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pawsplus

Methods to increase speed and quickness

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I'm the one whose has been away for 38 years and is playing again. :-) I'm using a metronome and trying to speed up gradually but I seem to hit a wall. My fingers or my brain get to a point and just can't keep up. I found a video that discusses playing the Schradieck exercises by playing short-short-long and long-short-short instead of as written, and that does help some, I think. Any other suggestions? Or is it just too soon and I'm being impatient?

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What Bill said.

Also, make sure you are dropping the fingers of your left hand up and down (with no forward reaching). Best exercises are in Schradieck Book 1, first 3 or 4 exercises (finger patterns). 

To make sure you are using an efficient frame of hand, try solving optimal curvature for finger 2 and 4 first. You get placement of finger 3 for free :) 1st finger should be off the string if 3rd finger is on. Try to train 1st finger to lift up (energetically) when 3rd finger is on. 

Additionally any sideways pivoting motion makes the hand less accurate (intonation-wise) and slows down your speed to boot. One of my teachers (a student of Oistrakh's) was emphatic that when practicing Shradieck (mostly the first three excercise / finger patterns) it is important to feel the hand lifting upwards.

Keep us posted - congratulations and good luck!

~Scoiattola

 

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On 5/12/2018 at 12:57 PM, Scoiattola said:

1st finger should be off the string if 3rd finger is on. Try to train 1st finger to lift up (energetically) when 3rd finger is on. 

I never heard of this and am going to say it's a terrible idea..

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Sorry for the confusion - I'll try to explain. :) It's not so much about economy of movement, it's more like "economy of tension."

It can seem a little counter-intuitive - and I take your point: it's absolutely true that the 1st finger is a good guide finger for the rest of the hand. (not the only one, but that's a different kettle of fish.) 

Perhaps another way to look at it is that the "center" of the hand actually should be the 2nd finger. We can still use 1st-4th finger frames, but not as the thing that defines the ideal curvature for minimal tension.

Try this as an experiment: loosely hold your left hand as if there is an imaginary violin in it. Notice the 2nd, 3rd and 4th fingers all line up easily with no tension. Now look at the 1st finger. Most likely it is up in the air, at a slightly different angle. Almost like it is in its "own" group (of one)? 

Now, if you try to place the 1st finger alongside the 2nd, 3rd and 4th fingers in a row on the imaginary 'air fingerboard', notice how much tension is required to "keep them on." This technique is designed to mitigate that tension, or in other words, exploit the physiology of the hand so that tension (constant downwards pressure) is kept to a minimum. 2, 3, and 4 in their own group and 1st finger releasing when possible to keep the hand as even and tension free as possible. 

Caveat: this doesn't mean we always want the first finger up (especially if needed in the near future, this is what Shradieck does so well; trains us when to use the fingers, and when they can and should be lifted).

This technique can be used in fast scaler passages to great benefit. Here's a clip of Oistrakh and Richter playing the second movement of Prokofiev's Violin Sonata No. 1. 

 

Besides being part of an incredible performance (highly recommended to any and all), listen to the scales at the end starting at 6:21. This blistering speed and clarity of articulation is only possible with a first finger that is actively released.

Does this help explain the logic behind the technique? If I have some time, I may be able to put a video up on YouTube and post it here; as a picture is worth a thousand words etc etc.

Cheers,

~Scoiattola

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Not sure I even CAN leave my first finger down LOL. I got far enough in my early years that it's pretty automatic that only one finger is down at a time.

I'm doing pretty much what you guys recommend, I think, with Schradieck. Occasionally I try it a little faster and that is getting better SLOWLY. Then I go back to slower. Also, the first few exs in the Wolfahrt 60 studies book. Same thing. Every time I play them they sound a little better. Just slow LOL. Well, I shall attempt patience. 

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On 5/12/2018 at 4:33 PM, Scoiattola said:

 If I have some time, I may be able to put a video up on YouTube and post it here; as a picture is worth a thousand words etc etc.

Cheers,

~Scoiattola

Sure.  People don't do enough of that.

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2 hours ago, pawsplus said:

I posted a response above and it's shaded pink and marked "hidden." What's up with that??

Your first 10 posts require approval... A necessary evil in the fight against spammers.

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P.S. if any fiddle frackers are reading the Fingerboard, the Benedetti clip is an ideal sound.  Not "the" but "a".  Not fuzzy, not inward, not bright, but supported and focused.  Like fine cuisine sitting on a solid oak table.  It's a Stradivarius worth fifty billion dollars, but all the tests say you can do just as good.  I have faith in you.

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6 hours ago, Bill Merkel said:

нажмите здесь, чтобы вырастить волосы сегодня!!!

Doesn't do any good,

 

Don't worry.  I have a nuclear option available to the special cases.

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To improve speed on fast passages, especially if they have all 16ths or all triplets, or even fast 8ths for that matter, is to use "groupings". It can be considered an extension of the "dotted rhythms" mentioned by the OP, but instead of groupings of 2 notes, you group 3 or 4 (or even up to 6). The idea is to use a metronome at a fairly slow speed - I usually use quarter to 60, but you may want to go to 52 or even 48 at first. Let's think sustained 16th note passages for this exercise, say "Moto Perpetuo" by Paganini, as an example.

Group the first four notes together, starting on the beat: 1234 1234 1234 1234. Play them faster than they would be played at this tempo, with a rest before the next group of four. Use the rest to think about the next group before playing it. Once you have that mastered, then move the rest one 16th forward: 1 2341 2341 2341 234 with the same approach. Then, 12 3412 3412 3412, and finally, 123 4123 4123 4123. It is better to speed the groupings up, and have a longer rest, than to increase the metronome tempo. 

