violin hold with vibrato problems...

January 2, 2010 at 05:08 PM ·

 Hi, i'm having problems with my vibrato. when holding the violin, you let it rest between your chin and collarbone right? however, if i do a vibrato, my violin shakes with it. any tips? thanks!

Replies (23)

January 2, 2010 at 08:22 PM ·


Just a few thoughts on this for you to consider if you like, that I have gained over my years of teaching violin.  First, when you vibrate, is your first finger (and/or other fingers) touching the neck of the violin?  That is one reason why the entire violin might move.  The first finger should detach from the side of the instrument to avoid interfering with free motion of the arm or hand. 

Another possibility is that the violin is not being adequately supported by your body, and therefore it does not take much to shake the entire structure.  It sounds like perhaps you are not using a shoulder rest? In my experience, it takes special training from a teacher who knows how to explain the balancing act that can be holding up a violin without a shoulder rest, especially if you have a long neck.  Using a shoulder rest or pad, at least temporarily, might help solve the problem.



Lisa Berman, M.M.

January 2, 2010 at 09:17 PM ·

 +1 for Lisa's comments - I'd add that unnecessary tension, stiffness and 'gripping' in the left hand are common causes of this. Vibrato is an unusual movement for most folks, don't really use this combo of muscles and movements in any other activity. So wen we're learning it and it's not doing like we want we tend to 'put more effort' into it and a rigid hand usually results, and then we don't have anything - fluency, accuracy, shifting, timing, all gone away, and we still don't have vibrato, so the tension usually travels on to the upper arm, shoulder and beyond...

So...I would say let's go back to basics - literally, buy Simon Fischer's book and work things out with your teacher gradually from first principles. It's worth doing right for your musical satisfaction, and physical well-being. Might want to check out Tod Ehle's youtube vids too, some of the one's I've seen are quite good.

Best of luck


January 2, 2010 at 10:47 PM ·


I agree with most of the coments above.  However, it is not always true that the index finger detaches form the violin .  Most fthe time mine istouching. The sace between index finger and neck is to mymind a modern phenomenon produced by use of the shpudler rest.  Older players ,  with veyr good vibratos used a greta dela of contact. In his book Galamian refers to the principle of `double contact` in which the sid eof the index finger and thumb work in tandem while touching the neck. It makes no sense to suggets that this highly importnat aspect of technique is not used when doing vibrato sinc eone does vibratoon virtually evry note  and did in his day, too.   Lackof contact between index finger and neck results in lack of data aout where the hand is and does, in my experience lead to less tehcncial security and weaker intonation.  However, this contatc is extremely light and sensitive and overdoing it in tandem with squeezing with the thumb will certainly cause trouble.



January 3, 2010 at 05:20 AM ·

Make sure that in reducing the violin shaking, you don't do it by holding the violin tightly between the collarbone and jaw.  Monitor the violin shaking closely. Train yourself to reduce the shaking of the violin by releasing any left hand grip, rather than by holding the violin tightly with the head.  Holding the violin tightly between collar bone and jaw can set up a vicious cycle of more left hand gripping, then more gripping with head.  Reverse the vicious cycle by maintaining a very loose hold of the violin between head and collar bone. Even try occasionally raising the head slightly off the chinrest while you play. Watch the great masters do this on Youtube videos. This brings to mind Erick Friedman's excellent description of watching Heifetz up close: He said that it looked as if it would take only a breeze to blow the violin and bow out of Heifetz's hands!  


It seems to me that the advancement of the technique we are discussing, perhaps all technical advancement, may be viewed as a victory of fine sensitivity over brute force.

January 3, 2010 at 08:09 AM ·

 Hey everyone! These are all really good points! The bad habits you suggested are all also true! I dunno how you guys do it! hahaha... They're really helpful! Thanks!!! :D

January 4, 2010 at 12:16 AM ·

Try practicing vibrato while releasing your thumb from the instrument and only using your other four fingers. Take deep breaths and keep your left hand relaxed. Let the weight of your arm keep your fingers in place and observe how very little tension or weight you need to keep the string against the fingerboard. This should teach you to have less tension in your left hand. Also, make sure your vibrato is parallel to the string, not up and down or right to left.

January 4, 2010 at 02:44 AM ·

>Try practicing vibrato while releasing your thumb from the instrument and only using your other four fingers. <

Jenny, I assume a shoulder rest is required to do what you suggest.  Either that, or you need to prop your violin against a sponge on the wall.  If not, the violin would droop down and perhaps even fall to the ground. 

