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Wrist exercises for continuous movement?
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cpiasminc
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June 1, 2012 - 12:38 pm
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Greetings, all.

I have a sort of training exercise question, if anybody has any experience with it.  Being a student of Indian classical music, I can accept that the demands I have in terms of performance are very different.  In Indian classical music (whether it's the Northern form a la Ravi Shankar or the Southern form a la A.R. Rahman), the only "pure" tones we have are the tonic and the just perfect fifth, so when we tune a violin, we only have open strings set to those notes (for me, because my voice rests at an A-flat, that means I tune my strings to Ab-Eb-Ab-Eb in ascending order) -- any other pitch in any given scale is potentially subject to bends, trills, vibratos, slides, and micro/macro-tonal inflections, out-of-grammar accents, etc.  As such, I commonly have to do things like vibratos as wide as a major third and so on, and do it at a pretty wide range of speeds (can go arbitrarily fast, but there are limits on how *slow* it can be).

 

This leads me to my major problem that I was wondering if anybody had any sorts of thoughts on.  Basically, these types of movements get pretty tiring pretty quickly if you're not used to them (and since I recently re-picked up the violin after not playing for 20 years, I'm not used to it at all), and as I goes on, I tend to tighten up and that makes the movements jerkier, more irregular, more likely to get stuck or end up unconsciously squeezing the neck and it just gets very painful after only a few minutes of making those kinds of errors.  The ideal is really to get towards consistently smooth and flowing movements, mostly involving a relatively relaxed wrist and all, but I'm finding it hard to get there.  I can do it for a little while, but it's still highly imperfect, which means that fatigue sets in pretty quickly as I keep practicing and then I tighten up again. 

 

I figure even if you don't play the same style, you still have to run across movements from position to position, fast vibratos and so on, so I would expect that surely somebody else would have hit this problem.  Anybody have any thoughts on what I can do to try and deal with it?  Anything I can do on the side (i.e. when I'm not practicing) to help get the freedom of movement  to really be consistent and last?

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Worldfiddler
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June 1, 2012 - 5:34 pm
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Hello,

That's an interesting question. I play mostly western music, on a 5-string violin, using a standard violin hold, with a shoulder rest. What is your posture when playing?

 

I am also learning Carnatic style violin, and my teacher is Karthick Iyer. In all of the slides and shifts, I am able to keep my wrist straight up, without fatigue. 

 

When not playing music, I work out in a small gym. One of the exercises I do is wrist curls, using light weights. The object is not to build muscle, but to strengthen the wrists a little bit so that they can perform well at unusual angles (eg playing the violin, or tennis).

Wrist curls are simple. Just like lifting a barbell to exercise the biceps, except the movement is focussed on the wrists.

 

Jim

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cpiasminc
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June 1, 2012 - 7:40 pm
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I use the typical Carnatic style posture, where we sit seated, cross-legged, and the scroll of the violin rests on my right ankle.  To be honest, I've never quite gotten used to the standard violin posture at all, but then I've never actually been in a position to try it for any length of time.  The general rationale behind the "Indian" posture is simply so that the forearm can basically be in a rested position the whole time, while the instrument is firmly supported, so the movement of the hand can be very free and loose.  And in the interest of being able to do more in the long run, I've always kind of stuck with that posture.

 

I have had to mess with the posture compared compared to before.  Back when I was a kid originally learning and playing on a 3/4, I was just about a foot shorter than I currently am, so I could hold the violin a lot closer to me and move a little more "vertically".  My original teacher was actually a student of Mysore T. Chowdiah, who although he was a legend in Carnatic music (being one of the first to really make a "Carnatic" school of violin playing), was far lighter on the complexity of slides than later stalwarts like Lalgudi Jayaraman and M.S. Gopalakrishnan.  Nowadays, that is far too tight for me with my monkey arms -- I happen to have abnormally long arms for a human being my height.  So I tend to put my leg a little farther out and that puts the violin almost at a 40-degree angle from the horizontal.  If I actually try to place it any tighter than that, I end up in such an awkward position that it just causes me agonizing pain within the first 5 minutes.  I can accept that there's a possibility that I'm still yet to find a truly appropriate posture that is really comfortable, but if you have any thoughts on what I should be thinking about, I'm open to suggestions.

