Looking at the fingerboard

May 20, 2016 at 02:37 PM · I've seen a few violinist before who seemingly never look at the fingerboard when playing (ones that I like). Instead they appear to have everything ingrained in muscle memory (also these people seem to be the most comfortable ones when playing). I've been playing for two years and I've been asking myself quite a lot of different questions. Is it ultimately a desirable goal to play the instrument pretty much blindly? How would one achieve such status and is it necessary? I consinder myself a very visual person, which memorises a score very quickly and I always look at the fingerboard. Thoughts?

Replies (67)

May 20, 2016 at 02:43 PM · It takes along time to build the muscle memory to be able to play without looking. Give it time.

May 20, 2016 at 02:49 PM · if you have to look at the left fingers, it's too late. many play blindly, or keep their eye on the soundpoint instead of the fingers

May 20, 2016 at 03:41 PM · I look at the fingers only to double-check momentarily on questions of hand form and position -- generally when learning new material. It should get to be like what I’m doing right now in typing this: Keep the hands on the keyboard but don’t look at the hands. Keep your eyes on the copy -- or, in this case, keep your mind on the text you intend to write.

I ran into a problem, some years back, of the bow hairs intermittently contacting adjacent strings when I was playing scales and arpeggios on one string. I knew the scale and arpeggio patterns from memory, so I didn’t have to look at the sheet music. But with no sheet music, I found that I was looking at my left fingers instead. I next found that looking straight ahead, not at the fingers, just being aware of the bow angle and bow travel via side vision, took care of the problem.

In 2011, when we had the tornado outbreak, my immediate area was in the dark for 103 hours, a little over 4 days. I continued playing the evening sessions in the garage -- it was warm enough -- and the light got very dim for the last 60 minutes or so of playing. I could barely make out the shapes around me. But these sessions were at least as good as any I’d had before, because they really forced me to listen and bring into play the interval training, shifting drills, and bow control drills I’d had earlier -- e.g., the seven bow planes: E / A / D / G / E-A / A-D / D-G.

Hope this helps. Do you have a teacher? If so, definitely take it up with your teacher.

May 20, 2016 at 07:02 PM · Hey Jim, thanks so much! Yes, I have a teacher but I didn't see her for two weeks because of holidays. At todays practice I tried some of the stuff you've mentioned. I played with eyes closed or generally not looking at my fingers and after many tries it started to work ok. Surprisingly. But that's just with two positions.

I'm struggling with the op.45 no 47 by wohlfahrt in which there is lots of shifting from e to g# plus follow up note on the d string whilst playing tons of notes on one bow. What's the best ways to get that shift to an inaudible level?

May 21, 2016 at 12:00 AM · I personally stare at my reflection in front of a mirror or a glass window when I play.

I think I am a lot more concerned at my bowing than what my left hand does, because I can literally feel, and hear when something isn't right.

One of the walls on my apartment has been converted to stick-on mirror wall entirely for this purpose. You'd be surprised what kind of bad postures and bowing you can catch in the reflection.

June 1, 2016 at 10:49 PM · I thought I heard the "classical" training says that you are supposed to be looking at the fingers. Maybe I misunderstood.

June 1, 2016 at 11:28 PM · honestly its all just muscle memory

June 2, 2016 at 12:57 AM · "I thought I heard the "classical" training says that you are supposed to be looking at the fingers. Maybe I misunderstood."

You must have misunderstood. You should never be looking at your fingers. This is why I loathe tapes--they train beginner violinists to be watching their left hand instead of training their ears and muscles to place their fingers in the correct location on the strings or to make quick adjustments.

Do you watch the ground when you ride a bike?

When you go to an orchestra concert, do you see *any* string players watching their left hands? Answer: no, because we are too busy reading the music and (hypothetically anyway) watching the conductor.

DON'T WATCH YOUR FINGERS!!!! They won't fall off if you're not looking at them, I promise.

June 2, 2016 at 04:47 AM · I've seen quite a few masterclasses on YouTube where Pinchas Zukerman is constantly telling the student to keep his/her eyes on his/her "sounding point" (where the bow is). Definitely not at the left hand though. When I watch Pinchas play it seems like he checks on himself at soundpoint when it's critical to do so, otherwise, his eyes are closed or looking elsewhere.