January 4, 2010 at 05:28 AM ·

The only redeeeming thing about Fisher's books is that when you get them and realize how worthless they are you can easily sell them to some other sucker on craigslist courtesy of nonstop endorsements on forums like this one. 

Go to and go through the sequence on vibrato.   No cutting corners!  When he tells you to do the certain exercise with an orange for three weeks do it.  I guarantee that you will like what you learn and end up with and will have no further shaking issues.  It might take 6 mos or a year but that is spit in violin learning time.  

Best wishes, Tom

January 4, 2010 at 06:07 AM ·

There's really no need to slam Mr. Fischer's excellent work so bitterly just because you couldn't make use of it.  The fact that many others have successfully used it leaves your blanket judgment of the books and those who buy and praise them without support.  No need to be so defensive, there are plenty of people in the world who don't learn well through reading.

January 4, 2010 at 07:10 AM ·


`ooo, look. Everybody in the parade is marching out of step except my son.`

Pity you had to be so rude to this site and Mr Fischer, even down to omitting the common courtesy of either using Mr. or just his first name.  You are quite right about  It is certainly a good idea to go there for advice.

While doing so check out the  graded repertoire. Basics is recommended from grade three through grade ten.

Can`t trust anyone these days!


January 4, 2010 at 09:41 AM ·

Is it just me, or is the season of peace and goodwill getting shorter? Have a wonderful year, everybody!

January 5, 2010 at 01:45 AM ·

Try using an egg shaker and move your hand back and forth, and then apply that to the violin. That's how I learned and it really helped!

Best of luck!


January 5, 2010 at 03:10 AM ·

I have nothing personal relative to Simon Fisher.  He is an author and businessman and I am sure is grown up enough to handle criticism of his product offerings.  The religious genuflection in his direction on this site is kind of strange.  Interesting that there are 12 used copies of Basics for sale right now on Amazon.  Tom

January 5, 2010 at 04:23 AM ·


it never ceases to amaze me how some people can be offensive and unpleasant and then try and justify there comments by claiming it is rational and reasonable criticism.  There is certainly no reason why anyone should not stand up on this site and state `I do not like or consider Basics useful.` Indeed a number of people have and their comments were and will be met with with respect.  The reason there is little respect for your comments is simply that you clothe them in snide remarks and then don`t seem to be mature enough to recognize that fact.


January 5, 2010 at 12:21 PM ·

 Thanks to everyone for the helpful information! Happy new year guys!

January 5, 2010 at 01:53 PM ·

Did you tried the classical trick of putting the scrool against a wall and do vibrato exercises. This has helped many people to learn to moove the hand without necessarely moving the whole violin. Another thing when you play restless is that it's normal that the violin is less stable than with a rest. Notice that the elder players didn't do as much energic arm vibratos as today. They did more wrist and finger vibratos and I belive it is because this is more "compatible" with the restless method since it shakes less the violin even though the violin still shakes (more than with a rest)... look at elder masters and zoom at the maximum to see this shake. A technical "classical" solution so that these shakes don't annoy you is to lift up the scrool slightly when you play.  Many great players even with rests such as Ben Chan talk about this. This way, the gravity will push the violin into your collar bone area and will give you more stability and no fear of having the violin slip downwards with the shakes.  This trick has worked very well with me but I do just wrist and finger vibrato since I dislike the sound of arm vibratos. 

Good luck!


January 5, 2010 at 02:21 PM ·


I had no vibrato before I was 13 years old. By then I had had 8 years of violin lessons and had quit for a year. But I wanted to start to play again, and I wanted THAT SOUND, so i asked my father, who was an avid amateur violinist how to vibrato and he told me the moves to practice to make an arm vibrato - and advised me to do it without a bow in hand untill I could reduce the motion to the proper size. It took me about a month and I would try it with the bow every few days just to see what it sounded like. So I had a vibrato, a pretty good one, and within the year I became concertmaster of my high school orchestra - and I've continued to play for the 62 years since my first vibrato practice.