 

Another factor is that although I was originally trained as a child in the Chowdiah school of playing, my own teacher never felt that was much of a complete picture of Carnatic music to begin with, as it is more foundational for people who came later rather than the end of the story.  I'm currently trying to imbibe some aspects of the Parur style, and I'm occasionally in contact with M.S. Gopalakrishnan himself -- who is really the founder of the style -- for periodic advice.  Most of the early exercises involve acquainting myself with the idea of playing all my standard warm-up patterns including my own compositions with one finger.

To give you an idea what I'm up against, here's an example of Chowdiah's playing on 7 strings --
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v.....QtWVGAQwNQ

vs. M.S. Gopalakrishnan's playing on 4 --

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dionysia
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That looks a lot more stable than my occasional propping the scroll on my knee. I'll have to try it sometime. I bet it would work just fine with old-time fiddling.

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Fiddlerman
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June 2, 2012 - 8:41 am
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Pick apart your playing with full focus on where your tensions are going. Analyze each aspect such as your left hand finger pressure. How much do you need? Don't use more pressure than you really need. Listen to your sound with too little and apply more but not more than what gives you the right sound. Don't tense your neck or shoulders because they are barely being used during your playing. Same thing with the right hand. Just enough to produce the sound you are interested in. Don't use your shoulder hardly at all with the right arm. Mostly use your elbow and turn your hand for more bow pressure.
Be your own teacher and analyze what is giving you tension.

"The richest person is not the one who has the most,
but the one who needs the least."

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NoirVelours
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Wow that's one yoga way to hold a fiddle! Have to try it just for fun but I'm pretty sure I would be more comfortable with the traditional position.cow-fingerscrossed

"It can sing like a bird, it can cry like a human being, it can be very angry, it can be all that humans are" Maxim Vengerov

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cpiasminc
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June 4, 2012 - 12:17 pm
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Fiddlerman said
Pick apart your playing with full focus on where your tensions are going. Analyze each aspect such as your left hand finger pressure. How much do you need? Don't use more pressure than you really need. Listen to your sound with too little and apply more but not more than what gives you the right sound. Don't tense your neck or shoulders because they are barely being used during your playing. Same thing with the right hand. Just enough to produce the sound you are interested in. Don't use your shoulder hardly at all with the right arm. Mostly use your elbow and turn your hand for more bow pressure.

Well, plain old fingering or what we call "veral-aDi" in Tamil is not really a problem for me. None of that really requires a lot that would be fatigue-inducing, unless I do something really stupid like torquing my wrist too far out of position. Sure, I still need to work on my speed there (more specifically, maintaining precision while going fast), but that's something I expect to get back with time. Still, that's not much of a "Carnatic" approach to playing. Moreover, because of the seated posture, things like the neck and shoulder are pretty much a non-issue, anyway. I also find that in terms of bowing, I tend to favor the low-pressure, high-speed bowing in terms of timbre, but it's going to take some time before I can maintain that and finger slide speed at the same time. If I focus too much on trying to get speed in my slides, I unconsciously slow down on my bow, which results in that weak hollow sound you might expect when you have a violin with no sound-post. So I have some separate exercises to try and work on that over time, and a lot of efforts that involve doing one without the other to kind of burn the techniques into muscle memory.

A good example of the kinds of practice exercises that really give me problems is something like this --

I'm finding that only 2-3 positionings of the instrument really enable me to be really smooth (they only really vary by how high up I place the tailpiece against myself). The most comfortable of these tends to be the one that's basically impossible because there's just not enough friction to hold the instrument stable (unless I play with my shirt off). Of the two that are usable, the most comfortable for my arm is the one that ends up having me slouch and lean forward, but in practice, this is probably the best because I can more easily rotate it when I need to play on the G string and so on.

For now, though, I'm not working on getting that kind of speed, so much as that kind of smoothness and precision. Speed will come later. I would prefer to be able to sit up straighter rather than slouch, but with my proportions, that may not be possible.

BTW, in case you're wondering, the raga that kid is playing in the exercise is called Kalyani or more properly, Mechakalyani. The raw pitches are pretty much like a major scale, except with a tritone in place of a perfect fourth (though not _exactly_ since it is all in just temperament, so it's actually a ratio of either 45/32 in this case -- some ragas prefer the ratio of 729/512 for this note, but Kalyani is not one of them).

Wow that's one yoga way to hold a fiddle! Have to try it just for fun but I'm pretty sure I would be more comfortable with the traditional position.

