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 ARCHIVED TOPIC: To press down or not to press down that is the question.


Please note this is an archived topic, so it is locked and unable to be replied to. You may, however, start a new topic and refer to this topic with a link: http://www.fiddlehangout.com/archive/53175

pete_fiddle - Posted - 04/01/2020:  02:59:18


Do you press the string down all the way to the fingerboard or not? and what are the advantages/disadvantages of either way.



I've just been exploring the different tonal qualities i can get without the "String"  actually touching the fingerboard, (The pad of my finger touches the fingerboard but not the string), never really done it consciously before. It's been a bit of an eye opener. Mostly i get a drier more intense tone than if i press down hard, and it makes it easier to get a pop at the beginning of the note. I can lean on the note with my bow just as heavily as i want, and i don't seem to lose much (if any) volume.





My fiddle (Mid 19th/Turn of the century French), is about 2.5mm at the end of the fingerboard (E string), and about 4mm G string. At the nut i would say the string height is about average, and i'm using "really" cheap  steel Chinese strings. (i gave up on expensive strings years ago, just not durable enough for the amount of fiddling i do).

boxbow - Posted - 04/01/2020:  05:42:58


I've found that it's harder to get good tone on double stops while using lighter finger pressure than on single stopped notes. Playing at speed, this isn't so apparent, but it's there. I assume it's because different strings initiate sound at different bow speed/pressures. Or maybe I just have crappy student fiddle set-ups on my ever so affordable student fiddles.

pete_fiddle - Posted - 04/01/2020:  06:53:30


@ joeh4232  just using lighter finger pressure so that the pad of my finger touches the fingerboard (either side or just on one side of the string), but not the string. Think I've always done this but not consciously. My finger is stopping the string, and the finger board is stopping my finger. When i played guitar more i had harder pads on my fingers and couldn't do this. But now I've got fiddle pads rather than guitar pads on my fingers, i can. Bowing is normal, or i can use more bow weight and play nearer the bridge if i want to, and still control the tone.



@ boxbow interesting about the double stops because i use the "not pushing the string right down technique" to tune the notes. it's useful in tuning 5ths because i can push down less or more on one string than the other and tune them until i like the sound of them, by rocking my finger from one string to the other. ive not thought about it on other intervals though.



Not saying it's for everyone, but its definitely another string to my bow.. or another tool in the box for me.

bandsmcnamar - Posted - 04/01/2020:  11:01:05


I actually play this way all the time. You have to have a basically perfect set up on your instrument for it to work, especially on the G string. I have a friend who gauges whether the set up is correct or still needs tweaking by whether he can play this way on the instrument. Black hair on the bow tends to help it too, being a little coarser and grabber. One benefit, if you're slightly flat on the note, pushing down a bit harder can bring it right in to tune. I won't say that the tip of my fingers never touch the fingerboard, but not much.

Dick Hauser - Posted - 04/01/2020:  11:03:11


On Youtube some years back a music professor discussed using less pressure when noting.
I did what he suggested, and it worked for me. I should not have been surprised. If often seems as though the less "muscle" put into fiddling, the better the result.

buckhenry - Posted - 04/01/2020:  15:45:34


I am a believer in 'minimal required finger pressure', but that does not mean the string doesn't touch the fingerboard, because I can actually see the marks ( silver discolouring ) along the finger board the string has caused, but this would be after hours of playing without cleaning. The amount of pressure I use is just enough to achieve a decent tone, never excessive, and when I play faster I use even lighter pressure. When I use vibrato on a long note I need more finger pressure so to not vibrate too wide, but that is some times also used to great effect. To tune up my double stops the pressure is always released, and when in the high positions the pressure is never enough to press the string all the way down to the fingerboard.

I had the idea that string height could be determined by hand size and strength, so I took my fiddles to the luthier and had the bridges cut a little above standard height, because then I would gradually shave them down to a height that I was comfortable with. This took some time between shaving and testing, but I arrived at the optimum height of 2mm=E, 4mm=G. However, this is not optimum for all my fiddles because they have varing degrees of scoop which has an affect on string height. I also took the grooves in the nut below standard.