About 20 years later, I found a very good-fitting chinrest that improved my jaw-hold on the violin and thus stabilized my vibrato, and within a year or two I also started to use a shoulder rest - and this was the way I played for the next 40 years. I still tended to use an arm vibrato in 1st and 2nd position and wrist and finger vibratos for all higher playing. 2 years ago, arthritic pain in my left hand made it necessary for me to give up conventional shoulder rests. I just need to me able to move the violin to positions that are more comfortable for my left hand when playing on the lower strings. Furthermore, the big motions of an arm vibrato are not for old men! Just too much work!

At this point I listened seriously to the advice of Clayton Haslop and watched his approach and that of his mentor, Nathan Milstein (watch some relevant videos). Now it works for me to use only a small cushion between my violin and shoulder and although the weight of my head is still on the chinrest, my left thumb does a good bit of the support of the violin much of the time. On good days I can even squeak a bit of a wrist vibrato out of the 2 lower positions, but I must be sure not to squeeze the neck with my thumb.

If one can take the vairly easy-to-do wrist vibrato of the 3rd-position neighborhood, with the base of the palm against violin ribs and move that motion to lower positions, one has it made. If one cannot find a way to do that, it is possible to find a different ways to get that single finger flesh on the string to move a bit to and away from your face; after all, physically, that's all you are trying to do.

I don't know if relaying this experience is any help, but it's my story on the subject.


January 5, 2010 at 04:00 PM ·

Andrew, so you do arm vibrato with a non-rest setup? Quite impressing if yes since this shakes a lot the violin. I can only do wrist and finger vibratos with my non-rest setup but I'm very happy since they are my "fetish" dream vibratos when I listen to those who master them... ; )  But if I would want to do arm vibratos, I would have quite of a challenge to figure out how to do them with a non-rest setup. Happy to see that one can survive to 62 years of playing!Congratulations


January 5, 2010 at 05:38 PM ·

Mentioned by you, let's be clear.

January 6, 2010 at 01:11 PM ·

 Thanks again everyone! by the way, I dont use a chinrest because it is really uncomfortable for me. I started playing without one; I tried it once but then I cant play well with it so my teacher and i decided to take it off. I've been trying all your suggestions and have seen some improvement. I am really happy. thanks!!! :))


January 25, 2010 at 03:52 AM ·

I'd like to present a different point of view. Why is it assumed that the violin "shaking" along with the vibrato is bad? Of course "shaking" can be interpreted differently. If by "shaking' we mean a noticible up and down movement of the violin in time with the vibrato, I would submit that there is nothing wrong with it! (Nor is it wrong if you don't do it. There are great players both ways.) I do it, and I assure you that I am pretty loose in balancing (-I won't even say holding -) the violin. In fact balancing/holding it loosely is more likely to result in this effect - especially in the lower to middle positions. Imagine putting a wood board over two construction 'horses', then pushing up and down on it. Mechanically, the violin is something like that. Much more significantly, the same may be said of Ricci, Perlman, Steinhardt, and occasionally and to a much lesser extent, Heifetz and Rosand. (Look carefully at videos. It's easiest to see if you focus on the scroll.) I'm sure, many other great players can be cited, too. (I have videos of the above names, and so have seen them repeatedly.) What the above names all have in common is that they don't (as I don't) use a shoulder rest. Yet the other day I heard Joshua Bell in person, and I sat in the 1st row, right in front of him. He does use a rest, and yet his violin also shook when he vibrated. I've just reviewed some videos, and noticed that James Ehnes, too, "shakes' a bit - especially in intense passages.

Of course, there's shaking, and SHAKING!  If the bow's smooth functioning is compromised, then the vibrato must be adjusted. Some vibratos  are purely horizontal. Even when hand-centered, they are kind of like a more localized arm vibrato. Others use more of a rocking, arc-like motion, which will include a vertical aspect. I believe that it is this type of motion which inheres a dip and release, which cause the shake. Just now I paused to mime a vibrato action, with my left hand on the top of my right hand. Obviously in this experiment there were no issues of violin placement, etc. - yet I got  precisely this result. My right hand moved up and down a bit under my left hand vibrato motion.

 If your vibrato sounds good, and you're loose, and your bow is tracking well, I wouldn't worry about it. As you see from the names above, you're in good company!

January 25, 2010 at 01:37 PM ·

That reminds me not to practice while aboard an aircraft. The last time I did, I thnk my vibrato caused some turbulence!  It's better in any case to stow a viola case in the overhead compartment. In case of an emergency, it makes a better flotation device!  ;-)

January 25, 2010 at 02:25 PM ·

Hey everyone,

         Great and helpful responses! thanks a lot! :P

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