Don't do this any longer than you can fully concentrate on it. At first, it may only be for 5 minutes, but over time, you'll be able to work passages in this manner for 15, 20 minutes if needed. 

As others have said, be sure your hand position is correct, that your left elbow is correct on each string (left hand balance) and that you make smooth movements - you don't want any jerking or twitching.  

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Try also to stay very relaxed and smooth in your motions when playing. Real speed comes from being relaxed, both on the violin side and the bow side. If you find yourself tightening up when you speed up, slow it down and only add speed that doesn't add tension.

Also, economy of motion is vital.

Here's some fast of a different flavor:

 

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You say you don't think you can leave your first finger down. You may have your wrist too far forward(bent). Straighten your wrist a little(very slight) for extra speed. (Then bend it more for deeper more fluid arm/elbow vibrato.)

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Playing the violin is like gymnastics.You see those little kids getting started, but it's another 10 years before they even think about the Olympics.

Same with most violin kids, although there are few who are zooming along after only a couple of years and they may well have shown that potential on day one (I have niece who was that way, my wife's niece, actually). Playing string instruments is "small-muscle gymnastics" PLUS!

Problem with adult beginners, and even adult restarters is that after a lifetime of successful "brain work" they think they can think their way into accelerating their violin skills. It doesn't seem to work that way. You have to do all that physical work and it just takes a lot of time to develop the needed coordination.

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Scoiattola - much of what you have said is dependent on hand size.  On viola I do much like you say, the 2nd finger is the nominal position and I actually reach back a bit for 1st finger, this allow me to more easily reach the 4th finger stops.  I also hold my hand more square to the instrument on viola, somewhere between cello and violin.  I have a large (wide) hand but a relatively short 4th finger.  On violin, 1st finger is the base as I have no issues with reach.   I think the 1st finger as the base is best if your physical attributes allow it.  I will relax the unused fingers on the string, but never lift.   To build speed, I think of grabbing 'handfuls of notes', not just putting each finger in place for each note as they come. Also think about hand position and intervals of the fingers to get the fingers in place earlier.  Think of a guitarist who has to put the entire chord down at once, then all you have to do is manage the bow to strike the notes at the correct time.   Of course it is never that straight forward, but it can help with many passages.  

Yes slow practice definitely helps to ingrain the notes into your head and fingers, but you must play it slowly in the same manner that you would play it fast, such as putting multiple fingers in place ahead of time, as described above and with the same bow articulation - the bow is part of the 'choreography' of the passage.    To build up to speed, break it down into manageable pieces - or 'sound bites' or 'riffs' if you will and work each one up to speed (actually above speed - when you perform, you want to feel it is comfortable), then practice connecting each part, so that when you play it is not a progression of single notes, but a progression of 'riffs' so that the mind does not have work so hard to keep up. 

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I would like to add, because I failed to mention it before, that I agree very much with Spelman about staying relaxed.  Watch the best violinists and they just never seem to work hard at all.  It's quite infuriating actually ;-).   I saw a quote from Milstein once (I think it was him), where someone asked him what the hardest passage was he had ever played, and his response was "If I can play it, it is not hard."  And Milstein could play FAST!

 

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On ‎8‎/‎13‎/‎2018 at 8:42 AM, DR. S said:

To build up to speed, break it down into manageable pieces - or 'sound bites' or 'riffs' if you will and work each one up to speed (actually above speed - when you perform, you want to feel it is comfortable), then practice connecting each part, so that when you play it is not a progression of single notes, but a progression of 'riffs' so that the mind does not have work so hard to keep up. 

This is something I was taught. It will allow you to work out the bow usage, which can be hard to translate well when learning longer passages at a slow tempo and then trying to work up the whole thing at speed.

One of the things to try is to play the first bar at speed, stop, and see if your bow is where it needs to be to play the next few notes. If not, figure out how to get there. Mentally plan out your attack for the  out next  next "riff" and pause again, always conscious to end each phrase in a position to play the next phrase.  Eventually the pause in between riffs will shorten and everything will connect.

 

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On ‎8‎/‎13‎/‎2018 at 6:29 AM, Andrew Victor said:

Problem with adult beginners, and even adult restarters is that after a lifetime of successful "brain work" they think they can think their way into accelerating their violin skills. It doesn't seem to work that way. You have to do all that physical work and it just takes a lot of time to develop the needed coordination.

Thanks Andrew.  I was feeling down and came over to this group to sulk, and found your post speaking to my lack of confidence and my beating myself up.   I'll keep at it.  sniff.

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On 8/21/2018 at 8:59 PM, robcat2075 said:

Some demonstration of "fast practice"...

https://youtu.be/f9X4h-cY1uw

 

THIS IS THE BEST THING I HAVE EVER SEEN!!! I have actually been trying a little backchaining, as that is a method I know from animal training, and it's enabled me to get some passages I could not get otherwise.  But I was slowing down.  I know a good bit about cognitive learning (thanks to dog training) and will happily apply it!  Everything this trombone guy says makes complete sense to me.  THANK YOU!

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54 minutes ago, pawsplus said:

 Everything this trombone guy says makes complete sense to me. 

For faster playing page 2 of Chaconne and pgs 2 and 3 of 9th  DeBeriot could help with the metronome method.  With the Chaconne disregard, but don't forget, the ties until you can get positioning advice/instruction from your teacher or maybe Paulosian, which would help me if he chooses to reply.

If I'm not mistaken the t-bone player didn't play the entire phrase - but the message he is sending is understood.  If one's not careful going from the A to the F playing can hurt the teeth and lips if the inner springs in the t-bone aren't any good - ouch.

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