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Drew Lecher

VIOLIN TECHNIQUE/VIOLA TECHNIQUE: Left Hand Intonation Accuracy Action Interpretation

February 20, 2009 at 7:03 PM

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

Technique is the tool by which we accomplish the artistic.



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

They will be kept under the heading of VIOLIN TECHNIQUE/VIOLA TECHNIQUE 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 rotations, settings and measurements of the left arm, hand and fingers in combination with the contact variables of the bow hair on the string—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—everything is to be brought together in order to accomplish the desired intonation, dynamics and character of the music.

Your Mental Positioning Satellite is all-important in the above. We must be knowledgeable of 1) where we were and what we did, 2) where we are and what we are doing, and 3) where we are going and what we are going to do—past, present, future.

Don’t be overwhelmed by the numerous variables. They will free you to maneuver, easily flowing into and out of the various settings and positions of the left hand and bow, thereby accomplishing the passage.


Artistry is the fusion of technique with musical expression.


LEFT HAND—Repetition Hits and Finger Action

Everything affects everythingthis is true in all aspects of playing the violin and viola.

What am I suppose to be 'repeatedly hitting'?

Definition: 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.

Excerpt: “Violin Technique: The Manual” & “Viola Technique: The Manual” 


Having taught nearly 39 years, it has been my experience that RHs develop actions, balance and intonation like nothing else. Apply this technique throughout work in all studies and repertoire.


Repetition Hits (RHs) of the left hand fingers onto the string develop great ease of action with consistency, balance and accuracy of intonation. The fingers will be hitting/tapping the notes. The RHs are to be done with the change of bow or articulation of notes within one bow stroke, as with staccato—sharpening the coordination of the two.

When changing fingers/notes sustain the last note of the RH sequence into the following new finger/note, e.g., 2 short eighths each with stops in the bow for release of finger followed by a sustained quarter or half note connecting into the next RH sequence with change of finger. Do slowly at first and gradually speed up—a moderate tempo is all that is needed. Never allow tightness or panic in the left fingers, hand and arm.

Additionally, with release of each pulse relax the bow arm, hand and fingers while maintaining proper form.  

We are constantly learning to do far more then one thing at a time and must continuously assess all we do.

The short RHs develop quickness, agility and freedom of action. DO NOT LIFT FINGERS—they will simply release or pop off the string. Throw/release from the knuckles—finger should hover, poised above the note. Then repeat, hence Repetition Hits.



Absorb the tendency of the left wrist to kick/react out or in at the moment of impact—particularly with the 4th finger. The left hand and arm are to maintain proper form and position with no reaction and or tightening.



In the rhythmic sequence, e.g., short, short, long, the long note requires stability of the finger upon hitting the string assuring maintained 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:-)

Upon playing a note out of tune and/or feeling something is off balance, immediately use RHs in sets of 3 or 5—giving 9 or 15 hits respectively when simply doing short, short, long. Very quickly the note, positioning and balance become focused and accurate. After doing RHs of one or more notes incorporate that note or group of notes again into the section or passage.


RH without the bow

The RHs can also be done without the bow to great advantage. Observe the angles and balance of the fingers and how the left hand, wrist and arm line up. The hit of the finger on the string causes the note to ping, easily being heard. It will be softer then using the bow and requires our listening much more keenly—a good thing.


Finger Action

Open and close the fingers by expanding and contracting the palm and knuckles of the hand. This is good to do away from the violin both in the air and on a tabletop, etc., with palm facing up and/or down. When preparing to play a note, measure the distance and angle of approach in your mind, then hand, then fingers—they inter-relate. THEN freely throw the finger from the knuckle. If you miss, and initially that is common, release and reset the measurements of the hand, knuckles and fingers.


Maintain ease and balance.


Keep fingers down as much as possible. When using 2nd, 3rd or 4th finger, have the lower fingers on the string based upon the key and passage.


  1. E-1 on Ding to D-3 on A: Also place 2nd finger on the Aing. Not necessarily done in performance, it is of tremendous value in proportioning, shaping, molding and developing the left hand facility and greatly assists in furthering our technique for future repertoire.

