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My Journey with My Violin Since May 1716.
A probably unusual way to learn improvising via baroque play-alongs.
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MACJR
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At some point, I would like to try a left hand violin. I like using my left hand for things that are often reserved for the right hand, for most people.

The only things I cannot do well with my left hand are things I do not practice doing with my left hand. Otherwise, I can use my left hand just as well as my right, or close to as well.

More often than not, my mouse is on the left side of my keyboards. Much of my art, made over the last ten years, was done using the mouse with my left hand.

In a timed game, my right hand is only slightly faster... very slightly, and that could just be the luck part of the game rather than my right hand being slightly better.

And my left hand writing is more legible, although I can still write faster with my right hand. I tend to still write more often with my right hand, just out of habit, so my left hand is still a little slow at writing, but not too slow, and not shaky.

So, yeah, I would love to try playing the violin left handed.

MACJR

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Demoiselle
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January 9, 2017 - 2:04 pm
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MACJR said
At some point, I would like to try a left hand violin. ............

That makes a big difference for left-handed people. My left hand is way stronger, faster and more sensitive than my right hand. I was fencing years ago and tried to train my right hand to get as good as my left hand. It did not work! Of course fingering on the fingerboard would be easier if done by my left hand, but the quality of sound and expression comes from the bow hand and the far more handier left side of my body is bound to do that job.

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MACJR
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I had wondered if everyone was able to train their other hand to do the same things as their dominate hand, like I did. I had thought that since I did it, anyone could. It just takes practice, I thought. But perhaps it really is not that simple. Maybe not everyone can become ambidextrous, as I was able to do. Perhaps there must be some sort of potential for that kind of thing to be able to do so.

All I know is that for me, it was a simple matter of training the left hand to do the same things that the right can do. Yeah, it was awkward at first, but it did not take long to train my left had to become fully functional. It would not take much effort for me to switch to making my left hand as my dominate hand, although I would feel handicapped if I did, just as I would now feel handicapped if I had to stop using my left hand as an equal to my right.

Since I did live most of my life as right handed, though, my left and right hands, and arms are more specialized in some regards, to certain functions. For example, as a teen and young adult, I used my left arm to do a lot of the heavy lifting, so it is more massive than my right in some areas, while my right was more for fine control and guidance, so other muscles were stronger in that arm. I can still do some things better with my left hand, and other things better with my right, but most things I can do at about the same level. I would probably have a better left bowing arm, and better right fingering skills, if I chose to develop those skills.

MACJR

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Demoiselle
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January 10, 2017 - 2:07 pm
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Today it is undisputed that the quality of script is much better if left-handers write with their left hand. They did teach me to write with my right hands in the 60s, but it doesn't look good. And that's exactly what they found out: training left-handers on right means lower quality in hand writing. I certainly use the stronger hand for bowing. I could improve my right hand, but this is not just a technical matter and after all a question of artistic quality of expression. No compromising there. I can fix screws with my right hand, but not gonna waste my time on trying bowing there. I will always use the side which has the better potentials. That way I get better results sooner. Anything else would mean slowing down progress and loosing time. Plus never getting to the optimum I can reach while using my left hand. It really seems waste of time to me.

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  • I was balancing the violin on that place of the thumb which they make fingerprints with. So  the four other fingers weren't placed directly over the strings and reaching out with ring finger and pinkie was hard. Which made trills via pinkie almost impossible.
  • The elbow on the bow side pointed down and I supported the end of my bow via heel of the hand. Which made the wrist too inflexible. I am also supposed to turn the back of my hand more towards my face.

Here's what my new teacher gave me a pass for and I'm very happy about that:

My violin sounds good and my self-made bow is okay. She did not even criticize the fact that it's a 3/4 violin and explained this would actually match baroque music. Which had been the point I had been most afraid of, since in certain daydreams she had explained I would have to change to a full violin. I was really afraid like hell I would start to cry in this moment. But she never said that and I  think she's the best teacher I could get. Although it is probably not true and totally ridiculous, I feel like she's the greatest teacher in this world. 😉

She gives me 11 days to change my mistakes. The new position on the fingerboard first hurt - especially my index finger who has to bend harder. But it already got much better tonight. Finally I was improvising again on a very slow Bach adagio. I want her to be proud of me in 11 days. 🙂

By the way, she played a Bach piece on my 3/4 violin, which gave me pretty much the chills of my life! I really feel like my violin is awesome and I was right when choosing her in October 2015.

