An interesting issue has been coming up recently from my YouTube viewers, my “Fabulous
Fundamentals for Violin” participants, and a couple of my private students. It took me awhile,
but FINALLY I realized that this obviously is a common concern and might make a good topic for a post.
What is this issue that confounds violin students worldwide? Clean, Fast playing! We all wanna do it! But HOW do we develop those mad skills?
Speed on the violin involves basically 2 things:
- It involves learning to quickly put the fingers down, and quickly lift the fingers up, at the right time, and with the right energy. In other words, left hand articulation.
- It also involves getting the BOW and LEFT HAND perfectly in sync.
Each of these skills can and SHOULD be worked on separately, and I am going to tell you how
you can start. I’ll also share a wonderful method book that I have used for this very purpose, and last of all, I will include a link to my latest YouTube video demonstrating these (I still have to do this video) exercises…because it is hard as heck to explain it, and easy as pie to demonstrate! Click here to watch the video on speed and dexterity exercises.
The exercises I’m going to describe for you will be demonstrated on my YouTube video. I highly encourage you to speed-read the rest of this post, and then go over to my YouTube channel, where a picture is worth a thousand words!
I told you I would share with you a special left hand book which is pure gold, and it is my
favorite for building dexterity, speed, and articulation. The book is by Otakar Sevcik, Op.
1, “School of Violin Technics”. If all you did from this book was the first 4 exercises, it would
transform your technique!
No need to go out and buy it yet. You can download a PDF of my own “imitation” version of the Sevcik Op.1, exercise #1, SIMPLIFIED, and very much abbreviated. It is written in the key of C, but I have included a few other key signatures to encourage you to play this exercise in the 4 basic finger patterns. Namely, half step between fingers 2-3 (A Major, as well as other keys), half step between 1-2 (C Major plus other keys), half step between 3-4 (E Major as well as other keys), and whole steps between all 4 fingers (F Major as well as other keys).
If you do this exercise in all 4 finger patterns, on all 4 strings, at a minimum metronome marking of quarter note=60, you will be amazed at the results you get.
For now, just learn these 2 exercises by using my very basic and simplified note sequences, which you can download right here. Later, you can add to these exercises and apply them in about 1000 different ways! We will explore only two ways. Download the instructions for them here. And more instructions here.
EXERCISE 1: Developing Left Hand Speed, Dexterity, and Articulation
Use my exercise called “1—Building Left Hand Speed and Dexterity” for this exercise. (You
may also apply this method to scales, Sevcik, Etude by Suzuki, and many other etudes at a later time). Set your metronome to quarter note = 60 for starters. Suppose we are talking about a 4 note sequence:
- Play the 4 note sequence as if each note were a quarter note, i.e. play 1 note per click. Play 1 note per bow. You will play the sequence 1 time, and it will take you 4 clicks, and
- Play the same sequence of notes as if they were 8th notes. So you will play it twice as fast, slurring 2 notes per bow. You should play the sequence 2x, and it will take you 4 clicks,
and 4 bows.
- Play the same sequence as if they were 16th notes. So you will play it 4x as fast, slurring 4 notes per bow. You will play the sequence 4x, and it will take you 4 clicks, and 4 bows.
- When you have mastered this at a metronome setting of quarter note = 60, gradually speed it up to about 84 or so. But even if you only did it at 60, you will notice rapid left hand improvement.
A few after thoughts:
- On the slowest repetition, set your hand in a frame, and don’t allow it to deviate, especially on the faster repetitions. The true test is on the fastest repetition. Your hand will tend to spazz-out until you learn relaxed control.
- Keep your hand RELAXED, or you will defeat the purpose of this exercise. Don’t squeeze!
- Try to hit each note on the same spot on your fingertip every time.
- Use firm articulation, (little hammer strikes) but try to minimize the force of the hammer strike. (I think of little mice feet running along!)
Now, the other main hindrance to clean, fast playing in violin is Left/Right Hand coordination. Using the SAME printout as in Exercise 1, this exercise will help to get Left and Right hand SYNCHRONIZED. This exercise is all on one string. Keep in mind part of your synchronization challenge comes from string crossings, so you will have to deal with that issue later on. One layer at a time!
EXERCISE 2: Developing Left/Right Hand Coordination
(This is simplified to work well for beginners. You can make it more difficult by applying it to your 3 octave scales, or the Bach Presto in Gm, and other repertoire)
Refer to my downloadable exercise called, “Developing Left/Right Hand Coordination”.
Set your Metronome to 60, for starters. You will move it faster as you get better.
You will play this exercise as if it were 16th notes all the way through. The only thing that
changes is you will reduce the number of repetitions of each note. Before you know it, you will
be playing fast-moving 16th note passages!
- Play every note 4 times per click of the metronome. You’ll play the sequence 1 time and it will take you 4 clicks.
- Play every note only 2 times, but at the same speed as step 1. So, you will play 2 pitches in only 1 metronome click, but your bow will not change speeds. You will play the sequence 2 times within 4 clicks.
- Play every note 1 time, so you will change notes on EVERY bow change. Keep your bow moving at the SAME speed throughout all 3 steps!!! You will play the sequence 4 times, and it will take you 4 clicks.
Then, do the same exercise in factors of 3, because this fills in all the cracks!: This one is a
little bit weird until you completely grasp the concept of common denominators. If your chosen sequence is not divisible by 3, then you won’t be able to do the final step # 5 of this exercise.
1) Play every note in the sequence 12 times (3 for every metronome click)
2) Play every note 9 times. (still 3 reps for every metronome click)
3) Play every note 6 times (3 for every metronome click, but play the sequence twice)
4) Play every note 3 times (3 for every metronome click, but play the sequence 4x’s)
5) If your sequence is divisible by 3, play every note ONCE, (3 different notes per click!!!)
Play the sequence 4 times without stumbling!
Alright. Don’t waste any more time reading! Go get that violin out and TRY it! Prepare to be
amazed at the quick results you get from these 2 simple, POWERFUL exercises.
Don’t burn a hole through your fingerboard with all that new speed!