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Problems with slurs

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Apr 2, 2020 - 3:06:49 PM
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36 posts since 2/10/2020

Hello everybody. I'm new to the fiddle and I'm having a problem with my slurring. As a long time banjo player, you would think that things like slurring and drooling would be a no-brainer for me...but not so! Anyway, when I slur by pressing my finger down (hammering on as we say in banjo-speak) it's all fine. I can make a nice distinct sound from note to note. But I cannot seem to produce a nice sounding slur when I'm doing the opposite (i.e. pulling a finger up). To my ear it sounds a little...well, I don't even know how to describe it...sloppy maybe, not crisp, unpleasant, maybe even a little off key for a micro-second. Is this common? I'm thinking that as I get faster, I'll just blow through the slurs so fast it won't be noticeable? I don't know. Any tips? Thanks.

As an aside, as a banjo player, when we do a pull-off, we don't just raise a finger but rather we give the string a little flick with the pull off finger on the lift to produce a crisp note, but I don't think that is what I am supposed to be doing on the violin is it?

Apr 2, 2020 - 3:56:47 PM
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4573 posts since 9/26/2008

You do not "pull off" you just lift your finger. You also don't really have to hammer per se, just put your finger down as quickly as needed with only as much pressure as needed.. There is an active thread about the amount of pressure needed to note the string.

Apr 2, 2020 - 4:08:46 PM
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DougD

USA

9516 posts since 12/2/2007

John, on a violin a slur is a series of notes played without changing bow direction, i.e."on one bow." As Billy said, you just put your fingers down and lift them up ("just like ducks pickin' up corn") - no "hammering on" or "pulling off "needed - you have a bow for that. Musically this would be considered "legato," as opposed to "staccato," achieved by changing the bow direction. I'm not sure the banjo has a "legato" setting!

Edited by - DougD on 04/02/2020 16:10:08

Apr 2, 2020 - 4:10:35 PM
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1884 posts since 10/22/2007

I pretty much treat a hammer-on, or pull-off the same for banjer and fiddle. But remember a fiddle doesn't ring or sustain, unless you sustain it with the bow. Sort a timing thing. Do scales (doe-ra-me, etc.) with a long slow bow stroke. One note per bow, then two, then three, then see how many you can get per bow. Yes, maintan your best intonation. Ascending and descending scales. Up bows, and down bows.

Ima good one for goofing off and learning or playing tunes. But in this case, no. The great Graham Clark is a great proponent of the "long slow bow." Cures everything from teething to mumps. 

Edited by - farmerjones on 04/02/2020 16:19:05

Apr 2, 2020 - 4:31:45 PM

doryman

USA

36 posts since 2/10/2020

quote:
Originally posted by DougD

John, on a violin a slur is a series of notes played without changing bow direction, i.e."on one bow." As Billy said, you just put your fingers down and lift them up ("just like ducks pickin' up corn") - no "hammering on" or "pulling off "needed - you have a bow for that. Musically this would be considered "legato," as opposed to "staccato," achieved by changing the bow direction. I'm not sure the banjo has a "legato" setting!


I understand that completely.  My problem is that when I "lift them up," I don't like the way the series of notes sounds.  It sounds a lot better when I'm putting my fingers down.

Apr 2, 2020 - 4:34:10 PM

doryman

USA

36 posts since 2/10/2020

quote:
Originally posted by ChickenMan

You do not "pull off" you just lift your finger. You also don't really have to hammer per se, just put your finger down as quickly as needed with only as much pressure as needed.. There is an active thread about the amount of pressure needed to note the string.


I understand that. I guess I shouldn't have use a banjo analogy.  It's just that when I lift my fingers during a slur, I don't like the way the change of notes sounds...it doesn't sound as good as when I put my fingers down during a slur.  Thanks for helping my trying to figure this out. 

Apr 2, 2020 - 6:50:33 PM
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10770 posts since 9/23/2009

It's hard to get to the point when you can slur up or down, especially down, without accidentally getting the sound of little bitty notes in between the notes you mean to hear. Like little unwanted grace notes...for me, it took a while to not get those...and now, 11 years in, I still sometimes get 'em.

Apr 2, 2020 - 7:46:40 PM
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4573 posts since 9/26/2008

You are likely not lifting fast and clean enough. My suggestion would be to play one string, open then 1st finger then open then 1st etc. slurring, until it is clean and then switch fingers, always playing open as part. If that sounds good, then try it 1st 3rd 1st open 1st 3rd... If neither is to your liking, maybe post a short recording of what you don't like. That would help us to hear what your are doing and frankly much easier to diagnose. :-)

Edited by - ChickenMan on 04/02/2020 19:47:51

Apr 2, 2020 - 8:50:40 PM
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doryman

USA

36 posts since 2/10/2020

quote:
Originally posted by ChickenMan

You are likely not lifting fast and clean enough. My suggestion would be to play one string, open then 1st finger then open then 1st etc. slurring, until it is clean and then switch fingers, always playing open as part. If that sounds good, then try it 1st 3rd 1st open 1st 3rd... If neither is to your liking, maybe post a short recording of what you don't like. That would help us to hear what your are doing and frankly much easier to diagnose. :-)


I think that is it exactly.  

