May 2009

Violin TECHNIQUE/VIOLA TECHNIQUE: Posture comment from a viola student…

May 25, 2009 15:57

Subject:  posture, written in formal writing in case you want to post it to future students lol to show your own age…

After 4 years………… 

Dear Mr. Lecher,

I don't mind admitting that I'm wrong, but with regards to viola posture I am somewhat reluctant, partly because I was so sure that I was right--in that there was no difference in results between holding the instrument up or down. However, recently I began to practice with the instrument up, and I actually did notice a significant difference in the quality and expressivity of my playing. Thank you and you were right. Haha.
Ben T.
Ha, you 'have seen the light'!!! 
Now imagine that it will help you 10 squared. At the time you couldn't hear the difference I was immediately hearing. I had that problem when my teachers would correct something that I hadn't heard……then I heard it and it made a huge difference.
Just don't be so 'pigheaded' about taking advice for your benefit in the future…………………now, about that little bitty practice you do, and for such a big boy, too:-)))))))))))
This was from and to a graduating senior. It is never too late to fix posture—it works better, sounds better and, if only for vanity, looks better!!!
Play on—

1 reply | Archive link


May 8, 2009 21:26

 This is part of a series of articles dealing with:

  1. Left Hand
  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.


Bow Hold / Injured thumb


“I have a question for you.

6 weeks ago I dislocated my right thumb in a fall. The tip to first joint looked like it was at 45 degrees to the section below. I could only look once, it was extremely painful.  I haven't had a violin lesson since. Now the splint is off, I'm starting flexing exercises.  The Doc told me that my left thumb, for baseline, is extremely flexible.  Besides violin, domra and piano, I also do a lot of handwork and have throughout my life.  The doc is letting me use my bow for 10-15 minutes a day (I showed him my bow so he could see and feel it).  Do you know of anyone who has had such an accident and their outcome?  I'm using more of a fingertip hold, no bend in the thumb, unique bow grip.  I've read the "How they Play" series and don't recall my new method. :-)  I'm not complaining, at least I can make some music and it could have been worse.....  Getting back to my question:  Do you have any experience with a student with this situation? I'd appreciate any info you can share.




Hi M,

I am so sorry that you suffered such an injury—any hand injury to a string player is horrific.

I take it that your thumb is now in line and needs to develop flexibility. Assuming you hold the bow with the Franco-Belgium Hold [2b. 2) below], the most predominant hold taught these days—the hand is slightly squarer to the bow and the thumb also quite perpendicular with some flexing/bending in various strokes, etc. 

You will probably find the Russian Bow Hold [2b. 1) below] to be far easier—I assume you are not 6 feet tall with long fingers and long arms:-) Your thumb will be a bit more diagonal, pointing somewhat toward the frog and floor, and will not need to be so active. Excessive thumb activity is often taught with the Franco-Belgium Hold—good for agility but not required for playing well. Heifetz, Milstein and a few other 'modest' violinists used the RBH reasonably well, I think:-) 

Generally the RBH is more easily learned and is still what I teach when students are of smaller stature. It enables an ease of flow and longer range of distance, thereby getting to the tip without stretching excessively.

Having learned and used both, due to my size, I use the FBH 98% of the time.

In 1a below I mention placing the thumb on the "thumb-grip"—this will be a gentler touch. You could even put some surgical-type tubing there, though I am normally not a big fan of such additions. In your case, it could make a world of difference.

One of my students was born with his right hand fingers being only 2 slightly larger fingers. We use the RBH with great success and though he is very young and plays a 3/4 violin he pulls out an extremely mature and imaginatively expressive sound—he is a blessing and honor to teach, work with and know. Tremendous spirit and love exudes from his very being.

Hope this helps you and perhaps a few others. 

God bless and do let me know how you are doing. I pray it is a quick recovery.


Excerpts below: (pg X)


Bow Fingers / Hand/Arm

This deals with the physics of playing and handling the bow.

1. Thumb: “Ruler of All.”

   a. Fulcrum of the bow and placed on bottom/near-side of the “thumb-grip” (leather wrap) so it cannot slip through, between the stick and the hair.

   b. When using Flat-Hair the thumb should have a slight ascending bend into the bow and not be in contact with the hair – the palm will be to the side of the frog and slightly forward depending upon bow hold style.

   c. When using Side-Hair have the thumb touch the hair by rolling the bow, simultaneously bringing the hair and thumb towards each other until they make contact – increasing the curl of the thumb/fingers.

   d. The two points above, i.e., b. and c., will have differing hand/wrist/arm angles, with c. requiring a slightly higher positioning – take care not to do too much.

   e. The thumb must not protrude to the other side and should never touch the fingers.


