I have written one small, and increasingly useful treatise concerning playing the 'Baroque' violin, and several articles on music, musicians, the state of the art, as and when a bee gets under my bonnet.

Here is a selection of such, which I would be pleased to offer a visitor to this web site.

 

The Art of Playing Chin-off for the Brave and the Curious, by Elizabeth Wallfisch- available here

Articles, which I would be pleased to send, if you ask on the contact form.

 

'Style in the Art of the International Violin Competition'

'The Great Divide'

'You do not have to be young to be brilliant!' 

  

 

THE ART OF PLAYING CHIN OFF FOR THE BRAVE AND THE CURIOUS, VERSION 3

 

 

 

 


PRIMARY ACKNOWLEDGEMENT:

THE ART OF PLAYING ON THE VIOLIN,

by Francesco Geminiani

Whose clear pedagogic genius has been one of my greatest inspirations.

 

My personal thanks to: My students, past and present, who have been and still are my best teachers.

 

The tyranny, inspiration and friendship of the violin, which demands at all times total focus and control, to find and to learn to express the voice within.

 

Discomfort and confusion, which were, and sometimes still are, leading me to a searching for understanding,

 

The fiddlers of the Australian Brandenburg Orchestra, the students at George Washington University, the fiddlers of Tafelmusik, Canada, and of the Carmel Bach Festival Orchestra, all of whom consented to be my guinea pigs.

Judy Tarling for all her help with this little book, and also over the years with her books

My beloved family- my husband, Raphael and children- Ben, Simon, and Joey, who have suffered my absences, and my absences of mind when at home, and whose love and support are immeasurable.

 

I now must also acknowledge the help I had in my twenties, from a small book by Yehudi Menuhin, called 


'6 Lessons With Yehudi Menuhin' which introduced me to my collar bone!

 

 

INTRODUCTION:

Instructions for Use:

To be read, while from a music stand, violin in hand/s, with the Geminiani[1] on another music stand beside it.

 

This essay is designed for those players who are already violinists, not actual beginners- although it has always been a curiosity for me to discover what the benefits would be of starting out as a beginner on the violin, using this technique, as Geminiani would have taught.

Whether accomplished in the areas of 'modern playing', or 'baroque playing' or any level/period in between, this may prove to be the help needed to gain a greater understanding of the concepts of style inherent in the expression of emotion and affekt of the music of the 18th century and earlier.

This can also be of immeasurable use, technically, to the conventional 'modern' player who is searching for a way to play without the discomfort, and restrictions of the 'grip' between chin, neck and shoulder, and the physical problems that can occur over time.

This little book is NOT the answer, but perhaps the beginning of the questions….

 

 

 

 

The Quest

Part the First:

 

PRELIMINARY:

Stand easy, legs gently apart, soft knees, arms hanging, not slouching, not 'to attention'…Sway a little from hip to hip.

                       

Hug yourself! Yes do it! Nicely!

Cradle baby/cat/roast dinner, i.e. arms in front of body, palms gently facing the ceiling, elbows in to your side…

photo

Arms down to side, very loose…

Head easy, shoulders down loose, with no expectations whatever of holding anything - let alone a violin!

 

1: Position of violin on the shoulder, and collar-bone.

A: Whatever your shape/size, your collar-bone acts as a ledge.

B: 'Props' ie: supports- for example: nothing, a wedge,** a roll,***a shoulder rest, perhaps to fit the individual[2]

 

** To make wedge: Take one square of chamois leather,

Fold, to make triangle, fold again to make another, and then another...Finally, roll last smallest triangle, longer corner to longer corner, tightly fasten with rubber band around the final result. Adjustable to all heights,widths,and size of person, comfort of individual.

                     

 

 (The use of a 'prop' on the violin depends entirely on the physique of the individual.)

Must be comfortable! Feel good. Feel secure, 'nested'! Yes…without any grip between chin and shoulder.

There is no need any longer to worry about the length of one's neck, as the chin/jaw does not need to connect with the violin. This technique is positively good for those with long necks.

Please experiment!

 

 

'THE JOY OF PLAYING ON THE VIOLIN':

I believe in the pleasure principle:

I mean- That everything about playing the violin is a pleasure.

