February 1, 2010 at 8:11 PM
As you know, I place quite a bit of stock in how one Thinks when playing the violin. And just to illustrate this a little bit, let me give you an example from my practice this morning.
While warming up I set a goal for myself to play a 3 octave B flat major scale in ‘broken thirds’, rapidly, and using separate bows. Now, if you’re not yet familiar with broken thirds simply think of the following pattern where each number corresponds to a note, or degree, of the scale; 1, 3, 2, 4, 3, 5, 4, 6, etc.
Now in order to complete 3 octaves I had to ascend into the upper positions on the E string and return back down. And this is where my ‘thinking’ really needed to make a difference.
You see, on the way down I was having a little difficulty, at first, with coordinating my down shifts with my right arm. I also noticed that the accuracy of my intonation was slightly off.
And after repeating the little exercise with the same result a second time, it struck me that I, yes I, was being quite lazy. I was trying to let old ‘auto-pilot’ do the lion’s share of the work for me. I was, in fact, trying to avoid thinking at all about pitch locations, form, or anything as I came down.
Yep, wishful thinking, guilty as charged.
Now having had SOME experience in these things I recognized the ‘fix’ immediately. I needed to have a very clear ‘picture’ of the form I wanted my left hand to trace on the way from 9th position on the E string right down to 1st position, and I needed to have a rock-solid sense of the distances between each interval my hand covered along the way.
So what did I do? I resorted, briefly, to my ‘glissando technique.’
Now for those of you well into my ‘Allegro Players’ you’ll know exactly what I mean by this. It is surely one of the cornerstones of learning the fingerboard.
Yet for those of you not in the program, and hungry for a bit of insight, I can say this. My glissando technique is a way to isolate the movements of the hand/arm up and down the string without the distraction of individual finger movements.
So in this example I used one finger, in this case the 2nd finger, and slid in a controlled, continuous motion from 1st to 9th position, listening intently for the pitches that would become ‘arrival points’ when the passage is played as intended.
In this case we are talking about a series of thirds; G, B flat, D, F and A. Coming down the first shift is a major third, the second a minor third, and so on. Putting the hand in motion and timing it to ‘hit’ each of these pitches accurately while allowing the position of the hand/arm to ‘morph’ as needed to accommodate the shape of the instrument teaches you a lot. And fast.
All the best,
Very fine blog. There is huge benefit in playing glissando scales on one string. Thank you for the reminder.
I don't think is a glissando scale - it is playing a pure gliss of over an octave, and hearing where all the notes are within that long slide, and fixing where they lie on the string.
Graham, What you describe is what I call a glissando scale.
I like your glissando technique, listening for the correct pitch and letting your ears guide your hand. I discussed it today with one of my students who has been working on shifting and intonation, and he found it helpful, too.
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