ARM WEIGHT TO HAND
I am sitting at the kitchen table and simply extended my right arm out resting it on the table.
Then I transferred the arm's weight toward my hand gradually raising the arm (not the shoulder) — this caused the weight to distribute into the base of the palm just beyond the wrist.
Then I loosely curled my fingers toward the palm and leveraged the hand off the table with just fingers in contact with the tabletop and thumb floating free.
Upon doing this you can feel the weight clearly transfer into the fingers via the knuckles. Do not allow the elbow to sag down, thereby losing the full transfer of weight. You can ‘rock & roll’ the hand and get a feel for different balance points. Do absolutely minimal arm rotation noticing how easy it is to keep the elbow from rolling and twisting up, causing tension to travel up into the shoulder.
This can be done on the fingertips, as well.
Similar to what we should feel when playing forte at the tip of the bow, draw an up-bow gradually lightening the weight allowed onto the bow (sustain the forte or vary the dynamic as desired). Either change bow at the frog with a light fluid action along the plane of the bow’s path or adjust altitude, maintaining the plane, and gracefully lift off the string—probably as Ray would take off down the runway, but he would lift the nose of the jet thrusting more of our weight to the back of the seat.
We don’t lift the tip of the bow; we raise the altitude—maintaining the plane.
Practice long détaché strokes with pulses. Maintain the level of the bow-hand with the plane of the bow’s path and mix in a little Crescent Bow to complete the recipe. Cook for 3 to 5 minutes a day until well done; apply throughout your playing—including tuning.
It should become a rich, elegant and delicious sound.
(Also see, January ’08 blog: “GPS” — 3.1 Upper Right Arm)
Sculpt the sound—shape the music.
Hope this helps —
Mr. Lecher, again I must thank you so much for your wonderful blogs. This one was short and sweet-but I used it and already felt such a difference.
You are such an inspiration for me and my playing-and I look forward to your next intallments!
thanks for another great blog Drew. Just a couple of questions.....
When you say transfer the weight to the fingers curled under do you have the weigh on the second pphalanx or the third before rocking and rolling them around?
I am a big fan of pulsing exercises. But I can`t help feeling there are two appraoches. In the first one uses bow speed and the minimum possible increase in weight to sustain a coherent sound. The other is to deiberatly use the hand dropping from the wrist to create pressure pulses. The emphasis seems to be qute differnet to me. What you are suggesting seems akin to the first type here. Is that correct?
Do you make ths distinction between source of pulsing?
Incidentally, I wa smystifie dfor many years by a comment in Auer`s book abut how tone comes from the wrist. Does this perhaps refer to the second kind of pulsing r somethign diffrenent?
I menat first or second phalange.
Another triumph of literacy from the prune department.
Thanks Brian. I am glad if they help a bit.
“When you say transfer the weight to the fingers curled under do you have the weight on the second phalanx or the third before rocking and rolling them around?”
On the table I have it equally on the 2nd and 3rd and only slightly roll back and forth. If I initially have it on the 1st and 2nd, I feel there is too much rotation to the left/inside, and the elbow through the upper-arm and into the shoulder immediately rise creating undue tension and improper positioning and balance for the natural line/plane and flow of the stroke.
I concentrate on maintaining the back of the hand along this plane, only inflecting extremely subtle rotation in any given stroke, as the need arises.
The focus of the blog was just the transfer of the arm’s weight into the hand/fingers and thereby the bow. This remains one of the tricky issues/actions for players and, as you know, until mastered can and will hold back their progress and tonal development. It can literally defeat the career opportunities of the professional.
Yes, I think there are various ways of transferring the desired pulses into the bow depending on the interpreted musical requirements.
Whether done with (1) direct even-weighting of the hand onto the bow or (2) a minimal rotating toward the 1st finger (assisted by the 2nd), the reactions caused—especially in 2—to flow into the elbow, upper arm and shoulder must be controlled, absorbed and directed in such a way as to not cause them to tense up and turn up—not the vegetable:-)—do they go well with prunes?
The hypersensitive relationship between 1) bow speed and 2) weight, along with 3) point of contact, 4) amount of hair, 5) string selected and 6) vibrating length of string/position number requires the absolute unity and mastery of actions and control by the player. These are brought together in order to accomplish the desired dynamics and character of the music.
Auer is always commenting on the wrist’s weight and I believe the above blog and present follow-up are actually in support of that concept. To me, the joints, i.e., shoulder, elbow and wrist along with those of the hand, are active hinges and the weights, proportions and balances must flow through them with absolute ease—no tightening.
I love Auer’s comments in chapter II, part 3, THE BOW, wherein he speaks of the variety of bow holds and how difficult, actually impossible, it is to discern precisely how the given players are maneuvering their fingers on the stick to achieve their sounds and styles—all wonderful and all unique.
In chapter IV he is again mentioning the wrist and its part in tonal production. To me it is the very ease and fluid action during the strokes that allows the weight transferring via the wrist and onto the bow through the various finger pressures and inflections. It is crucial to accomplish this without a reactionary bow arm that flails around based upon the weight applied to the bow.
When I do the pulsing action during a stroke, I feel the flexible stability of the wrist with the hand barely, if ever, rolling toward the 1st finger. It is more like a weight/release kind of move evenly balanced in the bow hold.
One of my main Professors, Leonard Sorkin (founder and 1st violinist of The Fine Arts Quartet) was a Mishakoff student, and Mishakoff was an Auer student. I certainly do not mean to imply a direct knowledge from Auer, but I was able to frequently observe at extremely close range the amazing subtleties of touch and motion in Sorkin’s playing. One in particular hit me between the eyes after I returned from my 1st term in London under Yfrah Neaman. As you personally know, Neaman spoke much of flexibility and motion in the hands, wrists, fingers and everywhere else.
Upon returning and seeing Sorkin performing with FAQ I saw his right wrist and fingers move in the up to down bow-change and vice versa. I had worked with him for 4 years and some of my lessons were 90 minutes and longer as he was amazingly generous toward me, but he had never mentioned, demonstrated or commented on this to me in those 4 years that I can remember. It was so very subtle and beautifully efficient—wonderful.
Buri, to be honest, I have know idea whether I have adequately responded to your queries, but it has been fun to ramble a bit.
Let me know how badly I missed…
It's making even more sense now, drew.
Drew, could you write a detailed analysis of the Wienawski Polonaise Brillante in A Major? Giving advice on what exercises a student could use to play it with more ease. What techniques should a student practice a lot in order to play it with ease? How should they practice those techniques? Would you play it with wide or thin vibrato? Does it matter? And What else do you think a student should know when playing this piece?
Please, as a favor to me. I am working on it right now. A little trouble is putting it lightly....
Thanks for your wonderful blogs (regardless of whether you write that analysis or not) :o)
It will take a while to get to it, but it could be fun…
Can't promise fully. Perhaps I can do a blog that is more general with the Wieniawski as a sample—it certainly has enough variety and challenges for the violinist.
Meanwhile, do one-finger arpeggios (all fingers), 2nds, 3rds and 4ths along with 6ths, 7ths, 8vas, 9ths & 10ths—just a few high-quality ones each day (even a few measures). Do not stress the hand and wrist.
Pulse the bow stroke with open strings—single and double—listen to the tone and pitch variables and refine it accordingly.
Have to go teach, so have fun:-)
Ok, I THINK I might have the beginnings of this concept. Just got back from working on Kreutzer #1, that feindishly slow position changing subtle piece of chagrin inducing heck. I was sort of using the elbow as a hinge to subtlely change the relaxed leverage of the whole arm to lighten or add more weight to the various sections of the drawn bow. The smoothnessof the tone appeared more even and the tone, while no louder under the ear, seemed more focused and intense with a mixture of a silky rich bite to it,is the best way I can describe it. I hope I'm not practicing this incorrectly.
“I was sort of using the elbow as a hinge to subtlely change the relaxed leverage of the whole arm to lighten or add more weight to the various sections of the drawn bow.”
Sounds like you are getting close.
Unless your elbow is particularly low or excessively high it should not move around much—it hinges for the flow of the stroke. Concentrate on pouring the weight via the wrist into the hand and thereby onto the bow. It should flow naturally to the extent that we choose.
I am delighted that you are hearing the sound modify and gain quality and definition.
You must be doing something right:-) Go for it!
drew, great and thoughtful blog as usual. simpletons like me need to read about 5 times to get some of it, and still not sure how much out of it:)
here is my question: when you talk about bowing here do you consider the difference in upbow and downbow or even with regard to the influence from gravity...
for instance, with what you have described in this blog, personally i feel it is tremendously revealing when i apply it to upbow motion where an elbow too high or too low allows me to experience very different tracking of the bow with string. with me, i feel that an elbow "a little higher"--may be it is close to your table elbow elevation description--allow me to bow with more sustained control and power, whereas with downbow, to get the similar feeling, my elbow tends to track lower.
so from a distance, with both up and downbow, the tip of my elbow does not track on one line, but follows an oval, with the upbow motion taking the upper half and downbow the lower half.
prof, say it ain't so! :)
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