Year of Publication

2018

Degree Name

Doctor of Musical Arts (DMA)

Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation

College

Fine Arts

Department

Music

First Advisor

John Nardolillo

Abstract

This document examines Rodney Friend’s approach to violin technique for the left hand, with specific emphasis on the execution of fifths. The application of this technique plays a valuable role in establishing correct hand positioning, creating consistent intonation, improving vibrato, and adding to the palette of colors available to the violinist. Mr. Friend is an esteemed violinist, a perceptive pedagogue, and a dedicated mentor in today’s music world, and, in those roles, he exemplifies the qualities of beauty, truth, and goodness that characterize meaningful engagement in the arts. His thoughtful teaching style is the product of decades of careful observation combined with a devotion to constant personal improvement. As a performer who has toured the world as concertmaster of classical music’s most renowned orchestras, Mr. Friend’s early and continued success could have easily led him to a justifiable sense of arrival. Instead, he continues to hone his craft daily--both as a performer and as a teacher--always striving to remove the roadblocks from the tricky terrain of violin playing. In Mr. Friend’s words, violin playing is “a whole complicated business that we need to make less complicated.” His keen insights into the mechanics of the trade prove that simplification is possible. I firmly believe that his pedagogical innovations will greatly serve the rising generation of violinists.

Most recently, Mr. Friend has turned his attention to an area of left hand technique that is commonly avoided by violinists in their practice, and often glossed over by teachers: the study of fifths. For the past six years Mr. Friend has been systematically exploring the benefits of this ignored technique. Other pedagogues have had little to offer in specifically addressing this interval because there is a general lack of understanding about the benefits provided by mastering the execution of fifths. Examples of this omission can be seen in pedagogy books by some of the 20th century’s greatest violinists and teachers. For instance, when Leopold Auer discusses the left hand in his book, Violin Playing as I Teach It, he suggests practicing scales in thirds, fourths, sixths, and octaves, but completely skips over the interval of the fifth. The same omission is also made by Yehudi Menuhin in his instructional text entitled Violin and Viola.

Mr. Friend has developed a systematic approach to mastering this difficult technique that is both simple and effective. He plans to publish his method later this year. Some of the benefits provided to the violinist from the consistent practice of this traditionally difficult and neglected interval include better hand positioning, improved vibrato, and more consistent intonation--the continual quest of every violinist. I have experienced the remarkable benefits of his method in my own playing, which motivated me to seek Mr. Friend’s permission to further explore and document his techniques, and with this monograph to share these benefits with the violin community.

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

https://doi.org/10.13023/ETD.2018.022

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