Written by The Weekend Vote
Published: March 13, 2015 at 7:38 PM [UTC]
Obviously, both hands are important in violin playing. But as far as the way we sense things, I have a theory that most people tend to be left-hand or right-hand-dominant in the way they think about producing sound and effect. Some really feel it on the left, in the vibrato, in the feel of fingers against string, in the quest for dead-center pitch and the way it makes the violin vibrate through the arm. Some feel it on the right, with the hair against string, motion of hands and arm, feeling of the way various bow strokes speak and connect with the instrument.
Of course, one can't be always dominant on once side. We can shift the thinking, depending on the music, the problems presented, etc. And sometimes we realize we're focusing on the wrong side; for example, something that seems like a left-hand problem is actually a bowing problem, and vice-versa.
In analyzing your own playing, is your default focus more on the violin hand, or the bow hand? Or truly (not just ideally) are you able to keep consciousness equally on both, with neither dominant?
I have spent a great deal of time working on the bow though.
In any case I consider my self an advanced beginner on both (four years of lessons March 24).
The one thing I do know is if I'm concentrating on one it effects the other.
Very easy question. :)
(The image is labeled "heifetzhands" :-D )
When I was a kid, piano was my first instrument; but after I'd had only a few months of lessons, the violin muse stole me from piano. Yet forming the notes with the four left-hand fingers and drawing the sound from the instrument with the right hand on the bow came quite easily -- we know how readily kids often pick up new skills, especially when self-motivated to learn this instrument, which I was.
Obviously, we have to concentrate on the intonation and technical runs, which have to be practiced by listening and trying different ways, but all those are only means of interpretation like painting a room pink for the bedroom and green for a reception etc. But before we paint the walls and hang pictures on them, we have to have the WALLS - straight and solid! That is accomplished by neither the best vibrato or the most expensive Strad, we get the basic, solid sound only when in absolute control of the bow movement. I recently saw a comment of a student, saying that she drove her teacher crazy by not swaying to the music along with the melody; the worst demand to a student. Any bodily motion should be at best natural and kept to the minimum, since violin sound depends on the steady speed and pressure of the bow control. Every unnecessary movement takes something from that control away and may also cause intonation problems. the best way to find out, that this approach is correct is to try to play long "white" notes, starting from open strings in different tempi. Only, when one can produce an even sound from frog to bottom with combination of dynamics (like perfectly even sound, than crescendo up-bow, or diminuendo down etc.) and it comes naturally without thinking - only than can we start worrying about beautifying the existing solid wall of sound. Btw.conscious swaying is like a pantomime, effective for to watch but does not have anything to do with the sound. That was one of the reasons, that J. Heifetz was considered by many unsophisticated watchers (not real listeners conoscenti) as perfect technically, but "cold". His absolute control and technical prowess were nothing more than a tool for his inimitable style. Recently, Liz Matesky, a frequent contributor on these pages reminded me of an incident in class, when I was playing the Brahms sonata for. All the guys in class had a weekly duty to wait for Him in the parking lot to carry his fancy english leather bag that was quite heavy to say the least. While I was playing, he said something I didn't get at first. W/o saying another word, he slowly got up, took his bag and put it over my foot ;-). He made his point and I never forgot it. "Don't dance, while playing" he said.
Had vibrato, or intonation been an issue at the time (and that was 63 years ago), I would not have stayed with him for four years, yet long after that I still was not happy with my bow technique and searched opinion of many illustrious, though less known masters and must say - it was an eye opener.
Another example, I was able to play a good staccato but it would not always come out as I wanted. After some soul searching and analyzing, I realized, that the culprit was not in my right, but in the left hand. Through paying all my attention to executing the staccato, I did not realize, that it was not co-ordinated with the secure fingering. Not because that particular run was difficult, but just never occur to me that could be the problem. With today's smart phones, one can easily record oneself and see if the bow is always perpendicular to the string and the angle of the stick in relation to the string is never less than 90°. One should see the tip of the bow with corner of one's eye w/o twisting the head at all times, otherwise the quality of sound suffers immediately.
It was for a good reason, that Henryk Szeryng was referred to as "Master of the Bow"! It is the best description of his playing.
Hope this may be an enlightening comment for many, who waste a lot of practice time with emphasis on the wrong issues.
But when I played hockey as a kid, I shot left. Go figure.
It ain't golf. Haha. See if you can figure out why this is so.
As for being a leftie in violin. It really ruins your chances at stardom. Your bow really isn't good enough. The bow is "everything" to your sound. Left-handed violins need to become more common.
I'm surprised that so far, the poll indicates that the left is prevailing, since most people are righties. Maybe that's why many teachers and players have emphasized the right hand as a corrective.
I'm a lefty, though almost ambidextrous - and I feel that with the violin and most instruments, you have to end up ambidextrous, no matter where you started from or how you are, w.o. the violin and bow in your hands.
I can truly say that when I play, I'm both. However, some passages may put my conscious attention more on one than another - say a trill passage for the LH or a tricky bowing for the right. But, as the great teacher, Dounis said, such passages are just where you should put attention on the other hand.
PS What's with all of these numbers? Reminds me of Captain Kirk's Stardate blogs!
Lyle, kudos, what an accomplishment!
To me it is really simple and has to do with the one-handed aspect. When you skate, and hold the stick in one hand, which is it? It is the dominantt hand in most cases which is why lefties shoot right and vice versa.
But there are lots of other things going on too. For instance as a leftie who started in hockey before other sports, I shoot right. And bat right. And play golf right. I think the hockey stick became an analog for 2-handed play. I started lacrosse right also. But learned left almost immediately. I cradle better right but shoot better left.
Violin---I really do feel that we lefties should have had the chance to play a fiddle with the left hand on the bow. I think we would all be sitting with the cellos mixing it up now!
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