William Fitzpatrick - violin expert

Achieving Cleanliness in Violin Playing

Learn how to "play clean" on your violin

In this video, Prof. Fitzpatrick gives you useful tips to clean your violin-playing by featuring famous pieces taken from the violin repertoire.

Released on December 2, 2015

Post a Comment   |   Video problems? Contact Us!
DISCLAIMER: The views and the opinions expressed in this video are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Virtual Sheet Music and its employees.

Video Transcription

So you're trying to hit a tennis ball with a racket or you're trying to hit a baseball with a bat or just trying to play ping pong. Well, all of these require great timing if one is to be successful. So with that in mind, why don't we explore ways to develop the timing needed to play cleanly as a violinist on virtualsheetmusic.com's Meet the Expert?

My name is William Fitzpatrick, and I'm the Henri Temianka professor of Violin at the Hall-Musco Conservatory of Music which is located on the campus of Chapman University, Orange, California. I am as well director of MusiShare and the MusiShare Young Artist Program which is located in Irvine, California.

So what exactly do I mean by timing? Well, for example, the finger and the bow must be played simultaneously if it's going to be clean. I mean, you put your finger- it has to be at the same time as the bow for it to be clean. This task is truly difficult, but there is a way, and many teachers talk about it. My teacher Stephen Clapp and Ms. DeLay talked about it. Leonard Bernstein talks about it. Lots of people talk about it. They all talk about preparation. So much of this talk about timing is really about being prepared.

So why don't we look again briefly at sports? You see with tennis, one has to prepare one's feet to get into the right position to swing at the ball. One has to visually follow the ball across the net. One has to bring back the arm to get ready to swing. And so you see it's about preparation. So much of playing really well, really cleanly is about being prepared. Sometimes I tell my students that playing the violin is like a sport, but I'm not sure they fully understand to what extent I mean this. Well simply put, just like tennis or baseball with the violin, things must be prepared in advance, meaning, your fingers must be in place before your bow starts or it simply won't be clean.

I remember having a lesson on the Bartok Concerto No. 2, and on the sixteenth note passage in the first movement, Ms. DeLay told me that my performance of the passage wasn't clean. Just what she suggested that I do to get it cleaner opens the door into this discussion of finger first practicing. She said that I should place the finger then play the note for each note. Didn't matter if it was out of time, I just needed to do it in this way so as to create my habit. So I practiced the Bartok from then on like this.

So what this did as well is show me that if I put the finger in place first, that if it was on the string prior to playing the note, it's so obvious but suppose I had even more fingers in place, would this make the timing issue even more advantageous? Using this backdoor route, we come to a basic principle. Stay loose at all costs.

Here, let's look at these three notes, A, G, C sharp. If I play them separately like this, then it's difficult to get the timing right, why? Because the finger has to be down, everything has to be at the same time, right? It's like we said. But if I put them all down at once, I simply need to place the bow as the finger is already there and already prepared. Here, putting my first, my third, my second finger down at once and voila. What this means is that I am doing two things or more at once. But how is it possible? Some would say we can only do one thing at a time. Well, suppose we explore programming, two or more things, two or more events to occur at the same time. To do this let's have a look at the G minor Fugue by Bach in the first sonata.

As you can see, we're putting two fingers down, sometimes three at the same time. We were doing one and three, three and four, two and three, three and one,and now all three. They're all three. We're figuring out how to put down in place more than just one finger at a time. So to help develop this kind of thinking, I use eight tunes that have chords, three or four chords as this prepares the mind to place the fingers all at once.

I can consider that I have to have my second finger and my third finger down at the same time. Here, my first finger. Here, my second and third again. Now, I have my fourth, my first and first again and here we go. I have to have my second finger on two strings, third finger and now my third and first, my first, third and second. I am learning or developing now this skill of having fingers down at the same time.

Also in Dont Opus 37, there is another eighth tune which is number 18. This one takes a linear approach and turns it, in fact, into learning again how to take a line but how to prepare two notes at a time. Here, listen to it. Now, what's happened is that I'm playing C sharp and an A, but I'm going to playing them at the same time. I'm playing an E and a G sharp, I'm going to play them at the same time, going to put my fingers down at the same time. Here we go. I'm doing two things at once.

