March 2008


March 28, 2008 08:20


Your question is quite complex, but I will hit several aspects — hopefully they will assist you.


My shifts feel a little heavy and

1) The obvious could be the simple, but this might just be a slight contributor — clean the strings and fingerboard and also wipe a damp paper towel on the neck.

2) Assuming that the violin is pointing down somewhat, make sure you hold it with strings parallel to the floor or 1-2 degrees higher. It is most beneficial to actually lift the violin a bit extra in both shifts up and down.

3) Do lighten the whole sense of touch in the left hand and arm maintaining the form/shapes while shifting. Very often the arm moves and the fingers lag behind — this is fatal to the effect desired.

4) PRACTICE RHYTHMIC SHIFTS: After doing well formed shifts, per above, slow and elegantly smooth, flowing shifts; introduce a quasi grace note shift — on the slow, jazzy side. Always use a longer arrival note with faster shifts. As you are able to maintain the quality, gradually increase speed, eventually to lightning fast.

5) In changing fingers — e.g., shifting on 1 and landing 3 in the new position ("End/Over Shift") — the arrival/guide note MUST ALWAYS be in tune with the new finger measuring it's interval distance DURING the shift. The arrival position must be balanced for the next immediate note/finger to be played — especially in faster passages.

6) DOUBLE-STOPS: Use both fingers on both strings playing only one string with the bow. Initially keep the non-played finger light as a feather and upon arrival to the new position add a little weight and play, checking for accuracy. THEN DO THE OPPOSITE STRING AND FINGER IN THE SAME MANNER — ALSO, VARY SHIFT SPEEDS PER ABOVE. Then, playing both, make sure the finger weight (quite light) is totally equal and the friction while shifting is totally equal and balanced for the 2 strings. (It is good to practice strong, more weighted shifts using the left arm’s easy strength to overcome the weighted and well shaped fingers — no need to crush.)

7) Very often a player will have the left arm too much to the lower string — balance according to the interval, i.e., 3rds are more around for the upper arm and rotated clockwise for the forearm as the higher finger is on the lower string, and 6ths are more opened out for the arm and rotated counter-clockwise for the forearm as the higher finger is now on the higher string.

8) Balance toward the higher finger.

The shifts are either jumpy (I practice lifting the pressure at a slow tempo but as I increase I don't think the lightening of the pressure happens anymore...resulting in a jump OR i try slides (which result in a heavy inaccurate arrival where my finger gets stuck somewhere in the slide)

9) Sounds like the jumps are caused by over lightening causing a hiccup in the shift. Just think smooth and flowing and capture that feeling when slow and maintain it when fast.

10) Make sure you anticipate the arrival of the shift/note. It is a bit like a chauffeur-stop, where the driver slightly releases the brake as the car comes to the final moment for stopping — they mustn't spill the wine or tea:-)

11) When 10) is successful you will not feel like you are smashing into a wall or pothole.

12) WARNING RE: 10) — There will be a danger of always sneaking into the notes and sounding tentative and fearful. This is to be avoided and the shifts should be played with absolute confidence and assurance in all styles and characters appropriate to the passage.

Without trying to over self-promote my book, I really do believe you would benefit greatly from it. I go into all different kinds of shifts, which alone is worth the price, and many varieties of intervals, rhythms and practice sequences, all of which are to be applied directly into the repertoire.

Take a look at the samples for studying and accomplishing double-stops on the website below.

Hope this helps —

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

Everything affects everything.

5 replies | Archive link

“GPS” –– 4.1 Prep for Right Hand

March 12, 2008 22:52


This is in preparation for working with your Bow Hand, Thumb and Fingers.

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.

The following should be done without and with the instrument.

1. Hold bow per usual keeping thumb, fingers and hand well formed.

2. Keep all joints FREE and flexible with bow pointing to the ceiling.

3. Now FREEZE the thumb, fingers and hand — they are NOT to move, even the slightest. KEEP THIS FREEZE. It helps to have the thumb slightly push up into the bow and the fingers and hand respond in like kind. Not too much, just enough to maintain the FREEZE.

4. Next FREE the wrist, elbow and shoulder joints of any residual tension caused by the FREEZE. Slowly and gently move the bow around drawing circles, arcs and straight up and down trajectories.

