December 2007

“GPS” –– 2.2c Shifting plus Vib tip

December 22, 2007 23:17

Comments
From Mendy Smith
Posted from 207.69.139.141 on December 23, 2007 at 1:09 AM (GMT)
Drew - I adjusted my shoulder-rest so that my viola was a bit more parallel to the floor, and viola! I see what you mean now! The first time I shifted from 1st to 6th, I overshot the note by a mile (I think I launched into 8th position instead :) BUT my hand stayed in the right position and I wasn't struggling around Hilda's shoulders. :)
Thanks for the advise!! [EDIT]


Bravissima!!!

Hilda will be happier and reward you with sweeter tones just in time for Christmas. That and the smooth zippier shifts should help your Christmas wish list :-)


ARM & FINGER VIBRATO via the wrist & finger joints: (Another Christmas wish:-)
I will get to the vibrato thing more again later, but meanwhile pretend you are holding your viola and just shake your fist, held loosely and without the hand wildly flopping back and forth — keep the action in the form of a slide on your now level strings (shift-like). Only allow a minimum of wrist reaction and speed up the vibrato action by shortening the distance or range of motion. Hand should be mouth/nose high; the complete arm will be used.

Vibrato is like short little slide-less shifts, its sibling, rolling the fingertips with the arm’s action — downward first with finger rolling and slight elongation and then return to the start. Initially do a slow, even move and then some little repeated series — slowly 1, 2, 3 per bow stopping vibrato before the end of stroke — continue playing the straight pitch after the slow vib — and with the change to a new bow suddenly burst the movement into high speed for the next bow. Stop the high-speed vibrato at the end of the stroke — flow into the next change and repeat the recipe until taste is exactly what you wish — test with ear and add frosting as needed:-) Eventually do 2 bows and more with high speed shifts and no modification of vibrato during the bow change.

This works easiest if you begin in the 5th or 3rd position. Under no circumstances can you rest your hand on the shoulder of the instrument during the cooking — it will flop. The arm and the fingers will be in danger of undoing each other as they enter the territory of opposing motion.

Also, take a glance at my earlier blog VIVA VIBRATO!!!

Have a blessed Christmas —
Drew

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“GPS” –– 2.2c Shifting

December 21, 2007 10:53


Question:

From Mendy Smith
Posted from 207.69.139.159 on December 20, 2007 at 3:53 AM (GMT)
I'm struggling with not moving my hand around the shoulder. I'll give it a try and see what happens though... Hilda has pretty big shoulders (she's not a Tertis model viola...)
Thank you so much!

Mendy,
Make sure you independently move your thumb under the neck anticipating the rise over the top. Do not get stuck with the thumb trying to remain on the Cing side or by trying to go way out to the right instead of up and over — only allow the finger to move in the direction of the shift up or down the string.

Make sure your instrument rests on the collarbone/shoulder-rest with your chin over the center tailpiece or slightly to the Aing side. The more your head is positioned to the Cing side, the greater the difficulty in shifts — especially the higher positions.

Do not twist in or out by rotating your left hand/arm excessively clockwise or counterclockwise. Maintain the beginning angle of the fingernails — the “faces” for the entire shift.

Do some very, very light slides without the bow. Keep the fingers like feathers and flawlessly shaped and proportioned sliding up to the end of the fingerboard and back down exactly the way you came — like a movie backwards or mirror image of the action. Do not squeeze in general and do not tighten the wrist.

When extremely high relative to hand/arm length the thumb should travel lightly on the side of the fingerboard. It simply prevents the instrument from swinging to the right and is similar to a cellist using the thumb positions except they are on top of the strings.

For the above to work exceptionally well, the instrument should be held with the strings parallel to the floor or slightly ascending. When shifting to a higher position one is actually going slightly down hill and when shifting to a lower positon one is slightly going up hill.

Without actually seeing your move it is difficult to know the exact holdback, but do let me know if I am hitting the right areas for you.

Hope this helps—
Drew

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

Everything affects everything.

Technique is the tool by which we accomplish the artistic.

The various parts of the arm and hand always work in concert together.

2 replies | Archive link


“GPS” –– 2.2b Shifting

December 19, 2007 02:24

From Tara Shaw
Posted from 66.162.116.18 on December 18, 2007 at 8:09 PM (GMT)
Thank you again for these blogs. Do you have any suggestions for smooth shifting in high positions? I'm struggling with shifting in the uppermost octave of 3-octave scales. [EDIT]

From Mendy Smith
Posted from 207.69.139.141 on December 19, 2007 at 4:17 AM (GMT)
Ditto what Tara said. Shifting beyond 4th position is still a bit of a struggle as well as a little painful (moving the thumb and hand position during the shift). Especially on a viola! Large upper bouts :) [EDIT]


Tara & Mendy,

Yes. (I am a violinist, but play both instruments.)