The feel, how it looks, comfort, quiet strength and balance, beautiful sound, ease of movement, facility…all that.

 

MAKE HAVING THE VIOLIN IN PLACE A PLEASURE.

Unlike many schools of thinking and teaching, which ask that your left foot point towards the music stand, a line between your feet may be drawn that is parallel with the ledge of the music stand, the scroll of the violin then pointing a little over to the left of the stand. This means that your head and neck are not rotated to the side, and you are looking directly ahead of you.

 

 

 

 

Chin-rest: At this stage it is better to take it off!

In my experience, chin-rests, and the high-tech amazing shoulder rests invite you to grip the instrument between shoulder and neck, in spite of all best intentions to the contrary!

'My funny little chin rest', for later music, but still not for gripping..

                                       

The tailpiece of violin, 'the button' is best slightly to the left of the chin, which may seem unusual to many violinists.

You can see clearly here the position of the tail-piece, in relation to the windpipe and the U in the middle of the collar bone

Part the Second:

HERE WE GO:

2: Exercises without bow.

TIP:  LEFT ARM POSTURE-

Place left arm behind your back, then, very easily, put your left hand on your hip.

A: (The violin is with/without 'prop')

With your right hand, hold violin in front of you, upside down, scroll to the floor,

f-holes facing away from you.

I like to hold the instrument with my first finger hooked around the bout of the instrument in this position, it feels safer..

                          

Using your right hand put violin on to left shoulder, nesting place.

'Nest', 'bury',  the violin, keeping left hand on hip, using right hand to lift fiddle.

Right side of the instrument must be tilted slightly towards the floor- NOT FLAT like a billiard table.

(A 'clunk' on the collarbone can be your guide to the correct place)

Put violin down, again put on left shoulder,

put down, up, down, up, down etc.

HINT 1: An open necked blouse/shirt means that the front of your collarbone is bare skin, and that the violin won't slip!

(Chamois leather can be of help too, though I find skin is the best 'non-slip' there is)

The tailpiece, or if you prefer, the little button holding the tail-gut should be just to the left of the chin.

                                

Watch TV, look out window, walk around, stand on left foot, right foot, sway, chat to cat...

Shake head gently, up and down, side to side.

BE EASY, IT IS EASY!

B: Violin up, with right hand as step A

 

 

 

Heel of LEFT HAND to shoulder of violin, fingers totally relaxed,

 

(Still holding fiddle with right hand).

Left hand down,

Violin down, using RIGHT hand

Repeat many times, (Go back to step A. Get comfortable!)

 

C: Violin up,

Heel of left hand to shoulder of violin

Drop right hand

Right hand up

Drop left hand

Violin down, using right hand

Repeat many times.

 

D: Violin up*

Left hand to first position on neck

Right hand down

Right hand up

Left hand down

Violin down.

Repeat many times

ROUTINE, A PLEASURE!

(5 minutes have now passed)

 

3: Starting to move.

A: Violin up

Left hand to first position on neck of violin

Drop right hand- DON'T PANIC, (people do- )

Look out of window, free your head, shake head, stand on one foot, the other -Walk around room

Left hand up to 4th position, heel of hand ONLY, touching shoulder of violin, fingers completely relaxed and free

              

Right hand up to hold violin

Left hand down

Violin down.

Repeat the above many times!

 

B: Violin up

Left hand to first position

Drop right hand

Left hand up to 4th position

Left thumb BACK, only as far as is comfortable on the neck

The above is too far….hhhm, so be warned, this is not IT.. However, below is IT!

A gentle stretch across the hand

Left thumb UP to normal 4th position place Thumb back, thumb up, thumb back, thumb up, as often as needed, to become familiar with the movement.

NO ARM ROTATION AT THIS STAGE.

(The thumb works a little like a windscreen wiper, though with a little bend as your physique demands)

Right hand up to hold violin with right hand

Left hand down

Violin down

Repeat etc.

TIP:

It is very important never to practise in bad habits.

When discomfort or imbalance of any kind occurs, stop.

Go back to the very basics, even if it is every couple of minutes, and start again.

MAJOR! DIVERSION- necessary! A VERY IMPORTANT POINT!

