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Elke Meier
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So today for the first time I dared to venture away again from Sevcik and the early Suzuki 1 pieces (Perpetual motion was my perpetual companion the last couple of weeks...) and I decided to visit "Deeply grow the roots" again.

In the video there are clips from four different angles:

1st time through: from the back and the side. The one from the back shows the position of the thumb rather high up the neck. My teacher had said that this would help to compensate for the lack of rotation in the arm combined with a short fourth finger. With the higher thumb I would be able to reach the fourth finger more easily. That is true, and yet, I am not really comfortable yet with the high thumb. It still throws my intonation and more often than not the high thumb slides down again. In the one from the side the different angle of the arm clearly shows. At least if you compare it with the second half of the Musette practice, which I had posted half a year ago.

2nd time through: The first half is the recording from a bit more than a year ago, the second half is from this afternoon, both from the front. I had hoped that the difference in arm position would clearly show in the two recordings. Well, to be honest: to me it does not look that much different, even though it feels so completely different.

General observations:
  • It is much easier with this new hand frame to change from the A to the E-string. That often took some contortion of the hand in the old hand frame, all of a sudden that is not difficult any more.
  • Recording from the back was enlightening! Even though it feels very good to play without the shoulder rest I noticed when I put the violin in place that I slightly raised the shoulder - so something to watch out for more consciously!
Please ignore the bad tone. I still cannot think one bit about bowing, otherwise my hand jumps back to the old and ingrained pattern. And when I concentrate on the left hand, the right hand still wants to mirror it. So I lightly place the fingers - and the bow grazes the string... Also, the arm levels are a bit of a mess, I sometimes play the body of the violin instead of the E-string... :) - but all that will get back into focus once the left hand position has become automatized. I just didn't want to wait longer but wanted to share with you my excitement about playing something different from Sevcik again :)
Elke Meier
22 Responses
Posted: February 3, 2016
Last Comment: February 5, 2016
Replies

Andreas
Posted: February 5, 2016
Elke that was very beautiful, you really look relaxed and have a fluid bowarm. I always enjoy watching your videos *thumbs up* :D

Beth Blackerby
Posted: February 4, 2016
Elke, I don't think the thumb placement will affect the rotation of your arm. Ultimately, thumbs tend to have their own "best" place to be. Yours just seemed to far forward even for thumbs that like to go forward. The best way to find the right spot is to tap the thumb, moving from the base joint. Do some gentle taps and see where it naturally lands. When I do it, it lands opposite 1st finger. Yours might naturally land opposite low 2. Let's see where that is.

Nick
Posted: February 4, 2016
Elke, I didn't have time to play with the higher thumb position today but what Beth says makes a lot of sense. It does seem to "lock" the hand the further you extend the thumb up (or down, not sure which!) the fingerboard. A very good point about this hindering vibrato as well, sometime in the future. (Gosh, where would we be without Beth?).

I think your experimenting with tape is a good idea but maybe your teacher was more concerned with the relaxed hanging arm than the position of the thumb. Sometimes I hear (or can remember) only a part of the advice given to me by my teacher and I latch onto something specific and miss the "whole picture" of what they are trying to get across. That's why I make a point of videoing my lessons.
In the stress of lessons (and it is stressful playing with other people, even playing with my teacher raises my stress level for some reason), we sometimes forget the overall picture and what exactly your teacher has said to do. I have the benefit of weekly lessons so it must be doubly hard for someone like you, who sees their teacher more sparingly. Next time, get her on tape! Gosh, that shows my age doesn't it? Get your lesson on video (with your teacher's permission) so you can review it later...(and have some questions ready for her before she comes). Then review her answers later - I find that I understand my teacher's responses better when I am reviewing a video of him AND me (while i'm playing) and he is correcting. I am able to see it from another vantage point, an independent observer if you will, rather than the (often stressed) player's point of view, where the many finer points are often lost or forgotten..