Rhythms are always a tremendous help. Let’s begin in the 3rd position — D & G Majors on your respective instruments.

Initially slide the 1st finger very lightly from its note to the destination — say 3rd to 5th and later, 5th to 7th positions.

Having played the 2nd finger before shifting up, return to the 1st finger and use it as your guide and measuring tool. (Tara, look at page 76 #1a and incorporate some slower quasi grace notes in the shifts). Mendy, I hope you can decipher my examples and am using position numbers instead of note names so everything will instantly apply equally to the viola.

Shift from a shorter note to a longer note, similar to an 8th slurred to a Dotted Quarter, but be loose and smooth with the rhythm concentrating on total balance and flow of motion going gradually over the top of the instrument. Watch the “face” (fingernail) and maintain its angle. By the way, a good initial slide for this is the 8va in a moderately slow even rhythm — I do this long before I introduce my students to the 3-8va scales and arpeggios. (8va Slides, pages 22 & 23.)

Do not curve the hand around the shoulder, but rather ascend over the top pivoting from the thumb, which should be under the neck (in a hitch-hiking pose — don’t hitch-hike!) just before the need to rise up and over. Imagine throwing something over your left shoulder with your left hand and slightly to your left side.

As the arm lifts the hand (entering the 4th/5th position range) and the hand and fingers begin their elongation — keep the fingernail’s “face” angle — the 1st finger will naturally pivot further away from the neck. Do not press hard and do not tighten the wrist or arm, just maintain the form of the fingers, hand and arm during the motion.

By then you should be totally supporting the instrument via the thumb and arm with the back of the instrument resting on the collarbone and/or shoulder rest — no gripping. If the instrument wants to fall to the front — stand/sit taller. (Tara, check the posture section in the Terms & Tips section.)

Lift the chest with back straight, ala Heifetz, and lighten any head weight. Do not hunch/round the shoulders or pull them excessively back like a soldier at attention — that is far too extreme. Simply be “at ease” and with an alert and tall posture.

I will have my students lift their face to the heavens, completing the shifts up (as long as the thumb is still securely and freely supporting the instrument). Oh, DO NOT GRIP THAT THUMB AT ANY TIME!

These are called “Headless Shifts,” but keep using the brain:-)

After arriving safe and secure, gently return the jaw to the chin-rest without changing the chest, collarbone and shoulders. Also, do not tilt the posture forward as this will immediately throw the balance off. Move freely around the instrument, not the instrument around you. Although, that will be achievable as you master this choreography — we are dancing on the violin strings after-all.

You must remember to keep the finger(s) well balanced on the string — do not roll toward the lower strings — with the chosen finger weight (vary this for greater flexibility and control in various passages of differing musical character, style and temperament) applied directly toward the fingerboard and not pulling the strings toward your hand.

This is all about the Guide Note/Guide Finger (1 in this case) and as you modify the tempo and vary the speed and rhythms of the shifts and the weight of the finger, your hand will gain greater agility and responsiveness to your every thought.

The finger must not wiggle, twist, collapse or rock & roll:-) When these "Connecting" or "Same Finger" Shifts with 1st finger are accurate then incorporate the sequence of your scale fingering, i.e., 12 shift, 12 shift, 12 shift.

Again, use varied rhythms such as 2 fast and 2 slow with permutations. (Tara, these are in Basics II, pg 12 & 13, under R1-8.)

In down shifts, simply reverse the order by shifting the 1st finger to the new position before dropping the hovering new finger (2, 3 or 4) directly on the string, and its note of course:-)

Have fun!

Hope this is of help. I am also putting this out as a blog so others might read it if interested and having similar questions. Hope you both don’t mind and I trust it is not improper etiquette.

Thank you for your interest —
Drew

7 replies | Archive link


“GPS” –– 2.2 Shifting

December 17, 2007 01:17


How do you think of, view and order the movement?

Plan actions > Accuracy, Fluidity > MASTERY

Your Global Positioning Satellite/Mental Positioning Satellite is all-important.

This is Shifting-Part 2 in 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.

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.


SHIFTING

Everything affects everything.

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 arm, 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.

The above statement is also true of shifting. The various parts of the arm and hand always work in concert together.


A variety of Shift Types must be "in the hand" of the accomplished string player.