Look at left hand, first finger- base/lowest joint.

See crease. Study crease! Feel the joint. See middle joint. See flesh in between.

'press the flesh' with the left thumb

 

C: Violin up

Left hand first position

Right hand down

Heel of left hand up to 4th position

Balance, yes, balance violin on that flesh just above where the first finger meets the hand, at the base joint.

(This is the only time I ask you to balance)

 

 

 

NOTE: It helps at this stage to swing the elbow out to the left as far as you dare.

It may also help to hold the violin slightly higher than horizontal, as you balance the fiddle.

Come back to normal 4th position left hand.

Balance fiddle, then back to normal, repeat this swing often- it gets easier...

 

Thumb back

Thumb up to normal (the windscreen wiper)

Right hand up - etc- Repeat the above often

THROUGHOUT ALL THE EXERCISES-

SOFT KNEES, SOFT SHOULDERS, FREE HEAD, WALK AROUND THE ROOM, SHUT EYES, WATCH TV-THERE IS NO NEED TO WATCH THE LEFT HAND INTENTLY AS THIS CREATES TENSION IN THE NECK AND SHOULDER!!

 

D: Violin up

Left hand to first position

Right hand down

Left hand to 4th position

Thumb back

SQUEEZE neck between thumb, and first finger just above base joint.

Thumb to normal

Thumb back... THEN…… still squeezing..(gently)

Bring wrist away from body of fiddle, (the movement will be led by the wrist)

The left wrist is the lead role in the movement backwards, thereby freeing the whole hand from the neck of the fiddle.

Draw left hand back to roughly first position using thumb as your anchor, your first finger as the moving part, the base joint squeezed against the neck of fiddle

It helps to raise the fiddle a little above the horizontal for this movement

 

 

When back to roughly the first position, put one left hand finger down, (any one will do), bring thumb back to join the rest of the hand.

Thumb where comfortable. This will be different for everyone

To start with take your time to get comfortable)

Up to 4th position.

Thumb back

Squeeze, (1st finger, above base joint) then down

Thumb to join hand……..wait for it!

Up, thumb back, squeeze, wrist back, down, thumb join

Up, thumb back, squeeze, wrist back, down, thumb join

Up, thumb back, down

Up, thumb back, down

DONE IT!!!

This is a pivotal moment in your playing life.

Repeat for the rest of your life, every warm up!

All of the above will become second nature, and you will be able to shorten it all to a few quick movements, automatically

 

Moving on:

E: Violin up

Left hand to first position

Right hand down

Left hand to fourth position

Thumb back

Stop a note with second finger (no bow yet), on the A or D string, to begin with.. the E and G are more difficult

 

Slide down to first position, using thumb and second finger gently squeezing the neck as you move

The base joint of the 1st finger, is far better away from the neck as you move

TIP: It helps to form something like a circle/oval, between finger-tip and thumb for the move.

I love to feel the friction between the fingertip and the string!

 

 

F: As E:

Use each finger of the left hand in turn until it feels easy, and you start to gain fluency

 

-SUMMARY-

THE SUPPORTERS of the Violin-

THUMB, COLLAR BONE, FLESH ABOVE THE BASE JOINT OF THE 1ST FINGER, THE FINGERTIP OF 1ST OR ANY OTHER FINGER

THERE   MUST ALWAYS BE THREE   POINTS OF CONTACT WITH THE  VIOLIN.

DO NOT EVER ATTEMPT TO USE 'BALANCE' AS THE 'SUPPORT', it doesn't work….

(This is one of the chief reasons violinists give up their attempts to play 'chin-off').

TIP: as above, a reminder.

It is very important never to practise in bad habits.

When discomfort or imbalance of any kind happens, stop.

Go back to the very basics, even if it is every couple of minutes, and start again.

Work through Part the first a couple/three/four times.

(There will come a time very quickly when you can go immediately to violin up comfortably on collar bone, and then- 'UP, THUMB BACK, DOWN')

 

"A note written by Peter Wallfisch 1924-199.., to his grandson Benjamin, 1979-"

What is technique? It is the ability and art to be able to programme your actions at will.