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MACJR
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For me, I was informed that I should lower my thumb, at least when reaching for that 4th finger note on the G string. I had mentioned that I was having a hard time with the D note on the G string, and the solution was to lower the thumb.

The person who told me did not have to see, she just knew, from my e-mailed description, what was probably the problem, and she gave me the correct solution. This was just some free advice from the author of The ABC's of Violin for the Absolute Beginner. It turns out that Janice is a nice person.

I still need to practice with that 4th finger note on the G string, but it is not as much of an issue as it was.

I am glad your instructor is working out for you.  🙂

MACJR

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Demoiselle
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What my new teacher teaches is basic technique and works for everyone. I looked up all my idols from ancient music and recognized right away what she had told me. And I just looked up a Fiddlerman video where it clearly is to see:

She wanted me to put the thumb besides the neck and not under it. I then protested, my violin would fall if I wouldn't support her via thumb. Then she informed my about the little edge where the index finger joins the palm. The violin neck practically rests on that bony edge, while the thumb gently pushes the instrument towards index finger. That way the violin rests much safer, whereas balancing the neck on the thumb was much riskier.

The consequence is, that the fingers are directly above and closer to the fingerboard, so you have to bend them pretty hard. At first it hurts especially the index finger, but it gets used to it. Yesterday it was really painful, today it works much easier. The ability to improvise already comes back and with this correct technique it will soon work better than before. I really wonder how I could manage to do a concert of 2 hours with my old terrible technique because it tires you out pretty soon?

She wanted me to simultaneously change my bow technique, but I'm very bad in things multi-tasking. I first change my fingerboard technique and then start working on bowing. She will be happy with me, because in the next lesson there will be a stark change. 🙂

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I was trying to find a teacher a year ago, in early 2016, and contacted two teachers. The man was a teaching jazz and baroque professional, who did not answer my email. The woman was a baroque violinist I have on many CDs, but at the telephone was like she didn't know anything about improvisation. I told her I was sure she was nonetheless competent to technically help me. But after that she didn't answer my emails as well. So this week I started with the right teacher for me and it's never too late.

I do not see a big problem in changing to a correct technique. All the time I hear people talking like you were doomed with an incorrect technique and unlearning it would be so difficult. What I taught myself over 20 month is not lost and that improvisatory fluency is quickly coming back now. I'm just being held up for a couple days, that's all. What I did before was a alternative technique for a quick and easy start into improvisation. I do not regret it at all.

It would be a greater problem, if I was merely playing from sheets, because concentration on notes makes it harder to focus on technique. Which is the reason why I still think, notes are poison to beginners. They are very useful, but as I feel, a distraction in a time while trying hard to bond with a new instrument.

So if someone has to unlearn incorrect technique: maybe you ask your teacher to leave out sheets to just play scales and little melodies by ear. And then later go back to sheet music, when the new technique is firm. (Improvisation is only good for people who are ready to study chords.)

For myself still goes the rule, no distracting sheets before my eyes while playing, at least for another year. Because I think, there should be something of dead certain perfection in my technique before I will be ready to focus on sheets while playing. Right now I can study notes, close the book and play it by ear. Not being distracted from the instrument.

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Demoiselle said
..... So this week I started with the right teacher for me and it's never too late.

Excellent - you've found someone who is not only competent, but also aware of, and prepared to "bend or adapt" to your learning needs - that's what you WANT from a tutor !   Great news !

....It would be a greater problem, if I was merely playing from sheets, because concentration on notes makes it harder to focus on technique. Which is the reason why I still think, notes are poison to beginners. They are very useful, but as I feel, a distraction in a time while trying hard to bond with a new instrument.

