Exercise for Focusing on the Fingertip Connection to the Fingerboard

What will help the connection between the fingerboard and the fingertip after a shift? In some cases, vibrato that is exaggerated may produce a physical wobble of the hand, but in other cases it can benefit the pitch and the stability.

This exercise will demonstrate the finger zeroing in on its target, with an added momentum that acts as a magnet to connect it to the fingerboard.

Shift from first finger in first position to third finger in third position. As the third finger is moving to its target, think of it as coming in for a landing just like an airplane. The combination of gravity and momentum makes for a solid lock between the finger and fingerboard. You can avoid tension by having the finger fall freely and release as if it’s bouncing on a trampoline. If you want to know more about violins, click here: https://theviolinchannel.com/

Also, the image of an electric screwdriver helps to secure the finger and insure good pitch. It burrows into the spot and guards against slippage. Not surprisingly, vibrato, a type of screwdriver, also strengthens the connection. Remember to direct all the energy to the fingertip. The arm is long, and unfortunately, the fingertip is far away. A gentle reminder by the performer to have a firm fingertip helps. Also visualize that one part of the arm leads to the next part, then to the next, and finally to the fingerboard.

Exercise for Different Speeds of Shifting

Whether you “practice” shifting at a slow tempo, or shifting at the performance tempo, there should be one unifying technique. A slow shift should have the same momentum and strength as the shift you would use in a performance.

To guide the shift, keep track of the mental measurements between the notes. Half-steps and whole steps are the stepping stones that reside not only in your fingers, but more importantly, in your mind. Even a slow shift should have the eye-hand sensation of jumping the correct interval.

For the exercise, start with a slower shift from first to third position. Count one-two, and then on three, jump. Even a slow practice shift should have fully-formed technique. Avoid dragging the finger, because it will confuse any sense of distance you are cultivating. The jump corresponds to the brain’s innate ability to ascertain distances. It’s liberating to change from dragging to jumping. It’s scary though, at first.

The distance should be imagined like an arc or a rainbow, in that it fits exactly within the moment’s rhythm. There are two rainbows going on at once, the shift and the rhythmic moment. This is one of those times that you realize that rhythm is at the core of everything violinists do.

Finish the exercise by playing the shift at the performance rhythm. Having already played the slower shift with strong movement, the faster one will keep all the same proportions and parameters. All that will change is that the moment is slightly shorter.

Filling the mind with distances for shifting is a vital part of practicing. Between having a confident rhythm and a magnetic connection between the finger and the fingerboard, you can better predict the outcome.

Back to School Practice Routine – Advice for Parents

When everything else turned upside down in March, music lessons were the only thing that didn’t miss a beat. They’ve been the one constant throughout the quarantine that we could count on. I might not find what I want at the grocery store, lacrosse practice will surely get canceled, carefree days at the pool were replaced with 1.5 hour slots planned a week ahead via signup genius, but music lessons? Business as usual. I’ve grown to take it for granted.

While school will happen during the day and there will be time for practice in the evenings just like in the past, the dynamic will be different. The kids will be in their rooms all day and might not be excited to rush back there in the evening. Socialization that no longer happens at school might have to be replaced during evening hours. We still want time for family dinners. Thinking through how the practice routine will work in our house, there are a lot of things to consider.

Kids will still need a brain break after school, before practice starts.
If you have more than one child practicing, select practice spots in your home as far away from each other as possible.
Choose a spot that will not interfere with a caregiver working from home at the same time. While some co-workers will marvel at Minuet I in the background during a Zoom call, others might not.
Use the virtual schedule to your advantage. Is their school day 100 percent synchronous or is there some asynchronous time? Who would know if they
played violin at 11 a.m. and did math at 2 p.m.? Maybe that would provide a mental break from school and get some practice in before they are cranky at the end of the day.
Break the practice into chunks. Before school, lunch, afternoon, evening. Save their favorite thing to play for their least favorite time to practice.
Is there one theme your teacher wants you to focus on this year? Make sure your routine accommodates that. The rest will build around it.
Plan when practice will happen every day. A consistent time will feel more like a routine.
Write planned practice time down on a calendar or daily checklist. Some people find great satisfaction in checking things off a list – even kids.
If your child is a “tween” (or just an opinionated youngster) have them choose their practice time each day. Listen to their considerations about when they would like to practice and what else is important to them to fit into their day. Help them plan their day so they can see how practice, household contributions, homework AND Fortnite can all fit in the same day, with a little preplanning.
Be flexible. Some days nothing goes as planned and we have to adapt. That’s not a failure, that’s life. Do the best you can and start again the next day.
Be flexible again. If your child needs human interaction and a friend knocks on the door to play outside, don’t say no because it’s practice time. Your child will then resent the music because it is now the reason they can’t see their friends. Find a way to practice later that day. Or, better yet, use it as a teaching tool for your child. If you accomplish your responsibilities early in the day, you will have free time later to do spontaneous fun things. What if the fun things come up in the morning? There’s plenty of time to reschedule practice for later that day.
Don’t be afraid to tweak the schedule if it’s not working or even if it gets stale. Consistency is great, but there’s no need to get into a rut.
In many ways this school year is a blank canvas. It’s an opportunity to try new things and to try new ways of doing old things. Don’t be afraid to experiment, you may be surprised what you learn. Good luck to everyone!