Left Wrist supinate/pronate?

July 7, 2010 at 06:58 PM ·

When playing in first position do you supinate/pronate at all i.e. is it all interosseous work?   

Replies (31)

July 7, 2010 at 07:13 PM ·


well the base of those worss are `supine@ and `prone` which refer rouglhy I think, to facing up and facing down so one wouldn`t actually be doing either with te left wrist. Did you mean right?



July 7, 2010 at 07:16 PM ·

If you hold your arm out in front of you and rotate your forearm so that your palm is facing down, that's pronation.  Supination is rotation in the other direction.

July 7, 2010 at 07:27 PM ·

THe left hand in playing position is about as supinated as possible.  What I'm asking is is your wrist fixed in that position or do you pronate a little and back to full supination depending on which first position pitches you are fingering?   

July 7, 2010 at 08:01 PM ·

Pronated as possible.  :-)  When you lift your forearm, the reference point shifts.  Pronation and supination are measured relative to anatomical position.

Put your arm down at your side.  Pronate your hand so that your palm faces forward.  Keep your hand in that position and bend your elbow to raise your forearm.  That should be closer to how you hold the neck of your instrument.

If you put your arm down at your side and supinate as much as possible, then bend your elbow, it should look like you're waving to someone.

July 7, 2010 at 08:22 PM ·

Pronation is where the radius crosses the ulnar - supination when they're parallel - the left hand supinates to play (the illustration is of the right arm)..  

July 7, 2010 at 08:38 PM ·

So supination is palm-facing-forward when the arms are down?

July 7, 2010 at 08:50 PM ·


July 7, 2010 at 10:34 PM ·

Sorry. Bud is wrong. Period.

Check any basic medical reference text or just do some googling and you will find that it concerns the palm facing up or down. That is why i took the trouble to point out the words `pronate` and `supinate`. What the bones do inside the arms is epiphenominal.

July 7, 2010 at 10:38 PM ·

 My teacher discovered that she actually can't increase the supination to the degree that most players do - she plays with an 'exposed' palm in every position. I notice her hand frame and sup/pro degree don't actually change from first position upwards. Very small clip that shows her wrist, (she's front violinist) sorry there aren't any decent players around her to compare with:



Personally, I think I play with too much supination.  when I picutre relaxation now, its in my teacehr's hand frame (even though I can't actually achieve that) - my arm is more relaxed if I open it out and pronate more, and that helps me to keep a consistent frame and manage that dastardly vibrato in low first position (F major, b flat, f natural)

July 7, 2010 at 11:04 PM ·

 When I say 'discovered' - she was in like her 30th year of playing, learning, and had some advanced lessons - in examining how to improve her vibrato, it was found that she has reduced range in supination.

July 7, 2010 at 11:30 PM ·

 Actually Buri, Bud can be considered correct - if you isolate the movements of the forewarm/wrist and the elbow, then playing position for the left hand is flexed elbow with supinated wrist.  First supinate your wrist with a straight elbow or bent at 90 deg, now flex your elbow more or fully - see, the hand comes up into playing position, the supination remains.

July 8, 2010 at 04:07 AM ·


yes Bud`s right and I`m wrong. Sorry.

Supination/Pronation rfers to the complete action from the arm hanign at side all the way to the top so it does include bothb positions referred to.  The referneces I wa slooking at only referred to palms down.   

Still don`t quite undertsand the question though.  One has to supinate to put the violin up.   The degree of turn depends on the length of the finger sand with of hand as much as anything else.



July 8, 2010 at 05:16 AM ·

 Thanks Sharelle, but the video won't open.  Got a URL for me?

July 8, 2010 at 07:55 AM ·



hopefully that will work. takes for ages to buffet on my computer, you can just make out her fuzzy palm and wrist if you have the picture before you click on the vido to play. (does that makes sense).

July 8, 2010 at 12:40 PM ·

 If I understand the question correctly, I don't think the degree of supination (if that's a word) is constant, in 1st position or any other. 

Sometimes, you will supinate less when using the 1st finger. When you need to stretch for the 4th, you might supinate more whilst bringing the elbow round a little. 

Also, many players supinate slightly prior to and during downwards shifting. 

July 8, 2010 at 06:59 PM ·

You do adjust a little to help the fingers but not drastically--the shape of the hand should remain relatively constant but small adjustments can work wonders, the big muscles able to support the little muscles by small adjustments especially in string changing.  Hope that helps--I don't know enough to be as anoatomically specific as you'd probably like, but if the interroseous muscles are what I think they are, the rest of your arm and hand can help them out a bit.  You probably will be able to feel it if you overdo it and correct back.

