Using the Fingers on the Fingerboard
This week we are adding the left hand on the fingerboard. The key to using the left hand is to maintain a relaxed, floppy and loose grip on the instrument. A common mistake is to squeeze the neck while putting down the fingers. Relaxation techniques, such as tapping the thumb on the neck are very helpful to curb this "bad habit".Other problems are watching the fingers instead of the music, and not listening to one's intonation or "in-tuneness". We will be doing ear training exercises in class (playing by ear) to remedy these potential pitfalls.
The neck is held by the thumbprint of the thumb on the first tape and the bottom of the index finger near the hand. The hand is kept relaxed and loose. Tapping the thumb occasionally can help in this regard. The palm of the hand and the wrist/arm do not touch the instrument. The wrist should be kept in a straight, natural position, never bent in ("pancake hand"). There should be a space between the thumb and hand where it contacts the neck of the instrument. When placing the fingers on the strings, the tips of the fingers are used, much as a ballet dancer dances on the tips of their toes (no "flat" fingers on the strings). The string should be pushed down to contact the fingerboard. If the contact is not sufficient, the sound is thin and squeaky. Students should strive to feel the vibration of the string with their finger as they bow the string. Fingernails on the left index, middle, ring and pinky fingers should be kept short so that they don't interfere with the proper placement of the fingertip to the string.
Students are practicing pages 6 & 7, and moving on to page 8 when they feel that they can play their "D" string fingers without a great deal of difficulty. Once the "D" string fingers are learned, we'll add the "A" string fingers and then be able to play a variety of songs, including Christmas carols and "Happy Birthday".
This is the last week we're continuing to practice bowing open strings. Next week we will begin to put fingers down on the fingerboard. Students should be paying attention to their bow hands (proper finger positions), bowing clearly on each string and making sure that their bow is tilting to play on the string that they wish to. Students should also check that their instrument is positioned between their shoulder and their jaw, not their chin and their chest. Cello students should be sure that the lower corners of their instrument are near the inside of their knee, the "C" peg should be on the left hand side of their head and that they are sitting up on the edge of their chair with a straight back and feet not tucked back under the chair.
v Watch to be sure that your bow is not sliding across the fingerboard or running into the bridge when you play.
v Violinists and violists should try to push their hand out from their body when they are pulling the bow or playing a "down" bow to help keep the tip of the bow straight.
v Cellists should try to keep the tip of the bow from pointing toward the floor. The bow stick should be tilted up toward the cellist's face so that it is visible to the cellist.
v Students should be practicing pages 4 & 5 and 16 & 17 in the book (Essential Elements 2000 book 1 for their respective instrument.)
v Students can label the notes on pages 16 & 17, but if they look at where the note is printed on the staff they should be able to figure out if it is an "A" or a "D".
Students should be establishing a consistent practice schedule and should be standing up to practice. A music stand is helpful at this point. If you don't have one, propping the book up on a shelf or table is sufficient - don't lay it flat on a table and look down at it. Students should practice for at least 20 - 30 minutes for four days a week (pick which days work for your schedule). Practice time can be split up into smaller chunks as well. The important part of practicing is to do it often so that you get better and better and have more fun with your instrument.
This week we're continuing to practice bowing open strings to produce a clear, ringing tone. We'll work on resting the bow on the string with a relaxed bow hand and pushing (up) or pulling (down) to play very clearly without scratching, but with a nice full sound.
· Let your bow arm elbow relax - don't hold it up in the air "chicken wing" style.
· Push your hand out from your body when playing down bow (pulling the bow across the string) so that the tip of the bow stays straight across the string instead of traveling over the fingerboard.
· Listen to your notes and experiment with using different lengths of bow when you are practicing bowing on the strings. Try playing short bows at the tip, in the middle and near the frog. Then, try the same thing using longer bows.
· Use people's names, food words and other nouns to practice rhythms with your bow. Try "bubble-gum"(short short long), "Mississippi mud cat"(short short short short long long), "blue-berry" (long short short) etc.
· Play pages 4 & 5 in the method book using pizzicato and bowing. Try it with the play-along CD as well.
· Check to make sure that you have enough rosin on your bow to make a nice sound. If you are using a new bow it will need to be thoroughly rosined to produce a sound - otherwise you will get a whispery or nonexistent sound. Rub the rosin along the length of the hair, paying attention to the ends of the bow. Be sure that your bow is tight when you rosin it.
· Practice standing up for good pain-free posture when you are playing; if you are playing the cello sit up tall near the edge of your chair and try not to bring your right shoulder forward to bring the bow to the string - just your hand.
· Practice your instrument on a schedule - remember that the more days you practice (even if it is minimal time on some of those days) the easier it will get and the better you will get. Set aside certain times - make an appointment with yourself.
