The Most Common Misconceptions About Successful String Playing Careers In The Modern Age

by Rozanna Weinberger

Screenshot 2016-06-30 22.45.11These days it seems contemporary audiences are much more influenced by shows like The Voice than the concert hall. This may also be in part because children have less exposure to fine art and so we seek it less and less. While I would never suggest that just because someone auditions for a talent competition they lack artistic integrity, many of us confuse winning the contest as the end game rather than a means to an artistic end. And much to my chagrin,  we are learning through these influences to be less impressed by substance in favor of sensationalism.  In other words, fame and fortune can tend to seem like the end game rather than a positive means to an end. What should that end game be?


Ludwig van Beethoven

Truth is, art can accomplish at least 2 things. It can appeal to audiences and it can have substance. By substance I mean it can have a positive contribution. And an artist doesn’t have to lose ones authentic voice in the process. Perhaps one of the biggest differences between a great composer like Beethoven and composers of lesser gravitas is that his music has the power to uplift society and it does so without playing to the audience.

What does this mean to us?  The idea of value creating education, a concept pioneered by the influential Japanese educator, Tsunesaburo Makiguchi,  suggested that a contributive life – based on the cultivation of beauty, good and gain – made possible for the student to  do good in the world while fulfilling his or her ambitions in the world or mission in life.



So what does all this have to do with a career in the arts and what is the misunderstanding many of us have? Its because there may be times that artists will need to bend the rules to appeal to ‘the masses’. But it could have more to do with cultivating a broader spectrum of talents in addition to mastering the instrument. As an entrepreneur who has gone through many evolutions, I believe its a combination of utilizing ones unique skills, unearthing the skills we didn’t think we needed to ever use, while developing those that are lesser developed. What impact does this have?  It means the artist will ultimately be able to solve his or her career issues and move that wall, by starting with exactly where they are in life and daring to take one more step at a time authentically.

Laurie Anderson has been one of the most influential artists in my life. While a part of me felt a strange discomfort in seeing a ‘violinist’ also entertaining the audience on  multi dimensional levels, such as in her ground breaking film, Home of the Brave, it was a compelling artistic experience, while appealing to a broader audience than many of the most successful  classical violin players.



And while there is no question most string players coming up  today are already breaking boundaries previously not even considered, there is still the matter of attracting audiences without doing so at any cost.

This I believe is where value creation comes into play. How do we build an audience without doing so at any cost?  Perhaps the exact opposite of this stance is to be found by some contemporary classical composers. What turns art into something more than an exploration of the form?  It is that poetic something that captures our hearts. The hallmark of much 20th century music was expanding the limits of musical form. Yet how many times did the composers effectively capture our hearts vs. engaging our intellect? Or if our emotions were actively engaged, were we also elevated?

So the question for many contemporary string players these days is, how to build a career in a climate where fewer jobs are ready made by winning an audition for an orchestra while  more and more must be cultivated by the player whether playing jazz, new age, pop, rock, etc. Being successful requires a combination of authenticity but also a willingness to serve the audience in the noblest sense of the word.

This is a kind of value, different from the usual descriptives of a successful career such as fame, fortune, power. It is a recognition that artists paint the world with our influence and the thoughtful artist will understand the significance.


Most Common Misconceptions About Practicing & Improving Technique

Screenshot 2016-06-30 23.08.17by Rozanna Weinberger

What is freedom and what does it mean when playing a musical instrument? What are the limitations we place on our capabilities and how do we transcend those limitations and create new patterns, both physically and emotionally?  Why is overcoming fear inseparable to the way we play?  Does our movement enable us to elongate our bodies & limbs or does it cause us to contract our muscles?  And if we do contract our muscles are there feelings that accompany those technical passages?  These are some of the many questions we can answer for ourselves as we broaden our perspective and overcome the limitations we place on ourselves to discover untapped potential in ourselves.This one simple factor alone, can make the difference between a performance that is enjoyable and musically satisfying vs. one riddled with fearful anticipation.