Apr 2, 2020 - 9:44:21 PM
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114 posts since 3/1/2020

quote:
Originally posted by doryman

"...To my ear it sounds a little...well, I don't even know how to describe it...sloppy maybe, not crisp, unpleasant, maybe even a little off key for a micro-second. Is this common? I'm thinking that as I get faster, I'll just blow through the slurs so fast it won't be noticeable? I don't know. Any tips?....."

Playing faster doesn't help the problems go away. Slowing down and paying careful attention to coordination will help with articulation. 
 

There are some very good exercises for practicing slurs and learning how to keep the left fingers in good positions. A lot of beginning players make the mistake of picking fingers up when they don't need to. The most efficient way to play is  to keep the fingers close to the strings and keep down any fingers that don't need to be lifted. You can find specific exercises that train this technique. It's not the most exciting exercise, but it really helps with dexterity. 
 

Another important consideration is that a lot of articulation problems arise from a disconnect between the right and left hands. Sometimes the left fingers are not in time with the motion of the bow, especially in fast passages. Slow practice and then gradual buildup with a metronome can iron out inconsistencies. 

Edited by - The Violin Beautiful on 04/02/2020 21:45:17

Apr 2, 2020 - 11:00:39 PM
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2487 posts since 10/6/2008

I don't have a good answer, but it seems like this question is a really positive one. I think learning to play the fiddle is a lot about hearing something to fix, taking the time to puzzle out why it's happening, finding a solution, and then working to implement it. Just picking up on a sound that you're not happy with is huge. I think it's actually harder than it would seem to have that kind of awareness. I think you're on the right track! :)

Apr 3, 2020 - 7:20:10 AM

256 posts since 6/21/2007

Hi John, I to am a banjo picker who picked the fiddle decades later. Anyway, Fiddlehed has lots of good beginners videos. Here’s a link to one about slurs.
Good Luck.

Rick
m.youtube.com/watch?v=kKwbxSdx1zo

Apr 3, 2020 - 8:31:34 AM

doryman

USA

36 posts since 2/10/2020

quote:
Originally posted by The Violin Beautiful

 

A lot of beginning players make the mistake of picking fingers up when they don't need to. The most efficient way to play is  to keep the fingers close to the strings and keep down any fingers that don't need to be lifted. You can find specific exercises that train this technique. It's not the most exciting exercise, but it really helps with dexterity. 
 

I really have to work on this. I tend to lift my fingers up, even when I don't have to, because they are touching the adjacent strings, so I'm basically just trying to get then out of the way.  It's getting better as I get more precise in my placement.  So many things to work on. 

Apr 3, 2020 - 8:49:33 AM
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DougD

USA

9516 posts since 12/2/2007

If your fingers are touching adjacent strings that could be the source of some of the unpleasant sounds. Also its true that if the left hand fingering gets out of sync with the bow it can cause problems, but that happens more with changes of bow direction and string changes, not slurs.
The solution to your problem is focused practice. Farmerjones suggested some good ideas, and you could also play simple tunes like "Three Blind Mice" and "Frére Jacques." I know they're not too exciting, but ten years or so of playing them ought to solve your problem!

Edited by - DougD on 04/03/2020 08:51:07

Apr 3, 2020 - 9:51:58 AM
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93 posts since 4/15/2019

When I first started slurring I thought I was doing something wrong! I got so wrapped up in my playing I was "Slurring" my notes. I was trying to stop doing it when I saw a lesson telling how to do it on purpose!

Apr 3, 2020 - 10:00:01 AM
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114 posts since 3/1/2020

quote:
Originally posted by DougD
" Also its true that if the left hand fingering gets out of sync with the bow it can cause problems, but that happens more with changes of bow direction and string changes, not slurs."
Difficulty with articulation can absolutely occur during slurred notes, not just at bow changes. The right hand is in motion at one speed as it draws the bow and the left is in motion, but the fingers are doing things that do not match the movement of the right hand. Add to this the neurological aspect of it--the right hand is doing everything to keep an even and smooth motion while the left hand is making variations in movement. 
 
There's a lot to take in when starting playing on the instrument, and that is why a systemic focus on technique is so vital to learning to play well. 

Edited by - The Violin Beautiful on 04/03/2020 10:00:22

Apr 3, 2020 - 11:59:35 AM

doryman

USA

36 posts since 2/10/2020

quote:
Originally posted by old cowboy

When I first started slurring I thought I was doing something wrong! I got so wrapped up in my playing I was "Slurring" my notes. I was trying to stop doing it when I saw a lesson telling how to do it on purpose!