The Violin Beautiful - Posted - 04/01/2020:  18:35:27


This topic was covered pretty well in the other thread. The YouTube video is not particularly convincing, and as several people suggested (myself included), if you have difficulty in reaching the fingerboard when pressing lightly on the strings, there are issues with the setup, such as bridge height, nut height, fingerboard scoop and straightness on the bottom, and projection of the neck.

I agree that playing should not require much pressure, although some players tend to press a bit harder than others based on their personal styles.

Leopold Auer, arguably the greatest violin teacher of all time, also an excellent player, suggested that there is no ideal when it comes to finger pressure—it’s something that varies with the player.

pete_fiddle - Posted - 04/01/2020:  19:08:08


A way i have been exploring this is to play say an A harmonic. on the D string and gradually increase the pressure on the string until the fingered note sounds. There is a point where the harmonic and the fingered note can be switched back and forth. on my fiddle when the fingered note sounds the string is not touching the finger board. And with practice a little more pressure, and the string still not touching the finger board, i get a usable controllable tone. And a reference as to how much pressure is needed for the fingered note to sound.

Lonesome Fiddler - Posted - 04/01/2020:  23:07:06


You guys got me to do some experimenting with finger pressure. No science, no theory, no tricks. In any case, on all strings, once I hit bottom, i.e., the fingerboard, it doesn't matter how hard or lightly I press. The same note comes out.


Edited by - Lonesome Fiddler on 04/01/2020 23:08:49

pete_fiddle - Posted - 04/02/2020:  00:44:18


I'm finding myself totally agreeing with this guy on this one.



Nathan Cole



 

The Violin Beautiful - Posted - 04/02/2020:  06:12:12


quote:

Originally posted by Lonesome Fiddler

You guys got me to do some experimenting with finger pressure. No science, no theory, no tricks. In any case, on all strings, once I hit bottom, i.e., the fingerboard, it doesn't matter how hard or lightly I press. The same note comes out.






Agreed. Only enough pressure to stop the string is required. Any excess is unnecessary for tone production. 

The Body Electric - Posted - 04/04/2020:  09:06:02


You all should hear Mark O'Connor talk about how he uses his fingers for phrasing. He slams those digits down.



I'd dig up the video, but I'm afraid some of you might not find it particularly convincing. wink

The Violin Beautiful - Posted - 04/04/2020:  19:41:05


As an analogy:



Consider writing by hand--to write, one needs to touch the point of the pen to the paper. If you’re using a fine pen, it takes almost no pressure to make the ink flow. You can press harder, and different people use different amounts of pressure, yet only a certain amount of pressure is needed to get the ink onto the paper. But no matter how much or how little pressure you use, the pen has to touch the paper for you to do any writing.


Edited by - The Violin Beautiful on 04/04/2020 19:41:41

The Body Electric - Posted - 04/04/2020:  22:29:25


Also consider this analogy:



I used to have a Blackberry (remember those?) that I could control without even touching the little optical sensor (this was post trackball, a 9700 if I remember correctly). The sensor was so sensitive that it picked up on my finger without being touched.



This analogy is just as silly as the pen and paper analogy, and it too has absolutely nothing to do with violins.



I can play clear and clean without the strings touching the fingerboard. Fact. Do I? No, and much like Henry said elsewhere, I see the evidence in the silver on my fingerboard. It is an entertaining little exercise to pull out when I realize I'm hammering the fingerboard too hard. I'd toss up a video to prove it, but I need a helper to run the paper and the camera, and alas, in these troubled times, I don't have someone I'd want to risk getting close to my potentially virus ridden body.



Perhaps more importantly, why are you so invested in being right? We're kind of saying the same thing here. Minimum pressure required to sound the note. Get your fiddle out, my dude, and try the little exercise. I'm not advocating that one should always do this, just that it's possible, and I urge everyone to try it, just to prove to themselves it can be done. 