Automatic Patterns vs. Awareness & Slow Practicing  Screenshot 2016-06-30 22.58.03

One of the reasons that slow practice is so important is it prevents our ‘automatic responses’ to kick in. By this we mean habits in technique that may or may not be optimal. Do we clench before a big shift, for example?  Do we grip the neck of the violin while going from one finger to the next? Many players are frustrated when they ‘know’ a problem to be true in terms of a verbal descriptor of what happens, such as squeezing of the hand and fingers excessively but can’t seem to ‘change it. ‘The smaller more slowly the movement we make, the finer tuned will our sensitivity to refined movements become. Thats the point at which the body starts to speak to us so that we’re not just experiencing the problem from the outside in helplessly.

Definitions worth noting: Elongate – “an exercise that elongates the muscles” Contraction – “the process in which a muscle becomes or is made shorter and tighter. “neurons control the contraction of muscles”**

Automatic Movements – Voluntary Movements

*According to Feldenkrais when most people encounter difficulties we tend to start avoiding those areas of difficulty.  By the age of 13-14 many people have already established for themselves what they are and aren’t good at. To underscore those beliefs some will even create rules for oneself.  For example ‘I’m not good at math’ or ‘I’m not really skilled at music.’ According to Feldenkrais, there is no limit to improvement. Every time we expand the limitations of our awareness the greater will be individuals ease of action.

Screenshot 2016-06-30 22.45.11

With the invention of language we have muted the thinking process, relating instead primarily in words. Before language humans thought in a different way. Imagine going through a technical passage without mentally describing it along the way. What would that be like?? The problem with relating through language is that its ultimately a descriptor, separating us from the actual experience. Changing anything into language slows down the thinking process. For many, employing an approach to non verbal directions will open up a world of sensory experiences that inform the brain, which will eventually lead to repatterining of movements that previously seemed habitual.

So how does this relate to practicing? Lets take an aspect of left hand technique that effects many people.  For many  it may be going from the 1st finger to the 4th finger comfortably.  (You’d be surprised how many professional level players learn to tolerate a certain amount of discomfort!) The following study should be done as slowly as possible.  The aim is not the number of repetitions but the quality of the experience. We will begin by breaking this study down to its minutia, simply placing the first finger on the string. 

Bring up violin or viola then commence to bring the 1st finger to the B on the A string. 

  1. How many different ways can you position the hand in relation to the space between your thumb and index finger?
  2. Where do you tend to place it by habit?  Its not necessary to mentally tell yourself a descriptor of the placement. Just let your body do it. 
  3. This time bring up instrument  in preparation for 1st finger, but intentionally position the hand differently.  Could be higher or lower than what you tend to do automatically.
  4. Repeat step 2 simply bringing up the hand & fingers allowing yourself to do what happens automatically. 
  5. Repeat step 3, placing neck of instrument in non habitual place, perhaps above the habitual placement this time. 
  6. Again do what is habitual

After doing this feel free to rest a moment. If the body becomes to strained from repetition, the feeling of strain will pervade the sensory experience. The player can then experiment going from 1st finger to 4th finger, making similar observations of where the hand is in relation to the neck of the violin or viola.

Through this entire process see if its possible to process the experience in non verbal ways. What are the signals your body is giving you directly? Its in these tiny, seemingly imperceptible moments when our body speaks to us that we create new more efficient patterns of movement that eventually become automatic.

It will also be possible to notice if one tends to contract the hand going from finger to finger or elongate the hand and fingers. While it is counter productive to tell oneself how it should feel in advance, suffice it to say, when the left hand is moving optimally there will eventually be a feeling of expansion from note to note as player learns to balance hand and fingers in relation to fingerboard.

This same kind of exploration can also be applied to the wrist, the finger pads on the finger board, etc.

Use Of Large Back Muscles Effect Ease of Left Hand Mobility


For movements of the hand to become truly efficient the player will need to eventually ‘discover’ how the larger muscles of the torso/back, even pelvis – are involved in seemingly unrelated movements of the left hand. To do this one must first discover how to support the instrument using the back muscles rather than just the arm and neck.  This will be a topic for further exploration.


