The role of every finger is so important, when it comes to playing the violin - it's no wonder we tend to obsess about finger placement!
So today, inspired by a V.com discussion started earlier this week by Bruce Berg, I'd like to focus on the placement of the left thumb.
The shape and placement of the left thumb turns out to be a pretty crucial factor for setting up the movement in your left hand, whether that's the movement of your fingers, vibrato movement, or movement up and down the fingerboard. A thumb that squeezes the neck can cause hand tension and also inhibit all of that movement.
But what does that thumb look like? For me, the thumb is straight - a habit that did take some persistence on the part of a very patient early teacher. For years, I bent my thumb and used it to help "hold" the violin. The "aha" moment came when, after years of telling me to change the way things looked, my teacher gave me a tactile instruction to feel the violin on a different part of the thumb, which he pointed out. Suddenly the entire problem was solved.
So for me, with the shape and size of my hand, a straight and low thumb provides a great deal of mobility. However, over many years I have come to understand that violinists can make a good number of different positions work. Someone with a very long thumb may find it impossible and even counter-productive to hold that thumb as low as I would hold mine.
Also, while a "bent thumb" can be a red flag for gripping the neck, it's not always the case. A number of violinists do just fine with a bent thumb - for example, James Ehnes gets around the fingerboard with more agility than most of us! His long fingers have different requirements, and a bent thumb works for him.
How do you hold your left thumb? Is it low or high? Bent or straight? Is this something you have had to work on? Is it something you have changed over the years? Is it currently working for you? Please participate in the vote and then tell us about your thumb placement and how it has evolved.
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