January 2013

Violin Left Hand

January 25, 2013 07:34

violin left hand

What is the most important issue for the left hand is for it to be relaxed. There are different schools of thought of how the left hand should be. Some violinists play with the fingerboard resting on the web of the hand between the thumb and index finger. This is based on the Russian school of violin playing training and is shown in the example video below by violinist Egor Gzechishnikov. Others make sure there is no space between the violin and the left hand which is demonstrated by Yehudi Menuhin in the video below. He discusses this at 4:30 if you want to get directly to where he demonstrates the relationship of the left hand to the violin. In my video, filmed in the Rhodope Mountains of Bulgaria I discuss the very basics of bringing the left hand to the violin. So no matter where your contact point may be it is important to be relaxed and your palm is facing the fingerboard.

Be sure to check out my youtube playlist for left hand technique

The piece performed here is part of Caprice Basque by Sarasate.  Here is a video of the complete piece performed by Perlman with images of Basque - enjoy.

Happy Practicing!

Heather Broadbent

If you found this information to be helpful please subscribe to my newsletter at

and/or to my youtube channel

2 replies

Kickstarter Project - Music Classes for Children in Gabrovo, Bulgaria and Online Violin Videos

January 24, 2013 03:07

IMG_0930The children of Gabrovo, Bulgaria are full of light like all children.  Gabrovo is a beautiful city along the Yantra river, nestled in the Balkan mountains.   It is the longest city and located in the center of Bulgaria.   It use to be considered the Bulgarian Manchester because of all of its manufacturers and had almost 100,000 people at its peak.  With the fall of communism, the manufactures declined and so did the population of Gabrovo.  Many people moved to Sofia, the capital of Bulgaria, in order to find work.


Coming from America, it is safe to say that the people of Gabrovo have many financial hardships.  There is not much work and the work that may be found in the city has a lower monthly wage than the cost of living.  If people do not have a house in the family they are most likely not able to afford to buy a house or flat.

This does not allow money for activities outside of academics for their children.

The people of Gabrovo love the arts.  Every concert given by the Gabrovo Chamber Orchestra is standing room only.  The concerts are given in a beautiful art gallery.  It is quite the experience to perform beautiful music surrounded by amazing visual art.  The last concert here in Gabrovo had to turn away almost 300 people because there was no room for them.

As an orchestral musician coming from the states, we would love to have that problem.  Many times there are more empty seats than people in the concert halls.

Here in Gabrovo they love culture.  The orchestra has almost three concerts a month on average and each concert has special guest concerts surrounding the orchestra concert.

I have travelled many places in the world and the wonderful people here not only in Gabrovo, but in the country of Bulgaria, have made such an amazing life changing impression on me.  I have been inspired to create a kickstarter project that exposes the children of Gabrovo, raised in a cultural community, to music lessons at a young age, something many people take for granted. I am very excited to start the music classes for children here in this city that I consider my "Brigadoon."

In order for these music classes for children to come to fruition my kickstarter project needs to be fully funded by February 9, 2013.



Click here for my Kickstarter Page.


I firmly believe in the success of this project and cannot wait to start the music classes for the children of Gabrovo, Bulgaria.

Archive link

Violinist Recovery from Broken Wrist - Finger Strengthening

January 11, 2013 06:53



November 2010, Thanksgiving week, was a Mexican vacation I will never forget.  It was the vacation when I broke my left wrist.  It was a very strange incident or accident rather. I was walking down some rocky stairs without a railing, hit an uneven step and down I went.  Right before the tumble the words came to me "Everything will be all right."  I didn't tuck my hands under when I fell - no, I fell right on to my left hand, it stung and my eyes smarted.  I got myself up and spent quite a bit of time after the fall in hot tubs.

