From rachel gleicher
Posted April 20, 2005 at 04:31 PM
Sorry I couldn't be more help,
thanks so much,
Not completley sure what you mean by this but you may be looking at the wrong cause. If you are having to stretch for the third and fourth then youyr hand is in the wrong posiiton. The naturla function of the hand is to stretch backwards -from- the fourtyh fnger to the first. So it might help you to practice exercises like Schradieck but before you begin play some fourth fingers and get thta shape curved and comfortable. Learn tyhe feeling of where your hand is when the foutrth finger is oin good shape and relaxed. Then begin the exercise whil recreating that feeling. This kind of ex4ercise is good for scales in 3rds as well where you find the fourth finger and second with the 1st and third raised. Then keep the same hand feleing and reach back to play one and three.
In the meantime I will repost a long splurge I wrote on rests which may be some interest or not at all.
But violinists are a curious breed, in order to function we have to have passionate and deeply felt beliefs but this so often prevents genuine exchange and dialog. `This fingering is better than that.. Oistrakh plays it better than Joe Bloggs. A Strad is better than a guarneri etc.` Nowhere is this more prevalent than during short lived and acrimonious debates about the shoulder rest which almost invariably ed up at the play ground level although the Ministry of Education would quickly close down such an area if it was heaped with as much bs in real life as it is in so called intelligent exchange on the subject.
So, I think I am going to leap in at the deep end although I may never get thereEalso, although I am personally against the use of rigid rests I frankly couldn`t care less what any else does. This makes me highly objective, doesn`t it? Doesn`t it? MmmmmE
I would like to identify some points from either camp in this internecine war that are worthy of a can of bs spray although there are many others.
1) The restless have a curious almost holier than thou `look mum no hands` approach to discussing this subject. BS Every restless player uses some kind of padding, be it sewn into the jacket or stuffed under the jumper (stern, Rosand etc). Just because these guys turn up at a master class in a tee shirt and play as brilliantly as ever doesn`t mean that is how they are going to play most of the time. I can do that, any idiot can do it. It proves nothing-. The issue then, is actually about what kind of support are you going to use?- That immediately makes it more interesting because the dialog is open to exchange of possibilities .
2) The user claims shifting is better with a rest. Not true. But the technique is different. Again, an opportunity for discussion an comparison lost.
3) The restless say you can rotate your instrument using the thumb and forefinger along a lateral axis. So what? A little experiment with a rest shows this is equally possible.
4) The user claims the violin slips without a rest. Not really. If anything, an over high rest is more likely to cause slipping. The slippage of the restless is cured by the use of a chamois leather cloth or chinrest wrap. Instantly and for good.
5) The restless claims that connection with the instrument is disrupted. For me, this is true. But can we say this true for the likes of Mullova , Vengerov, Kaplan and so many other great players. In my case my shoulder girdle becomes disorientated and I am then unable to use a natural finger action based on gravity and reflex so I have to start squeezing with the arm muscles. But that is me and -only- me.
6) The user says the head supports the instrument whereas the left is used by the restless causing stress. Not so. You can support the violin as much as you wish with your left hand while using a rest and it is actually logically incorrect to say the left hand is supporting the instrument. The whole body is actually doing the work. Both of these possibilities can be exploited by either kind of player if they have an open mind.
Enough!!! What has this got to do with K11. (BTW I don`t have my book with me and I have a hangover so just in case, this is the shifting study in triplets)
Well, depending on whether you use an `inflexible` rest or not your technique is likely to be one of two kinds that are somewhat different and the differences become quite pointed in this work.