LOL @"poison for beginners" !   I am largely in agreement with that - but like yourself - we both have a long background in making and improvising music.  It perhaps is different for total newcomers to music - I don't know - but certainly many of the "beginners" resources I have seen appear to incorporate sight-reading as an essential part of the learning process - and I've generally ignored it.   (Of course, like yourself, I largely understand sheet, and for a piece that I've never heard before, sure, I'll use it, slowly get it into my head, then put the sheet away and make the piece "my own").   Don't get me wrong - sheet is absolutely essential for conveying the intent of the arranger/composer - and of course totally required for lengthy orchestral pieces where it would be impossible to play the entire piece from memory.  But at the same time, certainly for beginners, it shouldn't distract us from focusing on technique.

For myself still goes the rule, no distracting sheets before my eyes while playing, at least for another year. Because I think, there should be something of dead certain perfection in my technique before I will be ready to focus on sheets while playing. Right now I can study notes, close the book and play it by ear. Not being distracted from the instrument.  

Yup - the same.   Each time I DO look at sheet for a new-to-me-piece I slowly become more familiar with "playing from sheet" (which is a Good Thing).   I also spend some of my "music time" composing, or perhaps better said - re-arranging existing works using MuseScore - which is great because I'm getting used to recognizing various chord structures on sheet - like immediately picking out the I,i,ii,iii,IV,V,vi,viio chords in their various inversions - so as a sort of background-activity it all adds (slowly) to the wealth of understanding - and one day - some day - I'll be able to "play-from-sheet" - I'm not in a hurry !

I seriously recommend not copying my mistakes. D'oh - guntohead.JPG

Please make your own, different mistakes, and help us all learn :-)

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BillyG said

we both have a long background in making and improvising music.  It perhaps is different for total newcomers to music  

If I taught (and I won't--at least for years to come) I'd do the "listen and watch, then repeat the phrase I play" game. Scales, little melodies..... The sheet would be there, and we will have a look before and after playing. And I would give the advice, not to look at the sheet at home while playing. Because you learn to play nicer if you focus on the instrument and on your feeling. Sheet players too often fail to discover their heart. Not everybody is a multi-tasking genius.

BillyG said

Yup - the same.   Each time I DO look at sheet for a new-to-me-piece I slowly become more familiar with "playing from sheet" (which is a Good Thing).   I also spend some of my "music time" composing, or perhaps better said - re-arranging existing works using MuseScore - which is great because I'm getting used to recognizing various chord structures on sheet - like immediately picking out the I,i,ii,iii,IV,V,vi,viio chords in their various inversions - so as a sort of background-activity it all adds (slowly) to the wealth of understanding - and one day - some day - I'll be able to "play-from-sheet" - I'm not in a hurry !  

When I was 16 I felt like it would be the greatest honor to compose something at the piano. Today I feel different and find arranging way more interesting. Everybody can whistle a little melody and vary the notes. It probably isn't new anyhow, since people have been playing musical phrases over and over again for centuries. Even what famous composers publish cannot be totally new--it's nothing but make-believe. For arranging you really need a lot of knowledge. Besides, people don't applaud much for new compositions and rather listen to standards they already know. Most new compositions flop--it hardly matters whether they're good or not. That's how young musicians break their horns of passionate eagerness, learning how composing isn't all that honorable.

I compose whenever I have a funny idea. Like singing about Mr. Handel who's playing and sweating under his wig. Unless I use one of Handel's funny gavottes and put my lyrics on that one. Which I usually find the best solution. But then I need to work out chords which I can give to a guitar player, which will very likely differ a bit from Handel's concept. I cannot give a paper with figures to a guitar player these days. And I will not use Handel's changes which can happen under any note. Because Gavottes (and Menuets) follow a traditional European idea of harmonization which is not as clear as in Chaconnes. These changes would drive any guitar player crazy these days. But it's really an interesting challenge to figure out a clear colorful harmonic concept for a gavotte or Menuet.

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Demoiselle said

She wanted me to put the thumb besides the neck and not under it.