Edited by - The Body Electric on 04/04/2020 22:33:30

groundhogpeggy - Posted - 04/05/2020:  05:54:17


I generally press hard because I've been playing the guitar for so long that's just how I do it. However, with so many conversations on this over the years here on FHO, I started trying to become aware of it and now realize I actually, not consciously, just sorta do vary the amount of pressure I press down with to get different sounds on the notes...I think I balance that with the bow strokes...this all sounds very involved and complicated, but it's not...it's just my awareness of what I just evolved into without thought. As far as pressure on the guitar...most of it is more or less about the same...but on the fiddle, and maybe one reason I've loved playing the fiddle so much in these past few years I've played, it seems I've sorta, without much awareness of it, come to love the way you can get so much more out of each and every note between how you are pressing, how you are bowing and all of that...not aware exactly of what I'm doing physically...just evolving in that direction without knowing what I'm doing. So...I think the conversation has helped me to just parse out what I do when I play, anyway...not sure if it's right or wrong, good or bad, but it's one of the things that I now am thinking that made me come to love the fiddle more than any other instrument.

The Violin Beautiful - Posted - 04/05/2020:  20:11:23


quote:

Originally posted by Benski



...This analogy is just as silly as the pen and paper analogy, and it too has absolutely nothing to do with violins...

Perhaps more importantly, why are you so invested in being right? We're kind of saying the same thing here. Minimum pressure required to sound the note. Get your fiddle out, my dude, and try the little exercise. I'm not advocating that one should always do this, just that it's possible, and I urge everyone to try it, just to prove to themselves it can be done... 






I think you must have misunderstood the analogy. Perhaps another reading would be in order. The Blackberry analogy doesn't apply because fingerboards don't have optical sensors. However small the amount, contact is required.



I am invested in accuracy because the violin field is my life and because I am firmly against the  dissemination of false or misleading information.



I have already tried the paper idea and found that it was not accurate at all. In the MVP sound video linked in an earlier post, the player calls his sound pure and clean at level 5, but that sound is neither. At the end of the video he rattles off a phrase that is clean, clearly using more finger pressure.



I think this is just a case of wishful thinking, similar to the claims that some players make that they keep their bows completely flat on the string and never tilt.

pete_fiddle - Posted - 04/08/2020:  10:55:47


Not an analogy or anything as subtle... But when i first started playing fiddle (30 odd years ago), i came from playing guitar, (steel acoustic), i busted bow hairs, made dints in the finger board, and wore expensive strings out in double quick time. This was very frustrating and lead to more tension busted strings, bow hair, and dints in the finger board. If i had watched the MVP guy, ( Nathan Cole ) and took it as red,  it would have saved a LOT of  time, money and frustration. Even if i ended up playing at number 8, 9 or 10,...Just trying to help folk out. And IMO there is obviously more than one way of looking at things ...As always.

gapbob - Posted - 04/08/2020:  12:42:44


I tend to push pretty hard, I feel like I get a better tone that way, but I believe that it also has to do with how fast you play. The faster you play, the faster the fingers move, and it is impossible to stop them just exactly where you want, which is what the fingerboard helps out with, because you cannot go past the fingerboard (unless you are the Hulk). When I play to softly, it does not sound as good and feels sloppy.



If you want to put your hand against a wall you can do it quite accurately by moving quite slowling, but if you want to do it quickly, you will end up slapping the wall (your hand wants to overshoot the wall, but cannot, so it hits hard).  If you do it fast, but slow down fast before you hit the wall, then the timing is slowed as well, so your mental process of playing a note when you want, exactly in time, would be skewed and very difficult to do.  I think of this as ringing.



This image shows various speeds of approaching a position.  swarthmore.edu/NatSci/echeeve1...2Step.gif

Notice the overshoot of the higher speed approaches, this energy turns into a slap, but you get there quickly, also makes it a more strongly placed finger on the string.


Edited by - gapbob on 04/08/2020 12:50:00

TuneWeaver - Posted - 04/08/2020:  12:57:58


Probably, someone already mentioned this, but it is possible to have your finger touch the fingerboard yet NOT the string.. Remember that the finger flesh wraps around the sting..To get the String to touch the fingerboard is different than having your finger touch.. the finger touches First ..and with more pressure, the string..

pete_fiddle - Posted - 04/08/2020:  13:19:59


quote:

Originally posted by TuneWeaver

Probably, someone already mentioned this, but it is possible to have your finger touch the fingerboard yet NOT the string.. Remember that the finger flesh wraps around the sting..To get the String to touch the fingerboard is different than having your finger touch.. the finger touches First ..and with more pressure, the string..






you must have really thin fingers Leewink



i know what you mean though smiley

Lonesome Fiddler - Posted - 04/08/2020:  16:47:13


My guitar callouses near guarantee that the string touches down before my fingertip.

