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Not pushing the string all the way down to the fingerboard

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Oct 21, 2019 - 3:28:41 AM
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Jimbeaux

Germany

289 posts since 5/24/2016

tonyelder mentioned this idea in the "Best tip" thread and it really has me excited.

I discovered that I can play without pushing the string all the way down to the fingerboard. It works perfectly on two of my fiddles. I was able to lighten up my touch soooo much and play faster. I had no idea this was even possible!

Trouble is, it doesn't work on the G string of my favorite fiddle. I have my fiddles set up for low action, and the G string of my favorite fiddle seems to be too low for this technique to work.

First of all about technique: do YOU do this, too? Does it affect tone negatively ? haven't been doing it long enough to say.

Also about set up: Has anyone ever filled in the groove on your bridge with something like sawdust and superglue? I'd like to raise the action of the G string on two of my fiddles to make this work better (and get my string profile even flatter, which I've been meaning to do).

Thanks, Tony!

Oct 21, 2019 - 6:08:53 AM

1629 posts since 10/22/2007

I'd use ebony dust and epoxy (2-part). Or J. B. weld. Depending upon how picky you want the final appearance. I've never sanded or sawn a cyanoacrylit (super glue) fill.

Oct 21, 2019 - 6:12:49 AM

Jimbeaux

Germany

289 posts since 5/24/2016

quote:
Originally posted by farmerjones

I'd use ebony dust and epoxy (2-part). Or J. B. weld. Depending upon how picky you want the final appearance. I've never sanded or sawn a cyanoacrylit (super glue) fill.


Ebony dust in the bridge? Or are you getting confused with filling a groove in the nut? I want to fill a groove in the bridge. Ebony dust would work, I guess, but would be more visible. 

Can't I make some dust from an old broken bridge instead?

Oct 21, 2019 - 6:24:37 AM

1629 posts since 10/22/2007

I use a feeler gage as thick as a standard business card. To set my action. I dunno the actual thickness? But my finger probably pushes the string down to the fingerboard, because it doesn't take much. The only place just touching the string works (on my 4 violins) is on the harmonic points.

Edited by - farmerjones on 10/21/2019 06:25:55

Oct 21, 2019 - 6:33:38 AM

1629 posts since 10/22/2007

Oh, the bridge. I'd use wood dust for filler. But if it's too bad , i'd just get another blank.
I recently put a groove 2mm too far south. I used sawdust and yellow glue. Had to wait two days to harden.

It didn't register to me,  to set the action with the bridge. Sorry.

Edited by - farmerjones on 10/21/2019 06:38:31

Oct 21, 2019 - 7:20:31 AM

7683 posts since 3/19/2009

I have an old fiddle that had such deep groove when I bought it, that I had to put veneer over the fingerboard
to make it playable..Also I have in the past played with such finger pressure that I had numbness in my fingertips..Lesson learned....

Oct 21, 2019 - 9:09:15 AM

7683 posts since 3/19/2009

quote:
Originally posted by Jimbeaux
quote:
Originally posted by farmerjones

I'd use ebony dust and epoxy (2-part). Or J. B. weld. Depending upon how picky you want the final appearance. I've never sanded or sawn a cyanoacrylit (super glue) fill.


Ebony dust in the bridge? Or are you getting confused with filling a groove in the nut? I want to fill a groove in the bridge. Ebony dust would work, I guess, but would be more visible. 

Can't I make some dust from an old broken bridge instead?


Baking soda and super glue... to fill a bridge notch..Hardens like steel instantly..

Oct 21, 2019 - 12:57:09 PM

Tyler94

USA

31 posts since 7/21/2019
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I tried it and noticed it helped on faster tunes, but I still need to mess with it more to find out for sure. I tried it on a slow tune and found out vibrato was kind of impossible unless you went all the way to the fingerboard. Going all the way down might make for just a touch (no pun intended) better tone on a slow tune too. My fiddle is still pretty much set up classically as it was when I bought it. Minus the clumsy scratches and Helicores I added.

Edited by - Tyler94 on 10/21/2019 12:59:36

Oct 21, 2019 - 1:53:34 PM
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gapbob

USA

636 posts since 4/20/2008

If going all the way down was not important, why would a fiddler care about the action on their instrument? I think it sounds clunky, but some folks like to sound clunky.

Oct 21, 2019 - 2:11:36 PM
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boxbow

USA

2410 posts since 2/3/2011

I play a tune with a bunch of fingered 5th intervals. Somehow I wound up playing it with the very lightest touch possible. It ended up producing a distinctly "flutey" tone that I liked. I use it on some others now just for the variation. It doesn't work reliably for me on double stops. If I get excited I start pressing harder again but I'm gaining some control there now.

Oct 21, 2019 - 2:41:05 PM

1407 posts since 12/11/2008

Yeah, Boxbow. Not pressing the strings to the fingerboard does result in a flutey tone for me. The thing is, I far prefer the complex, full-blooded tone I get when I do press 'em down all the way.

