PRONATION IN THE LEFT HAND IN LOWER POSITIONS

Bayla Keyes

The natural structure of our hands encourages us to take advantage of the springs which live in the sides of our fingers, and which operate best on an angle. The schools of beginning violin which teach a child to have their left fingernails facing them, even going so far as to paint little faces on the nails, are absolutely correct in their instruction. In recent years, however, I have noticed a decided trend away from this ideal position. Players with short upper arms or pinkies are being taught to bring the base of the fourth finger closer to the neck of the violin by twisting the entire forearm to the right, thus bringing the fingernails into an angle which is perpendicular to the string.

If the fingers are perpendicular to the string in lower positions, with the fingernails facing to the left of the violin, there will be several adverse effects:

  • The left arm itself will be torqued; much tension at the elbow will be induced, eventually manifesting in injury.
  • The sound will have a somewhat unattractive and pinched quality.
  • The thumb will squeeze.
  • The action of each finger will be felt as a hit instead of a bounce, resulting in tension building in the base knuckles.
  • The ability to stretch between the fingers, most needed in lower positions, will be limited.
  • The ability to shift rapidly to higher positions will be compromised.
  • The vibrato will be either narrow and unpleasant or wide and uncontrollable.
  • The physical sense of intervals will be obliterated, because the fingers cannot maintain spaces between them when moving up and down.

This is an illustration of the undesirable square posture:

 Pronation 3

To avoid these negative consequences, the fingers of the left hand in the first through fifth positions should be placed on an angle, with the fingernails facing in the same direction as the string and towards your face. I call this pronation of the left hand. It can truly be said that pronation of the fingers in lower positions to a great extent determines the comfort and success of the left hand.

These are illustrations of the desirable pronated posture:

Pronation 4

Steps for Ideal Left Arm and Hand Alignment

First Step: Without the violin, raise your left arm into playing position with the palm facing you.  Use your right arm to shake your left forearm so that it will be as loose as possible. Allow your hand to rest directly on top of the forearm; do not twist or cock the wrist. If your imaginary scroll faces a mirror, you will be able to see that your forearm runs in a straight line from the base of your middle finger all the way to your elbow and your fingers are at a right angle to the neck of the violin. This is the most natural position for your left arm, but of course your fingers are not able to reach the string.

Second Step: Relax all the knuckles of your left hand and use your right hand to melt the base of the fourth finger of your left hand closer to the imaginary neck of the violin. Relax your index finger and thumb, allowing them to fall back; you will notice your radius rotating to the left, and your thumb will feel loose and open. Do this several times. Remember that as the thumb and first finger drop back and the third and fourth fingers melt forward, the palm will face you and the wrist will remain directly above the forearm throughout. Do not twist or cock the wrist. Do not turn the forearm.

Third Step: With your violin in playing position, repeat the above steps. (If your neck gets tired, rest the scroll on a shelf.) Use your right hand to gently melt the base of the fourth finger of your left hand closer to the neck, allowing your fingers to straighten, until your knuckles no longer protrude and the top of your palm is entirely touching the side of the violin neck; hold for a few seconds and release – your hand should immediately return to its relaxed position perpendicular to the violin, with its heel farther away. I call this ironing the knuckles. Throughout this exercise the left forearm remains relaxed and passive; the turn is initiated by the right hand.

Fourth Step: After you have ironed your knuckles a few times, iron them forward one last time and release slightly, curving the fingers and placing them on the string. If your knuckles are loose enough, you should be able to place all four fingers on the string with your palm facing you and the wrist centered over the forearm, neither cocked nor twisted. You will notice that the hand itself has comfortably rounded in; the heel of the hand is close to the neck and the index finger has dropped back slightly towards the scroll.  You may also notice that your fingernails are not facing you.

Fifth Step: Hold the violin with your right hand and keep your left hand position stable. Starting with the fourth finger, slide each finger up a half-step; at the end of the movement, your finger should be leaning slightly on the inside, and your fingernails will be facing you. If your left hand fingers cannot do this at first, use the right hand to train the left. The muscles will become stronger quickly. Do not press!

