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Rustam Gill
This discussion includes members-only video content

Hi ViolinLab,
So I jumped into learning Schindlers List about a week ago. I'm tackling this beast phrase by phrase and with the help of Beth's excellent tutorials. Here is the first phrase.

I have more or less learned the intonation and shifts in the first phrase and am now trying to clean it up with long smooth bows and expressive, romantic shifting. I am having the most trouble with that first shift from an A on the g string in first position to a 3rd position A on the d string. I still don't feel that gypsyesque slide into the A. Specifically I am trying to have a slight glissando on the new bow but all my shifting practice so far has been geared to playing the new note at pitch on the new bow. This feels completely foreign to me. Any pointers from Beth or anybody else who has played the piece? I am going to rewatch the shifting videos tonight and see what I can learn.

Oh, and as always any critiques are welcome.
Rustam Gill
15 Responses
Posted: January 28, 2016
Last Comment: February 1, 2016

Posted: February 1, 2016

Hi Rustam, I agree with everything you said in the post where you included a video of Prof Fitzpatrick -- he's the guy I mentioned in Mary's thread for the "popping" exercise to learn vibrato.

A deep cradle definitely puts the fingers high above the fingerboard, helps you to play on the tips, and adds absolutely amazing stability. I think a deep cradle grip is also very natural for restless (that sounds funny) players, because they often can benefit from the extra stability of the grip.

When I experimented with a deep cradle grip, the amazing violin stability was immediately noticeable, and being able to do vibrato was instant. The deep cradle vibrato was easier to speed up than hand vibrato or arm vibrato (really slow in comparison). 

I would recommend that everyone try out a deep cradle vibrato just to discover the feeling of motion. I think the vibrato motion is really easy because the correct motion is more or less forced on you because of where the pivot points are.

I ended up abandoning the deep cradle grip because I wanted more freedom of hand and finger movement, and wanted to chase wider vibratos.

One of the key things to understand about all these different kinds of vibratos is that you only need the technique (arm, wrist, deep cradle, etc) to deliver enough vibrato for your musical expression.

So even though I talk about deep cradle limiting vibrato width, and hand vibrato being able to deliver the maximum width (arm v in the middle), these limitations don't really matter if you've got enough vibrato for your musical expression.

Rustam Gill
Posted: January 31, 2016
LOL Elke, Anna Sophie Mutter was one of the reasons I said "just about". Her and Tossy Spivakovsky (I think I spelled that right) definitely don't use a thumb "cradle" ( I like that term).

From what I've seen of Ms. Mutter's playing, she seems to hold the violin to the side over her shoulder more. That, along with the friction of her skin seems to allow her to hold up the violin like she was using a rest, so her arm doesn't need to hold up the violin very much at all while still keeping it very stable. Spivakovsky, however, seems to pull a crazy balancing act with the violin, keeping his thumb underneath the violin completely. Crazy flexibility!

Anyway, I guess the lesson is that there are many many ways to skin the violin cat...

Elke Meier
Posted: January 31, 2016
"...from what I've seen, just about every restless player I've seen footage of uses some degree of a "cradle"," - exception: Anne Sophie Mutter. I don't perceive her hand as cradling the neck, not at all.

Rustam Gill
Posted: January 31, 2016
This discussion includes members-only video content

Kevin: Those are some very accurate observations. Now you've got me thinking about my experiences switching to this left hand shape. Some things I would add:

-from what I've seen, just about every restless player I've seen footage of uses some degree of a "cradle", with some carrying the instrument deeper than others. This is most noticeable if you watch them play in first position because it's harder to make out as the hand comes closer to the violin body and the thumb goes under the neck.

-there is a tendency to play on the fingertips because the fingers are so high above the strings. This can be countered by letting the wrist collapse a tiny bit, just with the weight of the violin. This actually puts the wrist at a very relaxed angle and brings the fingers lower, letting them strike more on the pads. If you watch Professor Fitzpatrick's left hand in the video i posted it's easy to see. His wrist collapses a lot more than mine does but it clearly works for him. This slight wrist collapse does take away some room for the wrist to move when vibrating, which could contribute to the reduced amplitude you noticed. 

-This is the most relaxed left hand configuration for me that lets me do vibrato and shifting and keep accurate intonation. It feels almost feels "lazy" playing like this, but in a good way :)

-Another big benefit I noticed is that it puts the pinky in a stronger position because the slight wrist bend improves its angle of approach to the string.

Posted: January 30, 2016
Very nice playing Rustam! Superb vibrato.

Gotta love Beth's response vids.

Interesting comments Kevin, Rustam's left hand also reminds me of Itzhak Perlman's, he has that "cradling" of the violin and the wrist vibrato is very similar too.

Posted: January 30, 2016
Hi Dianne and Janice, since you commented on Rustam's vibrato, I thought I would chime in too. His vibrato is interesting because he uses what I call a "deep cradle" grip on the neck. (He says in his post that he had to adopt this kind of grip when he stopped using a shoulder rest.) 

If you watch his video carefully, you can see from 0:25 to :50 what I mean by deep cradle. The neck of the violin is basically sitting on the palm of his hand, or the big base bump of the thumb.

A deep cradle grip changes the pivot point of the vibrato because the wrist joint is much closer to the neck. This has two main effects that I know of. 

First is that vibrato becomes WAY easier because the wrist joint is basically right under the fingertip, only separated by the neck. Thus generating a vibrato motion is really quite easy, and the violin feels really solid because of the solid deep cradle grip. I was amazed at how the deep cradle changed things when I tried it. I encourage everyone to try it out, to see what I mean.

