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Corwin Slack

The violin is not a piano....(but maybe its an organ)

March 9, 2008 at 1:27 AM

For nigh on 29 years now the organ has been a very active part of my life. I don't play it at all. My wife does. I was describing my last post to her on holding fingers down and preparing fingers and she reminded me of the challenge of playing the organ. The organ only makes a tone when a key is held down. There is no pedal for sustaining like on the piano. Organists have to learn how to keep fingers down on notes and how to slither onto the next chords in order to create a real legato sound. They do a lot of planning.

It really is this way on the violin. It isn't just a matter of lifting and dropping the fingers like hammers. The violin would sound pretty clunky if all we did was drop a finger down to play a note. In fact probably half the time we sound a note by lifting a higher finger on an already placed note. We can enhance this by thinking of different ways to move the fingers on the strings. We can slide the fingers lightly across strings (practice ascending scales in 4ths to see what this means or a descending scale in sixths). We can roll the finger or the hand to the right to stop a note on an adjacent string. We can squeeze the string slightly to the left to cover a lower string (practice ascending scales in sixths without lifting the fingers or dscending scales in fourths).

This also means that we need to be conscious of how far to the left or right we place of finger to optimize the motion. This is a lot of thinking and planning but we don't have to do it very long before this becomes second nature. When we do this we find just how early we can prepare a note. Frequently it s a lot sooner than one thinks.

This really becomes a necessity when one starts to play harder etudes and studies that require multiple stopping. But the payoff for starting the simplest studies with this mindset would be enormous.

From Neil Cameron
Posted on March 9, 2008 at 1:04 PM
As an interesting parallel to your thoughts, you might find this recording of Andrew Manze doing the famous Toccata and Fugue in Dmin on violin interesting:


From Drew Lecher
Posted on March 9, 2008 at 4:05 PM
Great points!
Also, the resonance retained by holding a note after we are off it with the bow is wonderful — especially in Bach, which so often needs to sound like the magnificent cathedral organs.

Thanks for posting the Manze!

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