Vibrating on notes near the nut

Edited: May 21, 2018, 9:09 PM · I have trouble vibrating on those notes close to the nut. Especially the Bb in a G-minor G-D-Bb-G chord. Even as single notes, I feel like I don't have enough room and my knuckles keep knocking the pegs. As a double stop, my index finger's first knuckle locks and doesn't vibrate at all because it feels like I need a fair amount of pressure to stop the string, otherwise the Bb sounds like I haven't pressed the string down all the way.

Replies (12)

May 21, 2018, 10:11 PM · Are your pegs at a good angle to minimise this problem? If not, you may need to lift your hand frame up a bit, so that you're more over the string and not reaching back too much.
May 21, 2018, 11:39 PM · What type of shoulder rest should I use?
May 22, 2018, 12:49 AM · It is indeed more difficult to vibrate there. It will improve as your overall vibrato improves. Very important is the flexibility of the last joint (the joint closest to the tip of the finger). If you find it is not flexible, you can work on that using the Rivarde exercise (look that up). What I do find strange is that you write that you need a lot of pressure close to the nut. Since the string is very close to the fingerboard there, you actually do not need much pressure there.
Edited: May 22, 2018, 12:55 AM · As Jean says, you should not have to use a lot of left hand pressure anywhere and especially there. You may not need to use much vibrato on a chord if any at all, and players tend to use far too much anyway. A small finger vibrato is all that is required. Too much vib messes up intonation and is bad for ear training. Go for a pure sound which can be enhanced where necessary with some vibrato.

You do not say at what level your playing has reached.

May 22, 2018, 2:39 AM · I'll tell you how: make your 1st finger at a much more shallow angle than usual, almost flat on the fingerboard. You can also think of it as blocking the string with the pad of the finger, rather than exclusively with the tip. This should immediately make both arm vibrato and wrist vibrato accessible, even in the case of the g-minor chord you mentioned, even if you're using more finger pressure than you should be (speaking of which, you might wanna check your nut height with a luthier to see if it's sufficiently low to allow for minimal pressure on low notes). In the g-minor chord, make sure both the 1st and 2nd fingers are at a shallow angle so they can synchronize properly.

If you're wondering physically HOW to get your fingers at a shallow angle, there are two ways, and they're both fine: the first is to lower your entire hand towards the floor so the neck of the violin "slips up" relative to your overall left hand position. This will make both your thumb contact point and your index contact point lower than usual.

The other way is to simply bend your wrist inwards (think of how you're NOT supposed to hold the violin when you're just starting... You want the wrist inwards in that way, but make sure it's only for when you want to vibrate low-1s! Obviously we don't want to stay in this hand position for long).

In the case of the first position above, your knuckles will be lower than the pegs and thus not run into them. This position will be better for arm vibrato.

In the case of the second position mentioned, your knuckles will be pulled away from the pegs, and thus there is more room for them to move. This will work better with wrist vibrato.

Regardless, both positions should allow for wrist and arm vibrato. You'll notice that a shallower finger angle allows for vibrato that is centered around the very farthest joint of the finger, and also allows a much more relaxed vibrato motion in general since the stickiness of the finger will be so much greater on the pad as opposed to the tip. I recommend experimenting with this form of vibrato in different situations, as it's a great tool to have to change the color and speed of your vibrato, and not just in the case of the low-1s.

May 22, 2018, 6:05 AM · "Since the string is very close to the fingerboard there, you actually do not need much pressure there."
Perhaps the groves in the nut are too high above the fingerboard. One should just be able to slide a visiting-card under the strings at the nut end.

And you may not necessarily need to press right down to the fingerboard: just enough to avoid slipping.

May 22, 2018, 9:15 AM · Our best vibrato is with the 3rd and 2nd fingers. The 4th is narrower. The first is in the awkward "square" form. Instead, whenever possible move to 3rd position, 3rd finger.
June 15, 2018, 8:27 AM · As a violist with small hands (a bit masochist?) I often move the hand back into half position just to vibrate on a well rounded, flexible index finger. The contact with the string is then nearer the nail, giving a clearer tone even if I don't press right down to the fingerboard.
June 16, 2018, 1:00 PM · Well, OP never responded so I guess he doesn't care.
June 16, 2018, 2:38 PM · Hi Erik, the nut was too high on my violin.
June 17, 2018, 12:19 PM · Did fixing the nut also prevent your knuckles from knocking the pegs?
June 17, 2018, 4:05 PM · yes, the knocking of the pegs was from the extra effort I exerted to try and get a vibrato.

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