S zigeti repeatedly drew attention to the value of this study and in his book `Szigeti on the violin` he explicitly linked it to a passage in the first movement of the Mozart D major concerto k218 (no, there aren`t 218 Kreutzer etudes)which goes 123/123 123321 321/321 etc.. He suggested that familiarity with the technique found in the study would make this passage and many others simple. The technique he emphasized in his discussion is that of expansion and contraction. That is, when shifting down from a lower finger to a higher one the higher finger is prepared by a contraction of the hand that brings it as close as possible to the finger prior to the shift. He actually calls this a contraction study. Two other very restless players who advocate this technique are Desmond Collier (a brilliant Paginini player among other things) and Samuel Applebaum. This technique does indeed smooth out the shift and is very important for restless players. However , users seem to me much less inclined to use or even be aware of this technique since shifting is so rapid with a rest. Nonetheless it is worth exploring and is an example of how a users technique can be enhanced by looking at what older players did automatically. When mowing form a lower finger to a higher finger the restless players` hand expands so that the new finger is reaching for the new note. Again very important, but the user is so well trained to move rapidly en masse that this technique is not so common. Again, it is well worth practicing.
There is a good physiological reason for this too. When the muscle is in a slightly stretched condition it is sending a great deal more data to the brain than usual and is much quicker getting into action. The rather passive block of fingers that moves so rapidly using a rest is really rather passive in neurological terms and this can actually be a weakness. Another way to experiment with this , whether you use a rest or not, is to move down from a lower finger to a higher one. But, instead of contracting the higher finger stretch it in the wrong direction towards your nose, then release the sudden build up of energy and the downward shift will be so rapid and smooth it will blow your mind. I use this technique in slow works sometimes in spite of the admonition we are told to practice shift in the tempo of the work we are playing.
Incidentally, that is a general practice point for K11: change the speed of your shifts according to the speed you are practicing.
What then do the users to that the restless could explore? Well, a key aspect of modern technique is a double stop shift. That is, when notes are on adjacent strings you place the new finger on the new string and then make the shift on two fingers, at least for a while. This has the effect of preserving the hand shape and general efficiency for users in particular but everyone should practice shifts like this in their pieces.
Finally, restless users need to work out much more carefully how the whole body is used in shifting which brings one to the shoulder. In order to create space and energy for the arm to shift well Menuhin suggests that prior to the shift the left shoulder drops down and back. During the upward shift the shoulder can then spring forward making an opposing action to hat the forearm is doing. IE when you shift up the forearm moves towards you but your shoulder/upper arm move away from you in contrary motion. On the down shift this is reversed. The shoulder is prepared by a slight move forward and up and as your forearm shoots away from you towards the scroll your upper arm shoulder moves back and down towards your body. I have found this to be true for me but I dislike the feeling of raising and pushing the shoulder forward prior to a downward shift and have tentatively concluded that the player is much better advised to pay attention to something else during this direction of shift: the thumb. Paying attention to the thumb leading down resolves most of the problems of shifting for a restless player, like magic! So I suggest working on half Menuhins idea and then the thumb for going down.
Users have long since stopped paying much attention to the thumb and I believe this is a small weakness. The conscious training and use of a thumb, which becomes automatic later is very beneficial in keeping the hand relaxed and flexible. A rest user can fall into the trap of keeping the hand in one shape and position for too long leading to stiffness.
Finally, never forget, this is a study for every note being played with a beautiful tone, whatever the tempo. You would be well advised to pay a tenuto on the note prior to every shift. After you have the piece under control experiment with using a continuous vibrato kind of in the background. This will be important to keep relaxed.
I plunked down about $180 CAN for one 2 months ago and the thing fell apart. The other one they sent to the shop was faulty, so now they have two bad over-priced shoulder rests. Not to mention, it was me that asked them to order them in, as the dealer had no idea about these products. The company that makes them is absolutely horrible in the simple task of correspondance, so I don't imagine I'll get much of a chance to discuss any of this with them.
Finding the perfect shoulder rest/chin rest combination is so hard and very annoying. It isn't a quick thing, but when you find it, I hear it's great. I haven't found it yet, and I've done a lot. I'm thinking of scrapping the shoulder rest completely.
I am going to make my own, I think. On that is literally less than 1/2 inch below the back of the fiddle. I love the feel of playing with nothing, but some sound, no matter how minute, gets lost, even when using a pad like the one Tamsen Beseke invented (though that is a great concept).
