Do you have a good hand-eye coordination?

March 16, 2009 at 02:43 AM ·

Hi just a little question!

I did not want to mentioned again the word "sport" in my title because I'm sure I'll would have got my two legs broken tomorrow while getting out of my house for all the discussions I made here considering the violin like a... sport (can't avoid the word here...)

But, I had a though this afternoon that made me realize many things...   I just came back from a not to bad rehearsal (considering how busy I am with school these days...) and while driving though that what I considered nice bot not extraordinairy was actually extraordinairy for someone that is not even able to catch/throw a ball correctly, who's physical teachers has always said to my parents that I lacked body coordination, who's not able to climb a mountain fast because I miss balance, not able to roll on myself in a swimming pool or do gymnastics at school because I don't feel my body in the space, who's brother and have a diagnostic serious coordination problem (In our family, it is genetic but my brother was by far the worst)... 

I don't want to comlpain because I am able to do all my daily stuff ok but for complex tasks like violin, I've always had to work much much harder that everyone to succed to be equal.  At least, for now, we can say that these crazy practices  ( I don't have much time but I mean the amount of practice necessary per action) worked but I am so afraid that it will not be possible to get better one day! That's call the natural selection!  (like Darwin told) I don't want to be naturally eliminated (to play certain works eventually) because of this!  

However, I was just curious to know if you have a good hand-eye coordination in other tasks like sports, dance whatever... 

Are they some like me? Is it possible by hard training to be good in something very complex like violin but terrible in simpler things (like throwing a ball...). Mentally it is possible to be very bright in some things and totally stupid in others (I heard Einshtein was like this... don't know if it is true) but is it possible in complex hand-eye coordination stuff (or hand only for those who play their eyes shot)  

By the way, I have never been able to play with my eyes shut, is this a sign that I lack coordination?  I also dislike it so maybe I'm just not trained for this? My teacher said that in Russia, because of electrical problems...  they often had to play in the dark or with candles etc.  She said that it helped her to develop her "feel" of the instrument! Should I play in the dark? I am afraid to scrap my nice violin (if I hit it violently with the bow because I don't see anything!)

So just curious to know about the average eye-hand coordination of people here + knowing if you know some students that were not able to pass to higher levels because of this! I hope that no... but be honnest!

Have a nice day!


as always I enjoy so much your comments and no response is silly ennough for me, you know me...   lol :)

Replies (30)

March 16, 2009 at 04:04 AM ·

Bonsoir Anne-Marie,

My Russian teacher also emphasizes a lot on the inner feeling. For me it definitely helps, my techniques improved clearly  once I'm able to 'feel' the violin.

In my country during the period 1978~1982 we did have the problem of electricity (no electricty 3 nights per week) . I had to practice in the dark as your teacher explained.

My trick was just doing scale at first. I recall that I practiced scale too much such that I can doing scale and keeping a conversation at the same time (!!!). Then  I became next able to play pieces totally in the dark. On the down side I started to memorize all the pieces that I'm studying, then now my sight-reading & playing ability is very bad.

For doing scale, no need to use a fine instrument,  you can use a cheap practising violin when trying to play in the dark.

I guess that professional violinists are certainly able to play in the dark because imho the feeling is very important. I believe the inner feeling allows the player to re-adjust even before he/she hears the sound. Am I mistaken?

best regards.

March 16, 2009 at 04:12 AM ·


I often fele in the dark when playing...

I don`t know about this hand eye thingy.   Mine is srewed by thinking.   If I react purely reflexivly my speed and cordination is fantastic.  If I pause for a fraction and think I fall over while trying to lick an oce cream.



But my spellingns definitley improving

March 16, 2009 at 04:39 AM ·

I'm wondering about your definition of the phrase "hand-eye." For me, the phrase has more to do with accuracy in projectile motion, either doing or receiving (throwing a ball or catching it, for instance). That may be a very different type of skill than the fine motor skills of string playing.

A quarterback needs to judge time, distance, and vector relationships, but he might not be able to make fine finger motions.

