Left hand touching side of neck?

March 4, 2009 at 03:43 AM ·

I have a question about the root section of the index finger (near the base knuckle) touching the neck of the violin....is it supposed to touch? I had a lesson with my teacher the other day and we were addressing various issues when she discovered that my left hand is in constant contact (except during vibrato) with the neck of the violin at around the root section of my index finger. She seemed surprised I've been doing that all along and I got the impression that it's bad technique. Is it actually bad technique to touch the neck of the violin with anything but the thumb?


Replies (43)

March 4, 2009 at 04:06 AM ·


it should touch. Galamian refers ot this in his book as `double contact` and it is how the hand feels its way around the isntrumnent with accuracy.   Some people say that one cannot do a vibrato with the index finger on the violin.  This is not correct.  I play and teahc that way and so do other son this site.  The touch shoudl be very light of course. Gripping with the thumb and indexfinger is the death of left hand technique.



March 4, 2009 at 08:46 AM ·

There's more than one good way to play the violin.

March 4, 2009 at 10:03 AM ·

The root of my index finger touches the neck. It provides an accurate intonation by setting a "base" with the index finger (and the thumbs indicate where's the position). It's more firm to play running notes too.

However, I have it released whenever I do vibrato, if your finger stuck on the neck you're going to shake the whole violin too.

March 4, 2009 at 11:31 AM ·

Shaking the violin is not one of the good ways to play.

March 4, 2009 at 01:04 PM ·

You have to shake the fiddle to get the notes out of the f-holes.


March 4, 2009 at 05:04 PM ·

I agree with Brivati-sensei. Base of the index finger touches. But do keep in mind that most Galamian students played with no shoulder rest.  

March 4, 2009 at 06:46 PM ·

I am with Buri on this. Touching. Lightly.  Avoid squeezing laterally or letting the base of the index slip under the neck to make a "shelf." The spot in question may just glide against the side of the fingerboard or move a little bit away when using vibrato. I have only worked with one student (adult) who had learned to play with no contact of the index on the side of the fingerboard. She had developed numbness and pain that went up to her shoulder & neck. Everything else above her hand was so tense trying to keep it separated. There may very well be folks who can this & play comfortably & successfully, I just haven't run into them. Sue

March 6, 2009 at 11:33 PM ·

Thanks everyone for your responses! I suspect (after everyone's responded) that my teacher may have told me to try playing without touching the neck of the violin as an excercise; she suggested this in context of my problem with gripping the neck when I'm playing a passage that requires a lot of 4th finger use. I'll be sure to watch my left hand more. Thanks again for your responses, everyone!

March 11, 2009 at 04:42 AM ·

I realize this doesn't quite have to do with the original poster, but it's a related issue that's been bothering me.

When pressing the first two fingers together, I tend to have a hard time keeping a good hand position and not letting go of the neck.  For example, if I hold down D (fourth finger on the G string), G (third finger on D), C (second finger on A), F# (first finger on E), there all the pitches are natural except for the F# and then try to play a trill on the E string (EF#EF#EF#EF#) I can do it if I let go of the neck or allow the scroll to drop down to the base of my thumb (and bring the fingers higher on the other side), but have trouble doing it otherwise.   (No problem with F-natural, however =\)

So this thread made me wonder what the right way to do this sort of extension (compression?) is. 

March 12, 2009 at 05:23 AM ·

I believe It's generally OK to let the lower part of the first finger touch the violin neck (as long as it is a light touch, without any squeezing, as stated above), however I wouldn't go so far as to advocate maintaining this contact at all times.  There are certain situations in which releasing the contact is preferable.  One example is a three voice chord in which the highest finger is on the lowest string, for example: D w/ 4th finger on G string, F w/ 2nd finger on D string and Bb with 1st finger on A string.  In this case, maintaining the contact of first finger base with the violin neck may oppose the freedom to rotate the hand for easiest access to these notes.

