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Drew Lecher

Thoughts & Tips

March 6, 2008 at 8:26 PM

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…

From jake bush
Posted on March 7, 2008 at 6:11 AM
I greatly respect your vast knowledge in teaching, and was wondering whether you could do a blog focused on learning vibrato (something I've been greatly struggling with) and something I know that many people strugle learning both how to and how to improve their vibrato.


From Drew Lecher
Posted on March 7, 2008 at 6:40 AM

Read my Viva Vibrato!!! blog (October 2007) and the follow-up “GPS” –– 2.2c Shifting plus Vib tip

Hope I did the links right. If not let me know.

Ask me any questions you have after that, and i will be happy to work a blog up for you.

Thank you for the generous compliment.

From Christian Abel
Posted on March 7, 2008 at 8:15 AM
Thank you Mr. Lecher for your blogs. That are very helpful. The analogy of the solar orbits really lit a lightbulb. It seems to make so much sense. My attempts at a stright bow so far have mostly focused on the end points (e.g. push out on the down bow, wrist towards the nose on the upbow) without really providing a smooth transition between the two.
From Drew Lecher
Posted on March 7, 2008 at 2:39 PM

You are most welcome and I am always happy to hear the blogs help.

Another little tip: (Your own description is very good) — just add an extension of flow to your up bow by slightly lifting the hair off the string at the very end of the up-bow and go beyond the string (take care to miss the nose — mine is quite large, so this is no small feat:-) and return on the precise same path for the down-bow "re-entry."

I am sure your teacher can guide you further.

From Tara S.
Posted on March 7, 2008 at 7:57 PM
Thank you Drew. I haven't been looking at your book lately (been busy with lesson and orchestra stuff) but I'll look up the sections referenced here since arm vibrato and shifting double stops are areas of emphasis at the moment for me, and I'm having a heck of a time. :-)
From Stewart Siu
Posted on March 8, 2008 at 12:52 AM
I'm still a little confused about the crescent bow - what is its relation to the figure-8 bowing? At both the tip and the frog, I would very slightly push towards the scroll and then back towards my head. So it wasn't "orbiting" either.
From Cindy Wang
Posted on March 8, 2008 at 8:35 AM
Dear Drew,

You're famous! :-P

So this is sort of totally unrelated, but I've been playing viola in a pit for Turandot lately and I've been having a lot of left shoulder strain from all those Cing passages. Knowing me and my death-grip any tips for how to relax?

Hope all is well!

From Anthony Barletta
Posted on March 9, 2008 at 3:12 AM
Many thanks for these wonderful blogs and insights. I'm a proud owner/user of your book - my only regret is that you don't live close enough for private lessons.
Thanks again and please don't stop!
From Drew Lecher
Posted on March 9, 2008 at 3:27 PM
Thanks everyone for your kind remarks and questions.

It is good to use as a reference and “spot-checker” — also, apply the addition of double-stops across strings as you see in the scale and arpeggio sections to your other lesson and orchestral work. When you go a bit out of tune and/or off balance, use the Repetition Hits to make quick and secure corrections. Show it to your teacher and they can assist you with the concepts.

Definitely use the Rhythms #1-4 in Basics II, pg 12, when working your fast passages in the orchestra repertoire, etc.

Stewart (& Christian):
The Crescent Bow is the slightly orbital path the bow is drawn on with the given plane/string. It is linear and lateral — no dipping or rising toward another string, initially. (That will, of course, be applied to the stroke as necessary in given studies and repertoire in the approach to another string.)

A very good way to develop this plane is with playing 2 open strings, as when we tune. The bow cannot waver in the consistency of the plane without a distortion of pitch/tone.

It is simply a curving of the path with an exact return along the previous orbital curve — again, very, very slight (1-2º). As pointed out in the blog, “Mini-orbits for short strokes, like drawing commas, ...... if your orbit is correct it is pretty impossible to have a stiff wrist and fingers!” (Also, the elbow and shoulder!;)

Perhaps this excerpt from my recently published books will assist you:

Crescent Bow
The most important technique for the development of tonal resonance and fluidity of bow arm motion.

The partial slightly orbital path around the scroll of the instrument (player’s left hand) enabling the tone to resonate with greater clarity and projection, additionally offering a natural way to free up the right arm’s motions through the joints of the wrist, elbow and shoulder.

1. The bow strokes are to be accomplished with a slight rounding-of-the-path, thus Crescent Bow – the curved drawing of the bow.

2. The down and up-bow paths are mirror images of each other.

3. The down-bow must have a pulling back of the upper arm in the lower 1/2 of the bow followed by a pushing out/forward in the upper 1/2 as the bow continues toward the tip.
a. The point at which the right elbow is 90-degrees determines the upper and lower 1/2 of the bow stroke.

4. The up-bow must have a pulling back of the upper arm in the upper 1/2 of the bow followed by a pushing up diagonally of the left hand for the lower 1/2 toward the heel of the bow.

NOTE: The Crescent Bow is necessary to compensate for the natural resistance of the bow caused by the string/bridge combination – the nearer to the bridge, the greater the resistance. It is like walking into the wind – we lean into the counter force.

So good to hear from you:-)

Perhaps the appropriate word is, infamous…
The pit can be extra crowded, but hold that instrument up!!! Strings parallel to the flow, don’t hunch the shoulders around (lift the bow arm to get to that Cing) and keep the back straight, upper torso floating and the abs taught — do breathe via the diaphragm. (You’ll look great!;). ALL JOINTS LOOSE.

Thanks so much, glad it helps. Let me know if you ever come to Chicago. Love the bright-eyed pic.

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