As soon as I returned to the states, I got out my violin to play to make sure everything was OK.  I was a bit surprised to have pain in my fourth finger every time I used it especially past third position.  I went to the Doctor and they took x-rays but did not find a fracture.  So they diagnosed it as a sprained wrist.  As all musicians know this is a very busy time for concerts.  I had a very special concert along with my regular Christmas season Orchestra concerts and gigs.  December 17, I was invited to showcase myself in all aspects.  This concert included my students playing with me accompanying them, my solo playing of Piazolla tango, Paganini Caprice, Bach Sarabande, and La Paloma violin and guitar duet.  After all of this I played with two rock bands.  It ended up being a three hour concert.  I did this with a small brace on my wrist and I was using pain patches given to me through physical therapy.  After the concerts were done, I visited my family in Utah and did not touch the violin hoping that with rest the pain would go away.  My oldest brother Tom, saw how limited use I had of my wrist and being a volunteer fireman with some knowledge of broken bones he told me my wrist was broken.  I told him no, they took x-rays and found nothing.


When I returned to Wisconsin, I knew I needed more tests.  I don't remember how, I think it was a referral from my GP, I was able to have an MRI and they finally found the fracture.  I had fractured my hamate bone.  It is a very rare break and is very difficult to heal.  The doctor said I had a five percent chance of healing and a smaller chance to heal correctly.  Immediately I was put in a cast.  Now remember this is over a month from the initial break and I had played hard on this broken wrist.  At this point in my life - music was my life.  I knew no other.  I practiced at least three - six hours a day, studying with Rachel Barton Pine, performing recitals, working as a orchestral violinist in over twenty orchestras and teaching my private students accompanying them all on piano and here I was with a broken wrist.  I was sick.  I had to have the cast for a minimum of eight weeks, which actually turned into twelve weeks.  I couldn't type, play the violin, obviously, or the piano.  At least I could still swim with the cast.   I was so glad the cast was removeable this way after I went swimming, I could put on the new cast.  I requested two casts so I could go swimming.  If I didn't have swimming in my life at that time I don't know what I would have done.  There were a few months I couldn't use my arm at all so I found many different ways to swim using the rest of my body for example only kicking, dolphin kicks on side, back and stomach.  I was very creative.

I honestly don't remember what I did with my time except for watching youtube videos, reading books on musicians and thinking about what I can play as soon as I could play again.  I did a lot of soul searching  - I had a lot of time to think and looking back, I needed this catastrophic event to re-evaluate my life.

I was so thankful that I was still able to teach my students.  They were what got me through that difficult time.  I remember there was a snow day and the students couldn't come to my door.  We were all snowed in.  I was devastated.  What was I to do.  It was a very difficult time for me  to avoid the depression doldrums.  I had to stay positive that my wrist was going to heal - I knew nothing else in my life except for being a violinist.

In February, I was able to see dear friends of mine perform at Carnegie Hall.  This was a great diversion for me.  In this picture you can see me with my cast.  I tried to hide it in all of my pictures and this is the best picture to see the cast.


The cast went all the way up to my elbow.  As you can see in this picture my fingers were like jello.  I lost all muscle definition in them and they were the weakest they have ever been in my entire life.

At the end of March, I received great news based on a cat scan of my wrist - I was very lucky and my wrist did heal perfectly against all odds.  That was just the beginning - I had to go through three months of physical therapy.  When I first tried to play the violin it was an impossibility and that is not an exaggeration.  I couldn't even turn my wrist to face the violin.  I couldn't even hold the violin let alone put my fingers on the fingerboard.  It was more painful to turn my wrist to play the violin than the actual break.  I practiced very small increments once I could get my fingers to the violin.  I had support from other fellow violinists that had more catastrophic injuries than mine.  Violinists that I never knew had problems - we were stand partners and they were and are great players.  After my injury, I learned that one lost the tips of his fingers with a table saw accident and another had ruptured her tendon and could not straighten her fourth finger.  I had no idea until they told me and they only told me to help me.  I knew if they could pull through that I could too.  By the end of April 2011, I was back playing my normal concert schedule with the orchestras combined with ice and physical therapy.

So hopefully this post will be helpful to other musicians with injuries.  Besides stretching every day, I had a few tricks to help regain strength in my left hand.  The therapists had me use gripmasters.  I started with very small weight and then slowly increased.

I also squeezed different sponges - again starting with easy and increasing the difficulty.

I have used Chinese Balls as well.  You want to eventually be able to roll them in one hand without having them touch.  The chimes are wonderful for relaxation.


For any pain, I have always found Tiger Balm to work the best for me.


