Request for critique

March 2, 2012 at 05:16 AM · Can people please comment on my performance of the Bach Partita No. 2 Allemande. I've attached a link to a new performance of the first section. I've enjoy your comments and opinions before so I'm asking again.

Performance video is here:




March 2, 2012 at 05:55 AM · David,

Not a bad performance. I have a couple of observations:

1. Your right hand seems rather stiff--I don't see much motion at the finger level. It's mostly from the arm, which may be preventing a supple sound.

2. Pulse: It seems as if you are beating 8th or even 16th notes, and that robs the phrases of direction and motion. Try it thinking in half notes.

If I get a chance, I'll record a few lines and post it to show you what I mean.


March 2, 2012 at 07:34 AM · Hello,

Agree with point 1. The right limb is used in its entirety, from fingers to shoulders. But this is one of the most difficult things to master. I suggest start using your wrist first.

A lot of your shifts aren't necessary. I'm not sure if that's what your teacher told you to do, it's just your style, or some other reason, but there seems to be a nanosecond delay after you shift. Maybe it's just me.

At 0:57, your F natural should be F sharp.

I've also never seen your bowings; I have three editions of Partita II and they seem to have similar bowings. What edition are you using?

This is a solo piece. Take some time, take freedom with rubatos.

March 2, 2012 at 09:53 AM · I don't think that it's a coincidence that my teacher focused on right hand last night. I've been playing the Bach-Gounod Ave Maria and working on sustaining, and even tone. Also dynamics. Two things to work on: 1) remembering the weight of the bow at the frog 2) pressure at the tip and releasing that nearing the frog.

Also, he wants more wrist and a slight upward motion of the elbow nearing the frog. He wants my fingers on the bow hold to really angle the bow more. And ... then I need to do all that in a fluid motion, releasing the pressure (up-bow) and allowing only the weight at the frog, slight tilt, more angular bow hold, lifting the arm and be ... smooth about it. :-)

Everyone has told me to forget the note values of this piece. Seems odd when I'm really paying attention to the Ave Maria.

And, yes my shifts need more preparation for better timing.

Thanks for the comments so far. Anyone else please comment. This is very helpful.

March 2, 2012 at 02:09 PM · Hi,

It's nothing to do with your performance, but are you using a computer's internal mic to record? It sounds like you're getting a bit of distortion...if you've got a mac I have an idea...

March 2, 2012 at 02:13 PM · You may be a little close to the mic

March 2, 2012 at 02:24 PM · sure, it's totally possible. he could turn down input volume etc. and remain close to source, or back up, but I think he'd get more of a 'cracking' sound if distance/gain were the's a high pitched wavy metallic sound I'm hearing, if it is what I think it is, it's to do with settings in the software.

March 2, 2012 at 04:05 PM · In regards to the right hand being stiff, if you haven't already, I'd advise lots of practice in front of a mirror and really really really keep an eye on what changes in your hand result in a straighter bow. It can also go the other way: when you try your hardest to get a straight bow in the mirror, you start feeling what then needs to be done in the right hand. But before you even do that, check to make sure it's even possible with your current setup to *get* a full straight bow. I used to get super-annoyed at myself because I could never bow straight. Then one day I actually took the time to measure, and with my set-up, I couldn't reach out far enough. No matter what I'd have done, I'd never have gotten a straight bow. I switched to a center-mounted chin-rest and tweaked a few other things and about 75% of the difficulty vanished automatically.

Try figuring out where you're going with each phrase. Right now they all kind of sound the same. Certain notes should be built up to, to create a sense of movement and then arrival. This kind of ties in with the "counting in eighth notes" observation above. Also notice where Bach is creating phrases that echo themselves. (:23 and :26-7 and :29, most of the phrases from :44 on; the repeated rhythmic motifs after 0:58) Be conscious of them and make a decision how you want them to relate to one another. Do you want a call and response vibe? Or do you want to accentuate a certain note each time? Or how do you want to go about that? It's up to you.

Hope this helps in some small way. Caveat, I'm not a teacher, just someone who has played this piece. Good for you for putting up a recording of yourself; not many people have the cajones.

