January 2008

Thoughts:

January 31, 2008 22:33

In response to observations and questions —

T —
Sounds like you are totally on the right path:-)


Repetition Hits: (RH)

The RHs and the other studies in the book are all about efficiency of time. Many of my students are not headed for the conservatory either. Some do not have the level of talent, but they want to learn and love playing the instrument — I can't ask for anymore than that. Others show real brilliance and a few of those will opt for and apply themselves to be outstanding pros.

In teaching such a wide variety of students I have tried to find the most economical method to train my pupils, and keep myself in reasonable shape. Many years ago I left the traditional study books, developing my own method on the way and working it directly into the répertoire. Except when a student is required to audition with an étude, I now exclusively use only my book and répertoire — it works exceedingly well and both I and the students don't go 'brain dead' from the études. I did many of them in my own training — Whistler, Fiorillo, Laoureux, Sevcik, Kreutzer, Hrimaly, Flesch, Rode, Gavinies, Dont, Wieniawski, etc., etc.

This is not written to 'pump my book', but to point out that it is truly all about efficiency with creativity. I believe those that wrote the studies did so for their pupils and possibly the idea of others picking up on them — which is really what I did. But I do not feel that one should work through ALL of the studies ever written, as we would never play what it is all about — MUSIC on the VIOLIN. Simply use studies to the extent needed — including mine.


We should warm up thoroughly with various technical skills covering the complete fingerboard and a variety of bow strokes, then get into the music. If time is limited, it usually is, rotate through the technical work as needed and desired.


I love what you are doing with the RHs and the way you come up with expressive terms — 'archery' (“hit the bull’s eye”) & 'mosquito catching' :-) — I had no idea there were so many mosquitoes in Italy. You are correct in that most play the RHs too fast — initially I will have a student use a metronome with the beat equaling the faster notes — but not so slow the student dies. The metronome is easier to hear and they become familiar with sub-divisions. Longer gaps between notes are great as long as their purpose is focused upon. If the focus is lost modify the tempo — slower or faster — change rhythm or move to another study.

With 2-8ths and 1-qt (2 short and 1 long), I count the 3 RHs as 1 set, having my students do 1 set per note if excellent, but 3 or 5 sets (9 to 15 RHs) if they have been inconsistent. We will even make a game of it as the RHs have to ALL be in tune consecutively, or we begin again. This is also done in 3rds, 4ths, arpeggios and scales and the repertoire!:-) — what ever is being worked on.

When your student is successful with martellato in the upper half, it can be very good tonally to have them hook the 3 notes together with 2 staccato and 1 broad détaché connecting into the next bow's staccato. For starters, use 1 eighth, 1 eighth, 6 eighths portions of the bow. Then add a thousand variations upon seeing/sensing the need for the individual student.


Doing 1 scale, arpeggio, etc., with RHs is far better then playing the same 10 times — fix the error immediately with multiple sets, add a few notes before and after the original error and move on.


Practice

Your discovery of it being more beneficial when played stronger is true in almost every instance of practice. I have found it better to add the softer, more delicate dynamics and styles after the accuracy with a confident tone is achieved. Then it is easier to soften and MUCH easier to remain relaxed, keeping freedom in the actions. So often a player of any level of experience tightens up when playing light and delicate passages. Frequently this tightening is also due to bad posture. Keep your form/posture with energy flow.


The whole point of the book is to be extremely succinct so we can be totally creative. Intertwine the various aspects of the studies adapting them to your needs and that of your pupils.


Maybe I will get to that DVD……


Hope this helps —
Drew

Author of
Violin Technique: The Manual, How to master…
Viola Technique: The Manual, How to master…

Everything affects everything.

3 replies | Archive link


“GPS” –– 3.1 Upper Right Arm

January 25, 2008 23:24


How do you think of, view and order the movement?

Plan actions > Accuracy, Fluidity > MASTERY

This is a continuation in the series of blogs dealing with:

1. Left Hand
2. Shifting
3. Right Arm
4. Right Hand
5. Bow

They will be kept under the heading of ”GPS” for those who wish to follow the articles. I hope they are of benefit to you.

Intonation is one of the primary areas of focus in all we do. This applies to the intervallic measurements set about for the left hand fingers and also the contact variables of the Bow Hair to the string — the 1) point of contact, 2) speed of bow, 3) weight of bow, 4) amount of hair, 5) string selected and 6) vibrating length of string/position number are brought together in order to accomplish the desired dynamics and character of the music.


Your Global Positioning Satellite/Mental Positioning Satellite is all-important in all of the above.

Don’t be overwhelmed by the numerous variables — they will free you to maneuver, easily flowing into and out of the various settings/posturings for the bow arm, enabling one to accomplish the passage.


