Left hand pressure

September 3, 2017, 2:15 PM · Greetings All;
I am a amateur violinist who has played off and on for 20 years. I have always had a tight left hand and can't relax it. I am a large man who is quite strong and I choke the neck. It is getting to the point where I can't play for long because of pain from the strangle hold. Any tips or ideas?

Replies (9)

September 3, 2017, 2:28 PM · Do you have a teacher? If not, I would try watching some videos or find other online resources. The problem may lie in your violin hold, as well as your left hand position. It would be nice if you posted a video or picture demonstrating the problem.
Edited: September 3, 2017, 8:31 PM · Just a few thoughts:

1. Try plucking the violin while holding it like a guitar and playing some of your simpler favorites. No need to be tight on the neck that way - and no bow grip to confuse your brain.

2. Do you hold the bow tightly? If so try to ease up on that and see if that loosens up your left hand too.

3. Do you play with a shoulder rest? If not, you might try one. If you do, try repositioning it and possibly even a different model. These days I'm liking the Acoustagrip design that SHAR sells - there are several models:


I use the same AcoustaGrip rest for violin and viola and find it not only relaxes my left hand (for a reason I do not yet understand) and it is not at all detrimental to the sound - if anything it might enhance it a bit.

4. Are your hands somewhat too large for violin, Itzhak Perlman's are and he does OK! I wear XL gloves and am much more comfortable these days playing viola - I also have long arms. With long arms (especially long upper arm - my elbows align with my waist - actually my hips now that I'm in my 80s) one needs to point the violin a good bit toward the left for less contorted bowing; this has two effects on the left hand (1) It will align the left hand more with the neck for less strain (good), (2) vibrato requires a more compound motion (multiple joint motions) than if the violin is more straight ahead (bad).

5. Try angling the violin downward on the right (toward your chest) a little more to make the G string easier to reach with both your left fingers and with the bow.

Just my thoughts!

September 4, 2017, 8:14 AM · Tension starts in the large muscles and progresses to the small muscles. To reduce tension in the fingers, start with the neck and shoulders (don't clamp, just rest the head), work down the arm (placement, angles, just plain relaxing), then the forearm/finger muscles can relax (do exercises with minimum finger touching, no use of the thumb, etc).

Treat tension as a bad habit. When you notice it, stop, think about where to relax, start over relaxed. Teach the mind and muscles that tension is not allowed.

September 4, 2017, 6:34 PM · Hi Andrew,

I go to the gym 5x a week and also have quite strong hands. I find, as someone else mentioned, the problem starts a little further up than my hand itself. When you start getting super tense take a moment and stretch out your arm, neck, chest, and back muscles, then play some scales with vibrato and watch how tight or loose your hand is.

If it's still tight play those scales again, but make a conscious effort to keep it loose and with no vibrato. Do that until it stays lose (paying attention to it) then check in periodically during your practice to make sure it's lose until it stays lose.

I find I'm tensing up somewhere else when my left hand is tight - usually in that muscle chain.

September 5, 2017, 12:09 PM · Let's not confuse finger pressure with light, snappy finger-falls...
September 5, 2017, 7:23 PM · Is it because your left hand is inherently tight (as i understand your post) or is it that the hand is tightening as a consequence of something else, like the way the violin is being held up for instance (does the hold, with all the points of contact, feel secure?)
My (new) teacher explains it as a domino effect....one thing leads to another
September 6, 2017, 7:56 AM · Also find Nathan Cole's video about finger pressure and watch that a few times.

When you practice I suggest warming up with something fairly straightforward like Kreutzer No. 2 with the purpose of finding the minimum finger pressure you can apply whilst maintaining good tone. This has been helpful to my tension issues. Another reason to choose this kind of etude is because you should not have also any stress coming from bowing difficulties. Sometimes tension can transfer from your right arm to your left -- surprisingly often the reason for tension in your left forearm is because you are trying to do something difficult with your bow.

September 6, 2017, 8:14 AM · I might recommend checking out some Alexander Technique lessons. They have been helpful for me to be more mindful of tension.

A violin teacher should be able to help you work through this. It really ends up being a technique issue, and basic work on stuff like Schradieck, and basic work on shifting and vibrato can help out with this, but it all has to be done in the right way.

I find that on days where I deadlift heavy, I can still play violin a little later, even if my grip gave out, but my hands are pretty small, so there may be some positioning you have to play around with to arrive at a hand position that allows the violin to rest and for you to stay relaxed through all your joints.

September 7, 2017, 6:51 PM · Thanks all for the feedback. I think it is an overall inability to relax. I like many of the comments and will try them.

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