Exercises to develop high position tone
Does anyone know any good exercises/studies specifically to develop strong tone in high positions?
I understand the basic exercise for this is 'son file' long slow strokes with careful attention to the consistency of contact point. So I'm doing this on high position scales and I think that's helping
Does anyone know any other good exercises for this? Or studies? E.g. Kreutzer no.1 is great for this in low/medium positions, is there one that you'd recommend for the upper register?
I have a similar problem - not high positions, just 3rd on the D and A strings, pianissimo.
Making a good tone in high positions is not different *in principle* from making a good tone in low positions. You just have to spend time at the end of the fingerboard doing similar exercises. Flesch suggests bagpipe exercises as being the magic bullet of tone-production: play a one-octave scale on one string while maintaining an open-string drone on a neighboring string, and try to get as much amplitude on each note as you can. Watch the middle of the sounding length, and adjust until it's vibrating as widely as possible. Other tone exercises like son file and various pulsing (weight / speed) exercises are good too. The main thing is not what you do while you're up there, but how you think about it. Here are some common pitfalls:
Thanks Nate, that's really helpful! I think I'd got points 1-3 on an intellectual level, just a case of working out the right balance of position, weight and speed in practice... but I hadn't considered the LH tension issue.
@Chris. Thanks for the suggestion. Kreutzer 1 is often ignored. I don't know why. Is it difficult? Is that the reason for the wink? ;-)
Kreutzer 1 is surprisingly difficult.
On cello, approaching the string with your finger from the right side of the string can be a big help and the string can be stopped without being "crushed" to the fingerboard. The fingertip touches the fingerboard but the finger pad does not. As one goes higher up in pitch along a cello string it becomes impossible to push the string all the way down to the fingerboard, anyway.
The quality of the equipment; violin, bow, string, becomes more important as we move up to higher positions. An experienced player will test an instrument in the high positions looking for wolf tones and unresponsive high notes. The diameter of the string is of course the same along its length, so it becomes stiffer as the vibrating length shortens. It takes more energy to start it. I have read that the optimum point of contact is about 1/9 of the vibrating string length, so you gradually move closer to the bridge. I like to use a thin gauge E on two of my violins because it responds quicker on the high notes.
Lydia, yes, Kreutzer 1 is surprisingly difficult. What I find a little odd is that it is No. 1 in the book, when the practicalities dictate that the student in fact first needs to get Nos. 2-10 well under their belt. When the student is then ready for Kreutzer 1 it is then that they will be starting out along the royal road to real bow control.
Christian - thanks :) Actually I've been working on Rode a fair bit in the last 6 months, and I do find it helps my tone, but still I think I need some dedicated high-position practice as well. I might actually give Paganini 20 a go sometime (though looking at Kreutzer 1 has also reminded me I skipped over Kreutzer 23, which would also be really useful for me at this point... so maybe Pag20 goes on the list for the Autumn!)
Here is a live performance example of slow playing with perfect bow control:
Trevor - that is a simply beautiful piece! I found the music for it...
When you are really high up try just touching the string rather than pressing down all the way. You need hardly any pressure. Then see how little pressure you actually need lower down too!
I see what you are saying in theory but don't find this in practice. I press very lightly and never felt that it made problems with intonation. I think anybody can try pressing very lightly for themselves and see what works.
Yes, it may depend on your string action but I believe it would be foolish to press down all the way to the fingerboard in the very high positions on any string clearance. I've actually tried what you say - my fingerboard fell off one day and I tried playing it without. It worked! Probably foolish to keep the tension on without the fingerboard but I quickly tried it. You mentioned Chinese instruments - perhaps we should mention the erhu which is bowed instrument without a fingerboard which also works fine.
LOL your fingerboard fell off - that's a great story! I've played an erhu a time or two; interesting instruments.
I find working on hand and finger angle in the upper positions helpful - experimenting how the fingers approach the string. The achilles heel is usually to overrotate (i.e elbow is too far towards the right) which is not necessary. Also, the knuckles closest to the hand shouldn't stick out but be more flush, the second knuckles should be more bent. More fingerpad helps too. In terms of exercise: A teacher had me play passages down in first position (let's say on the D string), pay attention to the sound and feel...and then try it up in position and aim for the same sound and feeling (on the G string). That usually does wonders for me to not work too hard, which is a sound killer. I like the above suggestions about pressure and not playing too close to the bridge as well!
Sorry Nate - the high positions are not identical in effort to put down the strings unless you have a really really really low action! With an action that low it would buzz!
Sorry Christoper - I hate to be contrary, but what you just said is simply not true.
Just to say - even a few days of practicing the "bagpipe exercises" with high positions is making a big difference.
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