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News and commentary about learning, playing and teaching the violin.



 



V.com weekend vote: What do you use to tune your violin?

Fri, 24 Nov 2017 22:36:58 GMT

By Laurie Niles: A violin, by nature, loses its pitch pretty fast, due to changing variables such as temperature, humidity, air pressure, etc. That means we are constantly tuning our instruments.
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Unless you are tuning in orchestra or have perfect pitch, you'll need to compare your pitch with a reliable outside source, such as a chromatic tuner, keyboard or tuning fork, in order to keep your violin or other stringed instrument in the proper pitch realm. When you aren't in orchestra, tuning to the oboe's A, how do you find your pitch for tuning? What is your go-to source for comparision? Also, have you changed what you use, over the course of time? In this vote, I confess that I'm not even including the item I started out using in my early days - a pitch pipe! (Does anyone still use those?) These days I use the chromatic tuner so that I can choose whether to be at 440, 441 or 442. How about you? src="http://www.violinist.com/poll.cfm?question=347" frameborder="0" height="310" scrolling="auto" width="450"> You might also like:



Livestream: Henning Kraggerud with the Arctic Philharmonic Chamber Orchestra

Thu, 23 Nov 2017 15:10:47 GMT

By Laurie Niles: We have a special treat for today, an exclusive live stream of a concert Thursday called "Polar Night Baroque," led by violinist Henning Kraggerud with the Arctic Philharmonic Chamber Orchestra, in Tromsø, Norway. The program includes a chamber music version of Johann Sebastian Bach's Goldberg Variations, BWV 988. Enjoy! width="560" height="315" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/QWr2CatXnZc" frameborder="0" gesture="media" allowfullscreen> Here are the program notes from the Arctic Philharmonic:
The Goldberg Variations is a keyboard suite originally written for harpsichord, which was published in 1741. Bach composed these variations for one of his pupils who was employed as a harpsichordist at the Russian Embassy. The ambassador, Count Keyserling, suffered from insomnia and wanted to be played to sleep! The Count was so impressed with the work that he presented Bach with a golden goblet filled with 100 louis-d’or, which is believed to be the largest reward Bach ever received for a composition. The suite consists of an aria and 30 relatively short variations. In recent times, the work is best known through the recordings of pianist Glenn Gould. A version for chamber orchestras will be performed at this concert with Artistic Director Henning Kraggerud as leading concertmaster.
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Practicing Out Built-In Mistakes

Wed, 22 Nov 2017 20:03:30 GMT

By Laurie Niles: "Practice makes perfect." The saying is meant to inspire us to practice more; unfortunately, it's a lie. A whopper! "Practice makes permanent," a piano teacher once admonished my son, followed by: "...only 'perfect practice' makes perfect!" One must practice, but one must practice with care. A mistake practiced many times over is a well-learned mistake, and un-learning it can be very difficult. But how can one avoid mistakes? One cannot avoid all mistakes, but one can avoid practicing them. The problem is that mistakes can be deceptive. One might think, "I'm correcting my mistakes as I practice." I very often see a phenomenon in students that I call the "Built-in Boo-Boo." A student will be playing a piece, then he or she arrives at a certain difficult note, perhaps a note that requires a shift. The student misses the note, stops, plays it once or twice more until it is correct, and then moves on. If the student were to play the entire passage again, the student would do the exact same thing the next time: play the wrong note, stop, play the right note, move on. It can happen in a flash. In the student's mind, the note has been corrected. In reality, the student has formed a strong habit of playing the note incorrectly, interrupting the music, noodling around a little, then playing the right note. It's a built-in mistake that will remain, unless the student's strategy changes. Why? Because the strategy of "correcting mistakes" does not work. Certainly, one will make mistakes, and one will need to correct them. But you only need to make the mistake once to know you have a problem that needs solving. Here are a few effective steps to truly correct a mistake, instead of continuing to repeat it:Note the mistake: What exactly was it, and where did it happen?Identify the reason for the mistake. Why did it happen? There is almost always a reason: Possibilities include: a difficult fingering; missing a shift; a page turn or problem with reading the music; a key change; an unexpected change in the music; a break in the pattern; a bowing not executed correctly; etc.Solve the problem: plan what you need to do differently to succeed the very next time you play it. This could be as easy as acknowledging, "I need to shift earlier here," or "This is a low 2, not a high 2." Or, you may need to change a fingering, shift somewhere else, etc.Play it correctly, with no mistakes. You may need to slow it down or add stop signs into the music in order to do this, but find a way to play every note correctly, without backing up, repeating, or adding mistakes. Note: it is better to stop and organize yourself before a tricky note than it is to just play it wrong. If you stop and get organized, you will eventually spend less and less time "stopped" because you will learn how to be organized for that note. The "stop" will get shorter and short until it is no longer there.Once the mistake is worked out, try adding it back into a larger context. Play the entire phrase correctly, with no mistakes. Then the entire passage, the entire page...eventually, the entire piece! This way of practicing will require more thought and investigation. It will require being aware of what you are doing, and you may even need to record yourself in order to find those habitual mistakes. But once you start truly solving your mistakes, your overall practice will be far more effective. Please feel free to share your strategies for correcting mistakes and practicing effectively. You might also like:How to Practice, in Six StepsSix Principles For Effective PracticingThe Science and Art of Practicing: with Molly Gebrian and Shelly Tramposh [...]



