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Drew Lecher

Left Thumb & 1

December 5, 2008 at 6:38 PM

A question:  In the contact of thumb/1st finger of the left hand, do you have a suggestion for determining the right height of the thumb? (i.e. how far up the side of the fingerboard it should come) 

Hi Christian—

In general, I use a slightly lower altitude setting to the neck as my hands are large, but the height must be appropriate to the hand size and arm length, etc.

Hold the palm of your left hand toward your face—fingers and thumb straight and palm flat—observing how the thumb touches the base knuckle of the 1st finger. The little wedge/open ‘V’ shape is where the neck of the instrument lightly rests. This space will be slightly opened so the violin rests between the thumb’s inside pad and approximately the middle of the 1st finger’s first phalanx—between the base knuckle and the middle joint.

The exact position and balance will vary greatly when playing. This is primarily due to 1) string(s) played 2) position 3) type of pattern—single notes or double-stops 4) Hand Group sequence and 5) size of hand.

Always be flexible and agile.

To show independence of the thumb, I will often demonstrate shifting up a 6th or more from first position. Starting with the thumb totally around the neck and up and over the fingerboard onto the Ging—playing C;-) Did you see Laurie’s C Major Scale Fingering blog <> where I gave a humorous fingering? Also see below. It is possible and amazing how being able to do it reasonably well frees the hand and thought processes for ‘normal’ playing.

This is an important game that confirms the needed independence of the thumb—i.e., play a chord with: THUMB-C on G, Open D, Open A, F-1 on E and shift to D-1 or F-1 on E. Simultaneously release the thumb and direct it under the neck at a diagonal pointing back/away. DO NOT MOVE THE SIDE OF THE FIRST FINGER AWAY FROM THE NECK! It will gradually leave the neck as one proceeds over the top of the instrument with the thumb supporting the instrument under the neck. NO GRIPPING ALLOWED.

I give no preparation and quite simply shift F-1 on E to D-1 on E. The return of the thumb to its natural balance point is simultaneous with the shift up.

Hope this helps a bit along with the excerpts below.

Here are excerpts from my books under the headings:

Left Hand/Arm (pg xx)

See Posture.

2. Thumb should initially be across from the knuckle of the 1st finger, behind the tip – this will modify based on string, position and intervals or type of passage being played. See Posture, 3a.

  1. Develop independence of motion – never grip or squeeze the neck.


NOTE: If allowed, indeed encouraged, the fingers/hand/arm will adjust for the type of passage, i.e., 3rds and 6ths, etc. In 3rds a greater clockwise rotation will be used with high fingers (3 & 4) on the lower string and low fingers (1 & 2) on the higher string. With the same strings when playing 6ths, conversely, a greater counter-clockwise rotation will be used with the neighboring higher finger on the higher string. The pendulum action of the left arm will also come into play to assist the balancing of the fingers on the strings.

SYNOPSIS: ALWAYS achieve a natural balance and efficiency of motion.

Observe these and all other adjustments readily incorporating them into your technique.



Posture (pg. xxiii)

This deals with the physics of playing and handling the instrument.

1. Stance 2. Instrument 3. Left Hand: a. Thumb & b. Index Finger

Shifts in #2 & #3


3. The left-hand, thumb and 1st finger are responsible for holding, balancing and maneuvering around the instrument like an Olympic skater or gymnast. Together, they form a supporting wedge in the lower positions that must never be gripped in a vise-like manner.

a. Thumb: It must be flexible, agile and free to move.

1) Place the pad of the thumb on the Ging side, slightly under the neck and across from the 1st finger’s knuckle – it will have varied locations/angles depending upon the string, position and type of passage.

2) As we shift up the thumb actively follows simultaneously, supporting the instrument along with the side of the 1st finger and gradually flowing diagonally underneath the neck behind the 1st finger to solely support the violin/viola – this diagonal move is generally not needed in the lower three positions, four with a larger hand, unless one is progressing into higher positions and/or playing 3rds and other patterns that require the higher fingers to be on lower strings, while lower fingers are on higher strings.

