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Left thumb
Something I think a lot about ..
Topic Rating: 5 Topic Rating: 5 Topic Rating: 5 Topic Rating: 5 Topic Rating: 5 Topic Rating: 5 (13 votes) 
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RDP
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I have trouble with this because I grip too tightly.  After a lot of trial and error I've come to the conclusion that the thumb needs to be approximately 120 - 180 degrees opposite the string which the fingers are pressing.  Think pressure on string at 12 o'clock, thumb between 4 and 6 o'clock.  Pressure at 1 o'clock, thumb between 5 and 7.

The thumb is only supposed to resist the finger pressure on the fingerboard/strings, not grip the neck at all.  As to which finger it's supposed to be across from, that's dependent on the person's hand flexibility and hand frame.

Or so I've come to believe.

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ELCBK
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I watched over the Yehudi Menuhin Tutorials again.

 

 

My thumb still can slip - and I'm fighting to not use my chin as a vise when it happens.  Hope I don't need to consider a different chin rest!  ...can't believe I'm still foolin' around with chin & shoulder rests! 

Still, I'm seeing some promising improvement, but notice some of this experimenting has me hurting in places - so I'm trying to be mindful. 

Been thinking I would benefit from a hand moisturizer.  I'm usually scared to get anything on my strings that will ruin them, but my skin is really dry - could be a root cause of my thumb slipping. 

https://i.pinimg.com/736x/79/0b/de/790bded55cfa4f780462882bf0f707f9.jpg

Anyone find a good hand moisturizer that is KNOWN safe for strings?  

...really don't want to just moisturize my thumb & not my whole hand. 🤨 

- Emily

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Gordon Shumway
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ELCBK said
 I'm fighting to not use my chin as a vise...Hope I don't need to consider a different chin rest!  ...can't believe I'm still foolin' around with chin & shoulder rests!

You may have to - my latest theory is that it is possible that I have insufficient height from bottom of shoulder rest to top of chin rest.

Gentle clamping is good when shifting down, but what I suspect is needed is for the chin rest to be touching our chin when our head is in neutral position, so that all that is needed is just a little extra chin pressure when adjusting the left hand.

If the chinrest is too far below our chins, then too much head movement is required.

That's my theory.

Andrew

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December 15, 2022 - 1:46 pm
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ELCBK said
I watched over the Yehudi Menuhin Tutorials again.

 

 

My thumb still can slip - and I'm fighting to not use my chin as a vise when it happens.  Hope I don't need to consider a different chin rest!  ...can't believe I'm still foolin' around with chin & shoulder rests! 

Still, I'm seeing some promising improvement, but notice some of this experimenting has me hurting in places - so I'm trying to be mindful. 

Been thinking I would benefit from a hand moisturizer.  I'm usually scared to get anything on my strings that will ruin them, but my skin is really dry - could be a root cause of my thumb slipping. 

https://i.pinimg.com/736x/79/0b/de/790bded55cfa4f780462882bf0f707f9.jpg

Anyone find a good hand moisturizer that is KNOWN safe for strings?  

...really don't want to just moisturize my thumb & not my whole hand. 🤨 

- Emily

  

Try padding your shoulder with a "sandbag" filled with small plastic beads or something similar that's lightweight.  This will raise your viola/violin up to your chin and be supportive at the same time while not being restrictive at all.

I'm practicing scales and shifting to 3rd position on each string as I go up and down concentrating on my hand frame and grip.  This is really helping my left hand and thumb tension.

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AndrewH
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Gordon Shumway said

ELCBK said

 I'm fighting to not use my chin as a vise...Hope I don't need to consider a different chin rest!  ...can't believe I'm still foolin' around with chin & shoulder rests!

You may have to - my latest theory is that it is possible that I have insufficient height from bottom of shoulder rest to top of chin rest.

Gentle clamping is good when shifting down, but what I suspect is needed is for the chin rest to be touching our chin when our head is in neutral position, so that all that is needed is just a little extra chin pressure when adjusting the left hand.

If the chinrest is too far below our chins, then too much head movement is required.

That's my theory.