The Week in Reviews, Op. 207: David Kim; Janine Jansen; Vilde Frang

Mon, 20 Nov 2017 20:42:53 GMT

By Laurie Niles: In an effort to promote the coverage of live violin performance, Violinist.com each week presents links to reviews of notable concerts and recitals around the world. David Kim performed Bach’s Violin Concerto No 2 with the Philadelphia Orchestra.Huffington Post: "Kim (played with) rich tone and technical artistry, leading the other players in thrilling tempos and textures that are vividly baroque." Violinist David Kim. Photo by Ryan Donnell. Janine Jansen performed the Sibelius with the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra.New Zealand Herald: "Her take on Sibelius' mix of the stoic and the passionate was gripping, from an opening solo almost feral in its intensity." Vilde Frang performed the Elgar with the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra.The Arts Desk: "Her agility (to say nothing of her capacity to hurl dazzling beams of sound) is beyond question. But the heart of Frang’s sound is actually broad-grained, dusky, and intensely articulate, and with her very first entrance she drew the music in around herself, tremulous with melancholy." Simone Porter performed Paganini's Violin Concerto No. 1 with the Eugene Symphony Orchestra.The Register-Guard: "An extended showpiece of brilliant pyrotechnics written two centuries ago by the era’s most celebrated violinist, the concerto proved an effective vehicle for Porter’s considerable technical chops." Ilya Gringolts performed Sciarrino's Allegoria della note with the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra.The Herald: "Soloist Ilya Gringolts has even more precision-tooled work to do, often barely au-dible and at the highest extremes of the violin’s range, brilliantly focussing all ears on what the instrument can do." Pinchas Zukerman performed the Beethoven with the San Francisco Symphony and Bach's Violin Concerto No. 1 with the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra.The San Francisco Chronicle: "It was a strong-boned rendition, sometimes genuinely stirring but more often coarse and overstated."San Francisco Classical Voice: "While this expansive concerto could never seem like an afterthought, there was something downright routine about the performance."The Berkeley Daily Planet. "Most impressive of all was Zukerman’s masterful modulation of tone as he spun a gossamer thin, softly played tone on some of the highest notes of his register, while he also offered a brilliant and fulsome tone on other high notes in passages marked forte."DC Metro Theater Arts: "...the Bach…wasn’t great." Rachel Podger performed Mozart's Violin Concerto No. 5 with the Orchestra of the Age of the Enlightenment.The Canberra Times: "It was in the cadenzas of Mozart's Violin Concerto No.1 in B flat, K207, that Podger captured our attention and gave us her impressive interpretation of the music." Midori performed the Sibelius with the Naples Philharmonic.Naples Daily News: "Even at her most emotive, Midori plays a cooler, more introspective version, aided by that deeper-voiced 1734 Guarneri del Gesu violin." Francesca Dego performed Shostakovich's Violin Concerto No. 1 with the Southwest Florida Symphony.Fort Myers Florida Weekly: "Ms. Dego’s command was obvious from the onset. Her rich palate of sound changed with each phrase and musical turn — sometimes pale and almost transparent — and at other times full of passion and angst. Every nuance, every detail was beautifully conceived." Barnabas Kelemen performed the Brahms with Queensland Symphony Orchestra.Queensland Symphony Orchestra: "(Keleman) gave a charismatic performance; his big personality shining through during the encore (he performed the Sarabande from J.S. Bach’s Partita in D minor)." David Park performed the Mendelssohn with the Roanoke Symphony Orchestra.The Roanoke Times: "He seemed connected to his instrument, applying different shades of vibrato, making the violin sound often like an operatic voice." Please support music in your community by attending a concert or recital whenever you can! You might also like:David Kim on Orchestra Au[...]



