How do I hold my violin?!

Edited: July 19, 2017, 8:47 AM · Hi everyone,

I'm new here!
The thing is this: I've been playing the violin since I was six. I've had 8 years of lessons but quit because I sucked at reading sheet music. I had to memorize everything so I could play what I had to practice. I was very good at improvising though. So I started to play in church at 14. I loved it because I could do whatever I wanted.

Fast forward 18 years. I'm now 32 years old and I quit playing around the age of 20. I really want to play again, I miss it like never before.

But here's the thing. In the 6 years of playing by myself, I created this weird way of holding my violin. My violin doesn't only rest on my thumb, but also on my wrist. Like this, I can make beautiful vibratos and it feels totally natural. I kind of knew it was wrong, but hey, easy and who cared!

Now I really want to learn the right way. But whenever I let the violin rest on the lower part of my thumb, my hand feels frozen. It feels weird and wrong and my vibratos are sad and nonexistent.

Question 1: am I doing something wrong? Does anyone recognize this? Or do I just have to start over again and practice endlessly?

Question 2: how the heck do I hold my violin?? I can't find good pictures of this, only from the other angle. Does it only rest on the lower part of your thumb, or in the v-shaped angle of your hand? Can the violin touch the fleshy part of your hand or is this totally wrong in any way?

Any tips are very welcome. It's so frustrating! It feels like trying a snowboard after 20 years of skiing.. -___-

Thanks x1000 in advance!! :)

Replies (18)

July 19, 2017, 9:04 AM · The "height" of the fingers matter. A good reference point for you is to align the base joint of your first finger to the edge of the fingerboard. The thumb will then be in contact with the neck on the opposite side. Thumb height varies but never too low to the extent of the violin neck filling the entire V-shape.
Edited: July 19, 2017, 10:16 AM · I tend to agree with Tong because his remarks agree with what I have always done. But the problem with "BAD" violin posture is what you cannot do. Also, there is some variation in what violinists do because of arm length and hand size and just the way their own muscles work.

It would be good to be seen by an experienced teacher to try to adjust your left hand (probably your right one too - by now) not just to what is "correct"but what will work for you and optimize your growth as a violinist/fiddler.

If you will ever be playing above the 1st and 2nd positions, your wrist/hand relationship will be changed for sure because the body of the violin will get in the way. A lot of country fiddlers never get higher than that and hold their instruments the way you describe. In fact there are "violin cultures" where this is the norm - also not even holding the instrument under the jaw or chin, but against the chest or abdomen instead.

It might be a good time to see if your mind can now adapt to reading music and playing what you read while you read it - a lot of time has passed! I don't know why some people have a problem with it, but I did have some students who were blocked in reading music by some incorrect notions they adapted about the positions of the notes on pages before they ever related them to their hands and to positions on the violin or cello. Those notions were very hard to erase!

July 19, 2017, 10:23 AM · Sounds like "collapsed wrist" posture. Assuming you are not currently studying with a teacher, I highly recommend watching ProfessorV's Youtube violin instruction videos available at https://www.youtube.com/user/professorV/playlists

Extremely well-organized by topics, his videos are informative and beneficial. Enjoy!

July 20, 2017, 12:46 AM · Thank you all so much for taking the time to read my (quite long) post and helping me out! All very helpful recommendations! :D I indeed encounter problems with playing in other positions, so this needs to change. I will definitely try to make it work. Great information, many thanks!! ^_^
July 20, 2017, 6:19 AM · There is no wrong way to hold an instrument.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2kZASM8OX7s
July 21, 2017, 3:36 PM · Whoa, I've never seen anyone else play like this!! 0.0 That's a really interesting statement! :) Maybe you're right? It sounds really beautiful.. Thank you very much for sharing this! ^_^
July 21, 2017, 3:51 PM · Sung Han, ProfessorV is amazing!! THANK YOU!!
July 21, 2017, 9:02 PM · In the video, the player is still constrained to the first/second position though. Although the piece is admittedly nicely performed, in spite of all his "bad" habits (left and right hand), I'd expect that he is limited in what he can ultimately play.
July 21, 2017, 9:07 PM · I've heard (and used) the term 'pancaking' to refer to what the gentleman in the video does. I've also been adamantly informed that no matter what I do, I should never allow myself to develop a habit of playing with a pancake hand.
July 22, 2017, 5:50 AM · "Pancaking" isn't all that uncommon with folk fiddlers, especially those playing Irish or English folk music (Scottish is a different case). It is understandable: such music has a restricted left hand range because it is village dance music, or for accompanying singers, and there is really no necessity to go beyond the first or second positions. The traditional Irish or English folk violinist was unlikely ever to have had classical training, or to find himself playing outside the tradition, and in the absence of SRs (and CRs) the "pancake" hold would be easy to use. This of course does not in any way denigrate the high musicianship, both technical and artistic, of many folk musicians.
July 22, 2017, 5:54 AM · Have a look at this video for what may be the ultimate in effortless violin hold!
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gSYo6MFwr9g

When first I saw this video (the link was posted here not long ago) Alice Julien-Laferrière's violin hold reminded me of that of the baroque specialist Amandine Beyer. I checked it out and found that Beyer was Julien-Laferrière's teacher.

July 22, 2017, 8:35 AM · Yet another way of holding the violin:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KcO5pSMFV6A

In this video Enrico Onofri, with Il Giardino Armonico in a live performance of Vivaldi's "Grosso Mogul" violin concerto RV208, uses an interesting alternative to SR and CR. Apart from that, the whole concerto is worth watching in its own right.

July 23, 2017, 2:04 PM · You're right Roger.. :( I'm afraid I have to face reality. I don't want to pancake!! It's so frustrating though.. My hand does the pancake thing within 10 seconds if I don't pay attention. Practice, practice, practice.

Thank you for sharing those videos Trevor! Both beautiful! What strikes me about the first video is that it looks a bit more like my pancake hand, but her vibrato is quite weak. But maybe the piece requires this. Also: she has the prettiest bow I've ever seen.. :o

Enrico Onofri has the longest fingers ever!! :P I can imagine he needs more space! ^_^

Both interesting though, there still can be variation! Thanks all!! :D

July 24, 2017, 2:01 AM · IT'S WORKING ALREADY! I have a tiny vibrato and it's improving and I'm already getting used to this new grip! Turns out it's not gone after all, just buried somewhere. :)
July 24, 2017, 2:26 AM · Bonnie, if you can't get it after a few weeks/months, they do make a wrist brace type device to 'correct' posture in the hand. I don't really agree with using a mechanical aid such as, but if you need it they are out there.
July 25, 2017, 11:09 PM · Trevor, I love the video above of Alice, and you're right that's about as relaxed as it gets. It seems to me that with a chin rest that was the right height, one could use it to hold the violin in place when needed and could play modern repertoire with a relaxed posture just like that as well.
Edited: July 26, 2017, 1:40 AM · I have seen many Pro violinists play with the collapsed wrist and low thumb position, James Ehnes the Canadian Virtuoso plays with his thumb wrapped round the finger board a little, his tone is bright and very clear, he produces a beautiful sound and is fascinating to whach.
There is a classical way to hold the violin, and if you are taught in the classical style it becomes normal, on the other hand as the above You tube video demonstrates the opposite is also fine. After 48 years of playing my advise would be this Play with all your heart, play how it feels best for you, because if it feels best for you then you will enjoy it more, you will play more and you will make great music. Enjoy.
July 29, 2017, 9:23 AM · A valuable Yehudi Menhuin video might be interesting for you to evaluate relative to what you might be looking for:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mvV4A6lz-0w

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