I finally added a blurb about Karen Tuttle and her teaching method (called coordination) to my website. You can visit the LEARN page, or see it here. It's something I've been wanting to do ever since my website went live, but I thought it would be extremely difficult to summarize a philosophy that has had such momentous impact on my life into just a few sentences. But in truth, the huge overarching idea behind coordination is comfort, so it wasn't as difficult to sum up as I'd thought.
The idea of comfort is such a simple thing, yet a comfortable state can be so very difficult to achieve. If you grow up learning to play the right notes and use the right bow strokes without regard for how it FEELS, it it possible that you will learn pain and tension into your playing. Once such tension is memorized and practiced for years and years, it is VERY difficult to break it away.
One major aspect of coordination is freedom in the head and neck. Many violinists and violists have a very stiff, solid, head-to-instrument fit. This is especially visible in players who have learned to keep the instrument in place by squeezing down with their head, rather than finding a balance between the collar bone and jaw. Balancing the instrument in such a way lets the head and neck be free, which means the shoulders, arms, and hands can also be free. It is difficult to have fast, articulate, and accurate fingers if there is tension in the hand... but how can the hand be free of tension if there is tension in the neck?
If you view this video of Kim Kashkashian performing Britten's Lachrymae Op. 48a, you can see the amount of freedom she has not only in her head and neck, but her entire body. She practically dances while playing. There's a beautiful moment at 2:03, where her head "bounces" a little on her chin rest. This is a perfect example of a released and tension-free violist. So let's all aspire to this kind of freedom-- after all, who doesn't want to sound like Kim?!
Happy (relaxed) practicing!