The following content sections cover the two areas of left-hand technique that I have found to be most prevalent in new scores, harmonics and quartertones. Though these are interrelated only at the margins, both require the performer to step outside of the conceptual framework of traditional technique.
Harmonics are familiar enough to all experienced string players, but the traditional repertoire rarely asks us to explore beyond the 3rd or 4th natural harmonic node or beyond a “standard” artificial harmonic yielding 2 octaves above the pitch of origin. As you will discover, these represent merely the beginning of an enormous range of possibilities that the technique of harmonics has to offer. Mastering this technique requires a thorough understanding of the geography of the fingerboard, of how to use your left-hand fingers to successfully and reliably activate nodes, and of how to approach the string with your bow.
Quartertones, just one of many variants of microtonal tuning systems, are difficult both conceptually and physically. Over many years of ardent practice we develop a refined sense of good intonation in our ears and in our fingers, and this technique can therefore be especially frustrating to practice and to master. At first the notation feels foreign and requires additional mental steps, and it is difficult to know whether or not you’re in tune. I hope that the exercises provided here give you a good starting point for becoming accustomed to the world of microtonality.
Get started with one of these introductory pages: