Adult beginner Dorian fingering difficulty
Hello good people!
Let me briefly introduce myself: I'm almost 50 and I'm trying to teach myself violin... pause...
OK, I've waited until you stopped laughing (for a good reason, trust me I know it) and now I want to hear your opinion on what could be the reason for my difficulty fingering the Dorian tetrachord.
Let me explain what I mean and I want to keep it simple for the purpose of clarity (as much as my English allows me). Below I'm talking about keeping all fingers down, pressing(and lifting) them in turn.
- When I finger 4 of the 5 common fundamental tetrachords, namely Ionian, Phrygian, Lydian + Locrian in the first position - they are all fine and easy on my fingers.
- For instance, Ionian on the A string (WS = Whole step, HS = Half step):
Open A - WS - B(Finger_1) - WS - C#(Finger_2) - HS - D(Finger_3) - WS E(Finger_4)
The above Ionian fingering position comes to me naturally with the straight foream-wrist, no tension, nice and easy.
However once I finger Dorian on the same A string and there is an HS between my Finger_1 and Finger_2 and a WS between my Finger_2 and Finger_3 I'm in trouble.
In this fingering layout I have to really start manipulating my fingers to get them on the right notes:
Finger_2 while positioned next to Finger_1 in a half step distance (B-C) pulls with it Finfer_3 and I have to make considerable effort to separate it from Finger_2 to put in down on the D note.
What is worse, when I do put my Finger_3 on D it begins to pull with it Finger_2 from the C note position so when I go back to C Finger_2 is already in the C# position.
Is it my age or what?
I've seen couple other threads on the similar subjects but I didn't get anything from reading them.
In those threads it was suggested to:
- Not to call a WS between the 2nd and 3rd fingers in the first position a "stretch" (But it DOES feel like a stretch to me!)
- Reposition ones hand to make that "stretch" easier. But I really have no room to adjust my relatively small hands and fingers. Once I start changing the shape my wrist begins to bend outward...
- Grab a baseball and see how fingers are naturally separated. Yes! - Indeed - But the violin neck is not a ball, it's a "bar" and the analogy is rather far fetched.
Despite a degree in music, I barely understood your post! I think if you are a beginner, getting bogged down in modal scales is probably not the first thing on a priority list to do on the violin. Might I suggest more focus on the standard major and minor scales first?
I agree with both James and Andrew, one step, one key, one piece at a time. I returned to the violin just over two years ago and, thankfully, my teacher keeps me from going down rabbit holes like this ;-)
Please disregard the "theoretical" appearance of my question.
I've been playing the violin for 82 years and have never thought about the things you are questioning. What I thought about (if I thought at all) was (and is): is it in tune for what I am playing because unlike a fretted or keyed instrument, intonation with un-fretted string instruments allows variations in intonation not possible on fixed-intonation instruments. The position of the fingers and the spacing between them and the angles and stretches you use to to achieve your desired ends depend on your entire "physique" and what you can do with it. It is definitely not the same for every one. And then there are the many different positions up the fingerboard one can use to get more compatible fingerings - and these too differ for different people.
I just found a reference to what I just mentioned above. It's called "Balancing from the Center" (fingers 2 and 3). Here is an example from Suzuki people:
- Get a clothes hanger and hang it up at eye level (or find a seated position where your eyes are at its level).
I'm not absolutely sure. You might want to check out Rob Thomas's Modern Method for Scales, where he has exerices for the modes of the major scales. It sounds like you are looking for a framework across the strings. Are you using half position? Or are you just using the first position?
I would think there'd be a lot less confusion if you had said you have problems with the finger pattern where fingers 1 and 2 are a half step and 2 and 3 a whole step. :)
Interesting. Yes, Finger patterns = tetrachords = Doflein's Attitudes. What you label as Dorian [H-W-W], I call Phrygian (or Spanish). The other 3 patterns I mentally label; Minor, Major, Whole-tone. That HWW is more stressful than the other two basic patterns because it puts a major third between the 2nd and 4th fingers.
