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Help me fix my left hand positioning please!
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Silotolis
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March 8, 2015 - 10:55 pm
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Hi, 

I have been playing the violin for about 7 years, and I am now a Junior in high school. Overall, I am a decent player but it is extremely difficult for me to maintain correct positioning on my left hand. 

The problem is (I believe this is the problem at least) that I grip the neck of the violin too tightly with my index finger and thumb. This makes vibrato impossible to do without shaking the violin, which then causes the bow to bounce up and down. 

I read somewhere to try putting the scroll of the violin up against a wall, then practicing various scales with and without vibrato. Doing this, I was able to maintain perfect positioning while playing. But, the second I removed the violin from the wall, it was back to the "death grip" no matter how hard I tried to stay relaxed. 

I enjoy playing the violin and I want to be able to produce a great sound using vibrato, but the index finger issue is preventing me from doing so. Is there any way to adjust my positioning to allow me to perform at maximum potential? I should also note that I am not that flexible in the left arm, and "swinging my forearm under the violin to the right is painful to do. 

 

I attached four photos of my "death grip" left hand position to this post. Any help would be appreciated! Thank you!IMG_0389.JPGImage EnlargerIMG_0390.JPGImage EnlargerIMG_0391.JPGImage EnlargerIMG_0392.JPGImage Enlarger

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rockinglr33
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March 8, 2015 - 11:07 pm
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hello,

I am just learning how to do vibrato and shifting so i am far from an expert, but i know when i was having a really hard time relaxing my hand to do anything other then play basic 1st position I found that it was my chinrest/shoulder rest i needed to adjust.

Once i adjusted my shoulder rest a bit higher and found a chin rest that i felt secure with I no longer felt i "needed" my left hand to grip and keep the violin in place. A lot of the insecurity was unintentional and i didn't even realize i was doing it until i started looking for help and it was suggested to me. 

I have no idea if this is a problem you might be having but it sounds like you might be gripping the violin unconsciously to keep it secure since holding the scroll against the wall allowed you to relax. Again i'm a newbie at this so take it for what its worth. Good luck and I'm sure more experienced players will pipe in to! 

Lead me, Follow me, or get out of my way!

             ~General George S. Patton

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Silotolis
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March 9, 2015 - 12:42 am
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rockinglr33 said
hello,

I am just learning how to do vibrato and shifting so i am far from an expert, but i know when i was having a really hard time relaxing my hand to do anything other then play basic 1st position I found that it was my chinrest/shoulder rest i needed to adjust.

Once i adjusted my shoulder rest a bit higher and found a chin rest that i felt secure with I no longer felt i "needed" my left hand to grip and keep the violin in place. A lot of the insecurity was unintentional and i didn't even realize i was doing it until i started looking for help and it was suggested to me. 

I have no idea if this is a problem you might be having but it sounds like you might be gripping the violin unconsciously to keep it secure since holding the scroll against the wall allowed you to relax. Again i'm a newbie at this so take it for what its worth. Good luck and I'm sure more experienced players will pipe in to! 

Thanks! I'll try that tomorrow in class.. I'm curious as to how you adjusted your chin rest? Do you mean side to side or height-wise.. Again, thank you for the tip.

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Ripton
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March 9, 2015 - 6:22 am
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Alas I also have the death grip problem. An exercise I am doing is to ever so slightly touch the string, just enough to make a real dull scratchy sound. Then play a real familiar song adding only enough pressure to have the sound come out better each time. It's a hard habit to break.. keep working on it, little by little I have seen improvements. Welcome to the forum..

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rockinglr33
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March 9, 2015 - 10:45 am
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What i meant by adjusting the chin rest is finding one that is comfortable for you so that you can easily hold it with your chin and not feel like you have to clamp down in order to hold the violin where it is. If that makes any sense. Mine wasn't quite perfect so i've gotten The impressionist to custom make it to my jaw. Its not quite as ascetically pleasing but man is it comfortable! and in order to play better ya have to be comfortable! 

I see no reason in playing with the height of the chin rest either, but you can easily play with it if you have a shoulder rest with adjustable hight. I know mine (i have the everest) You can twist the feet and it gets taller or shorter. Then you can decide if you'd rather have a taller chin rest or just use a taller shoulder rest.

Hope that helps clarify! 

Lead me, Follow me, or get out of my way!

