Please feel free to share. “The Little Drummer Boy Project”
I have started to think about moving on from the open string exercises. My bow hold feels better and I am hitting the wrong open string much less frequently then I did.
I know a lot of learners use stickers to mark the position when they have found it. This won't work for me as I can barely see the bridge never mind stickers at the other end!
How hard do you press on the string once you have found said position?
Congrats on being ready to take the next step. I'll let others answer the first part of your question, except to say that FM has videos out there that will help you. Take a look at some of these, and explore the other videos under Beginners Tutorials.
But I do have some thoughts on your question about how hard to press on the string. When I first started playing I pressed on the strings REALLY hard (I'm a guitar player, and I just used that as my model). I'm now trying to correct that. You just don't need to press that hard, and vibrato is more difficult to do if you are pressing hard on the strings. Experiment with seeing how lightly you can press the strings and still get a good sound.
Let us know how you are making out!
Come and let us reason together.
Good to hear that you're moving forward!
Finger tapes, ugh... I was pressured by a teacher into using them for 4 months and they accomplished one thing: They kept me from learning to listen! So, no love lost there.
Some people are better at hearing the pitches (notes) especially their relative distance from each other, than others. But even for folks like me who start out with zero ability in that department, months of scales and simple tunes are helping me improve.
If you have access to a tone generator or a keyboard and can sing along with D Major scale, you're in good shape for starters. If you can actually hear where the two, half-steps are located, you're way ahead of the game.
Now explore how your left hand feels in first position. The nut between pegbox and fingerboard is a convenient point of reference. It's about where the nut rubs your left index finger near the hand joint.
If I remember correctly, I spent an entire week between two lessons just exploring the D string for the first half of the D Major scale:
- open string is: D
- 1st finger (index) down is: E
- 2nd finger (middle) down is: F sharp
- 3rd finder (ring) down is: G
- 4th finger (pinky) down is: A ... this A should sound the same as the open A string!
Instead of checking yourself against finger tapes, listen and check yourself against some correct external source: Youtube has lots of folks demonstrating D Major... or a keyboard or a recorder (flute) or what ever you have access to.
If you're finding the right pitches, you'll notice that there's a gap between the fingers (at least a finger pad wide gap) EXCEPT where the half-step comes in between F-sharp and G. At that half step, Finger 2 and 3 are lightly touching (for guys with giant hands, they might actually be squeezing F2 and F3 but I don't thing that's our problem 🙂
So now you have your first "hand frame" where fingers 1 and 4 are splayed open and fingers 2 and 3 are together. You will come to recognize the feel of this hand frame in 1st position on the D string through LOTS of repetition. So take your time matching up the finger placement feeling with the sound of the correct pitches.
I'm sure you've read elsewhere that the left hand (especially thumb) needs to be relaxed and your fingertips hovering close above the strings. Easier said than done. I had a left hand death grip for at least 4 months for starters. Maybe other folks can share how it's possible to avoid that to begin with.
Finally, once you're comfy with the first half of the D Major scale on the D string, continue up the scale to the A string. It's you're lucky day... the second half of the one octave D Major sale uses exactly the same hand frame as the first half of the scale (fingers 1 and 4 splayed, fingers 2 and 3 touching where the C-sharp to D half step come in.)
OK, that was a crazy attempt to figure out how I would have (should have) begun if I hadn't let myself get conned into finger tapes. Hope at least some of it makes some sense 🙂
Some of these videos are longer and windier than they need be (Pierre's are always wonderfully succinct), but there's some useful stuff there - I had been using a lot of pressure on my LH pinky in order to get good tone, and yesterday for the first time my teacher said I should ease up on it. I already knew I had to work on thumb position and hand shape (i.e. technique is better than brute force), but it was a surprise to hear her specifically talk about the pinky pressure.
I just never had any tape, I think if I knew I needed it I may have gotten some, but since l started online with fiddlerman site and a beginner book and there was just no mention of tape, I thought it was just for kids, not beginners, so I chugged along (I hate to think about how terrible I must have sounded as an absolute beginner) But as an adult I think tape would have given me something else to worry about!
...Still have a death grip towards the end of learning a new tune, I feel like the violin would fall if I didn't grip it....pressing hard on the strings thinking it will help me remember the right note, that seemed to go away when speeding up and there is no time to think about pressure....
It is all fading with time and practice...confidence and relaxation creep in, hitting the wrong note now is not such big deal. I think in the beginning I beat myself up more than anyone else would, and it was sheer frustration...I am a ways off, but I see it in the distance!!!
Thank you for all the replies and advice. Sorry for the delayed response, my wifi gadget gave up the ghost.
I have found getting first finger on E and A far easier than G and D. It sounds cleaner on the higher pitch strings where as the lower pitch I tend to make mistakes and get the proper screeching noise!
It's quite a job keeping everything in the right position and I find my bow wanders when I am concentrating on my fingers.
Glad your WiFi is back in action, @scottishlass.
In the begining, nearly everyone's bow wanders, just as you describe... especially when concentrating on your fingers. After a year, I still do a few minutes of focused bowing on open strings. I hear pros even go back and do that on occasion... listening for the quality of the sound depending on whether the bow is near the bridge or closer to the fingerboard. That's a whole science, apparently 🙂
Yup, the G and D strings are more difficult to get at with your fingers, especially if you don't have big hands. I think the usual tip is to get your left arm more underneath the violin. In other words, move your left elbow to the right. That makes it easier to get your left hand fingers over towards the G string. Careful you don't get a weird bend in your left wrist, though. Forearm and back surface of your left hand should be on the same plane... and relaxed, naturally.