October 2007

Viva Vibrato!!!

October 28, 2007 13:10

Always keep the “straight, pure note/tone” in your inner ear/mind.

Like a plumb line to focus on, it keeps one from “drifting.” It is not uncommon for the violinist and violist to drift/go sharp due to tension causing a slight closing or drawing of the left arm toward the body — keep the arm and hand out there.

Use the 3rd and 4th Positions on the G & D strings (viola one string lower) and the 4th and 5th Positions on the A & E strings. In these positions the left arm, hand, wrist, and fingers and thumb are more easily put into the perfect balance and shape or form. I prefer the sequence of training to be 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 1st finger. It is also far more successful when using “Multiple-finger Vibrato” (2 or more fingers at a time) — this immediately assists in the coordination and linear aspects, and easily maintains balance and proportions in the left hand.

DO NOT BRACE THE LEFT HAND ON THE SOULDER/RIBS OF THE INSTRUMENT — THIS CAUSES CONTRADICTORY MOTION. The arm will tend to move toward the player when the left hand pushes/rolls away and vise versa. With the left hand’s rolling back and actually down, the left arm pulls up and in. It also makes the Multiple-finger Vibrato far more difficult, affecting the proportions and balance of the hand and fingers for intonation.

Now, say you are in the 3rd Position (smaller hand) or 4th Position with 1st & 2nd fingers a whole step/tone apart. Keep the 3rd finger relaxed and floating/hovering over the same string with the 4th finger, also relaxed and hovering, over or near to the next higher string. (If done on the III String you can take advantage of the open string below to maintain focus of intonation.)

1. Line up your 2nd. 3rd & 4th fingers’ knuckles approximately with the sting’s plane.

2. Move your left arm as in shifting down with both fingertips rolling and the fingers slightly lengthening/flexing. Keep the strings parallel or slightly ascending from you. Leopold Mozart mentions in his treatise on violin playing that the left hand should be approximately mouth, nose in height.

3. Do only 1 or 2 even “shifts” down-and-return with each bow stroke — note, below, note, below, note.

4. Maintain a smooth and even slow-motion action.

5. If point #3 above is too tight and restricted in the left arm, actually shift with an extremely light slide using a larger interval — even all the way to 1st Position — and returning to the original note. Do not flex finger during this shifting action. As you make the sliding/shifting interval smaller, add a little more weight to the fingers — notice how they want to flex due to the extra resistance. Use this sense of flexing touch upon arriving at the desired note/tone to add just enough pressure in the next outward move so that the fingertip rolls instead of slides. Let it be a very small amount and return the rolled finger via the arm’s return to the starting position.

The best vibrato incorporates the finger, hand and arm to varying degrees creating the desired musical character. The joints, or hinges, must always be free and agile with all degrees of intensity and relaxation.

Perhaps this excerpt from my recently published books will assist you.


Vibrato: The sibling to shifts.
Complement to character of the phrase.

Primarily accomplished by the rapid shifting/pumping of the arm , in line with the string, along with the flexing/rolling of the fingertip. These two are sympathetically joined via the wrist.

(There must be no contrary action to these simultaneous moves.)

1. The direction is from the pitch to below and return again — the ear picks up the higher tone.

2. The wrist should have a pro-active flexing action — controlled, yet a loose, free quality of movement. It relates in feel to shaking dice in the hand or shaking the fist (use a relaxed, slightly open hand) — do not let the hand flop beyond the wrist in either direction.
a. The hand must not go in an opposite direction to the forearm via the wrist.

3. The easiest positions to first achieve vibrato are the 3rd through the 5th positions.
a. Do NOT brace the base of the hand against the shoulder/rib or back of the violin — this creates opposing actions that are counterproductive.

4. In essence: play the note and simultaneously “shift down” while flexing and rolling the fingertip, then “shift up” with the returning finger motion. (Do not actually change position.)
a. Practice Slo-Mo/Fast (Slow Motion then Fast).

5. Vibrato has any number of speeds and intensities with various depths of range all to be employed in the most refined manner and style of interpretation.

