Viewing 10 posts - 1 through 10 (of 14 total)
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  • #15382 Reply

    Dianne Adkins

    Hi all! It’s been a busy week and with tomorrow’s Violin Giveaway Contest, we are all sitting on our hands wondering who will be the lucky one this time! Good luck to everyone who entered! Meanwhile, I thought it might be fun to start a discussion where all the talented teachers and/or advanced students could contribute a useful playing tip on any topic of your choosing. I’ll get the ball rolling with a tip on shifting.

    If you keep this rule in mind, you’ll find shifting much easier. Old finger to the new position. So let me give you an example of an exercise that trains you to do this in three ways you might encounter in shifting between positions on violin.

    Example One
    Your piece requires you shift from first position to third position on the same finger. So starting on, let’s say first finger, in first position on the A string (playing B natural), you play then slide the first finger up into third position to the target note, D natural. Be sure to practice it backwards too!

    Example Two
    Your piece requires you to shift from first position to third position, but this time, you’ll go from using first finger on A (playing B natural), and shifting, then arriving on a target note of E natural, played with second finger. In this case, still use the shifting method in Example One, where the first finger does the shift (remember the rule, Old finger to new position), then the second finger finds its place. Practice the shift to include an ‘invisible note’ (the first finger in third position), then gradually play it fast enough that you don’t hear the shift note.

    Example Three
    This time the piece requires a shift to take place on a finger other than first finger, or a finger above the target note. Let’s say you need to play a C natural in first position, then you want to shift to third position to arrive on D natural, which will be played with first finger. In this case you can choose either to shift on second finger (old finger), then drop back to first finger. Use a bow change to cover the finger change. Or you may choose to play the second finger C natural then drop to first and make the shift. Try both and see what feels more comfortable.

    A few last tips on shifting:

    • Make sure the thumb travels with the hand during shifts, maintaining its position opposite the base of the index finger.
    • For 4th position and above, let the thumb come under the neck of the violin a little more. And as necessary for higher position, so the pinkie can always play rounded and reach the string.
    • Be sure to hold the violin with the head only, since if this is a problem, you must work it out before shifting will be easy.
    • Practice ‘sirens’ to make sure your hand is free to move up and down the neck of the violin for shifting.

    And finally, if you can do this:
    shifting exercise

    You may have this:

    #15383 Reply

    Michael Sanchez

    That is one yummy looking piece of cake! I just ate dinner so it doesn’t look appetizing–although I’m sure when I come back to this post later it will make my hungry.

    For my tips, I wanted to post the top 5 things I hear from students regarding vibrato and my comments to follow.

    #1 – I am too old to learn vibrato.
    Not true! I’ve had some students over age 60 that were able to master vibrato in about 6 months of training.

    #2 – My hands are too stiff.
    This comes up all the time. A stiff hand only comes from you making it stiff. Try pressing less on the fingerboard, so that the hand can actually move.

    #3 – When should I learn vibrato?
    I don’t like to mention vibrato until a student has been practicing for at least one year. What is most important though is that the student has proper left-hand technique, otherwise they will struggle to find intonation as the hand is shaking.

    #4 – Is learning vibrato hard?
    It can be the hardest thing in world if you have bad habits. I highly emphasize violin technique for the reason that students will struggle to progress if they don’t work on their violin fundamentals.

    #5 – When will I finally learn vibrato?
    You can do it but it does take some discipline. Never give up and try to follow a technical routine.

    #15384 Reply


    Thanks to both of you for your tips on shifting as well as vibrato. I am going to try your tips and see how things work out. I usually play most things in first position (fiddle tunes and I am still a beginner) but on a few of the pieces I have had to reach a higher note and was unsure of the approach, now I have something to try on those songs and see how this improves my shifting.

    As far as vibrato, most of my fiddle tunes don’t have areas where vibrato can be used but there are several waltzes that are slow enough to really have a need for a nice vibrato. I will continue to practice. My biggest problem is the death grip on the neck and I think I need to get a handle on that so that my hand is freer to move.

    I will let you know how I am progressing with both of these. Thanks again for the tips.
    Diane Lawless

    #15390 Reply

    Mark Woodyatt

    These are all great tips and I appreciate having colleagues who can clearly describe issues and solutions. In this case, I can only suggest for those of you who face similar technical hurdles as described in Dianne Atkins’ and Michael’s posts above, to practice, practice and practice. And feel free to give us your feedback. We’re here to help. Good luck to all who’ve entered the competition. I’m looking forward to seeing who the lucky winner is!
    Mark Woodyatt

    #15428 Reply

    Christie Morehouse

    What? Even people OVER 60 y.o. can learn vibrato!!? I have hope!

    #15436 Reply


    I’ve actually never heard that particular rule before, but it is something I naturally do after months of shifting drills. I like it!

    Sadly, the orchestra music I am currently working on requires a shift from second finger on the way-up high A down to first finger D (still on the E string). I miss it every time.

    #15437 Reply


    I think the best thing for me while learning vibrato was practicing even without my violin. In the car I’d use the armrests as my fingerboard and just get used to wiggling my fingers without moving to a different “note”.

    #15443 Reply


    Thanks for these great suggestions! I’m not shifting yet but I am practicing vibrato and I love reading tips about vibrato. 🙂

    #15466 Reply

    Dianne Adkins

    Hi Everyone! I recently was talking to a friend about vibrato and ended up going into some detail about how to get started. I figured it would be helpful to everyone so I will post the process here.

