Bow Hold, String Crossing and Right Shoulder Ache (PREPARE TO BE BOMBARDED)
Nice to meet everyone here! Have been a lurking member for quite a while.
Just a short summary of myself:
I'm a 3 month violinist from a small country called Singapore and am 24 years old. I have a teacher. I am super determined to be a violin busker after completing an unrelated degree.
I was playing Happy Farmer and Minute 3 from Suzuki Book 1 recently and realised that I have quite a few problems which I can't seem to resolve on my own. Thus, am seeking advice from the violin senpais in this forum.
1) My right shoulder is still aching. I am aware that my right shoulder is high when I'm playing. However, when I drop my shoulder, I have a tendency to drop my elbow as well. Does anyone have cues or videos to solve this issue?
It usually occurs when I am playing upbow towards the frog on the G string
2) My intonation still sucks and uneven.
I have been doing open strings (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NtWGUJcWmns) and 1 min bowing (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WnH6EvvzCk8).
Would it resolve this issue if I do this long enough?
3) My string crossing still sux. While string crossing, I would unintentionally hit neighbouring strings.
Anyone have good videos for this?
4) My bow hold is a bit tense. My right hand is slight rotated to the left. Ever since I have listened to my teacher to bent my pinky while holding the bow, it has resulted in some tension. Bending my pinky requires quite a bit of effort since I am double jointed at the pinky.
I do bend (downbow) and unbend my thumb (upbow).
I have followed this video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZMChoF-syJ0
I have been using a mix of Joy Lee's Arm Vibrato tutorial (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OLpDZPAF_H4) and Nathan Cole's Vibrato Tutorial (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q3lhoutwB14)
I use point #2 and #3 from Nathan Cole's tutorial (bending at the first knuckle and pulling/pushing from the base knuckle)
a) arm vibrato without the bow
b) arm vibrato without the bow and violin towards the wall
c) vibrato with the bow without the wall (2 vibrato/bow, 60bpm)
d) vibrato with the bow without the wall (4 vibrato/bow)
e) vibrato with the bow without the wall (6 vibrato/bow)
CURRENTLY I AM @ PHASE C!
Would this be alright?
6) I could do BC#DE on A string with ease but I can't seem to find a sweet spot for place my fingers for
->>> BCDE on A string (Song: Happy Farmer/Minute 3)
->>> BCD#E on A string (Song: Gavotte)
If I do place my left thumb to the left of the scroll (thumb can be clearly seen from left of scroll), two things usually occur while playing any of the 2 combinations stated above:
a) I would grip the scroll really tight
b) My third finger/fourth finger would collapse
I have tried placing my left thumb closer to the bottom of the scroll which helped a little. I have rotated my left hand to cause my base knuckles to be parallel to the scroll to create a more ideal arc for my fingers. However, this resulted in some tension.
I have tried strengthening my pinky by placing a tissue in between the pinky's first and base knuckle. (05:00 of Nathan Cole's Pinky Video - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ur2W6Ld6V5c)
Are there any videos or cues on these issues?
SORRY THAT THIS IS SUCH AN-ASS LONG MESSAGE. THANK YOU FELLOW VIOLIN SENAPIS AND HAVE AN AWESOME DAY GUYS!
1. Too many questions!
I think Andrew nailed it. Forget vibrato for now. Concentrate on the two or three main bow strokes that you need for Happy Farmer, and think about the muscles you are using to do them. Learn to engage more your wrist and fingers in your shorter strokes (such as lifts), think about drawing whole bows by coordinating your fingers and your wrist with your elbow. Use your heavier arm muscles just for overall gross movement and overall bow positioning. It sounds like you are trying to do too much with your shoulder and back muscles. Experiment with angling your violin more toward the left (away from the center of your body. Especially if you are a larger person or if you have long arms, this can give you a more natural stroke. If you are playing Happy Farmer then I assume you have mastered the previous pieces. Perhaps you could share a video of yourself playing Minuet No. 2 and we could evaluate your posture, hand positions, and bow strokes. Those things are so critical to learning to play properly, you can hardly imagine how important they are.
I would like to add this about Caleb's right pinky:
Hihi Andrew and Paul! :)
hi Caleb, for three months this is quite OK! just keep practicing well!
Caleb, it looks to me as though the bow hold you are trying to set up at the beginning is too stiff and tight, but what it changes to very quickly is just fine. You have fairly large hands and must adjust how you play to your size. Your bowing is quite straight.
While most of what I would say has already been addressed, I want to note one thing: you probably SHOULD drop your right elbow. I spent months intentionally practicing with a paperback novel under my right arm in order to keep my elbow from rising too much.
"Unfortunately to my ears every fingered note sounds a little out of tune. Try playing more slowly and listening - it may help."
I agree with Herman's advice. If you have the music completely in your memory and then start playing it from the sheet music then a conflict is set up in the brain between the decoding and interpretation of what the eye sees on the printed page and what is already in your head waiting to be played. In effect there is unnecessary sight-reading going on which is always slower than memory, and so silly little mistakes will probably happen.
"While most of what I would say has already been addressed, I want to note one thing: you probably SHOULD drop your right elbow. I spent months intentionally practicing with a paperback novel under my right arm in order to keep my elbow from rising too much."
"PS is busking on the street even allowed in Singapore? I thought Singapore is really really strict in public places"
Anyone has a book/video with solutions to my problems:
Caleb, if you have an analytical mind, the two books "Basics" and "The Violin Lesson" by Simon Fischer will benefit you immensely for many years to come. In these books, some aspects will be much too advanced for your current beginner's level, but other aspects will appeal also to you and you can work on them with the correct information on correct technique and execution.
I'm quite sure that keeping a book under your arm (arm pit, not under your elbow) is very, very old school and for a completely different bowing style -- I REMEMBER IT WELL, even though my age was in middle single digits! I don't even remember that they had paperback books in those pre-WW II days. However use of wrist for some fast short strokes will be important - you are not there yet.
I think Carl Flesch somehow mocked the position of keeping the elbow low by the side in his book saying that someone who used his hand to give a handshake and kept his upper arm to the side would be seen as being feebleminded. Not very diplomatic :) He is against this posture for the reason that there is no transition of weight to the bow. By contrast, he has far less criticism for the excessively high upper arm position, stating that while unaesthetic, it would not be detrimental to the sound. Ideally, he advocates keeping the upper arm on the same plane of the string being played, with some exceptions.
Shoulder pain is, in my opinion, is #1 issue you should address. If you develop a chronic injury it will impact your ability to learn and have fun.