A review update on Ari Poutiainen’s Stringprovisation – A Fingering Strategy for Jazz Violin Improvisation (AMF 28)

Poutiainen’s magnum opus offers still much food for thought!

Composer, violinist, and researcher Ari Poutiainen’s Stringprovisation was published in Acta Musicologica series in the summer 2009.

This publication focuses on some of the most fundamental issues of left-hand violin technique: fingering, shifting, and position playing. The study introduces an innovative fingering strategy that is targeted to formulaic modern jazz improvisation. This strategy excludes the use of open strings and relies instead on so-called schematic fingering. The advanced fingering approach reflects competently the tactile and kinesthetic aspects of violin playing, and idiomatic patterns of modern jazz can be effectively and precisely performed with it in all keys and violin positions.

Stringprovisation has been widely acknowledged and celebrated in the field of violin pedagogy. Below appears an update of review samples this book has gained in the major bowed string instrument media since its release. It is clear that after two years the opus still offers much food for thought.

Chris Garrick in The Strad (June 2011) : ”Stringprovisation — is clearly the result of exhaustive thought and consideration, time and effort, with a multitude of footnotes, references and explanations. — The book offers fascinating observations about the violin in jazz history and also gives arresting and insightful scientific comparisons with other more common jazz instruments.

There is comment and analysis regarding the status of the violin in the jazz firmament, and detailed historical content to help explain the author’s assertations. Poutiainen’s premise is that modern jazz violin playing is undervalued, underrepresented and underrated. He is also acutely aware of perceived prejudice towards the violin in jazz and seems set on dealing head on with all of these injustices.

Poutiainen devised this system as a result of studying great violinists including Joachim, Galamian, Capet and Flesch. This link with great names from the past means that the book will undoubtedly be useful to advanced classical students interested in improvisation. — It is a thought-provoking and thorough exploration of the fundamentals of violin jazz. Even if you might get lost in its prose, Poutiainen’s magnum opus offers much food for thought.”

Stacy Phillips in Fiddler Magazine (Summer 2010) : ”Why are there so few fiddlers who are world class players of modern jazz? The short answer, it’s really hard! It requires the equivalent of conservatory trained technique plus an encyclopedic knowledge of melodic and harmonic improvisation. Ari Poutiainen has made an important contribution to jazz violin pedagogy with this repackaging of his PhD thesis. Surprisingly, this is the first attempt to address the unique fingering challenges of modern jazz on a violin.

The last half is where the nitty gritty is presented – Poutiainen’s approach to fingering patterns for improvisation, which he dubs ”stringprovisation.”

Even if you do not favor his approach, the annotated, idiomatic jazz licks, excerpts, exercises, and two complete solos based on jazz standards will certainly make clear the kind of practice you need to aid your journey to jazz nirvana. He meticulously explains all the harmonic, melodic, and fingering implications of each example in a manner that should serve as a standard for other jazz instruction books.”

Lyzy Lusterman in Strings (January 2010): ”The book, which was Poutiainen’s dissertation, is an academic text, but offers practical ideas, exercises, and improvisation tips that should appeal to players and teachers outside of academia.

In the first section, Poutiainen discusses and critiques the publications of other string pedagogues, taking the stance that the contemporary pedagogy for jazz violin does not, but should, take advantage of classical violin literature and other sources outside of the jazz realm. He urges jazz violinists to use more of the fingerboard. He also believes students should not let intonation challenges guide their improvisation.

The second, and more engaging, section focuses on Poutiainen’s fingering approach and provides detailed examples for learning his technique. Especially interesting are the annotated solos in which Poutiainen breaks down two solos into two- to 15-measures sections. — Although it’s not a method or exercise book in the strict sense, the ideas and examples provided in Stringprovisation should be useful to those interested in serious jazz violin studies.”

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