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tchaikovsgay

Galamian Violin Hold

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I try to improve both my arm and wrist vibrato but I realized what I have learned so far is the Galamian violin hold, which has the index finger touching the violin neck, that limits the vibrato in 1st to 3rd positions... I don't know what to do: should I adapt to a different violin hold? or just make some changes when I need to do vibrato?

thank you...

 

Galamian:

'The left hand should touch the neck softly at the left and at the right side. This facilitates the orientation of the hand during playing. 

During playing in the first position the first finger put on the finger board should form more or less a square, but never a perfect square. The first part of the forefinger should touch the upper ridge of the finger board.

Until the third position the forefinger on the finger board is an orientation, in the higher positions there will be the free position.'

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I am pretty sure the book also mentions that the index knuckle can slightly let go of the neck for a freer vibrato, but I don't have the book with me right now to check. That's what I usually do. Wrist vibrato with side contact is possible of course. I'm not a big fan of arm vibrato.

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1 hour ago, thirteenthsteph said:

I am pretty sure the book also mentions that the index knuckle can slightly let go of the neck for a freer vibrato, but I don't have the book with me right now to check. That's what I usually do. Wrist vibrato with side contact is possible of course. I'm not a big fan of arm vibrato.

thank you, I'll try to just slightly let the index knuckle go of the neck when I need to do vibrato

 

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Kavakos pointed out in an interview that a free vibrato in low positions is harder without a shoulder rest. Also without a shoulder rest a vibrato mainly done by arm movements is close to impossible as the instrument shakes. Not that I advocate a shoulder rest, and as you are aiming to follow a Galamian approach to mechanics obviously you will be working without one.

Agree with thirteensteph that keeping the index knuckle touching the neck is not mandatory. The instrument is supported by the thumb. Perlman is a Galamian student, you can look at his left hand in videos to get an idea of left hand position which I daresay would have been acceptable to Galamian, e.g. in the first video I find, which shows left hand pretty well:

 

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1 hour ago, John_London said:

Kavakos pointed out in an interview that a free vibrato in low positions is harder without a shoulder rest. Also without a shoulder rest a vibrato mainly done by arm movements is close to impossible as the instrument shakes.

 

 

Does Ann Sophie Mutter know this? :)

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1 hour ago, John_London said:

Kavakos pointed out in an interview that a free vibrato in low positions is harder without a shoulder rest. Also without a shoulder rest a vibrato mainly done by arm movements is close to impossible as the instrument shakes. Not that I advocate a shoulder rest, and as you are aiming to follow a Galamian approach to mechanics obviously you will be working without one.

Agree with thirteensteph that keeping the index knuckle touching the neck is not mandatory. The instrument is supported by the thumb. Perlman is a Galamian student, you can look at his left hand in videos to get an idea of left hand position which I daresay would have been acceptable to Galamian, e.g. in the first video I find, which shows left hand pretty well:

 

Thanks 

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Perlman has very large hands. The average violinist cannot follow his example. Each player must adapt their own physique to the (practically) fixed size and shape of violins.

In my own experience I found the same things about vibrato and shoulder rests as Kavakos. I did not start to play with a shoulder rest until I had been playing for about 30 years. It stabilized my violin for arm vibrato in 1st & 2nd positions. A neck injury at age 55 forced me to switch to a wrist vibrato, something I found difficult to do in the lower positions - took me years. Even now - 28 years later - it takes me a while to warm up to it every day (for some reason I find it easier on viola - maybe big hands and long arms).

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There's a warm up exercise that I think is also good for learning vibrato.  Put the bow in the case.  Left hand in playing position with one finger on a string, in say third position.  Move the hand back, as in vibrato, but way back,  to the point where the joint near the tip bends backward if your finger will do that.  Then forward again to the initial position.  While you do that, count four beats, one for each backward movement.  Then do the same but 8ths instead of quarters.  It should be twice as fast, in the same tempo you started at, and narrower.  Then do it again with 16ths, and it should be the speed and width of a normal vibrato.  Do it for each finger.  Start as slow as you need to so that the last one isn't too fast for you.

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Since Kavakos and shoulder rests were mentioned, I will point to another interview of his: https://www.classical-scene.com/2013/11/14/kavakos-opines-generously/

He was asked a few questions about his technique and he replied:

'...I don’t know whether this was the case then with chinrests or not, but I believe that Nathan Milstein was someone who had a very tight vibrato, and he never held the violin under the chin. It was all done by the hand. … I wish I could do the same thing, but I can’t.

This is such an unnatural position for the body, the violin, the way we hold it, it’s just a disaster. From whichever way you look at it, it’s a disaster, so the less pressure or the less tension one has, the better it is.