"End-over" or "Old/new" Shift
DEFINITION: At the "end" of the shift ("old" finger), the "new" finger comes "over" and hits the new note.

The most used shift is the "end-over" or "old/new" shift, as it offers a clarity of intonation combined with a beauty and sophistication of phrasing that is suited to many musical styles.

From this the musician will add the "special effects" that are so important for the various idioms and characters used by composers.

(Excerpted from Violin Technique: The Manual, How to master… and
Viola Technique: The Manual, How to master…)


Examples:

B2 on the Ging to Eb3 on G. (In descending shifts the reverse method will apply.)

1. Keep 3rd finger hovering over the string while shifting with both 1 & 2 on the Ging.

2. 1st finger is light as a feather and 2nd p to mp, hearing and sensing the measure of every micro-millimeter as you slide to D2.

3. At the end of this move the 3rd is to be already over its note poised to land squarely on pitch.

4. Do not play the 3rd finger if the shift is not accurate — master the shift first, or you might fool yourself into thinking it is successful should you happen to luck-out and hit the Eb with an inaccurate measurement of the shift via the missed arrival of the guide fingers.


Be sure to maintain the shape, form and interval of the fingers relative to the key. There are times when a player will decide to have a more open hand as this lends itself to a broader vibrato when appropriate artistically, but when in doubt remain true to the key and therefore the correct Hand Group.

The above example has a very different feel, proportion and balance when shifting the 2nd finger to a Db with 1st arriving on the Cb. This would create the Open Hand Group (all whole steps) and potentially assist in a very broadened style of vibrato with greater depth and amplitude. It could quite logically be used if going to the Eb3 on G followed by Ab2 on the Ding or Eb2 on the Aing.


Often missed in studying and practicing shifts is the thorough practice of the 1st finger in all shifts.

1.) In the original example above — B2 on G to Eb3 on G — the 1st finger must accurately shift to C1 and therefore be in tune with the arrival of the D2 and eventually the Eb3.

2.) The left hand is to continually be in tune during shifts, adjusting as we maneuver to various positions, contracting upwards toward the higher finger for shifts up and expanding downwards from the higher finger for shifts down.


When a change of string is required:

B2 on the Ging to F3 on the Aing.

1. Practice the same above shifts with 1st and 2nd fingers on the Ging and, completing the Knight’s move in chess, move perpendicularly across the strings to the F3 accompanied with the appropriate left arm pendulum action for the string crossing. The 3rd finger must land squarely on the F and not favor the Ding side — the fingers should always be evenly balanced on the given string excepting the necessary adjustments for various interval combinations and hand size.

2. Then alter the Knight’s move by taking the 1st finger (momentarily keeping B2 on G) directly across from A1 on G to B1 on A and shifting up to D1 on A for the arrival of the F3.

3. Release the B2 on G before shifting in order to complete the pendulum move of the left arm for the shift.

4. In the above shift I would not do the equivalent move with 2nd finger, but would play the E2 on the Aing developing greater accuracy and reliability.

We are drawing boxes giving total assurance of location when combined with the diagonal sweeping move — the Bishop — that is part of the shift when simultaneously changing strings. These maneuvers blend into the Bishop’s diagonal move as we finally release the fingers for the finished end-over shift with string crossings involved. The above example necessitates a leap over the Ding and is therefore a bit more challenging than a similar shift to the neighboring string.

It is having 3 points of reference on the compass to accurately determine location.


Open string — another aspect:

The end-over is essentially the shift used via the open string when the fingers are released with the shift and land on the new note and position out of thin air. Of course, we are actually measuring in great detail the distance and touch of the thumb, hand and arm while accomplishing this feat. I give a thorough initial working out of this in Basics V and it should be further elaborated upon, as the player is able to proceed.

This is tremendously helpful for the release and/or lightening of the fingers in shifts. I am not a fan of the “staple” shift — play the note, lighten the finger (which flattens the pitch), slide lightly up and weight down the finger upon arriving on the desired note. This last movement again alters the pitch requiring one to weight down early or adjust accordingly after arriving “on the note.”

A simple and clear example of this would be to play the A harmonic on the Aing hearing how the pitch raises approximately a half tone when depressing the string. The degree of change is affected by the height of the string setting above the fingerboard.


Do lighten for shifts as appropriate for artistic integrity, but take care not to cause false pitches and tentative movement to hinder the beauty of tone and musical flow.