Note: There is one other seldom taught, but most useful, technique where the finger is actually shifted/slid back and forth to give an exceptionally full vibrato — it is generally confined to the 4th finger and should be used wisely and sparingly, so that the listener is unaware.

Hope this helps ––
Drew
Author of Violin Technique: The Manual, How to master… and Viola Technique: The Manual, How to master…

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“Slipping/Sliding/Searching” NO FISHING ALLOWED!

October 21, 2007 19:52

RH
(Rep Hits)
Repetition Hits of the left-hand fingers thrown from the knuckles to gain a freer action with greater accuracy –
do not pound the fingers as in knocking loudly on a door.

1. The action is to be decisive and light.
a. For dramatic and/or intense passages we do apply greater strength, always maintaining freedom of action with flexibility.
2. Best done in rhythmic patterns.
a. For the longer rhythm, feel the finger hold the note like an electro magnet that you simply turn off when the note ends – the finger rhythmically and automatically releases the string.
b. The fingers must remain close to the string and above their note.

Buri, to answer your question more specifically ––
I do them with the bow primarily, though a great deal of technical acuity regarding the balance of the finger to the string/fingerboard can be gained by not using the bow.

They are designed to rid the player of the plague of searching/seeking/fishing for the note and develop incredible accuracy of intonation and rhythm. The rhythmic release of the fingers is constantly training the left hand to relax, remain neutral and ready to strike again. I use strong terms such as “Hit” and “Strike” because the left hand fingers must be decisive in all they do. Of course, there are many times one is far gentler in touch and the fingers are never to pound the fingerboard, sounding like cannons firing. As you know with all of your experience, both playing and teaching, there are times we play pp with the bow and mp with the left hand –– even Dramatico!

With the various bow rhythms and alternating style, say from marcato to a Détaché Décisivement/Decisive Détaché – A sustained tone with distinct bow changes –– the player is attaining an incredible level of coordination between the left hand fingers and bow arm.

They should initially be done without vibrato –– proving the accuracy of the quick, short hit and the stability to maintain the pitch/tone on the longer note. In double stops, one finger should initially be kept as the “plumb line” while the other matches/harmonizes –– note that the kept note is maintained far easier then when one slides and twists the other finger into place –– this also generally causes the finger/hand/arm to go off balance immediately adding unwanted tension to the action. Following, the kept finger should then alternate the RH action and eventually both should be done together.

It is all about freedom of motion, agility, accuracy and balance.

Freedom of Motion: The throw of the finger is from the knuckle, as is the measure of the interval –– this latter point being determined by the 1. Expansion/contraction of the left hand knuckles and palm, 2. The rotation of the left arm and hand independent of the upper arm, and 3. The pendulum-like movement of the upper arm bringing the thumb/fingers/hand/wrist and forearm all into proper balance for the given passage, e.g., playing 4th– finger A on the D–string and 1st–finger B on the A–string is amazingly different in angles and balance (approach) from playing 1st–finger E on the D–string and 4th– finger E on the A–string.

Agility: With the Freedom of Motion above, one gains an agility I liken unto a great dancer (4 legged, I will save the Thumb for later:-) When the whole apparatus of the left fingers all the way through the arm into the shoulder and torso (and neck/head) are free to move at any time, in any direction and at any speed, the player will have total agility and ease of motion.

Accuracy: Of intonation, to be sure, and every move executed in getting around the violin. (I think we sometimes concentrate too much on our “little hollow wooden box” and fail to fully concentrate on the strings and fingerboard. All the maneuvers of the left hand are to flow and fly on them and then pull/draw out the desired tone, via the bow, from that little box with the strings.

Balance: These all fit hand in glove. Without one you cannot fully achieve the others. The left hand must be completely balanced for all the various combinations of intervals/fingers across and along the strings.

Thumb: Along with everything I have mentioned above, the thumb plays a crucial roll in every part of this. It adjusts for every rotation, positon, intervallic pattern, et al. It is highly pro active, BUT IT NEVER GRIPS!!! It is a support, guide and locator.