Sixth Step: Lean on the left sides (the insides) of your fingers; feel the springiness. Cultivate your awareness of this springiness by doing the sliding exercise frequently. Place each finger on the side of the neck and practice sliding it up and down, leaning slightly into the neck as you perform the movement. This will help stretch open the tissue between your fingers.

Seventh Step: Make a whole step with two fingers on the string in their correctly angled, pronated position. Lift the higher finger, keeping the space between the fingers open and keeping the lifted finger slightly curled. The lifting finger moves like a little railway car on a straight, though angled, track. You should be able to clearly feel the amount of space between the fingers at all times. When the finger returns to the string, it returns to its angled position, landing on the inside of the finger. If you cannot do this at first, use the right hand to train the left; the muscles will become stronger quickly. This ability to raise the finger in an accurate and repeatable fashion, continually sensing the space between your fingers, will directly affect your intonation!

As your left hand becomes accustomed to its new pronated position, you will notice great improvement in your sound, vibrato, and shifting; you will have less feeling of strain; and you will be able to work on your intonation with lasting results, because you will be able to feel your whole steps and half steps more acutely, without squeezing.

The Slur and Stop Exercise

August 6th, 2019 | Posted by BaylaK in Goal 02: Intonation | Goal 04: Virtuosity | Left Side | Practicing - (Comments Off)

INSTRUCTIONS FOR THREE OCTAVE SCALES – THE SLUR AND STOP EXERCISE

Bayla Keyes

This exercise will give you practice in maintaining the frame essential for fast playing so that you can land more accurately, training your ear to hear intonation across fast scales, and alternating finger pressure between fast and slow notes. This is possibly my favorite exercise!

Put your drone on the tonic. Go through your scale slowly, omitting the Galamian turns. Use a solid and clear tone so that you can hear overtones. Stop on every note which makes a perfect interval with the drone – i.e. the first, fourth and fifth degrees of the scale. Listen carefully to each perfect interval and adjust if necessary; then back up to a few notes before and try to land on the note exactly, without having to adjust.

Feel the center of your hand in your fourth finger, not on your first finger, for this exercise. Balancing on the fourth finger, keeping the hand open, and keeping the fingers directly above the string in the formation in which they are going to play when ascending, or on the string in formation when descending, will improve your speed and accuracy greatly.

Do not allow the placement of any finger to affect any other finger. Even the slightest rolling, sideways motion, or movement of the wrist or hand will greatly lessen your ability to feel the half-step and whole-step spaces between your fingers. Your fingers move up and down as if on little railway tracks. Keep them slightly curled even when lifting. 

Next, go through your scale again, slurring as much as possible, changing the bow as needed, and using rhythms in the following patterns:

Groups of Two:

LONG short LONG short

short LONG short LONG

Groups of Three:

LONG short short LONG short short

short LONG short short LONG short

short short LONG short short LONG

Groups of Four:

LONG short short short, LONG short short short

short LONG short short short LONG short short

short short LONG short short short LONG short

short short short LONG short short short LONG

Make the long notes very long and the short notes so fast that they are a complete blur. Remember that the long notes will have a deeper contact — you can vibrate them if you like — but the short ones will have so little finger pressure that they will almost feel faked.

When a long note is the first, fourth, or fifth degree of the scale, TUNE IT to the drone! If you don’t land on it exactly, back up at least one group and try again. You can also use this exercise to tune the third, sixth, and seventh degrees, using either equal-tempered or expressive intonation; in this case you would put your drone on the third degree of the scale. As you practice, you will begin to hear the relationships of these families across the scales (1-4-5 and 3-6-7) even when you are playing fast.

If you land incorrectly on a long note, figure out what your hand did or failed to do. There is always a reason for poor intonation. Did your hand crumple? Was your fourth finger too far away from the string? Did you feel and form the correct pattern before playing the fast notes? Did your upper fingers pull your first finger up? Did you adjust the contact point of your index finger for each string? Did you keep your hand open when shifting up and down? Did you remember the angle of the wrist for higher positions? Did you bring your thumb under the neck of the violin at an early enough point in the scale? Is your thumb relaxed and your wrist neutral, still, and loose?

