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Drew Lecher

“GPS” –– 1. Left Hand

November 11, 2007 at 8:59 PM

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…

From Corwin Slack
Posted on November 11, 2007 at 11:45 PM
Very fine but you may want to edit your bold italics on the last statement so the rest of the page won't be thrown off. Just close it with tags
From Drew Lecher
Posted on November 12, 2007 at 2:08 AM
Corwin,

Thanks and thanks for the suggestion. Hope it is better. I missed closing it off and didn't notice.

From Albert Justice
Posted on November 13, 2007 at 5:46 PM
Hi Drew, thanks for the lesson here. I'm working on subtle articulation issues so this is timely.

I've experienced the necessity to understand these opening of the hand and pivoting both in real terms, and when Ron Mutchnik helped me with hand shaping as well. So, I look forward to working with your comments here as they seem another level of what I'm working on.

I can't think of specifics on the fly, but I've experienced the moving from a higher finger especially to a lower finger in the same position having adjusted for the higher finger. I think some of the details in looking at this are clearly, in your remarks.

Especially pertinent for me I think, is the separating of the fingers and knuckles and flexibility contained in that process.

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