  

Not quite touching, but close. The recommendation I've gotten in multiple places is for the chinrest to be within a finger-width of the jaw when the head is in a neutral position, but not touching. A slight nod should be enough to put the jaw onto the chinrest. The idea is that you should be able to move your head while playing: you should be able to lift your head off completely when playing passages that involve no shifting or string crossing, or adjust the tilt of your instrument with subtle head motion.

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ELCBK
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December 15, 2022 - 8:21 pm
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https://images-na.ssl-images-amazon.com/images/I/71oqmpr%2BT8L._AC_UL1230_.jpg

@Gordon Shumway , @RDP -

Thank you! 

I don't want anything touching my viola's body, if possible - it has to resonate freely.  Not having any trouble shifting on the D, A & E strings, I don't 'grip' and have even practiced with my thumb inactive, to make sure I don't - it's the rotating/twisting from my shoulder & lower arm/wrist, that's getting me.  Hope I don't have too much mileage on this poor old body - not going for anymore steroid injections in my shoulder (or anywhere else, for that matter).  

...and remember I'm using my big Viola, not my Violin, and ONE other thing - having 5 strings, I've noticed my outer strings are much closer to the edges of the fingerboard than a standard 4-string instrument, so others may not see my problem. 

🤔... I've seen a few great ukulele players use their thumb on the closest string, along with other fingers for some chords - now I'll have to try it on my C string!  (sorry, thought I was a Christmas elf, for a moment)

The Yehudi tutorials stress the placing of the instrument on the collar bone - mine easily pops off to my shoulder (maybe making my hand reach farther) when I place my chin down on the chin rest, even with pointing my viola up more - nothing to do with my shoulder rest.  I hadn't given it much thought before, but I have to reposition/push my Viola back into my neck quite often & see it in some of my videos. 

So, I'm suspecting my chin rest is too high.  If mine was wood, I'd just grind some off & reshape it, but I've got a feeling this composite material might be hollow.

...so I'm off to order a chin rest I can modify, if I need to. 

Then, back to the Christmas grind! 

- Emily

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December 16, 2022 - 3:39 pm
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I understand the string at the edge of the fingerboard issue very well.  I have "fleshy" hands and I'm always touching the E string and "grounding it out" unless I actively try not to.  Which affects how I play on the other strings because it changes my hand position on the neck.

When I started I was too stiff to play much of anything without hurting.  I can now play most of the simple pieces from the early stages of Book 1 which use the A and E strings without straining too badly.  A lot of the D string stuff is do-able but too much eventually causes a strain in wrist/elbow/shoulder.  I don't know if I'll ever be comfortable with the G string other than for scales because it really pains me in the shoulder socket.

The point in saying this is that I've learned that some lost flexibility can be regained over a long time.  It's painful and takes what seems like forever, but some can be regained.

On the opposite hand there's the realization that some doesn't mean lots in my particular case.  My current lessons from Book 2 are using a variation of Long Long Ago that requires my pinky hit G4.  I'm too stiff and can't get there - the Db above G3 is the best I can do.  This is an affirmation that I probably never will be able to do some of the hand positions/techniques because of how stiff I am and I've accepted the possibility of that limitation from the very beginning.

You may have to cultivate the same compromise with your own body and mind.

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ELCBK
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https://i.pinimg.com/originals/09/a9/2b/09a92bae447d36320053fc3e57cc4fbd.jpg

Got a little crazy tonight & REMOVED my chin rest! 

I'm kinda lovin' it - think maybe my thumb & hand do, too! 

Feels less restrictive.  Noticed all I could do with my old chin rest was press on it & my Viola would move - now it's my chin that can move and the Viola doesn't (unless I want it to)!  Feels fine resting my jaw on the tailpiece or either side of it.  Not feeling any urge/need to press down with my chin/jaw.

Decided to explore this until my Holstein Freedom chin rest is delivered, but I ordered before I took off my old one.  Now I'm thinking maybe I should modify something more like the Huberman Model, because it's flatter (like my Violin chin rest), might be lower & doesn't go over the tail piece.  I don't really want anything taller than my tail piece, right now - but this could change. (lol)

So, think I'll give 'no' chin rest a few days to sink in, see how much I still like it & decide if maybe even a different shoulder rest allows my thumb & hand to work better. 

