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justforfun

Yehudi violn hold

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well stillnew, my teacher was in his 80s as well and has brought a

number of people to the performance level in his lifetime as well,

so there!  he studied personally with primrose for years and

told me it was a trick.

and yes it is a trick, taking the thumb off of the bow, because you

obviously have to contort the position of one of the 4 remaining

fingers to support the bow.

there are many bow exercises, like the classic 'windshield wipers'

for example that are good for practicing balance in the fingers.

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I stand corrected, then. I was told to do it differently, and did not hold anything with my middle finger. Maybe I caught onto something accidentally that helped me.

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quote:


It is not a trick of the middle finger, and the point is not to show that there should be no tension in the thumb. The exercise is to sensitize the fingers to the bow, and to feel what role the fingers have with the bow. I have been guided to do this exercise by an old violist in his late 80's who has brought numbers of people to performance level in his lifetime. It is very helpful even for a violinist. You do this exercise moving the bow around at different angles to the floor, preferably over a bed if you're afraid of dropping the bow, and it's amazing how much better you play afterward.

I know this is a bit off topic, but, curious if you could describe this exercise.

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Well, xdimitrix is the expert since he was taught by someone who learned from Primrose himself. I simply have the book, and an online person later suggested it to me: that's the 80 year old teacher and violist. This man told me that the exercise would sensitize the fingertips to the bow. I have the photo from the book, by the way, but don't know if it can be uploaded here. When I look at the photo or Primrose bowing normally, his fingertips remind me of the fingertips of a tree frog suctioning to the bow. (hope it's not disrespectful to liken a famous musician to a tree frog).

The "parlour trick" consists of holding the bow without the thumb. You point it at the ceiling, the horizontally to the floor, creating different slow arcs without dropping the bow.

Here is what he has to say about it: "The position of the fingers ... should approximat to that adopted by a fine cellist, with the fingers encircling the stick much more amply than is common practice on the violin. ..... This parlour trick" ... enables me to hold the bow with the fingers alone with no aid of the thumb, and in any position, any angle. .... on further inspection the student readily perceivs the major part of the sensitive finger pads play in cradling the stick ... and the equally important part demanded of the fourth finger as a counterblanace to the point."

xdmitrix? Since you actually had your teacher show you this?

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THANKS! I was looking for these videos many years with candles!

I don't know when they were put on the internet, but I've looked

for them on internet too, in the past, and not found them.

I have the old book "6 lessons with Yehudi Menuhin". I can already

see that it it takes a fraction of the time to work out what he is

saying, from the video, as compared with reading his cryptic

language from his book.

Indeed, any comparison videos would be good to compare with, if

anyone else made such descriptive/demonstrative videos!

(good for learning how to teach!)

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"encircling the stick much more amply than is common practice on

the violin" and "parlour trick" go to illustrate what i'm talking

about.  he is very slightly putting his middle (and possibly

index + ring) finger just enough under the stick to support it so

it doesn't drop while the thumb is absent, and that's how my

teacher explained it.  personally i switch between viola and

violin regularly and i feel the biggest change is how much weight

you channel from your arm into the string, not necessarily how your

curl your fingers around the bow.

nevertheless this can be a good exercise because it shows the

relationship between the 4 fingers on top of the bow.

my teacher explained that the middle and ring finger

are support fingers, while the index and pinky are balance fingers.

 this is a good idea because a lot of players tend to torque

the bow with their index finger and thumb to get a deeper sound

(this is wrong). a good excercise to remedy this is to try bowing

with just your thumb, middle, and ring finger.  then you add

the index and pinky to balance the bow. 

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Menuhin was aq small man and the students in the film even smaller. The things he does with those tiny hands would never work for (say) Perlman (or me).

I do agree with the requirement for a chinrest that allows one to hold the instrument between jaw and collar bone. I think that is very important. There ar chinrests that are highe enough and low enough to allow almost everyone to do this properly.

It is also possible to add some stability with a shoulder rest - certainly some exquisite violinists use them today. Back in Menuhin's day many violinists were smaller and had similarly short necks - nto so any more.

