Trouble playing this particular chord

April 27, 2015 at 06:34 AM · Hi, so this might be a really silly question, but I am polishing up on a piece, and this particular chord right here is giving me a lot of trouble.

http://imgur.com/F8S5vI9

Right now the fingering I am using is 3,2,1 if that makes sense. Oh and the upper two notes is a b flat and a e natural, that's why it is a little bit awkward to play. Also the note that tends to be out of tune is almost always the e natural(the middle note). The bottom and the top note are usually in tune. However, when you play a chord, and one note is even slightly out of tune, it pretty much makes it worthless.

It looks like a very simple and harmless chord, and when I play it in isolation it's not very hard. But, when I play the piece, and get to this spot, it's a little bit out of tune more than half the time.

Before this chord, I have a shift on another string, so I actually don't have a lot of time to prepare for it.

Also, the rest of the chords(there are many of them) in the piece are not giving me too much trouble. Maybe it's a psychological thing? Like I'm psyching myself out? Any ideas?

Replies (20)

April 27, 2015 at 07:37 AM · Have you tried 1-2-4 instead? That will avoid the extreme distance between 2-3 and the resulting affect on the pitch of the E-natural.

Also, if you avoid playing the previous note on a harmonic, and just do it in first position, I think it will sound better and set you up for the chord.

Bach C Maj?

April 27, 2015 at 08:51 AM · Oh no! I was trying to keep the piece a mystery! Very observant. Haha, yeah I think I was unintentionally making it hard on myself by doing 1,2,3 instead of just keeping in half position and going with 1,2,4. Made no sense at all now that I think about it. I'll try that from now on. Thanks Gene!

If you have any any other advice regarding this piece I would love to hear it. I've been trying to play the piece slower, and with slower bow speed to sound a little bit more expressive, but its tough - I am usually pretty economic with my bow strokes, and try to get as much volume out of as strokes as possible.

April 27, 2015 at 08:54 AM · I agree with Gene: 4-2-1 with the hand back in half-position.

And I find it useful to do a slow motion examination of the elbow, wrist an finger motions as we approach, play and leave the chord. Like a danser working out a choreography.

April 27, 2015 at 08:56 AM · Adrian can you elaborate on what you mean by the "slow motion examination" elbow thing? Are you trying to say that I should point my elbow inwards to give myself more space to approach the chord? I'm not the best at making mental images just by looking at words haha :)

April 27, 2015 at 09:05 AM · Greetings,

dont know that edition but the harmonic is not only rather out of fashion musically, but makes life very difficult. How much you need to move your elbow under the violin depends on your hand size but I would aim for getting as close to no movement whatsoever and see how little you can get away with

cheers,

Buri

April 27, 2015 at 09:07 AM · I actually hate this edition. A lot of the bowing and the shifts make no sense. In this particular piece, they tell you to play a harmonic every time you hit that note. I'm not just talking about this piece, but the entire book. If anyone has a better edition I would love to check it out.

April 27, 2015 at 10:52 AM · Oops!

April 27, 2015 at 10:56 AM · Elbow?

As a violist with short fingers, I have problems arching the pinky on the lower string to clear the upper strings. The second finger may even have to curl and push the middle string to the right until I release the pinky.

This means having the whole hand leaning over the fingerboard. Rather than bending the wrist at 45°, with attendant tensions, I prefer to swing the elbow to the right, pendulum fashion.

As all this entails much "choreography" for one brief chord, I practice like a slow motion film until all these elements are assimilated.

I like to say that two thirds of our technique are between the notes. Even the simultaneous notes of a chord.

April 27, 2015 at 10:59 AM · absolutely. the freedom to move the elbow is much neglected . how far one has to go depends on the individual. Menuhin used to swing to the left simply to get flatter pads on the e string

regards

buri

April 27, 2015 at 11:02 AM · Bowing.

Another violist thing: I set the right arm to sing freely on the upper strings: a long, light stroke. I don't raise the elbow for the lower strings, just the hand. So, power comes from weight on the low strings, and bow speed on the upper ones.

My four cents!

April 27, 2015 at 03:09 PM · In solo Bach it is appropriate to break,roll, or arpeggiate chords. So, I play 31 together, go to the A string (releasing 31), play the upper note of the trill 2 (c) and obviously play b flat with 1.

For a good, free edition go to IMSLP and download the Werner Icking edition.

April 27, 2015 at 05:27 PM · It might help to skip the top note, and hold out the bottom notes until you feel comfortable/confident with it.

If you're still having trouble getting that, slowly roll out the first two notes.

All in the context of the preceding bits of course.

