How to do a fourth tremolo on G string with double-stop on D

Edited: January 23, 2020, 7:54 PM · I'm studying a piece that requires a 1-4 tremolo on the G string while double-stopping with finger 2 on the D string, in first position. (I.e., an A-D tremolo on G wile holding F on D.)

No matter how I contort my hand or the violin I cannot manage to do this. (With the absurd exceptions of turning the violin almost upside down or facing out.)

It's a stretch for me to even get the fingers into that position without the fourth finger encroaching on the D string. But then to lift and return the fourth finger without it touching D more than a few times sends my hand into cramps.

I can manage a 1-4 tremolo without a problem otherwise. The confounding factor here seems to be arching 4 over the fingerboard and getting it to press the G string firmly enough to stop it *while* not touching the D string. But it must be just past my limit: If I move up to third position I can do an F-C tremolo holding A on the D string.

Are there any secrets or tricks to pulling this off?

I've gotten to the point of exasperation that I'm eyeing my bridge and wondering if I can/should shave it to lower the G string closer to the fingerboard.

Replies (18)

January 23, 2020, 7:48 PM · Bring your left elbow out under the treble side. This will also bring your thumb down to the bottom of the neck.
January 24, 2020, 2:08 AM · Two suggestions from a violist with a short pinky:
- The violin can be tilted round its axis (to reduce the excessive elbow and wrist contortions; either by adjusting a shoulder rest, or adding a pad over th collarbone.
- If the 4th finger is short we may have to curl the middle finger under itself, pushing the D-string to the right rather than down on the finger-board; this wont help D-string tone, however.
January 24, 2020, 2:25 AM · Those of us with congenital PORG (pinkies of restricted growth) were never designed for that kind of contortion. I look with wonderment at the youtube video of Kristof Barati playing Erlkoenig - what is that thing on the outside of his hand that seems to have a life of its own? But whatever the you're playing, it isn't worth wrecking the setup of your bridge for.
Edited: January 24, 2020, 6:48 AM · This is not easy, so don't feel frustrated. The fundamental difficulty here is the D-F with 4-2 fingers. That is a difficult minor third. In the end you don't really have to double-stop it, as you are only required to "trill" the 4, but you are never going to do that in a relaxed fashion if you cannot also do a solid 4-2 double stop. So begin to work on that. The key thing is to start off by placing your 4 nice and rounded on the G-string. Then reach back with the second finger (like Adrian writes, "curl under") to F on the D-string. Like people wrote above, you can let your elbow hang out, you can tilt your violin just a little bit, also ease in your wrist a little bit. The fingertip placement dictates the hand position (Galamian). Like you say, this is not easy, it needs practice, you need to develop softness and flexibility in the left hand. Once you are comfortable with such 4-2 minor third in first position, you can practice lifting and replacing the 4. Don't worry about finger 1 yet. Just play 4 and open string G alternating. Once you get a feel of that, you can place the 1 instead of the open string. I don't think that is going to be a problem in itself. All the best! Just curious which piece that is?
Edited: January 24, 2020, 9:51 AM · The problem is not a minor third, but the major third between 2nd and 4th fingers (or at least it would be if it were on the same string). Practise it on the same string to begin with?
Or for extreme stretching, perhaps practise an Eb/G trill on the D string with 2nd and 4th fingers?
January 24, 2020, 10:19 AM · It is genuinely difficult. Perhaps set the fingers in the reverse order that you see them on paper, first the 4th finger then the 2nd, then add the 1st. Let the elbow move to your right. Let the thumb move forward, towards you, and under the neck instead of its usual position at the side of the fingerboard.
January 24, 2020, 2:07 PM · Another approach I have found useful, not only for this particular piece of devilment but others of a similar nature, is to first get used to the "hand shape" (as guitarists call it) by holding the violin as a guitar and then placing the fingers and keeping them in place with as relaxed a hand as you can. The next step is to raise the violin, with the fingers in place, up to the playing position, and with the arm and hand being as relaxed as possible allow the arm and hand to naturally adopt a position that enables the fingers to stay in place. This will include letting the elbow drift to the right hand side of the violin, as Jean said. When you got this to work and got used to the hand shape then you'll be ready to put your hand shape in place when the violin is up there waiting to be played.

What to do about the 3rd finger? It is not required in this piece and can get in the way. If you try to hold it above the D string (but not in contact) that will feel quite tiring and will tend to stiffen the hand. The 3rd finger tries to move in conjunction with the 4th finger, due to the anatomy of the hand, so why not let it? As you are doing that 4th finger trill D-A on the G string just let the 3rd finger lie loosely behind the 4th finger and above the G-string and let it move with the 4th finger.

The secret for all this is relaxation of the left limb from the shoulder to the fingers, letting the arm naturally take a configuration that allows the fingers to do their particular job at that time.