The above can also be done without the bow. Simply shape your hand as if holding the bow and/or use a pencil, etc.

Following, I will write as though this is being accomplished with the instrument — it should also be done without the instrument.

5. Now go into the actual path and plane of the bow stroke. You can choose any of the strings to start with and vary the sequence, doing both single and double strings.

Draw the bow stroke, whether Crescent Bow or straight, using an easy, comfortable and resonant forte (strong) tone.

Do this periodically throughout your practice for the next several days. String crossings are to be done exclusively by the raising and lowering of the upper right arm effortlessly from the shoulder.

Bow changes are to be smooth and connected.

You will truly learn how good your bow arm is — or is not:-) The bow’s point of contact is to be maintained generally near to the bridge for the given stroke, and the complete length of hair is to be used — your thumb will cross over the string you are playing on.

Vary the length and region of the bow for greater study and detailing of the precise action and flow of the right arm enabling maintenance of the point of contact.

This is also very good for the Son filé – The long sustaining of tone. It is the string player’s breath control and should be practiced with varied crescendi and diminuendi in addition to a level sostenuto tone. (Excerpted from my violin and viola books.)

The various parts of the arm and hand always work in concert together.

The Bow Hand will be continued in a few days, after one has time to incorporate the above reasonably well.

Hope this helps —

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

Everything affects everything.

2 replies | Archive link

Thoughts & Tips

March 6, 2008 13:26

VARY: Rhythms, Dynamics, Bowings


“Question: ex 2(a) pag 16:
Is this to be played 01-1 0-11 or 01-1 012?”

Basics IV #2 is initially written to be done with all 1st finger slides up and down –– so, 2a is 01-1 01-1 up and 1-10 1-10 down. Your other fingering of 01-1 012 would be a variation created by you, the player.


This is really much of what the book is all about –– begin with the studies as literally written, and then vary rhythms, bowings, intervals (Hand Groups) and shift intervals, hence #4, 5 & 6. In those, I am initially changing only the position shifted to and keeping the finger patterns the same. One can also change the key and that will modify Hand Group patterns, etc.

“Obviously, with creative thorough use of this material, we can be going at it happily for hours!”

I love this observation:-) Again, this is what the book is all about.

But how do I put in 3-3 and 4-4 shifting ? You say 'shift with 2, 3, and 4 to appropriate note\position' (top -pag16) or was that only referring to ex1?”

"Also shift with 2, 3, & 4 to appropriate note/position." With this statement, I intend to indicate that the player should modify as desired, e.g., Basics IV, #2a could be changed to: A C#-E via 02-2, A D-F via 03-3, or A E-G via 04-4. At this point one is changing the pattern substantially and actually writing their own study variation. As with #4-6, the shift interval can and should be substantially modified, as the player is ready and able to accomplish further advances.

Block shifting via the Open string:

QUESTION regarding: Block shifting 0242-0242 (sul A, A C# E C# — A E G E). What do you do with the Ist finger? Should you practice putting it down with the 2nd finger when slow and allowing it to release more as the speed increases? If you don't do this is it normal to find a certain amount of tension build up in the hand?”

I would let the 1st finger float freely with good form — not sticking up like a "flagpole." (It is good to practice with it being placed down with the 2nd — another very good variation sul A would be: A E D F G = 0-2134.) In either case, there should be no tension. The release of the fingers/hand for the open string shift should be a well-formed relaxed (released) hand, hovering freely (again, well formed) and close to the string until the next use. There is no need to actively lift the fingers — a rhythmic release is the desired action.


“pag 21 .... I was interested to find you say 'Keep 4 fingers down' to develop multiple finger vibrato. Just lately I have been having a couple of pupils practice vibrato in this way....and was just wondering if that was a good thing or not, (for beginners) since previously I've always done one finger at a time. What it seems to do is help with an arm vibrato and get the actual direction of the oscillating movement going in the right direction.”

Spot on! The multiple-finger vibrato can be a little more difficult for some in the beginning, especially when the player has a lot of tension issues. It does, however, immediately require proper movement — a huge plus. In some instances, I will use or combine single-finger and then later reintroduce multiple-finger.

