November 2007

Practice for Performing

November 28, 2007 23:29


Technique is the tool by which we accomplish the artistic.

Suzuki Book 4 and beyond…earlier is simply much less of the following.

1.) Work the Open & Closed Hand Groups, initially just 1-4, but add other positions and do similarly on the lower 3 strings. When ready begin the Augmented Hand Groups.

2.) Work 8vas, 3rds, 6ths, 4ths, 9ths and unisons and 10ths — a little of everything each day in very high quality. You might spend a week or a month in the 8vas with just #1 on the 3 pairs of strings along with #1 in 3rds, 6ths and 4ths (no shift) on those same strings.

Incorporate Rhythms 1-4 and various styles of bow strokes and string-crossing patterns, also with various rhythms.

*** In the 9ths, unisons and 10ths do only 1 or 2 measures at a time.

3.) Do the Sliding Arpeggios (with and without vibrato) and 8va Slides — vary the starting position and strings along with rhythms, again.

4.) After 1 through 3 above are comfortable and on the way to mastery, add the 3-8va Major Arpeggios in Root (#1a), then 2nd Inversion (#1a) and then 1st Inversion (#1a). The major arpeggios develop and open the left hand better. Keep to one fingering for each until mastered working up higher and higher. Having begun in 1st position, you want to eventually begin the 3-8va arpeggio in 10th position. Lots of Rep Hits in all of these. (And did I mention Rhythms?:-)

MUSIC: Now take your next piece of music. It must be totally new to you and do not listen to a recording. If you have heard a recording that supplied the initial inspiration and kindled the desire to learn the given piece — that is enough. After the first play through to familiarize you with the composition, begin memorizing the most difficult passages. Know the Notes, Intervals, Hand Groups, Shifts, String Crossings and Rhythms — along with varying the rhythms in the memory process.

Use my ideas of technical work in the book and apply them directly into passages and sections of the repertoire you want to work on. Start slow, but never so slow the brain gets off the train:-) Conquer something so it is easy and then begin speeding up with the use of the metronome to avoid going too fast too soon.

You are going to be very busy, but don't worry as all of this is cumulative.

Take care and God bless,
Drew

Author of
Violin Technique: The Manual, How to master…
Viola Technique: The Manual, How to master…

9 replies | Archive link


“GPS” –– 1. Left Hand

November 11, 2007 13:59

How do you think of, view and order your fingers?

Plan actions > Accuracy, Fluidity > MASTERY

This is the first of what is intended to be a series of blogs dealing with:

1. Left Hand
2. Shifting
3. Right Arm
4. Right Hand
5. Bow

They will be kept under the heading of ”GPS” for those who wish to follow the articles. I hope it is of benefit to you.

Intonation is one of the primary areas of focus in all we do. This applies to the intervallic measurements set about for the left hand fingers and also the contact variables of the bow hair to the string –– 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 accomplish the desired dynamics and character of the music.

Your Global Positioning Satellite/Mental Positioning Satellite is all-important in all of the above.

Don’t be overwhelmed by the numerous variables –– they will free you to maneuver, easily flowing into any setting for the left hand to accomplish the passage.

LEFT HAND

Everything affects everything. This is true in all aspects of playing the violin and viola. I will use examples based on the violin strings –– violists just transpose down the 5th when necessary (sorry).

The whole tone/whole step E1 on D to F#2 on D is totally different in measurement than E1 on D to C#2 on A or E1 on D to B2 on G.

Remaining on the same string is the basic standard of intervallic measurement. It is like the Beginning Hand Group (whole, half, whole) in that all other measurements are adjustments from that starting basis.

Improvement of intonation and balance of the left fingers, thumb and hand are immediate when the player understands and masters the necessary moves.

E1 on D to C#2 on A: The left hand should rotate counter-clockwise when placing a higher finger on a higher string. There will be a well-defined counter-clockwise rotational move of the forearm and opening out/left pendulum move of the upper-arm making the addition of the C#2 far easier with no undue stress and tension. The muscles, etc., must never fight the adjustments –– that is the body telling you they are resisting the move. The various parts of the arm and hand must always work in concert together.

This rotational, pendulum move slightly opens the diagonal of the hand-and-neck relationship requiring a lengthening of the finger.

E1 on D to B2 on G: The left hand should rotate clockwise when placing a higher finger on a lower string. There will be a well-defined clockwise rotational move of the forearm and coming under pendulum move of the upper-arm making the addition of the B2 far easier with no undue stress and tension. Again, the muscles, etc., must never fight the adjustments –– that is the body telling you they are resisting the move. The various parts of the arm and hand must always work in concert together.

This rotational, pendulum move slightly closes the diagonal of the hand-and-neck relationship requiring an adjustment of the 2nd finger’s length. It will feel closer to 1 due to the 2nd finger crossing over the string that the 1st finger is on.

During various moves, the 1st finger will be adjusting shape and angles. Make sure that the contact point for intonation is maintained while traversing from one setting to another.

Maneuvering in Hand Groups (Intervallic Patterns)

A couple simple examples to build upon:

Beginning Hand Group, BH, (whole, half, whole) to High 3 Group, H3, (whole, whole, half). In the change of Hand Group one must determine the precise adjustment(s) required –– whether on the same string, changing strings and/or shifting.

There will be an adjustment in the position, pivoting higher or lower, and/or rotating and re-balancing of the hand.

1. Playing on the Aing B1, C#2, D3, E4 (BH) and modifying to B-flat 1, C-natural 2, D3, E-flat 4, (H3), the entire hand and arm should adjust to a lower 1st position. There will also be subtly different angles and arches for the fingers and therefore rotations in the knuckles –– especially the 3rd finger in this example.

