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I logged in, right now.What are all the violin techniques?
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Dean Wang, Violinist
Answered Sep 12, 2015
It's hard to answer this question for several reasons. While there are names and categorizations for techniques, many flow into each other and sometimes distinctions become fuzzy. For example, chords require coordinated techniques in both the left and right hand in order to execute successfully. Also, there's a huge number of techniques and any attempt at a list will probably miss some. Nevertheless, here's a shot at it.
Right Hand Technique (Bowing/Pizzicato)
Moving the Bow over the String (Basic/Intermediate/Advanced)
Unlike on an instrument like piano, a beginning violinist doesn't start off producing reasonably good sound. Most early attempts at drawing the bow across the string will probably be scratchy, semi-controlled, and awkward. It takes years of training and experience to make the violin sound decent when drawing the bow across the string. Key parts of this technique include only using the forearm to change bowings, using the right fingers to "cushion" bow changes, controlling pressure on the string, and ensuring that the bow's position relative to the bridge and fingerboard is controlled.
Changing Strings (Basic/Intermediate)
This may seem pretty basic, but I'll list it here to give you ideas about how it can be complicated at times. The simplest case is where you raise or lower your entire arm (including both lower and upper arm). More advanced techniques include a smoother string change, changing strings with the forearm (definitely not for beginners, and usually only in special cases of detaché), and changing strings during chords...
This is probably one of the first types of bowing a violinist will learn. The simplest definition is that notes are played with "k" sounds starting them off, as well as separation between them. The basic technique is to build up pressure with the bow arm, and then release to produce the "k" or "popping" sound. Subtypes of this technique include martelé, "pure finger staccato" (where only the right hand fingers are used to play the staccato), up-bow staccato (multiple notes on the same bow that are staccato), and down-bow staccato (similar to the above).
This is another very basic bowing type. Regarded as somewhat the opposite of staccato, legato emphasizes smoothness and as little "space" as possible between notes. There should be as little "k" sound as possible. It is usually easiest to play this sort of stroke in a slur, and requires more practice in order to be able to change the bow without a clear break in sound (perhaps why it can be also said to be intermediate).
This stroke occurs when there's a rapid succession of bow changes and different notes. Unlike staccato, there isn't as much separation between notes, and unlike legato, there can be small breaks in sound between notes.
This stroke is characterized by being off the string. There can be a lot of "k" sound with this stroke. Spiccato requires a lot of right-hand discipline so that the bow does not bounce uncontrollably.
Brush Stroke (Intermediate)
Brush stroke is what it sounds like: the bow is almost used like a brush on the string. Key to this stroke is coming off the string after every stroke, and yet not producing a "k" sound.
This type of stroke is somewhat more advanced than any of the others. It is used when there is a rapid succession of notes but instead of playing them on the string like detaché, sautillé has the bow bounce off the string for each note. The distinction from spiccato is that it's somewhat faster. It requires a lot of practice in order to consistently play this stroke at the "balance" point of the bow.
Col Legno (Intermediate)
Usually only seen in orchestral pieces. Basically the bow is upside down and the string is hit with the wood. A famous example is in Mars from Holst's The Planets.
Right-Hand Pizzicato (Basic/Intermediate/Advanced)
Pizzicato is when the strings are plucked with the fingers instead of being played using the bow. Usually the strings are plucked with the "meat" of the fingers. More advanced variations include the Bartok pizzicato, two-finger pizzicato, and pizzicato harmonics.
Left Hand Technique (Fingering)
Stopping the String (Basic)
A person who has mastered all of the above right hand techniques will only be able to play four pitches (EADG, the open strings). Stopping the string with the fingers on the left hand is one of the most basic things a violinist learns — it's necessary for most note changes. Care is needed to ensure that there's a balance between entirely stopping the string but also not pressing too hard (otherwise the tension may hurt the fingers). The fingering must also be accurate, otherwise the pitch will be out of tune.
This technique is used to play notes outside of the "home" or "first" position on the violin. It may be necessary to play a higher note on the E string than the B, or for more advanced fingerings. Care must be taken to shift accurately. Some key components of this technique include only touching the string (not pressing down) during the shift, using a guide finger, and using the left thumb as an "anchor". The index finger and the thumb should be roughly opposite each other on the neck of the violin. Usually the difficulty of the shift increases if the shift is a bigger jump, and downward shifts (to lower positions) are usually harder than upward ones.
Simply put, scales are ascending or descending arrangements of notes. They can be really basic 1-octave scales that beginners can learn, or more advanced 4-octave scales. They can also be basic major scales, or they can be more advanced minor or even chromatic scales. They can be simple detaché, or incorporate more advanced bowings like legato, staccato, different rhythms, or have more notes in the same bow. Since scales are part of so many pieces, practising scales helps immensely for these pieces.
Arpeggios are usually only tackled when a player reaches intermediate level. Simply put, an arpeggio is a "broken" chord where the notes are played one at a time. Increasing the range of the arpeggio (more octaves) increases the difficulty, and different types of arpeggio are easier or harder to play (major arpeggio versus a diminished arpeggio).
Double Stops (Intermediate/Advanced)
This is where the violinist presses down on two strings at the same time and also bows both strings in order to play in harmony with himself or herself. Usually only a technique used at an intermediate level, it's challenging to play both notes in tune. These notes may also be played in scales or arpeggios. It's also challenging to make sure the bow is balanced across both strings, otherwise one string may not sound, and the intonation may also be affected. The most basic double stops are probably "thirds", and "tenths" are probably the hardest most violinists will play.
Where more than two strings are stopped by the fingers and more than two strings are sounded "simultaneously" by the bow. It's almost always important to prepare the chord by placing all the fingers before the bow moves, and also placing the bow to ensure a clean start to the chord. The difficulty of the chord fingering can depend on what position it's in, and how awkward the fingering is.
An interesting technique where the finger actually doesn't stop the string, but actually sits on top of the string at a "harmonic node". It can have a whistling quality. If a beginner is told where a natural harmonic node is, they can play a harmonic pretty easily. More advanced are "artificial harmonics", where the string is both stopped with a first finger and a harmonic is played with the fourth finger.
Usually used to "warm" the sound, to imitate the sound of the human voice, and sometimes to cover up bad intonation, vibrato consists of vibrating the left hand up and down. It can be difficult for the beginner to create a controlled vibrato, which is why this is usually taught at a more intermediate level. Variations include "arm vibrato", "hand vibrato", and the vibrato can also be controlled to have different amplitude (more variance between the highest and lowest pitch), and different frequency (faster or slower vibrato).
Left Hand Pizzicato (Intermediate/Advanced)
The left hand can also pluck the string all by itself! Usually only used in fancy showpieces, it's a pretty advanced and extended techniques
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