Playing Stradivari, Amati and Vuillaume Violins from Florian Leonhard

Mon, 20 Nov 2017 05:02:43 GMT

By Laurie Niles: Last week I went to a reception with some seriously classy guests - I'll drop a few of their names: Stradivari, Amati, Guadagnini, Vuillaume, Antoniazzi... width="560" height="315" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/sdWCseB-e7A" frameborder="0" gesture="media" allowfullscreen> You guessed it - the celebrity attractions were six violins and a viola, ranging from five to 400 years old. The youngster was the viola, a Panormo copy made in 2012 by Florian Leonhard Fine Violins, the violin dealership which was the host of this event in South Pasadena, California. The rest were antique violins spanning centuries, including:
  • 1617 Girolamo Amati violin, Cremona
  • 1695 ex-Salomon Stradivari violin, Cremona (long pattern)
  • 1724 "Abergavenny" ex-Kavakos Antonio Stradivari violin, Cremona
  • 1777 Giovanni Battista Guadagnini violin, Turin
  • 1862 Jean Baptiste Vuillaume violin, Paris
  • 1900 Romeo Antoniazzi violin, Cremona
Though Florian Leonhard himself was not there, NY-based Managing Director Jonathan Solars and London-based violin restorer Adam Pelzer served as hosts at the event, showing the violins to about 30 Los Angeles-area violinists, teachers, collectors and violin makers. Based in London, Florian Leonhard Fine Violins also has an office (and soon an expanded workshop) in New York. I tested most of the violins and found the Amati to have a real ease and beauty of sound. Here I am, testing out the Strad formerly played by Leonidas Kavakos: (!)
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I also ran into LA Phil Associate Concertmaster Nathan Cole and Assistant CM Akiko Tarumoto, and when Nathan started testing the violins I started filming both his playing and his reactions, which you can see in the above video. He focused on four of the violins: the Amati, two Strads and Vuillaume.
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LA Phil violinist Nathan Cole, collector Dr. William Sloan and Violinist.com editor Laurie Niles.
If you are curious, the asking prices for these violins ranged in U.S. dollars from a little more than one to several hundred thousand for the Antoniazzi and Vuillaume to $4.5 to $8 million for the Strads. Solars said that Leonhard makes about six violins a year, all of them copies of the fine violins that they are selling, each copy made in the presence of the violin itself. Here are the violins that Cole tested:
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V.com weekend vote: What is your longest stretch of practicing every day in row?

Fri, 17 Nov 2017 22:32:23 GMT

By Laurie Niles: Recently Hilary Hahn drew some attention for taking a vow to practice every day for 100 days - and documenting that on Instagram.
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Though some thought this was no big deal for a pro violinist, I found it both commendable and inspirational. Sure, people talk about practicing, but how many truly "walk the walk" and show that level of devotion? By documenting it day-by-day, she also provided an example of what devotion looks like: it's not easy and it's not glamorous. On some days she's dressed up and exuberant, on others she is rather tired, or has to work around a bandaid on a sore finger. She also shows us that practicing for her is a lot like practicing for the rest of us: slow practice and fast practice; tedious technical work; repetition; open strings; no vibrato, yes vibrato; passage-by-passage detail work. On many days she has very fixed goals; but occasionally there is that day when it's "no pressure, no goals," just playing, or even just listening to a previous performance. Basically, it's steady work and commitment. Have you ever succeeded in practicing daily for a fixed amount of days? What is your longest stretch of daily practice? Please share your answer (choosing the longest stretch you practiced) and then also tell us about it in the comments. How many days did you go? What were the biggest challenges? Did it help your playing? Was it part of a challenge? src="http://www.violinist.com/poll.cfm?question=346" frameborder="0" height="310" scrolling="auto" width="450"> You might also like:



LA Phil Names New CEO: Simon Woods

Thu, 16 Nov 2017 21:10:03 GMT

By Laurie Niles: On Thursday Los Angeles Philharmonic announced the appointment of Simon Woods as its new Chief Executive Director, effective Jan. 22, 2018. Woods, who has served as President and CEO of the Seattle Symphony Orchestra since May 2011, succeeds Deborah Borda, who departed the LA Phil in March to become CEO of the New York Philharmonic last fall. Borda had led the organization for 17 years, with major accomplishments including the completion of Disney Hall and the appointment of Gustavo Dudamel as Music and Artistic Director.
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Simon Woods. Photo by Brandon Patoc.
"It is the very greatest honor to have been chosen for this position," Woods said. "The Los Angeles Philharmonic demonstrates persuasively and passionately in every aspect of its work what a contemporary and forward-looking orchestra can be in one of the world's great global cities. The chance to work closely with Gustavo Dudamel, the remarkable musicians, a great board, and the tremendously creative staff team is a completely inspiring prospect. I join the LA Phil with the greatest humility and admiration, and look forward to helping to lead it through the Centennial and into its next century." Gail Samuel, Acting President and CEO of the LA Phil since March, will resume her position as Executive Director for the Association upon Simon Woods' formal arrival in January 2018. "Simon comes to the Los Angeles Philharmonic with an impeccable reputation in the orchestral world," said LA Phil Board Chair Jay Rasulo. "He has a proven record of innovative and collaborative leadership, a deep knowledge of and commitment to music, and a passion for music education and social action. He has been instrumental in establishing the Seattle Symphony as a dynamic, forward-looking and community-focused organization, re-positioning the orchestra as one with artistic, financial and reputational success." "Simon has a wonderful reputation, a great knowledge of music, a passion for music education, and understands the intricacies of an organization as complex and unique as the LA Phil," Dudamel said. "I am very much looking forward to working with him as we head into our second century," Before his work in Seattle, Woods was Chief Executive of the Royal Scottish National Orchestra (RSNO); President and CEO of the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra; and Vice President of Artistic Planning and Operations at The Philadelphia Orchestra. From the late 1980s to the late 1990s he worked as a record producer with EMI Classics in London. Born in London, Woods earned a degree in Music from Cambridge University, and a post-graduate diploma in conducting from the Guildhall School of Music and Drama. He is a board member of Cultural Access Washington and the Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce. He was a board member of the League of American Orchestras and Chair of the Group 1 Orchestra CEO group from 2015 to 2017. He is a long-standing contributor to the League's professional development programs, including being a core faculty member for Essentials of Orchestra Management in 2016 and 2017. You might also like:



The Amit Peled Peabody Cello Gang - Closing the Circle

Thu, 16 Nov 2017 15:56:51 GMT

By Amit Peled: As a student, I was fortunate enough to experience the magic of performing music on stage with my great mentors Bernard Greenhouse, Boris Pergamenschikow, and Laurence Lesser, as well as see how each of them balanced their performing and teaching careers. The difference between listening to them explain how to create a phrase and actually forming that phrase with them on stage was huge and significant. Performing with my teachers was a vastly more effective lesson than a one-on-one in a studio, teaching me “on-the-spot” artistic decision-making, amending each performance to fit the energy of the hall. Ever since those transformative and magical moments, I knew that I would become a teacher and pass on the tradition of sharing music with my own students on stage. As Janos Starker once said, “I personally can't perform without teaching and I can't teach without performing.” For me, there wasn’t much of a gap between being a student and becoming a teacher. I was hired as a professor at the Peabody Institute at Johns Hopkins University at 28, one of the youngest professors employed at a major conservatory, and some of my students were older than me. I created the Peabody Cello Gang because I want my students to not only excel technically, but to become successful career performers who understand how to emotionally prepare for a performance and experience the feedback of an audience. The Gang is composed of students from my studio, ranging in age from undergraduate freshmen to second year Master’s students, who come together frequently to perform works written or arranged for cello ensemble. I also bring the Cello Gang on tour with me around the country, performing as soloist in standard cello concerti with the Gang as orchestral accompaniment, as well as cello choir repertoire and more. Classical Voice North Carolina described a recent Cello Gang tour performance as “collaborative playing at its absolute best.” width="560" height="315" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/9Ff1vU6J0hA" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen> By performing with the Cello Gang, my students can feel when I get nervous and see how I deal with concert life in real time, feeling the spontaneity I infuse into every performance. I also assign each student on stage talking points, improving their audience communication, and have them assist in masterclasses to hone their own teaching skills. When my students joined me in the recording studio for The Amit Peled Peabody Cello Gang on CTM Classics, I wanted them to feel the excitement, rigor, and unpleasant aspects of the recording studio, followed by the immense pride and collegiality when you get the desired result (and a drink!). All of these skills build upon the strictness and knowledge learned in the classroom, leading to more meaningful and faster improvement. I am also excited to be able to create new works for cello ensemble, most recently a collaboration with Tom Zebovitz on a world premiere arrangement of Schubert’s Arpeggione Sonata in A Minor, D. 821, which is featured on the album. I’ve always thought the piece would sound amazing for four cellos, so I asked Zebovitz for help. On the top of my future project wish list is to arrange and record all six Bach Cello Suites with the Cello Gang -- I dream of these masterpieces in a cello quartet set-up, emphasizing Bach’s unique polyphonic approach. This approach to pedagogy has created a marvelously close-knit and circular community of musicians. I teach them in-studio, accompany them on stage, and then oversee them teach -- the whole package! Throughout my performing career, I’ve rarely seen the public react more enthusiastically than they do towards the Cello Gang, thanks to their enthusiasm and talent, as well as the wide variety of their backgrounds and ethnicities. Laurence Lesser is now teaching a former student of [...]



Bow Physics Ain't Rocket Science

Thu, 16 Nov 2017 13:03:14 GMT

By Paul Stein: For each strength that you may possess as a musician, you can count on at least two weaknesses. Before you think that sounds like negativity talking, consider that I didn’t say ten weaknesses. (Much closer to the truth.) One common characteristic of a weakness is that it’s simply not even thought about, much less actually worked on. On the other hand, the good news is that certain skills may be strong because they come naturally to the player. The best advice is to constantly strive to improve, which will help mitigate the feeling that is common to many musicians, that we don’t understand what we’re doing. The student’s morale and confidence improve when all the technical parts are level with each other. If the bow arm is stronger, work on the left hand. However, most of the time the left hand is far more developed. The bow arm is, at best, merely an after-thought. More likely it is, for all intent and purposes, ignored. Horse Before the Cart It takes a very directed and determined musician to dig him or herself out of a technical hole. The development of the bow arm should proceed from a clear understanding of the concepts, followed by exercises. Usually it’s the other way around. Consider the bow that is virtually unable to stay in the general area between the bridge and fingerboard. To borrow a term from tennis, let’s call it the sweet spot. (Is there a term we use for that area, other than sounding point?) Teachers understand how difficult it is to address this issue, and it’s even more frustrating when the student is adept at far more difficult techniques. This is one of the examples of fuzzy logic when addressing musical development. If a student is good at conveying musical feeling without having to work at it, but slow when it comes to fixing something that doesn’t come natural, the two opposite extremes need to come together. The Hydraulic Drifter Left to its own devices, the bow resists being where it needs to be. A simple explanation based on physics should start the discovery process. I use the term “simple” advisedly, since natural, common sense often flies in the face of bad habits “mastered” over a lifetime. The body’s natural placement of the arm does not necessarily take into account the change of planes inhabited by each string. Place the bow on the A string at a customary 90 degree angle, then place it on the D string. If your body and mind haven’t been re-wired to a violinist’s specifications, the mind will still be on the A string, but not on the D. (Love it or hate it, the language of physics is clear but annoyingly pervasive.) The solution starts with “cleansing your palate” in order to quit thinking about the A string. Be prepared for the difficulty of feeling the new plane of the D string, so that you’re primed for the change. The body is more than happy to accommodate change when the mind is ready. Easier said than done. The mind will put up a huge, but not heroic, resistance before it changes its perception. As you change from the A to the E string, allow your elbow to feel like it’s moving backwards, traveling further behind your body as you move towards the tip. With so much freedom of the arm, you would think that the bow tip would drift towards the fingerboard. What keeps that from happening is that the bow itself is led by its own compartment within the mind. By concentrating on the actual part of the bow that’s touching the string at any given moment (known as the playing point), the bow will remain independent of the arm movements. These compartments keep techniques interdependent, which ensures a solid, flexible approach to playing. Unless this natural movement happens, a very unfortunate side-effect takes place: the bow is at the mercy of a hydraulic movement forwards, towards the fingerboard. And with each string chang[...]



