Video transcript
@The Arts Unit Art Bites – Violin – 01. Let's get those fingers and arms warmed up

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LEIGH MIDDENWAY: Hi, everyone. My name's Leigh. It's lovely to see you all and to imagine that we're in the same big room together. So, it's the beginning of winter. And I have some questions for every violinist out there. How much time do you spend warming up your fingers and hands and arms before you start practicing? Hmm. No time at all, did I hear you say? Let's fix that up straight away.

First of all, there are some really simple reasons why it's a great idea to move around and have a stretch before you even start playing. Is the room where you practise a little bit cold? Most of our houses are, so have a listen. You can hurt your muscles if you suddenly start playing your favourite fast bit of music when your fingers are all stiff and cold. You might think to yourself, that's OK. I can keep playing fast. And soon I'll be warmed up. And I'll sound amazing.

So, let's get everyone moving. First of all, we're going to do some marching with swinging arms. I think 4/4 is a great time signature for that. So, off we go. We'll even use the metronome. You can set yours at crotchet equals 90 when you do it by yourself. Watch my arms because I'm going to change direction.

So, we're going to stamp and march. Arms swing. Arms swing. Punch the air. Punch the air. Go across. Go across. You can do all of those things and keep marching. Great. Are you starting to feel a bit warmer?

Now for some shoulder circles. Backwards, that's backwards shoulder circles, and then forward shoulder circles. Great. Now we're going to shake out our wrists. And then next, we'll bring our shoulders right up high. Next to your ears. Yes, make a silly face like me, and then flop them down again.

Great. Now what about your necks? Our heads are incredibly heavy. And our poor old necks have to hold up our heads all day long. So, we need to give our necks a little bit of a rest sometimes. So, drop your neck onto your chest. So, chin on your chest. Roll to one side. Roll to the other side. Fantastic and back up again. That's really good.

Now, we're starting to get ready to pick up our violin and our bows. So, first of all, we're going to get our bow arms working. So, that means every muscle in your arm from shoulder down here, elbow down here, wrist, fingers.

The first exercise we're going to do is called honey bow. Now, why would we want to get honey on our bows? Not in real life. That's for sure. But what we want is to make a sound which is so smooth that it makes us think of honey going onto our toast. You don't need to write this down. It's just down bow, up bow on each open string starting on G, then D, then A, then E, then all the way down again.

Now, why should you bother to do this? Sounds way too easy, right? No, not really. We're going to go for super smooth bow changes with no noisy string crossings. What are you going to do to use, what are you going to use to change the bow? Well, wrist and fingers. I'll do that the other way. We're not just going to use our arms.

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Et cetera. Everybody have a go. And we go all the way.

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So, we want super smooth, honey smooth sound. Great job. Now, we're going to do a little bit faster bowing exercise. This one's called strawberry. You don't need to write this one down either. Just listen to the word strawberry. So, strawberry, strawberry, strawberry, strawberry.

If you're thinking about writing that down, you could have it a few different ways. You could have probably crotchet, quaver, quaver, crotchet, quaver, quaver. But you don't even need to write it down. Just think of the rhythm strawberry in your own head. Have a listen. I'm going to do two strawberries on each string.

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And I'm using my wrist to change the bow on the berry, berry on the faster bits. And we're not just playing from the elbow. You can also do faster ones as soon as you feel comfortable.

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The next and last bow warmup we're going to do is called kookaburra. Why kookaburra? Well, that word has four syllables. And we have four strings. So, we're going to play all the four strings in one big down bow from G to E, and then we're going to go back in one big up bow E to G.

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Kookaburra, kookaburra, kookaburra. Now this time, finally, I used something other than mostly my wrist. Did you see I used all of my upper arm? Why? Because when you play on the bottom string, your arm is quite high. When you go to the E string, your arm is quite low.

Now, you can also do much faster kookaburras again just using your wrist. Hold up your right hand. And wave a bit like a baby waves. Bye. So, if you do that, you can get a super fast kookaburra.

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And that's mostly wrist. Now, fantastic job. Is anybody thinking that we've been playing for quite a while, but we haven't used any left hand fingers at all? We use our right and left arms and fingers to play the violin. Which side of our - which arm makes the beautiful sound? Can you be an amazing violin player by moving your left hand fingers really, really fast up and down the fingerboard? Have a look and tell me what you think.

Do you think that's amazing violin playing? Hmm. Not so much. Not so good, right? You actually need a right arm which knows how to make a good sound. Otherwise, no one's going to want to come and listen to play your pieces.

So, now our bow arms are really well warmed up and ready to make a fantastic sound. How are your left hands going? Do you need another shake to warm them up? It's time to talk for a little while about tones and semi-tones. That's what we divide all of our music up to, little spaces called tones and semi-tones.

If you put your first finger down on the D string, here's open D, and then your first finger here, that's a finger space from the beginning of the fingerboard. And then we're going to put our second finger here another finger space away. They're all called tones, those distances.

Now, we're going to make the third finger do something a bit different. You all know that a semicircle equals half a circle. So, I'm sure you understand what a semi-tone is. Have a look at my third finger. It's completely squished next to the second finger. Some tones and semi-tones-- have a look.

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That's one combination. That's tone, tone, semi-tone. What about this one?

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That one's a bit strange sounding, isn't it? That's all tones. Now we're going to learn a really cool left hand warmup exercise called Creepy Crawly. Have a listen.

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Do you think that sounds a little bit spooky? You don't need to write this one down either. I'm going to show you how to play it just by looking. Have a look at my left hand fingers. They're all bunched together ready to play semi-tones. See? Go to the open D string. And instead of playing a normal first finger which is here, we're going to squish it back here.

And it's very easy to remember how to play a semi-tone. You just say to yourself S for squish, S for semi-tone. Now, the fingering for Creepy Crawly is 0, open D. Let's start on D. 0, 1, 2, 3, 4, 3, 2, 1. And again. 0, 1, 2, 3, 4, 3, 2, 1, 0. And you do that on every string.

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Now, you can do it lots of different ways. But let's just do it the straight way first of all. If you don't feel like doing the slurs, that's absolutely fine. You can do it really slowly.

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Or you can do it all slurred together and get faster once your fingers are nicely warmed up.

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Now, I think you've all done a fantastic job today. Your muscles are relaxed. You're all starting to make a more beautiful sound. Your rhythm is nice and strong. And your left hands are becoming very speedy. Well done, everybody. Now, you might like to have a look at my other Art Bites video. It's all about sight reading. See you later.

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