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The Mother of All Etudes

Mendy Smith

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Published: May 19, 2014 at 2:46 AM [UTC]

I was assigned a new etude this past week: Campagnoli #30. Here's a snippit:

Besides being a study in double stops, its also a study of bowing. How it's written is awfully confusing and I have yet to figure out what exactly is to be down bow or up bow. Then there is this nasty little double-stop on the 2nd line, 2nd measure, 3rd beat. I'm struggling with 9ths on viola, and can't even fathom attempting 10ths. Now if I were to play this on violin, that little feat would be much simpler.

But alas, somehow I need to either a) figure out how to get my hand to stretch that far without doing injury or b) master the art of playing one stopped note and one harmonic simultaneously then, as my first viola teacher described it, bail out and jump up to 3rd position, smile, bat my eyelashes and swear it never happened that way.

I think I'll take her advice and go with option B.

Posted on May 19, 2014 at 6:39 PM
I'm a violinist and a violist, and I feel your pain. I was never able to play tenths on viola until my teacher taught me a nice trick: Instead of having your hand in the normal position it would be in (where your thumb and first finger basically line up across the neck of the violin), bring your elbow further under the Instrument, and slide your thumb closer to the body of the violin while keeping your first finger rooted in the same place. This should allow your fourth finger to stretch farther than normal. When done well, your thumb should be halfway in between your first and fourth fingers.
Kind of difficult to explain it in text, but I hope that helps!

From Nigel Keay
Posted on May 19, 2014 at 9:01 PM
Concerning the 10th I presume you are stretching backwards not upwards? i.e. placing the higher D first then stretching back down the fingerboard to place the lower B. For myself that's the way I would have to do it, the stretch being possible.
From Mark Roberts
Posted on May 19, 2014 at 10:43 PM
play the d as a harmonic with the 4th finger on the d string, the next d play with the 1st finger on the a string.
From Ellie Phillips
Posted on May 19, 2014 at 11:29 PM
This will be my summer...
From Mendy Smith
Posted on May 20, 2014 at 2:27 AM
Nigel, yes in this case I'm reaching backwards with my 1st finger.

I'm also doing the arm more to the right and bringing the thumb more forward trick. That is how I can barely do a 9th. :)

From Nigel Keay
Posted on May 20, 2014 at 7:58 AM
I agree with that keeping the arm under the instrument is best; it seems counterproductive to move it to the right. For this reason it really makes the harmonic D version the more difficult option as that obliges the arm to be higher as well as more to the right. As for the thumb, well everyone is built differently and for myself it works just as well not bringing it too forward.

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