Dick Hauser - Posted - 04/10/2020:  08:30:59


It seems that on the fiddle "less is more". I get better results when I use less "muscle" and physical movement. When I first got interested in fiddling, the first thing that caught my attention was the fact the better fiddlers were not moving their hands and arms as much as the other fiddlers. After watching a professor on Youtube discuss the amount of pressure required to effectively play a note, I tried what he suggested and it worked for me.

I added this to a small list of reminders I keep on my music stand. I periodically glance at them after playing something. Reminders are gradually added and removed.

*** The profession recommended very light pressure.

buckhenry - Posted - 04/10/2020:  16:30:41


When I began playing I was unaware of how much pressure was required, all I knew was what I heard others say...press the string firmly, and.. the fingers make a popping sound..... and, you should hear the note just by slamming the finger down. I had been playing in Bush Dance Bands for years and at some point along the way I was beginning to think things are not quite going right. I had developed thick callus from playing guitar and mandolin, but after gigs my finger tips would be really sore and I would have difficulty keeping up to tempo and maintaining stamina. This prompted me to reassess how I was pressing the string, thus I discovered the fact about minimal required pressure, all this before computers and reading about it on violinist.com, and long before I heard the MVP guy and the Professor talk about it.

pete_fiddle - Posted - 04/11/2020:  11:34:45


The other thing i heard from trained violinists was "An explosive lift off of the string" being more important than putting the finger down. What is that about ? Probably the penny will drop in a few more years (hopefully), Like the "Bowing from the shoulder" thing....


Edited by - pete_fiddle on 04/11/2020 11:35:32

buckhenry - Posted - 04/11/2020:  15:57:38


quote:

Originally posted by pete_fiddle

 "An explosive lift off of the string" being more important than putting the finger down. 






The training of the fingers against gravity, it's easier to put fingers down than lift them up, especially when pressing too firmly.



I just remembered where I first heard about the 'light finger pressure thingy', it was from Stephan Grappelli in the book 'Jazz Violin' by Matt Glaser. 

pete_fiddle - Posted - 04/12/2020:  01:54:47


Yep that's it Henry, I'll give that Grappelli, Glaser interview another read as well.



i think the complete left hand exercise i was shown, was to let all four fingers fall at once, by gravity onto a single string, without pressing the string down at all, then explosively lift each finger ('individually'  leaving all other fingers on the string), then let it fall back onto the string by gravity. The 3rd finger is particularly difficult! Ouch!



BTW i saw Grappelli at what must been one of his last concerts, (Brecon Jazz Festival in the 90's). His technique had developed into a study of economy of movement which was magical!!

Peghead - Posted - 04/15/2020:  12:43:34


The string is so much more responsive to vibrato if its not touching the fingerboard.

Eric Sprado - Posted - 05/20/2020:  18:32:15


A string DOES NOT need to touch string to sound pure..Many years ago I was doing a gig at local college when a women came up to me after show laughing and grinning.She was concertmaster of local symphony. Asked me if she could help me with my left hand..She had me play scales without pushing string all the way down as a warm up excersize.. It makes you play relaxed and better..I play a quick scale on A and E strings before a gig. Then when I play normally, my touch is light..Heavy fingers and heavy bows do not make MORE VOLUME..

Brian Wood - Posted - 05/21/2020:  07:15:40


I'm surprised by all this. I can't get a clear tone without pressing the string to the fingerboard. It only has to be light pressure, but if I bow a note and slowly raise my left finger the clear tone disappears when the string leaves the wood, unless I'm at a harmonic (which would be another problem). I agree about avoiding too much tension but don't get it otherwise.

pete_fiddle - Posted - 05/21/2020:  13:39:28


Maybe a low action, guitar callouses, bow sounding point, bow weight, or some other setup difference, is stopping it happening for you. But i definitely don't have to press the string down to the wood to get a clear note, ( i would need to press it down with my fingernail to make sure it was right down to the wood anyways). When i played steel guitar a lot, as well as fiddle, i would have had problems with doing this as well. But fiddle pads are much softer than guitar pads. And i prefer a slightly higher action than most on my fiddle. Even when i am on a harmonic i can get a clear note, then realease a bit more pressure and the harmonic sounds rather than the note. Then i can switch back and forth between the note and the harmonic by adding or releasing pressure.