As a general rule, the most comfortable position is the one you're used to. This type of posture is comfortable for me mainly because it's what I'm used to. Granted, it was first created in the interest of having comfort to slide or move frequently, but then whenever Menuhin played Carnatic and Hindustani music, he also played in the standard Western posture, because that's what he was used to.

There are also some other things because of characteristics of style.  For instance, the video I have here in this posting involves a particular adaptation of the Parur style where he trains in the idea of being able to begin a slide from below the lip of the fingerboard.  This is something that's normally impossible because the pegs just get in the way, so he instructs his students to swap out the E-string peg for a single machine head tuner fixed to the opposite side.  I actually rather like the idea of machine head tuners for a violin, but they're pretty hard to find, and nobody would dare consider them for Western style playing because they feel it would add too much mass to the scroll (but mostly because it violates tradition, which I find to be a horrible attitude in any context).

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dionysia
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June 4, 2012 - 1:58 pm
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I actually rather like the idea of machine head tuners for a violin, but they're pretty hard to find, and nobody would dare consider them for Western style playing because they feel it would add too much mass to the scroll (but mostly because it violates tradition, which I find to be a horrible attitude in any context).

I heart my machine head tuners! Although putting new strings on my fiddle is a pain due to the gear ratio, once they are on tuning is a breeze.

 

http://i1155.photobucket.com/albums/p547/camilla_the_chicken/100_0939.jpgImage Enlarger

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Mad_Wed
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Hi, Cpiasminc! That's fantastic! I couldn't resist and tried this posture. Quite hard to play on lower strings - so i understand why you guys have to rotate it =)

As for me - much more tention in left hand was detected. Ofcourse it's mostly because of unusual posture, but also because body+violin position. The ange between them is way too less than usual - and my wrist is quite bent even in Ist position. So i came up only with Mr.Jim's suggestions - wrist excercises and maybe wrist-bending excercises...dunno

Thank You for this interesting introduction to this type of music - it's really beautiful and hard to play. Can't even imagine myself making this excercise above surprised

Welcome to the forum, by the way =) birthday_balloon

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cpiasminc
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dionysia said

I actually rather like the idea of machine head tuners for a violin, but they're pretty hard to find, and nobody would dare consider them for Western style playing because they feel it would add too much mass to the scroll (but mostly because it violates tradition, which I find to be a horrible attitude in any context).

I heart my machine head tuners! Although putting new strings on my fiddle is a pain due to the gear ratio, once they are on tuning is a breeze.

That definitely looks nice.  Where did you get them and how much were they?  I saw the ones at International Violin, but they look a little different from yours.  I definitely like that they're a lot cheaper than the Perfection/Peghed pegs or the Wittners.  Because of the style of playing, for me, mass added to the scroll is pretty meaningless, but does it really add that much?

I suppose one more thing that comes up when I see them mounted is with case fitment.  Looks like it would mean the scroll wouldn't rest on the bottom of the case and instead be pushed up by the pegs.  I don't expect that would be any problem, but does it mean you need to rely on a case that has some breathing room?  e.g., my current case would probably be fine, but the case that my old 3/4 came with when I was a kid was pretty much sized and shaped just right to just hold a violin and 1 bow and rosin.

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cpiasminc
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Mad_Wed said As for me - much more tention in left hand was detected. Ofcourse it's mostly because of unusual posture, but also because body+violin position. The ange between them is way too less than usual - and my wrist is quite bent even in Ist position. So i came up only with Mr.Jim's suggestions - wrist excercises and maybe wrist-bending excercises...dunno

Thank You for this interesting introduction to this type of music - it's really beautiful and hard to play. Can't even imagine myself making this excercise above surprised

Hmmm...  It sounds as if it's a question of getting my muscles and tendons used to that degree of bend.  Presumably, I ran into less trouble as a kid because I was just more flexible and that amount of bend was not a big deal.  So far the best working posture for me has been minor modifications from this posture.  I do find a little less tension, as mentioned earlier, when I lean forward and take the tailpiece up to my neck, and let my elbow sit floating a little to the back of my waist.  The violin itself would be a little tilted to my right, so that when I slide, I'm sliding a little more across my body from left to right rather than straight in line with my spine.

