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Quarantine Practice, Ep. 3 - Playing Swift Chords

Updated: Dec 28, 2020


Variation 8 of Paganini’s Caprice no. 24 is a great study for swift chords! Playing quick triple stops involves the challenge of moving the bow in swift arcs, rather than vertical hits (much like on the piano) and horizontal lines.

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Some main takeaways: 1) Playing near the frog, with full hair- since a triple stop requires bow weight three times the amount for a single note at a constant dynamic, playing near the frog allows one to leverage the natural heaviness of this part of the bow. To counteract the tendency to hack the bow on the string because of the heaviness, one plays with full hair. This allows the fingers to extend rather than collapse into the bow stick, in turn lessening the weight of the hand transferred onto the stick. One focuses in on the contact between the finger pads and the side of the bow instead of the inside creases of the fingers and the top of the bow stick.

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2) Playing in swift arcs rather than lines- unless there’s an accent, playing in “~” arcs (convex curve plus an upward arc like a sideways “s”) on down-bow chords and concave arcs on up-bow encourages the hand / arm to engage in a free rotational movement. This creates space for momentum before the bow actually lands on the string for each note.

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3) Sensitivity to soundpoint - with the ability to play with full hair at the frog, it is often necessary to play somewhere between the middle and the bridge! Helps us achieve the robust, thick sound that we need at times.

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4) Left hand maintains softness - when the right hand is tasked to increase the bow weight for triple stops, the left hand often reactively tense up. Cushioned finger pad placement, minimal finger pressure, and a balanced hand frame in favor of the weaker fingers allow the left hand to facilitate the right hand.

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...it’s still a work in progress for me - realized that in the slow motion video, there are moments here and there where I can ease up and adjust the LH fingers more nimbly 🪱

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