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Brief Notes on the Galamian Technique

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Ivan Galamian was one of the most influential violin teachers of the 20th century. His technique stressed natural positioning of the fingers and arms for ease of playing.

Ivan Galamian, one the greatest violin teachers of his time, (January 23, 1903-April 14, 1981) was born in Tabriz, Iran to Armenian parents. Shortly after his birth, they moved the family to Moscow, Russia. During the Bolshevik Revolution, Galamian left Russia and lived in Paris, studying under respected French violinist Lucien Capet. Initially, planning to become a concert violinist, a love of teaching, among other considerations, led him to become a violin teacher. Galamian became a faculty member at the Russian Conservatory in Paris. By the late 1930's Galamian came to the U.S. permanently, teaching first at the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia and then at the Julliard School of Music, where he became head of the violin department.  He also created the Meadowmount School of Music, a summer program located in Westport, New York.  Galamian also wrote two books, The Principles of Violin Playing and Teaching (1962) and Contemporary Violin Technique (1962). Violinists who had studied with Galamian include Itzhak Perlman, Pinchas Zukerman, and Issac Stern, among many others. Some of his teaching assistants have become noted teachers themselves including, Dorothy DeLay, Margaret Pardee, and David Cerone, among others.

Galamian technique blended the Russian and French schools of violin bow holds and allowed for a flexible bow hand and ease of playing. Using his technique, the violinist should place the bow hand on the frog in a comfortable position. The thumb is across from the middle finger, the index finger is resting on the finger rest; and the tip of the little finger is resting on top of the bow stick. The ring finger is simply resting between the middle and little finger. Additionally, the fingers should sit naturally and comfortably together, like how they would if the violinist was not holding the bow but simply had his hands at his side. When playing down-bow, the wrist gradually turns downward. When playing the up-bow, the wrist turns upward, the inside of the wrist gradually becoming more concave as the bow moves toward the frog. In the Galamian technique a somewhat flat bow is used as well, meaning that more of the hairs were touching the violin string as the bow moved across the string. The sound Galamian liked to produce was large, like the kind that could fill a concert hall, according to late violinist Calvin Sieb. His technique allowed for such a sound.

Besides the bow hold there are other aspects to the Galamian technique. For instance, the left arm that holds the violin should make a triangle with the instrument. The left wrist ought to be straight, making a straight line of the lower arm. The tip of the triangle is the elbow and the other side of the triangle is the upper arm and then the violin itself makes up the rest of the triangle. Additionally, Galamian created scales for the violinist to play which use varying rhythms. For instance, when starting the scales, the violinist begins by playing a scale using eighth notes, then triplets, then sixteenth notes, then triplet sixteenth-notes, then thirty-second notes. The number of notes played per bow changes depending on what rhythm is played. For instance, the eighth notes section has only four notes played per bow, while the thirty-second note section has 24 notes played per bow. The scales help to warm up the fingers while helping the violinist maintain a steady tempo and smooth sound.







1 comment

Donata L.
Posted on Sep 9, 2011

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