Always treat the instrument as if it were priceless , drawing the sound out.

In my opinion, the best purpose of so called technical work is to stimulate friendly sensations in the various muscles, joints, tendons etc, to transmit the kind of pleasant messages to the brain that the ear and eye do constantly.

 

A COMFORTABLE felling when performing means that you have managed to establish this state of affairs: Harmony all round:

 

You will find to your key after a time that your playing parts, will be as receptive thence as dependable as your ears are.

Dependable because a corner of your brain will RECOGNISE the PHYSICAL FEELING and be able to plan what is correct at the time, and what you know you have intended as being good.

 

So, the best effect  these exercises can have is not to drill but to open up all kinds of happy sensations and through regular repetition, call them in to being time and time again and finally memorize them so well ( all by themselves) that all your actions have become as assured as sleepwalking, so your real concentration can be on emotional feeling and intellectual thinking music and listening to it, which after all is the goal of it all. You really become the perfect mirror...

You can talk to me whenever you like, I wish you luck and contentment and remember:

 

All prescriptions warn: DO NOT EXCEED THE STATED DOSE (and keep away from children)

 

 

 

 

 

Part the third:

THE SYSTEM...

The work really begins now.

Essential Primary Source Material

FRANCESCO  GEMINIANI:

THE ART OF PLAYING ON THE VIOLIN- 1751

 

This book makes very entertaining reading, but.... not at bedtime!

Please have your wits and your violin about you when you open this wonderful book.

So that everything you read you will translate immediately into action.

In this way -you will remember it!

Read Geminiani's commentary, for each example, many times, referring to his corresponding musical examples.

 

Efsempio 1

 

A: Please read, with the mind of the beginner

B: Geminiani says: 'The Violin must be refted just below the Collar-bone, turning the right hand Side of the Violin a little downwards, fo that there be no Neceffity of raifing the bow very high when the fourth string is to be ftruck'

I am not sure at all about 'below the collar-bone', where he exactly means.

But, he is absolutely right about the right side of the violin being a little downward!

 

C: Read- Enjoy the beautiful instructions. (4a, 3a etc denote which string)

Especially pay attention to the use and expression of the bow, as stated in B:

'One of the principal Beauties of the Violin is the fwelling or increafing and foftening the Sound; which is done by preffing the Bow upon the Strings with the Fore-finger more or lefs. In playing all long Notes the Sound fhould be begun foft, and gradually fwelled till the Middle, and from thence gradually foftened till the End.'

Whole bows, with fwells, er..swells

HE IS RIGHT ABOUT THE THUMB NEEDING TO GO BACK AS YOU GAIN THE HIGHER POSITIONS in these exercises.

(Please do not over-do this! Some players have long thumbs, others not. Be careful to go with your hand-type, not beyond)

The point of this exercise is to learn that the thumb can be another independent digit, as the fingers are, with its own role to play, not just as a support.

TIP:

In each position, and on each string, the left hand must be comfortably over the fingerboard, neither too far, - raised high above, nor too close, -  with any feeling of cramping

(As you go from G string to E string the left elbow may gently move outwards, back under the violin)

 

NOTE:

All these exercise must be practised both up and back, which means reading them backwards! The commas at the ends of the bars indicate the reversal.

GEMINIANI: The fingering, indeed, requires an earneft Application, and therefore it would be moft prudent to undertake it without the Ufe of the Bow.

 

 

A Tricky point to watch!

 If you have been used to preparing your thumb under the neck of the violin, for all your shifts UPWARDS, it may be confusing at this stage, with your chin 'off', to move up the violin.

It is better to just simply move upwards, the hand all of a piece, taking as little notice of the thumb as possible, certainly NOT preparing it for the upward shift, by bringing it under the neck of the violin in advance of the shift.

The hand becomes confused in the 'chin-off technique, and loses it way, if the thumb is moved up in advance of the hand.

Then, on the note before descending, pause/ prepare, put the thumb back deliberately.

 

D: NOTE: (ESSENTIAL FOR ALL EFSEMPII!)  (And for life)

FOR EACH DOWNWARD SHIFT, PREPARE THE THUMB AT THE NOTE or 2/3/4 BEFORE THE SHIFT!

i.e. Move the thumb back and partly under the neck of the violin.