March 2, 2012 at 05:13 PM · One thing I'd point out about rubato: often I see performances where people use rubato indiscriminately in this movement. I do use rubato, but it I feel it must be logical and follow the phrases.

March 2, 2012 at 07:24 PM · Also, listen to what the pros are doing in regards to rubatos. I recommend Milstein and Grumiaux (don't know if they're on youtube, but Milstein released from Deutche Grammophon and Grumiaux from Philips). Can't remember if Kremer recorded Partita II in its entirety. Hilary Hahn is probably the best amongst the living violinists as far as I know.

March 2, 2012 at 10:20 PM · Momoko writes "a lot of your shifts aren't necessary". Maybe they're not, but if you hate fourth finger extensions as much as I do - that is, enough to shift where possible in order to avoid them - the case may be different.

March 2, 2012 at 10:40 PM · David

You need to learn the bow. This has already been observed.

Next, please make sure that you look at the music. There are wrong notes. Also listen much more carefully to your intonation. I know that this was not just a practice session for you, but you were playing a performance. In any case, at this stage of your development, you must fix bad intonation immediately, so that your fingers are trained as well as your ears.

March 3, 2012 at 12:11 AM · Ok, I would not look at phrasing and stuff too soon. I mean: First play the rhythm and Notes perfect! I mean the triplets are not triplets the way you play it, you play two 16th and one 8th note. Second and most important generally, get your bow straight! There are different ways for that: Mirror practice (make sure you are in your normal playing position while looking at the mirror. Just turn your head to the mirror and try to get the bow parralel to the brdge all the time! Youll need to make a banana movement with your right hand to prevent it to do the opposite banana on the strings. :) Downbow ends more in front of your body, upbow focus on getting the tip not behind your head.

I would recommend practicing straight bow away from the allemanda on open strings and/or long "not resonating" (not open string) notes. Do this 15 minutes a day and you will feel the difference soon.

For left hand: practice slowly and with metronome! be aware of string crossings and prepare them. Coordinate left hand precisely with the bow, even if its in slow tempo it will help you a lot for fast tempo!

After you did this, corrected wrong notes/rhythm, getting your bow totally (!) straight, fixed your coordination issues between left and right hand and some intonation problems... after that you can think of phrases etc. if you get some Ideas while practicing don't hold back, but really: get things straight first! And play the second half next week too ;)

have fun!

Edit: While getting the bow straight you should focus at the same time on getting the right arm and shoulder relaxed. Nothing is better for a violinists sound than a straight bow while the arm and shoulder is relaxed. If you get the bow straight and still stiff, it will help you maybe 10 % soundwise if you get it relaxed while straight you will reach 100 % of possible sound quality. Also beware of the contact point not moving too much, but that comes also with a straighter bow.

Also the feeling of a relaxed right arm is so pleasing! Think about your shoulders, move them backwards while plaing upbow. I would recommend you the books of kato Havas, who writes a lot about body posture in violin playing and I can tell you from experience it is delightful and releaving!

March 3, 2012 at 12:24 AM · Thanks everyone especially your agreement on the bowing. That's exactly what my teacher has me working on now. We backed away from the Allemande and the Giga.

Amber, I'm really curious to hear what you know about recording with the Mac. And, yes, I have a macbook pro with 8gb of ram. I just don't know how to use all this audio and video power. :-) Please message me directly if prefer.

Thanks again everyone. I need to look at the music and play the Alemande and try to determine where my intonation problems are and correct. Someone said I played a F nat. when it should be F#... that one worries me. The others I think are just not in tune.

Again this was very helpful and I wish more people would do this as well. Experienced players really help those that want to learn.

March 3, 2012 at 01:22 AM · Hi David,

First of all, congratulations on having the courage to post your video and open yourself up to comments from all and sundry.

I think that the technical advice the folks have been giving you is mostly very good and will serve you well.

There is one thing I feel very strongly about, and I am afraid I must disagree with Simon who has made so many good points.

About phrasing -- the time to work on it is NOW. In fact, the time to work on it is ALWAYS, for the entire duration of the time you study this or any other piece. You certainly play the piece well enough to benefit from devoting 25& or so of your practice time to phrasing, style, sonority, choosing bow strokes, working out bowings, and other matters. If you are not devoting some time each day to musical artistry, why bother playing at all? Furthermore, I believe that by focusing on phrasing you will hear the music in more detail, and that will reflect itself in the technical details of your playing.