Oct 21, 2019 - 2:44:04 PM

5681 posts since 8/7/2009

quote:
Originally posted by Tyler94

I tried it and noticed it helped on faster tunes, but I still need to mess with it more to find out for sure. I tried it on a slow tune and found out vibrato was kind of impossible unless you went all the way to the fingerboard. Going all the way down might make for just a touch (no pun intended) better tone on a slow tune too. My fiddle is still pretty much set up classically as it was when I bought it. Minus the clumsy scratches and Helicores I added.


Before I "say" anything, let me start off with this:  I am not offering this as a recommendation. This is only an observation I have made for myself. I am only sharing that observation.

After discovering how lightly I can apply pressure and still note the string, I went on to later discover - from that "light touch" position, when I press the string to the finger board - it will change pitch. So, using finger tip pressure to raise and lower the string will offer a limited amount of vibrato. Not much - but for what I would consider using - it is sufficient. I will sometimes try using this technique on a few tunes (very few / and when I think about it)) - and only in a few places in those tunes where it seems to be called for. It has been difficult for me to control like I want, but (honestly) I find the traditional way is just as difficult for me (or more so). All of that is probably because I don't use it 99% of the time and I'm not really working on it. 

That is just me and my experience. If I'm the only one doing it - I'm fine with that. But I find it interesting and thought I would share.

 

Thought I would add this too... all of my fiddles have been set up with a standard classical bridge arch and action. Nothing modified for fiddling.

Edited by - tonyelder on 10/21/2019 14:46:38

Oct 21, 2019 - 3:41:37 PM
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4284 posts since 9/26/2008

My fingers touch the finger board as that is why it is there, no? The string tends to groove into my finger and not actually touch the fingerboard once I'm warmed up and using the light touch. 

Oct 21, 2019 - 4:05:33 PM

Petimar

USA

126 posts since 9/13/2007

I believe violinst Kato Havas taught not to get all the way to the fingerboard. She had some very interesting ideas about ergonomics. There is a lot of info on her teaching method on the web, it is worth checking out...

Oct 21, 2019 - 4:41:51 PM
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168 posts since 7/31/2018

I've been playing for 39 years, and I must say I've never given much thought to this. I've always put my fingers down just enough so that the notes sound clearly. I think that if you put your fingers down comfortably without pressing down too hard, you should be ok. Your body should be as relaxed as possible when playing. If there is tension, it's time to reevaluate the situation, whether it's your left hand, right hand, arms, back, neck--whatever. In my mind, it seems that if you are deliberately trying to press lighter on the strings/fingerboard, you may actually be holding some tension in your left hand or even your wrist or arm by not letting the weight of your fingers come down naturally.

Oct 21, 2019 - 7:53:48 PM

5681 posts since 8/7/2009

quote:
Originally posted by FiddlerPaul71

I've been playing for 39 years, and I must say I've never given much thought to this. I've always put my fingers down just enough so that the notes sound clearly. I think that if you put your fingers down comfortably without pressing down too hard, you should be ok. Your body should be as relaxed as possible when playing. If there is tension, it's time to reevaluate the situation, whether it's your left hand, right hand, arms, back, neck--whatever. In my mind, it seems that if you are deliberately trying to press lighter on the strings/fingerboard, you may actually be holding some tension in your left hand or even your wrist or arm by not letting the weight of your fingers come down naturally.


I agree. I probably would not have given any thought to it at all - except the subject came up here at FHO. BJ challenged us to try it out - and I did. 

What it did for me - the awareness gave me freedom to not focus on how much pressure I need to use (just enough to note the string - and that is easy to know). I realized I didn't need to be concerned with making sure the fingers would go all the way to the finger board. And I did make a "mental commitment" to remember the lesson and play that way. But - truth be told - I'm not sure if I play "off the board" all the time or not. On several occasions I am made aware of how little pressure I am using (especially on notey or fast tunes). Sometimes I'll play that way in the extreme - just to see how much I can get away (experiment). But most of the time - I'm not thinking about it.

What it didn't do for me: it didn't inspire me or motivate me to create some kind of exercise to practice using the "light touch" - so that I would never go to the finger board.

There will always be a certain amount of tension in my playing - but I think this awareness has done more to release tension in my playing rather than contribute to it. But I guess if someone gave themselves over to a compulsion to "master" this, it could lead to tension until some level of mastery was reached.

Oct 21, 2019 - 8:00:55 PM

5681 posts since 8/7/2009

I remembered somethings that may explain why I'm not experiencing the same issues with tone as some others. Actually 2 things - 

I'm playing old time fiddle tunes and my expectations are probably not as demanding as others might be.

And I play a lot of guitar - so I have hard callouses. That hard surface may help produce a better tone that a softer finger pad. 

Oct 21, 2019 - 11:39:46 PM

Jimbeaux

Germany

289 posts since 5/24/2016

This was just an enlightening experience for me, which is the same as what tonyelder is proposing (in my reading of his posts in this and other threads on the topic). It's worth trying even though it might not work for you. In fact, I mentioned that it doesn't work that well on my favorite fiddle, so it's obvious I won't be using this very much.

