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Drew Lecher


August 26, 2010 at 5:12 PM

The following is initially very time consuming, but in so doing our progress gains exponentially. As the skills and methods become second nature, we realize the most efficient use of our practice time.


A visual assistant—the practice log can help tremendously as it is a record of our work and achievement. Not just a record of time, we can elaborate on a basic time log by recording in a diary/log what has been learned and memorized each day along with the method of work used to improve the passage—what rhythms, double stops across the strings and metronome settings, i.e., 8th note = 80 to 136+, etc.


Logging with such detail can be too time consuming for the long hall, but it will set a pattern of work that is clear and focused for the individual to build upon. Try it for 6 months developing your own preference of style and detailing.


Then develop a shorthand on the music page, i.e., write rhythm used (#1-8 in Basics II, pg 13-14, with further variations for variety and development, plus varied rhythms that work with 3 note combinations, etc.—as in Rep Hits, pg 7) and tempo achieved with excellence. 


Double-stops and Repetition Hits are crucial to the success of a passage. 


Shifts are to be given a lot of attention, ALWAYS. Accuracy of pitch is second. Balance, shaping and fluidity are first. Moderate speed of shift, then slow motion, then introducing a slow grace note sliding to a long arrival note. Maintain the fingertip’s balance throughout the motion. Watch the finger nail—it is kept stable and everything else adjusts.


When rising over the instrument’s shoulder and top, think of the sun rise—it doesn’t curve around to get over the earth;-). Of course the earth is doing the rotating, but simply hold the instrument lightly and effortlessly with strings parallel to the floor and keeping it stable. Anticipate the rise by having the thumb diagonally back a bit with the thumb pad (fleshy part) in contact with the neck in order to support the instrument—it gradually comes under the neck enabling full easy support to the instrument. It is an active passive support in that there is literally no gripping or grabbing. The thumb is to have total independence.


NEVER grip with the shoulder and neck—this is one of the biggest fallacies in the world of violin and viola playing. It is not necessary and leads to tremendous difficulty and potential injuries.


Balance, balance, balance, posture, posture, posture—stand or sit tall, breathe deep and develop that ease of motion that comes when gravity is your assistant not the enemy. 


You will be more alert mentally and physically.


Often over-looked is physical strength—it is so important. Especially the hands and wrists should be developed along with the arms, shoulders, back, chest, abdominals, legs, feet and toes—don't forget the neck and head:-) I end up listing in essence the whole body because we use it all. 


In modern language—playing an instrument is totally holistic. 


Hope this helps—


If frustrated, slow down and persist.

If bored, you fell asleep while working.

If unable to focus, move on to another rhythm, tempo or change passage.


Enjoy your achievements, 



Author of 

"Violin Technique: The Manual, How to master"

"Viola Technique: The Manual, How to master"


From John Cadd
Posted on August 27, 2010 at 11:58 AM

Is the violin "naked"?       When the shift to high positions is made , what supports the violin?        Does the violin have to be in a "strings horizontal " position ?                            Is the shoulder pushed forward under the violin as in the Heifetz masterclasses?  Is this possible   ( or how is this possible ) with a shorter thumb?     Aaron Rosand has a thumb that will not reach round the neck in high positions.              Does the insurance policy on your instrument cover this?        Can a lady player  (or how does a lady player ) do this with bare shoulders?  (The last question is not for myself , you understand ).          An image of Helium balloons has just crossed my mind while writing this.    ( Not a comment on your post , I respectfully hasten to add ).

From Ray Randall
Posted on August 28, 2010 at 12:40 AM

Thank you, Drew. Your book is a most valuable resource for excellence in playing violin or viola.

From Drew Lecher
Posted on August 30, 2010 at 4:40 AM

 Hi John—This works for playing with or without a shoulder rest. 


Yes, strings are to be kept parallel to the floor or a tad higher. The instrument rests on the collarbone and the left hand. As one shifts up the thumb comes diagonally under the neck—pointing away from the player. 


In rising over the top the thumb will come to the Eing side of the fingerboard. This rise will cause the upper left arm to gently come to the back of the instrument thereby supporting the “strings-parallel to the floor position.” This is totally possible without the shoulder and jaw becoming a vice that would choke a horse, let alone a violinist/violist. (There is room for a viola joke here, but I shell struggle to use extreme self-control:-) 


Thumb length has nothing to do with this. If fact, a smaller hand is greatly assisted by the above as the fingers approach the stings with a better diagonal that relates to the lower positions, gives greater variety of control in vibrato and enhances agility to maneuver across the strings.  


The players posture must remain erect, balanced and free.


The shoulder does not need to come way under the instrument, but the instrument should be sufficiently open to the left in proper proportion to the players physical size and structure. Often a player will hold the instrument too far forward—almost perpendicular to their body. Generally speaking this is not good excepting someone with very short arms.


:-)If this does not work due to extreme tension and massive forces clamping on the violin/viola and pushing down and hanging on the instrument, it would be well advised to purchase an extra large helium balloon attached to said scroll via a bass Cing:-)


Ray, glad you like it…

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