Buri, I need your help!

August 23, 2018, 9:56 AM · There is someone by the name of Buri who gives very good advice, and I am hoping he (or someone) can help me.

I read one of his comments about needing to use slow shifts during fast passages to actually play cleanly and with better accuracy.

I don't fully understand and want to ask for clarification about how this works, and also ask about how to play fast passages with a clean sound even when there is no shifting involved. Even if I stay in first position for the whole time, I can't play very fast without the LH fingers and bow losing alignment.

Please help!

Replies (17)

Edited: August 23, 2018, 11:54 AM · Instead of ramming your hand up and down the neck, slowly crawl into the shift. Move your fingers before your hand. It's hard to explain.
The way my teacher puts it is to "know the shift before you have to shift". He doesn't speak English well, but (I hope) you get the idea.

Practise slow shifts, and moving/ shaking the violin as little as possible when you shift.

As for the second issue...
Practise slowly.

Edited: August 23, 2018, 12:47 PM · Is this the thread you are referring to? https://www.violinist.com/discussion/archive/13909/

If so it seems Buri's take is much more complicated than what you remember.

I'd think we should not call it "slow" shifts but "smooth" shifts. No jerks, no matter how fast you need to move. How to achieve that is another matter...

August 23, 2018, 12:50 PM · Stephen Brivati is my favorite poster here but unfortunately have not heard from him in a couple of years, prior to that he mentioned going through some health issues.

Slow shifting for fast passages would probably be explained quite expertly in one of the Simon Fischer books. Maybe later tonight I will paraphrase what he says for you if no one else answers your question.

August 23, 2018, 1:00 PM · Thank you, Jeff, Albrecht, and Cotton. Please keep the advice coming!
August 23, 2018, 5:38 PM · If your bow and fingers are losing synchronicity (you called it alignment), it's almost always because your bow is moving faster than your left-hand fingers in a detache section. I'd have to see the particular passage in question to give more specific advice, but I recommend trying to "hammer" out the part with your left hand only so you can hear the passage only coming from your left hand. This will give you a percussive sensation on the left hand and should even out the kinks that are probably leading to the lack of synchronicity. For open strings that may appear in the passage, make to sure to "reverse hammer" the last finger placed so you still get the sensation of having "made" that note with the left hand (this will also allow you to hear the open string during the finger-hammer exercise, due to the abrupt lifting of the last finger).

Basically, if you can't "hammer" out a series of, let's say 16th notes, with your left hand, at the speed you intend to play it, then it's very likely that you also won't be able to play it with perfect synchronicity when you add the bow in. Remember: the bow only makes things harder, never easier. So sort out the left hand through the "hammer" exercise, and then try re-adding the bow in.

If it still goes wrong after you sort out the left hand, then the bow arm might also be the culprit. There's a very real possibility that your right shoulder is locking up in an attempt to control the wild motions of a fast-moving detache bow, and in that case you need to be able to play all of the open strings of the passage at full speed with the bow arm only, focusing on using elbow and wrist articulations while refusing to let the right shoulder tighten up.

Of course, through all of this you'll want to make sure there is enough constant downward force (e.g. "pressure," "arm-weight," "leverage", etc...) on the bow. A generally uncommitted bowstroke, or a bow stroke that pushes and releases too often (or an unintentionally marcato/martele bow), is often the culprit in lack of synchronicity in fast detache passages. Focus on keeping the pressure consistently in the string during the detache passage, otherwise your brain won't be able to connect the link between what your right and left sides are doing because it won't feel the "click" that occurs between each bow direction change.

Summary: to sort out synchronicity problems in fast detache passages, focus on the following:

1) Left hand only: "hammer" out the passage with the fingers, meaning that each finger taps the string hard enough for you to hear an audible pitch. Open strings will sound because you will lift them with vigor.

2) Right arm only: Play the notes of the passage with all of the relevant string changes, but without actually using the left fingers at all. Thus, you will only play open strings. Make sure to keep a true detache stroke without locking up the shoulder, and make sure to use constant pressure or "arm-weight."

3) Neural connection between Left/Right sides: use constant pressure or "arm-weight" to be able to feel/hear the "click" that occurs between each bow stroke, to allow the two sides of the body to interact and adjust to each other. Gradually increase speed until form breaks down, then repeat steps 1 and 2 to identify the weak spot at that new speed.