Elke Meier
Posted: February 4, 2016
Thank you so much, Beth, for your kind and strong warning :). I tried to do another recording - to check again, but I did not watch the light and it got too dark for a decent video. But it is good to know what to watch out for.

As for the bow hand, I think I know what happened there and how I lost the original contact point. Some months ago I changed the position of the violin more to the side so as to be able to reach the G-string. At that time I could not reach the tip of the bow any more. And to make sure I could get at least a bit more toward the tip I shifted the hand - and got very much used to this kind of feel. This also seems to be the reason for the observation Dianne made. When I change the contact point again, the pinky position also changes.

After my violin lesson, when I changed the position of the violin back to "normal", it seemed to me as if I had lost some bow stability. The bow often did not feel secure any more. Maybe this was the reason! By now the old bow hold feels strange... I guess I will do a lot of open string exercises to get the old one to feel normal and right again...

The thumb really is a problem. The higher thumb was to compensate for my lack of ability to rotate the wrist. But I don't want to compromise my next vibrato trial before I even start! My teacher's great concern was looseness of the arm, to have it hang and swing freely. All this time I felt that having the thumb forward really helps in having a stable hand frame and a relaxed arm - I don't need to shift the hand slightly up to reach a fourth finger. But something did not feel right. The arm was relaxed, but I did not have the feeling that the hand was relaxed! Or the thumb pad! At least once I started playing. Then the thumb would get rather tired. I had already thought that in my next lesson I would really have to talk to her again about this thumb business. How exactly had she wanted this? What I did did just not feel quite right. After your input I thought again that her main concern was not my thumb, but a loose and "swingable" arm. So I needed to get an "environment" where I could concentrate on this. I put a tape on the neck around the position of a low second finger  and took this as the place for the thumb instead of a high second finger. It was interesting: the thumb stayed in place and I could concentrate on the loose arm only. I will see how far back I can move the tape and still keep a relaxed arm, able to reach with the fourth finger. But I guess it is back to scales, Sevcik, and Suzuki 1. - It WAS a nice excursion though the last couple of days to play something more musical for a change again :)

Mary Freeman
Posted: February 3, 2016
I lust wanted to say that even if there was a slight intonation problem with the more current video that the bowing was so much cleaner. I can really tell that you have been experimenting with pressure and bow placement and it is paying off. 

Jaime - Orlando , Fl
Posted: February 3, 2016
Elke! What a lovely tune! BRAVO!
It's AWSOME that Beth sent you a video response ! We all learn so much from them! 

Keep it up Elke! I always enjoy your videos! :)

Nick
Posted: February 3, 2016
Thanks Elke, I now remember that you mentioned this before, thanks for jogging my memory. That high thumb may do the trick for my short pinky, i'll try it tomorrow :)

Elke Meier
Posted: February 3, 2016
The reason was my lack of rotation in the wrist which she said could not be changed, because how far you can rotate the hand is determined by the bones in the forearm. But the position of the hand could compensate for this lack of rotation. So she said to have my hand way lower than I used to have it (kind of let the arm hang from the fingers on the fingerboard) and stop the string on flatter fingerpads, and she said to place the thumb a bit further up the neck as those two things together would make it easier for the fourth finger to reach its place. I guess with the thumb higher up, there is not so much of a stretch across the whole hand.