2. Playing on the Aing B1, C#2, D3, E4 (BH) and modifying to B1, C#2, D#3, E4, (H3), the entire hand and arm should adjust more rotationally, counter-clockwise in this example, and opening up towards the 4th finger to a slightly higher 1st position. Again, there will also be subtly different angles and arches for the fingers and therefore rotations in the knuckles –– especially the 3rd finger in this example.

Sometimes the adjustment is a simple pivot and other times it will be more like a complete shift. This depends on the player’s hand size, length of fingers and breadth of palm/knuckles.

Open/spread and close/relax your knuckles –– this with rotations, especially with the 2nd & 3rd finger knuckles, contributes greatly to the fluid ease of motion and action of the fingers, whether playing slow or at high velocity.

Every position has 3 basic locations –– high, medium and low (sharp, natural and flat).

Do not lift fingers. Rhythmically release them and they will precisely leave the string adding clarity and diction to the note. This is why it is of paramount importance to practice in various rhythms, bowings and dynamics. It develops knowledge of the technique required to achieve the passage and opens the mind and ears to harmonic structure that will guide your intonation and musical interpretation.

Pivot, Rotate, Extend, Contract, Raise up, Lower down, Modify –– subtly adjust as needed and when needed, programming all those moves’ actions and feelings into your GPS/MPS.

Technique is the tool by which we accomplish the artistic.

Hope this helps…
Drew

Author of
Violin Technique: The Manual, How to master…
Viola Technique: The Manual, How to master…

3 replies | Archive link


Posture and “Jaws 3”

November 4, 2007 10:22


Stop the crimes against the body and technique.

With or without the shoulder rest:

Do not clamp your Jaw, Neck and Shoulder to hold the instrument.

Pretend you are playing and using those above-mentioned parts. Do you feel the tension typically applied to hold a few ounces of wood and string? Now, keep the tension and pretend you are shifting, doing string crossings and/or vibrato. Do you feel the tremendous resistance to the desired motions? This is what must be banished from your playing.

The only time I will temporarily clamp the instrument is to turn a page with my left hand.

Having played with (13 years) and without (34 years) the shoulder rest, I can do both ways, but personally find the shoulder rest to be a huge interference to movement. Mind you, I do allow and teach the use of the SR when it truly is necessary due to physical structure or psychological need. (By the way, I am 6’2” so it is not as though I have a short neck.)

Many players absolutely need a shoulder rest and many simply do not have the correct chin-rest for stability and ease of motion –– especially for the shifting down in the lower 3 positions.

I use a modified Strad Model chin rest because of the rounded ridge that easily stays behind my jawbone with no added pressure.

Crucial to this is the absolute need to hold the violin up to such a degree that the strings are level to the floor or preferably rising 1–3º particularly during ascending and descending shifts. The chin-rest and ribs of the instrument should not tilt away from your neck.
Try holding the violin face-high in front of you at a perpendicular line to your body. Look at it from the lowering side as when checking the bridge. Support the neck between the left hand’s thumb and 1st-finger (just above the knuckle) and place your right hand’s thumb under the edge where the collarbone would be supporting the instrument. Raise and lower the instrument maintaining the level strings and note the extreme lightness (especially without the shoulder rest) and the ascending line of the body of the instrument. This transfers a great deal of the weight to your body where it isn’t particularly noticeable.

Next, very, very lightly touch your chin-rest with the fingertips over the ridge of the chin-rest. If it is a flatter model then extend your fingers to the front edge. Again, this is to be extremely light –– no squeezing! Now shift/slide your left hand back and forth along the neck in the lower 4 – 5 positions. At first, keep your fingers off the strings. As your get a feel for the ease and lightness of touch gradually add 1 and then more fingers to the mix –– initially use a light, feather touch and then stronger.
During all of the above do NOT grip the chin-rest and instrument with the right hand. Simply do not allow the right hand finger (I use one to demonstrate how little is needed) to open thereby preventing the pulling away of the instrument during the downward/outward and actually upward shift. Remember to keep the slight ascent of the strings to the scroll. The finger over the chin-rest is imitating the jaw’s placement over/beyond the ridge of the chin-rest. (With a shorter neck less ridge is needed, but it must feel that the instrument cannot pull out unless you lift the jawbone out of the way –– again, no squeezing.

Do all of the above with the violin angle descending even slightly and the increase of weights and tension in both hands are exponential.

Remember: the chin-rest is not a chin-gripper and the shoulder-rest is not a shoulder-gripper and the Jaw, Neck and Shoulder are not vises to clamp down on the poor unsuspecting violin or viola.

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

Here is an additional excerpt that might help a bit further:

Posture

This deals with the physics of playing and handling the instrument.
1. Stance 2. Instrument 3. Left Hand: a. Thumb & b. Index Finger
Shifts in #2 & #3

1. Stand/sit tall supporting the abdominal and lower-back regions – “tuck in the butt and suck in the gut.”
a. Lift the chest without arching the lower back – keep it straight as possible.
b. When standing, balance over the arches of the feet – do not lean over the toes.
c. Keep an easy, flexible, alert stance and never lock the knees.

2. The instrument is to be held so that the strings are parallel to the floor.
a. The left arm should be held high enough so that the left hand is approximately mouth/nose high. (This practice goes back to the writing of Leopold Mozart in 1756.)
1) The left arm should take the fingers to the desired string(s) by the pendulum action from the shoulder.
2) Shifts are accomplished by moving the – note the order of thought – arm/hand/thumb/fingertip simultaneously. (Extensions are different.)

2 replies | Archive link


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