* Awareness Through Movement, Moshe Feldenkrais, 1972,

** Google Search



Most Common Misconceptions About Violin Practice & Making Mistakes

By Rozanna Weinberger

Practicing often entails making mistakes. But one of the greatest sources of confusion is


how to deal with mistakes effectively. From the standpoint of utilizing our natural abilities it may come down to how we notice things.  A skilled teacher will help provide the student with the necessary parameters to observe perceived limitations in technique, in turn influencing a students sense of self.

One of the problems is we often notice mistakes after the fact. But generally speaking everything leading up to the mistake is all fodder for learning, observation, and ultimately reorganizing how we move and what we move. Whether we breath, hold our breath, exhale or inhale, all these tiny details are part of the observations we make that lead to refining our ease in playing an instrument.

Awareness studies like those learned in Feldenkrais and which  lead to optimal functionality are really a means to learn how to learn. The art of learning is in the process. Feldenkrais didn’t address change by forcibly getting the body to act a certain way.  Rather he might actually accentuate what the student was already doing, making more obvious to the kinesthetic self, what was actually happening. He understood the value of  awareness preceding any real organic change of the body function. He also realized that an effective teacher was one that could help student notice what they’re already doing as a starting point to reformation.


According to Mark Reese*, in an article about his studies with Feldenkrais, he speaks about how Feldenkrais described movement studies in the lessons he taught.

...These lessons are not “physical exercises” such as calisthenics; they are somatopsychic explorations which foster improvement by accessing inherent neurological competencies, increasing self-awareness, and facilitating new learning.

The movement studies sometimes led to a ‘trancelike’ state where the process was more important than the destination. Reese likens the teachers work to partially disclose or hint at a functional motor pattern, and the student’s nervous system responds with altered muscular responses. Gradually, with repetitions and variations, the student assembles or synthesizes-mostly at an unconscious level- a new neuromuscular image of movement which can later be translated into active performance. 

“Immense activity goes on in us, far greater than we appreciate or are aware of. This activity is related to what we have learned during our whole life from inception to this moment” (Feldenkrais, 1981a, p. 6)…When giving lessons, Feldenkrais will say, “Don’t you decide how to do the movement; let your nervous system decide. It has had millions of years of experience and therefore it knows more than you do”

How does this translate to violin or viola practice you ask? Most players are focused on the mistake being made, but by that point its really too late. The learning comes from observing what we do before the mistake is made and trusting that the information we provide on a neuromuscular level will lead to new and better possibilities in ones technique. If shifting to a a particular note for example, what does it ‘feel like’ to over shoot the note? What does it ‘feel like’ to freeze before a shift for fear a mistake will be made? Where does that ‘freeze’ occur?  What part of the body unnecessarily seize up?  Screenshot 2016-06-06 23.10.54

Feldenkrais believed that discovering everything about the learning experience could be a good thing in that they were a point from which the student could discover infinite possibilities beyond the walls of difficulties, influencing a students potential and ultimately their self esteem. Bottom line, our experiences when practicing has the ability to defy mere labels of the experience if we trust our bodies abilities to learn from our experiences.


* Moshe Feldenkrais’ Work with Movement: A Parallel Approach to Milton Ericsson’s Hypnotherapy, AuthorMark Reese


Natural Left Hand Technique and Common Misconceptions

dancing violin player

When playing becomes second nature

by Rozanna Weinberger

One of the biggest challenges for advancing players is a comfortable left hand technique, including the ability to go from note to note without excessive strain as well as sound finger action & vibrato. There have been many great teachers of string playing, but two come to mind as pioneers shedding light on a more natural use of our bodies, intrinsic to functionality of the skeletal system and muscles. Karen Tuttle and DC Dounis introduced valuable technical understanding utilizing balance, weight and emphasis on minimum effort. In particular the ease or difficulty with which the player went from one note to the next is at the heart of a truly balanced technique.

