left-hand contact point

December 12, 2012 at 03:19 PM · I think I've let things sag some, so I've been playing with my violin touching at the joint crease or above. I've been consciously raising that a little, so the violin now rests just below the crease. It does feel better: easier, lighter fingering, loose feel to vibrato production, easier shifts. I have space between the neck and thumb webbing no matter what, good arm & elbow placement. I never "squeeze" laterally. Also a correlary question: I have one double-jointy student who has that index-knuckle shelf thing going on, but everything else looks in order, so I've been leaving it alone. Would you suggest I prompt her to straighten that out? Thanks, Sue

Replies (20)

December 12, 2012 at 03:37 PM · Press your thumb against your hand. Unless your hand is misshapen the tip of your thumb will press into the flesh just above the base knuckle of the first finger. That is where the violin makes contact. I was taught contact there is okay, pressure is not.

December 12, 2012 at 06:24 PM · Paul, if I read correctly what you said, my hand must be misshapen :O My thumb tip stops just below the next knuckle up. Guessing that works for you but is not a "rule" at all.

December 12, 2012 at 06:32 PM · The neck of my violin rests on the joint where the index finger meets the hand - at a spot on the side of the knuckle/finger. Its hard to describe, but if you lay the index finger of your right hand down in that area, you will feel a "notch" in the bones. The side of my index finger touches the side of the violin neck. This provides: 1. stability so the hand can be loose/flexible, and 2. enables the left index finger to "swivel" a bit so the finger comes down with the fingernail facing you as you look down the fingerboard - providing space for other fingers.

My teacher came from a line of teachers that tracks back to David Oistrakh.

December 12, 2012 at 07:17 PM · It depends on the size of your palm, and the length of your fingers.

It is different for every player, and made more problematic in teaching little kids because the size of their hands change over time!

December 12, 2012 at 08:14 PM · Mine touches just above the bottom of my first finger. I've tried it a few different ways in either direction, but this is where my hand most naturally falls. Recently I tried putting the contact point lower (below my bottom knuckle) after watching Ray Chen playing in the QE competition, but I just can't get it comfortable and my thumb gets way above the fingerboard, which gets in my way.

December 13, 2012 at 01:06 AM · Hi,

Sue: the fingerboard should rest on the base of the first finger, with the thumb rising to whatever height is corresponding. There are photos and a great description in the first volume of Carl Flesch's Art of Violin Playing volume 1. Most important is that the elbow should not point sideways.

Tommy, Ray Chen does precisely what I described above. His thumb looks high because the length between the base of the first finger and the thumb is short while his thumb is long. I have the same thing. So does James Ehnes and Maxim Vengerov. Different hand configurations will give different results as to thumb height.

Cheers!

December 13, 2012 at 01:18 AM · Thanks for the info, Christian. You know, I think I've been looking at the thumb as a bit of a red herring when considering the left hand contact point, when it's really just that some people have long thumbs!

I'll have to grab a copy of the Flesch book and check out some of the photos.

December 13, 2012 at 04:19 AM · Im not educated so I simply put my index finger on the correct note, say a B and adjust my hand until it looks right and I can repeat the motion. Turns out the crease or base of my finger is parallel to the strings/ fingerboard. Feels good, looks good, works great.

December 13, 2012 at 07:38 AM · This thread now has me paranoid about something I've never given any thought - "left hand contact point". What if you have no left hand contact point? I swear my left hand first finger barely ever touches the neck of the violin. Is that bad?

December 13, 2012 at 09:16 AM · 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. This is based on the russian school of violin playing training and is demonstrated in the video below by the 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.

Enjoy the videos.

Happy Practicing!!!

Heather Broadbent

www.onlineviolin.net

www.youtube.com/user/heatherkbroadbent

December 13, 2012 at 02:48 PM · Well, isn't this interesting! A friend plays with her left hand completely separated from the side of the fingerboard, but she thinks she may have taught herself that. Sadly it doesn't really work for her. She has a lot of pain when playing, and problems with shifting and vibrato. Re-working it would mean a fair amount of backtracking, and she has mixed feelings about that, of course.

December 14, 2012 at 04:52 AM · Sue, my thumb comes up just that high too, but then when you press it in, you feel it pressing just above the base knuckle, no? That's what I mean. I've tried that bit where you don't have any contact between the E-string side of the neck and the first finger of your left hand, but I just end up getting sore. On the other hand I get sore too if I clamp the violin against that spot on my hand.

December 14, 2012 at 03:01 PM · Heather, one quick suggestions - you need a windscreen for your mike when you're recording outside, or calm conditions - when you set up, make sure you're getting audio without wind noise.

December 14, 2012 at 03:02 PM · Thanks David for the suggestion. I just invested in a video camera with a microphone and windscreen:)

December 14, 2012 at 03:36 PM · You may want a separate mike of some kind, so you can better control getting a clean audio track (the old question is "How good can you afford to sound?"). And as being in Bulgaria, you must be sure to sample the remarkable sounds of Bulgarian bagpipes, notable but not to everyone's taste.

December 14, 2012 at 04:10 PM · My only left-hand contact point is the pad/knuckle of the left thumb.

I've decided I'm not going to lose any sleep over not having an index finger contact point, as it doesn't seem to be hurting me.

Or DOES it!

dun, dumm, dun, dummmmm, (ominous music in background)

December 14, 2012 at 04:33 PM · David - thanks again for the response and yes it is a separate mike. As for the Bulgarian Bagpipes in Bulgarian they are called Gaida and here is a videofor your enjoyment:)

December 15, 2012 at 02:13 AM · Possibly of value.

December 15, 2012 at 09:43 AM · In discussions such as this, there is a traditional role for the wiseguy who says it's a dynamic thing. So, here I am!

I really believe it's true: when the spacing between the fingers is small, as in half position, I was taught to have my hand higher relative to the fingerboard, and to have it lower when playing tenths. It stands to reason that up-or-down ('z') hand position also responds to subtler variations.

Enjoy your prunes!

Bart

December 15, 2012 at 10:05 AM · My two cents (centimes d'euro!):

My violin/viola neck never, ever rests on the the bone below the index. There is a contact in fast passages, and a slight gap when I need an expressive vibrato (wider and denser on the viola). On the lower strings, the base joint is higher than the edge of the fingerboard.

I have long thumbs (two!) and short fingers (eight).. (and "greek" toes!)

I dont "hold" my fiddles, I "hold them up"..

(je ne "tiens" pas mes violons, je les "soutiens")

with shoulder and thumb.

Hands are as different as faces!

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