Two things I should clarify, one, I had asked about reaching that D note on the G string because I was, and still am, dealing with a healing left elbow injury. The author of the ABC's of violin books had the same, or similar, injury when she was young, so I asked her how she managed to get that D note on the G string with an elbow that is still a bit stiff and sore. She had suggested putting the thumb under the neck of the violin and that would allow for easier reach to that D note. I believe she only meant to put the thumb under the neck for this issue, not for general playing.

And two, I found that I did not have to put my thumb all the way down under the neck of the violin. All I had to do was lower my thumb a little bit, and that made it much easier to get to that D note. It just takes a little shift in hand/thumb position to make playing that D note a lot easier, even with my still healing elbow.

My elbow is much better now, but it is one of those type of injuries that seems to take forever to completely heal. I injured it last spring while lifting weights and it is still not completely healed. although it has healed enough to lift weights again... as long as I am more careful about it now.  😉

MACJR

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Demoiselle
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MACJR said

Demoiselle said
She wanted me to put the thumb besides the neck and not under it.

Two things I should clarify, one, I had asked about reaching that D note on the G string because I was, and still am, dealing with a healing left elbow injury. The author of the ABC's of violin books had the same, or similar, injury when she was young, so I asked her how she managed to get that D note on the G string with an elbow that is still a bit stiff and sore. She had suggested putting the thumb under the neck of the violin and that would allow for easier reach to that D note. I believe she only meant to put the thumb under the neck for this issue, not for general playing.
And two, I found that I did not have to put my thumb all the way down under the neck of the violin. All I had to do was lower my thumb a little bit, and that made it much easier to get to that D note. It just takes a little shift in hand/thumb position to make playing that D note a lot easier, even with my still healing elbow.
My elbow is much better now, but it is one of those type of injuries that seems to take forever to completely heal. I injured it last spring while lifting weights and it is still not completely healed. although it has healed enough to lift weights again... as long as I am more careful about it now.  😉
MACJR  

Sorry, I do not understand that at all. You have an open D on the D string, so why torturing yourself with a G sting D? To me personally the G string D sounds even worse, but that's a matter of taste and music style.

What I do understand is, you're using my old pseudo-technique because it's not as tough on your fingers, which obviously also effects your elbow. To me this makes sense, because the hand's sinews are connected to the elbow area. At least you can read in my next report - below - how it's fairly easy to unlearn my pseudo-technique. But don't wonder if the sound is worse with that pseudo-technique. The instrument is not optimally supported and this shakiness did effect my bowing a lot. In fact the sound was worse than it is now.

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My first lesson was Thursday, now, Sunday noon (German time) improvising on adagios (MusicPartner play-alongs) works fairly well. Once I accidentially started to play with my old pseudo-technique and wondered why suddenly the sound was weaker and all the notes came with an articulation which was less reliable. So now it shows, my sound already profits from the new technique and that I will profit more soon.

It really is no wonder. While supporting the neck much better, my bowing profits too--whereas before it had been really shaky. The only reason why I didn't choose this correct position before, was because it feels extremely uncomfortable at the start and downright hurts. So without teacher, who confirms, this is correct and explains why and that it will soon feel easier, I chose a pseudo-technique which was comfortable right away.

But I regret nothing. I tried to contact teachers exactly a year ago, then was asked to do a concert, so I focussed on preparing that and profited a lot. And what I've learned in 2016 is not lost--it all comes back now with the better technique from my new teacher.

I do not see one is doomed after having learned a wrong technique. To me it seems very easy to change that. People think too negative and sound so awfully fearful. Fear is what prevents people most from having success. Forget fear and negative ideas. Wrong technique can work, correct technique works better und changing to correct technique is an improvement which should make people happy.

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Demoiselle said 

Sorry, I do not understand that at all. You have an open D on the D string, so why torturing yourself with a G sting D? To me personally the G string D sounds even worse, but that's a matter of taste and music style.

What I do understand is, you're using my old pseudo-technique because it's not as tough on your fingers, which obviously also effects your elbow. To me this makes sense, because the hand's sinews are connected to the elbow area. At least you can read in my next report - below - how it's fairly easy to unlearn my pseudo-technique. But don't wonder if the sound is worse with that pseudo-technique. The instrument is not optimally supported and this shakiness did effect my bowing a lot. In fact the sound was worse than it is now.  