March 16, 2009 at 07:19 AM ·

Before we talk about hand-eye, I think its first to understand mind-body. Your mind is slow, compared to how fast muscle memory is. I think your problem Anne-Marie is that you think too much. Thinking when your reading music, so your mind is interpreting the music, thinking about where your fingers go, how much pressure to use on your bow, how many inches you need of bow stroke etc etc etc. I can play in the dark, upside down or with my violin behind my back its nothing astonishing its all muscle memory.

I dont think you have to be bred or have a genetic trait to play the violin everyone can. You can see this in videos of professionals, very good violinist sometimes look stiff or their vibrato looks akward or tense compaired to other professional violinist. Everyone has pros and cons.There are only small pros genetics can give you though. For example a "pro" i have is that all my fingers are double jointed. They help a lot when I play I can apply a lot of pressure with one finger alone (without the power of the hand and wrist) just because of my double joints. Out of all my fingers my left pinkey is single jointed, so when I push down too hard or too fast or too sudden I might catch my pinkey by surprise and it will "fold" under the pressure. Because my middle knuckle lacks the strength my other fingers have.

Some exercises you can try are all mental exercises. They require a lot of thinking to do, because once you think and "jump start" it your muscles will have a new found memory and in the future you will be able to do it without thinking. For example if you put your hand down like you where to play the piano can you lift you index and ring finger up together, while keeping your other fingers down? If you can put those down, now try to do it with your middle and pinkey fingers. If you can do that then practice doing them in a rotation, index-ring, middle-pinkey, index-ring, middle-pinkey and so forth. Coordination is not genetic is a acquired ability; it is muscle memory. You can eat in the dark cant you? Its because you have been doing that mouth to hand motion so many times. Practice your mind, and in the process your body will memorize it =)

If you dont believe me and you want a little..."motivation" join a martial arts gym. I do mixed martial arts for recreation, thats demands reflex because if you dont want to get hit your going to have to get reflex pretty fast. And your question on the Hand to Eye coordination, there is a simple exercise I use to do when I first started out boxing is to punch a speed bag. You can get a simple one that is air filled to practice on. I also play A LOT of video games, and that requires lots of hand eye coordination, pick up a Xbox 360!

March 16, 2009 at 08:20 AM ·

 Hi Anne Marie, interesting post on my favourite topic :)

If you consider all the aspects of coordination - strength, speed, agility, precision, balance - you can see that a person could have a difficulty in one area that didn't necessarily impact on other areas. then on top (or underneath ) that is the ability to 'motor plan' in other words, observe a skill, work out how to do the skill, and then perform the skill.  Having done it, reflecting on its accuracy, then correcting it next time until its right.  That motor planning depends on getting firstly a good awareness of what you plan to do and how it felt to do it, then how the action could be changed to do it better, or different.

Some people are really efficient at getting all of that right the first time - Al Ku's daughter, I suspect, is someone who can learn how to do very complex movements just by watching, these kids almost rehearse in their brain (not consciously) and then output really accurate actions. 

Other people do not have it so easy, maybe you don't get the feedback as efficiently so have to rely more on seeing the result, comapring to desired,  and lots of practise until to you gradually rectify the movement. But once you have had those practise opportunities you can produce good quality (well coordinated) movement.  If that is the case for you then its only your own motivation and opportunity to practise properly and be taught properly that should limit where you get to, within reason and the constraints of all the other things discussed here at length about starting at a later age,  talent vs opportunity etc.

If, on the other hand you plan the movement quickly enough, but because of the type of muscle fibre and the efficiency of the motor neurone transmission you don't p[roduce the movement with that efficeincy you need.  That is probably something more physiological, and I would think that it would always impair the ability to become highly skilled at playing - maybe that person will get to the adavanced repertoire, but there are different levels of playing that stuff, and they would probably not be considered the most virtuostic.

I'd suggest that the people who are outstanding on violin probably do have decent coordination across a range of activities, because violin is so much a total coordination activity. I am aware of Heifetz being good in  this regard, and Vengerov think I read somewhere. Many others possibly could be, if they had the opportunity to learn and practise.

