CHAPTER I – THREE-FINGERED TECHNIQUE “P – I – M”
This chapter centers on technique with three fingers “p – i – m”. The principles of this technique are best understood when applied to a simple scale.
Question: “Why should scales be practiced with three fingers?”
Answer: This way of playing can serve as an alternative to the traditional two-fingered technique (“i – m”). However, this does not universally replace two-fingered technique.
When mastered, scales are performed more fluidly, with greater lightness and regularity. This is often difficult to achieve with only two fingers. With time and perseverance, this technique is a powerful and effective tool to apply not only in exercises, but also in repertoire.
Question: “Why play exercises and studies at breakneck speed?”
Before answering, an important detail: Playing scales and exercises in a fast tempo is only possible if one has first spent considerable time practicing slowly, day after day, and mastered the basic principles. To return to the question, playing scales and other exercises as fast as possible encourages the brain to achieve new levels of acitivity, perception, and motoric analysis.
The speed itself provides a challenge which encourages one to surpass and overcome any technical boundaries which may have originally been perceived. Returning to a normal tempo after playing much faster provides an amazing sensation of mastery and ease, which can be compared to the feeling of walking after running.
Artistically speaking, it is unnecessary to play quickly if it does not serve the music. The speed is not a goal in and of itself, rather it is the logical consequence of correct practice.
Tips & Tricks
Shape of the right-hand thumbnail
To optimally employ the three-fingered “p – i – m” technique, a slight correction in the shape of the thumbnail is required.
The shape of the nails is a very personal choice. However, experience has proved that a thumb with a nail which is too long or too short compared to those of the index or middle finger creates difficulties in obtaining any regularity in the sound production. With patience and perseverance over the course of a few months, the length and definitive shape of the thumbnail will concretise itself in a natural way.
This technique may also necessitate a small correction of the right hand position, which could descend slightly towards the soundboard and be closer to the strings. This is also a personal choice.
How to improve the regularity of sound production when alternating between the two ways of playing: rest stroke and free stroke
Aim to produce the same quality and level of sound when practicing these two types of movements, while practicing very slowly, moving from one to the other without stopping. Practice keeping the thumb on the neighboring lower string. For example, if playing on the second string, the thumb can be fixed to the third string.
The position of the right hand should not change when alternating between free stroke and rest stroke. To better focus on these two types of movements rather than on sound quality, use a sponge (inserted under the strings, close to the bridge) as a mute. This helps to better listen to the attack of the sound and to regulate its amplitude and color.
Like with any well-organized practice routine, integrating the three-fingered “p – i – m” technique is a process which requires time, patience and perseverance. These are the essential conditions to acquiring a better mastery of this technique before fully integrating it in performance.