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Vibrato on CG/GD Strings
I am mainly having problems doing vibrato on the C and G strings of my violin and viola.
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Ohio, USA
March 17, 2017 - 2:10 am
Member Since: March 1, 2017
Forum Posts: 35
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Now, I never thought much of this, but for some reason I always find the side of my knuckles of my first finger pressing against the fingerboard of the C string of my viola, and G of my violin. This is inhibiting my ability to do a clean first finger vibrato and I don't think my elbow is liking how far underneath the instrument I have gone. I want to release the tension that attempting to do the vibrato on those strings create. This is for all of my fingers. I find my tricep tightens when doing second, third, and fourth finger vibrato (including first), and this is eliminated in third position. My thumb is loose and relaxed ...am I perhaps pulling my elbow under the instrument too much  to compensate?


Note: I have small fingers and on the C and G, my elbow actually nearly comes up to the rib of the instrument ...is this natural?


Edit: I just practiced a few things and noticed my wrist itself is relaxed, but my forearm isn't. On any of the strings and fingers, my forearm tightens up. I'm able to do clean vibrato for a few seconds before feeling the tension. If I keep practicing slow vibrato, will this perhaps rid of the tension? 


Also, I play without a shoulder rest or anything. I find myself perfectly content with just the instrument itself.

Jim Dunleavy
United Kingdom

March 17, 2017 - 4:51 am
Member Since: April 19, 2015
Forum Posts: 747
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I have a similar problem with my first finger on the G string, especially in low one, and I have reasonably big hands. My elbow doesn't come up the way you are describing though (as far as I can make out).

A picture or video of you playing would help as it's difficult to know exactly what you mean about your elbow.


March 17, 2017 - 10:30 am
Member Since: June 7, 2016
Forum Posts: 373
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Since "knuckle" can get a little confusing (you have three on each finger), I'm going to use the "official" definitions of the parts of the finger, as given by http://www.simplybodylanguage......names.html.

  • Tip segment: Distal phalanx.
  • Middle segment: Middle phalanx.
  • Bottom segment: Proximal phalanx

If you're talking about your proximal phalanx, or the knuckle between it and your palm touching the side near the E string, I understand the problem. I have it, too, although I don't really have a vibrato yet, so it hasn't been an issue for me.

I don't think you need to bring your hand over more (which is what bring your elbow further to the right would get you), you need to bring it UP more, and twist the hand more to get the finger back down where it needs to be. For me, that does put more stress on the shoulder and triceps, especially when the hand is extended far out. Twisting the hand more puts more stress on the forearm.

Since it's related to how far out the hand is, there are two possible answers. Practice it (gently) until your body adapts, or get a smaller instrument.  I'm guessing the problem is worse on the viola than the violin?

I just tried an experiment, related to some stuff my teacher has been wanting me to try. Since you don't use a chinrest or shoulder rest, this may work well for you.

Put your chin on the RIGHT side of the tailpiece. This will make it just as secure as on the left as far as pulling away from your neck, and more secure about slipping forward. It will allow you (force you, really) to move the neck considerably back, which is a much more comfortable place for your left hand.  I find it somewhat less comfortable for bowing, but not impossible.

The biggest downside is that I can't really see what I'm doing.  For the left hand, that's not a problem - I can tell by ear whether I'm getting it right or wrong. For bowing, not so wonderful.  A mirror would probably be a necessity until you learned to tell by feel whether your bowing is right or not.  For an experiment, it can be lived with.

Play a few easy things to get halfway adjusted to it, then try some of the vibrato stuff, see if it makes a significant difference.  It's a MUCH better angle for the left hand, so I'm suspecting it will.

According to my teacher, this is the way violin was played before chinrests and shoulder rests came along. They also played in sort of a 2nd position, reaching way up to play what we consider 1st position. The heel of the hand was used to tilt the violin back and forth to make hitting the various strings easier.  I have no idea whether I'm going to go to that style, but I'm going to experiment with it some, because I haven't found a chinrest yet that works for me.

Same for you - I'm not suggesting you should switch to this style, but I am suggesting you should work with it for a while and see if it, or any pieces of it, work for you.

Fort Lauderdale
March 19, 2017 - 7:41 pm
Member Since: September 26, 2010
Forum Posts: 16063

This is kind of typical. Try playing more on the tip of your finger, and more on the left side of your finger with pressure on the left side. Let me know if that helps.

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

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