July 8, 2010 at 07:01 PM ·

 Yes, you do understand Neil.  Is it not better to supinate plenty to accommodate finger 4 and leave the wrist there?  So you've no need to supinate again?

July 8, 2010 at 07:03 PM ·

Would the layman's terms for this supination be "opening the hand back?"--for what it's worth, it was a revelation when I learned that from a book on alexander technique.  WAAAAY easier to conceptualize and do an opening back of the hand from the third finger and its parallel bone than to reach all that forward from the first finger.  gotta brush up on my anatomy so i remember the names for all this stuff. 

July 8, 2010 at 09:40 PM ·

 My feeling Bud is that you sometimes keep your arm supinated for long periods, but only depending on what you're playing.  

If you are playing fast left-hand passages, you may want to stay more supinated in order to have quick access to the notes.

For slow passages, you may want to be less supinated, as it may be easier to vibrato, plus it's more comfortable for the arm, which is also very important. 

Dounis talked about two basic hand positions, which I think relate strongly to the degree of supination. The first had position would be, for instance, in 1st position where 1st finger is on the E string (F natural), 2nd finger on the A (C), 3rd finger on the D (G) and 4th finger on the G (D). The other hand position is the reverse, where the 1st finger is on the G string (Ab), 2nd on the D (F), 3rd finger on the A (D) and 4th finger on the E (B). 

If you are playing double stopping 3rd's for instance, you'd adopt the 1st hand position. If you would like to look into this technique further, I highly recommend this book.


July 9, 2010 at 05:02 AM ·

I have been working on this for awhile, of course there is the need to supinate when reaching to play the notes on the G string with the 4th finger. But at certain places where the music allows one can pronate, thus giving, momentarly, an alternative support for the violin.

I think this is especially useful to players without shouler rests or pads.  So the violin is not always clamped between the chin and collar bone, but  supporting the vln alternates  between that and *somtimes raising* the shoulder and sometimes the vln rests lightly on the collar bone with light wieght from the head.......and the pronating.....it's working for me and it feels good.   

July 10, 2010 at 09:26 AM ·

In order to play the violin one's left hand has to be supinated like crazy. The variety is between crazier and less crazy.

July 10, 2010 at 11:22 AM ·

"THe left hand in playing position is about as supinated as possible.  What I'm asking is is your wrist fixed in that position or do you pronate a little and back to full supination depending on which first position pitches you are fingering? 

i think this is an interesting question and it is also interesting bud thinks on this level.:)

first of all, we may want to get the terminology more precisely correct.

wrist can do range of motion in several planes, such as flexion, extension, radial deviation, ulnar deviation, or different combinations of above.  but,  by definition, wrist per se does not do any supination or pronation, not anatomically possible.  this is an important distinction to make.   that is loose talk, like the phrase muscle memory, or supinate the right wrist with bowing.  people know what you are talking about, but hey, on v.com we have higher standard! :)

supination/pronation refers to the rolling of forearm on arm at the elbow joint. 

essentially, depending on one's physique and thus the demand of certain posture in order to place certain finger on certain spot on the string,  both wrist and elbow range of motion contribute to the final posture.  for instance, i am an average built person (but below average looking me think), there is a difference in wrist and elbow involvement when i press first finger on e string first position vs fourth finger g string first position.  in the former, a little supination at the elbow joint combined with actually a little extension at wrist, and just a tiny bit of radial deviation at the wrist.  with the latter, the dreadful 4th finger on g string,  elbow more supinated,  wrist more flexed...but that is not the end of the story.   in this case, there is also significant shoulder joint involvement: adduction/external rotation, etc.  you know, when the teacher asks us to bring the elbow over even more... to go further, if bud is to repeat what i have just done comparing the two, chances are he will do something similarly like i have done, but because of inter-personal differences, his engagement of wrist, elbow, shoulder, in terms of degree, will be different from mine.

i have seen different ways to reach the 4th finger (particularly if short) on g string.  some use more shoulder and elbow involvement in order to maintain a more neutral wrist, that classical look.  others, esp beginners, tend to contort the wrist quite a bit, in an anything goes attempt  to get the job done, perhaps at  the cost of efficiency.  


July 10, 2010 at 11:57 AM ·

 Right on, Bart!

Al, thanks for that - You're quite right, I have let down v.com with my poor anatomical descriptions.  You'll have to pardon a newbie!  One specific 'move' I'm interested in is finger 2 C on A string to finger 1 B.  On piano the hand can lie perfectly still, on violin I'm curious that a slight release of the 'crazier' supination is require.  Correct?  


