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Drew Lecher

VIOLIN TECHNIQUE/VIOLA TECHNIQUE: Left Hand / No Bow

November 18, 2009 at 5:13 AM

and Cello & Bass Technique…

 

Question:  

“Dear mr. Lecher

I hope you are fine. I have a new question for you...in the library i ran into Gaylord Yost's "Principles of violin playing", where I strongly advocates practicing "percussion" with left hand's finger to acquire more and more strength.

I was wandering if it makes sense for you to practice Repetition Hits just with the left hand, hitting the strings enough to clearly hear tone and resonance  (which means intonation also), and if this could be a good mean to practice accuracy and strength (which I sometime miss on the double bass) at the same time.

Thank you as always for your commitment.

Best regards, M. P. 

 

 

Hello M,

 

Yes, that is valid to a large extent, but do not use extraordinary force. Also, do some work with weights for strength and flexibility. Stretches are most important along with strength training. Work every part of your body, not just hands, wrists and arms.

 

You can also use a slow-motion squeeze of the note, concentrating on the shape, form, balance and energy flow into and through the finger. Pay particular attention to any pulling or pushing of the string—an indication of tension and poor balance. The string should go straight toward the fingerboard, allowing for the arch of the board.

 

Many years ago, I learned a Beethoven Sonata in the middle of the night without use of the bow. It was 2 or 3 in the morning and I couldn't sleep—a habit of mine:-) Though I was not working the left hand hard, with the stillness of the hour the fingers sent the notes out like cannons. I actually put a heavy practice mute on so I would not disturb anyone. 

 

In addition, there was a tremendous sense of musical phrasing via the left hand action, whether legato or staccato—technically and artistically, balance and timing became amazingly keen. 

 

I performed it the next day in a master class with wonderful success. Having sorted out the left hand in all its detailing, the bow went together almost instantly shortly before the performance. 

 

When doing the above practice, I was very mindful of the bow though I was not using it—thinking through string crossings, rhythms and styles of strokes, etc.

 

This practice caused me to be aware of unwanted tension that was in other parts of my body, especially the shoulders and bow arm, but really throughout the body. These became areas I would focus on freeing totally.

 

Try it, and I think you will discover many wonderful technical and artistic benefits.

 

Hope this helps…

 

Take care and God bless, 

Drew

 

Author of

"Violin Technique, the Manual"

"Viola Technique, the Manual"

 

”These two volumes offer a comprehensive practice methodology that addresses the full gamut of fundamental technical issues on the violin and viola;…these books certainly chart a course towards the acquisition of an in-depth technical understanding…whether used to build one from scratch or to hone individual aspects.”— the Strad, London, September 2008 www.thestrad.com 



 


From Royce Faina
Posted on November 18, 2009 at 3:48 PM

I'm not clear about what is meant with working out with weights?  Such as working out on a circuit machine and free weights at a gym/home gym?  Or curling a weight with only the fingers?

And regarding percucion? Guitar players refer to hammering the strimgs with the fingers (whichever hand is fingering the fingerboard) as hammer-ons. Is that what you are speaking about when you were playing the morning you couldn't sleep?  You were hammering the notes with the left hand fingers?

Royce


From Drew Lecher
Posted on November 19, 2009 at 3:55 AM

Hi Royce,

Working out with weights is just generally good, as you know. I think everyone has their preference whether circuits, free weights, etc. Definitely do things that strengthen the wrists, hands and fingers and immediately stretch and flex between any set reps.

 

The real point is to be physically fit for life and for playing the instrument. 

 

So many injuries happen away from the instrument, i.e., grabbing a chair or box and pulling a ligament or tendon, or straining and twisting something that never would’ve been a problem if one maintained a good level of fitness. I personally do a variety: walking several miles a day (we have 2 standard poodles:-) tread, leg presses, assisted pull-ups and dips, crunches, bends and stretches of various kinds, etc. I certainly am not a hulk by any stretch of the imagination, but I do believe in maintaining a balance.

 

Hammering is not a word I would choose as it implies way too much aggressive pounding of the strings into the fingerboard—at least, in my mind. 

 

I was simply playing as I would normally do and hearing the notes pop out of the instrument. If you sustain the hit it resonates longer and if you immediately lighten the touch to almost nothing the note stops ringing. This is actually something we do when playing a short pizzicato—simply pluck/pizz and immediately release the left finger, the note will stop sounding.

 

The real bonus was the way I heard and felt the interpretive aspects of the fingers playing/hitting the notes—legato, staccato, crescendo and diminuendo and nuances of vibrato and shifts. EVERYTHING showed, good and bad, as if I was using the bow. 

 

It was quite an enlightening.

Drew

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