Multiple-finger vibrato is such a tremendous developer of the arm-vibrato which so crucial to the very finest playing. In slow-motion training alternating with a more rapid and intense style, "both sides of the coin" are developed. When it comes to varying the speed and intensity suggested by the music, the finger and arm are totally coordinated. Realize that the complete arm, hand and fingers contribute to the vibrato action as it is the "sibling" to the shift, and the player will then have the ability to naturally balance and vary the use of the sundry parts. The joints are simply the hinges that enable the flow and connection of the movement.

MFV is absolutely necessary for double-stops and legato connections of notes with the left hand, whether crossing strings or on the same string. It also enhances a musically connected shift.

A fine player will have Arm, Hand & Finger Vibrato.


“CRESCENT BOW—A couple of images really hit me in your blog thingy. The path to a bow that travels in right direction (straight) seems so arduous at times that I despair of ever being able to teach it well. My latest thing was to sit there with a target board which your bow is supposed to 'tap' when you get to the tip. I mean the frog end should hit the target and you get points, etc . This worked, sort of. But there is a basic reluctance under normal conditions to have a straight bow, when we are not playing the game. When you said the word orbit .... something seemed to light up in my mind and I have this picture of your head being the sun and your bow and bow hand are the earth. And that's how you don't want to travel and that's how everyone travels at the beginning. You have to make your left hand the sun! 'Even when quite exaggerated it will not distort the tone'
Mini-orbits for short strokes, like drawing commas, ...... if your orbit is correct it is pretty impossible to have a stiff wrist and fingers! This image seems to be good so far,
Also if a kid is set to play at the frog and the bow tip is behind the left ear .... I just have to say 'where's the sun?' and it gets sorted out right away.


The truly straight bow, kept perpendicular to the given string(s), can be accomplished with inordinate amounts of work, frustration and thereby tension — all of which are not desired — and then we are to have free-flowing motion with a beautiful resonant tone! Again — a constant struggle for virtually all players.

The Crescent Bow simply flows and is far easier to achieve a beautiful sound. I will go so far as to say that a player that does not do this will always have a less beautiful sound then if they do the Crescent Bow.

A few years ago, one of my former students was playing in a Master Class by Zukerman — it was held at DePaul University in Chicago. Another of my students was observing. The later student told me Zukerman was dismissing everyone to a practice room to achieve the "hook-out" at the tip — the Crescent Bow. When they returned he would teach them if they could do it, and of course, they could:-) It is not difficult just a bit different to what we have all been taught with regards to the straight bow.

CURVES FLOW BETTER for the mechanics of the bow arm and hand, and the Crescent Bow path has laws of physics on its side.

When the great artists of the past diagonally angle the up and down bows, they are in essence approaching the Crescent Bow, but with a more chiseled angularity — it also works, but not as easily or as well.

Many times artists will curve the bow’s path around their head — a reverse Crescent Bow. A classic time to do this would be the Bach G Minor Unaccompanied Sonata, Fugue. It begins with 3 8th notes leading to the downbeat, also an 8th note. Do it in the upper-half and “stylize it” orbiting your head. I used to do it in imitation of Szeryng — not a bad violinist to imitate/emulate:-) Mind you, he did it very well AND it looked SO COOL — but it really isn’t as flowing and sensitive to musically subtle use of the bow and arm. Try it. You can also do the first 4 notes of Beethoven’s 5th at the heel/frog of the bow and notice the tonal and touch control differences.

(Remember that the Crescent path is only slightly orbital to the scroll or player’s left hand.)


“The road to being a good teacher is never never ending.” TRC

This is what makes it so fascinating and challenging — definitely not "piece-work" in the factory. I have been learning/teaching for almost 38 years plus the first 10 of study. I can honestly say that I have not ever been bored with the process — frustrated at times, but never bored:-)

RE: Prep for Future Music Performance Majors

A two-year window of time to prepare an audition for a major conservatory is preferable. Sometimes a student will not be sure of such a career choice that early, but I start choosing appropriate repertoire if I think they might be considering music as a profession. This would include a major concerto and unaccompanied Bach along with Paganini Caprices, if the student is of that level, otherwise etudes such as Kreutzer, Dont, Gavinies or Rode.

Thank you for the questions and observations. I hope my responses are helpful to others, as well.

Take care and God bless,

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

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