The prinicples from which he gets his violin "hold" are good ones (in my opinion), but must be compromised for proper body dynamics.

And whatever he said - remember is solo career pretty much crapped out before middle age. How much might have been due to is parochial posture?

Andy

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i apologize for the long posts lately, but here goes another

one.......

people have not grown that much in the past 50 years for your

reasoning to be valid.  body features take hundreds of

years to evolve not decades.  

small hands or large hands it doesn't matter..... i have large

hands as i can play 10ths on a 16.5 inch viola comfortably, yet

menuhin's hold works well for me even when i play my students' 1/2

size violin.

also your point about menuhin isn't valid.  menuhin 'crapped

out' (as you put it) because he is simply menuhin. he was a nutty

guy.  look at milstein - he held the violin the same as

menuhin but his playing thrived even in his later years.

stability comes from the correct hold on the instrument.

 specifically, you lose control of the instrument the more you

tense up.  when you try to 'grip' the instrument with the chin

or shoulder, you are actually losing control more than you gain

control.  playing without a shoulder rest succesfully comes

from light touch in the chin and left hand areas. ever

wonder how baroque players play without chinrest OR shoulder rest

even when their music climbs out of first position?  many

people miss this, and think they need a shoulder rest for

stability.

shoulder rests are very detrimental to proper posture in my

opinion.  they cause you to squeeze in the wrong places and

they cut off proper muscle movement in the critical neck/shoulder

area.  i get back pain whenever i try them out and i'm a 6 ft

tall person with a rather long neck.  if you have a long neck

just get a higher chinrest.  it's a misconception to think a

shoulder rest solves this.

 try this experiment.  put your violin into playing

position without the shoulder rest, holding with left hand so

there is space between your shoulder and the back of the violin.

 look at yourself in a mirror so you can see the underside of

your violin and your shoulder.  place your fingers in first

position on the E string.  notice how your shoulder looks.

 now place your fingers on 7th position on the G string, and

note how your  shoulder looks. as you went to 7th position,

your shoulder naturally went closer to the back of the instrument.

 now if you had a shoulder rest there, this would lock your

shoulder and prevent your body from naturally moving the way it

wants to.

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quote:


if i take my thumb away i can't support my instrument, simple as

that, and you shouldn't try to support it by levitation either

actually it is possible to FULLY support the violin without a thumb/shoulder rest/etc...

it involves placing the chin on the chinrest, and pulling back with the head. in this manner the violin will retain its normal position. all without a thumb, nor a shoulder rest, nor any head clamping.

again its a balance/leverage type of a thing.

to see an *extreme* version of the "head pulled back" posture, take a look at leonid kogan.

that said, i don't do this unless it's required...

because the act of pulling the head back is doing something, when we should be doing nothing.

so yes the default is having the thumb used as a very slight balance support. however it isn't needed.

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that pullback of the head thing sounds very uncomfortable.  i

doubt kogan would use such a method.  

the technique things i've been talking about are universal, i use

them for violin and viola.  Even if the pullback of the head

thing worked on violin, it certainly wouldn't hold the viola, which

is why i wouldn't recommend it.  

Just thinking about holding the instrument that way makes me

cringe.

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xdmitrix420

You compleely miss my point. Whether or not people are bigger now than 100 years ago is not the point.

People of many different sizes exist, always have, and all such sizes of people play violin (etc.). The PRINCIPLES of proper playing are the same for them all, but the detailed MECHANICS different individuals would use to achieve those principles in practice would differ according to sizes of their relevent body parts.

You have only to watch Perlman playing in first position (up close) to realize that he must collapse his hold to get the violin neck deep into the thumb crotch to sustain a wrist vibrato.

FUCTION TRUMPS FORM!! And you can quote me on that!

Andy

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quote:


Originally posted by:
xdmitrix420

that pullback of the head thing sounds very uncomfortable. i

doubt kogan would use such a method.

the technique things i've been talking about are universal, i use

them for violin and viola. Even if the pullback of the head

thing worked on violin, it certainly wouldn't hold the viola, which

is why i wouldn't recommend it.

