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Drew Lecher


February 28, 2008 at 6:24 PM

These methods can be applied with other study and scale books, though perhaps they might not be as direct and efficient in results.

1.) "when i play scales i am in tune on the way up but flat or high on the way down."

Use a "Guide" finger for your shifts down — slide/shift 1st finger to the new position, maintain rotation of left hand for the arrival of the 3rd finger (or other depending on pattern chosen) placing it on the string after your position arrival is accurate. Do not place new finger if the shift is missed.

Are you doing my scale pattern on page 76 #1a? Are you going only across the strings for 2-8vas or are you also shifting, taking you up the 3rd 8va?

Use the pattern as indicated with a lot of "Rep Hits" for each note — pg 7 "RH" at the bottom gives a few patterns; initially just do 2-16ths and 1-8th slowly. Throw/sting the finger down lightly and let it naturally pop/release off for the 16ths, then hold the 8th full value (even make it a dotted quarter — dotted crotchet — for better stability of the pitch and therefore the fingers' balance.)

Are you working with a teacher? Definitely get their guidance on this as they can see you and adjust according to what is actually being observed.

Also, it always helps intonation and the development of the ear when you play the open string below the string your fingers are on — even when there is dissonance due to the key signature. The open string above is also very good.

2.) “stretching”

Virtually never "stretch" the fingers up, rather position the left hand higher up the string, as in a slightly higher 1st position, favoring the 4th finger and reach/contract the other fingers back. When covering a larger distance, there will be a clockwise rotation of the left hand and forearm.


Combine the following: (work 3 to 10 minutes each)

Open & Closed Hand Groups, pg 6 #1-4 (use RHs — bottom pg 7)
Basics II, III and IV (keep using the open string below as in #1 when adding #2 and then #3)
8va Study, pg 27 #1
3rds Study, pg 34 #1
4ths Study, pg 42 #1 (initially without the shift — just go across to the next strings.

Use "Rep Hits" throughout your work and do not feel you have to complete any study initially. Simply add a measure, or even a few notes, at a time. It is all about quality.

Then jump to the music and apply the same methods — RHs, open strings, double stops across the strings, et al.

In the above, it is far better to use these methods, as the improvements come virtually immediately. A scale, other study or section of a piece comes much faster and at a higher level then just playing it through 5 or more times.

You will be constantly developing the shape and action of the left hand and fingers with the various postures, rotations and balances of the left hand and arm.

4.) STIFF:

All action should be totally free in movement with the joints/hinges — keep them lose.

If your fingers and hands are stiff due to age and/or other work, do constant stretches and massages of the hands, wrists and arms. I have found that wildly flailing/shaking the hands and arms while changing their height is really good for ease and freedom of movement — my father started doing this in his late 80's and kept playing the violin as an amateur well into his 90's.

Never force the stretches — give them time.

Hope this helps —
God bless,

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

From Yixi Zhang
Posted on February 29, 2008 at 1:00 AM
Thanks for the great tips, Drew! I don't have problem of playing flat but often play sharp when I'm nervous or get emotional in a middle of a piece. Any tip on avoiding this?
From PM Chu
Posted on February 29, 2008 at 3:49 AM
Thanks for these tips!!
Virtually never "stretch" the fingers up, rather position the left hand higher up the string, as in a slightly higher 1st position, favoring the 4th finger and reach/contract the other fingers back. When covering a larger distance, there will be a clockwise rotation of the left hand and forearm.

I love this tip, Buri also advised me on this one. I was working on a high 3 finger on G string (C#) and it helped alot. However, when i have to do a high 4 position on the E string (C natural), I'm having trouble again. (the passage is G natural then C, then goes back to G natural and C, it's an etude), and I'm only learning first position. Hitting the wall, any tips?

From Drew Lecher
Posted on February 29, 2008 at 6:31 AM


Often in going sharp it is the tension and excitement of the moment/performance contributing a closing up, tightening action — violinists and violists can tend toward this. Perhaps the vibrato is also a culprit if you are pulling it up towards you. In vibrato I use an action the opens from the pitch — note, then flat (roll-shift action) and return to note. The return is a relaxed reflex return, not a tightening closing up action. After all, we are just returning to the start of the action, balanced again on the center of the note. Look at "Vibrato, the sibling to shifts," on page XXIX in the Terms & Tips.

Also, do lots of double-stops, and particularly working all of your passages double-stopping all string crossings and playing with the open string below like a drone. These help a lot.

Along with this, breathe and pace yourself and the music. We want to bring out more than our own emotions when playing — we want to delve into the musical ideas and emotions of the piece as laid out by the composer.

You can’t buy poise and experience — just gradually gain them one phrase at a time. Remember, the listener wants us to do are best.



This is actually one of the more difficult moves on the violin. It is difficult because of the G-2 on E returning after the C-4 extension. I would approach it 3 ways:

1. Keep G-2 down and pivot toward the C-4 via pivoting/raising the 3 a half-step and using the 4 as only a whole-step from 3. Actually practice this with playing the 3 as a guide and assistant to the 4, i.e., G-2, Bb-3 & C-4. Maintain the left-hand angle to the neck and do not allow the wrist to collapse in toward the violin shoulder/base of the neck.
2. Work the same intervals in the 3rd position where it is easier physically, i.e., play: A-1, B-2, D-3 & E-4. You can check these against the open Aing — even use the open D to proof your D-3 on E.
3. Now work down in half-step increments gradually expanding the lower fingers from the 4 with the ratio of measurement maintained.

Numbers 2 & 3 gradually develop #1.

I realize you mentioned you are learning the 1st position, but you only have to pull your hand toward your face so that 1st finger is playing where the 3rd finger usually is. Things will be slightly smaller, but kept in ratio. Have your teacher show you this and offer my apologies for bringing it up early:-)

G-2 to C-4 on E is one of those “simple” things that never is. Give it time, shape the hand and finger moves and do not tighten the joints.

Hope this helps —

From Yixi Zhang
Posted on February 29, 2008 at 6:49 AM
Thank you so much, Drew! Did you just see me play?:-) All your points are crystal clear and right on! I pull my fingers back as you suggested only when I do slow and wide vibratos but when it goes narrow and fast, I tend to do less pulling. I don’t breathe often and this is really a huge problem I’m trying to overcome. I can get carried away by the sound and sometimes get goose pimples when I play so yes – I’m definitely an emotional player, but my rhythm and pulse always need more work. I can be more relaxed and pace myself better once this problem is properly dealt with. I’m kind of convinced that there is a cultural upbringing behind this problem, as I grew up with the kind of Chinese music didn’t have strong rhythmic pulse like the music come in the West, Africa or India. If you’ve heard Chinese opera of any sort, you’ll probably see what I mean. Also, during my recent trip back to Shanghai, I watched a DVD of Kreutzer lessons and noticed this same problem with a very advanced Chinese student. To my great surprise, the teacher (who is very famous in China) focused on all sorts of technical issues but didn’t point out the rhythm problem to her!
From PM Rolf
Posted on March 1, 2008 at 1:57 AM
Thanks again Drew! I'll give it a try, without shifting, this is very difficult indeed. I don't understand why this is in a beginner's etude (the first one too!)

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