forearm rotation vs index finger pressure

An alternative approach to bow “pressure” involves the entire forearm and using the natural arm weight. Develop beautiful, even sound with more consistency and less effort with these exercises.

Continue reading “How To Get a Good Sound at the Tip with Less Effort and More Consistency”

shoulder muscles

When we learn how to shift and practice going from one position to another, our attention usually zeroes in on two things: intonation and mechanics of the left hand. Which finger is moving? At what speed? What is the thumb doing? What pressure should the finger have? What is the interval between the two notes? Singing the music…and of course, YOLO (going for it and hoping for the best).
Continue reading “The Role of the Shoulder in Shifting Positions”

delays

Delayed shifts are performed either through finger extensions or contractions, after which the hand frame re-establishes in the new position. The forearm is still the main leader during changes of position and it defines when a shift has been officially completed. Pay attention to its role when playing a delayed shift. When does your forearm move in relation to the fingers and thumb?

Continue reading “The Magic of Delayed Shifts (Sneak Into a New Position)”

octaves

For the longest time, I’ve struggled to play double stops consistently in tune, and even more so with a decent sound. I always found playing octaves to be especially challenging – it’s a perfect interval and any deviation from matching pitches sticks out like a sore thumb…on in this case, a sore ear? After practicing octaves for years and years, they were just never consistent enough. I still struggle a little from time to time and need to practice octaves on a daily basis as part of my warmup routine to maintain a healthy hand frame and intonation.

 

Although my progress has been very slow, and often frustrating, all the repetitions really started to make their impact over a long-term time frame. Among all the great lessons I learned along the way about playing octaves better in tune and with a better tone, there are three that currently stand out for me, which I use as a guide for my most recent practice sessions. Continue reading “Octave Hacks”

stacking

Have you ever been really anxious to practice but just couldn’t seem to get yourself to pick up your instrument? It happens to the best of us. One of the hardest things about practicing consistently is simply getting started. Unfortunately for many people it doesn’t seem to get easier over the years. In fact, I know many professional musicians who have either completely stopped practicing regularly or had to take extended breaks at some point due to other life obligations. This was especially common during the early days of this pandemic when there were no upcoming concerts or other deadlines. No matter what kind of musician you are – whether you’re a complete beginner, someone who’s not yet used to practicing on a daily basis, or a seasoned professional who is working on regaining that momentum, let’s work on making it just a little easier to get started.

Continue reading “5 Ways To Make It Easier To Start Practicing | Atomic Habits”

violin and my left hand

A few weeks ago I had a deep conversation about reducing tension and extra finger pressure in the left hand, in which I got a fresh perspective and sensation on an already-familiar concept. The different “vocabulary” helped me experience a small, but very important breakthrough (which will hopefully stick).

Left hand tension is something that can easily show up under pressure, especially when it’s not given enough attention in practice. For several years I practiced Simon Fischer’s exercise on finding the minimum finger pressure (you can find this exercise in Basics and Warming Up). It’s a great exercise and I got pretty good at it. However, whenever I attempted to apply the concept in repertoire, especially during a run-through, I was never able to remember to use less finger pressure, especially in moments when it was crucial. After the conversation, I realized that while the Simon Fischer exercise is fantastic, on its own it’s been just that – an exercise. In order for me to become more consistent with feeling release in the left hand, I had to take my whole body into consideration.

Continue reading “A Kinesthetic Approach to Releasing the Left Hand”

tuning forks

Want to play better in tune on the violin (or viola, cello, etc)? In addition to having a good sense of relative pitch and left hand fundamentals, string players also need to have a basic understanding of both vertical and horizontal intonation. The bad news is there is no such thing as perfect intonation. The good news is that with experience, string players have the ability to quickly adjust their intonation in real time to stay the best in tune with an ensemble (or themselves).

There are have been many tuning systems throughout music history, many of which are still being used today. If it interests you to explore this topic in greater detail, I strongly recommend Ross Duffin’s book How Equal Temperament Ruined Harmony (and why you should care).

In addition to the “universally-accepted” equal temperament, here is a summary of two tuning systems that non-tempered instrumentalists (this includes vocalists) should be aware of. Continue reading “Pythagorean Tuning vs Just Intonation | A Paradox of Playing in Tune”

As players of a fret-less stringed instrument that’s not set to equal (or meantone) temperament like a keyboard or marimba, we have the liberty to utilize more than one tuning system. With multiple tuning systems, there’s no such thing as absolutely perfect intonation. Playing the most in tune we can on the violin (or viola, cello, etc) requires a combination of stellar sense of relative pitch combined with active listening, a stable instrument setup, and a reliable left hand technique. The combination of ear training and physical technique creates the mind-body connection (or ear-finger connection, if that makes more sense to you), which allows us to play in tune consistently.

Continue reading “How to Play More in Tune: Ear-Training, Tuning Systems, & Mind-Body Connection”