I promise I haven't forgotten everyone! I know the point of sharing practice videos is to share your development, but there is still a certain personal standard I think we all possess in what shouldn't quite yet see the light of day!
What these exercises begin to allow me as a student to start hacking away at is what I'm finding to be the genesis of playing the violin. The first finger accompanied by the thumb is where every position starts, and first, third, and fifth are the major positions on the violin. Everything else starts to fill in the gaps from here.
Precision in position location is crucial in tuning. Technical areas such as knuckle position, rotating the hand around the fingerboard to the lower strings, sliding silently but accurately up the string, and accurately judging where a position begins when going to that position cold (without a slide) are all keys to the many locks on the door of precise tuning on the violin.
By adding fingers more slowly than in other methods, I am at much more liberty to focus daily on these keys that will make learning the violin a joy and not a frustration. It is indeed often frustrating even in my limited focus to get tuning exactly right, but it is universes easier than if I were dealing with the fine coordinations of using more fingers than I am ready for in my playing.
I may possibly make one more video very (hopefully) soon from this exercise series I've been working diligently on, but I will mostly be working toward adding a second set of exercises covering these three major positions with the first finger very soon. I am hoping for just one more set of exercises on this before adding the second finger!
This is probably my favorite exercise from this set! The G string is an extremely important string for a soloist, and my instrument in general tends to lack in power on the G string. When I buy new strings, I plan to get the Larsen Il Cannone strings. The A and D will be Medium, but the G and E will both be Soloist grade. Soloist is brighter and more powerful!
This exercise has really allowed me to spend a great deal of care improving my ear to tuning on the lowest string and develop the hand coordination necessary to reach around that far. I look forward to more exercises that continue this process!
Larsen Il Cannone went on without a hitch! But later in the process of retuning, I was flustered, thought I was turning the A peg, and snapped the E (pictured here installed, before it was broken). I guess it was inevitable. I'd never snapped a string before, and I was in an uncomfortable setting dressed from recording and in bright lighting not in a right mind. This picture was taken before the bridge was corrected (while a bit tilted forward). So we are back to the Pirastro Gold E until Monday or Tuesday, when a replacement will be here.
Much to my delight, I actually believe I would prefer a whole set of soloists which will be cheaper in future. I will be able to order from Amazon for right at around $80 instead of individually elsewhere for around $11 more. It makes some sense. My Chinese violin is sprayed polyurethane which inhibits vibration. It makes sense to me it works better with a higher-tension string.
The G and E Il Cannone soloists both have shocking warmth to them at the heart of the sound. All four strings still sound quite metallic, as Larsens do in beginning, particularly the Il Cannone strings. But that is breaking in fast, and these strings are real monsters. They are so very powerful, can play insane dynamics, including a crystal-clear pianissimo, and the G has just the kind of cut to it and extra kick I was looking for to play more in-balance on my instrument. The Larsen red rosin is much-less dust than the Pirastro Goldflex and plays very, very well, so I am also quite pleased with that!
The other drastic difference is the feel under the fingers! They feel quite metallic. They will definitely be a finger strengthener for me! They will give me fingertips of steel. LOL.
The unpackaging and setup video is linked in my bio!
Oh how I long and look forward to learning the études of Schradieck, Kreutzer, Ševčík, Gaviniès, Rode, and the Paganini Caprices…apart from repertoire.
But isolating the fundamental positions first is crucial, alongside developing a growing, theoretical understanding of playing and the violin in general. I only very recently realized players keep their hands completely and totally still, when they move their fingers to play a fingering pattern. Only the fingers move, nothing else. I have also been discovering the importance of proper finger arch in accuracy and repeatability of finger placement.
But more than anything else, correctly landing in a position is extremely difficult. Until you can accurately land on the main positions with the thumb and first finger, repeatable each time, how can you even justify adding a second finger, even in first position? Once I do indeed begin and manage to add the second finger through the three main positions, I plan to fill in the second and fourth positions. Chromatics will come later, with the sixth and seventh positions to follow.
It's a truly long process, but learning something intelligently is crucial. I find myself more and more fascinated with detailed work on tuning and accuracy, and I am increasingly grateful to myself for not overcomplicating the process prematurely. The new Larsen strings and rosin are fantastic upgrades to my studies, as well! The strings are astonishingly responsive, and the rosin leaves minimal dust!
Happy Easter weekend . . .