Then, gently squeezing the violin between the base of the first finger, if you are shifting on an open string, OR the finger stopping the note...and the thumb creating the counter-pressure/anchor-

Shift Down.

Tips: To start with, change the bow whenever you change the string.

Also, remember- it is very helpful to make a little fwell with the bow, on every change of position.

Note- this may mean one, two or three fwells  per bow stroke.

 

TO SWELL OR NOT TO SWELL,

That is a question... WHY do it?

 

LEOPOLD MOZART:

'A TREATISE ON THE FUNDAMENTAL PRINCIPALS OF VIOLIN PLAYING'

(Translated by Edith Knocker)

Chapter V, *3.

'Every tone, even the strongest attack, has a small, even if barely audible, softness at the beginning of the stroke; for it would otherwise be no tone but only an unpleasant and unintelligible noise. This same softness must be heard also at the end of each stroke. Hence one must know how to divide the bow into weakness and strength, and therefore how by means of pressure and relaxation, to produce the notes beautifully and touchingly.'

 

Some other answers:

1: To support the shift.

2: To use the bow to help stabilise the instrument, when shifting.

3: To use the expression intrinsic to the expression of the period when 'chin-off' (in violin playing) playing was the norm/fashion?? (Another book!)

 

(Up, thumb back, down)

Remember to play each exercise both up and down- i.e. reading forwards and backwards.

(I have also practised these exercises, disregarding the commas, and going all the way up, and then all the way down again-very challenging indeed) 

A QUESTION OFTEN ASKED:

 

What is the best position for my thumb in the first position?

 

Answer: Whatever is comfortable and free.

It may poke up the side of the neck, the neck resting in the crook of the hand.

Your thumb may be too short for this however, and may be simply lying on the side of the neck, or in fact ANY STAGE in between these two.

However a pinched, closed hand is not desirable under any circumstances!

 

Start!

 

E:

Geminiani gives us great challenges here!

With a little patience, and practice, this efsempio can be mastered.

 

Tips:

As before, bow change with string change, and fwells with position changes, forwards and backwards.

 

 

IMPORTANT:

These are very big shifts, simply to gain mastery. You will hardly ever encounter such fingerings in real life!

Remember to take the time and make the effort to bring the thumb back on the note prior to the shift, and then, to make your move. This will become second nature after a very short time!

This will speed up! You will eventually not even think about it!

 

Efsempio ii

As before: (Read commentary)

Up, thumb back, down

I do like to vary the bowing here.

Start with 2 slurred, up and down, (note values in 1a, i.e.; quarter notes/half notes, denote semitones, not the rhythm)

Then 3 slurred, up and down.

4 then 6, then 8, then the whole thing in one bow.

Start to gain speed.

ATTENTION:

Swells  to the middle of each slur (not each shift)  here!

 

Point:

The bow is an essential stabiliser, not only the source of our expression.

Use some force on the bow hair against the string, without drawing a sound. At times this can really aid the shifting.

 

Efsempii- iii-iv-v-vi

iii:  Diatonic scales, simply. Each one has alternative fingerings at the top of the scales, so it is worth working up, and of course down, with each of those fingerings. ( the 1's, and 1/2s under the notes denote tones and semitones)

iv: Up and back

v:  Up and back, also using the alternative fingerings shown

vi:  Up and back

 

 

 

Efsempio vii

And now for something completely different!

Here you are challenged not only in the areas of intonation, position changing, but, in the use/misuse of your bow.

(It is all those string crossings that create the challenges)

GO ALL THE WAY BACK TO BEGINNING OF HOLDING THE VIOLIN-up, thumb back, down, several times.

 

Begin this efsempio  using separate bows, in the middle of the bow, very easy, no intensity, gently.

Repeat, two slurred.

Again four slurred, then eight slurred, then sixteen, gaining speed, and expression on the way.

(Forget not the fwells)

Do each of the sections in this way.

 

BEWARE:

You may find that the string crossing in numbers 5a, 6a, 7a, and 8a, etc., will slow you down as you add notes under slurs, and increase speed.

NO WORRIES!