2. 1st Finger: “Primary Sound/Tone Producer.”

   a. Place on top of bow in or between the two joints/creases.

   b. The choice above will affect the angle and location of thumb/fingers/hand to the bow.

       1) With a shorter, smaller hand and/or shorter arm, consider use of the 1st joint/crease (middle), as this will enable an easier bow stroke to the tip – a more diagonal angle of thumb/fingers/hand to the bow known as the Russian Bow Hold.

       2) Conversely, with a longer, larger hand and/or longer arm, consider placement between the two joints/creases – the hand will be slightly squarer to the bow with the fingers more curved. This is known as the Franco-Belgium Bow Hold.

   c. Paramount is always the ease and complete balance, freedom and flow of motion.





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May 6, 2009 12:06

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

Technique is the tool by which we accomplish the artistic.

How do you think of, view and order your bow?

Plan actions > Accuracy with Fluidity > MASTERY

This is part of a series of articles dealing with:

  1. Left Hand
  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.


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


“Hello Mr. Lecher,

I have a quick question about spiccato.  Should I be landing in the same place on the string each time?  At the moment I am not. If I am supposed to, do you have any suggestions as to how to do so while still maintaining the crescent bow?

Thanks so much!


Yes, we should land at both the same place on the bow and the same point of contact on the string.

The Crescent Bow will enhance this by requiring a fluid action in the wrist, elbow and shoulder joints of the right arm.

Spiccato: The point of contact can be tremendously varied. When we are first learning the stroke it is best to remain a bit nearer to the bridge as this gives a clear feedback and response to the bow and our sense of touch in the right hand and arm. 

Gravity: Use it or it uses us.

• Maintain strings parallel to the floor or slightly ascending from us toward the scroll. Gravity will now be our friend and assist in all we do. 

Try this:


• Use flat hair—it springs up with greater ease.

• Use small détaché strokes in the lower middle of the bow.

• Gradually speed up the small strokes until you sense the bow wanting to jump or spring up—slightly lighten the touch/weight of the arm if the bow does not indicate an eagerness to jump up and play:-) The German term is 'springen Bogen' and is a perfect description for the English of what the bow actually does. You want the bow to spring, jump and bounce.

At higher speeds the above will lead to "Spiccato sulla corda" or "Spiccato on the string." This is where the stick is springing, bouncing and jumping, but the hair does not leave the string—a most elegant and quick-silver (fast) spiccato.


• We can also place the bow on the string. 

Release a modest degree of right arm weight onto the bow, sinking in to the string.

• Then suddenly draw the bow, up or down, with a releasing burst thereby causing the bow to spring up.

This will initially have a crisp accent and can afterward be developed into a very subtle and suave transition.

The two methods above are my favorites, musically and technically. They are most elegant and can be easily modified to artistically shape the phrase as desired in a given passage. Rarely do we just drop and bounce, see Three below.


• Also approach it from a dropping of the bow onto the string.

• Initially do this with a straight vertical drop in various parts of the bow—lower quarter all the way to the tip. The bow is to land at the same point at all times—this will later be varied depending on the desired character and dynamic.

• When drawing the bow, we will begin having a ratio of vertical to horizontal. Be sure that the Crescent Bow path is highly developed at this stage or simply begin again with that concentration of effort. (Little bow strokes are similar to drawing commas.)

• Gradually adjust the ratio to have the horizontal draw of the bow be greater then the vertical drop. 

Depending on this ratio of horizontal to vertical, the character of spiccato will vary from crisp and dry (more vertical) to lyric and sweet (more horizontal). 

Additionally, as we vary the tilt of the hair and the point of contact the character of spiccato will change dramatically.

Further tips are in the excerpts below. Develop spiccato in all studies. With double-stops also do as string crossings of low to high and high to low, additionally alter the bowings. 

Spiccato—An enunciated, springing, jumping bow with evenly proportioned action and a clear ringing tone—play each note on a separate bow stroke. More individual then Sautillé, it will take on many characters of interpretation depending upon the point of contact, speed, weight, amount of hair and placement of the bow. From the air (1, 3, 4 & 5) and from the string (2).