Also do a lot of listening. For exquisitely beautiful phrasing, nobody is better than Szeryng. For a more contemporary approach I find Julia Fischer quite wonderful. Hilary Hahn plays this movement at an absurdly slow tempo. I would also check out one or two players who play in a Historically Informed style such as Jaap Schroeder, or Lucy Van Dael. Victoria Mullova offers a superb blending of 21st century virtuosity with knowledge of period performance.

Best wishes for continued progress and fulfillment.


March 3, 2012 at 01:39 AM · Roy, I agree. Thanks. I have the Szeryng CD and I have the Schott book with his editing. I'm partial to the Schott book because I almost always have issue with the Galamian editing. I don't know why but I do. My teacher said that Szeryng was a player and Galamian was a teacher. That's why there's so much difference. And yes Hilary plays the Giga well but the Allemande is way too slow. It's not a dance anymore.

March 3, 2012 at 02:01 AM · Greetings,

well done David. Two observations.

1)if you have a copy of Basics then look up the section on `square` versus `diamond` finger shape. This helps to focus the mind and tehcnique on not playing sharp b flats because they are close to a first finger `e` and vice versa. Unless strict attention is paid to this fnger relation problem the ear quickly begins to accept very slightly out of tune notes.

2) I agree completley with Roy about digging deeper and deeper into the phrasing.

My own quirky view of this movement (and work a sa whole) is that it s a song of mourning for his recently departed wife. There is a kind of inner dialogue raging against the world and the unfairness of it coupled with pseudo acceptance followed by new surges of pain. One cannot keep things the same level.

A lesser composer would have probably written the whole work in semi quavers and nobody would have batted a eyelid.

Bach however, chooses to intersperse the commentary with sixth s value notes. For me tis is central to the work and as such the rythmic contarst is paramount. At thes epoints Bach is saying

why did you leave me a

lone in hell, love?

why did you ab an don

me for e ver

The slight imprecision of your triplet thingummies is losing this ...



March 3, 2012 at 02:52 AM · Buri,

At the site here the advanced exercises show the student with almost square knuckles. Is this what you mean about the square position?

Meaning I probably need to pull that thumb more to the back of the neck

P.S. the above is important but I found another post where you explain a C as a square and then the C# makes the diamond with the extension of the finger. This applies everywhere too right? E.g. my B-flats may have started to sharpen. I hear accidentals very well because they cause tension in the music and they are beautiful but getting used to bad intonation, how do I stop that?

March 3, 2012 at 03:22 AM · Greetings,

that is correct.

In Basics Simon suggests a very simple exercise of taking a basic etude by Kayser or similar and going through marking where the finger is square or diamond shaped. It is an artificial exercise in many ways but it helps to focus awarness on this knotty problem.

The way to expose incorrectly learned pitch (well, one of them) is to play the sam epassage or fragment in another two or three differnet positions no matter how akward. This rapidly shows up errors in the safe way.



March 3, 2012 at 03:27 AM · Thanks David for posting this thread. I have learned quite a bit from listening/watching your performance and then being able to relate the suggestion's and advice of the members.

March 3, 2012 at 03:28 AM · David,

Funny you should mention the dance feeling of the Allemande. I have spent a lot of time trying to learn just what kind of dance that was. Apparently there was a Renaissance dance called the Alman which was fast and light, with two beats to a measure, and totally unlike the Allemandes of the baroque era by Bach, Handel, Couperin, etc. There seems to be no historical record of dance steps for this type of Allemande, or indeed any record of it ever being danced to. The baroque allemande is described as serious, moderately slow, and sometimes improvisitory. I think the best way to get the Allemande feeling is to listen to the Allemandes from the Bach French Suites and the Partitas for keyboard.

About editions, I don't really like the Galamian edition. He seems to be allergic to open strings, which can often sound just right in Bach, and he also goes to great lengths to play repeating sequences with the same fingering which is also antithetical to the style. But for all that, it is a good functional edition and certainly worth having if only for the photo reproduction of the original manuscript. The Szeryng edition is the product of a great artist -- always rewarding to investigate, but very personal and unbelievably fussy. I would not use it to play from but only to refer to. You might take a look at the old Joachim Moser edition which will give you basic, workable, fingerings even though they are somewhat old fashioned.