With respect to left hand technique, DC Dounis stressed developing vertical and horizontal motion. Dounis emphasized an effective finger action could be achieved with fingers nicely curved in relation to finger board whereas the horizontal motion encompasses shifting and even vibrato.

The whole mechanism of shifting consists of knowing how to connect the positions. To master this technicality, the violinist should always remember that each finger must have as a guide another finger, and that the preceding finger is the most natural guide for every finger.

With a systematic set of etudes designed to help the fingers become acquainted with patterns and distances on the fingerboard, the player can cultivates a balanced feeling in the hand by allowing weight to transfer from one note to the next.  And yes, while Dounis suggests that effective shifting can be accomplished by going from one finger to the next while keeping the preceding finger down, perhaps the most crucial point is that when the player does finally lift the proceeding note to make the split second leap to the next finger, the hand/fingers must also transfer weight and balance to that next finger. In that split second of transfer of weight the hand/fingers are able to release & rebalance for the next note. Every note of the fingerboard requires a slightly different orientation of the hand so the weight can be transferred into the finger.

Many players make the mistake of thinking that maintaining a shifting finger means the hand should be oriented from the 1st finger. When this happens,  players will have a tense squeezing sensation in the thumb and 1st finger, forcing every left hand action to be oriented by the squeezing between the thumb and first finger.  Nothing could be further from the truth if play wants to play with efficiency and ease.

Screenshot 2016-05-16 23.06.16

While horizontal and vertical motion is absolutely essential to left hand technique, Karen Tuttle seemed to take this principal a step further, emphasizing the ‘release’  or ‘momentum’ needed to go from one note to the next’. Referring to the ‘release’ that happens in the wrist preceding any shift, it might be compared to the bending in the knees before one jumps from one point to the next. Momentum is needed to propel us forward and back. A simple release in the wrist is key to facilitating this momentum just as the knees give a jumper momentum.  Imagine for a moment trying to jump from point A to point B without first bending the knees.  Playing a musical instrument isn’t so different from this principal.Unknown

Thumb placement is a common issue for players. There are as many theories about the placement as there are players. But its important to understand that with a balanced feeling in the left hand, the thumb is counterbalancing the fingers.  It is actually a good idea to first discover what the fingers and hand needs to do so the fingers are in a curved shape in relation to the fingerboard. Once this is established THEN the thumb can naturally adjust. to go wherever it feels most natural in relation to the fingers.

‘The object of this work is to indicate a method of solving all of the problems  of higher technique in both hands with the least possible expenditure of time and energy.The whole mechanism in shifting lies in knowing how to connect the positions.’ 

Many players think that playing well mainly involves training the arms and fingers.  But how many think of it as done primarily with the brain and memory?

The true technical training of the violinist is not merely a training of the arm and fingers but, principally, a training of the brain and memory. The fingers and the arm should obey perfectly the intention of the play in order to be able to perform any movement with complete mastery…

The Artists Technique of Violin Playing, DC Dounis

Machine like accuracy can be a virtue!  In many ways the body is a machine and the ideal string technique ought to feel like a well running machine.  That is the underpinning of any great performance combined with a powerful musical voice. As Dounis points out, there are relationships between fingers.  But this is because the brain must assess those ‘measurements’- those distances between notes so it can become automatic or mechanized through repetition. That is the point of etudes dealing with shifting and familiarity with the fingerboard. It is a tactile experience that informs the brain and vice versa.


Batting average is so important to professional baseball players!

Batting Average & Machine Like Accuracy

The difference between machine like exactness  and perfection that a human being can achieve is important to understand.  A machine is hard wired to be exact whereas human beings are not. However we can learn, through trial & error to develop consistency, sufficient to have a very reliable technique and overtime, what might appear like machine like accuracy. A great musicians relies on accuracy and consistency much like a great athlete relies on these qualities.


When playing becomes second nature

Most string players believe that practicing a passage over and over again will lead to mastery of a passage.  This is partly true… The HOW is important. Yes REPETITION  is vital, but AWARENESS is key. Do we JUDGE each repetition as good or bad, right or wrong, or do we allow ourselves to cultivate pure, nonjudgemental awareness so the brain can process each repetition and fine tune our movements kinesthetically, on such a subtle level, it defies our willful efforts to control the outcome of a technical passage.