 

If you have some other interest in Carnatic music, by the way, there's a guy on Youtube who has a whole series of training lesson videos.  They're targeted a bit to beginners who are completely new to the violin itself, but you can start a few videos in if you like, and that's where you'll get exposure to the specifics of Carnatic music. 

http://www.youtube.com/user/th.....sic/videos

Because it is geared to beginners, there is quite a lot on fundamentals (as well there should be), and it is only by the 30th video that you first get some exposure to the really "Indian" characteristic of the music.  After that, he exposes a couple of the other major ragas (going through the other ones a lot faster), and in the course of 100 videos covers just enough ragas (8 out of the total 33,000+) that you can basically play all of the 22 notes to an octave (he does it with 12 because there are 16 with equivalencies between them -- in the same way a G# and Ab are the same note -- and there are variants which are a syntonic comma difference from the base 16 which are used in specific cases).  He doesn't go very deep into the characteristics of individual ragas, but just enough that you can bring out the basic "flavor" of each one.

 

This guy's playing, btw, strikes me as a blend of Lalgudi style and M. Chandrasekaran style.  I think his bowing reminds me of Lalgudi Jayaraman, but the slides and timing thereof remind me more of Chandrasekaran and maybe some shades of Nagai Muralidharan.  All in all, I like it, and I like his lessons, especially for someone like me who thinks numerically.  I'm just trying to imbibe all sorts of other stuff and other styles on top of it.

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Mad_Wed
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Thanks for the link, Cpiasminc! I'm a beginner-intermediate myself, i play 14 months. Those exercises have quite interesting technic and develop fingers dexterity, good for ears also. I'll have to try them. Can't say that i'll ever be able to play this music style - too hard, but it's so curious amuse

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dionysia
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cpiasminc said

dionysia said

I actually rather like the idea of machine head tuners for a violin, but they're pretty hard to find, and nobody would dare consider them for Western style playing because they feel it would add too much mass to the scroll (but mostly because it violates tradition, which I find to be a horrible attitude in any context).

I heart my machine head tuners! Although putting new strings on my fiddle is a pain due to the gear ratio, once they are on tuning is a breeze.

That definitely looks nice.  Where did you get them and how much were they?  I saw the ones at International Violin, but they look a little different from yours.  I definitely like that they're a lot cheaper than the Perfection/Peghed pegs or the Wittners.  Because of the style of playing, for me, mass added to the scroll is pretty meaningless, but does it really add that much?

I suppose one more thing that comes up when I see them mounted is with case fitment.  Looks like it would mean the scroll wouldn't rest on the bottom of the case and instead be pushed up by the pegs.  I don't expect that would be any problem, but does it mean you need to rely on a case that has some breathing room?  e.g., my current case would probably be fine, but the case that my old 3/4 came with when I was a kid was pretty much sized and shaped just right to just hold a violin and 1 bow and rosin.

 

Sorry, my grandfather put the tuners on when he got the violin in 1946. I don't know where to find them nowadays. I don't notice the weight, but then, they have always been on my violin. It is not a strain to hold.

My case [which was also my grandfather's] is pretty roomy. I only have trouble closing it when I put the shoulder rest in carelessly, but I imagine it would be tricky fitting into a modern case.

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Kevin M.
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Here is a link to this style tuner

http://www.ebay.com/itm/4-4-BR.....2eb1b547d9

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cpiasminc
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Kevin M. said
Here is a link to this style tuner

http://www.ebay.com/itm/4-4-BR.....2eb1b547d9

jimi-hendrix

Now, that I like.  Price is also a fair bit better than the internally geared pegs out there...  I also noticed in practicing even yesterday night that there are a number of things I try to do where traditional pegs do get in the way unless I make some sacrifices in my positioning that make speed a little difficult.  Now I'll just have to see how to fit that plus the cost of a luthier installation as I don't particularly have the time, patience, or confidence to do it myself without doing something really harmful.

I guess my only question mark is that it seems to make assumptions about the pegbox dimensions and hole spacings, which is something that I'd expect to vary for anything that isn't strictly machine-made (even assuming that there are universal templates).  Well, I'll just have to see.  If it needs modifications or to be split into 4 pieces or something, that's gotta hurt.  If I have any doubts, I'll probably just go with Pegheds or something, though I have to admit, these strike me as a bit more durable.  I just like having that kind of precision, especially considering that I have to tune differently from normal.

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Oliver
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WOW, I would guess that the magic word is "fit" particularly since the ad talks about "electric" so much.  What could that mean ? 

I'm sure I would manage to crack the peg box with those screws.  But the mechanisms look tempting (another time).

When you come to a fork in the road, take it.

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