A teacher's perspective: Ask questions to promote self-sufficiency in students

Wed, 15 Nov 2017 01:43:13 GMT

By Mihai Tetel: After trying various approaches during my 36 years of teaching, I am increasingly convinced that a productive lesson needs to include many of questions that I would ask the student, with the aim of making the student more focused, alert, and aware of causes, effects, and solutions. I ask a broad range of questions in any given lesson, from the most general to the most detailed. At the onset I usually ask the student what he/she has prepared, so I know how to pace myself accordingly for the hour-long lesson. Some students bring a great deal of repertoire and technical work to a lesson, and some bring just one item. Knowing that at the beginning of the lesson helps me allocate appropriate chunks of time for each item. If the student plans to start the lesson with a scale I will ask, "What are you going to focus on while you play the scale?" and hope for an answer that includes specifics such as tone production, smooth bow and string changes, left-hand organization, correct shifting, etc. After the scale is played, I would ask, "Is there anything in the scale you just played that you feel needs improvement?" The student might say, "I did not like my sound," after which I would ask, "Did you feel your sound was perhaps forced at times, or that it did not have a core, or consistency throughout all registers?" I try and guide the student through some detailed detective work, so when the scale is played again there is a heightened sense of awareness and focus. If the sound was the issue, then we would work on bow speed, arm weight, and bow location (sounding point). If the sound improves, I ask the student to tell me why exactly the sound got better. I want the student to become aware when he/she does something well, and to also know the reason(s) when something does not sound good. The student is more likely to duplicate good results obtained in the lesson when they practice alone later on if he/she has a clear understanding of what causes a problem and what the solution is. If the student might not have been happy with his/her shifting in the scale, I would ask, "What specifically was not good about your shifting? Did the left hand travel too fast during the shifts? Did you have too much pressure on the left hand while you shifted?" I would then have the student try shifting slower and lighter, so he/she can hear and feel the difference. If the student was not happy with the legato playing aspect in the scale, I would ask about string crossing preparation and/or bow changes. Where those prepared in advance, or did they happen abruptly? Were they done with the fingers or the entire arm? I would then have the student play the scale again and try all possible ways of crossing from one string to another (whole arm, or with the wrist, or only with the fingers). When the student tries various ways of crossing strings it usually becomes clear right away which option produces the best results. If the student brings a Popper etude to the lesson I first ask, "Why do you think Popper wrote this etude? What lesson(s) is he trying to teach us through this particular etude, or what skills can be developed by working on this etude?" Let’s suppose the student brought Etude No.1 by Popper to the lesson. I would first ask, "What bow stroke makes sense to use in this etude, and how do we get it? Is it with a firm right arm, or loose wrist and fingers? Clearly off the string or more of a light brush stroke?" I would then have the student try to find through experimentation the most appropriate bow stroke for this particular etude. If the student is not getting a good sound I would likely ask about bow placement: is the student playing too close to the bridge, or too much on the fingerboard? Is the student playing too far from the frog to have a good control of the off-the-str[...]