July 10, 2010 at 02:12 PM ·

 hello bud, don't be too concerned about the anatomical stuff...i just wanted to point that out so posters  can have the same common ground to build their own individual preferences.

i cannot say for sure if your new example is correct or not since i have been mostly observing my kid learning the violin.  assuming i understand what you are trying to ask, my opinion is that your hand position is the basis upon which your fingers go up and down from the knuckle joints.  so, to lift up the 2nd finger should be a upward motion from the knuckle joint of that 2nd finger, not fanning out the hand through the wrist/elbow mechanics.  perhaps there will be less tension when a short pinkie is released from an outstretched position (with a prior anything goes attempt to hit a high spot), but from 3 to 2 and 2 to 1, i doubt there should be much release.  in my opinion, i think this concept is the basis for consistent intonation.  the less moving parts the more stable the structure.

so going back to your piano analogy, i would think to some degree they are similar, that in both cases the the wrist should not get involved unless it has to, such as reaching an octave.  i still remember the days when my older one was learning piano and trying to reach an octave.  i think even her jaw muscles were firing:)

July 10, 2010 at 03:05 PM ·

Al, look at your fingertips when the sides of finger 1 and 2 are touching.  Can you see they are too far apart to form a semitone?   For 1 to get closer to 2's position on the fingerboard either the finger moves sideways (interosseous muscle) or the supination releases a little.  Which to go for? 

Also once supinated, it's quite the effort to get 1 to touch the side of 2.  I think you have to practice playing C's whilst finger 1 repeatedly moves silently into B position and out again. 

July 10, 2010 at 03:57 PM ·

1. Arm length has a lot to do with how best to position the violin.

2. The further to the left you "aim" the neck of the violin, the more parallel to the neck will be the palm of your left hand.

3. The further to the left you position your jaw on the lower bout, the more you can supinate your hand along the neck.. So, I suggest using a left-mounted chinrest to allow such positioning.

These three factors can help some people improve their violin-playing position. However, if one can do it all with an "open" palm (facing your face) I think that can work except for the highest levels of playing. If you can get a great sound with your vibrato on all fingers and in all positions, I'd say there is nothing to worry about.


July 11, 2010 at 11:26 AM ·

bud, the way you are phrasing your question reminds me of something psychologists talk about, that is, explicit learning vs implicit learning.  with the former one is consicous of all the details and the latter, less so.  in my humble opinion, adult vs kid learner follows this pattern. adults want to be aware of all details in a very conscious, intellectual way; they want to know what they are doing and why.  kids just absorb without much bother.  they pay attention without paying attention.  outcome: adults can explain very well what they are trying to do but can't do it well, whereas kids can't explain but can perform.  which is more desirable if a performance is coming up?

under stress, things learned  explicitly dominant.  the more consciously learned info one has, the more burden it may carry.   one becomes more aware of tiny details and things slow down.  fluidity, feel and touch go out of the door and performance under pressure becomes stressful. 

to me, if i were to pursue violin as an adult, i will fight the urge to intellectualize things and try to act like a kid,,,,,JUST DO IT.  essentially, it  does not matter how we recruit each muscle--in fact it does not matter if we are not aware of how each muscle is used.  the key to me is relaxation, efficiency while listening carefully for tone production. 

the first time one picks up a pair of chopsticks, one's hand is already tight and cramped, fighting through the motion.  imagine i make you more aware of the muscles in over-action.

July 11, 2010 at 12:44 PM ·

Not my experience when children 'JUST DO IT' on the piano'.  From movement 1 onwards they just form bad habits.

July 11, 2010 at 01:43 PM ·

please don't take JUST DO IT too literally, bud.

i am sure there is a happy medium, but between a person with good habits but in rigid form and a person with bad habits with nice touch and feel, i think in the classical industry or many other disciplines, the person with touch and feel is easier to work with. 

to stretch it a bit, i think one can call it musicality:)



July 11, 2010 at 02:37 PM ·

I can really only talk about piano players but usually bad habits mean poor touch and feel.  There's nothing instinctive about piano playing - my guess is violin's the same.    Musicality only gets you so far. 

July 12, 2010 at 07:28 AM ·

I think Professor V's (youtube) Wohlfahrt no 1 answers most of my questions.  In fact Wohlfahrt himself says - The left wrist very quiet.   Saying that I think Prof V's elbow has to be quite fixed in order to position the wrist - not sure I agree.

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