Saint Saens Violin Concerto and recovering from big leaps

November 8, 2017, 8:03 PM · I'm working on Saint Saens VC, and I can't recover from that high harmonic on the G string near the beginning. I can hit the note in tempo, but then I can't get back down and in the correct position to do the 16th note runs that follow it. I can play the run by itself, just not with the harmonic preceding.
Any suggestions?

Replies (6)

November 8, 2017, 10:08 PM · Try practicing the shift slowly, and always try to stop yourself at the right note. Don't know how helpful it is.
November 9, 2017, 2:07 AM · It might be that your hand and arm position are too far up to get back down again fast enough. Try keeping your arm position as close to about fourth/fith position as you can and reach the harmonic by stretching your hand and fingers. That way you'll get back down faster and can get your hand into the position you need for the following notes in time. Don't use your fourth finger for the harmonic, use third, its longer.
Edited: November 10, 2017, 5:44 AM · When you're doing a big shift, up or down, it helps to think the note in advance - hearing it in your head, as it were - and your finger is much more likely to go to the right place. That was a tip I had from my cello teacher. Practice this technique with your eyes shut so as to develop your proprioception (knowing what your hands and fingers are doing without looking).

In my cello lessons I'd be told to shut my eyes and then my teacher would something like "play the second C on the A string with your first finger", and then many more of the same at random all over the fingerboard on different strings with different fingers. Difficult at first but I got the idea after a couple of weeks. The same principle can also be applied to bowing - where on the bow and where on the string in relation to fingerboard and bridge.

Many years later (decades, in fact) I've been successfully applying those techniques to my violin playing.

November 10, 2017, 6:54 AM · I'm not having any trouble actually hitting the note. I'm having trouble getting my fingers from the high note, which is almost not even on the fingerboard anymore and back down in the correct hand frame to get the 16th notes that follow- which are very fast.

Vivien, I was pulling my hand too far up for the G. It's still not perfect, but that helped a lot. Thanks!

November 10, 2017, 7:38 AM · Vivien is correct. Don't move your hand all the way up, just enough to be able to reach the harmonic with your 3rd finger fully extended. Think about flinging your hand forward and then retracting it back between the B and the G-harmonic. Basically, throw your hand up there and let it fall back, without ever mentally leaving the first position. Try thinking about the motion as waving Hi to yourself.
Edited: November 10, 2017, 1:03 PM · You can be very exact about such shifts, whether you use an harmonic or stopped note. Find the position from which you can flex the wrist and extend the fingers for the final note. Go back and forth until you're very comfortable pivot-shifting between the intermediate (or 'launch') position and extended final position. Then practice an arm shift from desired lower position to intermediate position. Make note of the contact points for your intermediate position (i.e. what your hand feels, e.g. precise point the thumb touches the crook of the neck, or side, or even side of fingerboard + palm on lower edge or ribs or upper edge of upper bout + what it feels like within the hand, e.g. the angle of wrist, the angle between thumb and side of forefinger, the feel of the frame of hand in that position, the elbow position/shoulder rotation.)

For me, I can pivot shift comfortably from 5th position to the extended 3rd finger harmonic. So I would practice pivoting from G to G, on 3rd finger. Also, arm shifting from B to F# on 2 and C to G on 3. Then blend the two shifts: C glide to octave G, pausing ever so slightly, then pivot to second octave G harmonic; then all in one motion; then start the shift on B, add C and shift to harmonic. Then shift B to high harmonic G.

You might also need to practice gliding into a harmonic from a stopped note and back. Pay attention to how your finger releases pressure as the hand pivots and finger extends into a harmonic. When coming back down, reverse what you just did. Pay attention to how you add pressure gradually as you shift down from harmonic pressure, and how the hand 'folds' or snaps back into frame. Since in your example you come out of the high G and pivot back into an intermediate position, feel a kind of grippy, yet slippy pressure as you snap back into frame, so that you can then glide smoothly back down to 1st position.

All this is a long winded way of saying your finger should always track the string, gliding smoothly and continuously during all shifts. No jumping! Also you have to train your hand to find all notes in position whether in frame, extended or contracted. (Later you can experiment with launching the pivot from a contracted hand position, which shortens the arm shift.) Also, make sure your arm is never fighting where your finger/hand wants to go. At first focus on the finger and hand motion. Then spend some time to see how your arm wants to react to such motion.

Finally, in your example, the next passage is a bit tricky because the diminished arpeggio is in 1 and 1/2 position (or second position for Bb dim) so when you shift back down find the low B with a contracted hand (pancake hand), feeling A#^BC# (^ = semitone), reach back with 1 for E (which forms a P4 with the B on G-string,) extend with 2 for G, A#/4 is in frame from the lower A#, then you can snap into first position for the rest of the measure. If you have large hands or long pinky, this may not make a big difference.

P.S. There are no big leaps, just as "there is no spoon." ;)


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