March 3, 2012 at 07:44 AM · Off topic, but its lovely to see you posting here again, Roy.

March 3, 2012 at 08:54 AM · I'm going to be rather horrible and say that your bowing needs to be totally rebuilt! You must treat this movement as a legato piece, use more bow and less into the string. Also, there are slurs marked on Bach's original which you are totally ignoring.

By doing this you will improve the tone by several hundred percent. If you then shape into musical phrases and add an occasional touch of vibrato you will (along with better intonation) have made the jump to a much, much higher level of playing.

Also, as you are playing rather under tempo, I would say this piece is at this time a little to hard for you. (Although it is probably one of the easiest of the Bach movements).

P S I would also add that your bow contact is very uneven and you should really study sound production on simple things like scales, and develop a good legato stroke, where each change of bow is smooth and almost gluesd to the previous bow stroke.

Sorry to be so hard but there is a lot to improve on. The good news is that you could easily develop from where you are to become a much better player with the right teaching. You have the desire, which is the most important thing. Good luck!

March 3, 2012 at 09:35 AM · With all the best intentions in the world, people are talking about straight bowning and such things, when really this can do much more harm than good.

If I was your teacher I would prohibit you from reading and taking things seriously from any internet website, concerned with violin technique. Such comments and ideas will only confuse you. Of course, there is a lot of good advice, but even then it may not be relevant. A good teacher should be able to sort your bowing and other problems out over a period of relatively short time.

Judging by your video you really need a concentrated course in basic technique which will give you a chance to unlearn and undo all the problems that you have. Your playing could be transformed in a matter of months if not weeks.

As you can tell, I'm a strong believer in proper teaching, and I'm not very impressed with teaching other than face to face. I say this because, along with many other people, I've suffered from bad teaching as well.

March 3, 2012 at 10:49 AM · Hey Roy: YOu are definetily right about that phrasing thing! My thought behind this was, that phrasing will not be a pleasure with this bow technique. So I would recommend aswell as others to relearn or correct some things away from the allemanda and later coming back to it.

Peter: I think one should not only rely on internet teaching. But I think we cannot do too much harm as long as David has a real teacher ;) And on the other hand, I learn a lot from reading about teaching and violin technique, aswell as listening and watching master classes. Especially the basics are quite clear to explain.

Generally I must split hairs a little. But when you talking about the style of the allemanda you need to be aware of the fact, that all the violin suites are italian labelled. That is "allemandA" "corrente" "ciaconna" etc. and it is NOT the same as the allemande, wich is the frensh version of the german dance. You always have to imagine, that back then europe hasn't got ONE music but every city and state had its own music, style and manierisms. Thats also a reason why it is so difficult to play "historically informed" because you would have to research every composer plus his current city, where he wrote the work and then getting into research if they did like vibrato there, wich violins were build and bought in that region.

So please: its ALLEMANDA!!!

For an edition I can only recommend Bärenreiter Urtext or the original hand writing from bach. Both along to each other is perfect.

sorry for my raging about this!

March 3, 2012 at 10:56 AM · We should certainly consult the original as Bach wrote it, which I have in my edition underneath the mess made by Mr Carl Flesch.

I really wish they would just publish what Bach wrote with no fingerings added. Some of these late 19C and mid 20C people thought nothing of going up into 7th position which defeats the big full sound needed, and was never attempted like that in Bach's day. He was too busy with the Karma Sutra to worry about high positions on the fiddle!!

Talking of teachers as well though, I do worry about many of them not having much of a clue, especially when I see the sort of bow contact David has.

March 3, 2012 at 02:06 PM · Yes please call the song Allemanda

March 3, 2012 at 07:12 PM · Simon,

I really must thank you. I have been studying and researching the baroque dances for quite a while, and particularly trying to find out what exactly is the particular feeling and style of the Allemanda (or Allemande). This is the first time that anybody has ever mentioned the italian vs. the french allemanda (e). So I am wondering if you can elaborate. What is the difference between the french version and the italian and how does that affect the way we should play them? Also how do you know?