BEHOLD: Il Cannone, by Larsen Strings
As you can hear, these strings have a great core to them, and there is such a wonderful balance from the lowest string to the highest! I no longer am faced with a dull, muffled G string sound! I am truly in love!
I will be adding the second finger, soon, in my newest exercise set I just finished. I will, however, share a few final first finger (first, third, and fifth position) exercises and my progress before moving on! I look to share some more progress videos Monday or Tuesday before putting these exercises to bed.
A shoulder rest plays a huge role in not only the violin's stability on a player's shoulder, but also the angle at which the violin sits on the shoulder. My old shoulder rest had my violin oriented frustratingly-flat, closer to 20-30° than the around-45° angle my new one sits the instrument at.
I would like to take this opportunity to show my appreciation to @rusandapanfili, one of my favorite professional violinists. I deeply admire the care she takes as an artist in her ideal violin and accessories setup. It's because of her playing and detail I fell in love with the @larsenstrings Il Cannone violin strings, and I also particularly loved how her choice of shoulder rest sits, when she plays. It drove me to find a shoulder rest similar, if not identical, and I couldn't be more pleased with the choice. You should check out her YouTube video of the Musilia P1 violin case, as well, another fantastic, innovative product for violinists!
I taught these young adults when they were children. Now some of them have children of their own. But even though I haven't seen all of them in 15 years, our time together today was as natural as if I had seen them last month.
The #teacher#student#bond lasts a lifetime!
I'm glad I saved sharing this progress for after the new shoulder rest arrived! Reaching the lower strings and playing left-hand pizzicato are both far easier, when the instrument is tilted closer to a 45° angle than my old shoulder rest allowed for. It sat closer to a 20-30° angle.
Enjoy! I plan on now beginning to implement the second finger in first position with new exercises!
“New bridge, who dis?” ☠️ But seriously… Aubert of France, extremely high quality . . . and entirely pre-shaped and self-adjusting.
Only one problem: I ordered a low-height bridge. Amazon made no distinction. I originally was ticked at how widely-spaced the string grooves were and that I didn't realize it until I penciled them and set the strings. They were so faintly-nicked originally that I could have re-spaced or even sanded them down without much to show for it.
But then I came to find out this was a low bridge and found online this bridge also comes in high and medium. Low is generally for fiddle players, fraction-sized instruments, and custom-made instruments. I have a medium-height option coming from eBay and will send this one back to Amazon on Monday, when that new one comes. The only real shame is how hard bridge changes are on the strings. But while excruciatingly expensive, my strings are fortunately very resilient and are not a line of strings known to break when properly cared for. Change them, when tone quality deteriorates…
But I can honestly say… I adore the luthiers I follow and am fascinated by the craft. I hope to buy a proper, artist-quality instrument one day. But I am thoroughly impressed by this line of self-adjusting, pre-made, standardized bridges. The three height options give a great range to find a solid fit to the specifics of your instrument, and the carving work is exquisite. I love the option for low-cost, kit instruments!
The shape is great, in my opinion, and I look forward to seeing if the medium provides the best fit. If not, I only have to pay return shipping to send that one back to eBay and get a high bridge. But this low one already gets a far-better sound and response than my old bridge that came with my low-cost violin. The wood and carving are far-superior.
The bridge has a slight gap at the feet in the back in this picture, but as it was just installed, it requires constant tuning, which pulls the bridge forward slightly. I've since tilted it back, and when it's in its ideal place, there really is minimal gap at the feet! I'm pleased with the fit at the price of only $25!
Adding fingers on the violin is altogether far-trickier and involving more fine motor skills than most methods and teachers recognize. Not only are you dealing with the precise location of each individual finger, you are training your hand as to the relationships between each finger and in consistent posture.
Tuning is the primary concern. I have been spending no small amount of time at a keyboard making absolute certain I am training my hand and ear to find the exact centers of pitch so I maintain a stable learning process for each finger as added.
I probably spend north of 3 hours a day practicing, which to some may seem quite impossible with such simple-seeming exercises. But mastering other disciplines has embedded in me how crucial it is to get the coordinations right from the very beginning.
The second set of second finger exercises is almost finished. I hope to post another video from this set on Monday, after the medium-height bridge arrives and is installed. After that, it's on to a bit-more-demanding second finger in first position exercises! I will be learning second finger in the third and fifth positions next, and after that I will be adding chromatics to the fingers and positions thus-far.