Creeping around the fingerboard - Ricci on Glissando

July 23, 2014, 4:13 AM · I've been very taken with the late Ruggiero Ricci's book on left hand technique. (Ricci on Glissando).

He is of the opinion that when Louis Sphor came along and invented the modern chin rest things went downhill. (I heard Alan Loveday say similar things about Tourte and the modern bow - not sure I agree about that though).

Ruggiero RicciThe modern way of playing thrusts the violin into the kneck and some players even want to hold the violin in an almost vertical position. The criticism of letting the violin drop with the scroll a bit lower than the chin rest is that the bow wanders over the fingerboard more easily. However, a good bow hold and bowing technique should counteract this tendency.

But back to the left hand, Mr Ricci said that we are a bit too keen on positions (although they can be useful in describing some things) - and that rather than jumping around we should glide and crawl about the fingerboard.

This is also tied up with unusual fingerings and forward and backward extensions, and keeping the thumb in one place as much as possible. Nothing wrong with using the same finger even over four or more notes if it works. He also thinks that one finger scales are excellent for mapping the fingerboard and for ear training, sometimes with a drone (or open string) for those who are unsure of the relative pitch of notes.

He claims that Paganini'sĀ fingerings were just that, and also crossed strings rather than leaping about. Playing the fiddle is dangerous enough without the added risks of huge leaps.

I find that changing fingerings to allow small movements and also using the same finger for a shift is safer. (As Pag also claimed).

If the position of the left hand is with the palm more horizontal (parallel) with the kneck then the fingers are not curled over the strings and you can push up to a note (or drag back) very easily, and this uses the pads more, and can help vibrato as well.

So improved left hand technique can be enhanced if you become a creep rather than a jumper and this should also lead to greater security. That's Ricci's opinion anyway, and I'm happy to give it a go and see what happens.

I would also add that there is nothing wrong with the trombone - but if you use this method (al la trombone) with shifts then it becomes a hit and miss affair. I have also found that passages where I have had an awkward shift down and which is not on the main beat can easily throw me. So now I organise it so that I change always on the first of four semi-quavers or the first of three triplets, and it seems to work much better. (Maybe this is obvious but it wasn't to me).

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