Basically there are two predominant national styles from the Baroque era. The french style is exemplified by Couperin. The Italian style centered mainly on the opera, but in the instrumental realm it was exemplified by Corelli, Vivaldi and Tartini. The German style was an amalgam of the two, but leaning more heavily to church music and also to maintaining the contrapuntal style which was generally on the way out in Bach's era, being replaced by the Galant style which led into the classical style. Bach himself was at home in all styles, the dance suites are generally in more or less of a french style, the cantatas were in a more italian style, and the Choral music and the fugues harked back to an older German style.

March 3, 2012 at 09:44 PM · It seems that your teacher knows what there doing. I would work on muscle flexibility and diet to get limber, your arms seem tight. Yoga, Tai chi, olive oil, salmon oil, bananas, no junk foods get ya loosen up. I have a belief that a high iron blood count will tighten up the joints and muscles, but I have found no medical evidence to back it up.

March 3, 2012 at 10:45 PM · Everyone, I have an idea. I know that bowing is an absolute issue to be dealt with. I am actually playing the Bach-Gounod Ave Maria this week at a very slow tempo, focusing on two things.

1. Exact rhythmic compliance

2. And, trying to mimic the Galamian square, triangle, and point positions for absolute "even" tone

I learned the Allemande probably twenty years ago with cheated bowings because I couldn't get the note-mileage from a single bow stroke at that time. Then this year when this teacher started with me again after about 16 years, he "accepted" new bowings and we moved to the Giga. I think that he's trying to keep my interest up but I know that my bowing was not consistent with our markings and I moved on too soon. I have a hand-written manuscript of this that I have done and I'm going to inspect the Bach photocopy in the back of the Galamian edition from International for his bowings. So, my Allemande goals are:

1. Use Bach bowings as much as possible

2. Speed it up (Peter I can play it faster)

3. Focus on phrasing

4. Ditch the position shifts unless needed

5. Use open strings to make the piece easier

6. Play and record the piece again

I have a lifetime to fix the "dolce" parts with higher positions and modify any bow strokes that some might nit-pick. I think I need to get as much melody as I can from a single bow stroke and not emphasize the bow direction changes.

My lessons are only 1/2 hour and I don't know that my teacher is giving me his all between 8 and 8:30 PM on Thursdays. I have to make some decisions in June when this set of lessons end. My teacher is focusing on my right hand now. He was concerned initially with my thumb that was clamping but I think it was a reaction to too difficult a piece (Giga) too soon. He did say that the Allemande was a "beginner" piece because I asked his opinion even though I knew better.

March 3, 2012 at 11:32 PM · I don't agree with the statement that the Allemande is a beginner piece - even if it is one of the easier of the movements. The problem in all the movements is tone production, and you need to be shown how to work on tone production. For a start you need to use more bow, but at the same time have good bow contact. Legato bowing is not easy until you know how to do it.

I would suggest that you practise open strings and then scales. With scales you can concentrate on two things, perfect intonation and good sound. They do not come seperately, they are integral. One without the other is no good. You need to coax the sound out of the fiddle, not force it. Bow speed and pressure are all connected with contact. Get one wrong and the sound is bad.

You don't need to do any of the body building things, these will not do anything. I've seen plenty of good professional players go down that road and get knowhere. Playing the fiddle is a brain thing, 100% That is why decrepid old men and women can play wonderfully, if they have it sorted out in the brain. (Only relaxation and unlocking techniques such as Alexander Technique will work, because they undo all the rubbish we learn to do in our messed up lives).

The trouble is that you will get a lot of well intentioned advice but most of it will be a waste of time. It's hard to find a really good teacher as there are so few around, but an excellent teacher could get you to a much higher level in a short space of time - months rather than decades!

"Exact rhythmic compliance" - This something you need to train yourself in, and probably away from the instrument. (Just like ear training)

"Ditch the position shifts unless needed"

Yes, only go higher where you have to - stay in first position as much as possible. (Open strings are fine, and not because it makes it easier).

I'm afraid a teacher that ignores bowing and accepts the bowings you provide is falling down badly. Bowings are not (like fingerings too) written in stone, but a pupil needs guidance. It is only when you play at a high level that you are able to deviate from the norm and have your own agenda, and only then if it works and is within good taste.