Nick
Posted: February 3, 2016
Elke, I see what you mean regarding your high thumb. Did your teacher instruct you to do this? If so, what was the purpose of this instruction? Sorry if you mentioned the reason before, but i'd really like to know, I will try this tomorrow to see how this effects my hand frame/playing.
Regarding your pinky, if it barely touches the third joint of your ring finger then it is still much longer than mine. My pinky is at least a cm shorter than the third joint! That's why I keep stretching with it, as Kevin noticed in my practise vid! (It's great to have these observations from fellow Vlabbers!). So, I am still a little jealous of your long(er) pinky!
The pinky of your bow hand is resting more on the side of the bow which is normal I think as you tilt the bow (if I understand Diane's observation correctly). My "stand-in" teacher wants me to play with a little more contact of the bow hair on the strings, necessitating a more upright bow. This inevitably means I have to rest the pinky on the top of the bow. It's a strange sensation when you're not used to it and the sound produced took me aback at first. But it's interesting to have a different outlook with another teacher. Many technical comments/instructions are the same but I noticed each teacher differs on points musical interpretation which is interesting - I suppose this variation on opinion really epitomises the beauty and individuality of artistic expression in music!
Beth has me intrigued with her private video, I can't sleep until I see that video!


Elke Meier
Posted: February 3, 2016
Some more comments:

Katja and Nick - I did not plan to have a "high thumb" like Rustam. When I talked about a "high thumb" I meant higher up on the neck, like across a high second finger. I used to have it more across the first finger. But your comments triggered a thought. It is too late to practice tonight, but I will try tomorrow to place it in the same spot, but not as high up over the edge of the fingerboard. Maybe that is what makes it feel not quite right/comfortable.

And a note to the fingertips/-pads: I so much enjoy playing more on the pads. The thing is that I press down much less than before. So I always feel the string vibrate under my finger - which makes for a very different tone, not just a different feel. And I notice right away when I fall back into the old habit, because then the string is pressed down with the fingertip with a lot of energy - no more vibration. There is one problem though: I feel that I need to work specifically again on plopping down and releasing the fingers with speed. I am quite happy with the amount of pressure I use, but I think with less pressure there is great danger of stopping the string with leisure - and that just does not sound nice.

Dianne - actually, I had not noticed that my pinky was not perched exactly on top of the bow. I certainly did not place it where it is to follow some advanced technique :). It will be interesting to feel the difference between what is now and  when it is really placed on the top.

Diane and Madonna - yes, my tone is just terrible: unpredictable, sometimes too soft, sometimes too heavy :). When I play the Suzuki tunes or the simple Sevcik exercises then I have been able to start also to pay attention to the bow. But with this piece I was totally absorbed with my left hand and had no capacity free to think about the bow. In a way I was encouraged when I saw the recording: I was surprised and happy to see how straight the bow was most of the time. Because that means that bowing straight is getting to be a habit, something that I don't have to concentrate on any more. Now that is a wonderful discovery. But bow pressure, that is a completely different story...

Nick - don't be deceived: I really do have a short pinky! It was the first thing my violin teacher friend in the south of Germany mentioned when she wanted to check my posture and violin hold just after I had started to play. It barely reaches the end knuckle of the third finger. And to make matters worse, it is curved a bit... But it seems with this changed hand position I am starting to get more consistent intonation on the fourth finger, because I don't have to stretch with such vigor any more.

Mary - I thought that was a very interesting observation, that last year's video was more mechanical. I agree! At least I had a similar impression when I looked at it again now, after a year... Even though the tone is so bad, I still liked it a lot better than last year's - just wouldn't have been able to name it like you did. And yet, I distinctly remember that when I recorded it a year ago I felt that this was the most musical I could possibly put into this melody :). Sometimes I feel I have not made much progress during this second year of playing. At least the progress in the first year was so much more visible. But I guess being able to play this in such a way that the best I could do a year ago seems "mechanical" in comparison is indeed an indication of progress :)

Elke Meier
Posted: February 3, 2016
Beth, I would LOVE to see your response - could you make it visible? It says it is a private video.

Beth Blackerby
Posted: February 3, 2016
This discussion includes members-only video content



Katja
Posted: February 3, 2016
You played beautifully Elke! And the difference from the previous recording is obvious! Your elbow positioning in the old recording didn't look very comfortable.

I have followed your observations and discoveries with great interest especially as I seem to get totally different advice for my hand frame, my teacher is very much for the low thumb (she keeps pushing my thumb down) and she wants me to play on the fingertips. 

