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Anna Heifetz

Wrist Vibrato, Part Two

March 23, 2012 at 1:45 PM

(taken from a letter from my father-in-law, Michael Heifetz, 3/17/12).

Conceptualizing the Motion

1. For some people, it is sufficient to think of the movement of the wrist and fingers as "back and forth." When doing the "impulse practice" suggested below, it feels as though you are initiating a back and forth motion.
2. However, some people find it helpful to think of the movement of the wrist as "circular," in a clockwise direction. This idea may prove valuable if your motion sounds too mechanical or irregular when playing music. Try practicing a slow rolling (circular) movement with each finger on each string and in various positions.


1. Begin with this exercise and mindset from Menhuin: "as a typical exercise, hold [second finger "D" on the A string with the thumb opposite the second finger]. Then, try to pull the violin away from the hold of the chin and collar-bone, and allow the wrist to bend out. Then, while maintaining this pull, exercise the finger and thumb in such a way as to bring the hand back to the original position. You are doing what are known as resistance exercises, strengthening the inner muscles of the finger and the thumb. Now, push the violin into the neck and go into a depressed wrist and depressed knuckle position. [There,] while maintaining this pressure, push the knuckles and wrist out. You are developing a different set of muscles.
2. "Each muscle must be developed separately, so that there will never be a confusion. Two sets of muscles must not be used at the same time. This is the basis of the seizure, the confusion, of violin playing…"
3. "Vibrato must be as varied as the weather of England, and always beautiful and sweet. It can be very narrow and fast, producing a gleaming, penetrating sound (mine was sort-of this way)-- as wonderful in pianissimo as in fortissimo-- pure, with little vibration as to be almost a choir-boy sound, or so much as to be like a brilliant light, so intense is it's penetrating effect. It can be slow and wide, it can be velvety, and it can be burning with passion. It can be all these, but these powers are only developed by exercises such as those I have described, which engage the whole range, and every degree of range, of strength and flexibility and sensitivity of all the goons and muscles involved. And a great amount of concentration is essential. Playing and practicing the violin demand work of the mind."

Next lesson: Continuation of Exercises, leading into the Impulse Practice!

(prepared by Michael Heifetz/edited by Anna)

(For more entries on wrist vibrato:
Here is Wrist Vibrato, Part 1
Here is Wrist Vibrato, Part 3
Here is Wrist Vibrato, Part 4
Here is Wrist Vibrato, Part 5)

From Laurie Niles
Posted on March 23, 2012 at 7:57 PM
Do the exercise in second position then?
From Anna Heifetz
Posted on March 23, 2012 at 11:54 PM
Yes, start with the second finger in second position. Also you can do these exercises in third position, starting with the first finger on "D" on the A string and leaning back into first position.

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