And with Milstein, it’s is not by accident that he could play so well until the age of 82. He was so relaxed when he played, and he never held the violin under the chin. He just put it here, but he never really held it like I do. Maybe he didn’t have such a high neck (and this is the other problem, you know, if your neck is long, then if you have no shoulder rest and you try to bring your violin here, you need to bring your shoulder up … and in the long run, after many years, it’s not straight...'

I think that the long neck problem might be solved with a higher chinrest, but generally not a lot of pressure is needed to keep the violin rather steady with no shoulder raising at all; it shouldn't touch the shoulder. How wide can one's arm vibrato be anyway? It's not a cello... Of course, I'm not saying Kavakos should ditch the rest now, his control of the instrument is second to none in the world (in my opinion). But this shows what his preference would be.

Of note would also be what he says about his bow hold and the way the wrist drops when reaching the frog, as the elbow is drawn inwards and not upwards a la Menuhin, for example. It might look exaggerated, but he is quite tall...

Sorry for the tangent and necro-post, just thought it's interesting to share.

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2 hours ago, thirteenthsteph said:

I think that the long neck problem might be solved with a higher chinrest, but generally not a lot of pressure is needed to keep the violin rather steady with no shoulder raising at all; it shouldn't touch the shoulder. How wide can one's arm vibrato be anyway? It's not a cello... Of course, I'm not saying Kavakos should ditch the rest now, his control of the instrument is second to none in the world (in my opinion). But this shows what his preference would be.

For those interested in this endlessly controversial topic, the mildly sarcastic comments of Eugene Fodor are amusing:

 

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2 hours ago, John_London said:

For those interested in this endlessly controversial topic, the mildly sarcastic comments of Eugene Fodor are amusing:

 

I loved this video when I saw it a few years ago! I can’t agree more, and I think the trend toward taller chin rests and shoulder rests stems from an excess of nerves in insecure players. These players only feel secure when they have a crushing grip on the instrument from the chin. Over time they get used to the position and worry that their rests are now too short, so they opt for taller ones again until they feel the same strain they felt at first. Years later, these same players wonder why they have neck and shoulder injuries.

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I guess there might be other anatomical differences that might make someone feel more insecure initially and just be afraid of continuing without a rest, but I don't think that anyone willing to go past the initial uncomfortable part cannot do it in the end. In fact I think it's more difficult to find a shoulder rest that fits some people's bodies whose chest is just to flat, but I agree that in the end it all boils down to thinking the violin should be clutched there with the jaw, as @The Violin Beautiful said, and not held by the hand.

That said, as I've mentioned before somewhere, my teacher can play just fine without a rest, no shoulder raising and no tension at all, but he opts for the rest most of the time. As long as it doesn't create tension, I don't think anyone should be forced into either group, even though my own preference is no rest.

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Most professional players and soloists actually use a shoulder rest, most commonly a Kun.  Heck even Zukerman stuffs a pad under his jacket, which I consider a form of shoulder rest.

Mostly, I see amateurs on a quest to play without the rest, when they should really focus on good posture and practicing their instrument.  There is no great violation in using a rest.

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5 hours ago, DBCooper said:

Most professional players and soloists actually use a shoulder rest, most commonly a Kun.  Heck even Zukerman stuffs a pad under his jacket, which I consider a form of shoulder rest.

Mostly, I see amateurs on a quest to play without the rest, when they should really focus on good posture and practicing their instrument.  There is no great violation in using a rest.

That has to be right, it is a quest for some, and rather a distraction. I happen to prefer the players who don't use SR. I prefer to Repin to Vengerov, Kavakos to Bell, Perlman to Zukerman, and have a taste the older generation such as Rosand and Haendel to the newer. These players have sometimes discouraged use of SR because there is a connection between the signifiicant differences in technique related to using SR or not, and the sound and style they wish to create and teach. For someone who has taken these fine players as models, obviously one hearkens to their guidance, so I personally tend to lean to not using a SR, and once a particular setup is established it is not easy to switch. It is a matter of taste in violin playing whether to make the effort to adjust your technique to using a SR (supposing you are not using one) or to not using it (supposing you are accustomed to a SR), or indeed to determine that the your aims and models point to leaving this aspect unchanged. As you rightly say there is no violation and a quest to ditch a SR is often undertaken without a clear idea which one is trying to achieve, and is therefore pointless unless so directed by a trusted teacher.

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I’d just like to point out that the shoulder rest has only existed for a few decades, whereas professionals have been playing the violin without one since its (the violin’s) appearance, so the argument that most use one doesn’t quite add up. 

Also, the player credited with its invention was one of the most ill-at-ease players of all time. But even he gave up on the idea after using it a while. 