Left Hand/Arm
See Posture.

2. Thumb should initially be across from the knuckle of the 1st finger, behind the tip – this will modify based on string, position and intervals or type of passage being played. See Posture, 3a.
a. Develop independence of motion – never grip or squeeze the neck.

Hope that answers your question and perhaps a few others’ queries.
Cheers,
Drew
Everything affects everything.

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Lads & Lasses, “Draw your Bows!” 2

October 11, 2007 23:07

http://www.drewlecher.com

Crescent Bow
The most important technique for the development of tonal resonance and fluidity of bow arm motion.

The partial slightly orbital path around the scroll of the instrument (player’s left hand) enabling the tone to resonate with greater clarity and projection, additionally offering a natural way to free up the right arm’s motions through the joints of the wrist, elbow and shoulder.

1. The bow strokes are to be accomplished with a slight rounding-of-the-path, thus Crescent Bow – the curved drawing of the bow.
2. The down and up-bow paths are mirror images of each other.
3. The down-bow must have a pulling back of the upper arm in the lower 1/2 of the bow followed by a pushing out/forward in the upper 1/2 as the bow continues toward the tip.
a. The point at which the right elbow is 90-degrees determines the upper and lower 1/2 of the bow stroke.
4. The up-bow must have a pulling back of the upper arm in the upper 1/2 of the bow followed by a pushing up diagonally of the left hand for the lower 1/2 toward the heel of the bow.

NOTE: The Crescent Bow is necessary to compensate for the natural resistance of the bow caused by the string/bridge combination – the nearer to the bridge, the greater the resistance. It is like walking into the wind – we lean into the counter force.


I felt the above was worth repeating due to its import and the following observations.

Further to: “Following the curve of the stick”

The “Curve of the Bow” has to do with the flow of the right hand/arm sections mimicking/tracking the bow’s arch/camber. There is a natural need, especially at the frog/heel of the bow, to cause the bow arm to rise and, likewise, at the tip.

I will stand by this assessment.

I am not at all reluctant to follow the curve of the bow –– I just call it a good bow arm. It is absolutely necessary to allow for the simple fact that the bow varies in height from the hair and this must be compensated for, just as we compensate/adjust for the weight/balance of the bow every fraction of a millimeter it is drawn.

Everything affects everything.

As I approach the heel/frog of the bow I am consciously aware and adjusting the height of my hand/arm to allow for this structural fact.

I do respectfully and profoundly disagree with the concept of a “rotary motion” of the forearm for “the finishing motion of legato bowing.” This seems to be the gist of “playing to the curve of the bow.”

When rolling the bow hand clockwise (Supination) toward the pinky to finish the up-bow, one is shifting/changing/modifying all of the right hand’s contact points –– this is a huge effort. By the way, I learned this also –– and later rejected it.

My studies in London were with Yfrah Neaman, a pupil of Flesh and other very prominent teachers in the early part of the 1900’s. Neaman was phenomenal with the detailing of artistry he could inspire and was a tremendous mentor, colleague and friend over the years. He also taught this rolling rotary action –– one of the few points upon which we did not concur. My studies with Leonard Sorkin, founder of the Fine Arts Quartet and pupil of Misha Mishakoff (a pupil of Auer), always dealt with the stability of the right arm and hand in the bow changes, ala Heifetz, Milstein, Oistrakh, etc.

I teach the Classic Russian School of maintaining the level of the back of the hand and having the thumb as fulcrum and the fingers doing their relatively simply task of balancing the bow within its line of trajectory –– via the Crescent Bow linear path, and allowing for the structure and design of the bow, not to mention the bridge and strings with all the angles and resistances easily dealt with.

