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Clayton Haslop

To Pinch, or Not to Pinch

November 19, 2009 at 5:13 PM

I received a couple of interesting notes in my inbox in response to my most recent blog.  One, coming from Kenton, down Florida way, was the ‘violin’ entry in an old Webster’s Dictionary. 

And though the accompanying illustrational was quite odd indeed, the text was right-on in its characterization of the violin hold I thought.  It said, ‘…held nearly horizontal with the player’s arm with the lower part supported against the collarbone or shoulder.’

It did not say, ‘held between the chin and shoulder’, as many might believe.

In another response Stephen asked ‘whether one pinches the neck between the thumb and base of the index finger horizontally, or whether the thumb should be under the neck so that you can squeeze into the notes and roll the vibrato like a cellist’.

Now it is certainly easy to dismiss the former, I’ll have no pinching of violin necks in any coaching or master class of mine.  Pinching of violins or violinists is strictly verbotten. 

Doing this not only tightens your hand, it severely limits your ability to get around the violin.  Not a good thing.

The latter concept is almost all good, however.  There is just one little thing.  I like to think of the thumb and base of the index finger as forming something of a ‘V’, with the violin resting between and atop the first joint of the thumb and the base of the index finger.

And yes, I do like the idea of squeezing or, better yet, massaging the fingerboard with the fingers – note that both these images imply pliancy within the hand and fingers.

Nothing is ever stiff, locked, or unyielding in the hand.

In yet another emailed response Al referred to the sweet spot where the violin rests as a ‘birth’ for the violin.  I like that.

Now, all this being said, I don’t want to give the impression that I make a religion out of the neck’s location in the hand either.  When I play there is quite a bit of flexibility in my hand, and the neck may indeed rest on the thumb, at times, or deeper in the ‘V’ now and again.

Yet the exceptions prove the rule, as the old saw goes. 

And a good deal of my practice is spent relaxing and balancing my left hand as I perfect challenging passages. 

I want to arrive at the point of maximum efficiency, minimum effort, and minimum hand distortion for anything I do.

I certainly look to keep my chin free of the chinrest if at all possible.  Downshifts, moving from a higher position to a lower position, are the one exception in this.  Why? Because the fiction generated by the left hand moving away from the body must be counteracted.

All the best,

Clayton Haslop


From Laurie Niles
Posted on November 20, 2009 at 6:24 PM

These are wonderful thoughts on this subject, which is often very difficult to convey to students of all ages!

Here's the song I made for five-year-olds, for the "v," Clayton. Rather silly, but it helps the kids learn. :)

I also thought that Michael Shallock had the right idea in this article that he wrote for a while back: that there is a balance between supporting the violin with the gentle weight of the head (ie not clenching), and with the non-grabbing support of the left hand.

From David Joyce
Posted on November 20, 2009 at 8:34 PM

 Quote "And a good deal of my practice is spent relaxing and balancing my left hand as I perfect challenging passages.  I want to arrive at the point of maximum efficiency, minimum effort, and minimum hand distortion for anything I do."

I couldn't agree more. The basic premise of the double-contact is that the violin sits in between two "places" and the challenge for us all is to make that contact as gentle as possible and learn to play maintaining it that way.

From Pauline Lerner
Posted on November 21, 2009 at 12:15 AM

Laurie, I show your video of V-V-Violin to all my students, regardless of age.  Then I email them a link to it so that they can use it at home.  All the feedback I get is positive.  Thank you for posting it..

From Corwin Slack
Posted on November 21, 2009 at 4:14 AM

 A left hand that holds up the violin is a responsible hand. When one first starts holding the violin up with the left hand the hand cannot cope with the responsibility. All of its shortcuts and cop-outs become painfully obvious. The only solutions is to retrain it from the ground up. Its like a crowd walking versus an army marching. Try to turn a crowd around or left or right. Very difficult. But soldiers can about face and are immediately going the other directions. 

But boot camp is hard.

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