William Fitzpatrick - violin expert

Exploring Touch on the Violin

Learn about "touch" on the violin

In this video, Prof. Fitzpatrick tackles a very interesting subject of violin technique: Touch.

Released on July 5, 2017

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Video Transcription

So when we play the violin, what exactly do we do? Okay. Let's see, we move our fingers, we move our arms, this one too. We hold the bow. We raise our right elbow. I mean, we do so many things, but there's one thing, one thing, that we do more than anything else. We touch. We touch the strings, we touch the neck of the instrument, we touch the bow. Fact. If you think about it, much of our playing is just about touching. So, why don't we explore touching? Why don't we explore how we touch the violin and how we touch the bow?

First, let's explore touching the violin. With the left hand, of course. More particularly, with our left hand fingers. So, we touch the strings with the pad of our fingers. What's the pad? Here, let me show you. So why don't we try to identify what that pad area is exactly? You see, in fact, it's that tip right there at the end of our finger. You see, not only is it at the end of our finger, but it can extend back under our finger as well. You see, it can be at the tip of the finger or it can extend back, further back on the finger. In fact, this gives us quite a range of expression just from that particular distance. So not only do we have this range of touch with regard to the pad, but we have it as well with regard to the pressure or weight on that pad. Depending on the character of the phrase, it seems obvious to me that the weight of the finger on the string would vary accordingly. For example, the beginning of "Zigeunerweisen" might be considered to be heavy with more weight on the pad. You know? There's more weight. Or Ravel's Habanera might be considered to be light or with less weight on the pad.

All right, how about this as a way to begin to explore touch? Why don't you go around the room with your eyes closed and touch objects, like fabric, or wood, or wall? And try to imagine, in your mind's eye, what that fabric or wall looks like? And describe what it feels like. This could present an interesting excursion or introduction into the world of touch. But what else could have an impact with the left-hand fingers? Well, what about the vibrato? As one could be at the tip of the pad and pull the finger back to vibrate. We enlarge our pad like that. And yes, what about the speed that you launch your finger to the string? Wouldn't that have a different touch, too? You know, if I were to do, or, I mean, those are two different touches. Oh, and what about pulling my fingers away from the string? Like with Mozart, the D major concerto. I mean, it won't feel differently than [SP] of course.

All right, well we've really talked a lot about our left hand, but what about the right? I mean, for one, how we touch the bow with our fingers. Won't that have an impact on the sound, and won't it feel differently, you know? I mean, if the fingers are spaced further apart or closer together, obviously it has an impact on the sound, but you feel that. And we can make a connection. If I want that sound, I do this with my bow. I've learned to do this through touch.

So, all of these things have something in common: touch. Touch over here, touch over there. In fact, I believe that the expression or characters we try to portray, we try to project in this performance, relate to how we touch the violin and the bow. These things go hand in hand, so to speak. So I do hope that my thoughts on touch will help you to explore your sensitivity, your awareness, and that this will lead you to be more efficient, and in doing so, more effective in your practicing and in your performances.

So my name is William Fitzpatrick, and I am the Temianka professor of violin at the Hall-Musco Conservatory of Music, which is located on the campus of Chapman University. And I am, as well, the artistic director of the MusiShare Young Artist Program, which is located in Costa Mesa, California.
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Comments, Questions, Requests:

Helen Louise Harratt on July 22, 2017 @8:10 am PST
Yes I hope to try out that method when in e music session with a fellow student.
Helen Louise Harratt on July 20, 2017 @12:19 pm PST
A different approach of playing a string instrument. I will try to be more aware at times of touching the bow and strings in a certain way to make the sound and feeling of the music being played on my instrument the violoncello. Thanks for your advice.
William - host, on July 20, 2017 @11:30 pm PST
You are very welcome!
Seun Akin-Ajayi on July 5, 2017 @5:45 am PST
Thanks so much sir for video, it's really helpful.
William - host, on July 5, 2017 @11:10 pm PST
You're welcome! Glad it helps!
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