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Clayton Haslop

How to Massage a Fingerboard

December 17, 2009 at 6:18 PM

Don’t worry, I’m not suggesting you run out and get a table and massage oil for your violin.  Not that they aren’t nice to have at your disposal, along with a massage therapist, for a little after practice deep tissue.

No, what I’m talking about here is a way for the stiff-of-finger, or even just the intonationally-challenged, perhaps, to get those 4 little helpers on your left hand loosened, lubricated, and otherwise 100% at your disposal.

It’s a very simple concept, really.  All I’m talking about is taking control of the full range of movement of the finger, in a seamless, continuous way.

To get the feel of it, start with a slow scale; separate bows would be a good idea. 

What you want to do is to consciously lift and lower each finger to the string.  As the finger touches the string you will continue to draw the finger into the string, gently squeezing the string to the fingerboard. 

Once the string is flexed sufficiently to produce a clean tone you consciously maintain it there in this highly dynamic state until the time comes to either lift it from the string or raise and lower the next note.

Incidentally, while the finger is being gently squeezed into the fingerboard your may want to oscillate gently on the fingertip – i.e. introduce a gentle vibrato.

Now to make this experience truly transformative, draw a nice belly breath during the lift of each finger and exhale as you draw the finger down to the string.

You see, many violinists play with a tight, ‘digital’ left hand technique.  And the problem with this is that the fine control, the ‘touch’, is missing.

Quite often this leads to a kind of hit-or-miss intonation, and a distinct lack of fluidity in the phrasing.

Once you have this down with separate bows, by the way, you can move to slurring groups of 2, 4, and 8, whilst simultaneously decreasing the range of movement and increasing the velocity.

Then it’s on to repertoire, bringing a whole new level of control and fluency to your music making.

All the best,

Clayton Haslop

From Corwin Slack
Posted on December 17, 2009 at 11:54 PM

This is truly great advice. My teacher claims that the Paganini secret is that the fingers are never still but are always moving  either shifting (hand or finger) , massaging, or vibrating. He demonstrates the massaging action while making lip-smaking noises.

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