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6-Year Violin Student needs Techniqe Help BADLY!


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I am 17 years old, a senior in high school, and have been playing

the violin since I was in 6th grade. I used to play the piano:

my teachers praised me as a virtuoso and wanted to make me into

something that I'm not, so I quit because I hated practicing. This

is one of the things which I regret the most about my life and I

am ultimately fearful of quitting anything again.

That being said, so I play the violin, see? Guess what: I never

practiced very much and now it's coming to haunt me. My technique

is shot. I take private lessons, but I'm so busy during the week I

hardly ever have time to practice (believe me). And my teacher is

Russian so it's VERY difficult for us to communicate and sometimes

I'm not really sure that what he tells me to do is the best thing

for me. Here are the following problems which I'm having. Any help

anyone could offer would be tremendously appreciated:

Left Hand:

I don't know when, but I've gotten into the bad habit of swiveling my

thumb around to the bottom of the neck to allow my fingers free range to

pivot and vibrato (I have small hands). However, this is wrong and it

hurts my wrist. I try to move my thumb so that it is between the 1st and

2nd fingers, but the flesh of my palm at the base of my 1st and 2nd fingers

become locked by the neck so that vibrato and manipulation, especially on

the lowest strings. Suggestions?

Right Hand:

OK. I normally hold my bow in a relaxed way and extensively use my wrist on

fast bows and what my teacher calls "double strikes" or double bowing. But,

in order to facilitate my HORRIBLE SPICCATO, he has asked me to sprawl out my

fingers, pinky curved and outstretched with the top knuckle of my index finger

resting outstretched, wrist turned in. This pinches my thumb and constricts

my wrist, though it facilitates Spiccato, but now my teacher is telling me to

use more of my arm for fast bowing, less wrist. My virtuoso friends are all

telling me opposite. WHAT DO I DO???

As a note, I am making a personal campaign on myself to begin practicing more.

By default, I am the 2nd chair first violinist and our hissy Concertmistress

is threatening to quit. We're under a new director who doesn't know the ropes

and I have a few solos. I don't want to blow it--my tone is terrible.

Please send any help you can. Thank you for your time.

All my heart,

Rebekka

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: I am 17 years old, a senior in high school, and have been playing

: the violin since I was in 6th grade. I used to play the piano:

: my teachers praised me as a virtuoso and wanted to make me into

: something that I'm not, so I quit because I hated practicing. This

: is one of the things which I regret the most about my life and I

: am ultimately fearful of quitting anything again.

: That being said, so I play the violin, see? Guess what: I never

: practiced very much and now it's coming to haunt me. My technique

: is shot. I take private lessons, but I'm so busy during the week I

: hardly ever have time to practice (believe me). And my teacher is

: Russian so it's VERY difficult for us to communicate and sometimes

: I'm not really sure that what he tells me to do is the best thing

: for me. Here are the following problems which I'm having. Any help

: anyone could offer would be tremendously appreciated:

: Left Hand:

: I don't know when, but I've gotten into the bad habit of swiveling my

: thumb around to the bottom of the neck to allow my fingers free range to

: pivot and vibrato (I have small hands). However, this is wrong and it

: hurts my wrist. I try to move my thumb so that it is between the 1st and

: 2nd fingers, but the flesh of my palm at the base of my 1st and 2nd fingers

: become locked by the neck so that vibrato and manipulation, especially on

: the lowest strings. Suggestions?

: Right Hand:

: OK. I normally hold my bow in a relaxed way and extensively use my wrist on

: fast bows and what my teacher calls "double strikes" or double bowing. But,

: in order to facilitate my HORRIBLE SPICCATO, he has asked me to sprawl out my

: fingers, pinky curved and outstretched with the top knuckle of my index finger

: resting outstretched, wrist turned in. This pinches my thumb and constricts

: my wrist, though it facilitates Spiccato, but now my teacher is telling me to

: use more of my arm for fast bowing, less wrist. My virtuoso friends are all

: telling me opposite. WHAT DO I DO???

: As a note, I am making a personal campaign on myself to begin practicing more.

: By default, I am the 2nd chair first violinist and our hissy Concertmistress

: is threatening to quit. We're under a new director who doesn't know the ropes

: and I have a few solos. I don't want to blow it--my tone is terrible.