Good intonation is not a game of guessing, rolling, or groping; it is the ability to feel and replicate precise measurements within your octave frame, combined with the kind of concentrated listening across groups of notes that this exercise will cultivate.                                         

Developing Your Expressive Vibrato

August 4th, 2019 | Posted by BaylaK in Goal 01: Sounds | Goal 05: Ease | Left Side - (Comments Off)

DEVELOPING YOUR EXPRESSIVE VIBRATO

 The use of vibrato is one of the most important elements of our sound. Vibrato increases the beauty and resonance of our sound, and like a singer’s voice, must be tied to the ebb and flow of musical tension. Below are three of the best exercises for developing the movement of your hand and arm in vibrato.

Amplitude and Release: the Dounis Flicker

Place the hand in fifth position, so that the heel is touching the body of the instrument. Totally relax the hand and wrist. Make one flick forward, as if from an electrical impulse, so that your hand comes closer to the violin and the first joint of your finger bends. Immediately relax the hand back. Repeat this, always making sure to relax the hand completely between flicks. Notice how you can control the amount your first joint bends and straightens; if you are trying to develop a wider vibrato, allow as much movement as possible; if you are trying to narrow your vibrato, control the size of the movement. Next reverse the direction, so that the long note comes in the upper direction; the short note should release backwards completely, almost as if your hand is swooning. Continue adding flicks as suggested below. Remember to wait between flicks as long as necessary, so that the hand is completely relaxed and the vibrato impulse feels almost involuntary. In this example, R = Release or Relax and F = Flick.

Developing Your Expressive Vibrato Insert

Continuous Vibrato: Pulsing

Put the metronome on eighth equals between 70 and 84. Play your scale or passage, pulsing four times per eighth note. Pulse forward to the beat. Do not allow the vibrato to stop or vary when you change fingers, when you cross strings, or when you shift.

Vibrato Between Notes: Bayla’s Four Part Special

  1. Choose a doublestop (e.g. a major seventh). Start a downbow non-vibrato and increase the vibrato into the next bow change, so that at the upbow you have moltissimo vibrato. Gradually decrease the vibrato so that by the frog you return to non-vibrato. Watch your hand (in the mirror if necessary) to make sure the vibrato actually continues and connects across the bow change.
  2. Now, keeping both fingers of the doublestop on the string, draw a downbow on the lower string and change to upbow on the upper string. Do the same continuous crescendo and diminuendo of vibrato.
  3. Lift the upper finger and bring it directly over the same string as the lower finger. The finger should be so close that it almost touches the string. Feel the doublestop in the air as you repeat the vibrato crescendo and diminuendo; put the upper finger down just as you begin the upbow, without any interruption in the flow of the vibrato.
  4. Keeping the lower finger on the string, draw the upper finger away from the violin so far that it almost touches the pegs of your scroll. Do the vibrato crescendo and diminuendo; during the crescendo, gradually bring the upper finger in close to the string, feeling the doublestop in the air as in #3 above. The vibrato should reach its peak just as you put the upper finger down. Leave the finger down as you diminuendo.

Do this exercise with every combination of fingers, but emphasize going from lower to upper fingers as well as from fourth to first finger. In your repertoire, if you hear any stops or holes in your vibrato between notes, apply this exercise.

RELEASES AND CIRCULAR MOVEMENT

There are specific releases and ways to move which will allow us the widest range of possible vibrato speeds and widths with the least amount of work and tension. Understanding how our bodies work best and learning how to feel and maintain as much physical looseness and relaxation as possible will help us tie our vibrato to our heartstrings so that we can instinctively express the feeling of every chord and note in our music — the ultimate goal!

One obvious killer of a free vibrato is overpressing with the playing finger. Another is clenching with the thumb. Less obvious are the tiny circular movements which if inhibited will create blocks to the vibrato.