Second, the deep cradle grip limits the possible movement of the hand and fingers in various ways, again due to the changed pivot points and fixed position of the hand on the neck during vibrato. To make a long story short, it's really hard to get a wide vibrato (what everyone is calling a romantic vibrato in this thread).

So it's kind of a tradeoff. A deep cradle gives the violin amazing stability, and makes narrow-to-middle width vibratos fairly easy because of the changed pivot points, but it steals away the wide and extra wide vibratos, because the wrist motion can't lay the fingers down enough to get the "romantic" vibrato width.

I've seen other famous players use a deep cradle grip too, and their vibratos look like Rustam's (and looked like mine too, when I tried the deep cradle). I think it would be really, really interesting to see three expert players play the same tune up close, one with arm vibrato (Josh Bell ? on Ave Maria), one doing wrist vibrato, and one doing deep cradle. Or maybe one expert player doing all three kinds of vibrato motion -- that would be a really nice illustration of the various techniques.

We are all so different in playing violin. Quite amazing, really, that all the different ways can produce beautiful sounds.

Rustam Gill
Posted: January 30, 2016
Beth- Wow thanks for the video! It's always a pleasant surprise to see a personalized video from you. 

Thank you for clearing up the shifting. I think I was muddling up the two different style shifts in my head and thus in my playing. When I practiced the shift the way you mentioned just now it started to come together really well. It really is a very different feeling technique than a classical shift. I'm excited to polish that up and also make the string crossings more nuanced. Then maybe I can move on to tackling the more challenging intonation in the next phrase :)

I also wanted to mention that the detailed shifting analysis in your tutorials is EXTREMELT helpful not only for learning this song but to learn how to approach shifts and fingerings in other pieces.

Beth Blackerby
Posted: January 29, 2016
Rustam, I mentioned the shift class in the video. I meant to clarify, that you can find it on the Live Video Class tab. Then click archived videos. 

Beth Blackerby
Posted: January 29, 2016
This discussion includes members-only video content

Hi Rustam, my explanation of the shift may be different than what I say or do in the tutorial, but it is a way of thinking about bow changes with Romantic shifts.

Posted: January 29, 2016
Go for it Rustam, it maybe advanced but you will learn a lot from this piece...

I think you can do it because you have played pieces in different position so go ahead and do it.

Your phrasing and your tone is beautiful so with much practice you can play the entire piece. I like your tone contrast it makes the piece comes alive even if still in the beginning stage. You are really talented...

Rustam Gill
Posted: January 29, 2016
Dianne (sorry for misspelling your name earlier :))- Yup, you nailed it. I researched the tutorial last night and a couple of shifting videos and  that seems to be what I was doing wrong. This video was extremely helpful too. It's #258, think.

My vibrato looks like a finger vibrato in the video but I assure you when I play I feel like it's 100% coming from my wrist. Not sure if it's the angle of the video or if my body is doing something different from what I think. The biggest key for me was learning to relax the tip knuckle of the playing finger. After that whatever "motor" is doing the vibrating will have to work a lot less hard and it will feel much more relaxed and natural.

Rustam Gill
Posted: January 29, 2016
Thank you all for your feedback. I am enjoying practicing this song, at least the bits that I can play. It's one of three songs that I wanted to play since picking up the violin again as an adult. The other 2 are Montis's Czardas and Schubert's Ave Maria, the Heifetz arrangement. Those are quite far in the future, I expect :)

Mary and Deirdre - yes it's a difficult piece but I'm enjoying working on it more than easier pieces I've played because it sounds so good when a phrase finally starts to come together. Don't worry, no frustration...yet :)

Dianna- Thank you. I know that shoulder rest vs restless debate is a hot one but I have personally found that playing without a shoulder rest improved my shifting tremendously because I couldn't hop around on the strings anymore. It forced me to use my ear and sense of touch. That is not to say that the same couldn't be done with an SR but no SR gave me no alternative. I did have to change my left hand shape to a high "hook" thumb similar to Itzhak Perlman to allow me to support the violin in my hand easier to play restless.

Janice- I appreciate the reality check. I realize I might have bit off more than I can chew, especially during the parts of the song in 7th position. I doubt if I'll be able to play the whole song yet (though I will try), but I am using this piece mainly to make me practice romantic style shifting, which I am not comfortable with yet.
As for vibrato, I find that as I get more comfortable with a song, my vibrato becomes better in context. I guess there is only so much the brain can focus on at a time.

Posted: January 29, 2016
Hi Rustam - this is a abrsm grade 7 piece, to give you an idea of how advanced it is. (There are 8 grades). That is not to say you shouldn't give it a go, but you are likely setting yourself up for a fair bit of frustration.  I have been there and decided to shelve it for now, because I don't like doing that to myself, when I know one day it will fall more easily into place. That being said - your intonation is very good, which tells me you are hearing it and responding, your bow hand also looks good, I can see the movement there.  My concern is the vibrato and please understand this is only my opinion and it doesn't mean I am right at all.  This is a slow, romantic piece and I feel it calls for an extravagant vibrato.  Your vibrato is becoming nearly a hand vibrato albeit nice and regular, your fingers are quite close together too (maybe they need to be, but my teacher encourages space between my fingers). I just feel it all looks a bit kind of constrained.  I would keep going as you are - if you really want to do this piece, because you are advancing extremely well, but make sure you allow daily time to just do some vibrato, experimenting with the relationship between speed and amplitude (width of the vibrato).  Good luck! 👍😊

Posted: January 28, 2016
Hi, Rustam!

I really love hearing you play, and I think you are doing well with this. As Mary said, it's really hard! Great job!

Posted: January 28, 2016
Don't be discouraged this piece is really !@#%&$ing hard. You actually sound pretty good so far. Hang in there