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The Left Hand... A New Perspective

July 21, 2009 at 8:09 PM

As per request of one of the other members

The bear paw.  I know, it sounds incredibly cheesy.  But, it's something that makes sense.  I mean, David Russell actually used this metaphor in a lesson I had with him in summer '07.  It works, why else would he mention it?  

A bear's paw is vaguely hand-shaped, but it has no fingers.  When a bear scoops up honey (or whatever), it uses its whole paw as a unit.  

The left hand can be thought of in much the same way.  When doing so, the fingers do not individually search for notes.  Rather, the hand locates the position and the fingers merely need to fall into place.  

Another thing that goes along with this.  4th position (or any position) will never change on your particular instrument.  It stays in the same place; it's a constant. The hand and fingers are the variables.  Once you learn what your hand is like in any given position, it's a small matter to find it again because muscle memory has been built.  Combine this with the bear paw idea and suddenly (well, with a bit of work), the opening of the Mendelssohn violin concerto doesn't seem nearly as terrifying for intonation.  

Now, you're probably thinking.  Uh, Catie, sometimes your fingers must reach out of the standard interval and yada yada yada.  True, they must.  But, if you learn what the finger must do in relation to the position of the hand, that won't change either.  

Hopefully this makes the concept a bit more clear.  However, I try to describe this in words, I feel it misses something without the visual.  I encourage you to spend some quality time with your instruments and think of this idea.  If you have played, or are playing Mendelssohn, I especially encourage you to try it using that piece.  

From Anne-Marie Proulx
Posted on July 21, 2009 at 10:41 PM

Hi,  how funny that a cello teacher I know always says the same thing about the bow hand that  has to be like a big relaxed bear paw.   Some lucky violinists almost have bear paws...  : ) but for those who, like me, have Chiwawa paws, it always helps and makes a difference (really!) to think we have bear paws. Especially for deposing the bow in a big relaxed motion, not forget to untense the hand to vibrate and to try to keep your hands as warm as a bear paw (I said try...) ! 


From Ray Randall
Posted on July 23, 2009 at 1:11 AM

When we lived in Steamboat Springs Colorado our Golden retriever on our walks in the woods was, unfortunately, quite good at finding bears. Trust me, I know what a bear paw looks like up close and personal. Yikes!

Excellent explanation of the bear paw concept.

From Steven Albert
Posted on July 23, 2009 at 10:12 AM

Thank you for posting this.  I'm attempting to put this into practice.  Its helped already.


From Peter Kent
Posted on July 26, 2009 at 8:31 AM

Do you advocate the kind with raisins ? Cinnamon ? and Icing ? or all three ?

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