March 12, 2009 at 02:17 PM ·

"Avoid squeezing laterally or letting the base of the index slip under the neck to make a "shelf."  Sue B.

This is an issue I have caught myself doing...using the base of the finger as a shelf.  I seem to trade one bad habit for another.  My assumption is, when I run out of wrong things I can do with the violin...I shall be an accomplished player.  ;-)

March 12, 2009 at 10:54 PM ·


actually some players do that as a conscious technical approahc.



March 13, 2009 at 01:29 AM ·

Absolutely, the shelf is a feature not a fault.  

March 13, 2009 at 02:17 AM ·

Seriously?  Because I thought I was commiting yet another violin violation.  I've discussed it with my teacher and although she didn't say, "stop it", she said she herself doesn't do it.   I assumed I was using it as a crutch...the finger shelf.  I've been trying to be very conscious of when I do it so I can quit doing it. 

So...can I relax about this?

March 13, 2009 at 02:56 AM ·

And there are several factors that will help decide how much contact and when to have contact with the E-string side of the instrument.  One would be, just as you mentioned, when vibrato is used, and then the base joint of the first finger does need to move away from the neck so that the hand can swing freely.  Another would be just before a shift when the base of the hand moves away from the neck and the hand rises (in altitude) a bit.  Depending on the size of the hand, you may be able to stay in light contact with the E-string side of the neck.  People with large hands can "get away with" doing a little support of the instrument at the base joint of the first finger, whereas, people with small hands have to do more juggling particularly when using the fourth finger.  In the end, holding or keeping one position is probably not the healthiest for the hand.  We need to be flexible enough in our positioning to cater to the needs of the music.  It's this liveliness physically that adds so much to playing generally.

Lynne Denig


March 13, 2009 at 05:01 AM ·


>One would be, just as you mentioned, when vibrato is used, and then the base joint of the first finger does need to move away from the neck so that the hand can swing freely. 

My apolgies if I am quoting you out of context but this simply is not correct.Contact with the side of the neck does not impede hand swing.  I think you have made this assumption because perhaps most shoudler rest users do this.  Unfortunately this does not automatically prove that this is a necessary condition for doing vibrato.  Indeed,  many overwide and unstable vibratos might well be improved by a little feather light contact on the neck.   If you look through this site you will find a numbe rof werll established profesisonals who have made this same point.

>Another would be just before a shift when the base of the hand moves away from the neck and the hand rises (in altitude) a bit. 

Nor is this true for everyone.  If you observe players such as Hiefetz,  Milstein and Szeryng closely you will find that they use a great deal of conact between all manne rof parts of the fingers and hands. They do not relinquish contact.  The effetc of doing what you describe is one of destabilzation .  One of The main criterias odf shifting is not changing the the angle at which the nail faces the string and your face since this will lead tyo bad intonation.  The action you describe will do just that.

After writing the above I took a quick look at violinmasterclass.com shifting.  The Prof talsk about releasing the pressure of both the thumb and base joint of first finger but not conatct and in the video this touch is not reluinquished.  (Until the double contact spoken of by Galamian necessiattes one using the palm instea dof the base of the finger for guidance.



March 13, 2009 at 11:38 AM ·

> I think you have made this assumption because perhaps most shoudler rest users do this.<


I used to do it when I was a rest user, it's so easy because the violin can be held entirely by the head and shoulder. Since I discarded the rest and now use a pad my base joint touches all the time, during vibrato and shifting also, it is a very light touch which does not impede any movement.

The only time I release this touch is when shifting to the high position where  my hand then comes in contact with the bouts and stays in contact when I shift even higher.

March 13, 2009 at 11:39 AM ·

Tess Z  Yes seriously. If you hold the violin with the left hand (fully rotated toward the fingerboard)  and the elbow under the violin the shelf is the primary support. The touch should be light. Essentially it is the weight of the violin on "the shelf". The thumb doesn't grip. It just offers a light counter support. If the base knuckles are pushed in and the hand forms its shift end shape before the shift, one can readily move to higher positions where the contact becomes the palm.

