Light touch on strings – issues
Tagged: Light touch
April 26, 2019 at 3:22 am #26804AJParticipant
Hi am hoping to get some enlightenment with this problem?
I am aware of the issue of fat fingers and double stops coming up which I had as a problem too but I am currently having issues with a light touch. I have adjusted my “touch” to help with the double stops…..my physics background taught me that I only have to create a node at the right point on the string to be in tune. Now, finding the right point to be in tune is not too much of an issue but as I study techniques of any great player like Aly Bain, Jay Ungar, Michael Doucet and Jason Kleinberg I note they are just stroking the strings with just the right timing and the music is so sweet to the ear.
My trouble is at 60+ yo (only been fiddling for 2 and maybe a half years now ….just before Jaso’n set up this site in fact, but I cannot play on the E and some of the A string with the necessary light touch to play really smoothly.
It is hard to get an easy flow to the stiff old digits.
I do play every day with attention to this aspect as part of my practice but have very strong hands (needed for my other interests) but I am seeking advice on how to get the light feel for this aspect of the technique. The resultant problem is lifting fingers off strings – is really hard to not have a lag time – despite using books like The Fiddler’s Friend which is loaded with great dexterity excercies but it is coming to hand (pardon the punn) so very sloooowly. Oh – I do loosening up excercises too.
Anything else would be appreciated.
August 11, 2020 at 7:55 pm #42666GinnyParticipant
Hello AJ, you wrote this a while back, I hope you’re still on Fiddlehed. I am also working on this now. I’ve been playing for almost 1 1/2 years, so still very much working on technique. I am working on relaxing my body while playing, and I hope it will help lighten my touch on the strings. It’s helpful to me to focus my attention on that one thing, while playing a tune or notes that I’m very familiar with. Everytime I catch myself tensing up, I take a breath and relax the muscles again. I welcome anyone else’s suggestions. Thanks! Ginny
August 13, 2020 at 1:32 pm #42668NickParticipant
As an absolute beginner on the fiddle, 7 weeks, but experienced on banjo and mandolin, these two posts have been a revelation to me because I suddenly ‘discovered’ that I’ve been using the string pressure from my fretted instruments on the fiddle when ‘just stroking the strings’ as AJ puts it, is all that is required. This will help smooth out my ‘playing’ (to be generous,lol) and also with my most difficult technique, smooth/accurate string crossing. So I thank you both.
August 13, 2020 at 4:47 pm #42679AJParticipant
hope you don’t mind another post from me.
I’ve read your entries with great interest.
I hope what I’ve learned since my initialising the thread helps.
If I think of more will post again.
The great epiphony for me was an enforced break from the instrument through a slight shoulder injury (R shoulder). I kept studying those fortunate folks who can rotate their last digit on the string to demonstrate vibrato. Their touch was so light and yet the string still flexed to the finger board.
When I was able to pick up the fiddle again to my astonishment the left hand was much more relaxed. Occasionally I could play a vibrated note – my wife asked what did you do that sounded nice. THAT WAS HUGE.
I reckon (for me) the damage was done by those folk who teach little ones to play and try to teach the strong hammer on – to take Nick’s point after learning to play a fretted instrument for a wee while I was hammering on too hard. The dynamic of a healthy fiddle hold just doesn’t lend itself to this.
Billy (William) Fitzpatrick (Professor Of Music) – found on YouTube also sowed a seed about the touch needed when he talked about “in his day”…with gut strings things were different and you needed heavier finger board/string pinch to produce a sweet note. He makes the instrument sound so classically sweet and mellow.
I was also misdirected by one teacher and beginner books claiming that insufficient pressure made for fuzzy notes.
If you hammer on (with the required dynamic left hand fiddle and relaxed), DO NOT HOLD THE NECK of the fiddle you cannot hammer off.
That was my real issue. HOW????
The left hand reactions could not match the bowing speed. Well, truth is you can’t physically do it at the contorted wrist angles of the fiddle. It is far more comfortable to hammer on and off when the fiddle strings are plucked like on a fretted instrument. You are holding the neck *cradling) and the hand is at a very different angle to when the fiddle is under the chin and that is hard.
Over time, I’ve tried the Wonder Thumb and Wrist Rascal and they seemed to help.
Bearing in mind I’m >60 yo and still very much a beginner.
Ginny has a good approach with isolating but then try with respect just try to add a single combination factor top the technique until it is second nature but I’m sure you know that. Progress will come.
I should note that I’ve been working very hard at a rough Lover’s Waltz (Jay Ungar) that has double stops in it. The lighter touch resolved the double stop issues too. I’d read about people pulling strings to the side etc. That is just too hard to do in the flow of even a lovely slow waltz like Lover’s AND you change string tension by doing so.
Jason and Fiddlehed has got me to the stage where a musical ignoramus has started to hear a tune and be able to approximately play it – so long as it’s easy.
Good luck with your quest for the Holy Grail guys.
October 20, 2020 at 2:43 am #44176JuliaGParticipant
This is interesting to me because I don’t think my original violin teacher or anybody has ever communicated to me about ‘light touch’. I wonder if all the tension involved in clamping fingers on strings may contribute to back pain. Which I certainly suffer from! So this thread has inspired me to try touching the string really lightly so that when I bow I get a buzz, then continuing bowing while slowly increasing the pressure until I get a sweet tone. If I repeat this enough, I hope to get a feel for the actual pressure required.
October 20, 2020 at 3:16 am #44177MoonShadowsModerator
I struggle with this as well! One lesson of Jason’s I go back to time and again is his lesson called “Little Lift”. https://fiddlehed.com/beginner/1-2-getting-plucky/little-lift/
The lesson concentrates on accuracy and speed, but I find it wonderful for helping me with a lighter touch.
When I concentrate on “little lift”, my touch becomes much lighter and the notes sound much better. The higher I lift my fingers, the harder I tend to press the strings, and the tension returns.
Hope this helps.
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