Practicing shifting for the first time can be, at worst, a frustrating experience. I remember that when I started shifting, everything that could go wrong, did go wrong. The target was elusive and random, and my wrist bent forward to attach itself to the wood. These bad habits stayed with me for years. Eventually, with the help of listening carefully, I discovered how to turn a heavy-handed shift turn into a graceful movement of flight.
Weak shifts tend to land in a hesitant manner, with the rhythm dissolving in mid-movement. From this common scenario, there is one bit of good news – muscle memory and distance of intervals are starting to make themselves felt. You’ll need that information when you speed up the shift. But you'll need to fix the hesitation.
There is an awkward transition from cumbersome to aerodynamic shifting. The trick is this: lead with the bow to insure that the shift happens at the same tempo. When you are trying to be careful and accurate, you may actually slow down before a shift and alter the tempo, but that is actually the opposite of what you should do.
A quickly-moving shift involves mental anticipation and trusting your sense of distance. It’s a combination of hop-scotch and tennis – even football! You learn to appreciate how soon you must initiate a stroke, and how quickly you must get ready for the next one. There’s no time for plodding.
How to Use Repetition to Have A Breakthrough
A shift presents a golden opportunity to repeat until perfect. Using a 30-second practice period, with a steady, incessant rhythm, you can “accentuate the positive and eliminate the negative”. (Thank you, Johnny Mercer and Harold Arlen!) Repeat the shift many times. Be rhythmically unrelenting, and commit yourself to not stopping. Progress starts to happen as you add a little here and shave a little there. By using this practicing technique, the ear guides the two hands to learning how to work together. It doesn’t involve much conscious thinking, but instead lets music’s natural process get a foothold.
Because of the interactivity between the left and right hands during shifting, you can experiment with faster bow strokes to help the shift. Simply put, when I rev things up a little, it’s more likely that my finger will find the target. I consider this extra energy to be part of the shifting technique. It becomes part of your muscle memory and your thought process.
I don’t know what we’d do without muscle memory, but it sure took me years to appreciate its value. Oh, it can wreak havoc if you’re memorizing incorrect muscles and methods. The memory doesn’t differentiate between the good and the bad. When you realize how indelibly it records every one of your movements, it makes you practice with just a little more attention to accuracy.
You might also like:
* * *
Enjoying Violinist.com? Click here to sign up for our free, bi-weekly email newsletter. And if you've already signed up, please invite your friends! Thank you.Tweet
This article has been archived and is no longer accepting comments.
Violinist.com is made possible by...
Discover the best of Violinist.com in these collections of editor Laurie Niles' exclusive interviews.