Put a different way, consider how an infant eventually learns to walk.  Through trial & error, a silent learning process is going on with each fall and every wobble as the young child learns to navigate their ability to walk.  But imagine if learning how to walk the same way we teach students to play the violin! First move the foot, then the knee, the the hip, or is it the hip that initiates the walking movement?  Such analysis is not uncommon in acquiring violin technique but it becomes clear why such an approach can be less than optimal if one were learning to walk.  Letting it happen and letting go are often thrown out as goals when trying not to get in the way of oneself by overthinking a technical passage. But when you consider the many movements we do on a daily basis with machine like exactness, such as walking, running and numerous other functionalities we take for granted, it is evident that humans can move with machine like accuracy as well if we can trust the brain to do its job.

Most Common Misconceptions About Bow Technique & Sound Production

by Rozanna Weinberger

For many string players, there is very little about playing a violin, viola or cello that feels natural without plenty of practicing. While no one can avoid plenty of practice to master a piece of music to the point where it is ready for performance, no doubt, discovering the easiest way to perform technically will ensure the player can perform with the least amount of stress.

One of the main points to consider in the bow arm is that where there is an action, there will be a reaction.For example if arm weight is exerted to produce a sound, the hand, wrist & fingers are capable of reacting, just as the instrument will react by producing a sound. And thanks to gravity, if the player initiates movement in the bow arm in a circular fashion, there can be a corresponding sense of weight falling into the string, with the wrist, hand and fingers functioning as shock absorbers to this weight.

Karen Tuttle often spoke about a ‘spun sound’ that has great resonance, with reference to an ideal that could be attained by cultivating a bow arm technique that relies on balance and arm weight rather than excessive force through pressing and over exertion. Perhaps the simplest explanation is that when sound is produced by exerting excessive pressure on the string vertically there is the chance of crushing the sound. And when the sound is produced by relying too much on the hand and fingers rather than the weight of the arm, there will be too much tension in the hand, ultimately limiting ones technical agility.  When this pressure is exerted as a result of the arm weight being dropped into the string as a by product of gravity doing its thing, far less exertion is required.

Screenshot 2016-05-06 13.09.27

Large circular movements of the arm helps student feel the weight of the arm going into the instrument, thanks to the laws of gravity!

Making a simple circular motion with the bow arm helps the playing get a sense of the momentum created by a circular feel when approaching the string to play.  While bringing up the arm to start the circle takes effort, once the maximum height of the circle is reached, there is a ‘falling feeling’ in the arm as the circle is completed.  This ‘falling feeling’ is not unlike the sensation one feels when arm weight is used to produce sound vs. force. 

The bow hand plays an important role in pulling out the sound vs. pressing it. The challenge is to have a feeling of balance in the bow hand which can never happen if the fingers are relied upon to produce the vertical pressure needed to produce the sound. Many many beginners make this mistake. In reference to D.C.  Dounis Principals Of Violin Playing, Valborg Leland stresses the importance of the  right hand as being crucial in producing a spun sound. In a previous blog, reference was made to what Leland calls the ‘natural inclined position’ of the hand. (With arm outstretched in front of body with fingers outstretch, drop the hand as though limp.) This shows the player the natural inclined position in the right hand which needs to be maintained from frog to tip to ensure wrist can have optimal relationship between the arm and hand movements.

Screenshot 2016-05-06 21.51.07

Close up of William Primrose wrist at the tip of the bow. Notice how the wrist is slightly above the hand & fingers.

It is essential that this natural inclined position be maintained as the player plays at different parts of the bow. Whether playing towards the frog or the point, this openness in the right hand (which has been compared to the feeling one has when holding a small orange in the palm of ones hand) is the same open feeling inside the hand that is necessary for a balanced bow hand.

This natural inclined position also functions like a ‘shock absorber’ for the weight of the arm.