June 2, 2016 at 05:47 AM · I can't remember if I ever looked at my left hand when playing violin. I suspect I did when I was 4 - but that was 77 years ago. Even if I did, I can't imagine what it would tell me considering the obliqueness of the angle of my line of sight.

On cello I do look at my fingers above the first octave harmonic, when I am playing music I have not committed to memory - which is most everything I play these days. But with those things I learned years ago and have memorized I find no reason to look.

Andy

June 2, 2016 at 06:11 AM · It depends what you are trying to accomplish.

Obviously, in a studio recording situation, you can't be looking at your fingers. Hopefully, you've developed your playing skills to the point where they are practically infallible as you're staring at a mountain of notes that you've never seen before, yet get one or two chances to play nearly-perfectly. If you're flying through the Rite of Spring, your lifeline is your music, principal player, and maybe-not-so-much the conductor, but you sure as heck don't have time to look at your fingers.

In a practice situation where you are gathering information though, say, working through the multi-stop sections of Bruch, Mendelssohn, Tchaikovsky, Sibelius, etc. it can be useful to help internalize/visualize the shapes that your finger patterns have to form by getting visual input. This has helped me a lot playing the viola parts of the late Beethoven quartets, and especially the viola part of the Brahms Quintet Op. 115, which is downright hairy for intonation.

A number of top-flight soloists do use their vision sometimes, Midori in particular, to ensure that the placement of tetrachords prior to an entrance or through a particularly knuckle-busting passage are correct. The justification here is that if you can see that something is going to be out of tune, you can adjust it before you hear that it is out of tune (as by that point, your audience can also hear that it is out of tune). Light is faster than sound! They aren't staring it at 100% of the time though, they're also checking out their point of contact, and communicating with the conductor or principal players in the ensemble...just look at Heifetz play Introduction and Rondo Capriccioso on YouTube. He's making use of all his available senses (including his vision, look at his eyes moving) to play...and it's incredible.

June 2, 2016 at 06:29 AM · Here is an excellent video from my longtime mentor, William Fitzpatrick, about this topic:

Virtual Sheet Music - Fitzpatrick - "Looking Around"

June 2, 2016 at 06:40 AM · You should NOT look at your left hand fingers. Too many players forget that music and the violin is an aural discipline. Use your ears to pitch and tune notes - the fingers are irrelevant - it's what you hear that counts.

(I know pianist look at the keyboard sometimes, but the piano is a more logical and evenly set out instrument and they have to sometimes leap from a deep bass note to a high chord cluster covering several feet of keyboard. The violin fingerboard is really very small in comparison and pianists don't have to worry about intonation, and only about playing the correct notes, with a certain amount of artistry ... [wink])

June 2, 2016 at 12:23 PM · Thanks for all the replies! The general consensus seems to be to not look at the fingerboard. Altough i'm not 100% sure that my fingers won't infact fall off. I guess i'll take that risk and am going to try do delve further into the matter.

June 2, 2016 at 01:13 PM · I think it helps to do your basic warm-up practice, such as scales and arpeggios, with your eyes closed, listening closely. If your quality of sound - as opposed to intonation - starts to sound odd (scratchy or whispery for example) then that is telling you your sound point may not be where it should be. Open your eyes, see what your bow is doing and correct it as necessary.

As has been said here by others even the greatest violinists will look at their sound point sometimes. Where you bow is a region of the string where a millimeter or two makes a difference to the sound quality. It isn't your right hand contacting the string directly, as it always is with the left hand giving you immediate feedback, but the bow hair, and the hair contact point is usually a considerable distance from the bowing hand. That's why a quick peek at what the bow is doing is advisable in the more tricky bits of the music.

June 2, 2016 at 02:53 PM · I was taught to watch my left hand by a teacher, who apparently was taught by Rafael Bronstein to watch his left hand. Bronstein has a system of "visual intonation", although it's really more about finger-spacing than it is about visual relationships. I don't think it's so much about seeing where you're going, as forcing your brain to estimate the distances, especially in big shifts -- the illusion of a visual leap rather than actual vision-based movement. I find it to be useful for big shifts in the early stages of practice -- a kind of reminder to my brain to aim for where I'm going.

