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Workshop in Oxford on the
New Approach
to string instruments


How to play without suffering from aches and pains,
tendonitis or stage fright

Held by

Caroline Duffner, violin
Monica Cuneo, viola

Come to the workshops on the New Approach by Kato Havas. Where? When?

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The workshop in Oxford on the New Approach to string instruments, based on Kató Havas' works, took place from Friday 31 August to Sunday 2 September 2012, in the beautiful college St Edmund's Hall, run by my colleague and friend violinist Caroline Duffner and myself. This too was a great occasion, with participants from as far as Japan, Italy, Spain, Austria, as well as from nearer places such as London, Manchester and Gloucestershire, aged from 22 to 82. Thanks a lot to all participants.

As usual, like previous workshops, the workshop in Oxford on the New Approach was open to everyone, in particular violinists and violists, of all styles and levels so our participants included students, amateurs, teachers and professionals.

As already said, many principles of the New Approach can be applied also to other instruments and indeed it's very useful to see this, but this time we had all violinists, I was the only viola player.

All participants already knew something about the New Approach, having read one or more books, watched the videos and the teaching DVD and one of them had been at my previous workshop in Atina.

They came to Oxford to experiment it first hand and ask their questions. Another important aspect of this workshop was that they could see it explained by two different players, Caroline and I, violin and viola.

Here you can see photos that illustrate some of the New Approach principles, the first is that of playing with the movements originating not from the fingers but from the centre of the person, from the shoulders ("from inward outwards", as Kato Havas says).
The rhythmic pulseEstablish the rhythmic pulseThe rhythmic pulse

It all starts with the rhythmic pulse throughout the body, to eliminate the physical  blockages. This alone releases a lot of tension.

Right arm movement Miming the right arm movement

                       Miming the right arm movement

Then you can see the miming the right arm and the left hand movements before playing, saying the note names, very important to coordinate everything in one central point.

Everybody had the opportunity to play and after some initial shyness, as usual, everybody enjoyed it. Some players had never played for any sort of "audience", so this in itself was an accomplishment.

Singing and clapping a piece of music with the rhythmic pulse and theNew Approach violin workshop in Oxford imagination before playing it changes completely the way one plays it later in terms of tone quality, expressivity and fluency of the music. As in all workshops, everyone could experience on himself and see in all other violin players the change from "before" and "after" singing.

On Saturday night we went to an Italian restaurant and at the end of the night one of the participants entertained us and other customers with a lovely solo, much appreciated by everybody.

During the workshop breaks a couple of violin players had been "fiddling about" with the Double concerto (concerto for two violins) by Bach, so toward the end of the three days, in the afternoon we played it all together, just for our own fun and to apply some of the concepts just learnt: we sang and clapped before playing the various movements, with the participants alternating in playing the solo parts.

Partcipants at the New Approach workshop in Oxford
Participants at the workshop in Oxford

Again, having a mixed group of participants is very good, because everyone can see that nearly everybody has the same problems and that the application of the New Approach principles can equally be of benefit to more or less advanced violin players, at all levels!

As Kato Havas says, the New Approach concepts are incredibly simple: the use of natural movements of our body, not forced ones, playing with our head, not with the fingers. They can be acquired, not in one week, by practicing very slowly, being focused even for a short time, rather than practicing mechanically for two hours. It takes some time to be able to put them into practice completely, but they can be learned in a short time. Surely it takes less than the time most players have already spent learning the violin, and with better results.

Caroline and I aim at repeating this summer workshop in Oxford and make it bigger and bigger, we hope to see you next year!

Information on the New Approach and Kató Havas, with videos of a workshop

Some students' answers to: What have you learnt that you think you can apply?

singing notes, rhythmic pulse, giving hand and thumb

Good for practice, ease of playing, good method.

right arm movement, shoulder joint, sing and clap exercise

left hand, singing notes, clapping, miming

See you on the next occasion!

You too can organize a workshop, read here how to do

To learn more about the New Approach by Kato Havas:

Watch Kato Havas' workshop, with videos

Teaching DVD: causes and cures of physical injuries and anxiety

Violin and viola books

Go from New Approach Workshop in Oxford to Kató Havas

New Approach workshop, St Edmund Hall, OxfordThe workshop in Oxford was hosted in the beautiful college St Edmund's Hall

Click on the pictures to enlarge them

Showing the no-violin-hold
Showing the "no violin hold" with a free left arm

Showing the no-bow-hold
Showing the "no bow hold"

The giving hand
The left hand, the giving hand, and the interval shapes

Singing and clapping before playingSinging and clapping before playing

New Approach violin workshop in Oxford
Grand finale of the
workshop in Oxford at Italian restaurant

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