UPPER BOW ARM
Some of the points below deal with other aspects of the bow arm, hand, thumb and fingers.

Everything affects everything.


KEEP IT SIMPLE

Pull (Draw)/Push (tirez/poussez), Raise/Lower/Modify — subtly adjust as needed and when needed, programming all the moves’ actions and feelings into your GPS/MPS.


Excerpt:

9. Arm
c. The Upper Arm is the “Primary Motor” for the bow stroke — both Up and Down.

1) Pulls back to begin the Down Bow in the lower half and also pulls back to begin the Up Bow in the upper half of the bow.

2) Initiates weight into and out of the bow.

3) Makes a wing-like move for string crossings.

4) Lines up just below the bow when using flat/full hair, and raises slightly for playing on the side of the hair — along with the rolling action of the stick to bring the hair and thumb together for stability. (See 1. Thumb: “Ruler of All.”)


THE DOWN BOW:

From the heel/frog to the middle (the point at which your elbow is 90º) there will be a pulling/drawing back of the upper arm. Beyond the 90º angle the upper arm should push. Many players have the goal of a straight bow, but this is not truly the best path.

The most fluid and tonally resonant path for the bow and arm is the Crescent Bow path — flowing laterally along the plane of the given string(s). It automatically requires and develops a supple, fluid action in the wrist, elbow and shoulder. Tonally, the Crescent Bow is working in concert with the natural resistance of the string created by the bridge — the nearer to the bridge, the greater the resistance. The Crescent path is a very slight orbital path around your left hand or scroll — even when exaggerated it will not distort the tone.


THE UP BOW:

From the tip to the middle (again, the point at which your elbow is 90º) there will be a pulling/drawing back of the upper arm. Beyond the 90º angle the upper arm should push.


Think of Down and Up Bows as drawing the right hand right and left (out and in) along the plane of the string(s). The back of the right hand must keep its line/angle to the bow. The joints of the right shoulder, elbow and wrist are fluid and totally without tension — well lubricated hinges.


STRING CROSSINGS FOR THE UPPER ARM:

Simply raise and lower from the shoulder — a most basic and all-important move that needs mastery, after which additional subtleties can be added in the forearm, thumb and fingers.


Rhythm: ALL actions require a rhythmic control — whether a long sustained tone or a short crisp note.


LONG SUSTAINED TONES:

Long sustained tones should be sub-divided in the players mind. As an example, in 4/4 time it is very good to hear the underlying rhythms of the composition and their contributing flow/momentum to the given phrase. This is of absolute necessity for great ensemble in all music — duets to full symphonic playing and in unaccompanied repertoire. Literally sing the subdivisions in your mind making the whole-note crescendo/diminuendo/sustenuto with forward/holding back/stationary direction of the phrase in any combination thereof. This requires a progressive modification of 1) point of contact, 2) speed of bow, 3) weight of bow, 4) amount of hair.


A very important tip is to hear these quarter pulses in sub-divided 8ths or even 16ths. A tremendous assist in total focus on the musical line, it will guard against the otherwise inevitable long note with undesirable audible pulsations.

If you are not sure whether these gremlins are present, watch your bow at the point of contact and also the vibrating string. Any variation in the bow or string is audible and observing these will educate both your ears and sense of touch to the faults. Begin with open strings — when playing 2 strings the lower string should vibrate wider.


SHORT STROKES:

When accomplishing the shorter strokes, whether on or off the string, the Crescent Bow must be applied. It is as if you are drawing small little commas. This slight orbital action prevents the tensing of the left arm, particularly in the joints. On the string and off the string the basic action is the same — it all comes from the détaché stroke. Do not vertically drop the hand from the bow arm via the wrist — this will radically alter the amount of bow hair selected as the bow changes from down to up. You want to keep the amount of hair the same unless a deliberate modification is desired thereby changing tonal aspects.


THE UPPER ARM INITIATES WEIGHT INTO AND OUT OF THE BOW:

During the following do not tense through the arm and never through the joints.

In the lower half of the bow simply sink down the arm’s weight onto the bow and, watching the stick as it approaches the hair, continue to where the stick and hair meet — do not let the stick touch the string as this will produce a scraping sound.

Now gradually release and at some point begin to draw the bow — you are experimenting, so follow your instincts of touch and observe the results. To maintain the volume of tone on the Down Bow you will have to increase weight as you travel to the tip — in so doing you must not let the elbow react/twist in an ascending manor. This must be absorbed within the arm and the arm’s line maintained during the complete bow stroke.

Conversely, in the Up Bow with a sustained tone, lighten the bow as you travel from the tip to the heel/frog. Additionally do a slight lift off the string going beyond the strings with your bow hand, as if you have taken off from the runway in a jet — perfectly smooth, of course:-) Then return with the Down Bow for the perfect landing in motion.


