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Corwin Slack


March 2, 2010 at 4:23 PM

How many times have you heard a teacher tell you something and then years later you were wondering just what it was the teacher said. But then you make a discovery for yourself and it then becomes a serious part of you.

I have had such an experience recently. I am preparing the Brahms C minor piano quartet  (the link will take you to the piano score of the fourth movement, then scroll to measure 350) for a performance soon. The last page of this great quartet, starting at the pickup into measure 352, has three successive 5 note descending scale like figures. I have chosen to play the first and third of these passages by playing x44321 i.e. starting with an extension. At first I started with my fingers all extended little. It didn't work. It took a while to realize that the third finger must be set before the extension was placed. 

Voila! Totally reliable. 

Quickly this became a realization that any passage starting with the fourth finger is more reliable if the third finger is set and if for some reason that is not possible then the second. The first finger alone does not provide enough stability and reference to support the setting of the fourth finger. 

This is evident at the start of the third movement. After a long voluptuous cello solo, the violin enters in measure 17 with G# then D# on the A string. It is a very important entrance that must add to not disturb or detract from the loveliness that has preceded. It is so much more secure when all 4 fingers are held down on the string. In fact it is more secure when the third finger is fully set before placing the 4th.

In a perfect world we can find any note on the fingerboard with any finger but I am not in that world. 

Anyway to sum it up I don't think we ever learn a thing until we discover it for ourselves. The best teachers are those who teach us how to discover.

From Kathryn Woodby
Posted on March 2, 2010 at 6:24 PM

Absolutely true!

From Angela Garwood
Posted on March 3, 2010 at 4:39 AM

What you are describing is so true, and important.  Do you do much practice with double stops?  I know I have trouble trusting my 2nd and 3rd fingers to be accurate and regular double stops have helped tremendously with that.

Thanks for sharing and happy Brahms-ing!



From Bart Meijer
Posted on March 3, 2010 at 6:16 AM

Very true. Good luck with your performance!

From Marianne Hansen
Posted on March 3, 2010 at 2:34 PM

You're right!  I finally "got" the part about setting down a finger I'm going to use momentarily while playing a note on another string preceding it.  Which, of course,  my teacher has been telling me for two years now.....

From Terez Mertes
Posted on March 3, 2010 at 5:13 PM

 >Anyway to sum it up I don't think we ever learn a thing until we discover it for ourselves. The best teachers are those who teach us how to discover.


From Corwin Slack
Posted on March 3, 2010 at 7:48 PM

 Another place where this place the third finger first works well is the beginning of the Bach E Major solo sonata. Finding the D# first then placing the E natural makes the opening much more secure. This, I now recall, is how my teacher first discussed the principal that took me another 10 years to rediscover.

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