3) As the fingers/hand progress over the top of the instrument, the thumb should continue its flow diagonally underneath the neck, eventually to the high string’s side of the neck and then over the top on the side of the fingerboard – by which time the upper arm has freely lifted to lightly support the instrument, see a) below. One must stand/sit tall to achieve this with proper balance, opening the chest without lifting the shoulders.

a) During the above, 3), without a shoulder-rest, the upper arm near the joint of the shoulder will rise to the back of the instrument, lending a light support – the thumb is no longer doing that job.


c) The thumb will be approximately a 90-degree angle from the first finger when going above the top and along the side of the fingerboard. (If the thumb is “double jointed,” the angle will be smaller, but initially try opening the hand-thumb angle. Finally, choose what is easiest and most maneuverable.

d) In higher positions, the thumb easily prevents the instrument swinging to the right.

Violin Technique: The Manual, How to master… 

Viola Technique: The Manual, How to master…


Piece of cake!





C Major Scale Fingering—Merry Christmas;-)

From Drew Lecher

Posted via on September 13, 2008 at 3:23 AM

Of course it has to be the Left Thumb from around the neck rising over the G side.!

This enables the player to perform perfectly clear Chromatics descending to the Open G before ascending again to Thumb C Tonic, after which the exceptional violinist deftly shifts to 4th position D-1 on G followed sequentially E-2, F-3, G-4, from which said violinist plays G-4 on G as unison with G-thumb on D, pivot shifting (half shifting ala Galamian) to chromatiacally descend on the Ding with F#-4, F-3, E-2, Eb-1, upon which the next sweep up is chramattic to G-Thumb on D, from which same said exceptional violinist ably and deftly shifts to 4th position A-1 on D sequentially rising in a state of glee with B-2, C-3, D-4, upon which da unison D-Thumb on A is vibrantly sounded leading to a rhythmically varied cramatique descending then ascending 432101234Thumb flourish on the Aing sequencing smartly to open Eing as a surprise transition, thereby sequencing in ascending fashion with 4 1s, 4 2s, 4 3s, 7 4s reaching Mount Everest heights and attaining FOUR octaves for extra measure(s) thereupon descending 4321Thumb ala cellist's thumb position to F-Thumb on — noting tremendous seizure of jaw, neck, shoulder, back, arm, wrist, hand AND fingers — determined to carry on at all cost, accomplishing the Aing via D-1, C-1, B-1, open A, traversing exuberantly to da Ding using G-2, F-2, E-2 open D……………… (catching breath and a moment of technical inspiration) leaps whole heartedly to the Ging using the cellists' secret weapon when all else fails……the THUMB!!!………races through the final straightway playing C-Th, B-Th, A-Th, open G ascending back to tonic C via A-1, B-2, C-4!, C-3, C-2, C-1 and finally, finally returning to C-THUMB! from around the neck rising over the G side.

From Pauline Lerner
Posted on December 6, 2008 at 6:52 AM

Thanks, Drew.  My students often ask me about placement of the thumb and first finger of the left hand.  Now I'll know a good response.

From Christian Vachon
Posted on December 6, 2008 at 1:36 PM

Hello Mr. Lecher,

Thank you so very much for the detailed answer to my question!  I have needed to devote much time to this recently as I can no longer use rests of pads.  This is precisely the kind of information I was looking for.

Thanks again and all my very best!



From Drew Lecher
Posted on December 7, 2008 at 6:11 PM

Pauline and Christian,

You are both very welcome. I am glad if it helps.


From Helen Martin
Posted on December 7, 2008 at 6:19 PM

I think we all suffer from the "s" word as in "should."

"Should," I believe, leads to rigidity and locking.Both sabotoge the essential element of physical technique - release. So then the left thumb's function is to contribute to the support the instrument with a readiness to move as the music dictates.

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