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Joshua Bell: Don't impose bowings and fingerings on your students / theStrad

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"There is no ‘one size fits all', argues the American violinist. It is important to discuss why students chose their fingerings and why there may be better alternatives."Joshua Bell

Bowings and particularly fingerings – which strings you use, where you place your glissandos and so on – are very individual, because they are tied into the philosophy of your interpretation and expression of a piece. They are so personal: what one player does may seem illogical to someone else; some choices will fit one person's hand when for others they might not work at all. 

When teachers are very strict about the fingerings and bowings their students use, it locks those students into a way of thinking. This stifles them creatively and I'm very much against that idea. So often I hear teachers blanketly saying, ‘This is the fingering. Why didn't you do what I told you to?' instead of explaining why they use that fingering and how it ties into the interpretation of the piece.

When I was a youngster the bulk of my studies were with Josef Gingold. He would sometimes give me very unorthodox fingerings passed down to him by his teacher, Eugène Ysaÿe. These were not always intuitive, but they were very expressive and made sense for musical reasons. He would also offer his own ideas, but when he did, he just meant for his students to give them a try. Sometimes I would use my own fingerings and he would say, ‘Oh my God, you've just sold me on that!'

READ JB's FULL Strad INTERVIEW