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Clayton Haslop

A Hand Like Greased Lightning

November 9, 2009 at 6:21 PM

You know, there are 2 ways one can use lightning as a metaphor for the goings-on of a left hand. 

On the less-than-flattering side, Aaron Rosand once quipped, after the performance of a student, ‘you have fingers like lightning, they never strike in the same place twice.’ 

And then there’s an entirely opposite use, a way that describes perfectly the workings of Milstein’s left hand.  It’s called ‘greased lightning.’

I love that one.  And I’ve invested quite a bit of time over the years in understanding how to condition my left hand to convey the same impression.

And one secret to this kind of fluidity, one that you won’t hear about in most teaching studios, is the concept of the left hand as perpetual-motion machine.

So often we think of the fingers as little digital devices, either on or off.  We don’t think to groom the in-between movements of the fingers.

Yet for scales, arpeggios, and many kinds of figurations – Kreutzer #9 being a perfect example – getting control over the entire range of movement of the fingers can ramp the fluidity of your articulation, and the upper end of your velocity, to a whole new level.

Instead of seeing the fingers as either on or off, imagine them to be as four parachutists descending to the fingerboard in series.  And, when raising them, as balloonists rising from the string one after another.

Now if this image makes sense to you, you’ve got some fun and challenging practice ahead, practice that will amaze you when the results are counted – yes, don’t forget to do that.

All the Best,

Clayton Haslop


From Kathryn Woodby
Posted on November 9, 2009 at 7:15 PM

I like that imagery!  will have to try it this week, with myself and my students.

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