ADDITIONAL TIP:
The easiest legato bow change for the Up to Down Stroke is at the vary heel/frog with your right thumb crossing over the played string. There is virtually no tendency to accent vertically in the ensuing Down Bow, as we naturally do not wish to slice our thumb on the strings or bridge:-)


It is of paramount importance to practice in various rhythms, bowings and dynamics. It develops knowledge of the technique required to achieve the passage and opens the mind and ears to harmonic structure that will guide your intonation and musical interpretation.


Hope this helps —
Drew

Author of
Violin Technique: The Manual, How to master…
Viola Technique: The Manual, How to master…

Technique is the tool by which we accomplish the artistic.

2 replies | Archive link


“GPS” — 1.2 Left Hand RH

January 20, 2008 09:55

INTONATION

ROLLS v. REPS
There is no improvement of intonation with rolling fingers — it only shows where we should have hit.

How do you think of, view and order your fingers?

Plan actions > Accuracy, Fluidity > MASTERY

This is a continuation in the series of blogs dealing with:

1. Left Hand
2. Shifting
3. Right Arm
4. Right Hand
5. Bow

They will be kept under the heading of ”GPS” for those who wish to follow the articles. I hope they are of benefit to you.

Intonation is one of the primary areas of focus in all we do. This applies to the intervallic measurements set about for the left hand fingers and also the contact variables of the bow hair to the string — the 1) point of contact, 2) speed of bow, 3) weight of bow, 4) amount of hair, 5) string selected and 6) vibrating length of string/position number are brought together in order to accomplish the desired dynamics and character of the music.

Your Global Positioning Satellite/Mental Positioning Satellite is all-important in all of the above.

Don’t be overwhelmed by the numerous variables –– they will free you to maneuver, easily flowing into and out of the various settings/posturings for the left hand to accomplish the passage.

LEFT HAND

Everything affects everything.

Do not lift fingers. Rhythmically release them and they will precisely leave the string adding clarity and diction to the note. This is why it is of paramount importance to practice in various rhythms, bowings and dynamics. It develops knowledge of the technique required to achieve the passage and opens the mind and ears to harmonic structure that will guide your intonation and musical interpretation.

Pivot, Rotate, Extend, Contract, Raise up, Lower down, Modify –– subtly adjust as needed and when needed, programming all those moves’ actions and feelings into your GPS/MPS.

Technique is the tool by which we accomplish the artistic.


What am I suppose to be 'repeatedly hitting'?

The RH is Repetition Hits of the left hand fingers, developing great ease of action with consistency, balance and accuracy of intonation. The fingers will be hitting/tapping the notes. This is to be done with the bow, sharpening the coordination of the two.

Use separate bows and hooked staccato with the last note sustained into the next as a variation, e.g., 2 short eighths followed by a sustained quarter or half note connected into the next RH sequence. Do slowly at first and gradually speed up, but never with tightness or panic in the left fingers, hand and arm.

The short notes’ hits/stings develop quickness, agility and freedom of action. DO NOT LIFT FINGERS. Throw/release from the knuckles — finger should hover, poised above the note. The following long note proves the stability of the finger assuring accuracy with balance after which we can add vibrato.

With the addition of vibrato maintain the core/center/plumb line of the straight pitch in your inner ear — the mind. This will prevent the vibrato becoming too obtrusive and thereby “offending” the character of the music — not to mention, the listener’s ears:-)

Also, do not allow the left wrist to kick/react out or in at the moment of impact. Absorb that tendency through the left hand and arm by simply maintaining the proper form/positioning. There is no need to tighten.

The RHs can also be done without the bow to great advantage, especially when one observes the angles/balance of the fingers and how the left hand, wrist and arm line up. This will cause the note to ping, being easily heard. It will be softer and requires our listening much more keenly — a good thing.

I apply this technique throughout work in all of the studies and repertoire, as it has been my experience that it corrects faulty actions, balance and intonation like nothing else. When I play a note out of tune and/or something is off balance, I will instantly use the RH in sets of 5 or 3 — giving 15 or 9 hits, respectively. This takes a few seconds and the note and positioning become focused, afterwards incorporating it back into the section/passage a few notes at a time.

Hope this helps…
Drew

Author of
Violin Technique: The Manual, How to master…
Viola Technique: The Manual, How to master…

Excerpt:

RH
(Rep Hits)
Repetition Hits of the left-hand fingers thrown from the knuckles to gain a freer action with greater accuracy — do not pound the fingers as in knocking loudly on a door.

1. The action is to be decisive and light.
a. For dramatic and/or intense passages we do apply greater strength, always maintaining freedom of action with flexibility.

2. Best done in rhythmic patterns.
a. For the longer rhythm, feel the finger hold the note like an electro magnet that you simply turn off when the note ends — the finger rhythmically and automatically releases the string.
b. The fingers must remain close to the string and above their note.


