This glossary of terms explains the metaphors and analogies I use with my students and in my teaching videos.
Basement Pinky: Also known as “Suzuki Jail”, left pinky folds down below the fingerboard. Bad. Don’t do this.
Block Fingerings: Grouping the fingers of the left hand together, setting them on the fingerboard together. (opposite of spider fingers, or independent fingers) You will use both Block and Independent fingers when appropriate.
Bow Benders: Preparatory bow exercise to build strength. While bow is placed on a string at the tip, bend bow against the horsehair by pronating the bow hand.
Cupcakes/Pancakes: Preliminary left hand exercise on the purfling of the violin, forming the fingers into nice tall arches on the finger tips (cupcakes) and then flattening them out (pancakes).
Elevator Shoulder: The distinction of the shoulder’s motion for crossing strings, versus the Greasy Elbow’s motion to move the bow straight across the strings.
Finger Glue: (Song of the Wind) Keeping a finger “glued” or placed on a note when you know you will need it again very soon. Good tool.
Finger Taps: Next step after cupcakes/pancakes, where one lifts a single finger from the cupcake position, and taps it several times on the purfling, maintaining the arch.
Flyaway Pinky: Left pinky, rather than go into the basement, flies straight up from the fingerboard. Bad. Don’t do this.
Greasy Elbow: Applies to the bow arm, and the isolation of elbow motion, eliminating any shoulder motion. This lends to straight bow and good “highway” control. This is a good thing.
Highway: The “sounding point”, or where the bow contacts the string. However, the Red Desert Violin Highway has 3 or more lanes, and the challenge is to pick a lane and stay in that lane. Beginners should choose the middle lane, between the bridge and fingerboard. Also known as the “Kreisler Highway”, named after violinist Fritz Kreisler.
Left Hand Starting Position: New name for an IMPORTANT exercise in which the left hand learns to find its “spot” on the neck where the first finger folds down perfectly onto the first finger tape. Also, the first finger discovers what height it needs to perch on the neck for best finger tip position. (I used to refer to this as “Pinchy Crab”, but that name suggests that “squeezing” is ok. Do NOT squeeze the neck!
Middle Lane: Refers to the “Highway”, or Sounding Point. The sweet spot for beginners is at the middle point between the bridge and the fingerboard.
Mousehole: Refers to the roundness of the left hand while holding the neck of the violin without squeezing, leaving a nice open mousehole in the webbing between the thumb and index finger.
Pinky Push-Ups: Strength-building exercise for the right pinky, where the bow hand is stretched out front, bow is horizontal, hair facing the floor, the pinky pushes down upon the bow, lifting the bow up. Pinky must stay bent.
Ringy Notes: Refers to the sympathetic vibration which is audible when playing any G, D, A, and E on the violin. These notes only “ring” when played in tune.
Spider Fingers (May Song): Independent fingers which move similar to spider legs.
Sounding Point: The point at which your horsehair contacts the string. This point fluctuates between very close to the bridge, to very far from the bridge. For beginners, right in the middle is best.
Targets (Corners): The small spot on the corners of the fingers of the left hand where the string should contact the fingers. (the corner closest to the thumb)
Three Pigs: Fingers 1, 2, and 3, while learning the Twinkle Variations, we have to train these 3 fingers to get on the tapes quickly.
Three Blind Pigs: Exercise where the 3 pigs must be able to get on exactly on the tapes without looking.
Three Blind Pig Races: Exercise where the 3 pigs must be able to get exactly on the tapes quickly without looking.
Tree Frogs: Ring and Middle finger of the bow hand. They stick to the ebony of the bow frog, like a sticky tree frog.
Whale Mouth: Refers to the roundness of the right hand while holding the bow. If the thumb is nice and round and the index knuckle is not caving in, you will have a nice round opening which like a gaping whale mouth. (Whales can only eat if they swim with their mouths wide open…)
Windshield Wipers: Preparatory bow exercise to build strength in the arched fingers. Holding the bow straight out front, move it horizonally, in the motion of a windshield wiper, while keeping the bow arm stationary.
You’ve really been of good help to me,have been looking for a violin teacher for awhile now in Nigeria but since I started using your videos and practice guide it has been of good help to me without stress
Keep on the great work… Love ya
I am so happy to know that my work is helping others! Thank you, and GOOD LUCK on your studies!
Your 31-page practice guide is so helpful for me, an adult beginner. Obviously, you put so much time and effort into this, and I do hope you know how much it is appreciated. You hit on everything that has impeded my practice, and even more. Also, while I have a teacher with whom I am very compatible, she teaches a few things slightly different than you explained them, and now I see that different teachers have different opinions. I plan to follow her instructions without argument, but it’s nice to see that there is sometimes another approach to the same exercise (for example, learning first to bow only between the center and the tip and later from the frog to the center of the bow. I am now being told to bow from frog to tip, using the entire bow. It’s hard to control each bow end, and I like the fact that you said to learn each end separately in the beginner phase. Thanks so much for your easy-to-understand practice guide from a student who is “twinkling at age 77!”
I’m so glad you are benefiting from my practice guide! And YES, you are wise to simply acknowledge that different teachers present the same material in different ways….we can’t all be the same! So use my information, but trust your teacher. However, don’t be afraid to ask questions of your teacher, or if something is not working, ask her/him if there is another way to learn something.
Keep up the great work! Keep twinkling!
Many thanks for the glossary. A picture is worth a thousand words, would you have a picture of Targets (Corners) somewhere on your website? Thanks.
Hi Pavel. Good suggestion. Here are the targets.