I doubt that it is worth making this your default way of playing, but it is a tool and all tools can be useful.

My feeling is that it is always at least okay, if not helpful, to learn a technique even if you never use it. This one has been enlightening for me because it has shown me the limits of the "light touch", and that it's almost impossible to relax too much.

Oct 22, 2019 - 2:47:50 AM
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2069 posts since 8/23/2008

I've played in Bush Dance Bands for over 30 years and we play sets of jigs and sets of reels for the dances, and these dances can go for ages at fast tempos. I realized very early that if I was pressing too hard and my fingers were tense and not twitching my hand became very tired and the finger tips very sore. So I learnt to be aware that 'minimal finger pressure' is all that is required to produce a good tone, and I could play very fast and for a long time without fatigue. After years of this 'minimal pressure' I have not developed very hard callous, so when I press the finger down the string never touches the fingerboard, but the finger touches because the string makes a groove in the finger tip, thus the finger on each side of the string touches the fingerboard. I also play much classical music and even when I do vibrato the string never touches, in fact the string never touches no matter what I play. Minimal pressure is also better for intonation because the 'light touch' allows for undetectable micro adjustments to stay in tune.

Oct 22, 2019 - 4:20:44 AM

78 posts since 11/28/2018

quote:
Originally posted by buckhenry
....... After years of this 'minimal pressure' I have not developed very hard callous, so when I press the finger down the string never touches the fingerboard, but the finger touches because the string makes a groove in the finger tip, thus the finger on each side of the string touches the fingerboard. I also play much classical music and even when I do vibrato the string never touches, in fact the string never touches no matter what I play.....

Perhaps this is why the term 'fingerboard' is used rather than 'stringboard' or 'stringstop'.

Oct 23, 2019 - 1:23:36 AM

Jimbeaux

Germany

289 posts since 5/24/2016

So, since it's relevant to this thread, I'll admit that I've been taking lessons from a classical teacher. It's actually kind of driving me crazy and I'm planning to quit. I'm to the point where I think I can improve faster at FIDDLING by practicing FIDDLING.

But, she is useful for occasional questions on techniques.

About this topic of not pushing the string all the way down, she said that it is an advanced technique that only top players use when playing really fast, and she was surprised that I was even asking, because almost none of her students know anything about it.

Oct 23, 2019 - 2:44:38 AM
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2069 posts since 8/23/2008

quote:
Originally posted by Jimbeaux

 almost none of her students know anything about it.


It is a common tendency for beginners to use 'excessive finger pressure'. 'Minimal pressure' is a technique I teach at the very beginning. Simply begin with number 10 pressure ( without discomfort or pain, of course! ) . Now reduce the pressure to number 9 etc, etc, continue until the lowest degree is found where a good tone is achieved : bow the note at each degree to hear the tones. Do this on all fingers. Then practice with even lighter pressure, it wont sound very nice, but your practicing to feel a 'light touch'. This exercise can also be used at other parts of the body to learn to be aware of excessive  tensions and thus release them.    

Edited by - buckhenry on 10/23/2019 02:47:09

Oct 23, 2019 - 6:40:19 AM

364 posts since 8/10/2017

I've never heard this tip, but I am well-aware that I press too hard. I played the mandolin for so long it's hard not to.

Oct 23, 2019 - 2:12:18 PM

2069 posts since 8/23/2008

quote:
Originally posted by sbhikes2

I've never heard this tip, but I am well-aware that I press too hard. I played the mandolin for so long it's hard not to.


The string action maybe too high.

A well set up mando only requires a ''light touch'' also. 

Oct 24, 2019 - 5:21:53 PM
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364 posts since 8/10/2017

quote:
Originally posted by buckhenry
quote:
Originally posted by sbhikes2

I've never heard this tip, but I am well-aware that I press too hard. I played the mandolin for so long it's hard not to.


The string action maybe too high.

A well set up mando only requires a ''light touch'' also. 


No, it's not too high. In fact, a lot of people have noted how low it is. I even had to raise it just a little it was a bit too low. I still someday want to try lighter strings, but I haven't gotten around to it yet.

Oct 24, 2019 - 5:40:28 PM

2069 posts since 8/23/2008

quote:
Originally posted by sbhikes2
quote:
Originally posted by buckhenry
quote:
Originally posted by sbhikes2

I've never heard this tip, but I am well-aware that I press too hard. I played the mandolin for so long it's hard not to.


The string action maybe too high.

A well set up mando only requires a ''light touch'' also. 


No, it's not too high. In fact, a lot of people have noted how low it is. I even had to raise it just a little it was a bit too low. I still someday want to try lighter strings, but I haven't gotten around to it yet.


Ok then, try my 'minimal pressure' tip if you want to break the habit of 'excessive pressure'. 

Shouldn't take too long if you are persistent.. 

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