· Ask Mrs. Olah for help if you are having difficulty playing.
Bow Hold and Bowing Tips and Tricks
· The bow is held in the right fingers. The finger pads (finger prints) of the right middle and ring fingers are draped over the top of the stick above the frog and the finger pads touch the frog. (A kid went fishing and sat down on the end of the dock and dipped his feet in the water).
· The tip of the pinky finger should remain on top of the stick, slightly curved and relaxed (violins and violas). The pinky is draped over the top of the stick next to the other fingers (cellos). (The kid's dog sat down on the dock next to him (violins and violas); the kid's dog jumped in the water next to his feet (cellos)).
· The index finger is laid over the grip of the bow. The index finger wraps around the grip and the whole hand slightly leans toward the tip of the bow. (The kid grew sleepy in the hot sun and let the tip of the fishing pole dip into the water. He also slightly leaned to the left.)
· The tip of the thumb contacts the "bump" underneath the stick (violins and violas). The thumb loosely grips the bow on the opposite side of the frog from the middle finger and the bow stick is slightly tilted toward the face when the bow is placed on the string (cellos). The thumb should bend outward. The bow stick, when tipped upward, should feel very light, as if one was holding a small delicate creature (such as a hamster) in one's fingers - no squeezing. (A fish, sensing danger, hid near a bump on a log under the dock. Its tail was slightly bent as it hid.)
· Always check to be sure that your hand is not leaning back to the right on the pinky finger or holding your bow in a fist. The palm of the hand never makes contact with the bow. The shoulders and arms remain relaxed and hanging down, not held up in the air.
· All students can practice strengthening their bow hand by performing the following exercises with the bow:
Windshield Wipers: Hold the bow vertically with a good bow hold and tip the bow from side to side in the manner of the windshield wiper of a car using just your hand turning from the wrist (not the whole arm). Try mimicking a small car's wipers with small movements and then a large car's wipers with larger movements.
Stir the Chili Pot: Hold the bow vertically with a good bow hold and "stir" with a wide arm motion. Be sure to keep the bow upright - do not let it lean.
Point the Magic Wand: Hold the bow with a good bow hold and point the tip at various objects in the room. Never use the bow as a weapon or contact any surface except the strings of the instrument with the bow hair.
· Bowing exercises for using the bow on the strings:
Bow your name: Say your name and pull and push the bow on a string for as many syllables as it is. For example: "Brandon" - 2 bow strokes; "Paige" - 1 bow stroke; "Maria" - 3 bow strokes.
Bow rhythm words: "Strawberry" (3 bow strokes - 1 slow, 2 fast); "Mississippi Mudcat" (6 bow strokes - 4 fast, 2 slow); "Elevator Escalator" (8 bow strokes, all fast).
Be sure that when you practice you are standing up (violins & violas) or sitting up tall (cellos). Violins and violas: the instrument should make contact between the shoulder and the jaw bone, not the chin and the chest. The scroll should point ahead of you, slightly to the left; not out to the side or tilting up or down. Cellos: Sit toward the edge of your chair and sit upright, with a straight back. The instrument should lean against you and the lower corners should contact the inside of your knee (adjust your endpin). The scroll goes to the left side of your head, with the
So I Have My Instrument Now...
If you have received your instrument-
Take Good Care of Your Violin, Viola or Cello!
• Don't scratch or knock around your delicately carved wooden instrument. Wipe it off with a soft cloth after you are done playing to get the rosin dust off of it (don't use furniture polish on it!).
• Ask Mrs. Olah to tune your instrument or fix broken strings. She will teach you how to tune it.
• Keep your instrument away from situations that could harm it, like a little cousin or a pet.
• Never lay your instrument down on the belly (bridge side), always on the back (or on the side if you play the cello). Try not to put any pressure on the bridge - it is not glued in place.
• Always hold your instrument by the neck when you are not playing it - never the scroll or the pegs (or swinging it by the pegs, etc.) Remember that the bow is not a weapon and it breaks easily; be careful not to break off the tip of the bow. Your rosin is like glass and will chip or shatter if you drop it.
• When handling the bow, don't touch the horsehair and remember to tighten it before you play and loosen it when you are done. Rosin it every couple of days but not every time you play - you can over-rosin your bow and get a scratchy sound.
• Don't overtighten your bow or you risk popping the horsehair out of the tip or warping the bow.
• Be careful with your instrument if you ride the bus - be sure that it is secure or that you have a good hold on it. Don't lay it in the aisle of the bus.
• Be sure that you don't lose the screw caps or feet on the shoulder rest if you have a Kun or Everest type of shoulder rest - check and tighten them occasionally.
• If you have a plastic instrument case and the shoulder rest won't fit on the inside, use a zip pencil case to carry it in and attach the pencil case to the instrument case so you will always have your shoulder rest with the instrument.