March 16, 2009 at 08:59 AM ·

'chris Liu wrote:

Coordination is not genetic - I would disagree there,  Coordination is very much a genetic thing. THe nature of our muscle fibres is genetically (and perhaps, environmentally, but in utero) determined.  the muscle memory is not actually in the muscles, it is in the brain - the brain fomrs those little engrams of muscle contraction and sequencing that allow complex movement.  Certainly as Chris wrote "Some exercises you can try are all mental exercises. They require a lot of thinking to do, because once you think and "jump start" it ...." is true - corollary discharge is like a jump start and it prepares the muscle fibres to act even as soon as you think about the movement. I often explain it with the example of picking up a very light bag that you thought would be very heavy. It gets practically hurled over your shoulder because as soon as you thought about picking it up, your engram for picking up a heavy bag went into play, prpeparing the muscles to contract at a certain tension in a certain sequence. But then it wasn't needed but becasue of the feed forward nature of the task, there was no time to correct it.  Again, a well coorindated person can form those engrams by observing someone else.  Ohters don;f form an efficeint engram - you will see that they have a slightly different approach each time, not because it is gradually getting more accurate, but becasue there is nothing going to the autopilot part of their brain. Every time is like a new occasion, and they don't easily rectify a poor approach to become more accurate (that is another aspect of the poor motor planning I was referring to earlier)

In regard to violin, the engrams are formed for all sorts of things - holding the bow and moveing it, moving it at different plaing p0ints, doing different strokes, your fingers on the strings, shifting, a pattern or scale that is repeated. As all of these use a different amount of tactile sensation vs movement, you may be better at some thatn others.

March 16, 2009 at 11:42 AM ·

When it comes to eye-hand coordination  in sports, I'm a klutz; perhaps that's why I tried so hard in music...something I could demonstrate some level of success

March 16, 2009 at 11:47 AM ·

I'm klutzy and bad at many sports, pretty much all team sports like soccer, volleyball, basketball, etc.  Basically, I can't throw balls, or catch them, or keep track of too many people on the field at once.  But I seem to be good at fine motor skills, like sewing and typing.  I taught myself to play the piano--not that well, but the problem isn't my fingers, it's the lack of lessons.  And I'm pretty good at individual sports like swimming and skiing.  I like tennis, but I'm not very good.

Maybe it depends on what you mean by "high level."  Joshua Bell was some kind of teen tennis champion, and I've heard it suggested that to reach that high of a level on violin, that kind of motor coordination is helpful.  For me, that level in either field is so far out of reach it's just not even worth thinking about.

March 16, 2009 at 03:05 PM ·

i tend to think that violin learning involves many aspects of mind-body-whatever, with hand-eye coordination being just one aspect among hundreds of factors.

i think overall, there should be a healthy body, healthy mind along with a healthy attitude.  the former 2 are not difficult to obtain and maintain, but keeping a healthy attitude is challenging because there are just too many ups and downs in the journey.  to me that is where the money is and should be the main driving force.  wanting something too much too early too bad is often as unhelpful and time wasting as not interested to try hard.  both are not in tune with good productivity. 

i also agree with others that with similar  neurological  baseline, individuals often have different sets of activities that they have natural affinity for.  one can be good in swimming and violin but not that good with jogging and piano, for instance.  and as murphy law has it,, they LOVE jogging and piano, hahaha!

March 16, 2009 at 08:44 PM ·

Hi Anne-Marie

I'm a bit like Karen. I'm clever with my hands and quite good in drawing & sculpting workshops. However, I was too clumsy such that when I was young, none of my friends / classmates wanted me in their team when they played sport (soccer, basket ball etc).  That 's why during my young age, I rather stayed home and played guitar (at 10). I managed pretty well with the guitar (self-teach) but later I could not do that good with the violin (at 15), even I had a teacher. 

Later, I've recognized that playing guitar (or piano) is very different, because the player just sit and uses only the finger's muscles. For the violin one has to control fine mucles of the hand and fingers, and the muscles of the entire body (shoulder, arms, posture etc ...). This may explain why I obtained fruitful guitar result but I had a very hard time learning violin.

