October 22, 2007 at 2:52 AMRH
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.
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.
Everything affects everything.
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