Screenshot 2016-05-07 00.54.03

Example of wrist that is bent too much. Once the wrist has too much bend, the natural line of the bow arm is lost, forcing the fingers to work too hard to produce the sound. Hyper pronation of wrist further makes it impossible for wrist to function as shock absorber for arm weight.


If the wrist is bent too much, this will stop the weight from reaching the string. Conversely if the wrist is positioned too low in relation to the hand, again the weight will not reach the string but will instead be manifest in the arm alone, unable to be transferred into the string. Many string players make the mistake of allowing the wrist to bend too much.

The elbow produces momentum and the wrist reacts.

  1. Place bow on string at the mid point. Make sure the wrist has the natural curve discussed earlier and allow fingers to relax on the bow as weight is transferred into string.
  2. Begin an up bow towards the frog while maintaining a natural curve in the wrist for the entirely of the bow stroke.
  3. The key to achieving this is by initiating movement with elbow. It is the elbow that drives the weight of the arm and the elbow that ‘moves’ the wrist.  
  4. By allowing the wrist to be a ‘passive component’ of the overall bow stroke, it is possibly to maintain the ‘natural bend’ in the wrist so it can maintain the relationship to the bow, necessary for it to function like a shock absorber for the arm weight into the instrument.
  5. Repeat this same study from the tip of the bow.
  6. Again, it is the elbow that propels the forearm, wrist and hand. 




The Most Common Misconceptions About Right Hand Finger Action

by Rozanna Weinberger

Right hand finger action is a cause for bewilderment by many students. The myth is that the fingers must be trained to move back and forth,  to curl and straighten, to effect a proper bow hold.  While in principal its true these movements need to occur,  the movements are the effect of a chain of events in the bow arm and not the cause of those movements in such bow strokes as spiccato and of course detache & legato.

Screenshot 2016-04-23 02.17.08

Paint bristles react they do not initiate paint brush

To achieve this, Valborg Leland, who was a disciple of pioneering teacher D.C. Dounis explains one must find the *’naturally inclined position’ with respect to the fingers and wrist of the right hand. Once this is achieve the player can develop a feeling of ease in the right hand as fingers can begin to react to the arm weight. The opposite of this effortless feeling is to consciously initiate the finger action of the right hand.  One must conceive the fingers like the bristles of an artists  brush.  The fingers of the right hand are not just shock absorbers for the arm weight, they also react to the movements initiated by the arm, forearm and back when producing a sound.

  1. To find the naturally inclined position Leland suggests to begin by extending the arm in front of self with fingers outstretched.
  2. Allow the hand and fingers to drop as though limp.
  3. Bring the tip of the thumb and middle finger together like playing with a bow. The position created is the ‘natural inclination’ of the fingers and hand when bowing.
  4. The task in maintaining a proper finger technique hinges on maintaining this naturally inclined position. (Some players tend to have the wrist overly pronated because of a lack of balance in the hand, but returning to this very basic motion study well help orient the student to the most natural approach.) 

    Applying this understanding of maintaining the ‘naturally inclined position’ in the right hand can now be applied to actual detache practice.

  5.  Begin by placing the bow on the string at the middle of the bow. Relax the fingers and bow to its ‘naturally inclined’ position.
  6. Using the elbow like a hinge, begin playing by extending the forearm  towards the tip of the bow. The challenge is to not drop the wrist but to maintain this ‘naturally inclined’ position so that even when playing towards the tip of the bow, this relationship of the fingers is one of dangling passively from the hand & wrist.

Many players are inclined to bend the wrist downward too much when playing towards the tip of the bow. The biggest problem with this is that the fingers of the bow hand lose the ability to act like shock absorbers to the weight going into the string. The outcome is that the sound is no longer produced by arm weight into the string  but instead must be produced by pressing into the string with the hand and fingers. The result of such an approach will surely lead to excess tension, a pressed sound lacking resonance and too much effort in producing a sound in general. This extra work may not be obvious in the short term but is certainly felt when playing for an extended period of time.

  • From ‘The Dounis Principals of Violin Playing: Their Meaning and Practical Application’ by Aalborg Leland

Wrist vs Arm Vibrato: Which is better?