Just thinking about holding the instrument that way makes me

cringe.

I.

xdmitrix420, from reading your posts i know we agree on matters more or less.

I don't play viola so I can't comment on that.

Uncomfortable is not a good a thing. The pullback method is not uncomfortable nor should it be excessive. It's more about "standing straight up" vs. "standing with the head slouched forward and over the violin." It's *not* a "let's pull our head back as far as we can" technique.

Plus the principles you learn from it help violinists understand the concept of balance and leverage with holding the violin without a shoulder rest. Because of this, it's an excellent way to teach a student how to hold a violin without a shoulder rest. Of course, it is a technique that is shown rather than described with words.

In regards to Kogan, he used the head pullback method to the *extreme*...perhaps even abused it.

I wouldnt' ever advise someone to use it to the degree that he did...*but* through Kogan you can get a clear understanding over the principles behind it.

II.

In regards to the examples of Menuhin holding the violin drooped.

I have to rewatch the Menuhin videos...but...an important concept that Menuhin was trying to show...was that completely relaxed...you will not drop the violin. It's something that Havas teaches as well.

And so, the excercise goes...

Set your head weight on the violin (no shoulder rest)...you can let the violin completely drop, and then you can even bend forward at your waist as if you were trying to touch your feet with your hands.

No hands, no shoulder rest...the violin will droop, but it will not fall...and you won't be using any effort whatsoever.

When the violinist realizes this...it will go a long ways towards eliminating all tension and muscular effort of holding the violin. (The sources of which often come from a violinist's inner fear that they're going to drop the violin unless they do X, Y, and Z.)

III.

Andrew Victor. One can make an argument over Function trumping Form...and perhaps it should.

That said, when it comes to playing...Form and Function are intertwined together.

I believe it was Casals that said...

"If it looks good, it is good."

And he was right.

Looking at a video of someone playing...one can get a good idea over how well someone plays...with the sound turned COMPLETELY OFF. With the proper understanding of different violin technique(s)...one can even imagine how that person SOUNDS just by looking at them.

And why is that?

It's because one can tell how good someone is...and how they might sound...simply by seeing their form.

Galamian occasionally went into fits over Perlman...I won't go into the details...but think of how pedantic Galamian was. And look at Perlman's younger years vs. his later years...many making the argument that his playing was more textbook (and thus more beneficial to students) in his younger years.

edit: adding one more section:

IV.

Finally, I will state that if one has a collarbone, then one can hold the violin without a shoulder rest.

I have a very, very long neck and I can hold a violin perfectly straight and relaxed with no shoulder rest and no hands. I demonstrate this on full size violins, 1/8th size violins, etc.etc.

In regards to the top-tier soloists...you have people who are short with short necks...like Isaac Stern.

And then you have the TALL soloists...6 feet and above...like Ysaye and Szigeti...no shoulder rest.

That said, these days, properly implemented one can play technically correct and relaxed with a shoulder rest....Hilary Hahn for example. But every day, I see so many violinists holding the violin incorrectly with a shoulder rest.

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Con_ritmo wrote, quote:

"Finally, I will state that if one has a collarbone, then one can

hold the violin without a shoulder rest. I have a very, very long

neck and I can hold a violin perfectly straight and relaxed with no

shoulder rest and no hands. "

Con,

You need to realize, as others have stated, that this is not true

for everyone. Human anatomy varies widely.

Menuhin couldn't do it, I can't do it.  A friend of mine who's

a complete beginner CAN do it, with ease.  Both of my teachers

can do it, but both of them gave up trying to teach me how to do

it, because it simply doesn't work with my body.

And in the end, it does not matter one bit.  Even with the

people that CAN do it, such a hold adds unnecessary tension to the

head/body joint. One can learn to shift & do vibrato just fine

while still adding some support with the thumb.

-----

BTW, I like what you wrote about studying a good player with the

sound off.  That's a great idea.

