[kpop/rant] Henry and Lindsey Stirling’s unfortunate violin skills

Wielding both the piano and violin, Henry is the boy genius from kpop machine, S.M. Entertainment. Lindsey Stirling is the YouTube violinist best known for her dubstep arrangements. They are both wildly famous and successful in their own ways, and in no way do I think their success is undeserved.

Yet, I can’t watch their recent videos without gagging. To put it bluntly, Henry and Lindsey sometimes seem to be playing a saw rather than a violin. It whines and it screeches, and no, those are not the whines and screeches of emotion, they are the deviations of a violinist that has not yet learned how to control the intonation and tone. Every fingering they produce is slightly different every time, and so their tones may vary wildly. The mark of a good string instrumentalist: every time they play a note, it is the same exact position.

Honestly, I have never listened to Henry’s violin seriously– I watched his gimmicks strumming the violin on variety show and came away slightly amused (not exactly new at that point). Also, I knew he had gone to Berklee, so I was expecting at least the lower rung of conservatory level (my first mistake, Berklee’s not a conservatory). Therefore, watching him do a piano and violin version of Trap, I was so shocked. Moreover, he laced the video with needlessly technical runs that he did not even do well. It is a mistake to assume that the easiest pieces are the easy to play. No, they are not. You have much less chances to mess up, and if you do, it has a much larger effect. The mark of a good musician is not by how difficult their pieces are, but how much attention they pay to the details and if that attention to detail actually translates through.

I like Lindsey herself because she is good-natured and genuinely wants to bring violin out of the stodgy classical realm. Yet, compared with The Piano Guys (the cellist is amazing, I’d pay to see him play a concerto any day), her violin skills are below par, which is terrifying considering it is all pre-recorded and yet she cannot sound on-key at least 95% of the time. Sometimes I cannot believe that there are some people who make their living off of playing instruments cannot play it at good amateur level, much less professional, or god help us, conservatory level.

I sigh and I kick and I rant, but in the end, if people like them, then whatever. People like what they like, and I hope that Henry and Lindsey are only the jumping off points to a richer life in music.

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5 thoughts on “[kpop/rant] Henry and Lindsey Stirling’s unfortunate violin skills

  1. You have put forward some interesting ideas. I had not seen Henry’s videos before, but I am more familiar with Lindsey’s work.

    From watching Lindsey’s videos, she is not the greatest violinist. Her technique is weak, and she does not always hold the instrument the right way. Overall I find the quality is worse when she does live performances, compared with her music videos which are recorded in a studio, where imperfections can be removed.

    However she has captured peoples imagination with what she does, and has probably introduced many to the violin who otherwise would not have been interested in it. And that is great. I believe she does play with feeling, so I’ve enjoyed many of her videos.

    The Piano Guys are a bit different because both were professional musicians before they began working together. So they have a lot more experience, and have had more time to improve technique.

    I can’t say a lot about Henry as I have not listened to him much. What I saw did not really grab me, but his audience seems to love it. In the ten minutes I watched of him he seemed to be more a stunts man/show man than a violinist.

    But I guess some of it comes down to what we consider perfection in music. Should every not be perfect? Any way, I enjoyed reading your post, and hope you don’t mind my little rant, too. :-)

    • I agree with what you’ve said, especially the fact that she loves what she is doing, and that makes it enjoyable to watch her.

      ^^ I’m just very divided about these things sometimes. I like that they enjoy their craft and are introducing people, but I seethe sometimes when they say “so-and-so is a GREAT violinist”, implication they’re good as pros and I just want to bang my head on the wall and say “the intonation is atrocious!!!!! how can you say that!!!!” Most often, I just shut up, though! Music snobbery doesn’t tend to win you many friends. So, of course I don’t mind your rant! :) It’s hard to find people who see things like this on a regular basis.

      Michelle

  2. I knew Henry first, and Lindsey later. I really like the way Henry moving around while playing violin, at first, in Don’t Don. To be honest I am not digging Don’t Don, but I like the violin part. Then I saw Henry’ Storm performance. I enjoy the way he combined dancing and playing violin. His sharp movement follows the music, so it’s very interesting to watch. But that is it.

    Long after that, my friend mentioned Lindsey. She’s not popular in my country by the way. I don’t think someone ever mentioned her. But anyway, the way she’s advertised as dancing violinist piqued up my interest. I watched her videos.. and to be honest, I am confused. Her violin playing is ok, her original song is ok, she dances around to enjoy her playing is ok, but.. sorry, advertised as “dancing violinist”?

    I don’t know the right words. English isn’t my first language, so pardon me.

    For me, Lindsey’ dancing is not a performance dance. Her dance isn’t something extraordinary. She just randomly flexes, jumps, bends. Ok, you are flexible, agile, but if you want to perform dance, you can’t just show off skills. To me, Lindsey is just like some kpop idols. Sometimes kpop failed at making a song in perfect harmony. This is one of example: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Au5fic4IqEs

    They put all good dancers from various groups into one. So, that must be a great dancing performance right? Ugh, actually no. It sounds really like a mess. Same goes with the dancing. I prefer watching any song with synced choreography. It really looks stunning compared to dancing skill showcase of certain individual.

    So, all the hype for Lindsey is a bit too much for me. She isn’t dancer. She only dances to enjoy her music, so she shouldn’t be advertised as “dancing violinist”. I am fine with dubstep violinist, modern violinist, or pop violinist *shrugs*, but Lindsey so far doesn’t offer very good performance of dancing, so – no thanks. I find Henry’ Storm more enjoyable – but that being said, Henry still doesn’t deserve to be called a master in playing violin or in dancing.

    But there is one thing I am aware of: I don’t understand shuffle dance or any dance maybe popular in West. I am not into them. I mean, yeah, it’s difficult to do them, but since my taste for dancing is not on the skill, but more into the harmony of performance, I hardly enjoy Lindsey’ type of dance. Well, I am still trying to figure out.

    It’d be nice to know what kind of dance Lindsey actually try to perform. Is it dubstep, or ballet, or any other kind of dance; because I want to know if it’s just my personal taste or I am actually being too biased. I think I am just confused and curious, because I find Lindsey’ dancing is not for performance, but people keep saying she’s very good at it.

    I’d like to learn something new if I could.

    And, I agree with you as closing statement. I don’t mind people liking them. I just want to figure out the reason why I can’t bring myself to like them also. Pure curiosity :D

    • aww, have you heard about the new study they’ve published? That it’s possible to pick out music competition winners by just watching their body movements (no sound)?

      I love that you used MAXSTEP as your bad example! Now that you mention that Lindsey is marketed as a ‘dancing violinist’, I find that really puzzling because what kind of dancing can one do while playing the violin (besides flailing violently?).

      Well, we can wonder on together.. people can be mystifying..

      Michelle

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