William Fitzpatrick - advanced violin expert
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How much pressure does it take to push the string down to make a sound?

A simple approach to an often overlooked question

Released on November 4, 2013

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Comments, Questions, Requests:

Eileen Sephton * VSM MEMBER * on September 16, 2014 @3:33 am PST
Interesting - I'll go and try it!
William - host, on September 16, 2014 @8:19 am PST
Let me know what your results are! Take care!
Fred Schlereth * VSM MEMBER * on July 3, 2014 @7:22 pm PST
very interesting. I'm shocked that it is true. However it takes a bit of practice to get used to it. Question! How is that related to pressure, which is force per unit area. So, for the same force, the pressure is higher if the area of contact is smaller. My question is, how do you define the area of contact. String alone, string and fingerboard? It takes less force if the string is not pressed onto the fingerboard, but since the string area is smaller the pressure might be the same.
Clearly I'm confused about your use of the terms pressure and force.
Also how can you produce a vibrato if there is no contact with the fingerboard?
David De Lisle * VSM MEMBER * on May 8, 2014 @5:11 pm PST
Kato Havas
William - host, on May 9, 2014 @9:34 am PST
Thank you for the name as I did not know about her!
Fabrizio Ferrari - moderator and CEO, on May 9, 2014 @11:18 am PST
Yes, Kato Havas is well know for her book "Stage Fright" that I have read several times in the past! That's a very good topic we could approach in some of the next videos.
Jim mcavoy * VSM MEMBER * on December 29, 2013 @5:56 am PST
I have reset both the nut and bridge higher on my fiddle to see how your technique works ...old habits die hard .. but I do like the results .. less tension in the left hand
Locally some of the fiddle makers are making instruments with a very low action and that is how I made mine (new England style) Time to change!
The ping is what is needed when attempting an O'Carolan harp tune for instance
Jim [delete]
james a mcavoy * VSM MEMBER * on December 18, 2013 @5:42 am PST
vibrato; do you plan to address proper a natural sound as opposed to a forced or constrained ringing
William - host, on December 18, 2013 @9:29 am PST
Hi! I am planning a discussion on sound production! I assume you mean not squeezing or squeezing... well I am a proponent of "never squeeze"! The resultant sound is pinched and does not ring well.
H Bergman on November 27, 2013 @7:17 am PST
Thanks for that wonderful demonstration!
Annette on November 15, 2013 @11:13 am PST
How do you make a smooth bow change at the frog?
William - host, on November 18, 2013 @10:40 am PST
Hi! This will make a wonderful discussion and I will do this in the very near future!!!
Prakash Mangalat on November 12, 2013 @8:31 am PST
I am an
adult learner and get much tips like this through this forum...thank you Prof
William - host, on November 18, 2013 @10:41 am PST
You're welcome!
JUAN MANUEL GONZALEZ DE COSIO * VSM MEMBER * on November 7, 2013 @10:32 pm PST
Really appreciate the lesson. I am an older adult learning on my own.
William - host, on November 18, 2013 @10:42 am PST
Enjoy the journey!
Patricia * VSM MEMBER * on November 7, 2013 @1:38 pm PST
Dear Professor Fitzpatrick:

Welcome to VSM! I am an adult student original from Chile, and I only wish you posted this video two weeks ago when I was having trouble lifting the fingers without making an additional sound, most noticeable with finger #3 on D-string in first position.

If you are accepting petitions, I respectfully submit a request for a video(s) in reference to Sautille bowing, which is my next challenge to conquer.

I am trying to learn Seitz Concerto #2, 3rd Movement and I wish you would kindly in the near future, explain the steps for playing measures 84 to 93 (Suzuki 4/#1) sometimes played with rapid bowing, but not really Sautille. I do not know which way is correct, but in my opinion, the passage sounds a lot better when played with Sautille bowing.

Looking forward for your reply, I remain cordially yours.

William - host, on November 7, 2013 @11:33 pm PST
Hi and thanks! Yes this can and will be coming up! We speak so little about the difference between spiccato and sautille!
Patricia * VSM MEMBER * on November 8, 2013 @7:26 pm PST
Thank you Professor for your reply, I am looking forward to have your instructions.

By the way, for those students not using Suzuki, the abovementioned Seitz's concerto can be found here in VSM (Scores, Mp3, MIDI, Scorch with piano accompaniment) by going to: F. Seitz, "Second Pupil's Concerto in G Major Op.13 for Violin and Piano". The 3rd movement start with the piano in measure 147 follow by the violin that start in measure 155-156 all the way to the end in measure 257.