June 2, 2016 at 07:02 PM · It's very dangerous to use your brain when playing the violin ... (wink) Do what conductors do, and switch the brain off ...

June 4, 2016 at 06:33 AM · Lydia I do something similar, especially as I am just learning 3octave scales. If I am having issues getting my intonation or losing notes in the higherd positions I stop and visually examine where my fingers should be on the board and then relate that visually to finger positioning I am comfortable with. Of coursed I also sound the note to link my visual and aural senses. This will put the finger board in my mind's eye and I can then use tactile and aural feedback, along with my mental vision to solidify my finger position.

The rest of the time is spent with my eyes glued to the music as my sight reading is continually needing improvement.

Jessy

June 4, 2016 at 06:33 AM ·

June 4, 2016 at 07:39 AM · Many good musicians use visual clues to set off the aural, tactile and kinetic ones. To others they are a distraction, and for them, using visual clues prevents the others from developing. Which is not true, in my long experience.

We can usually feed ourselves without looking in a mirror, but maybe not remove a grain of sand from an eye..

June 4, 2016 at 09:07 PM · I recently came up with the idea of playing with my eyes closed and I realized that the visual route was a distraction.

June 5, 2016 at 05:46 PM · I'm a beginner too but I don't think I ever looked at the fingerboard, not even when I started to play the violin. My teacher at the time didn't allow us to have tapes to mark the position of the notes, so we had no other choice but do it by ear. According to him, it's "easy" to find the correct place for your fingers in first position, and he gave us some instructions to do so. Then we trained muscle memory with scales and etudes.

Contrary to OP, I have a considerably bad memory, and I don't think I'd be able to play looking at the fingerboard, I need to keep my eyes on the score to play.

June 5, 2016 at 10:57 PM · > According to him, it's "easy" to find the correct

> place for your fingers in first position

This is an assumption that belies a lack of understanding of how people learn. Just because it is easy for one person, does not mean it is easy for everyone else.

If you don't want to use visual information from the fingerboard as part of your practice strategy for playing, that's perfectly fine. You also have a choice to not use a shoulder rest, not use synthetic strings, or not play the works of a certain composer if that is your preference.

However, the study of the violin is not a single path, but rather a collection of many crisscrossing ones. A colleague of mine had something really great to say on this: "the success of others does not diminish us." So, it's perfectly okay to acknowledge that there are multiple solutions to the same problem, even if some of those solutions are not what you personally were taught and not what you personally teach yourself.

June 5, 2016 at 11:56 PM · Personally I just can't imagine looking at my fingers when I play. For one thing my dominant eye is the left one, which gives a completely different perspective than the right one. Then there isn't any accurate point of reference to work with. Visually I don't see how I could get anywhere other than in the general area of a note, and I don't think I could ever play 'in tune' based on visual cues alone. Then how do I read the score and play in the same time? So I suppose that puts me in the don't look at your fingers camp.

June 6, 2016 at 10:07 AM · Be it the score or the fingerboard, visual clues should only be a "trigger".

Mary Ellen has a good analogy:"Do you watch the ground when you ride a bike?" Most of the time, no; but if the ground is full of tricky bumps and grooves, yes!

June 6, 2016 at 08:59 PM · There are only two ways to control muscle movement: proprioception(eyes closed or looking away) and eyes. There isn't a third one. 'Muscle memory' isn't a third way to control muscle movement.

For example: if a very good violinist lost his proprioception sense in his left arm do to a car accident, he would have to look at his left hand at all times to control his finger movements. He would not be able to play in tune. He will be capable of finding 'in tune', but his fingers would never be able to land close to 'in tune'; in other words, he would always be sliding into notes. He would also develop horrible tension problems. Basically, playing the violin well would be impossible.

Our propioception sense controls muscle movement, pressure, feel, resistance and tension.

Our eyes only control muscle movement.

Proprioception is very, very fast for controlling muscle movement.

Eyes are slow at controlling muscle movement- this is a FACT!!!!

If you are constantly looking at your left hand when learning new finger patterns, you will create an 'eye hand coordination' memory. You will never be able to play this pattern at a fast speed. To get the pattern at a fast speed you will need to 'not look' at the fingers for several weeks, so the brain can be RETRAINED for a proprioception memory. Once that happens, only then will you be able to play the finger pattern at speed.

