Billy meets mentor Avi Avital

Folk violinist Billy reflects on his first mentoring session with mandolinist and composer Avi Avital:

Meeting Avi was the first time I have met and worked with a mentor, and was an incredibly enriching and interesting experience.

We started by working on the Bach concerto in D minor.  Avi showed me how to find the syncopation and interweaving melodies in any piece, and to use them to keep the audience engaged by not playing what they expect next.  This was a very new idea to me, but it makes total sense, and I am going to try to implement this into everything that I play.

We then went on to look at a few folk pieces.  We started by playing a collection of Bulgarian tunes called ‘Kopanitsas’.  We played through these a few times, and it quickly became apparent that many of the points that we had touched upon whilst playing the Bach were equally important here.  It was all about finding the beat and then emphasising the off-beat to give the tune a syncopated, dance-like feeling.  This also applied to the other set of tunes we played (contemporary English tunes written by Pete Cooper).

Avi also advised me to try practising with a metronome, but to never set it on the on-beat. Always to set it on the off-beat.  This at first seemed counter-intuitive and a strange thing to do, but I quickly realised that it was difficult, but also incredibly useful when it comes to deciding which way the tune should be played and what beats should be emphasised.

Overall, this was a very interesting session in which I enjoyed myself and learnt a great deal. I very much look forward to the second session!

Watch Billy and Avi playing a Bulgarian folk tune.