Loosening the Thumb

The thumb can be one of the prime preventers of expressive vibrato. On a scale of one to ten, the thumb should never be pressing into the neck more than a three, and the thumb should never squeeze up in response to the playing finger.  My favorite thumb exercises are:

  1. With the left hand in playing position, hold your left thumb with your right hand to stabilize it and tap each finger down against that thumb. The thumb should not move. Repeat without the right hand. The thumb should not move.
  2. Simon Fischer Basics p. 218 # 284 (notice how the movement encourages forearm rotation)
  3. Simon Fischer Basics pp. 146-148 (I call this the thumb spa)
  4. Place a cloth against the wall at an appropriate height for you and place the scroll of the violin against the cloth. (You will have to lean into the wall slightly to keep the cloth in place.) Now play your passage or scale, taking the thumb entirely off the neck. Repeat, allowing the thumb to rest gently against the neck. Move away from the wall and play the passage or scale again.
  5. Play a slow scale. On the downbow, support the violin on the vee created by your thumb and the base of your index finger; gently take your head off of the chinrest and move it around. On the upbow, settle your head gently into the chinrest and take your thumb off. Try to maintain a beautiful sound and vibrato. Are there passages in your music where you can take turns or alternate holding the violin with either the head and thumb?

Forearm Rotation

Remember that the vibrato motion itself is not linear but instead a kind of oval. Make a clockwise motion with your left arm (see Simon Fischer Basics p. 214 #277); allow the hinge at your elbow to open and notice how your forearm is now rotating. Although the motion is slight, it is hugely important.

Spiraling

Circles are always more natural for our body to create than lines, and this is especially true in vibrato, when we want every muscle and joint in our left side to be as open and loose as possible. If we think of vibrato as a linear motion up and down the string, the more we try to vibrate, the more we will start to tighten; but if we find the natural circles in each joint we can generate a spiraling effect which will allow the vibrato to pass through into our fingertips as if it were electricity passing through liquid.

Without the violin but with your arms in playing position, make figure eights as you shift your weight from leg to leg. (See Connecting Upper and Lower Body.) Exaggerate the movement of your hips and allow this same circle to move into your upper arms; you can also feel tiny circles in your shoulderblades. As you become more aware of the circle in your left upper arm, allow the forearm to relax and begin to circle in the opposite direction – as your upper arm moves to the right, the forearm moves to the left; as your upper arm moves to the left, the forearm moves to the right. Now release the wrist and allow it to circle in the opposite direction from the forearm. Your entire left side is making a spiraling wave!

Bayla Keyes

 

Finger Patterns

August 4th, 2019 | Posted by BaylaK in Goal 02: Intonation | Left Side - (Comments Off)

Finger Patterns 1

Finger Patterns 2

Finger Patterns 3

YOST SHIFTING EXERCISES

The wonderful violinist and pedagogue May Lou Speaker Churchill, for many years Principal Second of the Boston Symphony, included in her student packet an abbreviated version of Gaylord Yost’s shifting exercises. I often assign this as a summer project, or when a violinist does not seem to know where he is on the violin. I have included charts so that you can conveniently check off the positions and keys which you have practiced — it is easy to forget which ones you have already done! I have the following suggestions:

Say the names of the positions, both the one in which you are starting and the one to which you are shifting.

Stay in one key and keep your finger patterns either hovering above the string or on the string, changing the pattern at the instant of the shift. For extra learning, say the names of the finger         patterns before you place them.

Use the key of your current concerto.

If you know you are insecure in a certain area such as fifth through tenth position, work this area first.

If you are having trouble with a shift in one of your pieces, do the exercise with that particular pair of positions and in that particular key. Say the names of the positions!

 

Yost

Yost 2 PNG

Yost 3

Yost Chart 1

Yost Chart 2

Yost Chart 3

Yost Chart 4

Yost Chart 5

Yost Chart 6

Yost Chart 7

Yost Chart 8

Yost Chart 9

Yost Chart 10

Yost Chart 11

Yost Chart 12

Yost Chart 13

Yost Chart 14

 

Remember that in shifting, releasing the finger you are leaving is as important as knowing the distance you are going to travel. If you are shifting from first finger to third finger, for example, the first finger should release to harmonic level, barely touching the top of the string, before you begin moving, and it should not squeeze down into the string again ever — even though it will arrive in the new position, it will not be pressing, because you are shifting to the third finger!