Thanks again Professor and thank you Fabrizio.

Fabrizio Ferrari - moderator and CEO, on November 10, 2013 @6:36 am PST
Dear Patricia, you are very welcome! Please, feel always free to contact me with any questions or ideas you may have, I will be glad to hear from you. Thank you again.
David Naff * VSM MEMBER * on November 7, 2013 @8:33 am PST
Thanks for stepping into this spot. I am an adult student who has benefit greatly from explanations like this. Look forward to future videos.
William - host, on November 7, 2013 @12:36 pm PST
Thanks! I look forward to making them!
Margaret Conyers * VSM MEMBER * on November 6, 2013 @4:01 pm PST
I like the 'ping' when the finger drops on the string, When doing pizzicato, a beginning student will achieve a 'thunk' instead of a 'ring' I encourage them to listen for a ringing sound as the thunk doesnt give a clear resonant tone....what is your opinion of that please...thanks Margaret Conyers
William - host, on November 7, 2013 @12:37 am PST
Having them "press" the finger down to do the pizz becomes a bit of a contradiction as it would require more force to do so? If the goal is to get them to lighten up it would seem this would perhaps not be the most productive or useful route? On the other hand doing left hand pizz would encourage them to take the finger off the string in a manner that would be very useful towards vibrato and trills to name but a few.
Lonzo on November 6, 2013 @2:43 pm PST
Thanks Mr Fitzpatrick, I am an elderly beginner student and your video helped me greatly.
Carole Silva * VSM MEMBER * on November 6, 2013 @3:06 am PST
How do you approach Vivaldi with so many repeated measures and keep track of where you are?
William - host, on November 6, 2013 @9:17 am PST
First of all remembering cannot be a random affair. Trying to count or remember numbers of notes or beats will surely turn out to be a risky affair under pressure. A better idea would be to shape the notes and focus your memory on this aspect. Shaping them with crescendos or the opposite is a simple but effective way to go. Coordinating this with the harmony, ie. making a crescendo from V to I would be even clearer. Music has patterns, especially in Vivaldi, so find them and the shape them! Have fun!
Ms. Cynthia on November 5, 2013 @6:07 pm PST
There are such a wide variety of reasons why students develop this habit both consciously and unconsciously. I'm so glad you started with this topic. I've been watching what you do with the conservatory level students and thinking about how I can make these ideas meaningful to a 5 or 6 year old so no one like you has to untangle them in the future.

Just had a 9 year old in my studio this evening who was gripping the neck of his violin the way he grips his baseball bat or the ball when he pitches. He is actually the pitcher for both of his baseball teams. Wish I knew more about baseball cause I suspect this is not doing his game any better either. When grasping the neck with the thumb he is temped to put more weight on the 1st two fingers, resulting in not enough finger pad contact on the 3rd and especially the 4th finger because its contact point is back on its heels. This is especially problematic when you have a high 3rd finger because you can't get your 3rd and 4th fingers close enough.

We practiced doing 3rd and 4th finger harmonics (requiring 1st and 2nd finger to watch) in an effort to trick the 3rd and 4th fingers into balancing on the string rather than grasping. We haven't started positions yet, but maybe I should have him do the same harmonics in 3rd position next week so we can pry those two fingers from the fingerboard.

Your reminder to use the paper slide method will be perfect for the next lesson when we reengage the 1st two fingers in the exercise. He has plenty of finger pad surface to stop the string without touching the fingerboard with the string.

Its not easy to think up activities for young boys to keep them interested in exercises that require them to notice the weight of their fingers on the string. I'm debating the idea of having him do some finger glissandos on the string with each finger to lighten up the grasp of his thumb because boys love to make interesting sounds like that on the string. Do you have more ideas?

Is there something about having short fingers that causes these students to grab the neck of the violin more?
William - host, on November 6, 2013 @9:25 am PST
I don't know that short or long fingers has much of an impact but not having a good set up with the position of the violin to the neck/shoulder/collarbone would certainly be a place to look to help the understanding of the need to release the arm/hand/fingers.
As for the "young boys" your though of one finger exercises is a good one. This is called the Yost Method, named after Gaylord Yost.
Harmonics are a great way to go as well! Playing a scale as if there were harmonics instead of "real" is something that I was introduced to as a child by Stephen Clapp and is a very effective solution.
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