I had stopped playing violin for about 10 years and had played sports instead. The one which helps me a lot is Karate, since martial art requires lot of inner control. But be careful if you want to try martial art, because there are 'hard' and "soft" martial art schools , and the first one may not be compatible to violin playing. I was very lucky because I learned a relatively "soft' Karate, called Goju, and I did not have problem to come back to the violin. 

Bracket: { In general, Karate is considered as 'hard way' technique, even Goju Ryu. There is much softer and fluide martial art  from Wutan school, or from some Shaolin school such as Wing Chun and White Cran (?) . Mr. Chris Liu has also talked about practising martial art, I believe that Chris can give you more on this topic. }

Concerning playing & memorizing, I noticed that there are many ways. My violin teacher memorizes in his brain many concertos and then he plays back. In deed he is able to cite every notes of a piece, at any phrase, any order, at the middle of a phrase, as he is reading the partition. I'm not able to memorize the entire partition like him,  I have to practice a lot and a lot, until it enters in the "muscle". But once it is memorized, it will be last very long. For example, that's about 12 years that I haven't played guitar at all, but yesterday I gave a try and still recall  the entire piece "Recuerdos de l'Alhambra" in my left and right hands, but I have to DO NOT THINK about what I have to play, just think only on the expression, the music. I guess this is the approach that Messieurs Stephen Brivati and Chris Liu are talking about.

my two cents, but still  hope this helps.

March 16, 2009 at 03:27 PM ·

I can make no generalizations, but I do know a very good violinist (European conservatory trained) who lacks sufficient mechanical coordination in some areas to either drive a car or re-string her own violin.

She is also a pretty good pianiist.

I think this is a very exceptional case.

I think that the situation of general coordination vs. violin playing might be different for beginning adults than it is for younger people. I know I consider my own general coordination in my 70s to be "unreliable" at best - but that is something new for me.

I often compare the mechanical skills required for violin playing to those for gymnastics. They are learned over thousands of hours of practice and gradually become natural.


March 16, 2009 at 03:29 PM ·

so from now on,  impressive is a violinist playing paganini being able to tie shoelaces  AND pick matching socks! :)

March 17, 2009 at 12:00 AM ·

There is a legend that Joshua bell had some of the highest scores in video arcade games back in Bloomington Indiana. Jascha Heifetz was a good ping pong player. I suspect that a lot of really great violinists have great fine motor skills and great muscle reaction. I'll call it agility.

Perhaps this agility combined with a great ear made Yehudi Menuhin the prodigy he was. But he was hardly a virtuoso as an adult. Somewhere along the way some technique must be developed. 

The less natural agility one has the more one must develop a technique. Technique is the intellectual part of violin playing. It can carry a person to places one's natural agility would never go.  It can also leverage one's natural ability. Violinists with a lot of both are formidable. 

I for one could never catch a baseball. Have a laughable throwing arm, cannot shoot baskets etc. But I am modestly capable as an amateur violinist. I owe it to technique such as it is.

March 16, 2009 at 06:28 PM ·

I really do think that Mr Slack needs to review his statement that Yehudi Menuhin,' was hardly a virtuoso as an adult'. Given that I am biased, since he was one of my teachers, there is no question that Yehudi Menuhin was an outstanding musician AND virtuoso in adulthood. LIsten to the recordings of him in his twenties and later. Yes, he did have technical problems in later life but his fundamental technique still left much to be admired. I owe him  great debt in the way he sympathetically helped overcome the technical difficulties that I experienced in my teens. He was able to realise his own problems and still often perform  as well as many other of his virtuosic contemparies.The fact that he did not play like a virtuosic robot makes his playing human and infinitely appealing. I and many others still always regard him as one of the great violinists of the 20th century.

March 16, 2009 at 08:46 PM ·

 No doubt he had some profound musical instincts but I don't think my opinion of his technique is my own invention. Do a search of this web site and even a general search of the web. We may all be lemmings falling off a cliff but there is a significant consensus on Menuhin: in spite of his gifts (and there were many) he failed to achieve the promise of his youth because of his failure to develop a really secure technical foundation.

March 16, 2009 at 09:29 PM ·


Di-Luan, how interesting to see that you also had to play in the dark.  I will try this but with caution! So, playing with candles is not just for the romantics....  Get out some candles everyone (lol)  maybe it really helps!

