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Drew Lecher


March 28, 2008 at 3:20 PM


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.

From al ku
Posted on March 28, 2008 at 4:41 PM
drew, first of all, thank you for your tireless pearls of wisdom. i have 2 questions if i may:

1. this is something i have meant to ask you for sometime. eventually i would like to get your books for my kid, but i wonder if you have a minimum age requirement:) to really understand your book if she is to read it herself? her latest feedback from her second grade teacher is: good, enthusiatic, animated reader but can improve on "prediction". any pics of puppies and kittens in your book?

2. during shifts, lets say from 1st position, to third, then to 5th, esp on G string, should the thumb stay at the same "level" for both 1st and third, and go under somewhat for the 5th for better reach, OR, can the 3rd position thumb already tilt down a little, that is, thumb placement is different 1st, vs 3rd, vs 5th,,,not sure if you understand me?

thanks again.

From Drew Lecher
Posted on March 28, 2008 at 6:32 PM


1. No minimum age required as nobody "gets carded":), but a younger student would need a little guidance — a bit of which I enclose with the book for actually anyone new to it.

I have a new student, 7 year old beginner — very mature with 1 year of piano. His 2nd lesson is tomorrow and I have already introduced Crescent Bows and Left Hand pizzicato in the 4th position on the Eing — only using 4th, 3rd & 2nd fingers with the open E (NO 1ST FINGER!).

Also have done the bow hold (Russian, as he is very small) and Open Aing.

Tomorrow he will start the book with Bow Planes, continuing Crescent Bows, the Beginning Hand Group adapted to his hand in 4th position on the Aing (3rd finger & 4th finger — maybe 2 & 1 as well — Rep Hitting the 4th for accuracy and shape, etc.

Depending on his progress he could be shifting in a few more lessons…

We'll see.

I have plenty of puppy pictures, as we have 3 Standard Poodles — maybe I should send one for every study she learns:-)

2. Yes, in that situation I would definitely be gradually, progressively and simultaneously bringing the thumb under the neck. An exception to this might be a relatively quick move up and back down again perhaps only playing a few notes where I wasn't going to continue with the same kind of vibrato and balance in the hand — then I would opt for more of a pivot style shift ala Itzhak Perlman and others.

The thumb should be truly independent and adjustable at any time to any need.

Have to go. Let me know if this helps.

From al ku
Posted on March 29, 2008 at 2:12 AM
thanks drew!!!

sounds great. how many books have you penned? the way to get it/them is via your website?

i am going to ask my wife to get them!

From al ku
Posted on March 29, 2008 at 2:26 AM
saw that you have 2 books, one for violin, one for viola.

the boss at home just ordered the violin book!

question: when prof galamian said: keep doing what you are doing, what were you doing? :):):)

From Drew Lecher
Posted on March 29, 2008 at 4:00 AM
Saying good-bye:-)))

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