Two reasons to torture myself playing D on the G string:

One, it is part of the lesson plan in the book. I want to master the traditional basics before I consider improvising.

Two: Working the sore area is actually good physical therapy. I believe taking up playing the violin when I did, with the elbow still healing but no longer a fresh injury, was the ideal time for helping me work that area in a beneficial way. It may have sped up my recovery time, although that type of injury takes a very long time to heal, and is still not fully healed yet. I am able to use my left arm fully now. There is still some tenderness for certain activities, like squeezing a small ball with an outreached arm, but nothing like before.

With my elbow injury, getting the D note on the G string was a bit awkward. It was hard to get my little finger in the right position to get a clean D note. Yes, I could have cheated and just played the open D string, but that did me no good. It did not teach me how to use my little finger to get a clean D note, and it did not work that injured area that needed worked.

I do agree though, it is hard to get a good sounding D note on the G string. Even with more practice, it is still not easy for me.

MACJR

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The D on the G string will always sound weird, as I feel, because it makes the open D string resonate too. So then I have two strings ring at the same time, which is sort of unison effect, like two violins playing the D. But anyhow I love the tone of open strings, that's why I will always use open strings as much as I can.

Traditional books would only hold me up with stuff I do not need. I don't believe in following the herd, as I don't believe in tradition at all. To me the word tradition sounds kinda old-fashioned. I do perform in a late-1600s dress, but I sewed it because I like it and not because of tradition. I decide for what makes sense to me or what I like. Or I decide for people who need help.

In the last lesson my teacher confronted me with old Greek scales. Which don't match my system at all. I rather call it the D minor scale, or the G major scale. What chord calls for what scale? That's what I need to know. I just made a list and wrote them all down. Which is much more to know than a couple strange Greek names which already alienated me in school. It is traditional burden from the middle ages, but not useful any longer. It's like an old prayer people refuse to forget. Nobody can explain what it means, but they all cling to it.

To me the word "tradition" means actually, "Following without thinking independently." But all these items will get a chance, I will ask my teacher what those Greek scales are good for and maybe she will convince me. And I will ask her why I should possibly profit from the G string D (and whether perhaps to stop the open D string from ringing too using another finger as damper....which would be quite cumbersome.....).

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I agree to a large extent about tradition holding people back, encouraging a herd mentality, and sticking people into a past way of thinking. I rebel at many social traditions that people do without thought, question, or understanding.

For example, I rarely participate in holiday activities. I just go about doing my own things. After learning a bit about the early history of Western Civilization, and how ugly it was back then, and what the original meaning of many of those holidays, and holiday rituals, were about, that many people practiced and celebrate, I want less and less a part of them all the time.

Still, when learning to play the violin, my choice is to learn by tried and true methods. However, I do not look down on you for going your own way though. Picking your own path is admirable, in my mind. For me, though, I want to learn how to play some of the old classics the traditional way, and this means learning to how to play by learning to play the traditional way... or at least something close to it. Since I am teaching myself to play without the advantage of an instructor, I have ended up picking and choosing what I want to learn, how I want to learn it, and in what order I want to learn it, so I am not doing this in a 100% traditional way either. Just something kind of close to tradition, but I am free to do things at my own speed and in my own way.

Also, I do not feel that I have to be restricted by tradition for how I play. I will do my best to learn how it is said it should be done, and then decide for myself if that is how I want to do it, or not.

And no, I am not, as of yet, fond of playing the D note on the G string either. The open D sounds better to me too. But for now, I will follow the lesson books.  😉

My playing skills are approaching a level now that it may not be too much longer before I feel ready to try more improvisation. I am not there just yet though.

MACJR

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MACJR said
.......................
Still, when learning to play the violin, my choice is to learn by tried and true methods. However, I do not look down on you for going your own way though. Picking your own path is admirable, in my mind. For me, though, I want to learn how to play some of the old classics the traditional way, and this means learning to how to play by learning to play the traditional way... or at least something close to it. Since I am teaching myself to play without the advantage of an instructor, I have ended up picking and choosing what I want to learn, how I want to learn it, and in what order I want to learn it, so I am not doing this in a 100% traditional way either. Just something kind of close to tradition, but I am free to do things at my own speed and in my own way.