And finally, a lifetime is not long enough for most of us to reach the heights in music that we would like to achieve!

March 4, 2012 at 11:27 AM · Whoever said this piece is for beginners can't be farther from the truth. Sure, it's no Paganiniana, but I'd rather tackle Paganini than this for performance any day.

This piece, because of its evident simplicity, really requires each tone to be absolute perfection. That means left hand easy, right hand insane. Although a lot of us think "oo, lots of notes, insane left hand, insanely hard", I think the opposite statement is more true. It's the bowing that shapes the sound.

What you need is more bow control (don't we all). You need to learn optimal pressure to produce the most resonating sound. That means long hours of just open string bowing and scales and Sevcik. Your thumb is hitchhiking too; it's not supposed to. I see a lot of people's thumbs hitchhiking, and sooner or later it's going to haunt them when they need to play very powerful legatos.

And no, don't speed it up. You really should be able to hold a forte breve in one bow, if you have to.

I know this may sound painful, but I really do suggest going back to the very basics. It's the least thing any of us want to hear, but a lot of us have had our forms changed with new teachers. And form is the very basis of good bow technique, and your hitchhiking thumb tells me someone didn't tell it off enough.

Also, I did notice that your violin is out of tune by about 5~8Hz. Get a fine tuner, and make sure your violin is tuned. Your ears will get used to the wrong pitch and then you'd be in trouble later on.

Regarding dance: I have actually seen a reproduction of the dance before, based on a dance step book from 16th century. It involves column of pairs moving forward (imagine a faster version of pavane). Some bowing and twirling involved, but the feet very rarely leaves the floor (think big poofy skirts and crinoline... not exactly an attire to start doing jumping jacks). The actual dance hails from France; it was in duple meter until 17th century, when the French turned into 4 beats per measure with a lot more freedom in tempo.

Giga is much more difficult, both left and right hand-wise. I WOULD NOT start it until I feel comfortable with the bow, which you probably don't, since I see you moving your entire arm to move the bow.

March 4, 2012 at 12:35 PM · Momoko, when you say that David's thumb is hitchhiking, what do you mean? Whatever this means, I want to make sure I'm not doing it.

March 4, 2012 at 07:50 PM · Momoko, thank you for your posting. I have had a cold and not feeling well so I've been listening to others play this piece on the computer. Even though I don't enjoy the musicality of Itzak Perlman his bowing is impeccable! I watched him play this and he uses a full bow almost entirely through the entire piece. I also recorded myself again, following Bach's slurring and tried to use the entire bow and actually noticed a difference in my tone. It was better. I made more mistakes, both notes and bowing because of the proper (Bach) bowing and sometimes because I have so many pencil marks on my copy. Anyhow, the sound was better. I did increase my airplane sounds (airy notes) meaning that I do need to balance up bow pressure with awareness of the downbow's weight (nearing frog). This discussion thread has been really good.

Even though we're discussing this piece, it's not my normal lesson plan. Right now I'm working on:

1) triangle,square, point and wrist flexibility (Galamian)

2) tone production

3) legato and timing

4) Ave Maria (Bach-Gounod)

So all of this right hand control is SO, SO important. I know this. I've had some good critique. I have had some harsh critique. But, I know from all this that tone and musicality will come from better right hand technique. And, I also determined why the Giga caused me so much trouble with the left hand thumb. Galamian said that "more pressure meant that more speed is also needed". This rang a bell for me. I can play the notes of the Giga at a moderate speed perfectly but I was trying to play it at the speeds I've heard the greats play it and ... more speed means more pressure is needed for articulation and tone. Then in sympathy the left hand began to clamp and the clamping just felt natural. Well, my thumb is getting better now that I know this but as you can see in the video, my thumb doesn't quite know where it belongs at this exact point in time. I'm working on it with full bow, largo, scales and vibrato. The vibrato just doesn't work against a "pressing" thumb. So I consciously release my thumb, stop thinking I'm going to drop the violin, and voila the vibrato sings.

Where I take lessons there are young children with good tone and vibrato. It amazes me. I wonder if children go through the same mistakes I've made and also do they obtain enlightment much quicker than adults.

