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Drew Lecher


December 2, 2008 at 12:51 PM


"The ideal vibrato position is counter-productive to a nice straight bow."

Re: touching the neck of the instrument with the side of the 1st finger in the lower 3 or 4 positions. 

Re: Developing good vibrato elsewhere on the instrument.

Re: the bow hold position and type.

Re: Bow change at the heel/frog.


Hi Mendy,

I just read your blog and found it interesting.

"The ideal vibrato position is counter-productive to a nice straight bow."

This should not be, but is perhaps a sign of an extreme maneuver to achieve the goal of vibrato.

If what you are doing is working, keep it and look for ways to modify your angles and balance points to gain ease of action with your success. The tremendous caution I have is you are apparently dropping the viola down a bit extra and tilting/rolling the instrument toward the Aing. Though it may initially appear to assist, I have ALWAYS found that great form and posture improve the results exponentially—bringing ease, tonal resonance and musical expression to a higher level.

Great form also prevents the injuries and stresses that so very many players needlessly suffer through. Try walking around with a hunchback position and notice how quickly the stress and fatigue set in, yet, this is precisely what many players do to their bodies. Sit/stand tall with the strings parallel to the floor and the instrument at the angle/tilt of the collarbone when the chest is held high with a straight back—do not over arch the lower back.  

Re: touching the neck of the instrument with the side of the 1st finger in the lower 3 or 4 positions. 

This is precisely the way I WOULD do it. I have found there to be far more tension created by clearing an open space between the Aing side of the neck and the 1st finger. With this gap or whole, the shoulder, jaw and neck work as a vice along with the left-hand thumb and fingers having to prevent the neck dropping into he web area of the thumb and hand.

Never squeeze the neck. The side of the 1st finger should gently brush the neck and will indeed move back and forth with the vibrato. The instrument is to be held lightly and effortlessly. This is achieved when held up and the instrument truly rests on the wedge of the thumb and 1st finger without squeezing.

Re: Developing good vibrato elsewhere on the instrument.

If your position and vibrato are great in 3rd position try going down in half-step increments, even only 1 for several days, keeping the form of your hand. Let your left hand and fingers ride the mono-rail of the string so that the relationship is maintained. Do this without the viola at first, simply shifting your hand out via the arm while maintaining the exact angle of 3rd and/or 4th position. It is also like riding a track in an assembly line and upon arrival at the new location/position, the fingers have adjusted size with proper ratio maintained and are ready to be thrown/dropped on the note and vibrated as desired. 

When shifting at first, keep the same interval setting, i.e., Beginning Hand Group (BH = open/closed/open) or High 3 Group (H3 = open/open/closed). Later when a change of Hand Group is required, train the move by adjusting the intervals in the hand before shifting and finally this is refined to happen during the shift. If thoughtfully worked and given time, this adjustment during a shift will become second nature.

Re: the bow hold position and type.

A person of smaller stature is helped by using the Russian Bow Hold. It is far easier at the tip to maintain length and flow of stroke in addition to gaining a powerful tone with far less effort. I teach both the Russian and Franco-Belgium bow holds depending on the need of the student.

You can adjust your hold a little bit further up the stick, but do not lose the ease of balance and control at the heel/frog. It is okay if you do not get totally to the tip. (It is even possible to do a little maneuver in pulling the arm back a bit to enable one to achieve the tip—I generally would not recommend this struggle for the tip though violinists and violists have done it for ages.) Some of the older bows, such as those by Dodd are shorter, so don't focus too much on the tip if it could potentially damage other aspects of your playing.

Try moving your hand up the stick keeping the thumb in contact with the thumb-grip and not the frog. 

Re: Bow change at the heel/frog.

When doing an up to down bow at the heel and/or starting at the heel, make sure your thumb is able to cross over beyond the string to use all of the hair. Yes, I do mean all. The most natural, fluid and easiest changes at the heel/frog are when the thumb crosses over the string. This totally removes the tendency for us to have a vertical drop in the start of a down-bow. We have no choice but to have a flawless line of the bow's path for the given string.

Piece of cake!

Hope this helps —


Author of

Violin Technique: The Manual, How to master… 

Viola Technique: The Manual, How to master…


From Dottie Case
Posted via on December 2, 2008 at 6:21 PM

Thank you so much for the time that you take to share your expertise with us all.  What a gift:).

From Ray Randall
Posted via on December 2, 2008 at 10:15 PM

Drew's blogs are worth their weight in gold.

Thank you, Drew.

From Drew Lecher
Posted via on December 3, 2008 at 7:44 AM

Thanks Dottie:-)

But Ray, how do you weigh a blog? I went on the scale and only noticed the extra pecan pie:-) But thanks much!

From Christian Vachon
Posted via on December 3, 2008 at 1:33 PM

Hi Mr. Lecher,

Thank you so much for another wonderful post and for sharing your knowledge with us!

A question:  In the contact of thumb/1st finger of the left hand, do you have a suggestion for determining the right height of the thumb? (i.e. how far up the side of the fingerboard it should come)

Thanks and cheers!


From Drew Lecher
Posted via on December 3, 2008 at 5:24 PM

 Hi Christian,

The thumb has many varieties of positioning. Always keep in mind "Thumb: It must be flexible, agile and free to move"—excerpt.

It is a great question and appropriate for all so I will do a blog with some detailing.


From Christian Vachon
Posted via on December 4, 2008 at 3:22 PM

Hi Mr. Lecher,

Thank you for your reply.  I look forward to your detailed post!

Thanks again and all my best!


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