Watch the Indianapolis Competition Livestream

Printer-friendly version

A shocking case of eLechertrocution.

November 25, 2008 at 12:08 AM


Happy Christmas everyone.   It must be Christmas, right? I mean the stores in Japan have been decorated since November 1st;   every convenience store has a giant blow up Santa outside and the only piped music I hear is a constant repetition of `Last Christmas.`
A year or so back I wrote a very cursory review of a new book on technique written by Drew Lecher called `Violin Technique- The Manual.`   (Not to be confused with an old Spanish text called `Violin Technique ^the Manuel.` The latter will only give you a Fawlty technique.
On the back Drew makes quite a strong claim. To whit `You will develop a higher degree of understanding and mastery of the instrument, whatever your level of accomplishment.` Now, I think this is a very strong claim on two counts. First,   it is not just talking about improved playing but actual –understanding- which is a whole different ballpark and secondly he is arguing it works for any level which is not typical of pedagogic material in general. So, after using the materials initially sporadically and now more consistently can I evaluate things and conclude that this has happened for me? If so, how?
The biggest change I have noticed is when I play melodic lines.  Without reigniting any debate about the shoulder rest (in spite of its popularity), I think there is a way of playing that has evolved from this otherwise efficacious tool that is not helpful. That is a strong tendency to keep a lot of fingers in the air. It’s very easy to do with a lot of support.   What I then hear in a lot of younger players is both inconsistency of tone and lack of legato. The former comes from the fingers having to be constantly replace with the correct degree of pressure to produce an appropriate color. The latter concerns one of the great `secrets` of violin playing identified by Auer in his little book: without legato of the left hand (don’t raise fingers until after string crossing achieved) . I think I have always understood this point from an intellectual level, but I notice now that my fingers stay down much more.    And I am talking about a huge degree here. Without doubt the exercises that cause this change began with the idea of keeping fingers 2 and 3 down during octave playing. I did not like this at first and I cannot say that my 1and 4 only octaves were that bad. However, I began to enjoy the feeling after a while and now its what I do.   The other double stop exercises,  paying religious attention to keeping all the fingers down as marked, are improving things on a daily basis. In the process my hand shape has greatly stabilized resulting in greater accuracy. It is the concept of `hand shape` that is one of the great understandings one can get form this book. However,  keeping a lot of fingers down a lot of the time raises another issue- vibrato.
Looking at some videos of recitals form three or four years ago I can see that my wrist oriented vibrato with a small amount of arm worked well technically but tended to occlude the actual center of the note on occasion when playing with a lot of intensity. I have stuck with the exercise in the book for some time and find that my vibrato has shifted the balance from being primarily wrist to more arm. The result is much more centered.   But the crucial thing about the exercise is the development of multiple finger vibrato. I am not that interested in the point that it improves chord playing but I do find that one can have a perfectly expressive and controlled vibrato by keeping 2, 3 or even four fingers down and it sound better in many cases than a hand swinging to a wide degree on a single digit. I suspect this latter habit has a great deal to do with the mistake of thinking that volume/dynamics comes from the vibrato rather than bowing.
I have to confess that when I work through the main exercises including patterns, double stops and shifting in all manner of keys and bowings I don’t really have much interest left in practicing a scale routine. It’s pretty much covered.   Nonetheless, guilt compels me to get out my Flesch scale manual at weekends and go through the routine. Last Sunday I thought I’d shoot for the moon and see if I could possibly play all of it with accuracy and decent sound within the space of an hour or so. I have never done this before because I won’t leave something that is not working well and I also like to apply more rhythms and bowings than Flesch recommends. Plus, I still think there is too much for one day…. Nonetheless, I actually achieved the miracle that day and it just blew me away. That’s quite a big jump of a kind. The increased speed and accuracy in the double stops was the key so I wondered which aspect of Drew`s book had done this since I don’t practice rapid scales. I realized that what I do practice is double stop trills with a variety of rhythms and in all positions especially in 7ths and thirds. That seems the key to me. Running up and down a scale in thirds is cool but actually perfecting a pair and only that pair. Then moving on does, in my opinion develop far greater technical facility than playing a scale in thirds over and over in the style of sevick and hoping it will improve by default (although there is nothing particularly wrong  with sevcik`s  practice method at all).
I haven’t mentioned bowing yet, but I have found that to play the opening exercises perfectly makes very strong demands on ones critical faculties. In particular, working with open strings so much it is important to monitor the visual element of string vibration. Something that sounds okay can be immediately improves by sustaining rather than choking the degree of swing in the string one is achieving.  
So, in conclusion, I would say I have no difficulty in accepting the claim mentioned at the beginning of this blog and hope that people will be encouraged to go deeper and deeper into what this goldmine has to offer. I have just scratched the surface and am already on a roll. Can’t find anything in it for dealing with my loony cat but perhaps later upgraded versions will be more helpful….

From Mendy Smith
Posted via on November 25, 2008 at 6:18 AM

Buri -

As usual, your blog is timely for me.  Doublestops and chords are turning into the main focus of my lessons recently (due mostly to finally getting around to tackling the Sarabandes in the Cello Suites).  My teacher too has me working on keeping my fingers on the when moving from one chord to the next.  The difficulty for me is the F-natural and D combo (D&G string) or a C-natural and A (A & D string), specifically the 2-4 finger spacing.  This has lead my teacher to having me re-evaluate the shape of my left hand and contact point between my first finger/base joint and the fingerboard in the lower positions.  This was quite uncomfortable at first, but I'm noticing that the intonation of the chords are becoming much improved. 

From sharelle taylor
Posted via on November 25, 2008 at 11:18 AM

Buri, this should be featured.  I hope lots of readers notice it in its little side bed and read it.

I have great difficulty working out how to approach any manual, I think its my ADHD side because all I can think about when I'm practising is the other pages in the book and what I should be doing.

Despite that, I have persevered with small bits of Drew's book, because I can see how it works and it is consistent with my teacher.

Its motivating to know that accomplished players too have to work at things, and even more so that they find improvement in a relatively short period of time and in a relatively large degree. (Tangentially, I was glad to know that my teacher goes back to polishing the strings when she has had downtime for a while, because her vibrato is an early victim of her not playing.  that after more than  40 years)

I am grateful and honoured by Drew's ongoing contribution to this site, and yours also because of all the contributers you are the one who puts his pedagogy into a context / application for me.



This entry has been archived and is no longer accepting comments.

Facebook Twitter YouTube Instagram Email is made possible by...

Shar Music
Shar Music

Pirastro Strings
Pirastro Strings

Corilon Violins
Corilon Violins

Los Angeles Philharmonic
Los Angeles Philharmonic

Virtual Sejong Music Competition
Virtual Sejong Music Competition

Dimitri Musafia, Master Maker of Violin and Viola Cases
Dimitri Musafia, Master Maker of Violin and Viola Cases Shopping Guide Shopping Guide

Coltman Competition

Metzler Violin Shop

Bein & Company

Bay Fine Strings Violin Shop

Leatherwood Bespoke Rosin

Annapolis Bows & Violins

Los Angeles Violin Shop

String Masters

Bobelock Cases

Things 4 Strings LLC



Sleepy Puppy Press

Jargar Strings

J.R. Judd Violins, LLC

Southwest Strings

Nazareth Gevorkian Violins

Laurie's Books

Discover the best of in these collections of editor Laurie Niles' exclusive interviews. Interviews Volume 1 Interviews Volume 1, with introduction by Hilary Hahn Interviews Volume 2 Interviews Volume 2, with introduction by Rachel Barton Pine