I guess that "the shelf" could be a bad thing if there are other left hand posture defects but if all the conditions are correct it is the way to hold up the violin with the left hand.

March 13, 2009 at 02:17 PM ·

I profess to being shocked that that index shelf is viewed as a choice, not an error. I have watched a fair number of young players do this, and can't think of any who did not also have other left-hand issues that seemed to stem from it. In particular, tension of the thumb or the outside of the wrist; lots of hand movement to make a shelf when playing E&Aand back out to reach D&G; difficulty hovering fingers above strings, problems reaching 4th finger, etc. I would like to see someone who does this by choice w/o creating problems for themselves. Video, anybody? Thanks,Sue 



March 13, 2009 at 02:40 PM ·

I'm glad this topic was brought up.  I don't use a shoulder rest either so that seems to be a key bit of information.  My teacher does use a rest so that must explain why she doesn't use as much contact with that joint nor the finger shelf.  Actually, this explains alot of the difference between her playing and mine (left hand technique).  I watch what her left hand is doing and try to mimic it and I can't play with my hand off the fingerboard as much as my teacher does (off the side I mean). 

Crimony, what a relief to finally have come to this realization.  Relaxing now.....thanks Corwin and Buri.  :-)



Oh dear.  Sue just threw down a challenge.  What you say is true Sue.  I especially have a difficult time crossing from the E to the G without there being a noticeable 'gap' in the music and it's because I can't move my hand fast enough.  This is where I especially find myself using the 'shelf' (playing on the E in first position).  It's so important to keep all the fingers over the strings but I do let my hand slip under the neck when playing on the E.  By that I mean using that first joint for support.

....back to feeling inadequate.....

March 14, 2009 at 12:22 AM ·

The feel of the E-string side of the nut (at the scroll end of the fingerboard) on the base of my index finger has always told me that I am ready to play a first-position note in tune.

The feel of the ribs on the heel of my hand tells me the same thing for 3rd position. (Cellists have the equivalent for starting in 4th position, but no equivalent for 1st position.)

Once one starts to play the touch needs to be loose enough to allow for vibrato.

My left hand/arm posture is such that my hand swings from E string to G string with the movement of my elbow (rotation at the shoulder) but with a fulcrum pretty much touching the edge of the nut.

I think a player's finger length and arm length can affect finer details of such things, but when I see people who play who don't have have some similar point of "stability" for their posture, they run into various left hand problems (at least from time to time) because of it.

I think some of the problems we see with the elbow too far to the left result in all kinds of improper placement and use of the thumb and index finger on the neck and cause various awkward left hand "gymnastics" for everything these people try to play. All I know is to try to restart them with 4-string scales forbidding anything but correct posture. But unless they are committed to fixing the problem, we have no control over what they do during their private practice sessions.

An article titled "HOLDING PATTERN - Teachers should stay flexible when determining the bestway for a student to hold a fiddle" on page 34 of the January 2009 issue of STRINGS magazine addresses several aspects of this problem


March 13, 2009 at 05:26 PM ·

 I live in Houston TX and will happily meet (in Houston) any v.com member who contacts me through v.com. I will demonstrate "the shelf". 

March 13, 2009 at 09:38 PM ·

I agree with Sue.

March 13, 2009 at 09:55 PM ·

I've seen Max Vengerov use the 'shelf' especialy when he plays the chords in the chaconne, it is more evident with the wrist bending inwards.

March 14, 2009 at 03:45 AM ·

I wonder if you aren't all arguing (agressively) over nothing.  What I've been told about the index finger is that you don't want the violin so high against the index finger knuckle that the top of the fingerboard is above the top of the first knuckle because that restricts the movement of the first finger, but that it shouldn't be so low that you can't use the knuckle to support the violin.  