Dianne
Posted: February 3, 2016

Hi Elke, 1st I want to say that you play that tune beautifully and with perfect rhythm, and so it ends up that I don't want the music to stop! Secondly, your thumb position looks almost exactly like the thumb position described in this Strings Magazine article(figure 2) about positioning the thumb for the pinky: http://www.allthingsstrings.com/layout/set/print/Technique/VIOLIN/Learn-to-Position-Your-Pinky-for-Greater-Success  Those fingers are on the fingertips, but that might be because the person in the article has a very parallel to the fingerboard hand position.

Just as an aside, I noticed that on your bow hand you have your pinky positioned slightly behind the top of the bow stick - do you find that that gives more control of the bow? I ask this because what you are doing is an advanced technique found in the Fischer Basic Book page 3, but discussions I read seem to differ about setting a standard on that and to leave it up to the player. The reason I ask is that I tried positioning the pinky slightly behind but it was more comfortable for me (to remove any tension from the bow hand) to place the pinky on top.



Ray
Posted: February 3, 2016
Thanks for posting and all the different angles.  It really shows how many hours of focused practice you are putting into learning the basics.  It is paying off in dividends.   Bravo!

Diane in SOCAL
Posted: February 3, 2016
It's always good to feed our musical soul with some "sweet tunes"  and start applying the Sevcik technique.  Maybe just a little bit of right arm weight will help the tone.  This is a beautiful piece and playing it nice and slow is a great way to get the rhythm and the notes in tune.  Wonderful.  Thanks for sharing. 
Stay tuned. Diane  

Madonna White
Posted: February 3, 2016
Really good job,like the bow arm hand seems to be relaxed there is some finger and wrist movement think on track with bowing.
  You may want to try different bow pressure not sure if your playing into the string or too much into the string also check how tight bow is may want to adjust that just things I would think about but you have teacher I'm sure those things will be discussed.
 I really like where your going with the bow arm and good job playing with accompaniment.

Laura
Posted: February 3, 2016
I am so excited to get to hear you play this piece Elke. Well done !
Loved your left hand position , you can tell the improvement . Some really smooth bows , and straight ones :) 
Really happy for you . The new teacher seems to have done his job well :) 
Congrats 


Nick
Posted: February 3, 2016
Ooops sorry, I meant pads not tips...

Nick
Posted: February 3, 2016
This discussion includes members-only video content

Hi Elke,

I liked your bowing in both vids, you are producing a very nice tone (which will sound wonderful with vibrato!). The second vid showed a marked improvement in maintaining sounding point, straight bowing and your bow change at the heel was super smooth! The bow change in the first vid involved your fingers which was good but the second vid shows that the little “flick” as you change bow is happening over a much shorter distance – this is so hard to get right but you nailed it.

I am very surprised that your teacher found you had a short fourth finger – I was rather jealous of your long and curved pinky!

I have found exactly the same problem with a raised thumb, I tried this "raised thumb" position after reading Rustam’s experiences with a changed hand frame but it makes my intonation very haphazard because my hand frame is totally different. Maybe it needs time to become “automatized” (loved this phrase you coined!).

I think your current teacher has given you excellent advice vis-à-vis your left hand position since your left hand transtions from A-E look less forced and more natural.

How are you finding playing on the tips of your fingers? My current teacher is on tour with his Symphony and a friend of his is giving me lessons until he gets back. She plays on her fingertips too. As soon as I saw her play, it reminded me of you, she plays very much on the tips if i'm not mistaken... she also has such a nice vibrato. Here’s a short video..



Mary Freeman
Posted: February 3, 2016
Your more current recording is much better. The one from a year ago looks a lot more mechanical and I hear the grit of the bow. Did you compare the videos without sound? I bet you would be able to see a big difference as well.

Roy Fraser
Posted: February 3, 2016
Elke, that was absolutely gorgeous.  And the accompaniment really brings out the exquisite harmony.