Holding fingers down
In Wohlfahrt and others we are encouraged to hold fingers down (as marked by a teacher below). Does one have to? I mean does everyone?
Most students who are starting wohlfhart are beginners, so chances are that they wouldn't be able to keep consistent intonation and hand positioning without keeping fingers down as guides whenever possible. So if you're able to keep good intonation while going quickly without keeping any fingers down, I don't see much of an issue with not keeping them down.
Frankly, I don't understand. I can see the teacher is trying to keep the specific 1st, 3rd or 2nd finger in position since it is used again in the phrase.
As an addition to my above comment: I learned the hard way that keeping fingers down is important for beginners. When I had just started teaching, I had everyone do it the way I personally did it (individual fingers, one at a time, rather than keeping any down) because I figured if I could do it that way, they should be able to as well.
My students sometimes say "but you're not holding yours down!"
To me, the use of an anchor-finger to maintain the position and "attitude" of your hand is good for maintaining the overall integrity of the key being played.
Holding down a finger that one is returning to a note or two later is not only good for the hand shape, it helps with intonation; the ability to notice in advance that one should keep a finger down is a key part of effective sight-reading.
Thanks for the answers, they all made sense. Glad I don't
I agree with Mary Ellen: "anchor" fingers are good for learning intervals across two strings, where the hand shape is subtly altered (if you want to stay in tune..)
Not letting your fingers fly up prematurely is a critical aspect of mastering the violin but some of those lines seem a little long. Maybe the teacher who drew them in has very specific ideas. For instance: the first 3 only needs to stay down until you cross to the A string. That being said - it HAS to stay down until you've completed the string crossing and the open A MUST sound clean and purely with the 3rd finger on the D string still down. Then the 3rd finger is free to come up, albeit briefly in this case.
I guess I should ask the obvious question: WHY are you against doing it, Bud Scott?
Leaving fingers down can be an extension of the "prepared fingering" principle and is probably necessary at the learning stages. But when used too much it can fatigue the small muscles. If both 2nd and 4th fingers are down, the 3rd finger can be slow. In upper positions sometimes the 1st finger needs to be left down as an anchor or point of reference. One of my teachers said something like "for each piece spend at least one session deciding when to set and lift each finger, and calculate the interval distances of the shifts. Example; on a descending scale prepare each finger one note in advance. The instrument that uses prepared fingering for Every note is the harp. The instrument that never does that is the piano.
My current teacher is a stickler for both early finger preparation and holding fingers down, much more so than my previous teachers. I soon saw the benefits: my left hand now works much more economically and precise, playing fast and keeping good intonation has got much easier. Also, my left hand became way more relaxed and flexible.
If holding down a finger feels uncomfortable, as if you are unnaturally stretching the fingers, then that is a suggestion that your left hand position needs some work.
Cello literature is very consistent. Place down all the fingers behind the finger "playing" the note, on the string, if possible. (Can't be done in double stopping, for example.)
Bud, please record a video of your left hand (from the left side of the violin, e.g. the thumb side, about 2-3 feet away), playing the first couple lines of the etude very slowly while attempting to keep the fingers down where your teacher specified. I should be able to tell you why your fingers feel uncomfortable doing this.
"Hold Down" is maybe the wrong language because that implies unnecessary force and tension. I'd rather think of it as leaving fingers resting in a down position when you don't need them.
The manoeuvring to F while holding E here seems to involve the elbow rather than just the wrist/fingers. Moving 1 out of the way to allow 2 in seems more sensible.
Bud, as many have advised you above, you should take the situation you are currently in as an opportunity to discover that your left hand technique needs improvement. Simply playing E-F-G-A on the D string (or E-F-A for that matter), adding one finger at a time, should involve no manoeuvring of any kind, let alone of the elbow (other than having the elbow hang in the right way to begin with). Just to make clear: I am not implying that it is easy for a beginner to do this correctly naturally. If it was easy there would be no need for Schradieck exercise no.1! It involves increasing flexibility in the base joints and many other things that a good teacher, or the books by Simon Fischer, will teach you.
In addition to what is stated above, I was never one to hold my hand/finger frame while playing as a kid. As an adult returner, my teacher has insisted that I do this whenever possible BUT we started this by doing two lines of Schradieck no.1 at a time, then adding another two, then another, etc. Now I can do the whole page without a problem, and consistently do this (still with some thoughtful reminders) elsewhere. It's becoming more natural to do, and it definitely improves intonation, sight-reading, shifts, etc.
Holding that E while placing the F causes amazing tension all up my forearm. I think posters are saying if I persist the fingers will eventually 'bend'? the joints become looser? I'm a bit unclear. Moving 1 away
As mentioned above, if simultaneously fingering the E and F on the D string is causing tension in your arm, then you are holding the violin incorrectly. Maybe your elbow is too far to the left, or you're gripping with the thumb, or the violin is too deep in your hand. Impossible to say without seeing your hold.
Bud, if it causes tension to hold your 1 down while playing 2-3-4, that is exactly why you need to spend time with this etude. There shouldn't be tension in the left hand in general but especially for elementary first position.
Anyone can do this experiment:
Someone working on Kreutzer 9 probably already has a good concept of left hand frame, whereas someone working on Wohlfahrt 3 probably doesn't.
Like I said before, please post a video of your hand doing the passage slowly and I could probably immediately tell you why you find it difficult, or if your reasons for not doing it are valid.
Joel puts it far more elegantly than my small brain can do. That's what I meant to say. The point of yoga is to squeeze muscle areas briefly so that fresh blood can rush in and replenish areas that don't usually get a good supply.
Since Kreutzer #9 was mentioned, here's Nathan Cole explaining the left hand technique of this very etude. Look at him keeping his fingers down (very light, not "holding" or "pressing" them), his left hand completely relaxed:
Thank you for that. I'm having a go now and think I prefer
continued-- Wow! the great Joachim recommends doing Kreutzer #9 3-6 times daily? That sounds like what modern sports-medicine people would call dangerous over-training; or old-school improving the playing pool by attrition. The two professions that still don't understand that are the military and musicians. Whether a muscle is large or small doesn't matter; the metabolism cannot supply fuel and oxygen to a tensed muscle fast enough to keep up with the demand. So how does a marathon runner keep it up for two hours --Because each individual muscle is only active during a fraction of the stride cycle. Also-the muscles that open the hand are naturally weaker and slower than the muscles that close the hand. Who, besides musicians, needs to lift fingers with any force? When doing fast runs in orchestral music, like Tchaikovsky symphonies, sometimes I get better results by thinking about lifting the fingers instead putting them down.
I have found that certain times when you hold down the fingers it can mess with the muscles in some cases. For example: a scale of d minor - open d, 1st e, low 2 f, 3rd g, 4th a up and down, I find that my muscles work better if I release the 2nd finger. If I don't, I feel some restriction. I advocate 1st and 3rd as the dominant anchors in most cases but agree the keeping fingers down thing is a bit overdone sometimes. You need to listen to your muscles as well as your intonation. Also, I don't find the preparation of fingers in advance idea to be so musically intuitive.
Generally speaking, I see a number of students engage in what I call "whack-a-mole" fingering where a separate motion has to be made in order to get to the next note. I even run into teachers to advocate this, which increases the amount of fatigue and error rate substantially.
When some of us say we don't always keep our fingers down, we're referring mainly to performance repertoire. That's especially true in my case, because as a violist with short stubby fingers I have to lift my 1st finger completely away from the string to get an effective 2nd or 3rd finger vibrato.
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