March 4, 2012 at 09:25 PM · I am sorry, that I cannot find a definition of the allemande and allemanda in the internet or the books I have at home.

Once I researched for the corrente 2. mvt. bach d-minor suite and I found out, that the corrente is moslty noted in 3/4 or 3/2 measure, while the courante is in 6/4 or 6/2. This makes a huge difference regarding the character and the tempo choice. That is corrente is much faster than the frensh courante. Ill look the allemanda up when I got time. Thank you for interest in case of emergency mgg may help?!

Edit: I think the allemanda may not be too different from the allemande. It was very early an Movement wich gave the composer some freedom, because dancing this dance actually was not so popular anymore. I think that already happens before Bach. So allemanda has some freedom anyways. But about the corrente/courante its really a big difference!

@david aI have a standard question I ask all my students every time: how much do you practice ;)

March 4, 2012 at 11:06 PM · it seems like you have gotten a lot of great feedback. I did not read through them all, but this is tthe first thing i notinced. BALANCING POINT! It is not towards the tip of the bow! Almost every single note you play will go through the balancing point of the bow

March 4, 2012 at 11:42 PM · I think it's a term my teacher with whom I was with when I was just out of toddler stage coined. Instead of the thumb curving outward (imagine holding an egg; then check your thumb), it is tense and therefore it is either straight (if you don't have hitchhiker's thumb) or it curves inward (if you do have hitchhiker's thumb). Here is what I'm talking about:

Hitchhiking Thumb

Non-hitchhiking thumb

The hitchhiking thumb severely detriments bow control later one when you start doing martellato, sautille, e.t.c. Better nip it in the bud if you can.

March 5, 2012 at 12:25 AM · Momoko, arigato gozaimasu tomodachi. Now I understand. My teacher also worked with me this week so that my thumb curved into the curve in the front of the frog. And once I had this better hold and non-hitchhiking thumb, I was to angle my fingers and rock the stick just a little towards the neck nearest the frog using an edge of the hair and not flat. I think I'm on the right track but it's so so slow. I'm getting really bored but I know it's important.

I was confused about the hitch-hiking thumb because I actually injured my left hand thumb about 2 weeks back. I was having trouble with clamping the neck and not achieving vibrato.

thank you again.

March 5, 2012 at 02:11 AM · Simon,

Thanks for following up. I think we're on the same wavelength about the Allemanda (e). As I mentioned, the thing that helped me the most was getting to know the Allemand-s in the French Suites and in the partitas for keyboard. After a while one sees the family resemblances. Of course there are still different types. The Allemanda from the B Minor Partita is completely different :-)

Best regards.

March 5, 2012 at 03:04 AM · Greetings,

Takahashi San was quite right to point out the thumb problem. It takes precednce over everything. I have no ide awhy some teachers let such an obviouly crcial point go so often. I would even venture to say that a lot of people never achieve anything on the violin solely as a result of this disaster being ignored.

Having said that, a much deeper understanding of the role and function of the thumb is important.

The function of the thumb is to provide counter pressure (somewhat simlar to the left hand, but be careful taking this comparison too far). Now, when one plays at the heel, there is no pressure of any kind being exerted though the bow simply because the weight of the bow and arm is so immense non is necessary. Thus the amount of counter pressure from the thumb is -zero- and it is bent in a relaxed and natural way. To find out what this looks like put your right hand in front of your face with the palm facing the floor. Now curl the fingers so they approximate wehat they look like on the bow. Now bend the thyumb unde rthe palm untiln the tip touches the middle joint of the middle finger. Notice when you do this that the resultant -hole- is much more akin to a semi circle than a circle. It should be its natural shape. Books the sloppily describe making a crcle betwene the thiumb and fingers are off the planet as far as I am cocnerned.

Having placed the thumb there you can play withusing the fingers to lightly squeeze the the thumb to make it more bent and then the opposite. Consciously use the power of the thumb to straighten out the fingers slightly.. Notice that the thumb actually moves al the way to its bas ewhere what you probably call `the wrist` is.. The thumb is a very long organ indeed.

Getting back to bowing then.

As you proceed towards the tip of the bow the index finger beginns to insert weight into the strings. In response the thumb begins to exert a slight counter pressure which gradually increases as one appraoches the point.

