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Recording what happened



We followed 8 violin students and 3 viola students throughout one school year. The 11 students underwent an intensive educational program spanning 7 months involving weekly private lessons in the Alexander Technique* combined with weekly group meetings and frequent fittings of chin rest and shoulder rest to suit each individual. Specially designed equipment was made for the research to allow as much scope in the adjustments as possible.

We recorded the process and results of the research on video, photos and taped audio interviews as well as written documentation.

The wide range of information we gathered was intended to help us develop a clear composite picture of the experiences of the musicians, the problems they faced, and the process they underwent during the research to improve playing comfort and technique. The (changing) perceptions of the musicians were therefore an important part of our data.

We documented the equipment used, including all changes made to the chin and shoulder rests of the players during the research. By studying each musician individually in detail, we were able to gather important information about the effectiveness of certain strategies for equipment use.

We wished also to gather information of the effects of the research’s chosen educational process on not only the comfort of the musicians, but also the quality of their playing technique itself. We took audio and video recordings of the musicians playing twelve musical excerpts before and after the testing period. We chose the excerpts to show a wide range of playing techniques. (Editing of this material is still in progress.)

We took photographs at the beginning and end of the school year documenting the participating musicians and their equipment before and after they took part in the educational program. We took extra photographs a year later, at the end of the research project. We conducted follow-up interviews one year after the completion of the educational program. 

List of research documentation:

Interviews of Musicians before and after educational program

  • Intake interviews Nov. 2003
  • Recorded interviews June 2004
  • Plus Video taped interviews of 4 of the musicians
  • Follow-up interviews June 2005

Halfway reports: Musicians’ written progress reports halfway through the educational program: March 2004

Lesson notebooks kept by musicians and the researcher
Equipment charts recorded every change made to the chin rest or shoulder rest of each musician during the seven-month testing period.

Playing videos and simultaneous audio recordings before and after of all musicians

Playing video 1: “Before” videos: Nov. 2003
  • Used to analyse problem areas and specific technical problems
Playing video 2: “After” videos: June 2004
  • To monitor progress and as assessment tool
  • twelve musical  excerpts include tests of:
General suppleness and dexterity, left hand and right hand techniques
  • melodic legato playing
  • shifting
  • quick fingering within a slur and separate bows
  • long bows with and without vibrato
  • crossing from one string to the other within one bow stroke
  • crossing over strings skipping string between, separate bow strokes
  • sautiée
  • spiccato
  • martelé
  • detaché

Nov. 2003 at time of playing video 1
June 2004 at time of playing video 2
June 2005 follow-up photo session of students, equipment and procedures


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