All this to make my thumb & hand happy... hoping for a Xmas miracle. (lol)  

...and to all a Good Night!

- Emily

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ELCBK
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Boy, I didn't want this to turn into my own personal blog, but I'm still liking not having a chin rest on my viola - this may turn out to be a game changer for me! dancinbunny

Feeling much better than having a chin rest and not using a shoulder rest! 

MY THUMB IS NOT SLIPPING LIKE IT WAS BEFORE & my hand is more free for vibrato!

My chin can stabilize on the tail piece, kinda pivot over to one side or the other - depending which way I tilt for playing high or low strings.  AND, my jaw is relaxed now!  ...but darned if I didn't notice my feet tensing & my toes curling up!  Starting to feel like my body is a game of 'Whac-A-Mole'! bunny-headbangIf I get rid of one place that's tense - another spot pops up somewhere else! 

Now, I have to start doing some strengthening exercises for my left upper arm & shoulder, because I want to engage more with my Viola, e.g., tip the scroll up when I need to, etc... but I'm not used to it & it's wearing me out. 

https://i.pinimg.com/originals/c4/1e/51/c41e51fd38e1a502a043f74d6f57d003.jpg

 

I apologize for not taking any photos, but I need to get out from under my Holiday prep mess & Kevin will be freed up to help me video right after Christmas - I'll go over everything then. 😊 

...and I have to stop sitting in the dark, posting in the wee hours of the night/morning! christmascandle

- Emily

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Katie L
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That sounds good Emily ! Love a mini break through. 

I’m working on my left hand not being tense but I managed to get a pic of my thumb .. it’s where my thumb naturally wants to go ..

 

E7F37F87-158B-4D4F-B7A6-3BD66628D21E.jpegImage EnlargerBE4F7A71-8E85-421B-B408-4BCC8E59B21B.jpegImage Enlarger

Also does anyone know how to get pictures the right way round ? Thanks

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Katie M said
That sounds good Emily ! Love a mini break through. 

I’m working on my left hand not being tense but I managed to get a pic of my thumb .. it’s where my thumb naturally wants to go ..

 

E7F37F87-158B-4D4F-B7A6-3BD66628D21E.jpegImage EnlargerBE4F7A71-8E85-421B-B408-4BCC8E59B21B.jpegImage Enlarger

Also does anyone know how to get pictures the right way round ? Thanks

  

I fix "clocked" images by:

 

Uploading, then check with preview.  If "clocked/rotated," I delete them and then rotate the original on my computer before uploading again.  It's a pain but it works.  I think you can do the same on your phone but I'm not positive of this because I use a PC.

 

Overtension:  I'm doing scales which include shifting to 3rd position on each string as I progress up the scale.  (G,A,B,C - shift to 3rd position - D,E - cross to D string and shift back to 1st position - D,E,F,G - shift to 3rd position - A,B - cross to A string and shift back to 1st position - etc) This has really heightened my awareness of my thumb tension when playing/practicing and I'm close to the stage where I relax almost before I'm aware that I need to relax.  It didn't take long for this to sink in because you can't be tense and still shift smoothly on the neck.  (My descending down the scale and shifting from 3rd to 1st position still needs a lot of work.  There's a "slam" when I hit the stop at the scroll end of the neck.  Tension is still the culprit I think.)

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ELCBK
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AndrewH said

Not quite touching, but close. The recommendation I've gotten in multiple places is for the chinrest to be within a finger-width of the jaw when the head is in a neutral position, but not touching. A slight nod should be enough to put the jaw onto the chinrest. The idea is that you should be able to move your head while playing: you should be able to lift your head off completely when playing passages that involve no shifting or string crossing, or adjust the tilt of your instrument with subtle head motion.

@AndrewH -

Sorry, missed your post! 

Great advice! 

I feel I have that now - much more natural. 

When I was using my chin rest, felt like I had to stretch my chin up, over & out - certainly not natural!  AND, I didn't feel like I could move my head unless I lifted my chin completely off the rest - but I can, now. 

 

@Katie L -

Are you able to keep your 1st finger from touching the side of the fingerboard while playing?  It looks like it - looks good!  I think it's hard to get a good photo (I can't get a good photo of this by myself). 