The Bow Hand:
5. Hand
a. Very slight cupping of the palm producing tiny hills in the knuckles – almost flat.
b. Back/top of hand should retain its angle to the bow at all times – this enables a consistent maintenance of the bow’s path across the string, providing tonal control.
c. It is the thumb and fingers, working independently, which flex and take out the bumps.
(Excerpt from: Violin Technique: The Manual and Viola Technique: The Manual)

I do agree that there is, of course, the necessity of the forearm to rotate –– The Forearm rotates clockwise (out)/counter clockwise (in). [Supination–palm up/Pronation–palm down]. This is primarily used in pulsations/accents of the given bow stroke, the most obvious being staccato and it also assists in many string crossings.

The weight of the right arm must flow evenly onto the bow via the hand/fingers without undo rotating action of the forearm.

If one over-uses the Supination/Pronation action, the player is in great danger of over stressing the thumb and thereby the forearm into the elbow into the upper arm into the shoulder into the neck and back. Need I say more? There are endless examples of this among students, amateurs and professionals.

I know that no one actually/knowingly advocates anything like this.

I am simply warning of potential tonal distortion, let alone physical injury. I am now writing for the individual who is incurring difficulty and perhaps pain in their right arm and hand due to undo stress from over-exertion.

Perhaps I have taken the ball too far, but if this answers a few questions in some players’ minds –– and bodies –– it is worth the effort.

Cheers to all and happy, free-ofain playing.
Drew

Bow Strokes
The true artist/master musician will incorporate a wide variety of bow strokes with subtle transitions that enhance the phrase appropriately in order that the music is fully served.

In many instances the “Bow Stroke Style” will meld from one style, or aspect of a style, to another.

There will also be many situations of a distinct change from one stroke to the next, as in Détaché to Martelé.


Everything affects everything.
Drew

1 reply | Archive link


Thank You…

October 10, 2007 20:04

RE: “Violin Technique: The Manual with Terms & Tips” and
“Viola Technique: The Manual with Terms & Tips”

I would just like to take a moment to thank all of the V.com violinists and violists who have ordered my books –– players and teachers, amateurs and pros from New York to Florida and literally across the U.S. and overseas in England, France, Australia and Japan.

Some have received their book and others will shortly.

A special thanks is due Laurie for her encouragement and recommendation, and also Darcy Lewis, for her mention of the publication on October 4th.

I have been teaching over 37 years and the final writing took approximately 2 years.

I am truly humbled by all the enthusiasm and support.

Sincerely,
Drew

1 reply | Archive link


Lads & Lasses, 'Draw your Bows!'

October 4, 2007 01:03

My first blog, encouraged by Laurie…


http://www.drewlecher.com

Crescent Bow
The most important technique for the development of tonal resonance and fluidity of bow arm motion.

The partial slightly orbital path around the scroll of the instrument (player’s left hand) enabling the tone to resonate with greater clarity and projection, additionally offering a natural way to free up the right arm’s motions through the joints of the wrist, elbow and shoulder.

1. The bow strokes are to be accomplished with a slight rounding-of-the-path, thus Crescent Bow – the curved drawing of the bow.
2. The down and up-bow paths are mirror images of each other.
3. The down-bow must have a pulling back of the upper arm in the lower 1/2 of the bow followed by a pushing out/forward in the upper 1/2 as the bow continues toward the tip.
a. The point at which the right elbow is 90-degrees determines the upper and lower 1/2 of the bow stroke.
4. The up-bow must have a pulling back of the upper arm in the upper 1/2 of the bow followed by a pushing up diagonally of the left hand for the lower 1/2 toward the heel of the bow.

NOTE: The Crescent Bow is necessary to compensate for the natural resistance of the bow caused by the string/bridge combination – the nearer to the bridge, the greater the resistance. It is like walking into the wind – we lean into the counter force.


It is late and I have been teaching all day, so I will try and be clear in thought.

In the Discussion Section: “Following the curve of the stick”

Initially I was not sure what aspect of the “Curve of the Bow” was being discussed, so I jumped in and gave my thoughts and explanations –– hence the “Crescent Bow,” which is speaking of the horizontal/lateral path of the bow’s plane. (4th & 7th discussion) Also, the “Messa di voce” is mentioned here.