3 replies | Archive link


'GPS' –– 2.3 Shifting from an Open String

January 8, 2008 23:33

Also see other GPS Shifting blogs

How do you think of, view and order the movement?

Plan actions > Accuracy, Fluidity > MASTERY

Your Global Positioning Satellite/Mental Positioning Satellite is all-important.

This is Shifting-Part 2 in a series of blogs dealing with:

1. Left Hand
2. Shifting
3. Right Arm
4. Right Hand
5. Bow

They will be kept under the heading of ”GPS” for those who wish to follow the articles. I hope it is of benefit to you.

Don’t be overwhelmed by the numerous variables — they will free you to maneuver, easily flowing into any setting for the left hand to accomplish the passage.


SHIFTING

Everything affects everything.

Intonation is one of the primary areas of focus in all we do. This applies to the intervallic measurements set about for the left hand fingers and arm, and also the contact variables of the Bow Hair to the string — the 1) point of contact, 2) speed of bow, 3) weight of bow, 4) amount of hair, 5) string selected and 6) vibrating length of string/position number are brought together in order to accomplish the desired dynamics and character of the music.

The above statement is also true of shifting. The various parts of the arm and hand always work in concert together.

VIOLA — Shifting from open C to C-4 or 3 on A 2nd 8va:
(VIOLIN — a 5th higher or the same arrival position and note from the Open G.)

Try shifting from 3rd position to 6th position C-1 on the Ding. This will work as well from 1st or 2nd, etc. Also, if you really want the 3 to be set in 7th position shift to D-1 on D. (Yes, the shifts should be practiced with the respective notes on the Aing as well, but in this setting the Ding is often far better.)

Do an audible slide with the 1st finger. Upon arrival — make it a longer note initially — thoroughly practice the 8va interval with 4th finger (use a Hand Group setting appropriate to the passage and Key and/or the Beginning Hand Group — whole half whole (overall the best for 8vas). Additionally doing the shift with an 8va makes it even more secure and better in the long run.

Then use the extension 3rd finger. Note the change of angle in every part of your hand and the outward (counter-clockwise) rotation of the left forearm and hand. Here you can also shift the 1—4 8va opening into the 1—3 8va.

Practice the choice of 3rd and 4th finger separately, including the shift, as there will be other very noticeable balance and flow adjustments from one shift to the other. Do not go back and forth between the fingerings — MASTER ONE FIRST.

With each (4/3) and after numerous shifts in varied rhythms to develop flow, agility and speed with TOTAL BALANCE, add Repetition Hits. This is where you stay in the 6th position and release the 4th or 3rd finger as the case may be, and smartly set/sting/hit it down squarely on the same note — do this with 2 short 8ths followed by a sustained quarter, repeating at least 5 sets in a row without wavering or faulting pitch. If the placement is wondering do not even leave the string — simply lighten and set/hit again gradually and eventually releasing the string totally. You can feel if the finger is sliding around on this one. DO NOT LIFT THE FINGER AT ALL! Simply release the finger — a relaxing of the finger from the knuckle. It will pop off the string and all you need do is maintain shape and balance.

Do not use vibrato in the above until the note is consistently achieved, but do have the sense of balance, posture and energy flow knowing that you can vibrate and maintain the focused pitch and tone.

Note all the details of position and balance — where your left hand is, the thumb, wrist, forearm, upper-arm, shoulder, neck, head, et al. Everything is to be progressively balanced and proportioned as flawlessly as possible while shifting into position — having maintained it enroute and not adjust after you arrive. That is too late. With the finished product there should be no need of adjustment after the position arrival — the position arrival and note execution (perhaps achievement is a better word:-) should be one and the same.

Next:
Release the hand with the start of the Open C immediately progressing through the Bishops' move to the position — you will be floating the hand barely above the string (just enough to clear the pawns' heads:-) I know it's against the rules, but this is viola/violin playing and all is fair… Upon every arrival do at least 5 accurate hits of the note reapplying Rep Hits as needed. Also, practice the 2 possible Knights' shift moves — up the lower string and over (not used in this specific section, but most useful) and over to the Aing and up. The Bishop will be the actual move, but the Knights help guide and focus reference points as with a compass or Global Positioning Satellite.

I am assuming that during the shift you are supporting the instrument with your left hand lightly and securely balanced and with the head virtually weightless on the chin rest.

This probably sounds a wee bit intense, but remember you are learning these moves for life and they will all be used more then a few times in the repertoire.

The greater the thoroughness up front, the greater the success down the road.

Enjoy—
Drew

Author of
Violin Technique: The Manual, How to master…
Viola Technique: The Manual, How to master…

Everything affects everything.

6 replies | Archive link


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