Allow it to be slower as you maintain control at all times.

 

(Maybe do some mixed rhythms, with and without slurs, AND some slurring across the beats to increase fluency.)

 

Efsempii viii, ix, xiii are not concerned principally with position changing, as this tiny treatise is, so I am not including commentary here.

BUT, when there are changes, use your skills, decide your fingerings and then work on fluency and ease of movement.

Do not revert to old habits, at any price!

 

 

Efsempii   x-xi- xii -xiv:

These exercises can all be practised with the specific view to improving your position changing.

 

ATTENTION!

METRONOME, (I use it all the time).

Metronome, that 'taskmaster' of an invention can become your best friend.

For those who are not accustomed to using a metronome:

Start by using the metronome at a slow speed, gradually increasing, as you become more fluent, with the position changes.

 

A TIP:

I like to take the speed up gradually, until it is JUST too fast, (only just though, mind you) to be able to play the whole thing in one go.

I.e. You can manage a couple of bars, and then stumble.

Then leave it!

Next time you will find that your fluency has increased, as if by magic!

 

THE RESULTS OF THIS KIND OF PRACTICE ARE ASTOUNDING

Part the Third:

 

There is More......

SCALES!

Yes, that is what I said. s(Please forgive me if I sound patronising)

We need them on the Baroque violin too...

The mastery of scale practice is one of the cornerstones of a violinist's technique- Chin 'on' or 'off'.

We need them more than ever now.

 

1: Let's get organised.

The key circle/cycle of fifths is our friend here.

Start with:

C Major, then a minor, (down a third) to F Major, d min, Bb, g, Eb, c, Ab, f, Db, bb, F#, d#, B g#, E, c#, A, f#, D, b, G e and here we are back at the beginning.

 

2: Fingering:

The easiest to understand (and the best for me in this area,) are Carl Flesch, and his Scale System, and Sevcik, op 1, no 3.

For the purposes of this technique, start with the 3 -octave scales- NOT the scales on one string. They can come later…

His system of fingerings for all keys is clear, logical and beautifully set out for the person with the L-plates on.

 

Melodic and harmonic minor scales, plus arpeggios, dominant and diminished 7ths are also on the menu.

Double stops are the dessert!

HOWEVER: be warned!

You are now adept, fluent even, at playing 'chin-off'.

So-Pay attention to the minutest detail of every shift, DO THEM RIGHT, EACH ONE!

Take the time to make sure you are confident enough to move on to this advanced level, incorporating your new skills in your scale practice.

 

NO COMPROMISE!

 

 

BOWING:

You must be vigilant, and imaginative in your use of the bow, and your choices of bowings with which to practise your scales.

I would recommend that you do as you were on the Geminiani.

I.e. Separate bows, then 2 slurred, 3 slurred, 4, 6, 8, 9, 12, 24, etc.

Changing the rhythms is very helpful in developing speed and lightness,

 

Each bow stroke having a lovely fwell.

 

 

POINT:

Please stay within the expressions demanded by the concepts of style that are intrinsic in this new learning (i.e.: Performing 17/18th century music) even if you are using the exercises of the much later periods.

no martelé please.

 

 

 

 

TROUBLE SHOOTING: (in no particular order)

 

a: Holding on to old postural habits

Do not underestimate the strangeness of this technique at first.

I find it is very important never to hurry from step to step.

It helps to:

'act as if' you have never played the violin before,

imagine you are a beginner,

Don't forget that when you are attempting this new skill, the instrument you are learning to play becomes new to you.

Your new skills all become natural in a surprisingly short time.

 

b: Fear of dropping

And therefore holding on for dear life as if an abyss is open beneath!

CALMLY: Go back to the very beginning.

Check the violin is as if in a nest (see d)

See page four of this little book, and go over all the details of your position at every step.

Do not proceed from one step to the next until you have discovered you are comfortable and free.

CAREFUL:

I see some people leaning back, gritting teeth, tensing every muscle in their necks, and other signs of great struggle in the effort to move...and the fear of dropping the violin.

Not necessary…

It slows down the process of learning if, by trying too hard, going too fast, 'horrible habits' jump in!

 

c: Pain in thumb/ shoulder/ neck etc.

