Commissioned by The Juilliard School for
Juilliard’s Music Advancement Program
**Contact us if you want a hard copy**
Having started on the viola at the age of 9, I am a fierce advocate of this instrument and have always wanted to create a series of etudes where students get to focus on what makes the viola different from the violin.
In short, we just need to use our bodies differently to pull a full-bodied sound out of our instruments. Every viola and every viola player is sized differently – and it takes some practice and decision making to find just the right set up that fits your body, in addition to finding the best hand positions that can leverage the natural weight of your body in order to produce an easy, resonant, and powerful sound.
As for pedagogy, I have found that the best etudes are the ones you make up yourself. I believe that if you can hold an instrument in your hand, you are equipped to make choices about sound. Furthermore, I feel that you can only become good on an instrument if you can truly hear the sounds you are about to play right before you play them – and this is where improvisation comes in.
Eventually, you should then write down your improvised ideas, tweak them, and BAM! – you are composing, just like most musicians did before the 20th century.
I encourage you to say out loud why you play the viola, and celebrate that every day through your sound. These etudes can help you get started, but I hope you will be writing your own as soon as possible.