             ~General George S. Patton

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Fiddlerman
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March 9, 2015 - 10:47 am
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Welcome to the forum Silotolis,
From the description of your problem, I would say that your set up for holding the violin is probably not the best. The reason you are able to relax when having the scroll resting on a wall is that you are not fearful of dropping the instrument and can relax. If you, as rockinglr33 said, get equipment that makes it easy and relaxing to hold the violin you will be able to train yourself to hold the violin comfortably and relax. Don't be in a hurry to vibrate after finding the right equipment, rather concentrate on relaxing first and then add the vibrato carefully.

"The richest person is not the one who has the most,
but the one who needs the least."

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Silotolis
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March 10, 2015 - 10:55 pm
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Fiddlerman said
Welcome to the forum Silotolis,
From the description of your problem, I would say that your set up for holding the violin is probably not the best. The reason you are able to relax when having the scroll resting on a wall is that you are not fearful of dropping the instrument and can relax. If you, as rockinglr33 said, get equipment that makes it easy and relaxing to hold the violin you will be able to train yourself to hold the violin comfortably and relax. Don't be in a hurry to vibrate after finding the right equipment, rather concentrate on relaxing first and then add the vibrato carefully.

First of all, thanks for the reply! I'm not sure that it's entirely the equipment that is the problem, but just my inability to stretch my arm in certain positions. For example, I am able to vibrato completely fine with my 2nd finger on the A and E string, very hard and uncomfortably on the D string, and I can barely even play notes on the G string without pain (without vibrato!). 

I really want to become a better player because I enjoy listening to those that play beautifully, but it frustrates me that I can't vibrato. It is virtually impossible for me to NOT use the "death grip" when I play my music... I'm not sure what to do at this point. 

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Schaick
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March 11, 2015 - 9:53 am
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Have you tried playing without your thumb?  Extend it out away from the neck.  First couple of months into playing my Suzuki Teach had me do this so I would top gripping the violin neck.

Violinist start date -  May 2013  

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FIDDLE- Gift from a dear friend. A 1930-40 german copy, of a french copy of a Stradivarius.  BOW - $50 carbon fiber. Strings - Dominants with E Pirastro Gold string.

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Silotolis
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March 11, 2015 - 1:08 pm
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Schaick said
Have you tried playing without your thumb?  Extend it out away from the neck.  First couple of months into playing my Suzuki Teach had me do this so I would top gripping the violin neck.

I'll try doing that as well.. Right now the only exercise that seems to be helping a little bit is the one where I put the scroll against a wall with a cloth in between. 

 

Thanks for the help, it's appreciated.

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Fiddlerman
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March 11, 2015 - 3:17 pm
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The point that you are making about having trouble playing on the G string leads me to believe two things.
First that you are probably holding the violin deep in the v of your thumb and index finger. Try holding it higher and maybe as high as the flat of your thumb for a test.
Secondly, you are not coming around enough with your left elbow though if you say that it is painful, I don't recommend you doing too much of that.

"The richest person is not the one who has the most,
but the one who needs the least."

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Silotolis
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March 16, 2015 - 12:10 am
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Fiddlerman said
The point that you are making about having trouble playing on the G string leads me to believe two things.
First that you are probably holding the violin deep in the v of your thumb and index finger. Try holding it higher and maybe as high as the flat of your thumb for a test.
Secondly, you are not coming around enough with your left elbow though if you say that it is painful, I don't recommend you doing too much of that.

How do I overcome the pain of coming around with my left elbow? I'm sure that's one of the main reasons as to why I can vibrato and shift without trouble. 

 

Also, whenever I shift, the violin jerks and results in an unpleasant sound on the next note. Any tips for that?

 

Thank you!

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Fiddlerman
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March 16, 2015 - 8:12 am
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You may be holding the violin too hard. Hold it so softly that your hand can move up and down the neck smoothly. Don't make any larger movements than necessary.
Practice slow controlled shifts and increase the speed only as you notice that the unpleasant sound is not present.

"The richest person is not the one who has the most,
but the one who needs the least."

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Daniel_Shaped_Object
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March 16, 2015 - 4:47 pm
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Schaick said
Have you tried playing without your thumb?  Extend it out away from the neck.  First couple of months into playing my Suzuki Teach had me do this so I would top gripping the violin neck.

What an interesting suggestion. I have a similar problem with a bit of pain when trying to reach to play on the G string, but since I'm a beginner I expect to have to work out some issues here and there (especially since I don't have a teacher). But this "no thumb" idea sounds like something I'll have to try. 

It's really weird how hard it is just to be relaxed. You would think relaxation would come easily, but it never seems to work out that way. Especially for people who have anxiety issues (I am such a people), tension seems to be a "normal", default state, while relaxation takes oodles of concentration. 