: Please send any help you can. Thank you for your time.

: All my heart,

: Rebekka

Rebekka,

It is unfortunate to hear stories such as yours so often.

I am a violinist of thirty years and have a backround

of intensive studies with The Fine Arts quartet,

Concertmasters Majeski of Cleveland Orchestra and

Bill Steck of National. I think these specific questions

cannot be effectively answered over the net. For

you to take the advise of someone with the brief

discriptions of your problems would be unprofessional

and dangerously misleading. If you lived in the DC area,

I would be glad to give you my opinion in person, or

if you were to e-mail me with your location (city)

nothing specific, mind you, I would be glad to refure

you to someone that I may know that would be of help.

I think that you probably need to concider finding a

new teacher that can help you and answer your questions

more fully. The fact is that when holding the bow

and left hand properly and given correct exercises

and precise instruction on executing them, things

will not be nearly as complicated as you seem to think

they are. The violin is a difficult instrument that

requires constant reenforcement by hours of practice

on a daily basis. Even the greatest players know that

one cannot even play in tune unless scales are attacked

anew every day. With a good teacher you will find

that a lot of your questions will be answered in your

own practice of the materials that you are instructed

to study. Anyway, good luck, and if you need any help

finding someone good in your area, I may be able to

help you. Just e-mail me at hcpboy@erols.com

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: I am 17 years old, a senior in high school, and have been playing

: the violin since I was in 6th grade. I used to play the piano:

: my teachers praised me as a virtuoso and wanted to make me into

: something that I'm not, so I quit because I hated practicing. This

: is one of the things which I regret the most about my life and I

: am ultimately fearful of quitting anything again.

: That being said, so I play the violin, see? Guess what: I never

: practiced very much and now it's coming to haunt me. My technique

: is shot. I take private lessons, but I'm so busy during the week I

: hardly ever have time to practice (believe me). And my teacher is

: Russian so it's VERY difficult for us to communicate and sometimes

: I'm not really sure that what he tells me to do is the best thing

: for me. Here are the following problems which I'm having. Any help

: anyone could offer would be tremendously appreciated:

: Left Hand:

: I don't know when, but I've gotten into the bad habit of swiveling my

: thumb around to the bottom of the neck to allow my fingers free range to

: pivot and vibrato (I have small hands). However, this is wrong and it

: hurts my wrist. I try to move my thumb so that it is between the 1st and

: 2nd fingers, but the flesh of my palm at the base of my 1st and 2nd fingers

: become locked by the neck so that vibrato and manipulation, especially on

: the lowest strings. Suggestions?

: Right Hand:

: OK. I normally hold my bow in a relaxed way and extensively use my wrist on

: fast bows and what my teacher calls "double strikes" or double bowing. But,

: in order to facilitate my HORRIBLE SPICCATO, he has asked me to sprawl out my

: fingers, pinky curved and outstretched with the top knuckle of my index finger

: resting outstretched, wrist turned in. This pinches my thumb and constricts

: my wrist, though it facilitates Spiccato, but now my teacher is telling me to

: use more of my arm for fast bowing, less wrist. My virtuoso friends are all

: telling me opposite. WHAT DO I DO???

: As a note, I am making a personal campaign on myself to begin practicing more.

: By default, I am the 2nd chair first violinist and our hissy Concertmistress

: is threatening to quit. We're under a new director who doesn't know the ropes

: and I have a few solos. I don't want to blow it--my tone is terrible.

: Please send any help you can. Thank you for your time.

: All my heart,

: Rebekka

Oh, I forgot to mention, your friends are absolutely

right, spicatto is executed fully with the wrist, unless

you are crossing strings, where it gets more complex.

Your teacher is completely wrong on this, or you are

not understanding him clearly.

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: Left Hand:

: I don't know when, but I've gotten into the bad habit of swiveling my

: thumb around to the bottom of the neck to allow my fingers free range to

: pivot and vibrato (I have small hands). However, this is wrong and it

: hurts my wrist. I try to move my thumb so that it is between the 1st and

: 2nd fingers, but the flesh of my palm at the base of my 1st and 2nd fingers

: become locked by the neck so that vibrato and manipulation, especially on

: the lowest strings. Suggestions?

