Viola & small hands
From another thread I did not want to hijack...
Edited: August 18, 2018, 8:32 PM · ...whereas I have the shortest fingers of any adult I know, and I primarily play viola
Andrew, my hands may be bigger than yours, but many female violists have larger ones. And my viola is 16,5", so eventually we're in the same boat. How the hell... Will it ever be possible for me to place the first finger in "half position" and having the second finger in normal first position? I'm struggling with a short passage in Bruch 8 pieces op. 83 / Nr. 1 and have no idea how to fix that, or what else I should train on. (Or simply use 3rd finger instead of 2nd?)
Anyone else from the viola section with tiny hands, feel free to put your oar in...
I once knew a petite violist that used a large Viola. I noticed that she invented her own personal fingering system- almost cello style. Some violin technical writer advocated that the "natural" spacing of the left hand should be: whole step between 1-2, half-steps between 2-3 and 3-4. In general, Violists should avoid stretches and extensions, shift positions more often, use the in-between, half-positions more often, and use enharmonic fingering more often.
Hm. This would make 10 times shifting within 7 bars, if I count sifting to the "half positions" as well, and still 8 shifts only counting the "real ones". Is this an acceptable rate? And it still doesn't feel relaxed at all, this damn C sharp!! (But at least it works somehow... but needs some polishing!)
Maybe some chello lessons would help... LOL
I'm only slightly below average male height (5'7") with average arm length for that height, I just have very short fingers. (My fingers are about the same length as those of a friend who is 4'10".) I play a 15.75" viola.
I don't see a C# anywhere in the piece that would force you to stretch between 1st position and half position.
Oh, I see it now. Measure 78. I would use 3rd finger on the E and then shift to 3rd position on the next note. Then I'd stay in 3rd position until it goes back down to the E on the C string.
I don't see the need for 10 shifts in 7 measures; I would do either 5 or 7 shifts in measures 78-84. (I'd consider shifting down to 1st position for the A in measure 81 and then going straight back up to 3rd, in order to avoid the same-finger string crossing.)
One way to cut down on the number of shifts is to do the "crawl" or "glide" shift. When moving only a 1/2 step, extend or contract a finger by a half-step, then let the thumb and the rest of the hand and arm float into the next position While the next note is sounding.
Joel, doesn't this depend on if one just stretches down with the first finger leaving the hand in 1st, or if it's a "real shift" to half? In G#-H on G string I manage to do the first, doing the same on the C string with C#-E I need the latter.
"Crawl" or "glide" shifts are a staple for me -- I think my comments on measures 12-14 suggest this.
I don't have any extra advice, but I do commiserate with you. I have small hands for my size but am drawn to larger violas. If I had an extra few thousand I'd be all over that Ritter Viola corilon has in stock - 47.5cm! Damn!
Maybe you should check out Pellegrinas violas, they’re like playing violin but with sound quality of a viola
I too am a violist with stubby fingers.
My teacher was small and had small hands. She adopted the Dounis method of having the left thumb near horizontal. She did find the Walton to be the most difficult viola concerto, whereas some others reckon the Bartok is more difficult (The Schnittke came out some years after her death).
What is the string length in your viola?
37,5 cm = 14 3/4 " So not exceptionally large but rather average.
But I do admit that even the C# on its own gives me a lit if tension, no matter how and where I place the instrument. I hope this will improve over the next months, otherwise there will be injury, on the long run...!
Ok. Playing confort is not only related to the size of the instrument and string length. Other fators as upper bouts width, rib height, weight, feeling "under the chin", and also the response of the instrument (if you struggle or not to produce the sound) are very important too. Perhaps a smaller viola would help, mainly in the in high positions of the C and G strings. A thin and narrow neck, like a violin neck, would help too.
The thin and narrow neck is something I was looking for, but couldn't find "in stock", and for commissioning a new instrument it wasn't exactly the ideal moment, especially from a financial point of view. Playing restless, the rib height and feeling under the chin is better than okay, I was rather having problems with lower instruments which I had to raise with a shoulderrest or foam pad, and then the whole construction became a bit too high. However... The upper bouts are okay. On C (and eventually G) I'm struggling with above 4th position, but rumor has it that a violist does not need to go there regularly. On D and A its just fine up to 7th with "an acceptable amount of distortion".
... I met one smaller viola, maybe a year ago, about 39,5 cm back length which sounded really beautiful - not strong, but warm and rich. Unfortunately it wasn't for sale, and it might have been out if my financial reach anyway...
String manufacturers often use 37 or 38 cm vibrating string length for their "standard" vibrating string length.
Adrian, I follow Renè Morel's ideas, they appeard in a STRAD magazine I think in 1994, in an article about viola making.
To answer your question: "Will it ever be possible for me to place the first finger in 'half position' and having the second finger in normal first position?" I cannot give a direct yes or no answer without seeing your hand, but I would generally avoid that type of stretching, especially on viola because of inconvenience. It is good to be able to stretch that much, as it is easiest to play certain passages this way. However, it often makes much more sense sometimes to use 3rd finger for this type of passage instead.
Ella, how I envy you for having long fingers! X-)
Yes, although having long fingers is certainly an advantage, I have slender hands, so I still run into some difficulties. It's to the point that octave playing is fairly difficult on the piano (not violin and viola so much), though it's way easier than before. I'm a growing girl, so I hope my hands will become big enough to comfortably reach an octave.
There is an interesting document somewhere on my computer comparing Flesch's fingerings with Galamian's in unaccompanied Bach, Kreutzer etc.
WAS Galamian good at catching flies?
... uuhm, why?
Just want to put my two cents in - violist with super small hands here.
Thank you, Amy - I share your point of view. A free and relaxed posture is even much more important here than with the violin, not only for the ability to play but also to keep away from the physiotherapist.
I totally agree with Amy that posture is very important. That is one of the key things I worked on when transitioning to the viola, as well as finding a chin- and shoulder-rest combo that suits my physical build best. You need to be free and relaxed while maintaining some security. The other important factor is the angle of the instrument, which affects your left arm position, how easily you can reach the lower strings, and your bow angle. With violin, many players hold the violin pointing more to the left. Because the viola is longer, it is more viable to hold it pointing more in front of the player. On chinrests.com, I found an interesting trick that can help players determine the best angle for the violin or viola based on their physical build without assistance:
Funny that you mention chinrests.com -- I also happen to have one of the most heavily customized chinrests they've ever produced, because I also have a very short neck. Before this summer, when I got a Frisch & Denig chinrest, I was unable to place a viola between my jaw and collarbone at all, despite already having one of the lowest chinrests on the market. I now use a half-centered chinrest that is lower than my tailpiece; a center-mounted chinrest is impossible for me because I wouldn't be able to get it low enough without removing the tailpiece entirely.
Embed Claudio's video from above.
Andrew, is it possible to see a picture of your CR?
I'm curious, Andrew H. Do you use a shoulder rest? If so, is it a standard shoulder rest or a sponge/pad/cloth thing?
I do use a shoulder rest. If I try to balance my viola on my shoulder without one, I have to place it much higher than I would with a shoulder rest, and my fingers can barely reach the C string at all. Because of the shape of my shoulders, playing without a shoulder rest reduces my range of motion. Basically, I have the exact worst body type for playing a violin or viola -- both a short neck and extremely short fingers -- which is why I need a heavily customized setup to make it work.
Just noticed that I messed up the measures of my two violas.
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