPSY VIOLINIST
III) THE PHYSICAL ASPECTS
1.THE FEAR OF DROPPING THE VIOLIN
2.THE FEAR OF THE TREMBLING BOWING ARM
a) The strokes
3.THE FEAR OF BEING OUT OF TUNE
a) The fourth finger
4.THE FEAR OF HIGH POSITIONS AND SHIFTS
a) The high positions
IV) THE MENTAL ASPECTS OF STAGE FRIGHT
1.THE FEAR OF NOT BEING LOUD ENOUGH
2.THE FEAR OF NOT BEING FAST ENOUGH
3.THE FEAR OF MEMORY LAPSE
4.THE POWER OF WORDS
3.THE POWER OF IMAGINATION
V) THE SOCIAL ASPECTS
1.THE FEAR OF NOT BEING GOOD ENOUGH
1.THE ART OF PRACTISING
2.SUGGESTIONS FOR EXAMINATIONS, AUDITIONS, COMPETITIONS, PERFORMANCES
3.THE SALIENT POINTS IN PRACTISING
Buy Kato Havas teaching DVD on the prevention and cure of tendonitis and other physical injuries caused by violin and viola playing.
For lessons, contact me, I'm based in Oxford (UK). Also online viola and violin lessons are available.
You may want to read more books by
Kató Havas, so here they are:
The 12 lesson course in A New Approach to violin playing
The New Approach organised in 12 lessons, with practical exercises and pieces to play as a pupil-teacher duo. For beginners and advanced players as well
The Violin and I
Kató Havas' autobiography, with the story of how the New Approach came to life and the correspondence, which went on for years, among readers on The Strad magazine
Also check Kato Havas teaching DVD
Memories of a violist
but not least... The autobiography of William Primrose, "the first star of the viola"
Walk on the North Side
Memories of a violist
William Primrose (1904-1982) was the first international star with viola. Great virtuoso and fine interpreter, he played with the best musicians of his time, such as Toscanini, Heifetz, Kreisler, Piatigorsky, to name only a few. He caused the viola to be definitively recognised as a solo instrument with a neatly distinct personality than the violin's. Thanks to him, viola repertoire enriched with many works commissioned by himself or composed for him: the most famous ones are Bartók's Viola Concerto and Britten's Lachrymae.
A very lively account of Primrose life and career, his many interests (including chess and cricket playing, airplane piloting and more...), full of anecdotes. A very encouraging book for all players, a very interesting and enjoyable reading for any music lover. Find out why it has this strange title...
Here are the chapters:
The North Side of the 57th Street
First years in Glasgow
As a student in London
The London String Quartet
Richard Crooks and others
Lionel Tertis and others
Japan: Chrisantemum and Sakura
This is a mostly technical book, very useful for players of different levels. It is written in form of dialogue with David Dalton, who was his pupil and in charge of the PIVA (Primrose International Viola Archive) for many years. Here Primrose talks about all aspects of playing the viola: the teacher-student relationship, playing the viola coming from the violin, how to practice, repertoire, stage presence and manners, performance practice, the left hand (you can even get to know his own fingerings in some works), programs, recordings, competitions and more.
like having lessons with Primrose himself, which is really
invaluable. A must have.
book is in print, actually it gets printed on demand.
Recommended for all viola players, students, teachers, professionals (and also violin players can learn a lot from a great virtuoso).
books by William Primrose:
Violin and viola (Menuhin-Primrose)
Menuhin's book is mainly on the violin but includes a chapter on the viola written by Primrose
Playing the Viola - Conversations with
Very good book, in form of dialogue with one of his former pupils (David Dalton, now viola professor and curator of the PIVA - Primrose International Viola Archive). Very technical, with detailed information on how to practice, on fingerings, repertoire and much more.
By the way, I did
these translations because I love translating. To me, translating
and playing are similar in a way. The performer/translator is
the medium to make something understandable to somebody who doesn't
know the language (music too is a language): he/she has to understand
what the author/composer meant to say, keep the style and then
transform the idea from an idiom to another one, from written
notes to your ears and your soul.
Read what's about translations
Further descriptions of the books: A New Approach - The twelve
lesson course - Stage fright - Causes and cures
Buy the teaching video on DVD
Go to Violin and viola books
Go from Kato Havas to Violin and viola teacher
For more information and for lessons:
call Monica Cuneo, mob. (+44) 7985 025129 or skype: monicacuneo or send a message
Have your say about what you just read! Leave me a comment in the box below.
A New Approach
to violin playing