Ha!   The same thing happened to me.  I thought that I was "cheating" when I was slurring and then I discovered that it was a thing!

Apr 3, 2020 - 12:01:52 PM

doryman

USA

36 posts since 2/10/2020

quote:
Originally posted by DougD


The solution to your problem is focused practice. Farmerjones suggested some good ideas, and you could also play simple tunes like "Three Blind Mice" and "Frére Jacques." I know they're not too exciting....


If I ever play Three Blind Mice to my satisfaction I will let you know.  Do not hold your breath waiting, however. 

Apr 3, 2020 - 12:07:06 PM
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doryman

USA

36 posts since 2/10/2020

quote:
Originally posted by The Violin Beautiful
 
Difficulty with articulation can absolutely occur during slurred notes, not just at bow changes. The right hand is in motion at one speed as it draws the bow and the left is in motion, but the fingers are doing things that do not match the movement of the right hand. Add to this the neurological aspect of it--the right hand is doing everything to keep an even and smooth motion while the left hand is making variations in movement. 
 

Yes.  I discovered this when I first tried to do "vibrato."  I noticed that I was vibrato-ing my bow too!  My immediate solution was to stop trying to vibrato for now. 

Apr 3, 2020 - 12:11:04 PM
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doryman

USA

36 posts since 2/10/2020

That's for all the kind and thoughtful advice. What a nice group.

Apr 3, 2020 - 12:48:12 PM

1503 posts since 12/11/2008

Pull off (actually lift off) gently but quickly.

Apr 3, 2020 - 2:15:48 PM

93 posts since 4/15/2019

quote:
Originally posted by doryman
quote:
Originally posted by The Violin Beautiful
 
Difficulty with articulation can absolutely occur during slurred notes, not just at bow changes. The right hand is in motion at one speed as it draws the bow and the left is in motion, but the fingers are doing things that do not match the movement of the right hand. Add to this the neurological aspect of it--the right hand is doing everything to keep an even and smooth motion while the left hand is making variations in movement. 
 

Yes.  I discovered this when I first tried to do "vibrato."  I noticed that I was vibrato-ing my bow too!  My immediate solution was to stop trying to vibrato for now. 


I was doing the same thing just a few days ago! Sorta like patting your head and rubbing your belly at the same time! I was shaking my left hand and bow hand at the same time! Like you, I said the heck with this! I'll wait for some other time!

Apr 3, 2020 - 3:25:55 PM
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boxbow

USA

2506 posts since 2/3/2011

This is a very good thing to learn to play crisply. Playing cleanly, slurs or not, is a worthy goal for any fiddler. I don't think of it as hammer on or pull off. Tidy, minimal movement, quick and clean, nothing extra expended.

Apr 3, 2020 - 4:16:37 PM
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Jimbeaux

Germany

326 posts since 5/24/2016

Try playing with your eyes closed. You might find that you automatically learn to get the sound you want to hear much faster than trying to figure it out with your head and eyes.

I found that out for myself recently. It really helps for shifting position to close your eyes, listen and feel.

Apr 3, 2020 - 4:45:15 PM
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doryman

USA

36 posts since 2/10/2020

quote:
Originally posted by ChickenMan

You are likely not lifting fast and clean enough. My suggestion would be to play one string, open then 1st finger then open then 1st etc. slurring, until it is clean and then switch fingers, always playing open as part. If that sounds good, then try it 1st 3rd 1st open 1st 3rd... If neither is to your liking, maybe post a short recording of what you don't like. That would help us to hear what your are doing and frankly much easier to diagnose. :-)


Tried this today.  It's the ring finger causing all the problems!  

Apr 4, 2020 - 6:09:22 AM
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Players Union Member

boxbow

USA

2506 posts since 2/3/2011

quote:
Originally posted by doryman
quote:
Originally posted by ChickenMan

You are likely not lifting fast and clean enough. My suggestion would be to play one string, open then 1st finger then open then 1st etc. slurring, until it is clean and then switch fingers, always playing open as part. If that sounds good, then try it 1st 3rd 1st open 1st 3rd... If neither is to your liking, maybe post a short recording of what you don't like. That would help us to hear what your are doing and frankly much easier to diagnose. :-)


Tried this today.  It's the ring finger causing all the problems!  


One day at the doctor's office while waiting for the great man himself, I spotted one of those cutaway medical models of the human hand and forearm.  It seems that the ring finger and pinkie share some of the same tendons.  They are partially cross-connected.  It looks like a net over that quadrant of the back of your fist.  Now, I got my medical degree out of the back of a comic book, so you can trust me when I say this is why they shadow each other even if you only direct one to move.  This is why they seem so imprecise, like moving somebody else's fingers.  It takes some time to learn to manage it. 

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