I could see how "shelf" could be used to describe either problem...

March 15, 2009 at 01:14 AM ·

Joseph, that description is very helpful.  Thanks.

Using 'the shelf' could be an individual thing too.  My fingers are short so I can't easily reach from the E to the G  without adjustment, as easily as someone with long fingers.  Perhaps those with longer fingers can use the shelf more efficiently without issues in their playing.

When I'm playing on the E, in first position, I feel like my hand gets jammed up (due to the shelf thing).

I would appreciate suggestions for specific exercises to work through this.


March 15, 2009 at 04:18 AM ·

There is the optimum postion for the knuckle but there seems to be an exception to this rule where more shelf ( a larger shelf ) is advantageous in the excution of perhaps triple stops. So different degrees of "the shelf" can be utilised/alternated where neccesary.

This aspect and the transition from contact with finger board to palm contact with the bouts, ascending and decending, is of much interest to me. So I am not intending to argue, only discuss and pick Stephen's Brains.

March 15, 2009 at 07:15 PM ·

Hey, not fighting! Not a challenge, either. Perpetually curious about other folks' thinking. Sue

March 15, 2009 at 10:31 PM ·


I don`t think this thread can be described as aggressive either.

Violin playing has on the one hand made huge leaps in some senses over thelast few decades (primarily in left hand facility of a kind (that doesn`t interest me;)) but it ha salso acquired a slightly stultifying sameness so when we do see some er less mainstream ways of playing (slightly out of fashion for one reasn or another)  they are often questionned quite strongly.  Take a look at `he secret of Soviet Violin Technique.`  In that publication there are two disitnct approaches to left hand use .  There geographic origin hinted at by the fatc they have names associated with two parts of Russia which traditionally have been culturally diverese and proud of it.   

The violin itself is  an akward instrument to learn and nowadays by taking the line of least resitance in physical terms a standardized apprach appears to be for many the most risk free andobvious approach.   There are things a SR user doesN@t know about teachign restlss and a non user may be unhelpful or misleading in the reverse case and this is just one example.   

My personal interpretation of the currnet discusison s that it is not really an either or.   Whether or not I use the index fingeror thumb to support the violin is constantly changing to suit the moment. This is related to but not the same as the isuse of contact.  One can be touching the neck but not having the violin particlarly resting on the index finger.   An extreme example of where I shift the balance totall to the thumb is an exercise I practice regualry as follows.  I play Higher finger such as 3rd fingerc on the g string.    Then I play a second finger d and return to 3rd finger as rapidly as possible.  Then the reverse. There is no shift involved..The thumb is merely the pivot. This exercisecan involve various combinatations including rather big leaps such as fourth finger  first psoition `trilling` with 1sr fnger in 5th psoition.

Henry said:

>The only time I release this touch is when shifting to the high position where  my hand then comes in contact with the bouts and stays in contact when I shift even higher.

Yes .




March 16, 2009 at 01:32 AM ·

Are you saying it is acceptable to bring the thumb more under the neck to aide in support?  That is what I was doing when playing on E in 1st, but my teacher noticed this and wanted me to keep the thumb out from underneath.  In trying to do that, I unwittingly started using  'the shelf'.  Then,  I started having problems playing in 1st position.

And sorry about my comment on Sue throwing down a challenge.  It was merely a sarcastic remark, not meant at all seriously or viciously.  This forum is always friendly and humorous...didn't think such a  comment would be taken to heart.  :-)

Please, keep this discussion going because it is very interesting to hear everyone's idea's.


March 16, 2009 at 04:22 AM ·


thumb position depends on the size of the hand  and the school of thought of the teacher;)  Sone say it should be as far forward as f natural in first psotion.  Others opposite the first finger.  Others say that if you hold up the left hand as though palying the violin then wherever the thumb iw in relation to the finger sis where it should be on the neck. This last has always semeed a litlte vvague t me.  Oriental player swith small hand stend to have the thumb quite a long way under the neck (point towards the scroll.  My own view is that it is usually better opposite the firts and pointint back but it is so hard to generalize. 