I sell shoulder rests to people that ask for them and never tell them they shouldn’t use one unless I’m pressed for my personal opinion. Personally, I think “crutch” is the perfect description, but I’ll still listen to players that use them. I do notice that a lot of players (admittedly not all) that use them are very stiff and seem to be locked in combat with their instruments on stage. 

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11 hours ago, DBCooper said:

Most professional players and soloists actually use a shoulder rest, most commonly a Kun.  Heck even Zukerman stuffs a pad under his jacket, which I consider a form of shoulder rest.

Mostly, I see amateurs on a quest to play without the rest, when they should really focus on good posture and practicing their instrument.  There is no great violation in using a rest.

No disagreement, I did say it's a matter of preference. Personally, having started with a shoulder rest, first a Wolf and then a Kun, I used to be completely in pain after rehearsals, I could hardly lift the instrument to play any more, my shoulder hurt so much. Perhaps I could have become more comfortable with the rest, but I decided to quit it. At first I used a pad with a rubber band, but it was placed much like a shoulder rest, so in the end it didn't make much difference; I took that off as well.

Afterwards, I placed a small foam piece on my collarbone this time just because the wood was rather painful and caused some irritation. Since then I have taken that off as well, but is that where Zukerman places the pad? Because I don't see any contact with his shoulder when he plays. Maybe this is used to bridge a bit of the gap between the neck and the jaw which is smaller on the violin (I play the viola and it fits snugly) or because it hurts the collarbone, but I don't really consider it a rest, you still have to hold it with the hand and not the shoulder. Kind of like this:

 

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38 minutes ago, thirteenthsteph said:

Sorry to @tchaikovsgay and the world for hijacking the thread and starting yet another SR discussion. :(

Zuckerman places the pad inside his jacket over the clavicle. This was recommended by Stern to everyone.

 

12 hours ago, DBCooper said:

Most professional players and soloists actually use a shoulder rest, most commonly a Kun.  Heck even Zukerman stuffs a pad under his jacket, which I consider a form of shoulder rest.

Although I posted above generally agreeing, it would unfair to Zuckerman not to mention that he is strongly against the SR and recommends the pad, so he does consider there is difference in the effect on technique between the two.

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I saw Anne-Sophie Mutter playing three weeks ago. No shoulder rest, no pads and she didn't seem to struggle too much :)

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36 minutes ago, Muswell said:

I saw Anne-Sophie Mutter playing three weeks ago. No shoulder rest, no pads and she didn't seem to struggle too much :)

Doesn't she stick the back of the instrument onto her bare shoulder?

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36 minutes ago, thirteenthsteph said:

Doesn't she stick the back of the instrument onto her bare shoulder?

Well, her shoulder is bare but she holds the violin as horizontally as anyone and she doesn't hunch her shoulder up so I would say that any contact is incidental. It's not hard to play like that and she's had a lot of practice.

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2 minutes ago, Muswell said:

Well, her shoulder is bare but she holds the violin as horizontally as anyone and she doesn't hunch her shoulder up so I would say that any contact is incidental. It's not hard to play like that and she's had a lot of practice.

I was just thinking about it sound-wise, since one of the advantages people refer to when they talk about playing without a shoulder rest is that the rest absorbs some of the sound, but if the back is in contact with the shoulder like that I imagine even more vibration is absorbed. But yes indeed, playing like that, if she doesn't raise the shoulder and there's still contact, should feel even more secure than with a rest...

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20 hours ago, The Violin Beautiful said:

I’d just like to point out that the shoulder rest has only existed for a few decades, whereas professionals have been playing the violin without one since its (the violin’s) appearance, so the argument that most use one doesn’t quite add up. 

Also, the player credited with its invention was one of the most ill-at-ease players of all time. But even he gave up on the idea after using it a while. 

I sell shoulder rests to people that ask for them and never tell them they shouldn’t use one unless I’m pressed for my personal opinion. Personally, I think “crutch” is the perfect description, but I’ll still listen to players that use them. I do notice that a lot of players (admittedly not all) that use them are very stiff and seem to be locked in combat with their instruments on stage. 

The violin used to be played primarily by men wearing suits.  And if you're talking about Menuhin, there are other reasons for his ill-ease.

Most people who play at a soloist level without a rest have a good reason to say they shouldn't be used -- their physiology is such that they cannot see how it would be a benefit.  For those with sloping shoulders, narrow shoulders, there is little alternative.  

From a sound perspective, most instruments sound better with a shoulder rest than with their back blocked from vibration with a shoulder.  You can easily feel the back of your violin as you play to see how much it vibrates and how much sound is produced there.

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I think the overall technical requirements are higher in general than when the guys who played w/o rests were making their mark, plus there are more ppl playing, with more body types.  I heard Fodor in his heyday and he was super and would have been with a rest too.  Nothing wrong with a crutch if you don't have the right body for walking.

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