Rozannaby Rozanna Weinberger

Throughout my studies it was typical that various teachers would espouse preferences in vibrato,between arm or wrist. D.C. Dounis has an interesting perspective where he goes so far as to say one is inferior to the other. Continuing from the material covered from the interview between Samuel Applebaum and Dounis, this entry will examine more points made regarding optimal vibrato.

*I asked Dr. Dounis if he preferred a wrist vibrato, and his reply was, “Only with the wrist, never with the arm. The forearm moves, but the impulse is at the fingertips, which activates the wrist. The arm follows sympathetically.” 

Ordinarily I wouldn’t go so far as to weigh in on one type of vibrato is better than another however, from a functionality standpoint, I totally agree with Dounis.

The joints are a key aspect to understand why wrist vibrato is preferred and considered a more natural and less strained approach. Yes the arm should move, but the wrist has the ability to react. It can react to the momentum of the forearm and it can react to oscillations of the fingers.  It should not be trained to remain stiff without utilizing the more subtle back and forth movements that are possible.

Screenshot 2015-09-23 23.12.58

These lovely bones.

  1. Start by bringing up the left arm to play  without the instrument.  Allow the forearm to move back  and forth. Notice how the hand reacts, bending forwards and backwards from the wrist in reaction to the arm. This movement can be exaggerated to extend the arm back down to the side then up to playing position.  Regardless, the wrist and hand can respond to the forearm.
  2. Repeat the above but this time make a point of not moving the hand and not allowing it to react. Notice how the wrist and hand become more stiff as tension is required to maintain this position in the hand, wrist and arm. Why would anyone want to play with this kind of feeling in the left hand, when playing in front of people is challenging enough without doing things the hard way. Go back to step 1 and allow the hand and wrist to react to the forearm. Notice the difference.
  3. This time move the wrist back and forth but without the forearm movement. Notice the amount of effort required to ‘move’ the wrist back and forth rather than allowing it to react to a chain reaction of movements in the arm.

(Be sure to relax the arm down to your side between these actions. The point of the movements above are to observe kinesthetically the different sensations during their execution.  If the muscles become overly tired, its more difficult to notice subtle differences – instead the muscles will become overly tense to compensate for fatigue.)

The following is a simple study frequently taught by teachers when introducing vibrato. Sliding the finger back and forth by 1/2 step is shown as a way of feeling the backwards movement of the vibrato. But the key component in developing a more natural and effortless approach is learning to allow the hand to ‘fall back’ with a feeling of release, in much the same way that the back and forth movement of the hand is a reaction to the movement in the arm, as in the above motion study.

Screenshot 2016-04-16 14.17.52


While the above study is done slowly, one should aim to cultivate quick oscillations in the fingers. It is important to note Dounis emphasis on movement being initiated by impulse in fingers. This process will become easier because the wrist is able to react to these quick oscillations of the fingers.

In the following section Dounis talks about a simple study to develop sense of balance transferred from finger to finger of the left hand. *“The hand should feel it is poised or balanced on the playing finger.  The transfer of this feelingIn the following section Dounis talks about a simple study to develop sense of balance transferred from finger to finger of the left hand. or balance from one finger to another constitutes the basis for a correctly produced vibrato. This results in a feeling of lightness and freedom in the left hand at all times. 

“Allow me to offer the following suggestions,” he said. “Vibrate on one string with the first and second fingers, both remaining down, on long notes. Then place the second and third fingers down on the string, vibrating with both of them together. Then vibrate with the third and fourth fingers together. Then play various skips, skipping from the first and second fingers to the third and fourth. 

“It is understood from the foregoing,” he added, “that it is an exercise to acquire the ability to be able to transfer the balance of the hand from one finger to another.”

  • Courtesy Byron Duckwell. Based on transcripts of interview with D. C. Dounis while in NYC.  According to sources, this is the only interview in which he spoke about his understanding of technique and proper functionality in string technique. Believed to have been given with Samuel Applebaum for a book.