Ask the Teacher - David Harrington


The first violinist of the Kronos Quartet encourages students to think outside the box when playing contemporary repertoire

Who do you mentor?

At the moment, the Kronos Quartet is working with a number of teenage string quartets drawn from the Face the Music ensemble at Kaufman Music Center in New York. In San Francisco, New York and London, we see some young professional groups quite regularly.

What do you work on the most?

Often groups don’t realise how dramatically something has to be done – say ponticello, or snap pizzicato – to be perceived by the audience. That’s something we work on quite a bit – doing something larger than life. There is a physical, dramatic quality that needs to go into those kinds of techniques. Let’s say you’re playing a snap pizzicato: you pinch the string and pull it straight up, then you drop it, and then you follow through with your arm. Building the drama of that sound is very important. If you create the correct angle on the string and just let it go, there will be a snap. If you pull the string up in an advantageous place in relation to the bridge and the nut of the fingerboard, it will snap really loudly. What you do depends on the sound you need.

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