Simon Fischer's Basics

May 27, 2005 at 05:08 AM · I just got Simon Fischer’s book Basics, and was just wondering if anybody had any tips on how to use it. A lot of the exercises are trying to get the student (me) to exaggerate the feel of a certain topic of the instrument. Are these supposed to be daily, weekly, weekly, or just a couple of times. Also, I was wondering about bow holds. In the pictures, the last section of girls pinky (fingernail) is positioned vertically on the top of the bow. This makes the pinky form kind of an arch. With my current bow hold, I hold it just like her, besides my pinky is almost straight resting on the top of the stick. I also have another book The Mastery of the Bow, that shows the bow being held exactly like I do (pinky straight). I guess I shouldn’t worry about it, since I like my hold, and my teacher has never commented on it, but I was just wondering what some other people thought.


Replies (18)

May 27, 2005 at 05:29 AM · Most people would suggest a bent pinkie. I've looked through that book, and it's a decent single source for information but you shouldn't take it too literally, especially the bow hold part. My suggestion, if you aren't having a problem don't change anything. Oliver had some good things to say on bow holds in another thread recently.

May 27, 2005 at 12:03 PM · Hi,

Basics is an excellent book. As a violinist, you can use some of the exercises to target and work on specific Basics. As a professional, doing it on your own. As a student, I would probably recommend working on things with the supervision of your teacher. Though some things in Basics are new, much is simply a compendium of many traditional and well-known exercises.

As for anything else, I'll use the famous words: Have you asked your teacher? Someone who knows your playing will be placed to make suggestions than those of us who have never seen you play.


May 27, 2005 at 12:15 PM · agreed - show it to your teacher and they should help you pick out excercises that will help you out.

What I've found useful is just to add basics to my daily technical work - there's seven sections, that's one a day! it's an easy way to get through everything and give you a wide brush to keep skills up. And, if there's something special that you need to work on from that book, you then have that time to do it. I'd usually spend 10-15 mins a day just working through a couple of excercises. somedays just one, others 2 or 3

February 8, 2008 at 10:28 PM · How do you make sure you are doing the exercises correctly? The instructions for each exercise are written is such an overly anatomical and obtuse style that I am usually so spent just from trying to understand what to do that I lose interest before doing the exercise?

February 8, 2008 at 11:46 PM · Wade through it, Tom it's worthwhile.

February 11, 2008 at 12:17 PM · I like to learn anything by reading books and was baffled for a long time by the lack of a book that explained how to play the violin. They all seemed to be written in code for people who already know. For instance Menuhin says "perfect intonation is of course essential" while devoting several chapters to yoga exercises. So I was thrilled to find Basics and Practice. I think of these exercises as the switches to little light bulbs in my head - "So that's what it's supposed to feel like!". The exercises that teach by exaggeration (of the right, and sometimes the wrong, technique) are models of good, clear pedagogy. Gems everywhere. For instance I am working on scales in thirds and there is a practice technique for this. Superb use of excerpts from the repertoire, which let you feel like a real violinist while practising. Index, cross-references and sidebars illuminate relationships between exercises and show how thoughtfully it has all been put together and edited. Yes, I like it.

February 12, 2008 at 09:16 AM · Oh and to answer the question(!)...

Read the introduction and 'how to use this book'.

Think of some point of technique you would like to improve.

Find related exercises through the contents and/or index.

Do them.

March 2, 2008 at 05:03 AM · Put it back on the shelf and practice thirds. Lot's of them....

March 2, 2008 at 10:33 PM · Greetings,

of course, if you took the trouble to study Basics in depth then you would be able to practice thirds with much greater undertsanding of how they fit into the overall scheme of technique and muscianship. A much greater degre eof overlal skill inlcuding in thirds is the result.

Incidentally, the advice to practice a lot of thirds at onme time is not necessraily good. They can promote a rather moribund left hand if not mixed with lighter an dmore rapid work. One simple solution to this problem is to pracitc ethem not only in the regualr fashion but also trilling so thta the lower fingers are raised while the upper are lowered and vice versa.



June 24, 2015 at 09:03 PM · I believe I’ve seen quite a few pedagogues advocate that the fourth finger (pinky) should be placed on top of the stick. Actually, the last time I saw it was in this video that I found a link to here on Personally I’ve struggled to keep my fourth finger on top of the stick even though I felt it created tensions and less control than when I placed it on the inner side of the stick. Nevertheless, as “all” pedagogues seemed to stress this I simply kept forcing myself to place it on top. However, eventually I got Ivan Galamian’s book “Principles of Violin Playing & Teaching” and to my great relief Galamian does not stress keeping the fourth finger on top of the stick. Instead he advocates that the fourth finger should indeed be placed “on the inner side of the stick octagon contacting the flat surface just next to the top”. To me this has meant a significant difference and has in an instance given me a more relaxed and controlled bowing technique. I sincerely recommend it, and I must say I’m a bit surprised that Simon Fischer - being a student of Delay who I believe followed the same principles as Ivan Galamian - advocates placing the fourth finger on top of the stick.

June 24, 2015 at 11:14 PM · Greetingsactually in my old fogey brain I don't recall that as being what Simon advocates. Most people dont. Could you give me a reference if you are in the mood?.



June 25, 2015 at 05:44 AM · "The fourth finger sits on top of the bow, or on the upper inside edge, depending on the tilt of the bow."

The Violin Lesson, page 43.

So yeah. ;-)

June 25, 2015 at 09:01 AM · Thanks for your replies to my very first post on I’m thrilled! I just realized that I’ve probably made a mistake just assuming that Simon Fischer advocates that the pinkie should be placed on top of the bow stick. I assumed so because the OP wrote “In the pictures, the last section of girls pinky (fingernail) is positioned vertically on the top of the bow. This makes the pinky form kind of an arch.” On top of this I saw the video about this that I was referring to in my previous post and furthermore my daughter’s violin teacher (unfortunately) also advocates the pinkie on top. I’m considering buying Simon Fischer’s Basics and so I searched for some impressions when I stumbled on the OP. When I read it I felt like being “under attack by pinkie on top” ;-) and I just felt a need to share my thoughts and experience about this. It may seem like a minor detail but making the change to place my pinkie “on the inner side of the stick octagon contacting the flat surface just next to the top” has meant a lot to me. So, thanks for putting me right and I assume I shouldn’t worry about picking up Fischer’s Basics!?

June 25, 2015 at 10:14 AM · You should definitely pick it up!

June 25, 2015 at 11:22 AM · Then again, you could take up The Violin Lesson. Personally I have found that to be more accessible.

June 25, 2015 at 03:56 PM · Not even Simon Fischer can cover every individual case in a book, although he comes very near!

I find Basics is a resources book, while The Violin Lesson is excellent for self-help.

June 25, 2015 at 07:01 PM · Greetings,

I agree that Sions commentb about the little finger is a little vague in The Violin lesson. So I would refer you to Basics Page 3.

`The usual position for the fourth finger is on the -upper , inside edge- of the bow, but in this exercise plac eit directly on top....

upper inside edge is in italics in the original.

I think Simon was just trying not to be too dogmatic since, as Adrain said, you cannot set down rules that work 100 percent of the time for 100 percent of every shape of hand etc. But basicallythe little finger has both a vertical and later function . Also note thta y default very few people use a flat bow hair when approaching the heel. It messes up the wrist position.



June 26, 2015 at 09:16 PM · Thank you all for your input and advice! Much appreciated! As a (passionate) hobbyist it's definitely a privilege to be able to communicate with such knowledgeable and professional violinists!

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