I do hope that this video helps you to understand how the development of this kind of timing will help you to play cleanly as a violinist. If you have a comment or a question to ask me, please feel free to post it below. As always, here's to hoping that your practicing is becoming more and more efficient and that this is leading you to even better and better performances.
Post a comment, question or special request:
You may: Login  or  
Otherwise, fill the form below to post your comment:
Add your name below:

Add your email below: (to receive replies, will not be displayed or shared)

For verification purposes, please enter the word MUSIC in the field below

Comments, Questions, Requests:

VL on March 5, 2019 @4:35 pm PST
I'm such a beginner, but I love the Fuge discussed above that I'm trying to learn it just for the fun of it. I'm plucking, however, as opposed to bowing. But here's my question: which fingers are placed where on the G/C/E chord or ECG chord, if you will? I've watched several times, but I still don't understand if three fingers are used or if two are used to cross both the A and the E strings?
Francis E. Elliott * VSM MEMBER * on January 14, 2016 @7:09 pm PST
Finger before the bow rules for cleaner playing is imperative. But in the case of the chords what about the bow arm that play the say two or three notes
William - host, on January 15, 2016 @9:50 am PST
Finding the middle ground... say a chord from the G string of A / G / C sharp ... the bow should be set to the D string with the weight then projecting the hair to the G and A strings ... Does this answer your question?
David makori on December 24, 2015 @7:42 am PST
Am a clarinetist just decided to switch to violin.i find vibration to be a big challenge perhaps because of age. 64. Do I have a chance to perfect vibrato. Otherwise I like the clean violin information
William - host, on January 15, 2016 @9:48 am PST
"Perfect" I don't know but "have" surely you can!
Aaron Jez on December 16, 2015 @11:22 am PST
Hi my name is Aaron
I have played The violin for six years
And what I want to learn now is how to do vibrato I have tried for years but My hand is to Stubborn and won't loosen up its to stiff.
So please do you have any suggestions? Any help would be very appreciated
William - host, on January 15, 2016 @9:47 am PST
Hard to say from a distance but you could try not trying to get your hand loose? Just let it be and work from that point of view...... Should do a video on this very important topic...!!!
Tosh * VSM MEMBER * on December 3, 2015 @5:13 pm PST
Similarly, a classical guitarist will use "chord" fingering in many passages with the fingers of the left hand, but actually pluck separate sequential notes with the right hand fingers.
William - host, on December 10, 2015 @10:03 am PST
Ever watch Eliot Fisk play .. Thanks for the comment!
MCMeru on December 2, 2015 @2:14 pm PST
Hello, Prof. Fitzpatrick, I have some trouble with very high notes. When playing higher and higher on the E string of course the intervals between when a new tone starts get shorter and shorter the higher play. But at a certain point I just cant hit the notes that clearly (maybe because my fingers are quite thick). Do you have some exercises or some tips that can help me hit every note up there, even though the thickness of one finger equals 2-3 notes? I hope you understand what I am trying to say, I tried to phrase it as understandable as possible since Im not a native English speaker.
I hope you might be able to help me :D
Kathleen M. Barry * VSM MEMBER * on December 2, 2015 @8:36 am PST
Yes, wonderful technique explaining. Your playing is so in tune. This is part of the struggle with playing two notes at the same time. Not only one finger has to be correct, but two and three. ! Double stops is so important in learning where our fingers need to be.
William - host, on December 10, 2015 @10:02 am PST
Much appreciated! Thank you!
Jon O'Brien * VSM MEMBER * on December 2, 2015 @4:35 am PST
Excellent. Thank you for your great videos.
William - host, on December 10, 2015 @10:01 am PST
mariano * VSM MEMBER * on December 2, 2015 @3:48 am PST
can you share practising on scales Dmajor and minor 3 octaves?
It is very hard for me.
MCMeru on December 2, 2015 @2:14 pm PST
Hey, I would recommend you get some exercises by sevcik. Really great stuff with fingering and on different scales.
Fabrizio Ferrari - moderator and CEO, on December 2, 2015 @2:59 pm PST
Yes, I agree with MCMeru, Sevick is one of the best violin methods out there. We are trying to get the rights to get them published here on Virtual Sheet Music.

In the meantime, if looking into a simple scale method, have a look at our own scales that I have personally created:

Elementary Scales and Arpeggios:

Advanced Scales and Arpeggios:

And of course, the excellent book by Prof. Fitzpatrick about "one finger scales" below:


They are free for Members like you.
William - host, on December 10, 2015 @10:04 am PST
Am about to do a video on 3 octave scales! So stay tuned!
Questions? Problems? Contact Us.