Proprioception(not using your eyes to control muscle movement) is a violinist best friend. The rule, "less is more" applies to the eyes when controlling muscle movement, and more so when learning something new.

---Teaching----

It is also important that teachers are able to recognize students with poor proprioception. Students with poor proprioception will have trouble with playing in tune: sliding into notes a lot and may be slow at learning bow techniques. Their poor intonation is very random, compared to someone who plays an out of tune note, but hits the same spot each time. They may get blamed for not practicing enough.

common signs of poor proprioception:

-seeks out jumping, bumping, and crashing activities

-stomps feet when walking

-kicks his/her feet on floor or chair while sitting at desk/table

-bites or sucks on fingers and/or frequently cracks his/her knuckles

-loves to be tightly wrapped in many or weighted blankets, especially at bedtime

-prefers clothes (and belts, hoods, shoelaces) to be as tight as possible

-loves/seeks out “squishing” activities

-enjoys bear hugs

-excessive banging on/with toys and objects

----DIFFICULTY WITH “GRADING OF MOVEMENT"----

-misjudges how much to flex and extend muscles during tasks/activities (i.e., putting arms into sleeves or climbing)

-difficulty regulating pressure when writing/drawing; may be too light to see or so hard the tip of writing utensil breaks

-written work is messy and he/she often rips the paper when erasing

-always seems to be breaking objects and toys

-misjudges the weight of an object, such as a glass of juice, picking it up with too much force sending it flying or spilling, or with too little force and complaining about objects being too heavy

-may not understand the idea of “heavy” or “light”; would not be able to hold two objects and tell you which weighs more

-seems to do everything with too much force; i.e., walking, slamming doors, pressing things too hard, slamming objects down

plays with animals with too much force, often hurting them

June 6, 2016 at 09:20 PM · Charles, my experience confirms all you say here, except:

- "There are only two ways to control muscle movement: proprioception(eyes closed or looking away) and eyes. There isn't a third one. 'Muscle memory' isn't a third way to control muscle movement."

Muscle Memory combined with proprioception enables us to play (and run, and talk) fast and well. I could give lots of examples, but judging by other threads, I'm not sure you would bother to consider them!

Many of us visualise frequently in the background as a re-assuring accompaniment to our audio-kinetic skills.

June 7, 2016 at 10:03 AM · >I don't think I could ever play 'in tune' based on visual cues alone.

No one is advocating that one play based on visual cues alone. Where is that coming from? Your visual input is one of three senses (besides tactile and auditory) you use to gather information when playing that can be used as part of a practice strategy for more accurate pattern placement (tetrachords).

> Then how do I read the score and play in the same time?

Memorize the score, so you can spend less time processing written symbols, and more time evaluating your point of contact and tetrachord patterns.

> If you are constantly looking at your left hand when

> learning new finger patterns..[y]ou will never be able

> to play this pattern at a fast speed.

There we go, another one of those "never" proclamations again. I spent a summer at Aspen watching students using visual information as part of their practice strategy absolutely blasting through Paganini, Ysaye, and all the manner of virtuosic works. I had the opportunity to observe many weeks of lessons with some incredible teachers, and discuss with them some of their time-tested concepts for developing musicians and artists.

If you can't (or won't) make use of visual information as part of an overall practice strategy, and have come up with other solutions, I'm happy for you and am glad to hear about your research and what you've discovered. However, it is a disservice to everyone to claim that just because YOU can't do it, that NO ONE ELSE can do it.

June 8, 2016 at 08:17 PM · Yes it's a pity because Charles' posts contain a lot of sense.

Indeed I have young students who watch their fingers, or the score, continuously, and play in a dead, ponderous fashion. But certainly not all. Others, like myself, will glance at the left hand occasionally for reassurance.

It is up to us teachers to take a student's favorite stimuli and teach how to complete, adapt, or improve them. We all need the same skills, but there are many ways of acquiring them, and we must also distinguish clearly between preparatory and performing aspects.

June 10, 2016 at 03:41 PM ·

To escape criticism: Don't do anything, don't say anything and don't try to prove anything and you will definitely not learn anything, mainly assertiveness.