Bayla Keyes

 

 

Double and Multiple Stops

July 31st, 2019 | Posted by BaylaK in Goal 02: Intonation | Goal 05: Ease | Left Side - (Comments Off)

Left Hand Technique for Double and Multiple Stops

GOAL #1: Perfect Intonation for Maximum Ring

For ringing intonation, practice by checking every possible note with open strings. Play with a solid tone so that you can tell whether octaves and perfect intervals agree. Listen for the overtones. Eventually you should be able to feel the sympathetic vibrations when a note is in agreement with your open strings, even without checking directly.

Thirds and sixths will most often sound best using just intonation. If one of the notes agrees with an open string, tune that note to the open string and then adjust the other note to it.

Some intervals will be hard to negotiate – for example, a C major chord which uses notes that match both your open G and your open E has a built-in contradiction, because the C and G will either need to agree with the G string and therefore be too low to sound good with the E string, or the C and G will need to agree with the E string and therefore be too high to ring with the G string. Minimize the problem by tuning your fifths more tightly. Then choose the open string most important to your key.

GOAL #2: Voicing the Melody Note

For voicing in melodic double stops, align your left arm so that the melody note finger is supported. To find a perfect alignment, play the melody note by itself and adjust your elbow and wrist so that there is a straight line running down the back of your forearm from the middle of your hand to the middle of the elbow. The wrist should not be cocked. You will not always be able to attain this ideal position, but once you have this feeling of balance, you should be striving constantly to get as much of it as possible.

Practice slowly, playing all voices in the left hand but only bowing the main voice. If a note does not sound well, adjust your alignment until it does.

A simple exercise for getting a feel for your best alignment is to play the fourth finger on each string. Notice how the elbow swings forward and the hand rises slightly in order to support the fourth finger on the G string. Notice how the elbow swings under the violin and your hand lowers slightly when your fourth finger is on the E string. Facing your scroll toward a mirror, watch the line of your forearm as you play each string. Listen to the sound you make when you are aligned vs. when you are not.

GOAL #3: Comfort and Relaxation

Have loose first joints and relaxed, welcoming pads. Your fingers need to be able to slide across strings and between positions in an easy and legato manner. The square shape which results from playing on the bone or absolute fingertip is exactly wrong for doublestops!  Practice with a beautiful sound, encouraging the left hand to relax. You should always be able to feel the strings circulating under your fingers. (References: Dounis doublestops from Artist’s Technique, Fischer fingers leading shift from Basics)

Release each note and multiple stop, just as you release the bow.

Never press more than absolutely necessary. The main voice should have slightly more pressure than the accompaniment.

Learn fingertip placement so that half steps, tritones and minor sixths are never squeezed. (Reference: Fischer Widening from Basics)

Whenever possible, pronate your fingers (turn your fingernails towards your face, not to the left) to encourage the thumb to relax. (Reference: Fischer Thumb spa from Basics)

Divide and conquer – in the most difficult quadruple stop passages, practice two notes to two notes, playing legato.

Learn the different positions for easy vs. difficult chords:

In an “easy” chord, the bottom finger is on the bottom string – 5ths, 6ths, 7ths, 8ths, 9ths, and 10ths. Place the lower finger first and allow the left hand (left index contact point) to lower. The elbow will be slightly under the violin.

In a “difficult” chord, the bottom finger is on the top string – tritones, 4ths, 3rds, 2nds, and unisons. Place the lower finger first and allow the left index contact point to rise. The elbow will be slightly forward, to the right of violin.

In fugues you will often find chords that are a marriage of easy and difficult. Organize the bottom finger of the difficult doublestop first whenever possible — this is not intuitive,  but it really works!

Work on your independence of fingers with stretching and doublestop exercises. (References: Śevĉík Opus 1 Part 4, Dounis Artist’s Technique and Daily Dozen, Kourguof, Fischer Widening)

The more difficult the chord, the more you must find a way to enjoy it and make friends with it. Ideally works such as Bach Fugues, Paganini Caprices, and Ysaÿe Solo Sonatas should feel and sound wonderful all the way through!