Btw, I recently had a terrible time getting the photos of my cats (in the Christmas Things 2022 Thread) to post in the correct position.  I couldn't see where they were wrong on my pc, made the mistake of pulling them up from recent files & rotating/saving - which didn't work.  Even though the view looked correct to me, I still had to go to my pictures photo editing & save it that way - think it automatically adjusts for my view on my pc & phone, even though maybe the original file isn't upright (?)  Sorry, I'm terrible at describing this - and this forum is the only place I have this problem! 

 

@RDP -

Think it's great you are focusing on your thumb early.

https://i.pinimg.com/originals/7b/b0/49/7bb0491f4a7add24510316801de9d867.png

- Emily  

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Katie L
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Hmm I wonder if it’s the way the pic is taken. Whether we take in landscape or portrait. The pics I put ip of my wedding were totally fine. 

But anyway yes I don’t think I touch the side with my finger. Pretty sure I don’t as it’s something that came up when I started the vibrato exercises. I remember because I had a teacher at the time and I was trying to explain about making my hand come away from the neck so I could do vibrato and she had no idea what I was on about !! It was so frustrating ! I had 5 lessons and non of them touched on my technique !! Anyway rant over!! 

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ELCBK
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@Katie L -

I remember because I had a teacher at the time and I was trying to explain about making my hand come away from the neck so I could do vibrato and she had no idea what I was on about !! It was so frustrating ! I had 5 lessons and non of them touched on my technique !! Anyway rant over!! 

Was that teacher used to adult students? 

I can understand not wanting to overload young children with too much to think about, but for us adults - I would've been frustrated, also! 

The Yehudi video clearly advocates presenting good form right from the start.  ...of course I didn't know about this video at the time I started to learn - which explains a lot. 🥴 

https://www.365lessthings.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/12/Screen-Shot-2016-12-19-at-7.51.19-AM.png

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Emily .. I think she taught adults and kids. You tube and the forum are my saviours !! I definitely wouldn’t have got this far without everyone’s help. I remember when I put my first video on I couldn’t believe people took the time to watch give advice etc !! So brilliant 

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Gordon Shumway
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ELCBK said
I've seen a few great ukulele players use their thumb on the closest string, along with other fingers for some chords - now I'll have to try it on my C string! 

Jimi Hendrix used to do it, I think, but the Fender Strat had a narrow neck, which helped. I'm not aware of any uke players doing it.

Andrew

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I revisited this étude last weekend. Jessica O'Leary rates it at between grades 5 and 6.

You don't have to play it as fast as this guy, but I noticed that to play it at all I had to rethink my whole left hand shape and wrist and thumb position, so I'm going to make a special study of it.

Andrew

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Gordon Shumway said
I revisited this étude last weekend. Jessica O'Leary rates it at between grades 5 and 6.

You don't have to play it as fast as this guy, but I noticed that to play it at all I had to rethink my whole left hand shape and wrist and thumb position, so I'm going to make a special study of it.

  

In fact, the same hand-demands are met by simpler stuff, such as Sitt #81, which, if you are a Whistler fan, you'll find in his book on double-stopping as #88.

Andrew

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ELCBK
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I'm still trying to focus on my left hand to make sure my thumb is free to follow it around. 

Still fighting to keep my index finger away from the neck, but I usually lose the battle. 🙁

It IS a little easier to play now that I'm back playing my violin (Mortimer) - feels too small, though! 🤣 

Meant to post this last week & got distracted... originally watched because of vibrato, then realized how much more relevant her points were to this thread! 

 

 

I see part of my problem is I can't twist my arm around like hers unless my hand is no farther away than about 6" from my body!  Had a nightmare about this - posted about it in Emily's Journey Down The E/V Road! Thread - only good that came from it, I learned a new tune. 😏 

...like to study this video a bit more.

- Emily

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Gordon Shumway said
I revisited this étude last weekend. 

Incidentally, when I first looked at it a year ago I felt that the LH pizz was a pointless intrusion, but now I realise it has a very clever point to it - it forces your LH to break contact with the neck and then reform its shape, which may offer either relief or the chance to be continually renewing your concentration on the shape, or both.

Andrew

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