It became clear from Buri’s question put to me (5th discussion), and others’ comments, that we are discussing an “arched draw/flow/sinking into the string.” There is, in my opinion, a great danger tonally and musically with this concept. Articulation and rhythmic precision can be greatly compromised if this is the basis for all bowing technique. This is why I believe the “Curve-of –the-Bow” stroke to be a type of Détaché.


Détaché

Following are my thoughts on various Détaché strokes:

Détaché – The basic but all-important stroke from which everything else is derived – notes are well sustained and played with individual and connected bow strokes of any length.

1. Détaché Décisivement/Decisive Détaché – A sustained tone with distinct bow changes.
2. Détaché Lancé – A very quick, short and lively stroke, without accent and yet released from the initial start.
3. Détaché Porté – No initial accent due to a slight swell or sneaking into the note at the beginning of the stroke followed by a lightening and relaxing of the tone to the end of the stroke.
4. Grande Détaché – Similar to détaché with extraordinary length given to the stroke, increases breadth of tone and character that is well sustained.
5. Détaché Pulsé/Pulsed Détaché – Begin the stroke with additional weight and speed of bow followed by a release, retaining fluidity of motion and never stopping the bow. In certain instances the bow may minimally leave the string at the end of the stroke – make sure the return landing is of utmost elegance and refinement appropriate to the passage.
6. Détaché Lié/Legato Détaché– Seamlessly connected strokes. See Bow Fingers/Hand/Arm, 8c.

The above and later below are excerpts from my books for the violinist and violist.

So with all of these variables, and many more, I cannot accept the “Curve-of-the-Bow” stroke to be a legitimate method/technique to base one’s entire way of handling the bow –– it simply is not applicable and/or possible in so very many instances. (Perhaps this is not the intent of the contributors.)

I do accept it as another variable and feel it to be closely related to the Détaché Porté mentioned above, but not necessarily exactly like the DP. (12th discussion)

I also relate the “CotB” to “Messa di voce” (also, 4th conversation) because we at times do this on a long note for shape, beauty and resonance. Obviously, this is more deliberate and for a very special effect, but this is what happens in a more subtle way when doing the “CotB.”

Regarding the Tilt of the bow: Of course the motion and sound are affected. This is true of every single adjustment for every single millimeter we use the bow:

The 1) point of contact, 2) speed of bow, 3) weight of bow, 4) amount of hair, 5) string selected and 6) vibrating length of string/position number are brought together in order to bring out the desired dynamics and character of the music ––

Side Hair – Not a stroke, but a method or technique used in virtually all the strokes, particularly for the lightest and most delicate of touches. A most basic and important bow technique where the stick of the bow is rolled away from the bridge thereby giving the hair a diagonal tilt to the string. This enables the player to achieve the lightest tones possible and the gentler lyric effects in varied types of bow stroke styles. For greater security, ease and technical stability, it is best when the hair and thumb are rolled toward each other. When they touch, the bow gains total stability, enabling the player to have complete ease and security of action. Note that this requires a slightly higher wrist/arm and forward right arm positioning. Its counterpart is the Flat Hair.

Flat Hair – Not a stroke, but a method or technique, used in virtually all but the lightest of touches. A most basic and important bow technique where the stick of the bow is directly above and perpendicular to the hair. This enables the player to achieve the fullest tones possible and the crispest, quickest responses in all types of bouncing and springing strokes. For greater ease and technical stability, it is best when the hair is rolled out from the thumb. Note that this requires a slightly lower wrist/arm and pulled-back right arm positioning, as the rolling out action moves the hair toward the fingerboard. Its counterpart is the Side Hair. Also, see Thumbless.

Bow Strokes
The true artist/master musician will incorporate a wide variety of bow strokes with subtle transitions that enhance the phrase appropriately in order that the music is fully served.

In many instances the “Bow Stroke Style” will meld from one style, or aspect of a style, to another.

There will also be many situations of a distinct change from one stroke to the next, as in Détaché to Martelé.


Everything affects everything.
Drew


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