                                            Bayla Keyes © 2018              

Developing the Left Hand Frame

June 14th, 2013 | Posted by BaylaK in Goal 02: Intonation | Goal 04: Virtuosity | Left Side - (Comments Off)

Position and Alignment

Keep your hand directly above your forearm; do not twist or cock the wrist. Imagine a line runs through your second finger, across the back of your hand and into your forearm; make that line straight.

Relax the heel of your hand to bring the third and fourth fingers closer to the neck. Your fingernails should face you as much as possible; try not to torque the forearm, as this will introduce tension into the forearm..

Find the ideal arch shape (the “C”) for your fingers. The first joint should be below the second. The faster the passage, the more you play on the tips.

For all fast passages and when training the frame, balance your hand on the third and fourth fingers – NOT the first and second! Start by placing the fourth finger on the string; place the others behind it. You should be able to keep all four fingers on the string in the various finger patterns.

 

Finger Patterns

Most frequently used:

Whole Step, Whole Step, Half Step

Whole, Half, Whole

Half, Whole, Whole

Whole, Whole, Whole

Half, Augmented Second, Half

Practice chromatically and diatonically. Group fingers in the air.


Action

Move from the base knuckle. Visualize each finger moving as if on a little railroad track. Move backward to a specific point in space.

For clear finger work in slurred passages, practice with high lifts and drops. Then when playing, keep the fingers hovering close to the string as you ascend; have each finger in place before lifting the previous one as you descend. Anticipate string crossings by forming double or multiple stops in advance.

Each finger must be able to lift and drop without affecting other fingers. The hand and wrist must be quiet and still, not tense, but in neutral. No wobbling!

The faster we play, the lighter the fingers should feel. The action is quick but not heavy.

 

Independence of Fingers

Doublestop exercises are ideal for training the frame. Some examples are Sevcik Opus 1 Part 4, Kourgeouf, and Dounis.

Left hand pizzicato exercises are ideal for training the muscles of the finger in lifting and dropping.

The Movable Elbow: Left Arm Alignment

June 14th, 2013 | Posted by BaylaK in Body | Goal 02: Intonation | Goal 05: Ease | Left Side - (Comments Off)

Connecting to the Shoulder Blade:

Put your left arm up in playing position. Reach back with your elbow, stretching out from the armpit. Can you feel the connection of your elbow into your shoulder blade? Now scoop around and forward as you shift to a high note. Notice how the space under your arm is maintained. What is the track of your thumb? Can you feel how you are initiating the movement from the back?

Keeping Openness:

As you shift, do not crunch your upper arm into your side and do not squeeze your bicep; instead try to find open spaces. Even as you shift up try to come around an invisible balloon in your elbow, so that it doesn’t squeeze shut. Imagine that your entire arm is making a giant “C” shape.

Finding the Balance in High Positions:

When you are in high positions, try to find the “C” shape; if your fingers are elongated they will be weak and unable to press the string down with its additional tension nearer the bridge, so make sure that your elbow has come around the violin as much as is necessary to allow the hand and fingers to find a good balance. An arch shape will be stronger than a flattened one. Check your base knuckles – they should be relaxed and springy, never hard. (Exercises: Tapping to the Left of the Fingerboard, Pancake Hand)

Moving for Chords:

Keeping your wrist directly above your forearm, place your fourth finger on each string in turn. In order to keep the alignment, the elbow must move as you change strings. Experiment with the best position of the elbow and notice how when you have the proper alignment it is much easier to vibrate and feel the finger relax into the string.
This elbow support has enormous consequences when playing multiple stops. In solo Bach, correct placement of the elbow will give the advantage to the finger (voice) you wish to bring out. Even the pressure of the fingers should not be equal; you should be able to feel to melody finger more deeply.