I did make a mistake in my post, there are actually three ways to control muscle movements: Proprioception, Vision and Mental images of the movement and their combinations.

This is an excellent 4 part video on how muscle movement is controlled. Ian Waterman had to relearn how to move his muscles without proprioception, which is quite amazing, but this level of relearning things doesn't apply at all when a person loses his sight. The video shows us how slow and inaccurate vision is compared to how strong and fast proprioception is.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bGlZpZgwnAc

The link

Because we use vision for controlling a lot of our muscle movements it gives us a false sense of security into thinking vision is the strong, better sense, but the reality is, its not.

June 10, 2016 at 05:47 PM · Those Of Us Who Like To Look never maintain that looking governs our movements: of course that's too slow and limiting. Looking only helps initial careful setup, and then gives way to Brief Glances at Critical Moments when proprioception (= mental anticipation + muscle memory + instant fine tuning) has taken over. Like keeping an eye on the road with occasional glances at the SatNav..

June 10, 2016 at 05:49 PM · Oops!

June 10, 2016 at 06:30 PM · "...there are actually three ways to control muscle movements: Proprioception, Vision and Mental images of the movement and their combinations."

I'm also a lay-person when it comes to all of this, but I don't think that's how voluntary movement works. Proprioception is a sense, along with vision, hearing, taste, etc. The brain is the control. If I remember correctly the frontal lobe, in particular the motor cortex, controls voluntary movement based on the information it gets from various other parts of the brain. The parietal lobe processes proprioception, along with touch and pain. Vision is processed in the occipital lobe, hearing in the left temporal lobe, etc. So you process your goals, your control, in the frontal lobe, which gets combined with information from other lobes, which is then processed in the motor cortex to command certain muscles to contract. I'm not sure what it means to say one is a 'better sense' or 'proprioception is very, very fast...'

The problem with proprioception, with any sense, is ineffective and inefficient habits for the given context, for which the only solution is awareness. I don't know why you'd want to handicap learning by excluding a sense, unless, until said sense causes a problem.

June 10, 2016 at 08:16 PM · "EDIT- a once in a while glance is one thing - I don't let them stare at their fingers as beginners."

Same applies to tapes (wink, smirk, giggle..)

June 11, 2016 at 08:36 AM · Here are similar arguments with dancers and mirrors:

https://www.iadms.org/page/400

The Link

They generally agree with me: less is more and "CONSTANTLY" using an aid creates a crutch that inhibits confidence.

My general rule of thumb for preventing 'crutches' is: look once or use it once, then repeat 3 times without the aid.

Muscle memory doesn't exist, or there isn't a "cortex" in the mind where procedural memories are store. The reason something becomes fluent is because of timing. Our unconscious mind is seconds ahead of our conscious mind, 2-7 seconds ahead. Maybe one day neuroscientist will tell us that before we play our first note of a piece, the unconscious mind has already finished processing the last note of the piece.

The goal to practice than is to train the mind to predetermine the correct muscle movements.

June 11, 2016 at 09:00 AM · Adrian - I usually put the tape over the pupil's mouth - never on the fingerboard.

But one must stop looking at anything ( I had a bad habit of looking at the young ladies until I got too old to care). Even looking continually at the bow contact on the string is bad, you should know by the sound that the bowing is rubbish. (Unless you are using Eudoxa strings ... and then the sound is always rubbish!)(wink)

Don't look at the left hand. Also in orchestra, one only rarely glances at the conductor (mainly to see if they are still alive, but that's difficult to tell anyway ...)

June 11, 2016 at 01:19 PM · "My general rule of thumb for preventing 'crutches' is: look once or use it once, then repeat 3 times without the aid."

What I ve been meaning to say all along!

Muscle memory. Is this a problem of vocabulary? I'm thinking of what the cerebelum does.

June 11, 2016 at 02:03 PM · I thought Cerebelum was by Donizetti. He had a great head for heights.

June 11, 2016 at 04:15 PM · Adrian, I think he wants you to use the term procedural memory instead, which begs the question why he gets to throw around "'eye hand coordination' memory" or "proprioception memory." Bit of a double standard I guess.

Charles, thanks for the links. Very interesting video and article. But I think you're kind of proving our point, that visual sense has it's place in learning movement, perhaps more for some than others.

