Left hand position pre- and post- learning vibrato

September 26, 2016 at 04:31 PM · Once you start learning vibrato, is your left hand position supposed to permanently change? I currently position my left hand as described in this article, with the base of my first finger against the violin and providing stability.


Now when learning vibrato, it appears I am supposed to rotate my entire hand counterclockwise so that my thumb is slightly more under the violin and base of first finger not touching violin. It seems awkward to keep shifting back and forth between the two positions (original one taught to beginners and new one required for vibrato), so are you supposed to just permanently use this new position once you've graduated to vibrato?

I'm wondering why they don't just teach beginners to play without the base knuckle touching to begin with. Now that I am having to position my left hand differently, my intonation has gotten horrible. I feel like I need to practice with the new left hand position without vibrato just to get the intonation right, and it feels a little like starting over. Is this normal?

Thanks for any advice.

Replies (6)

September 26, 2016 at 05:18 PM · Try this? In fast passages, the neck touches, without pressure, the base of the index, for stability; for vibrato, the circle formed by thumb and index elongates just enough to form a gap of say, 1/32".

No need to change the position of the thumb.

My 2 centimes d'euro.

September 26, 2016 at 05:36 PM · It depends on how you vibrate. For my students, there isn't any change in the position, and they still make (light) contact with the base knuckle...it's just another motion gets added for the vibrato.

September 26, 2016 at 05:41 PM · Hi,

In my very humble opinion, one should not change hand position for vibrato. The classic position of the neck of the violin resting on the base of the first finger and the thumb coming up opposite to its own natural height for the hand, is really the best at avoiding problems and injuries.

If you are having problems with vibrato in the classic hand position, it is normally caused by one (or more) of the three following things:

1- Excess finger pressure, usually caused by the thumb pressing against the neck of the violin. The thumb should never press, and as a result none of the other fingers or hand can get tense as the muscles that are used in pressing with the thumb will contract the whole hand causing tension. If you don't press with the thumb, you cannot press with the other fingers.

2- Over-rotation of the left arm to the right. Ideally, for a relaxed arm position, the elbow should hand, and be pointing to the ground. The upper arm is usually essentially parallel to the floor, indicating that you are in proper vertical balance. Rotation to the right adds nothing except tense the muscles from the back down the arm to the hand in the body's attempt to restore vertical balance with gravity.

3- Raising of the left shoulder. If one raises the left shoulder, either to hold the violin, or enable the collarbone to reach the jaw via the chinrest, then tension develops in the shoulder, back, arm all the way to the hand. Finding the proper balance via chinrest, pad-shoulder rest-or nothing depending on the person is important. The point is that the shoulder should be down to be relaxed.

Hope this helps...


September 26, 2016 at 06:20 PM · I should add that I mostly play viola, and without the "gap", I am limited to a vibrato that sounds fine on the violin, but rather "bleating" on the viola.

September 26, 2016 at 07:15 PM · Thank you so much for all the great advice! I think I must be gripping the violin too hard, as it's hard for me to do vibrato unless I pull my base knuckle away and create a fairly large gap. Now that I know the large gap (and repositioning of hand) is not desired or necessary I will work on having a looser grip while practicing my vibrato exercises. Thanks!

September 27, 2016 at 08:07 PM · It took me about 6 years before I found a vibrato I felt comfortable with (and I'm still working on it). I finally realized that I was gripping the neck between my thumb and the base of the index finger. It gave stability, but it also locked my hand in position, preventing the movement that's needed to vibrate. Plus, there's the paradox of keeping the fingers firm enough to provide pressure to stop the string, while remaining flexible enough to roll the fingertip on the string for vibrato (a paradox I'm now repeating with my right wrist to keep it supple while transferring weight to the bow).

There are lots of videos on YouTube you can check out - Todd Ehle has some good ones. And keep working at it - one day the light will come on.

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