April 27, 2015 at 07:10 PM · Adrian, would you say that choreographing everything in slow motion eventually becomes a subconscious thing? Is the human brain meant to be able to retain movements better when you do them this way?

Also I tend to really hate using bow pressure to generate volume, but you mentioned that it is necessary to use more pressure on the lower strings to I guess articulate? I actually do sound kind of muffled on the lower strings sometimes. Arguably the biggest weakness in terms of tone production. I'll try it. I imagine that this aspect is very similar in both the violin and the viola.

Bruce, I actually have a tendency to do exactly what you are talking about sometimes. Would you say its more musically appropriate to "break" or "roll" it or play it "whole"? I think playing the chord this way vs the normal way absolutely has a different effect.

April 28, 2015 at 02:23 PM · In my "moonwalk" practice, I can mentally follow every instant of every motion. As soon as it is "right", I gradually speed it up. Slow to fast in each practice session.

Bowing. The low strings vibrate more slowly, so too much bow will skate over them; higher strings will be "choked by a slow bow.

April 28, 2015 at 06:37 PM · If you go to the following, you will find in a preview of Stanley Ritchie's book Before The Chinrest, the stylistically incorrect and correct ways of arpeggiating chords in Baroque music. click on Google preview, and go to page 15

http://www.iupress.indiana.edu/product_info.php?products_id=656239

April 28, 2015 at 08:41 PM · Shawn,

you are asking the right kind of questions but they need a luttle clarifying I think. Basically you are asking about slow practice. Galamian said that of all practice techniques this is the most fundamental because one can actually think about what one is doing.

That is the key point. it is better to frame the issue in this way , in my opinion, rather than the less precise ideas of under tempo, slow, very slow and so on. First and foremost we need to think, observe and think with tremendous focus. Slow or very slow practice without thinking is as useless as mindless fast practice.Slow practice simply allows us to think fast in a slow context....

Unfortunately pretty much everything goes into our subconscious so anything you do that is the slightest bit off and not adjusted adequately becomes part of your playing in some way that is why it is actually better to not practice for a lot of people;)

Anyway, when you do slow motion practice you may start to notice what I call micro movements or little twitches that simply should not be there. each one is a reflection of tension or a technical defect in your playing.

For example , yesterday I picked up the second mov of the bach e major prelude. at the end of the first phrase, beginning of the second one plays a first finger e on the d string and then a double stop e and g on the a and e string. This segment did not sound right to me so I observed what was happening in slow motion. I then realized that in placing the first finger the second finger was very slightly moving with it away from the e string towards the a string. When I eliminated thus micro movement the 2 finger stayed directly over the e string and placing the double stop before the bow arrived became clean and easy. in order to get this into my system I needed to create a clear mental image or command and repeat it a few times. It also lead me me to research the idea of sideways finger independence in the literature and look for more examples. This is what I interpret slow motion practice to mean. The master of this approach is agree at player and teacher called Clayton Haslop. if you google this site you should find a lot of stuf by him. Well worth intensive study.

Cheers,

Buri

April 29, 2015 at 04:17 AM · Buri

mind = exploded

haha

that's a lot to take in but it really does seem a little bit unsettling that hours of practice might not only be not helpful, but instead, counterproductive. I absolutely noticed this phenomenon when I was playing a piece a while ago, and just for some reason, I got it to a point where I liked it, but the more I practiced the worse I seemed to get. I think it was because I stopped "slow" practicing all together, thinking that it was "above" me. I guess I really need to be careful when I practice. Thanks!

April 29, 2015 at 09:16 PM · Yes, 10 000 hours of not touching the violin and I guarantee you will play like HEIFETZ. it's all in my new book 'The no-talent code.'

cheers,

Buri

April 30, 2015 at 11:12 PM · Getting back to the original problem of fingering that particular Bflat-E-C chord, I remember being faced with a similar problem in a piece I was working on with my teacher (no, it wasn't the Bach chord but the fingering was identical). My teacher advised me to angle my index finger so that the side of the finger by the nail, rather than the tip, contacted the top note. In other words, minimizing the amount of finger contact with the string on that note - easier to show visually than to describe!. Anyway, it worked, the other fingers fell naturally into place, and a hitherto difficult chord now became a lot easier.

One proviso - what worked with my anatomy may not necessarily work so well with someone else's!

Also, avoid gripping with the left thumb - that tenses the hand and makes things twice as difficult.

May 1, 2015 at 08:48 PM · I vote for Bruce's suggestion. I don't see how you play a (baroque) trill otherwise. 1-2-4 better if no trill e.g. bar 210 if the Chaconne. Is this not from the F Major Largo?

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