Speed and reflex, coordination and timing, these are also necessary for violinistic skills, but are different from or include mechanisms other than proprioception. So yes, practice is about training the mind, which involves using all senses and memories, analysed and synthesized to refine movement. Fluency requires building procedural memory suited to the task at hand. But you can't train unconsciously, just because it's fluent or faster. Performance is unconscious but practice is conscious.

June 11, 2016 at 04:15 PM · Oops

June 11, 2016 at 04:15 PM ·

June 11, 2016 at 04:15 PM ·

June 12, 2016 at 12:15 PM · "The goal to practice than is to train the mind to predetermine the correct muscle movements." The mind or "just" the brain?

June 12, 2016 at 12:21 PM · Amen ... Suppose it must be the brain. Now where did I leave mine ...

PS I see that you have described yourself as a failed viola player in your profile. I think I must be one too, and a failed fiddle player ...

June 13, 2016 at 12:28 PM · OK, I will modify what I have previously said, a little. This is an excellent masterclass given by Pinky (Zukerman) on YouTube.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0A1gFKNCa3I

He talks a lot about looking at the sound-point, and his general comments on sound, posture and the bow in particular are really excellent.

The bow is 85% of fiddle playing - the violin itself contributes only 15%

Watch this - it's a great lesson, and the young lady playing the Tchaikovsky at the beginning is really fantastic. When a player can make such a wonderful sound I'm moved beyond words.

P S He only uses modern bows (Lee Guthrie) and says he wouldn't waste a load of money on expensive (French?) bows!

June 13, 2016 at 01:59 PM · Of course, one can focus so much on the bowing when one has a such a marvelously trained left hand!

June 14, 2016 at 04:05 PM ·

Well Roman Kim has developed the perfect 'specs' for violin playing.

The Prioscope

June 15, 2016 at 01:38 PM ·

Here's an excellent video showing a blind violinist with near perfect straight bowing; even though, she is not very advanced in other areas.

Blind Violinist

June 15, 2016 at 03:15 PM · Uh, no... I don't see what you see Charles. "Straight bowing" is ultimately about maintaining sound point, and her sound point choices are pretty random. I would say her ability to bow straight is on par with the rest of her skills, not that she needs to bow straight to choose sound points well.

I think she's most proficient at traction, which, if she improved her ability to control sound point, would enable her to produce good tone more consistently. There's a lot of potential there to improve very rapidly, but I'm pretty sure her experience is completely different from a sighted person's experience of keeping eyes closed or not looking.

Regarding the use of vision in learning violin, I think everybody's pretty much on the same page here, just emphasizing different things.

June 16, 2016 at 11:16 AM · Going back to a few posts concerning looking at the sound-point, maybe I'm stating the obvious, but do we develop the skill to memorise at least the bar we are about to start, which gives us time to look at the bow and the sound-point? This gets around the problem of either looking at the music (and often each individual note) and looking at the sound-point (or elsewhere). Of course memorising the whole piece gets rid of the problem of the music, but memorising each bar at a time gives us more freedom to look at important things (which of course does not include the conductor ...)

Other things which are useful to occasionally glance at are the spread of the fingers on the bow, and the height of the scroll.

June 25, 2016 at 04:21 PM · "The bow is 85% of fiddle playing - the violin itself contributes only 15%"

I suspect that is only part of the story. Of that "85%" about 25% could be apportioned to the bow stick and hair, and the remaining 60% to the violinist's skills.

June 25, 2016 at 04:46 PM · Hi Trevor - yes, I think that's a fair point. I think what Zukerman was saying could well include the player's skill at around 60% It's a sort of generalisation, but I think he was trying to get over the point that the sounding-point was 85% of the sound, if you get what I mean!

Here is the link, and you might have a better interpretation than me.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0A1gFKNCa3I

June 28, 2016 at 08:53 PM · "Ninety percent of this game is half-mental." -- Yogi Berra (disputed)

July 1, 2016 at 10:34 PM · Learning to play with visual markings is like watching you feet when you drive.

July 2, 2016 at 10:16 AM · ..or looking through the windshield?

In an unfamiliar car, I may look at the various controls before driving; and watching the road has never prevented my feet, hands and ears from exercising their skills. (And sometimes my nose, for an over-heating engine!)

