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Sight Reading

 
Lesson 1
Lesson 01:

A large percentage of students write to say that this first exercise has resulted in considerable improvement in speed and flexibility of fingering. In such cases 'binding ligaments' has been the cause of the difficulty, and this first exercise was the means of freeing those ligaments.

Firm and compact muscle can be developed by the use of dumb-bells, corks and other mechanical devices, but firm and compact muscle is just what the instrumentalist does NOT want, hence no outside force whatever should be employed for the purpose of developing hand and fingers. What the instrumentalist needs is soft and flexible muscle of good quality, obtained by the gentle massage of the actual movement of the finger, plus thought concentration.

In 98 per cent of cases, increase of stretch, improved responsiveness of the fingers, and a supple and strong wrist are the rewards of serious and conscientious practice of the Cowling System.

Throughout the course we refer to the members of the hand as the 4th (the little finger), 3rd, 2nd, 1st and thumb.

FOR DEVELOPING FLEXIBILITY OF THE FINGER JOINTS,

7 Photographs enclosed, Nos, 1-2-3-4-4a-5 and 6.

The photographs show the left hand - the exercises, however, are to be performed first with the left hand, completing all the movements described, then with the right hand; but only by one hand at a time.

In the fingers are three joints - the joint near the nail - the middle joint - and the joint at the root of the finger - which we will term the first, middle and third joints, respectively.

In all the movements of this exercise the third joint must be kept well back and the finger bent ONLY from the MIDDLE joint. Keep the first joint as straight as possible.

1st POSITION, Hold the hand as in photo No. 1, stretched to its full capacity but without hurting, and retain for 10 seconds.

2nd POSITION as in photo No. 2, retaining for 10 seconds.

3rd POSITION as in photo No. 3, holding the finger in position with the other hand, and retaining for 10 seconds. Then repeat with each finger in turn, always keeping the other three fingers upright, and holding down for 10 seconds the one you are bending.

After having tried this position with each finger in turn, with the left hand repeat the cycle of operations, but this time simply PLACE the finger in the required position and try to retain for 10 seconds without holding with the other hand. Photo No. 4 illustrates the third finger retained in position without being held.

B. Then try the position illustrated in Photo No. 4a, the two middle fingers being bent and the 1st and 4th kept straight. This is easier to perform if the 1st and 4th are pressed inwards on the other two, as a slight support, but it may be necessary to place them in position. Retain for the usual 10 seconds.

C. Next similarly bend the 1st and 4th while keeping straight the 2nd and 3rd and retain for 10 seconds.

D. Then bend the 1st and 2nd fingers keeping the 3rd and 4th upright. Retain for 10 seconds.

E. Then bend the 3rd and 4th fingers, keeping the 1st and 2nd upright, retain for 10 seconds. These three movements C, D and E are not illustrated, but it is the same idea as in Photo No. 4a, only with different fingers bent.

F. Photo No. 5. Here is another combination, the 1st and 3rd fingers bent, 2nd and 4th upright. Retain for 10 seconds.

G. Photo No. 6. 2nd and 4th bent, 1st and 3rd upright.

Always begin by extending the hand as in Photo No. 1, then close the fingers as in Photo No. 2, but after the second or third day it should not be necessary to hold down the fingers as described under 'Third Position' and from Photo No. 2 you should proceed through the movements thus, 1-2 A to G in rotation, always retaining a position for 10 seconds. After going through this series of movements from 1 to G with the left hand, change over to the right hand, and if not too tiring repeat again with the other hand.

This will occupy just over ten minutes. The ideal is ten minutes in the morning and ten minutes in the evening, but any hour of the day will do so long as there is a considerable interval of rest between the two periods of exercising.

When the fingers are bent in the above manner and with thought concentration, the corresponding muscles are fully contracted and the blood steam is drawn to the locality, bathing and nourishing muscle and nerve and stretching each ligament in turn.

Note that Photograph No. 1. with this lesson is utilised in several other lessons also.

Mere movement of the finger is not sufficient - ALL THE ATTENTION MUST BE CONCENTRATED ON THE EXERCISE to attain the maximum benefit, but no force should be applied, and a certain amount of caution to avoid strain should be exercised initially.

Do not be tempted to exercise for longer than 10 minutes at any one period, nor for more than 20 minutes in one day. There is a physiological reason for this, and also for our rule that the exercise should be changed each week upon receipt of the next lesson.

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