As always, different strokes for different folks....

Brian Wood - Posted - 05/21/2020:  15:46:18


quote:

Originally posted by pete_fiddle

Maybe a low action, ...






Perhaps it's my low action setup. I don't really have far to push down. I set up all my fiddles quite low. Classical setups seem higher. Your higher action may have something to do with it. Interesting.


Edited by - Brian Wood on 05/21/2020 15:46:56

buckhenry - Posted - 05/21/2020:  17:29:41


Unless the finger tip callous is so hard that there be lack of indentation of the finger tip from pressing the string, or the finger pressure is like a vise, then I would think it not possible to press the string all the way to the fingerboard. As stated before; the string causes an indentation on the finger tip, when the finger touches the board the pressure is restrained and thus the string lies within the indentation but not touching the board. There are varying degrees of pressure depending on circumstances, but the idea is to be aware of excessive pressure by using 'minimal viable pressure'....

The Violin Beautiful - Posted - 05/21/2020:  18:20:12


If you look at a fingerboard that’s been used regularly for a few months, you’ll see that there are metal deposits on the board beneath the strings from them wearing against the board during playing.

The strings do come in contact with the board. You tend to see less metal higher up the fingerboard because the higher positions don’t get as much use as the lower ones. However, if you play a lot in the higher positions, you’ll see some deposits there as well.

Also, the strings wear grooves into the fingerboard from contact over time. Your fingers will make depressions in the board, but the strings tend to make grooves first.

buckhenry - Posted - 05/21/2020:  19:55:56


quote:

Originally posted by The Violin Beautiful





Also, the strings wear grooves into the fingerboard from contact over time. Your fingers will make depressions in the board, but the strings tend to make grooves first.






I have seen this on 'a' violin, but I've had my violin for 48 years, and I've played 'it' for that long, can't see any grooves from fingers or strings...?

Lonesome Fiddler - Posted - 05/21/2020:  20:45:48


quote:

Originally posted by The Violin Beautiful

If you look at a fingerboard that’s been used regularly for a few months, you’ll see that there are metal deposits on the board beneath the strings from them wearing against the board during playing.



The strings do come in contact with the board. You tend to see less metal higher up the fingerboard because the higher positions don’t get as much use as the lower ones. However, if you play a lot in the higher positions, you’ll see some deposits there as well.



Also, the strings wear grooves into the fingerboard from contact over time. Your fingers will make depressions in the board, but the strings tend to make grooves first.






My fiddle fingerboards are littered with metal deposits.  Proof of the pudding.  I also get a kick out the fingernail pits I've made in my guitar fingerboards, not to mention all the fret grooves.  As long as I can still get tone, though, I'm okay with it.

Brian Wood - Posted - 05/22/2020:  07:38:00


I definitaly push the strings to the wood, it's really hard trying not to. But that's in first position. I can get a sense of what's being talked about in the higher positions because the strings are further off the ebony.

pete_fiddle - Posted - 05/22/2020:  13:09:25


Think i've said it before but,  i think that fiddle "Tone" is a balance between LH finger pressure and bow weight, pressure and bow placement...( And strings/setup and stuff that are personal preferences). If there is a physical barrier in the way IE: The finger board or a "Fret"... (perish the thought), my tonal spectrum is much reduced.



i can feel the string vibration in my LH finger ...And through the bow into my right hand. Couple that with the actual audio sound of the note, and i am starting to be in control of the sound i am producing. And amazingly somehow, i can minutely adjust each parameter to produce an approximation of my desired sound.



The more i play the more subtle things become

buckhenry - Posted - 05/22/2020:  20:35:19


quote:

Originally posted by Brian Wood

I definitaly push the strings to the wood, it's really hard trying not to. But that's in first position. 