I think I know what you're describing. When you shift your thumb to its position between the 1st and 2nd fingers, how far does it protrude above the fingerboard? I gather that what is happening when you move your thumb into the 'correct' position, the neck of the violin is slipping into the groove between your 1st finger and thumb, making your hand 'stick'. Move your thumb down, so there is breathing space between the hand and the fingerboard. From what you say, I suspect that your hand is in contact the entire way around the bottom of the neck. It should be free, and the side of the knuckle (I don't know if I'm explaining this very well) of your index finger should not be 'stuck' to the side of the neck. This will free up your hand (make sure you keep your thumb loose!) for vibrato and easy shifting. The entire arm from the 'knob' on your back through to your fingers should be relaxed; any hunching or tightness and you'll end up with bad intonation, ineffective vibrato and probably RSI, too.

: Right Hand:

: OK. I normally hold my bow in a relaxed way and extensively use my wrist on

: fast bows and what my teacher calls "double strikes" or double bowing. But,

: in order to facilitate my HORRIBLE SPICCATO, he has asked me to sprawl out my

: fingers, pinky curved and outstretched with the top knuckle of my index finger

: resting outstretched, wrist turned in. This pinches my thumb and constricts

: my wrist, though it facilitates Spiccato, but now my teacher is telling me to

: use more of my arm for fast bowing, less wrist. My virtuoso friends are all

: telling me opposite. WHAT DO I DO???

How high is your wrist level? It all really depends on how much you're using your wrist. Spiccato should not be a pure wrist movement; the arm, while it must be relaxed and flexible, is a unit, so no stroke should depend entirely on one part of the arm. Perhaps what your teacher is trying to do is to decrease the independent movement of the wrist in favour of something more flowing. What is your arm/elbow level like? Is your general posture balanced? The faster you are playing, naturally the more wrist/finger movement you use, the less arm. However, as I said before, movement should never be restricted solely to one 'component', eg. wrist, fingers, lower arm etc.

: As a note, I am making a personal campaign on myself to begin practicing more.

: By default, I am the 2nd chair first violinist and our hissy Concertmistress

: is threatening to quit. We're under a new director who doesn't know the ropes

: and I have a few solos. I don't want to blow it--my tone is terrible.

I hope I helped a little; feel free to email me! I think I can pretty safely say that I've had all the problems you've described variously along my way so far - I hope the advice (or, my teachers'!) is useful!

: Please send any help you can. Thank you for your time.

Good luck!

- Q.

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  • 1 month later...

:

: : Left Hand:

: : I don't know when, but I've gotten into the bad habit of swiveling my

: : thumb around to the bottom of the neck to allow my fingers free range to

: : pivot and vibrato (I have small hands). However, this is wrong and it

: : hurts my wrist. I try to move my thumb so that it is between the 1st and

: : 2nd fingers, but the flesh of my palm at the base of my 1st and 2nd fingers

: : become locked by the neck so that vibrato and manipulation, especially on

: : the lowest strings. Suggestions?

I think I may understand what you're having problems with with your l.h. thumb; it sounds similar to a problem I and many of my students have had to overcome. I think it's ok to touch the neck with the base of your first finger like it sounds like you are, but there is something about which you have to be careful if you do. It obviously takes some pressure with the l.h. fingers to put the strings against the fingerboard, and it's very easy to allow yourself to counteract that force with pressure from your thumb, which forces the base of your first finger to apply an opposite pressure, since your thumb's pressure can't be directly opposite you fingers'. Instead of using the strength of your thumb, which not only keeps your hand from moving freely but also may injure your thumb, you should be able to use the weight of your arm as an opposing force to your fingers pressing down the strings. Then, your thumb will be able to rest comfortably in the position your teacher is recommending and not hinder your vibrato and fingering. My advice is, if this seems like a reasonable interpretation of your problem, to practice in slow scales keeping your thumb from applying any pressure to the neck, and your fingers feeling like they are all that keeps your arm from falling down off the instrument. This will all be easier if you're using a shoulder-pad, but should work either way.

I'm afraid I couldn't understand well enough your description of your right hand to even hope to offer a suggestion, and the above l.h. one may be missing the mark for your case; I can't really tell without seeing your playing.

Best of luck and feel free to correspond on the problem,

Jason Fruit

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