At the same time, the thumb naturally begins to straightne out. It is as wrong to say the thumb is bent during a bow stroke as to say it is straight!!!!!!!!!

At the point, the thumb may be completely straight (nt locked back) and exerting quite a lot of force .

Now the next crucial aspect of bowing is the up bow. During this stroke the procedure is the opposite. As the thumb bends the degree of upward force exerted reduces to zero.

One of the classic and least discussed technical erros of violinsts is the failure to completely release the upward pressure on the up bow. As intermeduate level players they get awya with it and the habit of that little bit of extra tension carries on into professional life where it is a contributary factor to early retirment and or nagging injuries. the cause is never identified in many cases.

As far as you are concerned, if you were my student I would probably have you doing only right hand finger exercises for a week. First with a pencil, then with a bow. Then with the bow on the string.

For example, put the bow on the string just below the middle of the bow. Using -only the fingers- (by straightening and bending them) play crisp little martel strokes well into the string. I`d bet you find that rather hard to do right now. In your free time at work or whatever use a pencil to check your hold and do the dame little bow stroke/action using only the fingers. This action forms the basi of the bow change, spiccato and relaxed palying in general. It is one of the fundamental exercises in the Flesch Urstudien which you are not going to go out and buy (please heavan ly mother);)

I would also advise you doing a daily exercise for the rest of your life (pretty long time I hope) of putting the bow on at the point and keeping your arms shape exactly as it is(wrist , elbow and upper arm nicely alighned) play gdaeeadg at a fast tempo allowing your arm to move up and down from the shoulder as it changes levels. This is a way of keeping the shpoulder koing free and relaxed for the future and is great for technique.

Best wishes,


March 5, 2012 at 07:11 AM · Eh. I can understand why a lot of teachers let go on this point. There are only so many times you can say "stop tensing up your thumb" before you throw in the towel. It's easy for a toddler to grasp onto the bow - which is heavy for a 3 year old tyke - than to hold it delicately. I got this fixed in two years or so, but I remember I had an entire month while I was somewhere midway Suzuki 2 when my teacher just decided to not let me hold my violin. Just my bow.

There are a lot of bow exercises I did. Window-wiper (you hold your bow vertically, and make swaying motions, like a window-wiper on the car). Harpoon (hold the bow vertically again, and making a jabbing motion into the air upwards with just your hand. No wrist, no arm, just finger control). E.t.c.

There are also French and Russian methods of holding bows. Oistrakh is using Russian; Ferras is using French. Dunno which is better. I use both.

March 5, 2012 at 08:43 AM · Greetings,

well, not quite. Oistrakh used the Franco Belgian hold which he learned(copied from) from Arthur Grumiaux. The same kind of approach can be seen in descendents like Zhakar Bron who studied primarily with his son. That really tight bow hair for example.

The so called Russian bow hold is where the index finger is further over the stick creating the feeling that the fingers are straighter. The hair is losser and flatter. Typical of Leopold Auer studnets. Interesitng that a great modern player who change dot the Russian is Kavakos.



March 5, 2012 at 09:34 AM · I was also just about to say, Buri, that Oistrakh's hold was NOT Russian, but Franco/Belgium.

I seem to get the feeling that the Russian hold is a little out of favour these days, but I could be wrong about that. A lot of bow holds are a bit Hybrid - neither one nor the other - but still I think more the Franco/Belgium. Would you agree?

March 5, 2012 at 04:04 PM · @ Buri

"I have no ide awhy some teachers let such an obviouly crcial point go so often."


"I can understand why a lot of teachers let go on this point. There are only so many times you can say "stop tensing up your thumb" before you throw in the towel"

A teacher needs to change their approach if they find themselves over correcting then ignoring problems, because what comes after that is frustration from student and teacher.

I teach my beginner students this technique ASAP to fix this problem and others.

Once they are able to do this (some take as little as two weeks and others 2 years), then getting them to keep the thumb bent and in place is easy. The thumbs get blamed, but the tension is from the lack of flexibility and control from the fingers. I don't believe in teaching the perfect hold until they have learned to be flexible first.

March 6, 2012 at 09:04 AM · Nah, students just never do it. If the student doesn't do his or her homework, that's not the teacher's fault.

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