Change in even the most subtle of ways can bring into play different use of muscle groups.

If the body has adapted to one position, then the new can initially bring some problems.

One of the benefits of this type of technique however is to alleviate the tensions and injuries brought about by 'gripping' the violin between shoulder and chin.

Some habitual movements can remain, such as:

Raising the left shoulder,

Looking to the left at the left hand,

Bringing the head down as if to hold the violin,

Twisting the left of the body towards the music stand, instead of remaining in a neutral and straight posture, with the head and shoulders facing the stand, and the violin 'aiming' to the left of it.

Feet together? This can cause the whole of the upper body to somehow 'freeze'…

Knees locked? Same effect!

 

Violin too flat?

The left arm may be having to swing too far across the body, in order for the fingers to reach the lower strings.

That really hurts me!

 

The left thumb;

Is it working too hard?

Holding on too tight?

'Pinching' the neck?

Remember that the thumb is one of three or even sometimes four points on contact/ support of the instrument.

It never has to work alone.

It is worthwhile to practise making the thumb work for you in all its positions...wherever your left hand is on the violin.

For instance:

In  EFSEMPIO 1, (C) of Geminiani, the playing in one position, from First to Seventh Position, practise each postion FOUR times, each time with the thumb in 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th position, regardless of which position the exercise is in.

 

This will mean that if your thumb gets tired being in one position for too long, then you will have the confidence to be able to move it subtly and not lose control in your playing.

 

All muscles tire if held in one position too long.

Subtle changes of grip/support are as necessary when playing a musical instrument, as they are when holding a tennis racquet.

 

d: The wobbles

Some movement is essential- 'movement is life'

If the wobble is excessive though, there is something wrong in your basic support position on the shoulder/collar-bone.

Please check: wedge/pad/chammie/shoulder rest/ position on collarbone etc.

Does your violin feel 'nested'? Snug? Horizontal? I mean, to the floor, not to itself!  Drooping fiddles feel very uncomfortable!

The right side of the violin (fingerboard facing) must be tilted slightly towards the floor.

NOT flat like a table!

 

e: The bow cannot find the right string to play on!

 

It only needs a little time for the right arm to find the strings again.

A sense of the new space is needed, but the body is astoundingly quick to adapt. Do no be tempted to LOOK at the bow, as your head posture will suffer! (It is often helpful to close your eyes…)

 

 

f: Vibrato

This can be a very serious worry for some players.

One is used to the 'freedom' that holding the violin between chin and shoulder  can  give to the left hand.

It can feel as if the whole 'mechanism' of vibrato is stuck when the thumb is used as one of the support structures in the playing.

THE BIG, and the only real DIFFERENCE IN VIBRATO TECHNIQUE IS:

The left thumb and the finger stopping the note, and of course the collar-bone/shoulder, are the only three points of contact with the violin.

 

So…

PERHAPS THE KEY to mastery:

Begin by making a circle between the thumb against the neck of the fiddle, and the finger stopping the note...

The base joint of the first finger MUST BE AWAY from the neck.

Your usual vibrato technique can come into play in this position..

Try it!

Stay cool, relaxed.

The knack of it is there, in your previous training, waiting to come to life in the new-found freedom.

 

Part the Fourth:

 

FURTHER READING-PRACTISING:

 

SEVCIK OP 8

Position changing, from the beginning, with special care in the use of the bow.

Instructions: Start at the beginning, number one.

1: Slowly, bars divided into 2 bows, 4 bows, whatever it takes to be in control of every shift.

2: Every bow must contain a small fwell of expression, at every shift, up and down.

3: To avoid boredom…never stay too long on one exercise, move on one, and leave one behind each time you practise these.

4: Maybe do three of them at a time, and finally the end is in sight, and mastery is there!

SEVCIK  OP 1 NO 3

As the above Sevcik:

For the more advanced, confident and speedier 'chin-off' player.

This is all reinforcing the techniques described.

 

Kreutzer Etudes:

(I have the edition in  which there are the original 40 studies, so I will describe the ones I mean, in the hope you can find them, as in modern editions there are 42)

FABULOUS!