Also, I do not feel that I have to be restricted by tradition for how I play. I will do my best to learn how it is said it should be done, and then decide for myself if that is how I want to do it, or not.
And no, I am not, as of yet, fond of playing the D note on the G string either. The open D sounds better to me too. But for now, I will follow the lesson books.  😉
My playing skills are approaching a level now that it may not be too much longer before I feel ready to try more improvisation. I am not there just yet though.
MACJR  

I do understand. I use my long experience in jazz and I think for me it is the best and fastest way to my actual goal. You still have to develop the experience to hear chords in a way which enables you to hum scales which match the chords. Which is a keyboard job. I first made records of slow and easy chord sequences at an electronic keyboard. Weeks later I was lucky to find that cheap used spinet, but the keyboard did as well.

But I also profit from listening experience. My stepmother used to ask me, "Must you hear music all day?" I wouldn't have performed with my swing combo without having listened so much to swing music in those days. I wouldn't even have found musicians for a band because I hardly would have been able to play jazz. Today it's not listening to jazz, but violin sonatas instead. But it works the same. 

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Everything I had reached, like speed, crescendo, expression ect. is now coming back with the improved technique. I was struggling with the bowing until yesterday, when I suddenly was able to relax again. So I guess I will soon be able to go beyond my achievements of early January, because better technique should lead to better progress.....

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MACJR said

Two reasons to torture myself playing D on the G string:
One, it is part of the lesson plan in the book. I want to master the traditional basics before I consider improvising.
Two: Working the sore area is actually good physical therapy. I believe taking up playing the violin when I did, with the elbow still healing but no longer a fresh injury, was the ideal time for helping me work that area in a beneficial way. It may have sped up my recovery time, although that type of injury takes a very long time to heal, and is still not fully healed yet. I am able to use my left arm fully now. There is still some tenderness for certain activities, like squeezing a small ball with an outreached arm, but nothing like before.
With my elbow injury, getting the D note on the G string was a bit awkward. It was hard to get my little finger in the right position to get a clean D note. Yes, I could have cheated and just played the open D string, but that did me no good. It did not teach me how to use my little finger to get a clean D note, and it did not work that injured area that needed worked.
I do agree though, it is hard to get a good sounding D note on the G string. Even with more practice, it is still not easy for me.
MACJR  

So, here we go : my new teacher made me play those alternative notes via fourth finger which I rather play as open strings. Okay, in a way it sort of has kinda the beauty of a French horn to it, but I rather have the fresh trumpet on open strings. But I have to admit, this opens another option to trill. I also have to admit, finger legato is very new to me and my rule had always been: "Every finger is supposed to get up again as soon as possible to be ready." Well, that was total nonsense of course and prevented real legato which cannot be done with just the bow. And obviously in some cases, the fourth finger can end a legato phrase on that G string D, in case I will afterwards not go on to the D string. Right now leaving all four fingers on the fingerboard, while ending such legato scale, is holding me back again. I have to go back to very-very slow. But on longer term, this will lead to faster progress. Raising ALL fingers at any time was wasting energy and probably led to exhaustion soon. How did I manage that 2 hours concert? I really wonder about that now.

Maybe I will use the 4th finger D only for trills....I'll see.

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MACJR
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January 30, 2017 - 10:21 am
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In one of the lesson books I am following, the 4th finger D note on the G string seems to come into play mostly in French tunes. The author seems to have a fondness for French violin music.

Maybe the French part of my mix is happy about playing some French songs.  😉

I probably have as much, or more, Swiss and German in my mix though. And then there is the English, Scottish, Irish, Spanish, and Native American blood in there too. One day, I may get a DNA test done to find out just what percentages of each of these nationalities are within me. The top four are probably English, Irish, Scottish, and German speaking Swiss.

Perhaps I should learn music for each of my nationalities.

MACJR

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