In the end it is safer to remeber that it is the position of the ifngers that dictates the psoition of a relaxed thumb. As someone once said,  think of it like water an dallow it to find its own level at any given moment.

PS Just googled Markov youtube violin. He is playing Paginin caproce 24.  The thumb position is very varied and fluid but on the whole is opposite the first finger or pointing backwards slightly.  Now those are hand smade for Paginin!



March 16, 2009 at 09:35 AM ·

I agree with Sue that young players could develop "left-hand issues" that is,if the basic hand position was not mastered, which must be free of tensions with balanced elbow well under the instrument to enable hovering fingers and reaching by the 4th finger. "Lots of hand movement" may indicate lack of study in this area.

The excersise with the pivoting thumb......is this also called " the finger throw"  where the high notes are reached with a flick/snap/jerk of the wrist. Do you reach an octave or further,but it must be a harmonic interval.

March 16, 2009 at 04:10 PM ·

"In the end it is safer to remeber that it is the position of the ifngers that dictates the psoition of a relaxed thumb. As someone once said,  think of it like water and allow it to find its own level at any given moment."

Wise advice.  I have also heard the bit about holding your left hand in playing position to find natural form of hand.  When I do this, my thumb is indeed pointing away from me, not opposing the fingers.  If I try to hold the violin like a guitar, it doesn't work.  My thumb is always alongside the neck or wanting to go under.


March 16, 2009 at 10:24 PM ·


well I was watching ASM on DVD last night just for you!!!! (Maybe a little for me...) She ha srelatively small hands and her thumb points back slightly and is kept very consistently in that psoition.



May 15, 2009 at 03:44 PM ·

I play with the base of my index finger touching the neck, but I've noticed that sometimes this will cause a 'squeaking' sound, particularly on the E string--I think the finger might be interfering with the vibration of the string somehow. If I actively try to avoid touching the neck of the instrument, I've noticed it helps, but it's much more awkward! Is there any middle ground? 

May 16, 2009 at 02:22 AM ·

squeaking comes from the bow ;P

May 16, 2009 at 10:54 PM ·

Hm...then why does it get better if I change my left hand?

May 17, 2009 at 09:46 AM ·


the left index finger brushing the e string slightly is a very common cause of squeeking. It`s the first thing to cjeck. 



May 17, 2009 at 08:01 PM ·

Thanks, Buri. I knew I wasn't imagining it! :P

May 17, 2009 at 10:22 PM ·

I likewise touch the side of the violin with the base of my index finger. At one time this caused chords (like in Praeludium and Allegro) that have an open E to squeak. Turning my left hand in cured the problem. 

May 19, 2009 at 04:35 PM ·

I've been working on this problem for quite a while. If you play a double stop on the A and E strings, let's say C and open E, if your finger happens to touch the E string the 'squeak' or 'whistle' you hear is like an unintentioned 'harmonic' and very annoying! What I'm doing is training myself to keep the edge of my index finger clear of the open E whenever the bow plays on the open E. At other times I just let the finger touch the side of the neck. I suspect that length of your arm may have some bearing on this. If you arm is longer, you can probably avoid touching the neck. I have a hard time playing a chord in the first position involving the E string.

May 20, 2009 at 12:38 AM ·

Make sure to keep the hand fairly low. When you play with ashoulder rest you could have a tendency to have the hand high. It isn't necessary. You should be able to reach the G string easily with a fairly low hand. The lower the hand the less flesh to touch the open e. 

May 24, 2009 at 06:01 PM ·

I don't understand about keeping the hand low. I play with a shoulder rest. But how do I keep my hand low with or without a shoulder rest? If I bring my hand down, the violin will follow. By low does that mean downward, toward the scroll or toward the rib?


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