January 24, 2020, 3:21 PM · I'm a little out of depth here, but if your pinky really can't make it, perhaps you could try trilling on the 3rd finger, so that you essentially have the handframe something akin to a fingered octave. It's unlikely that this would be more comfortable, but it may work for your particular hand shape.
January 24, 2020, 4:02 PM · Thank you all for the excellent explanations (and confirmations!) of the problem, and approaches to resolving it.

For the curious: I encountered this in Kreisler's arrangement of La Folia, which of the many I have studied for violin I think is the best!

Edited: January 24, 2020, 5:13 PM · thanks David for getting back to us. it is often frustrating on this forum when people pose a question, get a lot of helpful replies, but are never heard of again. stay in touch!
January 25, 2020, 8:16 AM · I forgot to mention to make sure fingernails are as short as possible for this awkward handframe in a cramped space, otherwise there is the real risk of damage to the D-string winding.
January 25, 2020, 1:17 PM · Just so I can get my head around it - we are talking about a DS "trill" here not a tremolo - right?
January 25, 2020, 7:04 PM · Andrew, I agree, it must be a trill, albeit a relatively slow one. It couldn't be anything else. I've come across similar in orchestra but without the double stopping. Typically a 3rd or 4th on the G string, but sometimes a 5th (e.g. A-E) which, being a cellist, I can play on the G string, avoiding a lot of bow flapping between the G and D strings.
January 26, 2020, 1:03 PM · A trill is an ornamentation between two adjacent pitches. A tremolo is a rapid repetition of the same pitch or two alternating pitches.
Edited: January 27, 2020, 12:16 PM · Some may find it helpful to first practice this handshape and fingering on the A and D strings, as being perhaps a little easier. When this is found to be comfortable then it's time to transfer to the D and G.
January 26, 2020, 4:16 PM · I think David was frightened away by our mob response.
January 27, 2020, 8:29 AM · Hi David,

Consider doing these kinds of silent (left hand only) finger/hand exercises as part of your daily warmup:
Dounis Daily Dozen

Flesch Urstudien

Yost Finger Action

N.B. emphasis on independence of finger action, i.e. lift the lower finger as the higher finger is placed, simultaneously.

(Here's HH doing Flesch warmups, Urstudien 1A, looks like first thing in the morning:
Here she shows some advanced exercises, probably Flesch Urstudien 1C:

N.B. Dounis Daily Dozen, his description of "easy" and "difficult" settings of the hand. It's important for all the big muscles in your arm/shoulder to yield to the movement of the smaller muscles and parts of the hand. That's a fancy way saying let every part of the arm follow the pinky. You'll notice in the difficult setting of the hand, the pinky will pull on the forearm (supination) and elbow (shoulder rotation). Don't fight the pinky. Also, make sure your shoulder is rotating to help the forearm rotation when swinging the elbow to the right. Remember to go back to neutral when you don't need extra rotation.

The pattern you refer to is awkward because you have to place the 1 on G-string on top of the already tricky, difficult-position-of-the-hand for the minor third, D-F, and so it's a pretty extreme finger pattern, but not insurmountable. Yes the pinky needs to curl more to clear the D-string, but don't do this by making the baseknuckles parallel to the string (even though some big name teachers promote this action) especially if you have a shorter pinky. You need to focus on clearing the D-string by rotating the hand over the finger board (as a result of rotating the elbow to the right and/or tilting the fiddle as mentioned above.) In other words, the pinky baseknuckle rises and moves closer to the string, almost over the E-string, as a result of arm rotation/fiddle tilt. Let the baseknuckle rise; you don't want to bring the baseknuckle closer to the neck by curling the pinky without letting it rise, without the hand rotating around the neck, counterclockwise.

In terms of finger contact with the strings, for my hand (shorter pinky and long middle finger) my middle finger is curled in on itself and touching the string on its left side, almost bending it to the right. My pinky is very slightly more curled, and my elbow is slightly pushed to the right, compared to just playing on the G-string when I don't need to clear the D-string. My index finger is pretty flat, and hanging a bit to the left, as if it were grabbing a perfect 5th with an imaginary C-string. Lastly, don't press too hard with the lower, stronger fingers during the tremolo (as with trills.) Leave them on the string with almost harmonic pressure. The alternating motion created by the tremolo/trill action (specifically the lifting action) will give you enough pressure to make them sound.

I think you've already got the gist of what you need to do from good comments above, but I would try to find a position which feels comfortable, not contorted, by coordinating all parts of the arm and hand.

January 27, 2020, 7:15 PM · Wow: It appears that real violinists spend more time warming up than I have to practice in an entire day! I will begin to work those exercises into my routine.

For those who questioned: This is written (and played in professional recordings I have found) as a bona fide tremolo in 32nds. The contortion I am struggling with is just the first third of a measure of 16 glorious measures of double-stopped tremolos. (But it is, for me, the hardest.)

I have indeed been worried about what my amateur efforts to learn pieces like this and the BWV 1001 Fugue are doing to my strings: My fingernails, even at their shortest, often dig into the strings with some force as I struggle to find and become comfortable with the many novel fingerings. I'm sure if I examined the strings under a loupe I would find the windings extensively dented.

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