    First, I want to share a thread here in the forums where a student submitted a video of his vibrato and asked for feedback. My responses were very detailed, and included another video that shows what the fingers should look like during vibrato, in slow motion. Here’s the link:

    Meanwhile, I always like to point out to students asking about vibrato that it always begins with holding the violin with the head only. So you place the violin in playing position and literally let go with the left hand and walk around the house or time yourself for 1 full minute.
    let go with left hand

    If this is not easy, then the violin may be slipping or falling forward and in any case, the left hand naturally takes up the slack. The left hand sometimes pushes back from the base of the index finger against the neck. Then the thumb touches on the other side and when the head fails to hold, the hand squeezes the neck between these two touch points, resulting in tension all through the left side of the body.

    So make sure you can hold the violin with your head. I recommend a KUN shoulder rest. It is what I use, and I recommend this to all my students from about age 8 and up. During vibrato the touch point at the base of the index must come free of the violin neck.
    left hand unstuck from violin neck
    A good way to test this is to practice ‘sirens’. Place the 1st finger on A, then slide up the fingerboard as far as you can go, then back down to the B natural. Thumb should travel with the entire hand. This freedom of the base of the index finger to become unstuck is critical in vibrato and shifting.

    Maybe you knew all this! So let me suggest a few things about actual vibrato. After the violin is in playing position, bring the left hand inward and up past the neck and place the wrist against the neck of the violin where the base of the index finger usually touches. This stabilizes the wrist, which should not be moving during vibrato. Now, wave the hand forward (toward your nose) and away from you (toward the pegs). This is the basic motion of the vibrato.

    As you continue this waving motion, move away from the violin neck, and back down, gently placing the waving hand in playing position. Keep the wrist immobile. Place the thumb on the neck and let the hand wave freely in a wide motion. At this point, your hand is touching the neck of the violin at the thumb only.

    Now continuing that motion, THINK of the tip of the 3rd finger. Keep waving! Let the 3rd finger gradually, very lightly touch the string. As the hand continues to wave, the 3rd finger lightly contacts the A string and slides as far up and down as the motion allows. Only the wrist and the thumb are stable.

    Make this 3rd finger slide gradually more narrow and firm until it reaches its spot on the string (approximately. All this is being done without the bow) Keep the knuckle closest to the finger tip floppy loose as a goose, waving wide and slow.

    If you can do this much, you are on your way. The next challenge will be to add the bow, using long slow bow strokes with good tone, while you play this 3rd finger, wide, slow measured vibrato, firm fingertip. Sometimes the bow wants to ‘shimmey’ with the left hand. So work out this ‘rub your tummy, pat your head’ style action between the hands before making the challenge harder. rub tummy, pat head

    Once you have ironed out the bowing, keep your attention on the waving left hand, and finding 3rd finger’s true position, staying free at the base of the index finger. Keep the wrist still. Allow the pinkie to snuggle the 3rd finger if it wants to. This strengthens the 3rd finger. Notice how the fingertip rolls back (under the pitch) and forth (to the pitch, not above it)

    When you feel comfortable with all these processes, you can try 2nd finger, which is similarly easy, but just a little “tighter”. The vibrato on pinkie is a little different as its fingertip touches the string more on the side, instead of the middle of the finger tip. Just keep that hand vigorously waving. First finger, the tightest of all fingers, let the fingertip roll back onto the nut of the fingerboard. You’ll actually see your fingertip in this moment. Then, roll forward to the normal position. Never allow the knuckles to fully collapse.

    If you got all the way through these exercises, you may have these along with my congratulations:

    #15469 Reply

    Dianne Adkins

    Alrightee, folks! I just had another great discussion about getting started with RICOCHET bowing. So I wanted to share this exercise that will help you with this advanced bowing!

    First try this exercise starting on the D string just below the middle of the bow. Start with your bow on the string with flat bow hair. If your wrist is turning the stick of the bow forward in the slightest, this won’t work. Now check your bow grip. Make sure the pinkie and thumb are curved. Now maintaining that, lift the bow up off the string about 2 inches above the D string.

    Now hovering above the D string, lift the pinkie off the bow. The bow naturally drops back toward the D string. Don’t apply any pressure with the first finger of the bow grip. The bow naturally wants to bounce, right? Do this a few times, taking pinkie off, letting the bow drop from the tip end and bounce, putting pinkie back on, lifting the bow tip. Keep the arm in place.

    Next, we add a little down bow motion. So when you pick up the pinkie, add a little down bow motion to it. Lift the pinkie, proceed down bow, the bow bounces. Stop and replace pinkie, carry the bow back up while above the string. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.

    This is the basic start. Next you need to learn to do this while leaving the pinkie on the bow. So while most of the work is being done in the back of the hand (bow grip), you must start by feeling that tension in the back of the hand and pinkie relax enough to allow the tip to drop to the string. Try it.

    Keep the arm above the string about 2 inches. Keep the pinkie on the bow this time, but release its power enough that it drops the bow to the string. Several times, without the down bow motion. Flat bow hair.

    Then practice with the down bow motion, a measured number of bounces, never pushing with the first finger. Try getting 2, 3, 4, and 5 bounces, then lift and recover, repeat. Let the bow do all the work. Stay near the balance point. The further toward the tip you start, the faster the bounces. Experiment with this. Try at the balance point. Try at the middle of the bow. Try almost at the tip. Each step closer to the tip, the bounces get faster.

    Next add an up bow to the mix. Start at balance point so it will be slower and easier to control. Let the bow bounce twice on the down bow, then play up bow, ending with bow off the string. Let the bow arm move with the down bow a little. Next try the same bow pattern closer to the middle to do it faster. Don’t forget, flat bow hair. Next try the same process on all strings. Then try exercises that involve moving fingers for each bounce of the bow.

    Good Luck with your Ricochet!

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