I've gleaned much useful info from this site so I thought it's about time I made a modest contribution. This is my first post so be kind!...
I travel quite a bit with work and can’t bring my fiddle along to practice in my hotel room (probably a good thing!), yet I still like to do exercises which will help improve my play without the benefit of having an actual violin in my hands, so I’ve collected together a number of finger exercises which I can do literally anywhere. Some are standards and some I’ve devised myself. I’ve found them of particular benefit in developing 4th finger strength and control. Hope they’re of some use to others. (The last one is semi-serious!).
1. “One Hand Clapping” :- This is an old standard which improves finger control and muscle strength. Bring the tip of each finger on the left hand in turn to the mound at the base of the thumb. I usually try a variety of different finger patterns and speeds.
2. “The Stretcher” :- A standard finger muscle work-out. Start with the left hand relaxed and the fingers bent into a loose “C” shape. Rapidly jerk the fingers back, taught, turning the “C” into more like a “P” shape, keeping the knuckles bent. Hold this position for about 10 secs, relax for a few seconds then repeat.
3. “Left Handed Pianist” :- Improves finger speed and co-ordination. On a table or other flat surface (I sometimes just use the top of my thigh) drum the fingers of your left hand in various patterns, both slowly and quickly. I usually omit the thumb, but I don’t think this is particularly important. I’ve got into the habit of doing this one anytime, anywhere, e.g. while watching a movie in time with the music; it can even help reduce monotony during boring meetings!
4. “Power Fingers” :- Improves finger muscle strength. Pinch the thumb and forefinger of your left hand together and squeeze them together for 10 secs then release. Move onto the next finger and repeat for each finger of the left hand. Your thumb is usually much stronger than any of your other fingers, especially your 3rd and 4th fingers, so you should be careful not to over-squeeze on these ones in-case you do yourself an injury! These exercises are the finger equivalent of the old anaerobic exercises used on biceps, gluts etc. and work on the principal that if repeated often enough will increase musculature and strength.
5. “The Drummer” :- Improves left/right hand co-ordination helping to reduce early or late bowing. Use the fore-fingers of both hands to drum alternately on a flat surface. I try do this as fast as I can. You are trying to keep the drum beat as fast and regular as possible, like a drum roll. This exercise can be extended to include different fingers and even finger patterns on the left hand (like the “Left Handed Pianist” with a right forefinger beat in between).
6. “The Snooker Player” :- Just play snooker (or pool). The cue arm is your bow arm. When addressing the shot move the cue in a slow, smooth back and forth movement and try NOT to drum the fingers of your other hand!. Best done in good company and a nice cold glass of lager.
I’m sure people have many other interesting ways of practising without an instrument…
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