Arts & Entertainment, Music

Color and Tone

Itzhak Perlman

Lesson time 12:09 min

Mr. Perlman demonstrates how to produce musical “color” through bowing techniques, varying dynamics, and shifting.

Students give MasterClass an average rating of 4.7 out of 5 stars

Topics include: Shifting and Style • Sound Vs. Tone • "Ask Mr. P" - Student Q and A


[MUSIC - PYOTR ILYICH TCHAIKOVSKY, "ANTANTE CANTABILE"] ITZHAK PERLMAN: What color means in the violin basically is changing in dynamics, changing of bow speed, changing of bow pressure, changing of bow direction, changing of the amount of bow that you use. You know, you can use amount of bow for a particular piece, you know. And then there is one note that you want to bring out. You can either make it longer or shorter and so on and so forth. So it's a musical term. But there's a lot of technique that's involved in this as to how you produce it. You know, I can play the beginning of the Mendelssohn Concerto with one color. It would sound like this. [MUSIC - FELIX MENDELSSOHN, "VIOLIN CONCERTO IN E MINOR"] So it would have two problems. Problem is that the dynamic is the same. And the other problem is that it's just plain boring. So what I do is-- so if I were to start and I would start with one color, then I would let go. So if it go and then notice how I go-- I do something a little bit fancy with my wrist as opposed to a-- in other words, you want to have-- you want to make sure that there is a slight flexibility in the wrist. And that helps you make the colors. Shifting is also another little thing that causes for a phrase to be different from one to another is the shifting. The shifting meaning so whether you go from one note to the other. So I'll show you something without a shift. And this is with a shift. So you saw the between the F. I go without the shift and then is with the shift. Now shifting is something that has to do with, well, the kind of style that you're using. You know, there were a lot of shifts in what we call it actually glissandi, you know, in a real slide in the older fashioned violinists' playing. So you want to see-- if you want to hear the difference between the phrase with a shift and a phrase without a shift, so, you know, for example, if you were just to listen to the first few notes of the Tchaikovsky Concerto, I'll play it for you without a shift. We've learned you can go. So that's without a shift. But if I want it with a shift, I would go on the same string so it's between and then. So again, that's a matter of people want to say, well, this is a matter of taste. I think, you know, I like my Tchaikovsky and my Brahms to be the old fashioned way in the grand style of violin playing. And the grand style of violin playing contains some glissandi or some slides and so on which some people say, well, you know, we don't do it these days anymore. I think that if you play a piece and it's an old fashioned piece such as the Brahms Concerto, or the Tchaikovsky Concerto, or the Mendelssohn Concerto, I believe in doing some old fashioned things, that obviously if I were to play an unaccompanied Bach, I'm not going to use slides, because that's Baroque and I like to do that slightly in a more pure, less romantic way, because you know when you play Baroque pieces, they're not roman...

About the Instructor

The world’s reigning virtuoso violin player, Itzhak Perlman performs for presidents, royals, and classical music lovers around the world. Now the beloved Juilliard instructor and 15-time Grammy Award winner brings his passion for teaching to a wide audience for the first time. Learn fundamental techniques, practice strategies, and how to add richness and depth to your sound. Give your most dynamic performance yet.

Featured MasterClass Instructor

Itzhak Perlman

In his first-ever online class, virtuoso violin player Itzhak Perlman breaks down his techniques for improved practice and powerful performances.

Explore the Class
Sign Up