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Quick reply

Transitioning to no shoulder rest took me a very long time to get used to...and then even longer to get fully comfortable without it. I don't quite remember...but maybe the time table was a month or two to be able to play my repertoire without one...and then half a year to get fully used to...and then years before I got 100% fully comfortable with my posture as a whole. Although like intonation...that journey may have no end. I will say that a good chunk of my technique and repertoire was already in place before starting the journey so it may be a bit more challenging for someone who is currently learning all aspects of the violin.

My teacher at the time gave me his reasons for not using one...I agreed, and that was that. And like my teacher, once the transition was done...to me...playing a violin with a shoulder rest is really like walking with crutches. I'm not trying to put down playing with a shoulder rest...but that's how it now feels like...to me and others. edit: and to go further, if you've learned to walk with crutches your whole life...suddenly walking without them may feel physically impossible...when it may well be very much possible.

Whether the journey is worth undertaking is up to the player.

So yes, the journey can be easy for some...and difficult for others...and perhaps next to impossible without the right teacher guiding the process.

The only time I ever encountered someone that to me physically would not be able to hold a violin without a shoulder rest....he was an elderly gentleman with absolutely no collarbone. No sense in going through the journey there.

In regards to Menuhin, he was all about 100% relaxation and 100% playing longetivity...and he was correct. The way he describes is the way many of us do it...the left hand giving that slightest (almost nothing) amount of support. The method I was describing to achieve a straight violin without a shoudler rest/hand for support is merely a tool that is used when the appropriate occasion arrives. While one could use it all the time (Kogan or a student engaged in the learning process) ...I wouldn't use it all the time...and someone like Menuhin wouldn't use it at all. Because yes, it can add that 1% of strain (again almost nothing but every little bit adds up)...

To describe it a bit differently, it's like those soloists that go from looking down the scroll to looking straight ahead as a slight change of position during a concert. I'll go from the hand balance support to the head-pulled-back just as a change. Something to do when you're working those long hours a day.

Finally, I am in no means a sans shoulder-rest hardliner. There are great players on both sides. There are (to me) also a lot of misconceptions about playing without a shoulder rest...and hopefully this thread can help clear some of them up.

My litmus test is this: Many colleagues have gone from playing with a shoulder rest to playing without. I don't know of a single top-level professional that has gone from playing without to playing with.

As Xdmitrix stated...if you feel the need to fill up the gap, get a higher chinrest. That's my advice too. I know a young violinist that went to Perlman camp and was invited back several times. Fabulous player...tall...and he plays without a shoulder rest. Perlman's advice to him...get a higher chinrest.

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I thought the idea was to play without a chinrest  either.

Then again, it would be even more getting used to for a man with a

beard which goes down and gets caught between under the chin and

the top of the violin where the chin clamps it.

I mean, wouldn't the violin just simply slip onto the floor almost

however strongly you clamped down? Certainly even more experience

would be necesary  to do all  that AND to do it whilst

playing descending thirds and all kinds of Paganini-like things.

Actually, one piece of advice might be not to try these tricks if

you're not prepared to give up paganini.

Where do you draw the line?

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con ritmo has some good points.  i think no shoulder rest

really forces you to get in tune with your body movements.

 many people never look back because after you get 'in tune'

you don't need to go back.

paganini is said to have played without a chinrest actually, and

yet he played all those challenging pieces so well.how did he do

it? he was very in tune with his body in relation to the

violin.

that said i think playing with a chinrest is different than playing

with a shoulder rest.  a chinrest is merely a contoured

extension of the violin top.  by using a chinrest or not using

one, you still keep the fundamental principles of everything i've

said before this.  

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Watching this video is very interesting. I am amazed by the refinement of technique that was developed and necessary for people to hold their instrument properly. However, the fact is that a well fitting shoulder rest, properly employed creates a much stabler platform to make music from. The body's energies and concentration can be focused more wholly on the more direct requirements of producing sound and playing in tune. I have experimented with these techniques, and for simple pieces I enjoyed the sense of freedom (for a full year), but in the end I found them counter productive and more limiting to my total techniqe. Intonation and stable tone production both suffered. I do not have tension or clamping problems with a shoulder rest and find a more stable platform better for learning accurate repeatable motions because they are simpler than those required without the shoulder rest. My lord, how complex these motions are that Mr. Menhuhin is teaching.

