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Clayton Haslop

5 Benefits of a Left Hand Hold

December 21, 2009 at 4:38 PM

As you may be aware, the movie AVATAR is now in release, almost around the globe I believe.  I mention it for two reasons.  I saw this spectacular film on Saturday with my wife and a couple friends.  And I happened to be concertmaster of the orchestra that assisted James Horner in recording his highly effective score.

If you love film making on an epic scale, have a weakness for sci-fi, are any kind of a techno-geek, or just appreciate a well-spun yarn, this is a must see. 

Unfortunately we do not have a theatre capable of 3-D projection here in Sedona.  Rest assured, however, on my next trip to LA I’ll be in one to experience the turbo-charged version of this creative wonder.

And speaking of wonder, I had a fellow write in who has been wondering about the left hand violin hold I so vociferously defend.  And over the next couple days I’ll be spending some time talking about it.

Yet today I thought I’d just give out 5 good reasons for moving in this direction, if you are not already there.

One, your hand is a lot more tactilely aware than your shoulder or chin.  Anything you do to create a more sensual relationship with the neck and body of the instrument cannot help but translate into increased warmth and expression in your playing.

Two, releasing the clench of shoulder and chin necessitates greater relaxation and pliancy of the hand; in itself a good thing, yet also leading to:

Three, increased fluidity in your playing.  This is so because the fingers will become more balanced and efficient in the bargain. 

Four, a hand that is more balanced, efficient and tactile is a more nuanced hand; a more sophisticated hand.  You see, the more you are simultaneously supporting the violin AND articulating the notes, the more clever the hand needs to be.  The more clever YOU need to be.

It’s a mistake to assume the violin is difficult enough without imposing this challenge on it.  Why, because this challenge is at the heart of violin playing.  Physically we tend to ‘take possession’ of things with our hands.  This is exactly what you do with a left hand hold.

Simply, the violin is more a part of you when it is an extension of your hand and fingers than when it is an extension of your neck.

And five, no more clunky shoulder rests falling off the violin at inopportune times.  From the case right into your hand.  No need for a chair, knees, fresh rubber-bands, or whatever.

Well, I’m joking a little here, really.  The point is to MOVE in this direction.  Yes, it can be done ‘cold turkey’, if you like.  Yet a good intermediary step is to acquire one of those little red, rubber cosmetic sponges used to apply makeup and fix it to the back of the violin with a rubber band. 

If you position it just where the shoulder contacts the back of the instrument it will keep the violin from sliding from your shoulder as you begin dissipating the ‘clench.’

More on all this tomorrow.

All the best,

Clayton Haslop

From Anne-Marie Proulx
Posted on December 21, 2009 at 11:07 PM

I agree, just that something slightly thicker than a cosmetic sponge can be needed when one has a giraffe type neck ; )  


From Corwin Slack
Posted on December 22, 2009 at 5:37 AM

I am so glad that your focus is on holding the violin with the left hand and not as much on the shoulder rest. Dropping the shoulder rest and lifting the shoulder to hold the violin isn't much (if any) improvement.

Cold turkey worked the best for me but I had no playing obligations to support a family or otherwise. I do agree with everything you said in this blog. I am speaking for myself alone but I cannot honestly say that I had a technique before I gave up the shoulder rest.. It would have been nice to have had one but such as I played I could do without and I couldn't find a way to get a technique as long as I had a shoulder rest. When the crutch was removed I had to learn to walk.

Technique is a talent multiplier. I don't think one can add much to their talent but technique can be extended indefinitely. Holding the violin with the left hand is a great start to technique.

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