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Physical Culture For The Hand

The European musical press, especially the journals devoted to violin playing, have, during the past year, devoted much space to the subject of physical culture for the left hand of the violinist, with the idea of increasing the stretch of the fingers, loosening the joints, developing suppleness of the fingers, etc. Several systems have been published and various forms of apparatus invented, and a few persons are devoting themselves to this physical culture of the hand as a profession. A great deal of discussion has been provoked, and violinists have written communications to the journals by the column, some for and some against the systems. Several violinists of world-wide fame have endorsed some of the systems in signed testimonials.

We are all familiar with the stretching of the hand by corks, that is, by placing corks between the first, second and third fingers of the left hand, and pushing them down to the sockets of the fingers. The corks are left in this position several minutes daily, the object being to develop the stretching capacity of the fingers. In a few days the exercise is commenced of opening and shutting the fingers, still holding the corks, first together and then separately, to develop independence of finger action. May (sic) claim to have been helped by this process.

The European systems consist of many devices of a similar nature and various form of apparatus scientifically designed to develop stretching and suppleness and help the circulation. Many claim to have been helped by the exercises. One enthusiastic lady violin player, in a communication, claims that when she commenced the use of one of the systems she could hardly stretch an octave, and her fingers were so short and stumpy that she could barely reach the first C above the staff (half tone extension from the first position), although she had been playing for years. After a year of the exercises of the system she was able to master and play in public Bruch’s G Minor Concerto with great success.

As far as known these systems have not come into use in this country, nor are there any teachers of physical culture for the left hand of violinists here, as in London and other large European cities. The systems have become a fad mostly with amateurs and students, and a few professionals have endorsed them. The greatest European teachers of the violin, however, seem to think that from five to eight hours’ daily practice on the violin forms sufficient physical culture for the left hand, without any special exercises, away from the violin. However this may be, there is no doubt that some good might be accomplished by such exercises, since scientific physical culture has accomplished wonders in other branches of human muscular activity.


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