August 24, 2018, 1:05 AM · Maybe you should read Dr. Steiner's post:

He suggests an excellent exercise that should help you a lot.

August 24, 2018, 6:26 AM · Thanks for the link Gil.

I also agree with Erik's advice on separating the hands and paying special attention to the bowing (as it might be neglected) when speed and coordination become problems.

Edited: August 24, 2018, 6:44 AM · Hi,

To the original OP... The best suggestion regarding shifts that I have received a long time ago is that they should be matched to the speed of the bow. In many instances, people try to shift faster than the bow leading to bumps or accents. I think that this advice originally came from Heifetz. He jokingly refers to it in an interview about "one hand being faster than the other or vice-versa, then it's not so good."

In many instances, because people have a habit of trying to shift faster than the bow speed, they will seem "slower," which may be what Buri was alluding to. But in essence, they are simply synchronized in terms of speed.

Another thing to pay attention to is in my experience, is that the finger executing the shift have contact (touch) with the string before the hand moves and start from a definite location (i.e. the same one and a real note every time). This applies to intermediate notes and slides. This is most helpful in developing consistent shifts, planning of shifts and synchronizing speeds.

Hope this helps...


Edited: August 24, 2018, 6:54 AM · Christian thanks very much, that will be an interesting thing to think about and to try on my violin. Very interesting indeed.

Something I discovered in my own practice is the importance of the note right before a shift. Sometimes when I'm playing I get so focused on the two notes of the actual shift that the note right before it gets cheated or flubbed or smeared in some way. I've found that if I focus on that note and make sure it gets played properly, then the shift goes much better.

August 24, 2018, 7:06 AM · For the Left/Right hand coordination, Simon Fischer has some good exercises in Basics. Your left finger should be placed before the bow moves.

Here are a few things you can do:
1. Leave fingers down unless you need to lift them
2. Place several fingers at once (blocking)
3. Move fingers for the next note(s) while playing the current note
4. Make sure your fingers are over the fingerboard- if you have to plunk down a 4th finger and it's not already on the fingerboard, you'll never get there in time.
5. Make sure your fingers are very close to the fingerboard. No errant first fingers pointing up to the sky.

For shifting, try not to let the finger lose contact with the string. Sometimes, there's an impulse to hop to the note rather than glide. The fastest way between two points is a line, not an arc.

August 24, 2018, 10:13 AM · There is an exercise I have been recommended (and have often used): When practicing fast passages vary the rhythm. E.g. play a string of sixteenths in the dotted sixteenth-thirtysecond (taaa-ta-taaa-ta) pattern, limping if you want. This makes every second note in tempo with rests in between the groups to "recover". Then change it around and play ta-taaa etc. You can move on to taaa-ta-ta-ta etc. ("recovering" only on every fourth note). On triplets you'd have to start with taaa-ta-taa etc.

Just my two cents.

August 28, 2018, 7:42 AM · Thank you, everyone! Lots of really helpful replies.
August 29, 2018, 1:14 AM · I'll add one thing about shifting: While practicing a section in slow motion, make sure that the shifts themselves are "accented" to a high level of sudden speed. It's tempting to do slow shifts when playing in slow motion, but it's important to have the shifts be approximately the speed that they'll eventually need to be when all of the other notes are sped up.

So if your goal is to play a bunch of 16ths at 100 BPM, but you're practicing at 50 BPM to start, make sure that the shifts themselves are about the speed that they would need to be to work at the eventual 100 BPM tempo.

August 29, 2018, 10:52 PM · All excellent replies. I think shifting slowly is for ear training and to learn the smooth travel route of a shift. But to have the hands stay in sync during passage work, the shift needs to be practiced as a quick, light, and in-between-bows kind of thing. Two separate issues at play - intonation and timing. I created a playlist of different ways to practice shifts on my youtube channel (look for playlist 8 ways to practice shifting) in case there is anything you can use there. You might also look at the fast passages playlist. Happy practicing. Here is the channel: August 29, 2018, 10:53 PM · Ooops! The link didn't stick. Here is the oldfashioned way - copy into browser:


August 30, 2018, 4:42 PM · Just curious when Buri last posted on v.com. Anyone recall?
September 1, 2018, 9:53 AM · August 22, 2016. Look here:

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