Life Class by Yehudi Menuhin

In this invaluable volume, former child prodigy and later self-reconstructed virtuoso violinist Yehudi Menuhin describes his approach to music and its practice.

Yehudi Menuhin demonstrating practice techniques

Key concepts discussed in the book

p.2 "DYNAMIC EQUILIBRIUM"... a sense of subtle shifts and balances...

"... subtlety knows no limit... "

Life Class by Yehudi Menuhin

"... violin playing is that procedure by which the body becomes aware of itself and its internal harmony... not intellectually but via sensation."

"... through becoming aware of the subtle checks and balances which when properly understood permit ease of technique."

"Once the student learns to FEEL then the way is open to move to even more subtle planes."

p.3 "...the many parts of the body demanding inclusion in the flow of movement will become clear, for what is not included becomes an obstacle."

"This progress to ever subtler sensation in performance is fed by corresponding development of sensitivity in emotional response."


p.5 (Why exercise?) "When one is playing,the mind should be continously checking for FREEDOM OF BODILY PARTS . Continous experiment and improving awareness will lead to greater joy, elation,abandonment, freedom, lightness, subtlety

p.13 "play with the instrument, pick it up and do something, anything with it... explore the infinite range of tones and qualities."

Practice without Pressure

Practice p.28 "...the important thing is to approach the practice session WITHOUT PRESSURE, with the feeling that the day is there for it to be done.

... be in a suitable state of mind and heart, relaxed in body and spirit, happy to begin.

Playing is a matter of TOUCH , ...sensual...the action of the fingers accurate,sensitive and balanced.

p.38 "The emotions which music arouse grow out of something the Germans call Ubermut, that profuser, extravagant abandon which we associate with Spring, Love, Passion."

... cautions against self- righteousness as the musician must be constantly aware of human frailty and weakness in order to communicate.

p.56 " ... frequently aware that I am engaged in something [violin playing] apparently quite irrelevant and yet miraculously more important than anything else. It is important because it is a counter, a challenge to the everyday grind for survival."

Yehudi Menuhin demonstrating practice techniques

"What is there in life, after all, unless every act, every dialogue recognizes that human life has a value."

Shadow Playing

Playing involves carrying both arms as if they were nothing at all .

Best training involves playing pianissimo and without pressure.

p.75 Shadow Playing:

  • ... first loosen up ...
  • ... then it is important to be aware of your bodily image and the space you EMBRACE when playing.
  • Begin to play the imagined instrument, delicately -- gradually expanding the distance between your shoulder blades.
  • Your BACK should be as alive and sensitive as your front.
  • Play with the whole body... arms in OPEN EMBRACE

Shadow practice as demonstrated by Yehudi Menuhin

Difficult Passages

For any troublesome passage in a piece, write your own alternative passages:

  1. At first as distinct entities from the original piece.
  2. After having generated and played several of these passages, reshape some of them to serve as ossia passages, (and learn them).