I've experimented with both extremes of string heights, and if the strings are very low it is difficult to not press down to  the fingerboard. 



When I became aware of this 'minimum pressure concept' I needed to do some very focused practice, it took awhile to unlearn the bad habit and for this concept to become automatic.  

RinconMtnErnie - Posted - 05/23/2020:  15:33:31


It would be difficult to play half steps if you press down very hard. For example, Cincinnati Rag starts with four descending half steps on the E string. Here is a Kenny Baker recording: youtube.com/watch?v=vdr_T7bgnS0 . The tune starts out with four descending half steps on the E string (G-F#-F-E) using two fingers. Even going from G to F#, the stopped middle finger is about to be in the way of the index finger, so you have to move the middle finger a little to make room for the index finger. And then going from F# to F you have to inaudibly slide the index finger. Good luck doing that with lots of pressure on the fingerboard.

pete_fiddle - Posted - 05/23/2020:  23:39:48


@ RinconMtnErnie



"The tune starts out with four descending half steps on the E string (G-F#-F-E) using two fingers. "



Although i'm not averse to shifting back and playing those little chromatic runs with three or even four fingers myself rather than sliding, i can never get that to sound clean especially when slurred. Although i know players who can....Usually they have a very light touch ,rubber fingers and started young. :o)

pete_fiddle - Posted - 05/24/2020:  00:06:33


Reminds me of a tune i attempted years ago...i never could get anywhere near it still can't. But a violinist friend played it straight off the dots in "fiddlers fakebook", and it sounded almost perfect to me..



Highflyer Stomp

 

tonyelder - Posted - 06/01/2020:  07:03:19


I don't know what to say to those who have trouble with getting good tone without pressing the string to the fingerboard - except - it is possible. Perhaps I'm fooling myself but - for me - I haven't had any problems.

Having said that - I know that I do press the string to the board in certain situations: usually when a note has a longer duration. And I will sometimes catch myself doing it when I am working / playing through a more difficult passage (counter productive). But neither of those demand anything more than a little touch.

My intention / goal is to use as little pressure as necessary to sound the note. I recognize it as a useful technique. It hasn't required a conscious focused effort (no specific exercises to master it). I was made aware of it, started reminding my self "lighter touch", and now I have become used to doing it. I've never had any issues with it. In fact, I could stand to lighten up some more. Its pretty amazing how little pressure it really takes... for me anyway.

No problem with different opinions. Play on.

ChickenMan - Posted - 06/01/2020:  16:27:04


Tony!

Great to hear from you!

tonyelder - Posted - 06/02/2020:  07:57:48


quote:

Originally posted by ChickenMan

Tony!



Great to hear from you!






blush... thanks Billy.  I'm not sure how active I will be - but... I'll try to participate more often.


Edited by - tonyelder on 06/02/2020 08:01:28

TuneWeaver - Posted - 06/02/2020:  12:48:16


Have any Hangout members tried to record their sound comparing a light touch to a heavy touch?

buckhenry - Posted - 06/02/2020:  18:52:34


Since this discussion I've tried to press the string 'right' down to the fingerboard. I only did it a few times because it actually hurt, and my strings are not very high. So, a heavy touch must need thick callous to protect the nerves in the finger tips and with thick callous the finger tips are less sensitive to the light touch . And, thick callous must need considerable amount of 'heavy touch' practice to develop, likewise considerable 'light touch' practice will produce softer finger tips, not to mention the different techniques each touch would require, and the cross over techniques: 'heavy touch + soft pads', and 'light touch + thick callous'.....
Every ones touch is different, it depends on many factors. The idea is to be aware of 'excessive' pressure which can cause physical damage, prevent the player from playing fast and effect intonation.

Lonesome Fiddler - Posted - 06/02/2020:  21:42:28


Because it's easy to do, I relentlessly experiment with pressing to the fingerboard and floating above to see how the notes sound. And true, there are several notes that sound just as well for me whether I push the string down to the fingerboard or not. This especially true when I'm on the E string, though it's still not true all the time. The A string has its moments of either/or, too, but the D and G strings are another matter entirely. It's only when I'm doing a harmonic that a note rings true on those strings when I'm not pressing down. Otherwise it's buzzy-fuzzy city.

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