Please feel free to choose which of the studies you feel suits your needs best.

I love the following-

Number 11: The triplet study in E major.

Please start your practice with 3 notes to a bow, THE FIRST GROUP ONLY BEING 4 notes to the bow, which leads to crossing the beat under the slur.

This means that you can fwell on each shift, as a support.

Then 6 notes to a bow, then 12, 24...etc

(though, please start the study each time with one extra note to the bow. I mean, 7 notes, when you continue with 6, etc.)

Number 14: In Bb Major

Start without the trills!

When fluent without, then add them, GENTLY! Remember fwells etc.

Please use the middle of the bow, not a martelé stroke.

Number 18: D Major, trill exercise, dotted rhythms.

Start without the trills, and then add them, when fluent without.

MIDDLE BOW! Easy articulation, light hands,

Number 20: D Major, in triplets, trills on the beats.

No trills to begin with, then add, as before.

Mid bow, light bowing, no martelé….

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Part the Fifth:

 

MAKING MUSIC, and the relevance of the above to all violinists.

A THINKING POINT:

This skill is nothing of itself!

It is not a trick learnt for the sake of having the skill, or for simply 'being correct'.

NOT AT ALL!

 

It has its truth in the performing practices on the violin of an earlier time.

It was described in detail and taught by the great masters of the violin of our past, and for me this is enough to pique my curiosity.

These players were there.

They spoke the musical language of their time.

They, and their teachings can teach us to understand those languages of expression, and emotion.

Attempting to create a sound, a world of expression and AFFEKT- of learning to speak the rhetoric intrinsic in the music- simply BEGINS with the learning of the skill of playing without gripping the violin between chin and shoulder.

 

Finally- and fundamentally

THE RIGHT ARM IS LIBERATED, TO SPEAK AND TO SING.

 

Bibliography:

Carl Flesch, SCALE SYSTEM, Edition, RIES and ERLER / BERLIN

Geminiani, 'THE ART OF PLAYING ON THE VIOLIN'

(Published in facsimile by KING'S MUSIC)

Kreutzer, Etudes published by C.F. PETERS

(I have referred to the edition that contains only 40 studies, not 42, but I hope it is clear which ones I am referring to)

Leopold Mozart, ' A TREATISE ON THE ART OF VIOLIN PLAYING'

(Translated by Edith Knocker, published by OXFORD UNIVERSITY PRESS)

Sevcik, op 8, Position Changing (published by BOSWORTH)

Sevcik, op 1 part 3, Scales and Arpeggios (published by BOSWORTH)

Yehudi Menuhin, '6 LESSONS WITH YEHUDI MENUHIN' (published by FABER and FABER)

 

 

 

Elizabeth Wallfisch has reached the great age of 53, in 2005.

She has played and later taught violins of all persuasions, for about 44 years.

She grew up in Melbourne, Australia in the 50's and 60's in a large family of eccentric and creative characters.

Her grandfather was the very celebrated conductor, Albert Coates- father, mother, wonderful step-mother, sisters, brothers, uncles, aunts were, and are all musicians of note, er, notes.

Libby, ( as she is universally known) was fortunate in that she had enormous encouragement, fine teaching, and wonderful organisations in all areas of musical study.

Of course a lot of water, and notes have flown under many bridges since then: studying in London at the RAM, then marrying Raphael Wallfisch, (one of the 11 people in my family who play the cello) three wonderful, warm-hearted and talented children following- Ben Simon and Joanna- four beautiful cats in the fullness of time, the garden…

She has travelled the world, as a 'baroque' fiddler, 'classical' fiddler, and as a 'modern' player, and continues to do so each year, working as chamber music player, concert-master of many orchestras, soloist, director.

However-

It is always wonderful to come home to South London and open that bottle of Australian wine!

 

 

photo Suzie Maeder

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 




 

 

 

 

 

 



[1] The Art of Playing on the Violin -Published by King's Music

[2] It is of concern that those players with narrow shoulder, most often the female of the species, are often not able to achieve the 'chin-off' playing they desire, because the violin is played with nothing to steady it, keep it securely resting/nesting in a position that is tilted gently towards the floor, as Geminiani states in his treatise.

 

 

 

 

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