Other shifts exampled in the books:

1. "Connecting" or "Same Finger" Shift.
2. "Into" Shift.
3. "From/into" Shift.
4. "From beneath" or "From under" Shift.
5. “Walking Shifts”

In all of these shifts the timing of departure and arrival combined with inflection of vibrato and weight of the finger can give an enormous variety to the mood and character of the phrase.

Experimentation with attention to the minutest of details will make all the difference as to the musical success of such technical endeavors.

The examples above are simply a hint of the many possibilities available to the artist in their quest for the correct inflection of the phrase. The combination of these shifts can be used to great advantage if not taken to extremes.

Applied correctly they are capable of producing the most beautiful of musical moments.
Conversely, they are capable of totally destroying any musical sensitivity, if misapplied.


Always add rhythms to develop speed, accuracy and agility.


Technique is the tool by which we accomplish the artistic.

To be continued…

Drew

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

3 replies | Archive link


“GPS” –– 2.1 Shifting

December 5, 2007 02:12


How do you think of, view and order the movement?

Plan actions > Accuracy, Fluidity > MASTERY

Your Global Positioning Satellite/Mental Positioning Satellite is all-important.

This is the 2nd 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.

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.


SHIFTING

Everything affects everything.

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 arm, 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.

The above statement is also true of shifting. The various parts of the arm and hand always work in concert together.


SHIFTS IN A NUTSHELL:
(Excerpted from my violin and viola books.)

Shifts
See – Left Hand/Arm; Posture 2 & 3; Guide Notes;
Basics III pg 14-15; Basics IV pg 16-17; Shifting pg 24-26.
Note the method of training shifts throughout the studies.

Shift/Full Shift:

1. Shift arm/hand/thumb/fingertip simultaneously maintaining the face angle (fingernail) of the sliding finger.

2. Practice slow, smooth movements of varying touch, rhythm and tempo — avoid whiplash or fishing for note/position (where the finger searches/rolls for the missed note).

3. Shrink the hand gradually while shifting up the lower fingers/knuckles close in the direction of the shift toward the higher finger.

4. Expand the hand gradually while shifting down the lower fingers/knuckles open in the direction of the shift away from the higher finger.

5. In points 3 & 4 above, use the contracting or expanding capabilities of the palm and knuckles.


Pivot Shift/Half Shift:

1. The thumb retains its location, only pivoting as needed.

2. Move arm /hand/fingertip simultaneously.

3. The face may or may not change angle.

4. Generally used for shifting smaller intervals especially when there will be a quick return to the previous position.


Walking Shift :

1. It could be referred to as Left Hand Traveling.

2. The finger extends/contracts (walks), during which time the left arm and hand are moving in the same direction.

3. Do not roll off the pitch of the note you are walking from. Keep the face of the finger you are walking from — if it must move/twist/roll then compensate so the pitch is retained.

4. Closely related to the Pivot Shift/Half Shift , the thumb does slide during the “walk” or immediately thereafter.

5. It is used in small to moderate shifts when no audible slide is desired — the arm/hand will attain the new position.

In all of the above, the musician must have a discerning ear and incredible sense of touch.


The period of music, composer and character of the given section in the composition must be studied and analyzed, not with clinically cold analysis, but rather in a search for the most artistic complement that enhances the musical content. Then perform with total mastery and commitment to that goal. Every note is derived from the previous and affects the next — they are like little people fulfilling their duties leading to and responding to one another.

Rhythms should be practiced for shifts as we do for the left hand fingers and bow arm. After mastering the slow, smooth, well balance slide add subtle rhythmic patterns — at first lazy, quasi grace note shifts with the arrival pitch being the longer of the two. These must be technically well formed in the finger, hand, wrist and arm. Follow this with more rhythmic precision, i.e., an 8th note sliding up to a dotted quarter, etc. Always slur these together so no false sense of clarity is present — there is no place to hide in a slurred slide.

The best and simplest move to conquer a wobbly, collapsing wrist and delayed finger movement when shifting up and a thrusting out wrist with overly elongating fingers when shifting down is high-speed shifting up and down between Low 1st and 4th Positions. Do several non-stop and do not concern yourself with the pitch initially, just the consistent high-speed motion — don’t press the fingers more then mp. Gradually slow this down maintaining the smooth continuous flow of the slide and beginning to zero in on the desired pitches. It is no good to shift badly and arrive at the correct note periodically — this will fail you. Finger shape must be maintained during this, as its primary training is that of balance and coordination of the simultaneous movement for the left arm (complete) hand and fingertips.

Technique is the tool by which we accomplish the artistic.

To be continued…

Drew

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

9 replies | Archive link


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