William Fitzpatrick - violin expert

Should fingers bounce when they fall to the string?

An important concept to improve your violin playing

In this video, Prof. Fitzpatrick focuses on the left-hand and introduces the concept of "finger bouncing" which will improve your skills a great deal.

Released on August 2, 2017

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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 have a look at this. As you can see, when things fall to the ground, they bounce. Things or objects that fall to the ground, bounce. All right, so have a look at this, have a look at my finger going to the string. Does it bounce? Can you see it bounce? I mean, things that fall to the ground bounce, so why shouldn't your finger bounce when it falls to the string? Or do you push it to the string and make it stay there?

And with these observations, these questions, my name is William Fitzpatrick and I'm the Temianka Professor of Violin at the Hall-Musco Conservatory of Music, which is located on the campus of Chapman University. I'm as well the artistic director of the MusiShare Young Artist Program. So to get into why I believe your finger should bounce when it hits the string, we have to go back a bit into the history of how far the string is placed from the fingerboard. You see a while back, the string was placed closer to this fingerboard so that it would act as the opposite pressure to the downward pressure of the finger.

As you can hear, this produced a sound like this. And if you listen to older recordings, you will hear this fairly regularly as everyone was taught to take the finger to the fingerboard to produce the sound. Well, I learned a different approach from my teacher, Ms. DeLay, as she approached it through the use of ping. Ping sounds like this. Do you hear it? Do you hear it? Didn't sound like. I explain to my students that this ping occurs because of two things. One, because of the switch from gut to synthetic strings. Now the strings are much stronger. They can resist themselves the pressure of the finger. Two, the distance to the fingerboard from the string, or what Lateiner liked to call projection, has increased over the years. Have a look. These two events have made possible that the string now acts as the opposing force to the finger and not the fingerboard, consider that for a moment.

So to produce this sound we, in fact, need to allow the finger to bounce when it hits the string. Here, let me show you what I mean through this diagram. So as you can see, the ball of the finger touches the string and because of the speed that it arrives to the string, the string is depressed and then bounces up. It bounces up to another level where it stays. Not only is the finger totally relaxed as it has been thrown to the string, but there is enough weight in the arm to keep the string depressed at that level and thus produce a sound, a clear sound.

Here, let's explore producing the sound from the E to the A, to the D, to the G string. All right, let's start with the E string. Let's listen to what it sounds like going from the first finger to the second, much like I've been doing up till now. Do you hear that? I'll try another finger, let's say second to third. All right, now that we've seen and heard the E string, let's try the A string, which is a bit thicker and consequently slightly harder to make ping.

That was ping. That was a good ping. Here, I'll try it again going from a B natural to a C sharp. Ping. And what about the D string? I mean, it's a lot thicker, so would it be a bit harder? Here, let me try from my first finger on E natural to an F sharp. It gets much, much harder, you know? As well, a lot of it depends on your violin and its ability to respond to notes, respond to how you play the notes. Let me try it a bit higher. Now, that's a little easier, more the distance, the projection is little higher, so it was little easier to get it to speak.

With that, we arrive at the G string. Let's try an A to a B natural. I mean, the string is so much thicker. That's really a lot harder to make happen. Why don't I try going up, say into third position? Well, like, a little easier, but it's very, very difficult with the G string because of its thickness.

Well, despite the difficulties, I think it's fairly obvious that this can have a huge impact on cleanliness, especially with notes within a slur. So with these thoughts in mind, I do hope this video helps you to understand how you can achieve even better, cleaner, clearer performances. Do take care, ciao.
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Comments, Questions, Requests:

Mike on October 20, 2019 @5:43 am PST
So you mean these past two and a half months I've been doing it wrong by bringing my fingers all the way down to the fingerboard and leaving them there?!
William - host, on October 24, 2019 @8:45 am PST
Hi! Thanks for your question! Have you experimented with what my video suggests?
Mike on October 24, 2019 @11:37 pm PST
thanks for the reply. I've tried playing notes just bouncing my fingers on the string and it seems easier to play faster. Isn't this the technique you would use for playing grace notes or harmonics?
Sue Davidson on August 30, 2017 @6:25 am PST
Any tips for working on memorizing music and also how to handle a memory slip in performance?
Tosh * VSM MEMBER * on August 4, 2017 @9:33 pm PST
I was going to ask you to provide an example using many notes in a slur. But it then occurred to me you have provided such an example beautifully played by you in the intro and ending excerpt of the beginning notes of Massenet's Meditation.
Cheryl * VSM MEMBER * on August 2, 2017 @8:51 am PST
Intriguing concept, I appreciate your clear explanation and graphics. I envision there was a variety of finger activity, depending on the music, from soft placement onwards to very active placement. The ping could be disturbing in some passages. And yes, the qualities of each violin (viola, celli, bass) will determine or limit the range of ping.
William - host, on August 2, 2017 @10:54 am PST
Thanks! You are so right as the placement does vary! Again there are no cookie cutter solutions!!! Thanks!
Shirley Gibson * VSM MEMBER * on August 2, 2017 @8:44 am PST
I love this explanation of the sound we admire, and I have a question regarding the viola: Do we try our darndest to achieve this clarity, or is there some additional trick to facilitate this sound on our thicker strings?

I wait for weeks it seems, for William Fitzpatrick's fascinating and useful videos ~ Thanks so much, Prof!
William - host, on August 2, 2017 @10:55 am PST
Thanks for your posting! Thicker strings equals more weight in my opinion... its all relative! Thanks again!
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