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Arts & Entertainment

Color and Tone

Itzhak Perlman

Lesson time 12:10 min

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

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

Play with passion

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.


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

As a pianist I loved hearing how consistent musicianship is, regardless of the instrument. So many of the same principles apply. Itzak does a superb job of teaching all types of audiences! Thank you so much for a wonderful class!

I am a guitar player of 48 years, looking to learn the violin. I am purchasing one now. This class was very enjoyable, and the best thing about it was the instruction about how to learn the violin. Watching this FIRST will help to avoid developing bad habits that happen when you just launch into practice without a plan and direction.

Actually I'm not a music student and to start at my age - nearly 70. I was really interested in getting a more in-dept understanding of what it takes to become a master musician, as well as the opportunity to get to know Mr. Perlman as a person. It was a GREAT masterclass ! Thank you so much for the opportunity and for so generously sharing your knowledge.

I have never played a musical instrument and have no interest in starting. I simply wanted an in-depth look at a Master . . . how he thinks, how he communicates and the subjects he feels are important.


Aldo Piero

I've never played violin, but as a singersonwriter I greattly appreciate da amazing Wisdom Itzhak is sharing here!!! Is thhhhhee Tone =)

Shreya S.

I absolutely loved this lesson! An amazing example of how to teach music passionately!

Dori S.

A wonderful lesson. Thank you so much! I finally understood tone in a visceral way. Thank you also, Mr. Perlman for your listening suggestions. I will listen to Kreisler, Feuermann and Segovia.

Keane F.

I am UNABLE to watch again any part of the class that I have already watched! What do I do?

Alexander S.

This lesson was most valuable in distinguishing the difference between sound and tone. Mr Perlman breaks down the mechanical elements of violin sound and how color is achieved via a combination of the bow and the left hand. These things can be taught by a good teacher. However, the tone, in my opinion, cannot be taught. It comes from the mind and the heart of each player. It is as unique as a fingerprint. The tone emanates from the "life force" or soul of the violinist. Sure, an astute listener with a fairly good command of the instrument might be able to copy someone else's tone, but it would not be authentic or true. I doubt that Ivan Galamian taught Perlman how to create his sweet, beautiful tone. Even the great violin teacher, Leopold Auer, never took credit for the unique tonal beauty produced by his students, such as Mischa Elman or Jascha Heifetz. These two artists had very different tonal characteristics, yet they both studied under Auer.