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Corwin Slack


February 24, 2007 at 2:35 PM

I have played more or less continuously since I started playing the violin over 40 years ago but I reached a plateau in my late teens and did not make much progress until I resumed study about eight years ago.

One of the interesting "methods" I have seen is Ruggiero Ricci's work on left hand technique. The major premise of this work is that an advanced left hand technique requires "open" hand position. i.e. the hand need to work (without shifting) in a broader range than a 4th (or an octave over two strings).

Opening up the hand (a work in progress) has had definite benefits.

One of the hurdles I am overcoming is reading consecutive tenths in scale passages.

About ten years ago I picked up the Bruch Concerto No 1 and looked at the last movement. The only thing that seemed really hard was the tenths. I just couldn't discipline myself to move properly from major to minor and back again and my horrible technique soon led to significant pain. My only smart move was to quit practicing (at all) for a while.

Well I'm back and I found a way to learn tenths that takes away the initial confusion (which believe me leads to a lot of tension) and gives a great start to learning tenths.

The basic problem is to plan moves from major to minor and back again. Taking a cue from Joseph Szigeti who says to concentrate on the finger that moves the whole step when playing consecutive double-stops, I devised a notation that has helped me immensely.

In scale passages in tenths I mark every shift as follows:

S the hand moves a half step on both top and bottom
S (circled) the hand moves a whole step on top and bottom
L the bottom note moves a whole step and the top note moves a half step
L (circled) the bottom note moves an augmented 2nd and the top note moves a whole step.
H the top note moves a whole step and the bottom note moves a half step
H (circled) the top note moves an augmented 2nd and the bottom note moves a whole step

These marks should cover any major or minor scale-like passage in tenths. ( (For example the first two tenths passages in the Paganini 4th Caprice have augmented 2nd shifts going up (H circled)

You won't play perfectly in tune with this tip alone but it will take lots of work off the initial learning of the passage and allow you to focus on intonation and fluidity very quickly.

You need to make sure that you start tenths focusing on reaching back for the first finger and not grasping upward for the fourth. (I could write 20 more paragraphs on this).

Once you start getting the tenths with a detache bowing try to play the passage legato. This will boost your fluidity enormously and quickly.

Don't play through pain but you have to learn the difference between muscle burn and pain. Stretching always causes burn but pain (or numbness or tingling) is dangerous and is a reason to stop immediately.

From Julia S
Posted on February 24, 2007 at 7:26 PM
Right now I'm playing the Bruch third movement . I've found the things you described to be very helpful. What I always do is reach back then forwar, which seems to work.
From Laurie Niles
Posted on February 24, 2007 at 8:49 PM
Welcome, Corwin.

Indeed, I found your shift notation very useful in learning Pag 4...which I continue to learn! By the way, the Curci edition has turned out to be really wonderful, Gulli has some genius fingerings.

From Bruce Berg
Posted on February 25, 2007 at 1:18 AM
You are right on about concentrating on the finger that moves the most. This works of course with thirds and sixths as well. Also thinking of the first finger extending back helps the extension. Bruce
From Corwin Slack
Posted on February 25, 2007 at 3:43 AM
Szigeti's advice on focusing on the whole step is useful in more than double stop shifting. My teacher has an absolute rule that the hand shifts from one finger pattern to another finger pattern (not just from finger to finger or on a single finger). It is very important in every shift to plan the change in finger pattern and focusing on the finger that moves the most is very valuable (even if you don't shift on it).

One more thought on the notation: You'll note that when you are ascending H means the hand is expanding and L means the hand is contracting. Going down it is the reverse. L means the hand is expanding and H means that it is contracting. This is a little discconcerting at first but it passes quickly.

From Mathieu Boutet
Posted on February 27, 2007 at 1:04 PM
Is anyone familiar with the 3rd Mvm of Brahm's D Major Vln concerto?

That has some pretty tricky sections of tenths; gave me a tough time!!

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