I'll let everyone know what I come up with when I'm done. If anyone else is interested in a similar thing, let me know.
There was a rest I owned years ago, that Mr. Updegraff suggested...it was a black shell-like rest that didn't touch the back. It came with another pad that could be velcroed (sp?) to the back of this shell like rest. Does anyone know what I'm talking about at all? I think Mintz used this rest at one time.
Thanks again, Jon.
I first saw and tried the Stowemaster shoulder rest about a year ago as it was being used by my Head of Strings at school (where I'm Director of Music).
I was so impressed, that I bought one for my wife and we have not been disappointed. It works perfectly and is amazingly adjustable and dependable, as well as making a huge difference to the sound of the violin.
As for the firm that sold it to us (Woodbridge Violins in Suffolk, England), they couldn't have been more helpful, with the designer himself, Mr Russell Stowe, making sure that we were perfectly satisfied before declaring himself happy.
It's so much easier to use than the Kun or the Wolf and it really gives a good feeling of security when playing.
I have a long neck. A really long neck (methinks my great great grandmother married a giraffe). Anyway, when I started the violin I bought myself an adjustable rest and cranked it up to skyscraper mode. Life was good. But then came different positions and shifting and vibrato and things began to fall apart. The instrument no longer felt secure. The search for greater heights, fatter chinrests, etc. was on.
Then one day I'm watching a Ruggiero Ricci masterclass DVD. He's sittng there holding the fiddle down below the clavicle (i.e., nowhere near his chin) and demonstrating how to crawl all over the fingerboard with the left hand. And he says something I'll never forget. He says "if you want to play like Paganini, take off the chin rest -- Paganini didn't use a chinrest." My head spun. Paganini not only didn't use a shoulder rest, he didn't use a chinrest either! Now Ricci is one of my absolute fave violinists, he's not some blithering fool. So I started messing around without a shoulder rest. At first I came very close to dropping the instrument. I thought, no way. But gradually I made adjustments. I'd alternate with the shoulder rest and began to ratchet it down until I was ok with its shortest setting. Somehow this made it easier to go entirely without, but still only for short periods. When playing restless I started to like what I was hearing and feeling. The naked violin's contact with my not very padded shoulder causes the notes to resonate through my whole thorax (much like it does when I practice vibrato with the scroll against the wall). I can literally feel when a note is in tune, which to me is incredibly cool. The positional adjustments take time and practice. But it won't be long before I'm playing restless 100% of the time.
Excuse the long post, but my point is that even those of us with long necks have other options and techniques at our disposal.
1. Click on my name to get to my profile here.
2. Click on my website link.
3. Go to "writings".
4. Click on "Fundamnetals". The shoulder rest aspect is dealt with early on in the section on holding the violin. It is based on what I learned in this regard from Aaron Rosand, along with an innovation or two of my own.
With a shoulder-rest you can just move your hand up and down as you like, maintaining a standard shape to the hand frame. Like the bit on a computerised lathe moving up and down along the travel... This has the disadvantage of making shifting less secure in some ways, because the hand does not prepare for the shift and you might not "land" quite in the right place when you make the "block" shift as my teacher used to put it.
Playing with a soft pad (or baroque violin with no chin at all) and in making a shift down from low finger to high finger, I "arch" the hand in a backwards direction and a little upwards, like a cat getting ready to jump. At the same time I feel the shoulder and upper arm moving down and forwards. It's like the whole curve from the shoulder, down through upper arm and forearm, and into the back of the hand and then fingers is expanding outwards, like blowing up a balloon.
Then in making the change there is just a quick snap of the fingers and the high finger is bang on the lower note. It's very quick and great fun. I think it must work because as you say the preparation "contracts" the higher finger nearer to the new position, and the hand and arm have already partly assumed the new position. There is less "shifting" to do when it comes to the jump down.
It seems particularly effective in slow legato phrases where you can maintain the intensivity of tone and vibrato through a very quick change.
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