Max Aronoff’s ‘Diet’ for the Left Hand …


When I was a student in Philadelphia, Pa., I was a member of Max Aronoff’s Technique Class. The class met weekly in the Concert Hall and consisted of advanced string students and a few professional orchestra musicians who were Max’s ex- students (and whom the rest of us students idolized).

Whatever our status, Max’s penetrating analysis of our individual playing was a given. He was great at remembering, organizing and confronting any technical difficulties with the greatest patience and persistence. Because his teachings were structured and often repeated in the same form, his students could not help but remember them. Besides, there was always the thought that one might suddenly be called to demonstrate an exercise to the rest of the class …

Max had a number of ‘diets’ that were not at all related to food. These diets were special courses of action which one diligently applied to gain mastery over a technical challenge.

One of the first ‘diets’ that I learned was for left hand agility and 4th finger mastery. Once learned, the 3 patterns are to be combined and repeated up the C/G (G/D) strings in ascending positions until one reaches the octave of the first note.

Pattern 1
Pattern 1
 Pattern 2 ... all of the above rhythms are repeated with this pattern.
Pattern 2 … all of the above rhythms are repeated with this pattern.
Pattern 3... again, repeat all of the above rhythms with this pattern.
Pattern 3… again, repeat all of the above rhythms with this pattern.

Now try linking the patterns together ………

Linked ... first position
Linked … first position
Linked ... 2nd position
Linked … 2nd position
Linked ... 3rd Position
Linked … 3rd Position

Not only are these exercises great for the left hand but the bow is practicing smooth string crossing.

This is a demanding ‘diet’ but the results are well worth the discipline.

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Thank you, Mr. Heifetz … the silent, left hand warm up

While watching an old video that an adult student had given me, I came across a unique, warming up exercise that Jascha Heifetz used in his own personal practice. It occurred to me that this would make a great exercise for my students. The Heifetz rendition was a bit random and fast paced so I decided to simplify some of the main concepts before introducing the exercise.

I demonstrated the exercise to approximately 8 students. The following week, we all began our lessons with our ‘Heifetz’ warm up. I mirrored their efforts in the background.

Much to my surprise, at the end of two weeks of teaching the exercise to my students, I noticed such a difference in my own finger strength and articulation that I have made it a permanent part of my left hand warm up.

Since some of my students are learning basic rhythm, I have adapted the original exercise to include subdivision of the basic beat. And for myself, I have exaggerated the stretches to improve my reach on the fingerboard.

Feel free to use your own favorite finger patterns. I hope that Mr. Heifetz would approve …

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The 1 minute, finger stretch warm-up

Here is a quick, no nonsense finger stretching warm-up that allows you to start playing immediately with greater safety and confidence.
Less advanced violinists should simplify this exercise by placing all fingers on the same string.

Remember to take it easy as you begin, no over stretching allowed.
If you start with small easy stretches, your hand will gradually tell you when you can reach out just a bit more.

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Vivian Waters

Vivian Waters