  1. Opening up the hand – invite, encourage, do not insist!
    1. Play all stretching and widening exercises pp at first, to release and melt the webbing between the fingers.
    2. Keyes sliding: hold one finger, slide other fingers up one at a time, do not allow held finger to buckle or move. Keep wrist in relaxed but straight line.
    3. Kourgouf sliding: place all four fingers on string, slide each finger up one half-step, beginning with fourth finger; do not allow hand, wrist or other fingers to move; then slide back down beginning with first finger.
    4. Dounis Daily Dozen #3 – sliding.
    5. Stretching: 3 fingers in third position on E string, first finger on A string, slide first finger back to first position, do not allow other fingers to move or buckle.  Continue with successive fingers.
    6. Dounis stretching: Artist’s Technique of Violin Playing, pp. 24-29.  1-2 minutes maximum, no finger pressure whatsoeverBe very careful of this one!
    7. Simon Fischer Basics: “Widening at the Base Joints”
    8. Simon Fischer Basics: “Minimum Finger Pressure”
    9. Simon Fischer Basics: Thumb Spa, Thumb Counterpressure
    10. Dounis Daily Dozen # 2 – holding and releasing.
  2. Framing the hand – all the world is a quadruplestop!
    1. The fourth finger is king, and the hand is balanced and energized between third and fourth fingers, while releasing and reaxing in thumb, index and second fingers.
    2. The wrist is relaxed but straight.
    3. The hand is melted and released to bring the third and fourth fingers closer to the neck/fingerboard.
    4. Think finger patterns at all times – on string and in the air.
    5. Keyes finger patterns on one string – chromatic and diatonic.
    6. Galamian one-position scales. Hold fourth finger down continuously.
    7. Doublestop for string crossings.
    8. Sevcik Opus 1 Part IV # 2 – holding and releasing.
    9. Kourguof – holding and releasing.
    10. Schradieck “The School of Violin Techniques” Vol. 1 pp. 2-4 – air patterning and releasing.
    11. Kreutzer #9 – air patterning and releasing.  Use second finger to fourth as much as possible.
    12. Sitt 50 Daily Finger Exercises.

 

 

Calm Shoulders

June 10th, 2013 | Posted by BaylaK in Body | Goal 05: Ease | Left Side | Right Side - (Comments Off)

Avoid the drawstring effect

Many violinists crunch their shoulders up and their heads down into the violin. This shortens the muscles of each arm and greatly affects sound and left hand facility. It also isolates the arm from the shoulderblade, which is the first bone of the arm.

To avoid this, try the following exercises:

Stand and play with your head against a doorframe. You may feel you have to press backwards with your head in order to maintain contact. Now step away and feel the same backwards, upright position.

In a straight chair, sit with your back against the back of the chair as you play. Maintain contact.

With a partner, take turns holding each other’s heads back. (This is really easy if you have a ponytail!)

Draw an upbow, allowing your head to travel in the same direction as the bow. Draw a downbow, and move your head slightly to the back of the chinrest, in the opposite direction from the bow. Can you feel the slight tug of the string?

Loosening the Head on the Violin

Settle your head into the chinrest gently, balancing the violin with the relaxed weight of your head.

Incorporate Karen Tuttle’s breathing exercises into your bowing: each time you breathe out, allow the head to settle towards the back of the chinrest gently.

As an exercise, play downbows holding the violin with your left hand as you move your head around; play upbows with your head gently relaxing into the chinrest as you take your left thumb off the neck of the violin. Are there moments in your music where you could do one or the other, to release muscles?

Interesting Dilemma

Holding still helps your nervous system sort out the fine movements of your hands and arms, because the variables are fewer; but moving releases muscles and combats rigidity. Moving also is often more exciting for the audience. Think of a modern day performer such as Joshua Bell and compare him to videos of Heifetz and Oistrach.  My own experience is that it is generally best to move lyrically during singing lines and slower music, with swaying being preferable to the crunch, to keep the shoulderblades as stable as possible; but it is almost always best to have calm shoulders, a stable violin, and a centered balance which allows your weight to drop through both your feet during fast passages and string crossings. It is also usually true that a stable violin produces a stronger tone.

Try fast passages with your violin scroll on a stand, on a ledge, or against a towel on the wall. You will find that shifts and string crossings are much easier when you do not have a moving target!