Anyway, "learning" is not "playing".

July 2, 2016 at 11:19 AM · Are we allowed to change our minds if we learn or get new ideas about things?

I think I have changed my mind about looking. If you can afford to look at the sound-point and/or the fingerboard then it might help and be a good idea. (NO to fingerboard tapes or marking though!!!!)

Regarding driving, here in London a lot of people are looking at their feet, passengers, mobile phone, pretty girls on the side-walk (pavement) etc., so it's a mad crazy world where the blind are driving the blind. Maybe that's true of a lot of string teaching too. (Or deaf directing if you are a conductor).

Adrian - do not understand your quote - "Anyway, "learning" is not "playing"."

I would think learning and playing are one and the same thing. You may be playing in a concert AND learning at the same time.

July 2, 2016 at 11:28 AM · Sorry, I meant "learning how to play" is not "performing".

July 2, 2016 at 01:35 PM · Sorry Adrian, I am being pedantic, but we can surely still be learning how to play, even at a venerable age, whilst we may be performing. You could argue that all playing, practicing, whatever you like to call it, IS performing? I'm not ashamed to admit that I'm still learning how to play, even if I have left it rather late in life.

Indeed, our practicing is so much more valuable if we practice *in* performance at the same time. Otherwise, when you stand up (or sit down) to perform, you will find everything different and surprising and get a bit of a bad shock?

July 2, 2016 at 01:41 PM · Peter, to be even more pedantic, while performing, I can spot things that I will examine later in my practice sessions..

And I often claim to be still learning, unlike the all-kowing 30 to 40 year-olds. (And not only because I'm beginning to forget stuff!)

July 2, 2016 at 02:10 PM · So, great, we sing from the same hymn sheet! (Although you will never catch me in church).

July 2, 2016 at 08:27 PM · So I've recently encountered something I've never seen before: Finger tapes marking the upper positions.

I'm volunteer-helping to coach middle-schoolers (rising 6th through 9th graders) in chamber music this summer, and they can play sight-reading sessions with my community orchestra. I'm seeing kids who have tapes marking fingers 1-2-3 in 3rd position, plus what would be 1 in 7th position. (On the E string, that would be A-B-C E.)

I boggle a bit, especially when I see kids looking away from the music in order to visually find a high note. I'm sure there's a logic to teachers doing it, but gah.

July 3, 2016 at 03:26 AM · > Are we allowed to change our minds if

> we learn or get new ideas about things?

One of my mentors has been reluctant to put his many superb teaching ideas into book form, precisely because he says, "what if I change my mind about something??" :)

July 3, 2016 at 05:30 PM · That is a very interesting comment, Gene.

I've sometimes thought that I should not make suggestions when sometime later I might have a change of heart. I'm sure the person you mention has some very good ideas about technique. Sometimes though we have to put our heads over the parapet, even if we have to lower it later! So maybe all comments should be accepted but only if with experimentation later reveals that they do actually work for the recipient.

July 3, 2016 at 05:30 PM ·

July 4, 2016 at 01:26 AM · I don't follow the argument that it's not necessary to look at the fingerboard, but it can be necessary to look at the sound point. I think that it's more complex than looking at this or that -- that we have to see with the mind, and while that seeing is different than the seeing with the eyes, seeing with eyes can help towards that.

Due to this thread, I tried not looking at the fingerboard (closing my eyes), and found that I could focus better on my hand/wrist position (which I couldn't see well in any case and a mirror is not a real solution either), feeling it, and improving my playing thereby.

July 4, 2016 at 03:51 AM · Haha Lydia, I've only seen that on bass and (sometimes in pencil) cello! I do use a visual cue but nothing that's marked onto the fingerboard permanently.

July 4, 2016 at 08:02 AM · I would do whatever feels right for you. Each person is unique and at varying levels. From what I've seen of him, Heifetz tends to keep his eyes open and looking at the violin; where precisely I'm not sure. I find it a little disconcerting when a player has their eyes closed the entire time, but many top players do it so perhaps they know something that I am yet to discover (eg. at that level visual information might counteract the hard-earned intuitive knowledge of the hands/fingers).

At my current level I am mostly looking at the score and sometimes at the fingerboard for important shifts.

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