The lessons involve students of all levels – those who log on are not only shown highly accomplished musicians in the advanced stages, but also relatively inexperienced peers working under Prof. Sassmannshaus’s encouraging eye.
Each technique is defined, with exercises for beginner, intermediate and advanced levels, as well as master-class demonstrations.
Prof. Sassmannshaus has devised this lesson plan with exceptional care and logic, placing each lesson into the context of a finished performance.
For instance, the section on bowing includes lessons on bow speed across the strings and pressure, as well as the varying sounding point – where the bow actually touches the string between the fingerboard and bridge of the violin – all crucial to achieving varied and expressive tone.
Then, to put it all together, there is a performance by Prof. Sassmannshaus’s own students of Schubert’s Duo in A, which employs these specific techniques.
Not only invaluable to actual violin students, this Web site can be tremendously useful to anyone with an interest in the mechanics of violin technique.
Parents of student violinists can intimately examine what goes into the training of their budding players.
Non-violinist composers have a visual lexicon of violin technique that can help them to write more idiomatically for the instrument.
Even the nonplaying music lover can visit this site to see up close and personal just how the violin is played to produce the sounds familiar in concert repertoire.
The Web site also offers lists of graded repertoire for practice and advice on how to set up your practice routine.
There’s a forum for discussion with “Prof. S,” as well as facilities for e-mailing him directly with private queries.
As no music exists in a vacuum, there’s a continually updated list of competitions and auditions world-wide.
In the final section of the master classes, “Putting it all together,” Prof. Sassmannshaus offers concise and trenchant pointers on how to apply technique to learning repertoire.
He emphasizes the importance of finding out about the life of a composer to gain psychological and personal insight into his music.
Thanks to Starling Foundation funding and to support from a developing group of sponsors, the site is free to all visitors.
“This was very important to us,” he says, “because a 12-year-old in China or Eastern Europe doesn’t have a Visa card in his pocket to sign up for a subscription.”
Continuing sponsorship will ensure that the site remains online with any and all necessary upgrades.
Moreover, in a global market, sponsorship will pay for German and Chinese translations of the site.
“Then I want Korean, Japanese, Russian, Spanish – as many languages as we can possibly afford.”
Languages aside, even at the startup the response has been overwhelming, with over four million hits since the September launch, according to Dr. Nina Perlove, Executive Director of the Stirling Project Foundation, Inc. in Cincinnati.
That’s enough to make any webmaster trill with satisfaction.