How to do a fourth tremolo on G string with double-stop on D
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.
Bring your left elbow out under the treble side. This will also bring your thumb down to the bottom of the neck.
Two suggestions from a violist with a short pinky:
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.
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?
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?
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.
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.
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.
Thank you all for the excellent explanations (and confirmations!) of the problem, and approaches to resolving it.
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!
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.
Just so I can get my head around it - we are talking about a DS "trill" here not a tremolo - right?
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.
A trill is an ornamentation between two adjacent pitches. A tremolo is a rapid repetition of the same pitch or two alternating pitches.
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.
I think David was frightened away by our mob response.
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.
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