This is the finger strengthening exercise I use with my students young and old.


Please know I am not a physician or a therapist. This is all based on my life experience. If you are having any pain issues please see a physician, chiropractor, therapist etc. Everyone has different issues and different bodies.

Now looking back - it had to happen - I had to break my wrist and have performing completely absent from my life for a short time in order for me to re-evaluate and grow as a person. To climb the next steps in the ladder of life..........

Happy Healthy Practicing

Heather Broadbent

If you found this information to be helpful please subscribe to my newsletter at

and/or to my youtube channel


5 replies

Music Games - Playdough Activities

January 7, 2013 07:20

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Who would have thought playdough can be used in music lessons? If you are struggling with group piano lesson ideas or violin group lesson ideas you will find this post to be helpful. Playdough activities are perfect for violin or piano group lessons with children and young adults. I use it with music theory and have the students create music symbols, key signatures, notes, rhythms and more. A great game is to divide the children into two teams and they create with the playdough different music symbols and the other their teammates have to guess what is the playdough creation. It is similar to the game win, lose or draw but with playdough.

You can use the homemade playdough to teach how to read music. Draw a lage staff on cardboard or posterboard and have the students make their playdough notes and put on the staff. You can have a guessing game between teams and keep score on this game. If it is edible paydough the winning team or student with the correct answer can collect the playdough and eat after the game is finished.

Below my playdough video I have listed a link to amazon for colored playdough, homemade playdough recipes and homemade edible playdough recipes. How much fun for the children to eat their musical creations or compositons.


You don't have to buy the playdough at the store - here are great homemade play dough recipes:

Play Dough Recipe:

1 cup white flour 1/2 cup salt 2 tablespoon cream of tartar (find it in the spice section) 1 tablespoon oil 1 cup water food coloring

Mix first 4 ingredients in a pan. Add water and mix well. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, for 3 – 5 minutes. Dough will become difficult to stir and form a “clump”. Remove from stove and knead for 5 minutes–add food coloring during kneading process. Play dough will keep for a long time stored in a covered plastic container or plastic sandwich bag.

And if you want edible play dough recipes so the students can eat their musical creations:

Kool-Aid Play Dough

1 cup flour
1 cup water
1/2 cup salt
3 teaspoons Cream of Tartar
1 package Kool-Aid Mix (any flavor of unsweetened)
1 tablespoon cooking oil

Mix dry ingredients together in a large saucepan. Slowly add water mixed with oil and stir over medium heat until mixture thickens to dough. Turn out onto a heatproof bread board or counter top and knead until cool enough for children to handle. Dough will be the color of the Kool-Aid mix and will smell like the Kool-Aid mix. (Can be stored in a tightly covered container for up to six months)

Jell-O Play Dough

1 cup flour
1/2 cup salt
1 cup water
1 tablespoon oil
2 teaspoons Cream of Tartar
1 (3-1/2 oz.) package "unsweetened" Jell-O

Mix all ingredients together and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly until consistency of mashed potatoes. Let cool and knead with floured hands until dry.

Storage: This recipe needs to cool completely "before" storing it in an airtight container!

Note: The items made from this play dough recipe can be painted when they are dry.

Oatmeal Play Dough

1 part flour
2 parts oatmeal
1 part water

Mix ingredients together and form into shapes.

Note:The items made from this play dough recipe can be painted when they are dry.

Cream Cheese Play Dough

8 oz. package of cream cheese
1/2 cup non-fat dry milk
1 tablespoon honey
crackers or bread slices

Combine cream cheese, milk and honey in a bowl and mix until well blended. Mold sculptures on was paper.

Storage: Unused portions MUST BE STORED in an airtight container and kept refrigerated! Because cream cheese is perishable, use the expiration date on the cream cheese package as your guide for how long you can keep this play dough.

Note: The shapes can then be placed on crackers or bread slices, decorated with edibles (celery or carrot slivers, raisins, dried fruit pieces, nuts, or seeds for a healthy snack... then eat!

Have fun!!!!!!

Heather Broadbent

If you found this information to be helpful please subscribe to my newsletter at

and/or to my youtube channel

8 replies

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