It's also important to not press the fingers down too hard because that can lead to injury as well as intonation problems.
If you play DEFG on the D string (0123) and then repeat the same "attitude" on the A string, you get ABCD, and you've traced out a Dorian mode scale in the key of D. So, "Dorian tetrachord" makes perfect sense to me. Most violinists don't think in those terms, but there's nothing wrong with it.
Sergio pay attention to your left wrist. It is said to beginners that it should be straight, and not flat against the neck, as you sometimes see gypsy street musicians or traditional fiddlers do. BUT sometimes beginners exaggerate that good advice and actually push their left wrist outwards. That makes a supple placement of the left hand fingers impossible. It is actually fine to just ease in your left wrist just a little bit for some finger patterns.
Hi Sergio, first of all, I think it is great that you pick up violin playing. I'm a 55 years old restarter, I haven't played in about 35 years.
I understood the "modal" descriptions
I liked your reply Andrew,
Sergio Viner wrote:
I have used the "modal descriptions" to refer to the "tetra chords" but for me they all begin from the first finger not the open string. This is so that they can be transferred to any position on the fingerboard.
Perhaps one thing to try is to avoid the pure scale pattern, and just focus on the difficult notes. If the second finger doesn't sit well, play second finger in tune until it feels right. Then drop adjacent fingers down until they are in tune and also feel OK.
If I understand your problem right you find that when you keep all fingers down with a low 2nd it pulls the 3rd finger back?
In agreement with just about everyone here (including Andrew Victor's first), I suspect the thumb is the problem. The complaint seems to be about when 2-3 is a stretch and when it isn't, and I suspect it is a stretch when the thumb is jammed up against the scroll. I notice it with the intonation of my 4th finger. The thumb has to become nimble and be the slave of the rest of the hand. It's not a drag anchor. Modes, schmodes.
Hi, i too started learning the violin during uk lockdown in nov 2020. I have come on very quickly fue to alot of spare time to practice. I am learning using youtube, the online violin and piano teacher, alison sparrow. She is sn examinar for grades and a reputable violinist. Go look her up. She offers free lessons and takes you step by step. Ive become a patreon for £2 month and have access to hundreds of pieces of music and can ask her advice on issues. In 10 weeks ive gone from never having touched a violin to playing hungarian dance no1. I am only 5feet 4 inches, i have small hands and my little finger is very short and im using a full size violin, the way she has set up learning has gradually loosened my flexibility and i am able to move my fingers round easily. Im 52, theres reason for it to be harder than it is.
Joel -- one that's pretty tricky on the violin but very useful in improvisation is the octatonic scale.
Hmm, Howard Goodall mentions octatonic scales in his Story of Music, but he doesn't give any examples. I vaguely recall looking them up, but the source made a mountain out of a molehill and I lost the will to live.
Hi Sergio! Great work learning the violin!
I like the notion of working outwards from the middle fingers.
I once mentioned whole-tone scales and was rebuffed, but perhaps they do have a use?
Without venturing as far as atonal music, whole-tone and diminished scales are a good preparation for late 19th/early 20th century music: highly chromatic, shifting tonalities, where the traditional octave 1-4 "frame", and the standard positions, dissolve into a frequently out-of-tune mess..
Sorry, I've been off for several days and now I only have time to briefly ask for advice. (I'll read everything above tomorrow.)
-"I tried to keep it perpendicular"-- That might be part of the problem. What counts is the posture, the angle of the last digit in the finger to the fingerboard. If a finger is vertical to the fingerboard it can flop over to the wrong side while shifting up. For the 2nd and 3rd fingers you want a slant of about 30 o back from vertical. That angle allows easy 1/2 step slides and a vibrato around the note (that's a different, controversial topic). Depending on its length, the 4th finger will hit the fingerboard flatter, for me about 45 o. The first finger is also slanted back more. It is in that awkward square formation, and needs to be ready for extensions. Our best vibrato and trills will always be with the 2nd and 3rd fingers.