Buri, I understand your view but how can one be consious and not conscious at the same time??? I am trained with a teacher very meticulous on technique, that teach exactly why do you do exactly thing x or y.  With my teacher (don't know if this is Russian technique or not) only one word is important: focus!!!  At every note, I must know where to bow it, if I am in tune, in what position, if I have to save bow or take it all, preparing for the next motion at the same time, string crossings or shiftings etc.   Thank good it is like this because otherwise I'm pretty dummy... If I fall on automatic pilot, it can be nice for a few bars but this silly mistake always appears later on... because I was not "there" in my head.  Although I know that you should not try to block this purely wild body motion "instinct" that can also save your life sometimes in concerts...  It's like (to borrow Menuhin's words) if you have to be predictable and unpredictable and find a balance that fits you between the two... 

Scott,  the violin is not a projectile?  Nice to learn it since I sometimes have this irrisistible though to take it and throw it the further possible...  Seriously, I do understand what you wanted to say! 

Chris Liu: yes the pianist that plays with me also told me that I think to much and that this was my problem. Later on, she stoped me at a difficult place and told me to do it really slowly.  She then quickly asked me what were the notes of the grupetto I missed all the time. I hesitated 2 seconds and she said: you see, you don't know what you are doing!  How ironical to tell me that I think too much and...not ennough!  But I know she is right in the two...  I am a big 0 in video games and if I had more time, I would like to try martial arts! 

Sharelle, ouf it's great to hear that you can be ok somewhere and terrible in something else (in activities that require coordination) The few "cases" that you told were so interesting!  I know what you meant with Al's daughter! Her playing is really nice and she probably has this wonderful coordination!  I think I fall somewhere in between the two other cases.  I played on a few occasions really well (for my level I mean) with a sound and interpretation that sounded quite professional from the comments I had and it was so cool, it was like being another person...   This is what pushes me to still play. I have studied very much what happened in these magical days and have come to these conclusions.  It was always on days of a bigger event than just a lesson (gig or practice with pianist). It was things I had done 10 000 times.  I had really forced my body to relax by playing like a crazy (these plans of getting up at 3:00 AM to play a gig at 8:00 and play all day)  Yes, I know it's crazy but if my muscles are not completely exhausted, they don't listened to me and it's the only way to gain control!   I was too tired to ressent performance anxiety and this helped to exceed my normal performances.   And a remarkable thing is that these were always what I can call "one day" events.  The next morning, when I took my violin and tried to repeat it, it was all gone (as always) and the gig or event of the evening before feels like a wonderful dream that could not have been true...  It certainly is not possible in my everyday life when I do not have all these hours to prepare myself physically and mentally!  I have always though I had a very poor muscle memory but very often when I have been playing for 5-6 hours, everything and even my violin settles down and everything is find or much better at least.  (I also call this a big warm up, stiffness and cold hands problem... )  Over the years, I see the improvement but what a fight!   I often wonder if it worth it!  Am I crazy to work for peanuts? 

AL, there I fall in what you describe!  How weird is the human beeing to love inconditionnally something that he or she is not that good in?  My sister told me about a sad story. One of her friends had a dog that got hit by a car on front of her!  The dog bled to death but carried himself with his last strenghts toward the girl who was his owner.  Even in these moments, he remained faithful to the one he loved.  I hope such things will never happen to me but if I was at this dog's place and someone put my violin on front of me...  I can't say I wouldn't do like the dog...  This is drammatic but you know what I mean about inconditional love...  I mean you cannot separate a player from his/her instrument!

Sam, yes I understand your point!

Karen, of course I am nowhere as irrealistic to even think I could play like Bell!  I just don't want to not be able to progress anymore for coordination reasons and hopfully my goal is too play all my pieces at my level with a professionnal sound, vibratos etc.   Oh, maybe I'm too fussy but I think it is realistic.  I can already do it in very easy stuff so why not with harder stuff one day (one day can mean at 50, I am quite patient!) I am a sound maniac. Gee, if I would have no good ear and sound consciousness, I would be more happier in life! 

