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Clayton Haslop

3 Tips for Your 4 Fingers

March 25, 2009 at 7:44 PM

For the past week I’ve been getting myself prepared to film the lessons I send out to my 'Allegro Players' subscribers each month. 

Every edition tends to have a theme, which is usually some or other aspect of violin technique. I carry the theme through the scales, etudes and repertoire that make up each month's learning materials.

During the past couple months I’ve focused a lot on getting around the violin.  Most of us would say shifting, yet for me it is quite a bit more.  It’s about coming to understand the fingerboard as a continuum.  Appreciating the subtle movements in the shoulder, upper arm, and forearm as they travel along the fingerboard - providing a stable, consistent base for the fingers to operate from. 

It’s about hand/ear coordination.  And it’s about relaxation.

Today I want to focus on the fingers themselves and the 3 most important things you can do to keep them in time and on target.

Number 1 - the right position they hold relative to the string.  You must have those little sausages out over, and close to, the strings, virtually all the time.  Yes, there are some exceptional situations where, for a specific purpose, I will extend fingers high over the string – usually as a way to stretch, relax, or maximize a feeling of legato in slow music. 

Yet MOST of the time fingers are right out poised over the strings ready to boogey - especially the fourth finger.

Number 2 - lightness.  Many folks use far too much muscle to retain fingers on the string.  Heck, most of the time I’m not even pressing the strings down to the fingerboard, even in first position.

Number 3 - considering ALL the fingering choices.  Again, most folks – and I was guilty of this for years – don’t take the time to find the easier way.  Instead, they either accept the often second rate fingerings provided by the editor or their teacher of 20 years ago, or limit themselves to ones born of laziness or fear.

I was quite lazy about fingerings for many years, until finally certain physical realities set in to rule out inefficient ones for me. 

Now I look for every opportunity to go with the flow of my fingers instead of using my will to overpower them.  And it’s amazing how many choices start popping up where I saw only one or two previously.

And there you have it: the 3 most important tools to make your fingers' job as easy as possible. 

All the Best,
Clayton Haslop

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