December 2013

Finger Slippage on Dounis and Flesch Left Hand Studies

December 27, 2013 12:32

Hello Fellow violinists, I am a very avid fan of Dounis' Opus 15 as well as the Daily Dozen (Section 1). Ditto for Carl Flesch's "Urstudien". That being said, these left hand studies that require the setting some fingers while others move is a daunting task for me. The problem isn't necessarily the movement of fingers, but not allowing the set fingers to slide. We are told often in our approach to Schradieck pp. 1&2, that only light pressure is necessary and that we should never firmly grip the neck of the instrument. No matter what pressure I use, no matter what combination, my fingers slide involuntarily, especially the 3rd finger. My 4th finger has a double-jointedness that I have worked so hard to eliminate. Nature is what it is. I do these things because I dream of playing the Bach 1001-1006 someday. I have considered purchasing a baseball pitcher's rosin bag. Merely rubbing my fingers on solid rosin doesn't seem to be enough to do the trick. If anyone has experienced similar difficulties and found a solution, please add your thoughts. I am bound and determined not to be discouraged. Thank you for your consideration, Bryan

1 reply

Ivan Galamian's 'Points of Contact'

December 24, 2013 12:26

Hello to my fellow violinists. I hope that Mr. Galamian will be okay with my posting of a paragraph from his book (Surely, he has passed on by now!). On the subject of 3rd and 4th positions, this is what he had to say: "Another very important intonation factor is found in the principle of the double contact. This was touched upon briefly in the discussion of the setting of the hand (page 15). The term signifies that the left hand has to have two points of contact with the instrument in order to orient itself properly and securely. One point, as a rule, is not sufficient. The actual points of contact will differ in various positions, as will be explained in the following paragraphs. If, as some schools advocate, the hand is held permanently away from the violin neck so that only the thumb touches, then the hand has no secure way of establishing its location within the position or of guiding the distance during a shift. Finger action is also weakened by such placing. In the lower positions, the double contact is provided by the thumb and the side of the first finger, each touching its corresponding side of the neck of the instrument. The contact need not be permanent or continuous in character, but it is sufficient if it occurs from time to time for the orientation of the hand. It must be very slight, since the more gentle it is, the more sensitive becomes the feeling of touching. (A blind man who contacts an object in order to orient himself will never grasp or clutch it, but instead will touch it only gently.) Any firm clutching of the left hand is a severe impediment to technical facility. An exception to the principle of the double contact will apply in the playing of expressive passages. In order to facilitate the vibrato action, the hand can release the double contact, retaining only that of the thumb. From the fourth position upward, the hand itself contacts the body of the violin and, thus, replaces the index finger in forming the second point of contact. Here, the side of the index fingej can and ought to be separated from the instrument, because a triple contact is not useful. The triple contact does not add to the orientation and it is apt to immobilize the hand too much, especially in vibrato. From the fifth position on, the thumb and hand contact various parts of the instrument, but the principle of double contact is still maintained. This is true even in the case of a hand with a very short thumb, which requires that the thumb (for fingering in the very highest positions) leave the neck of the violin entirely and extend itself instead along the right side rim of the instrument: there is still a double contact with the thumb and the lower part of the hand. The double contact is very helpful in finding the right place for the fingers and hand on the fingerboard. Lastly, in this discussion of intonation, it is necessary to consider what type of intonation ought to be used: the “tempered” or the “natural.” This is not the place to go into the technicalities of the two systems. No violinist can play according to a mathematical formula; he can only follow the judgment of his own ear. Be this as it may, no one system of intonation will suffice alone. A performer has constantly to adjust his intonation to match his accompanying medium. The artist must be extremely sensitive and should have the ability....." (Galamian, Ivan (2013-08-21). Principles of Violin Playing and Teaching (Kindle Locations 542-565). Dover Publications. Kindle Edition.)

So, my concern that I'd like to express to you, my distinguished colleagues, is this: I do find a 3-point contact useful in the 4th position ONLY! I agree with Mr. Galamian almost 100%. As I play Sevcik, Opus 8, or in the key of G Minor (Vivaldi), for example, the Eb and Bb are just right on the cusp of where Galamian feels the left index finger should separate from the neck of the violin. In 4th position low, I feel that the third point of contact is confirmation for me that I am in the right place at the right time as I traverse between 3rd, 4th & 5th position. I know that this seem like a minuscule matter, but when I play the aforementioned examples, this questioning issue keeps coming up for me. I would love to hear your thoughts about this. Anatomically speaking, I realize that our hands come in all shapes and sizes. Although they don't always execute perfectly, God gave me some wonderful hands!

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