Don’t press too hard!

Edited: November 20, 2021, 3:27 PM · That mantra has been spoken in my lessons for multiple months now and I’m having a hard time seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. My teacher has said me pressing to hard is the cause of my left hand tension and subsequently a very narrow vibrato. But time and time again, I try lightening up my fingers and I feel like my notes aren’t speaking cleanly, I have no feeling of security, and my fingers are very unstable(they start teetering around the note, making it minisculy sharp or flat. Any helpful advice would be appreciated.

Replies (10)

November 20, 2021, 4:41 PM · Greetings?
It’s a common problem problem but you will solve it over time. There is an important psycholical component to keep in mind. If , because your teacher told you to stop pressing (quite correctly) you are telling your self to ‘stop pressing’ this is not helpful because in order to =not- do an action the brain must first order the action and -then- cancel it. The famous test is ‘don’t think of a white house with a blue cat in front of it….’
You can practice basic exercises such as those in ‘warming up ‘ to sensitize the fingertips.Actively measure the degree of pressure the pad is exerting on the string. 5=resting on top, 4=minute pressure, 3=halfway down, 2=almost against the fingerboard, 1= full weight against the fingerboard. Practice random sequences of numbers on differnet notes on differnet strings everyday.
Do two octave scales using no finger weight, 25% weight, 50% weight and then just enough to produce a stopped note.
Try practicing a study like Dont opus 39 no 1 and stopping every bar or so . Ask your self ‘What are my fingers doing now?’ Or ‘what number are my fingers on in terms of weight?’ It is important to be non judge mental. Something like ‘on a scale of 1-10’ how strong are my fingers’
Play whole sections of music with no finger pressure at all, then just a little , then a little more and so on.
Do a lot of practice with the thumb off the instrument. The scroll is supported on a shelf or something.
Edited: November 20, 2021, 7:29 PM · Find Nathan Cole's "Minimum Violin Pressure" (MVP) video on YouTube. What Buri describes as a "scale of 1-10" is at the core of Nate's message. I'll warn you that you need to get this concept fairly well grooved into your hands before you'll be ready for vibrato again, otherwise trying to solve both at once could well be very frustrating Practice MVP with some Handel Sonatas, Corelli and Fiocco Allegros, and Bach concertos, which don't need tons of vibrato.

Finally, have you thought about what needs to be happening with your thumb to optimize downward LH finger pressure while maintaining vibrato? I noticed Buri mentioned removing the thumb entirely and that will definitely tell you how much you currently depend on it.

November 20, 2021, 11:21 PM · Paul I was about to suggest Nate's video too. I have found it helpful in my own playing. It took a little while, but its improved a lot since I've watched it
Edited: November 20, 2021, 11:41 PM · Pressing too hard with the left fingers naturally happens when trying to play louder with the right arm. A couple of things that might help: spend some time working on harmonics, both natural and fingered. For any shift, down or up, lift the finger off the wood and don't re-set it until the arrival note. Only have one finger down at a time, with the exception of prepared fingerings or double stops. For fast runs try to think more about lifting the fingers, get them out of the way, instead of setting the next one;- that is mentally difficult.
Edited: November 21, 2021, 12:28 PM · I have a feeling that a lot of your tension is coming from trying to play with a light touch. As you’re hyper-focused on that element, your body tenses up as you work to get that elusive light touch. Think about how much you’re pulling your fingers up to counteract the downward pressure. Playing lightly is really more about being relaxed and avoiding unnecessary effort.

As an exercise, I would try playing some very slow passages and focusing on your vibrato speed and amplitude instead of your finger pressure. Set aside a small but focused block of time, perhaps 15-30 minutes. Since you’ve mentioned using a tight vibrato, force yourself to slow it down far beyond what’s normal for you, then slow down a little more. Make the vibrato as wide as your finger will allow. Eventually you can slowly increase the speed, but slow down any time you feel yourself tensing or speeding up out of control.

After doing this for a few days, once the vibrato exercise feels less foreign, think about how to accomplish this exercise while keeping your body relaxed. The goal is to play with a wide and even vibrato without bearing down on the string or tensing your arm. Don’t push down heavily or pull your fingers up in a fight to keep the pressure light. Let them fall easily.

November 21, 2021, 7:28 AM · hi Tam, just a suggestion, but it might be that the last joint of your fingers is not loose and flexible enough? suggestion to google [violin rivarde exercise] and see if that poses a problem for you. if not, then good for you and my idea is wrong.
November 21, 2021, 2:18 PM · Something Kurt Sassmannshaus teaches is practicing letting up with the finger, all the way to the point where the string is no longer touching the fingerboard. Then find that point where you can let up on the finger pressure, but still keep the string depressed. Then you practice a scale, slowly placing each finger and then letting up the pressure to that minimum pressure that keeps the string depressed.
November 22, 2021, 12:28 AM · Greetingss?
This extract is from ‘The Russian Violin School: The Legacy of Yankelevitch’. Simon Fischer’s ‘Warming Up’ Contains the same exercise with more example notes to use.
‘In third position, the second finger on the D string produces the natural harmonic on the note A. As this harmonic is played, the finger gradually begins to press down on the string, and the following changes occur: the harmonic stops sounding, then raspy and hissing sounds follow, and only then do we hear the note A1. By noticing the exact moment at which the note is heard clearly, the student can determine how much excessive pressure he or she used in the past. This often helps nurture muscular sensations that are developed by consistently associating a sound with a movement, thereby creating the conditions for the sound to occur.’
November 22, 2021, 4:26 PM · Wow Buri, that natural harmonic A is really an eye opener to how much pressure I am currently using!
November 22, 2021, 7:59 PM · da.

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