Is a lot of hand & wrist strength an impediment to learning vibrato?
Watching the video below on vibrato technique, I find the - "push away/pull back" motion she indicates practicing feels very unnatural. Is that normal? She seems to have naturally limber fingers and wrists - my hands, wrists, forearms are a lot thicker and denser than hers - I have a lot of grip strength, work out with weights. Is this something that's likely to be an impediment or not at all, that it's just something I need to get accustomed to? Do you know weightlifters who play and have no problem with vibrato?
I don't do weights, but I find tennis, bricklaying, shoveling stuff etc effectively deadens the fine sensations needed on the violin.
You can do any weight lifting you want, but a)be careful with injuries off the violin while lifting and b) one does not ever need to grip hard or much at all while playing violin. It is not electric bass-which hopefully should not get your tendons hurt even if it requires a bit more strength-and most unnatural momevements you see on videos are only so as you get used to them. Violin is rarely a "natural feeling" instrument, but even then it must feel natural and relaxed in order to play freely, fast, without tension, and without technical constraints impeding the music.
I do chins and pull ups along with lots of other weights and callisthenics, it’s no impediment at all, vibrato is hard because you have to relax your hand and arm as well as shoulders, most people find this difficult, nothing to do with how strong you are, it takes a lot of practice, some people never get it.
I know some very fine violinists who lift weights, and it does not seem to impede their playing. For me, I found that some exercises did tend to "stiffen" certain muscles or joints so I stick to bodyweight work, stretches, exercise ball stuff, etc. in an effort to stay limber (I'm primarily a violist FWIW). If you watch any videos of Hilary Hahn recently (like on Instagram) where you can really see her left arm and hand, it looks to me like she has considerable strength while maintaining a lot of flexibility. And, if anyone is the master of 4th finger vibrato, it is her!
Not really, you just need to train the muscles so they work correctly.
@Scott - the sort things you mention should not be a problem. You simply need to work with them. Having strength is good; it helps avoid stress injuries like tendinitis. If you have a teacher, that person can help you sort this problem out.
Don't watch slow vibrato demos.
Perhaps the most difficult part of learning to do vibrato is to totally relax the terminal joint of the respective finger while maintaining sufficient tone in the hand and proximal finger to satisfy the motion and keep the tip of the finger on the string. That relaxation allows the last bone in the figer (distal phalanx) to pivot backwards and forwards and hence, roll the finger tip along the string.
Scott I don't know if you are a beginner with vibrato, but it is very human to try to blame something else than yourself. Your "perhaps I have too much strength" is one example of this. (Other examples: my violin is too cheap, I need another brand of strings, etc.) No, it's simply you, your level of violin playing is not there yet, you haven't practiced vibrato enough yet, it is difficult and takes time, like Elise said above. Sorry to be blunt.
jean dubuisson sez:
I believe that if you lift weights and keep a full range of motion, it's not a particular impediment to being loose away from the weights. It might be a different situation for a bodybuilder, but then again, Frank Yang here looks to have a pretty relaxed vibrato (LOL)
I don't think arm strength or body build is much of a factor when playing the violin as it's not a sport or athletic activity. I think any athlete from sprinter to sumo wrestler would face the same hurdles in building muscle memory and finger independence/flexibility.
Reading this, I remember something Hilary Hahn once said in an interview: something like, "If I go and bulk up at the gym, the big muscles start to fight the little muscles I use to play." Could be true!
Itzhak Perlman's hands are huge. His fingers are like sausages and using crutches to carry his big body to go around is probably as/more strengthening than weightlifting. So I would think that body factor is negligible compared to practice.
Hulk Hahn. It has a ring to it.
There is no correlation between arm strength and violin playing. The post by Elise Stanley is key information.
I don’t think that strength can be bad. Not being flexible is a problem, but I have seen a lot of players without particular strength still being stiff.
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