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Clayton Haslop

Those Annoying Little Finger Sounds

June 21, 2009 at 5:05 PM

Two weeks ago I returned from the City of Angels.  No recording sessions this time.  Instead I attended a special screening of the movie ‘Up’ – for the orchestra with my family.

‘Up’ was indeed an up experience - a touching, genuinely funny, worthwhile way to spend a couple of hours. 

And the music was more effective than even I thought it would be.

While I was gone, many emails poured in.  A few came with questions.  Here’s one you might find interesting and relevant to yourself.

"Hi Clayton. Greetings from Singapore!

"I received your Kreutzer for Violin Mastery (1+2) last week and started viewing them. From the intro, I read that you are willing to entertain our questions via email. I jumped with joy as I am currently without a teacher (though I do try to practice "with much thinking" 2 hours a day in addition to taking care of 2 young kids).

"Please enlighten me regarding my long-standing difficulties:

"For example, first playing a G (first pos, D string) then a B (first pos, A string). Short, detache strokes. Somehow when I lift the 3rd finger (which corr. to the first note), it will make quite a very audible ring.

"I have seen this discussed on Youtube, but the answer didn't really help me.

"What is the fundamental technical flaw there? I always thought I was quite good in finger lifting, putting down and articulation in general." 

Thanks for your help,

Renee, there are 2 possibilities here. Either you are drawing your finger slightly sideways as you lift it, hence the little pluck, or there is ‘surface tension’ developing between your finger and the string, resulting in a ‘pop’ when the finger is lifted.

In both cases I would take a look at the amount of finger pressure you are bringing to the string. 

The less pressure you can use, and still maintain the tone you want, the better.

That being said, in humid conditions a little ‘tackiness’ between finger and string may be unavoidable.  In recording sessions, in fact, I’m very careful not to lift fingers from the string at the end of quiet cues - many times I’ve heard sound engineers complain of having to trim those little sounds away.

As far as plucking the string goes, the cure must be pretty self-evident – lift straight up.  But again, using less force on the strings will make everything more relaxed, fluid and clean - and you may find that just doing this one thing remedies the problem.

Now, in my Beginner's Circle program I do teach a little left hand pizzicato exercise. It is excellent for developing control and flexibility in the small muscles of finger and hand.

This exercise though is not meant to be the model for left hand articulation in general. 

And one last thing.  In slow, quiet sections one can avoid the surface tension I talked of by sliding the finger slightly up or down the string as you lift it.  Obviously one’s bow cannot be in motion as this is done.  We’re talking the ends of phrases or before rests here.

So, this evening you do have my permission to take the night off to see ‘UP’.  In fact, it’ll make my day if you do. Enjoy the violin solos too!

All the Best,
Clayton Haslop

P.S.  To celebrate Father's Day and the beginning of Summer, I'm having a big Saleabration. Be sure to check it out.

From Bill Busen
Posted on June 21, 2009 at 10:59 PM

I'm not a movie buff, but if one of the more helpful v.commies is the soloist, I better go hear it.

I mean see it.  ;-)

From Pauline Lerner
Posted on June 22, 2009 at 4:26 AM

Hilary Hahn talked about this very issue in her DVD.  She said that the sensitive microphones used in recording studios are sometimes too sensitive for her liking.  They pick up and amplify the sound made by her fingers lifting from the string.  Her fingers sweat just a little too much to make perfectly clean lifts very, very hard to get.  The people listening to her would scarcely hear or notice the sound.  There is one really good part of the DVD where she is playing the solo part of the concerto with an orchestra for recording.  She is dressed in tight jeans and a T-shirt, with bare feet.  She and the orchestra try recording a very small segment of the concerto, and then she rushes into the control room and puts on a pair of huge headphones.  Immediately afterwards, she returns to the orchestra shaking her head and rubbing her hands on her jeans to dry them off and she and the orchestra do another take.

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