Silotolis, you said you'd been playing for 7 years. Have you been experiencing pain while playing on the G string this entire time? Because, yikes. Have you asked anyone else in class if they have experienced this issue? I can only imagine how frustrating it must be to be dealing with this after having played for 7 years. 

I'm glad you brought this issue up, though, and I encourage you to keep doing so on whatever other online violin communities you may be a part of. Even if the solution isn't to be found here in this particular thread (and who knows, maybe it has?) I'm convinced that someone out there has dealt with and conquered this issue and can help you.

Don't give up!   :-)

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cdennyb
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March 16, 2015 - 8:33 pm
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Everyone has very valuable and insightful opinions, and Pierre has been there, done that from a professional point of view so pay attention to his suggestions. He mentioned sitting the neck on top of your thumb print for a test. Well, I play in that position about 90% of the time and I also violate just about all the laws of violin posture but I have no pain in my elbow, no issues with my wrist, and no problems sliding back and forth on the neck. Here's a few pics to relate what "thumbprint" holding is all about.

Balance the neck on your thumbprint and let your fingers go where they need to. Lightly, relaxed and think, only the tips of the fingers matter. I tell myself that all the time and find it helps a lot.

Now that I have a silent 5 string (One more string to deal with!) violin, I am thankful that my grip on the neck is loose since that allows me to wrap around or reach over the G string and make it on the C string...

PB230185.JPGImage EnlargerPB230183.JPGImage EnlargerPB230184.JPGImage Enlarger 

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"If you practice with your hands you must practice all day. Practice with your mind and you can accomplish the same amount in minutes." Nathan Milstein

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Oliver
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March 16, 2015 - 10:35 pm
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Photo no. 1.    I can not imagine a vibrato with fingers laying down.  Elbow right is common cure to free your hand.  ?.

When you come to a fork in the road, take it.

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Silotolis
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March 16, 2015 - 11:12 pm
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cdennyb said
Everyone has very valuable and insightful opinions, and Pierre has been there, done that from a professional point of view so pay attention to his suggestions. He mentioned sitting the neck on top of your thumb print for a test. Well, I play in that position about 90% of the time and I also violate just about all the laws of violin posture but I have no pain in my elbow, no issues with my wrist, and no problems sliding back and forth on the neck. Here's a few pics to relate what "thumbprint" holding is all about.

Balance the neck on your thumbprint and let your fingers go where they need to. Lightly, relaxed and think, only the tips of the fingers matter. I tell myself that all the time and find it helps a lot.

Now that I have a silent 5 string (One more string to deal with!) violin, I am thankful that my grip on the neck is loose since that allows me to wrap around or reach over the G string and make it on the C string...

PB230185.JPGImage EnlargerPB230183.JPGImage EnlargerPB230184.JPGImage Enlarger 

That's exactly the left arm position I want, with the elbow as far right as possible. It makes vibrato and shifting so much simpler. I'll try the thumbprint suggestion you gave.. Thanks for the detailed reply!

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Silotolis
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March 16, 2015 - 11:16 pm
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Fiddlerman said
You may be holding the violin too hard. Hold it so softly that your hand can move up and down the neck smoothly. Don't make any larger movements than necessary.
Practice slow controlled shifts and increase the speed only as you notice that the unpleasant sound is not present.

I am positive that I am holding the violin too hard. But, when I try to loosen the grip, I feel the violin giving away under my chin (not downwards, but more of "sliding" to the right). When it slides to the right towards my chest, the left hand has to grip hard again, getting me back to square one. I hope this description gives you a pretty good idea of what's going on..

 

I'm sure my shoulder rest isn't a problem (I have both a Wolf Primo and a Kun). Thanks for the reply! I'll practice the shifting like you described.

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Fiddlerman
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March 17, 2015 - 7:27 am
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What kind of chin-rest are you using?

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but the one who needs the least."

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Silotolis
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March 18, 2015 - 10:07 pm
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5Fiddlerman said
What kind of chin-rest are you using?

I'm not sure what kind of chin-rest it is, but here is a photo of my violin:

IMG_0501.JPGImage Enlarger

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Fiddlerman
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March 20, 2015 - 11:06 am
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I can't tell from only the shot from above. A shot from the back, end button side. Perhaps a bit of an angle so that I can see how much scoop there is as well. Looks like there may not be that much of a ledge to grip your jaw.

How prominent is your jaw/chin? Perhaps a stronger chin rest would give you the confidence to hold the instrument comfortably without it sliding down.
Also, there are additions to the chin rests that help with gripping such as the gel rest and for some, the Impressionist that forms itself to your jaw(imprint).
http://fiddlershop.com/the-imp.....orter.html

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but the one who needs the least."

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