Don, 100% agree that you have to memorize something in order to really possess it the best you can!   Making music with a stand on front of your face is so hard!!!

Andrew, this story gives me hope that some people are able to play well even if they are far from having athletes coordination! This women has all my respect! 

Corwin, what you said is interesting!  I heard of many soloists who were so good in, tennis, ping pong, golf, yoga, gymnastics etc.  A link?  Probably!

Alexander,  how lucky to have studied with Yehudi Menuhin!  This must have been so great!  About the fact that even soloists  can have some tiny tiny technical problems, I have heard about this often.  Milsthein avoided a sort of spicatto or riccochet from what I heard, many people said Oistrakh's playing was too "square" or straigh forward for Mozart etc but who can be perfectly perfect?  This is also a matter of taste and yes I have heard or see big soloists making plane crashes (big buzz) hitting the side of their violin with their bow but considering that they play 10 000 times better than me, I just find that, like you said, it makes them human. 

About Menuhin, I have heard weird things in the same style of what Corwin mentionned. But can someone really lose his/her talent as he grows up?  Maybe it is just because a kid always looks more of a prodigy and then becomes less attractive to "talent seekers" as he or she grows up! Many soloists including Ricci complained about this "no where" land between the 10 year old prodigy and the 50 year old great master stage...   But I love Menuhin's playing and don't want to get involved in this... 

Thanks to all!  Each response was so different but I like it like that!


March 17, 2009 at 01:23 AM ·

While I am an adult learner, and not a great violinist,  I am told my coordination is pretty outstanding considering my past experience and age. As a child I could draw without looking down for example. People are always very impressed that I learned violin as an audlt due to my lack of stiffness in general. "You are as young as your spine is flexible" is a quote a read years ago and took it to heart. I can only say that I am extremely coordinated and instintive as an athlete and have always been so. For example, sometimes when I drop my car keys I can catch them before they hit the ground without thinking, just as an automatic reaction. While it is conscious, it is unconscious at the same time as these moments go in slow motion almost like a deja vu experience. I am aware when they are happening, and rely on them to "drive" without thinking about it. I have "faith" in this ability and rely on it as a natural part of living. There are many other examples.

Interestingly, I also have an amazing memory for really obsure details and have always been able to recall obsure facts, peoples names, and patterns in  literature and music.I see or hear patterns in almost everything during my day and thus am never bored.  Lastly, I have learned to play difficult sports as an adult and have reached a high degree of skill (advanced amatuer) usually reserved for young learners. In skiing for example, I am doing expert runs all without trauma, stress or injury even though I learned at an advanced age for the sport.  While this may not address your question directly, I think there is a natural coordination, like patting your head and rubbing your tummy, in having two arms doing different things at the same time. While I am a recreational amatuer as a violinist, I have relied on my confidence in my natural athletic abilities to try a variety of skills that would intimidate some adults. A lack of confidence in your ability to control your body, both small and gross motor,  is a main obstacle for many in trying new things like violin, or sports.

Maybe great coordination just helps confidence and one can suspend doubt long enough to work past tough problems. That would be my final guess.

March 17, 2009 at 05:31 AM ·

Have fun.

March 17, 2009 at 06:46 AM ·

I played soccer throughout high school and college, and was pretty decent.  I did my best playing sweeper, which many argue to be the "thinking" player's position.  All in all I was pretty happy on the field, certainly some periods were better than others. 

But my *real* accomplishment: breaking my senior high's 20-year record for speed typing (I then went on to break that record twice more, but somehow that wasn't acknowledged...).  In class I could usually out-type the teacher, and was constantly jamming my machine.

Such is my bed of laurels--IBM Selectric shrapnel ;-)



March 18, 2009 at 12:19 AM ·

Thanks to the two Erics!  The link is interesting and I'm glad you found something like soccer and fast typing. Wow, making jam a computer because you type too fast... too cool!


March 18, 2009 at 12:33 AM ·

how about my typing?

March 18, 2009 at 01:42 AM ·

Buri, I'm sure you will find somewhere a Japanese that does this all day and is willing to teach you...  Sorry if it is cliché but I can imagine very well a Japanese being expert in this... lol!!!  

Your typing is scientific basuece senctsiits funod taht the hmuan biran is albe to raed ayhtnnig if the frsit and lsat lteter are at the creorct pcale.  At laset, you dnot cmiomt eorrrs in the frsit and lsat lteter so we are aywlas albe to raed yuor ptsonigs!

Anyone who can read this can order now his/her certificat that testifies his/her ability to read Buri's posts!  Call me to order it but you pay the postal fees...


March 18, 2009 at 02:35 AM ·

I can`t read it....

March 18, 2009 at 03:36 AM ·

I can read his postings but I wouldn't swear that Buri Sensei always has first and last letters correctly placed. 

March 18, 2009 at 03:58 AM ·


certainly not.  First off my name is Irub and then consider just one ubiquitouos example-  I always write ot when I mean ot.



March 18, 2009 at 09:28 PM ·

Buri, I don't know if your fingers jam the keys, but your typing jams my eyes.



March 20, 2009 at 04:44 AM ·

Hi Anne,

Eye hand coordination is a big part of playing a string instrument, even more than in playing piano. You can develop the skill of feeling the distances on the fingerboard, and even though it's not easy to do, it can become second nature. Start tapping into the part of your thinking that recognizes distances.

Enjoy the idea that sports and music do have something in common, even if you're not adept at sports. I certainly wasn't. I bet your ear is pretty good though, or you wouldn't be interested in music. Your ear will subtly guide your sense of motion. Start noticing the interplay between the physical and the intuitive.

I wish I could tell you that simply feeling the music will get the right notes out, but it only gets you to a certain point, or a wall that you can't get beyond.

Good luck. Final hint: dribbling a basketball is great for rhythm.


March 20, 2009 at 10:33 PM ·

Thanks Paul, your advice is very good too! I got my bow pinky broken once because of a basketball ball...  But the game was quite rough and it is very different form dribbling!  I throw tennis balls in the air and try to catch them with opposite hands etc but can't say if it really helps, maybeit does though!


March 26, 2009 at 06:51 AM ·

Anne-Marie, I was thinking of passing a ball between the hands the other day. It's a great exercise for shifting because it helps your timing and your sense of the distances on the fingerboard. When we slow down a shift too much, we lose our sense of impulsive timing. Slow shifting practice done incorrectly can distort music's momentum and immediacy.

Sorry about your hurting your finger when playing basketball. Dribbling a ball teaches you to never lose your focus or take for granted the trajectory of the ball. Bow speed can be improved by observing the speed of the ball and the change of speed caused by the hand on the ball. Bow speed is tricky, and one reason it's difficult to master is that the left hand seems to have more pressing concerns. (Sorry to use the word "pressing". We neglect the bow because we want first of all to get the right notes. This is a big mistake. Give top priority to the bow. At least one nice big swoop of the bow arm makes its effect felt for a long time.

Eye hand coordination and more importantly, ear hand coordination, are the number one arbiter of success in music. For some reason it's not always obvious.

By the way, check out Doris Gazda's Melodious Etudes. The only etudes I know, including Sevcik, which give full importance to the bow arm and sound like real pieces. That's  because they are.


March 26, 2009 at 12:07 PM ·

Thanks, I will try to check this!


This discussion has been archived and is no longer accepting responses.

Facebook Twitter YouTube Instagram Email is made possible by...

Shar Music
Shar Music

Pirastro Strings
Pirastro Strings

JR Judd Violins
JR Judd Violins

Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra
Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra

Dimitri Musafia, Master Maker of Violin and Viola Cases
Dimitri Musafia, Master Maker of Violin and Viola Cases Shopping Guide Shopping Guide

Metzler Violin Shop

Southwest Strings

Bobelock Cases

Johnson String Instrument/Carriage House Violins

Jargar Strings

Bay Fine Strings Violin Shop


Los Angeles Violin Shop


String Masters

Nazareth Gevorkian Violins

Laurie's Books

Discover the best of in these collections of editor Laurie Niles' exclusive interviews. Interviews Volume 1 Interviews Volume 1, with introduction by Hilary Hahn Interviews Volume 2 Interviews Volume 2, with introduction by Rachel Barton Pine