Additionally, always keep the previous note/finger down when changing strings, practicing the given interval as a double-stop, e.g., B-2 on the (sul) Ging to E-1 sul Ding—this interval is a Perfect 4th. 4ths and 5ths flip, i.e., E-1 sul Ding to B-1 sul Aing is a Perfect 5th.


Remember the number 9. Just as 4ths & 5ths flip (both being Perfect intervals), so do 3rds & 6ths (Major 3rd to minor 6th or minor 3rd to Major 6th), 2nds & 7ths (M to m/m to M) and unisons to 8vas (remaining Perfect intervals). Sum total of the two numbers that flip is always 9.

Do not lift fingers—release them rhythmically. With fingers down while descending in a scale type sequence, they will precisely leave the string adding clarity and diction to the next lower note. This rhythmic release has the added benefit of constant relaxation for the various fingers and portions of the hand when they are not in use—similar to a light switch with power on and power off.



It is of paramount importance to practice in various rhythms, bowings and dynamics. Developing knowledge of the technique required to achieve the passage, such varied practice keeps us mentally and physically alert and agile, additionally preparing one for future repertoire. This in turn opens the mind and ears to harmonic structure that guides intonation and musical interpretation.

Determine whether the notes increase or decrease in tension, relaxation, dynamic, strength, gentleness and/or ease—and various other combinations of characters. Aside from markings given by the composer, play the passage at least three different ways—enabling one to gain skills of control in technique and thereby great freedom to express musical content.

Remember to study the accompaniment to your part, whether the score of a concerto, the piano part for the sonata or shorter work, and the score or other parts of a chamber ensemble. It is wonderful how much better we will play the piece when truly known in its entirety.


Pivot, rotate, extend, contract, raise, lower—modify—subtly adjust the left hand and arm as needed and when needed, programming all moves, actions and feelings into your Mental Positioning Satellite.


Hope this helps…


Author of

"Violin Technique: The Manual, How to master" 

"Viola Technique: The Manual, How to master"




From Leonard Young
Posted on February 20, 2009 at 10:42 PM

You know, the more I see your extracts, tips and tricks, the more I feel you should take up what you have even asked of your own subscribers - you ask whether your subscribers would welcome a DVD/video of what you are explaining in words - the answer is YES.

I think your tips are well explained within the confines of mere language, but they cry out for a VISUAL and MOVING picture of what you are saying.


From Anthony Barletta
Posted on February 20, 2009 at 10:55 PM

Thanks Drew, brilliant advice as always.  I totally agree with Leonard about the DVD thing.  Put me down for a pre-order.  Would it help if we begged, or locked you in your studio with a film crew?

From Ray Randall
Posted on February 21, 2009 at 1:50 AM

Thank you, thank you. Your articles on technique are strictly top notch. Definitely need another book an/or a DVD.

From Pauline Lerner
Posted on February 21, 2009 at 7:49 AM

I agree that a DVD would be a great supplement to your writing.  So many things can be understood better when you can see them happening in addition to reading about them.

From Donna Clegg
Posted on February 21, 2009 at 3:58 PM

Ditto to all comments above; however, each time you blog about your teaching concepts I understand the strategies a little more.  Still enjoying the book immensely.

From Drew Lecher
Posted on February 22, 2009 at 5:34 AM

I thank all of you for your kind support and have not ruled out the DVD idea. I am thinking actually about 2—one for the book and one regarding these types  of blogs and a few others.

Time is a major issue and I will put something up for those interested to see and comment on.

Donna did make a point, in that she is getting more of my concepts as she becomes familiar with my writing—which I have to assume is not totally easy.

I am trying to make it clear one thought and step at a time. 

Thanks for bearing with me.

God bless,


From Elinor Estepa
Posted on February 22, 2009 at 7:09 PM

Thank you for this part, I have been waiting for this, wow! its much more clearer. Your book has done tremendous help to me and so this blogs.

More power to you!

From Drew Lecher
Posted on February 22, 2009 at 10:23 PM

Hi Elinor—so glad to hear it and delighted you and others are benefiting. That makes it worthwhile.


From Ray Randall
Posted on February 23, 2009 at 4:39 PM

Yes, Drew, your hard work and thoughts that go into these blogs and your book are more than worthwhile. Your time in writing these for us is deeply appreciated.

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