1. Spiccato dramatico/Dramatic Spiccato—A more aggressive and excited style of stroke that lends greater individual identity to each note, predominantly done in the lower quarter of the bow using various degrees of Collé for added inflections.

2. Spiccato lirico/Lyric Spiccato—Consists of a brushed and broadened lengthening of the bow-hair contact with the string, tilting toward the fingerboard to the side of the hair, thereby achieved with greater horizontal action and less vertical height. (Lower in the bow.)

3. Spiccato secco/Crisp Spiccato—A dryer, crisper stoke, it has a greater vertical drop and rebound with less horizontal draw of the bow. (Higher in the bow.)

4. Spiccato sulla corda/On the string Spiccato—At higher speeds the Spiccato will be on the string. The stick will maintain a bouncing, springing action—vertical articulation—but the hair will not actually leave the string.

As in Sautillé, it is often best in higher speeds when the thumb, 1st finger and 3rd finger are proactively used; the 2nd finger simply releases away from the stick (do not lift as this action is tense and inhibiting); and the 4th finger is also released, hovering over the bow in a natural and relaxed curve.

5. Spiccato volante/Flying Spiccato – A stroke related to Staccato volante but of greater height above the string and individuality of strokes with notes. Also generally done in the upper portion of the bow with the added ability to remain in place or even recover territory traveling towards, or fully to, the heel or tip as needed via the Retake.

NOTE: These types, 1—5, often are mixed within the same passage and/or alternate with another bow stroke style to convey the desired effect.

Practice Tips:

1. Drop the bow vertically to the string at various points along the bow—note how it bounces—then catch or control the next drop, gradually adding the direction of the down and up bows.

    a. Flatter hair bounces with a crisp, very distinct response and angled hair has a gentle, less distinct articulation.

    b. Use the Crescent Bow, even in these small strokes, as this will prevent the usual stiffening of the wrist and elbow.

    c. Use a small Thumb/fingers Stroke, adding greater arm motion as required.

    d. In faster passages use less bow and keep closer to the string.

2. Set the bow on the string, at first in the middle. Use flat hair, weight the stick down so that the bow touches the hair (not the string) and then suddenly draw the stroke (down or up) and spring up and off the string. Maintain the Spiccato action. Apply points 1a—d above.

3. When done correctly, the bow does 90% of the work.

4. Do not tighten the bow hand/wrist/elbow/shoulder.

NOTE: Accented triplets are very good for developing evenness and control.

Détaché—The basic but all-important stroke from which everything else is derived – notes are well sustained and played with individual and connected bow strokes of any length.

1. Détaché Décisivement/Decisive Détaché—A sustained tone with distinct bow changes.

2. Détaché Lancé—A very quick, short and lively stroke, without accent and yet released from the initial start.

3. Détaché Porté—No initial accent due to a slight swell or sneaking into the note at the beginning of the stroke followed by a lightening and relaxing of the tone to the end of the stroke.

4. Grande Détaché—Similar to détaché with extraordinary length given to the stroke, increases breadth of tone and character that is well sustained.

5. Détaché Pulsé/Pulsed Détaché—Begin the stroke with additional weight and speed of bow followed by a release, retaining fluidity of motion and never stopping the bow. In certain instances the bow may minimally leave the string at the end of the stroke – make sure the return landing is of utmost elegance and refinement appropriate to the passage.

6. Détaché Lié/Legato Détaché—Seamlessly connected strokes. See Bow Fingers/Hand/Arm, 8c.


Flat Hair—Not a stroke, but a method or technique, used in virtually all but the lightest of touches. A most basic and important bow technique where the stick of the bow is directly above and perpendicular to the hair. This enables the player to achieve the fullest tones possible and the crispest, quickest responses in all types of bouncing and springing strokes. For greater ease and technical stability, it is best when the hair is rolled out from the thumb.

Note that this requires a slightly lower wrist/arm and pulled-back right arm positioning, as the rolling out action moves the hair toward the fingerboard. Its counterpart is the Side Hair. Also, see Thumbless.

(excerpts from, pages xii & xiv)


Technique is the tool by which we accomplish the artistic.


Hope this helps…


Author of:

"Violin Technique: The Manual, How to master" 

"Viola Technique: The Manual, How to master"




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