Keep it simple, when a technological advance comes along and proves itself, enjoy the gift.

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as emmanuel vardi once said to a student at a masterclass that i

attended "i think you need to go sit yourself down somewhere and

rethink your technique."

the problem i have with shoulder rests is that they really destroy

muscle movements necessary for truly coordinated playing.

 shoulder rests ARE NOT a 'technological advancement', and

they are not a 'gift'.  they are for people who can't figure

out balance.  

balance is what menuhin is teaching in his video, and while he is

explaining it in a complex way, it's even more complex explaining

to someone how to be comfortable with a piece of rubber crap

attached to their instrument.

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The body wasn't exactly designed to accomodate  a crappy

wooden contraption under your neck, either, was it?

So probably, those who don't need shoulder pads or chinrests were

probably born with them already there, OR something similar, with

which the person is able to work with.

I don't know much about cellos, but I wonder if THEY were

meant to be played on a stone tile floor with those metal

spikes protruding from them. I mean, if you are in tune with your

body and cello movements.

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Actually, I know cellists that can play the cello perfectly fine without an endpin...a skill that is good to know in cases of emergency or questionable surfaces...

One even demonstrated to me on how to play the cello while standing up *and* walking around. So yes, "if you are in tune with your body and cello movements..."

I don't know where this whole "no chinrest" idea is coming from. We're (or at least I am) talking no shoulder rest here.

There are actually a few performance techniques that are readily done when one plays without a shoulder rest. One very famous picture of Oistrakh comes to mind...

No excuses.

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I will throw out one more bit of information.

When a shoulder rest is improperly used, the violin will be resting HIGHER off the body than it would otherwise (when played without a shoulder rest).

This can have some severe consequences in regards to the natural weight transfer of the upper arm->lower arm->wrist->hand...into the bow->string.

A higher violin means the right arm should be held that much higher to achieve the same amount of weight transfer. This is NOT a good thing...especially considering that weight transfer is one of the most important aspects of a violinist's sound. When used improperly in this manner, the shoulder rest becomes an absolute detriment...not a "technological advancement".

Maybe a good comparison could be driving a car with a manual transmission vs. driving one with an automatic transmission. Both types can take you where you want to go...except the manual transmission gives one much greater control over the car's power and handling characteristics. On the other hand, some people see it as an absolute nuisance and would much rather just use the "technologically-advanced" automatic. Heh.

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quote:


Originally posted by: con_ritmo

When a shoulder rest is improperly used, the violin will be resting HIGHER off the body than it would otherwise (when played without a shoulder rest).

This can have some severe consequences in regards to the natural weight transfer of the upper arm->lower arm->wrist->hand...into the bow->string.

.....

Maybe a good comparison could be driving a car with a manual transmission vs. driving one with an automatic transmission. Both types can take you where you want to go...except the manual transmission gives one much greater control over the car's power and handling characteristics.

******

Of course if anything is improperly utilized it will cause problems. My contention is that it requires less work for most people to properly hold an instrument with a shoulder rest than without. What I have not seen is a standardized method for setting up and holding an instrument with a shoulder rest. As the use of shoulder rests continue to grow and it becomes the norm, I'm sure some good teachers will develop methods of selecting, fitting, and utilizing shoulder rests. It may even effect left hand technique to some extent, just as not using one does, as seen in this video. Not worse, maybe not better, just different and hopefully easier to master. My "shoulder" rest actually rests on my left pectoral so it does not interfere with my left shoulder or arm freedom at all, and I didn't have to spend years doing those Menhuhin exercises to learn to balance the instrument.

By the way, the state of the art high performance automatic transmissions have proven themselves better performers than manual transimissions even with the best drivers in almost all conditions. High speed electronic processors coupled with well designed sensors and mature algorithms are superior to human reflexes and skill. But I admit, they aren't nearly as much fun.

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