Need help on left hand support ( Shoulder restless )

November 25, 2013 at 03:45 PM · Hi , im kind of "new" here but not really new cos i rarely post anything . Anyway im having trouble with left hand support like thumb placement and base index stuck or stick to the neck . Also i will like to clear a doubt in my mind about vibrato . Recently , im taught to free the base index support from the violin neck in order free the hand for vibrato . however, i run into problems , thumb slipping and cant really support violin without base index . For your info , im shoulder restless and chinrest is kreddle . so without vibrato my support will be left hand , jaw and chin only . i find this really comfortable and shoulder restsss is never my friend.

This problem is driving me insane ... i really really appreciate some help from people who know how to support violin with left hand and yet able to do vibrato .

Thanks so much in advance . :)

Replies (25)

November 25, 2013 at 05:57 PM · I've been tackling this problem myself. I was initially supporting the violin equally with the index finger and thumb, but I found that this made vibrato problematic at best.

I'm now supporting the violin with the the thumb, second joint from the tip. The bone is bulgy at that point, which makes a sort of shelf.

It seems to me that Perlman does it this way, which is what inspired me to try it:

Raising the violin with your whole arm so the strings are more parallel to the floor causes the violin to put more pressure on the thumb shelf, making it relatively secure. You should avoid gripping the violin. Your body is a framework for the violin to passively rest on, and the chinrest is something for your head to rest on. Your feet and shoulders need to be relaxed.

The index finger rests more passively on the other side of the neck, allowing for double contact. You don't really need to pull it away from the neck much if at all to do vibrato, it's usually enough that all the pressure is off it.

November 25, 2013 at 09:45 PM · Mathew,

I've seen many russian style violinists doing this with their thumbs...but when I try it I find it really really hard (I am also rest-less by the way), the neck of the violin ends up being in the web of my thumb (the web between thumb and index finger) and then it makes very hard to shift and especially to go higher than 5th position.

Is it just a matter of getting 'used to it' or is there something I need to 'watch out' for and teach myself in how I angle my hand/wrist or do something else? is it because for so long I have learnt to rest the neck of the violin on the top part of my thumb (ie between its tip and first knuckle from the tip) that i can't do anything different?

or is it because this way of holding the violin is only really suited to those with longer fingers/bigger hands? my hands/fingers are not what I would call tiny but they are not as big as some of these violinists...maybe this way of using the thumb is not suited to my hand?


November 25, 2013 at 10:38 PM · Greetings,

sorry to disagree with what you have been taught, but the base of the index finger definitely touches the neck when playing restless. It does not inhibit the vibrato at all. I suspect what ever difficulties you feel you are having are to do with tension elsewhere. Things to check

1) if the upper left arm is too close to the body. Dhould be a space under the armpit.

2) griipping with the thumb

3) tension in the based of the index finger- common and often un noticed.

4) failing to release pressure on the string during the roll back of the first finger joints

5) putting the violin up incorrectly ( very common)

6) centering the weight of then left hand backwards on the index finger rather than on the third and fourth fingers.

7) raising the left shoulder

the origin of the vibrato is actually in the back, and although it often appears the problem is more locals very often the deeper fault lies in tension in the shoulder and the way then violin is being held by the head etc..



November 25, 2013 at 11:12 PM · hi Mathew Schneider , regarding the part on base index rest passively on the side ... Does my base index has to rest vertically to the side of the neck or diagonally is ok ?

November 25, 2013 at 11:24 PM · hi Stephen Brivati,

regarding point 5 , putting violin up incorrectly , can you elaborate on how to put the violin up correct ? i want to check if im really putting it up incorrectly .

November 25, 2013 at 11:27 PM · set your 4th finger in a comfortable curved position and then position the Han in relation to that. right now your concept of Han balance is backwards. if the third and fourth figer positions are established the index will be correct.

Slanting it backwards without regard for the third and fourth will just put your hand in an incorrect position most of the time.

November 25, 2013 at 11:48 PM · Ok... so your slanting hand backwards meaning stretching the hand to the direction of the index finger right ?

November 25, 2013 at 11:49 PM · Jo:

There are some things that help it not fall. Holding the violin higher takes pressure off the chin and onto your thumb. The pressure of your fingers into the string also help support it, but that should be the minimum you can get away with. And the part of the thumb in the palm can have more give so the the thumb is more curved and horizontal, which is what I do compared to the picture of Perlman.

I have smaller fingers I think, but I find supporting the violin lower on my thumb to be comfortable. Changing the way I supported the violin with my left hand did take some time.


Do you mean that vibrato isn't inhibited by the index finger supporting some of the weight?

I found the weight of the violin to cause grinding in my index finger, and cause too much resistance.


The relationship of the index finger to the side of the neck will change depending on what string you're playing on.

November 26, 2013 at 12:34 AM · I feel like giving more details on what are going on in my left hand before and during vibrato .

So before vibrato both my index base and thumb (pad) are sharing weight or support of the violin .when im about to do vibrato , I shift the role of the support on my base index to my thumb . This add more support responsibility to my thumb .however inorder to do this my thumb must be diagonally, more towards horizontal state , touching the neck. My wrist will have to be straight , my elbow will be more towards the right and my finger is now more higher up the fingerboard .Then when im doing vibrato the thumb will be rocking side to side and little by little it will go up to the joint . So I have to fromm time to time have my base index touch the neck to re-adjust my thumb position

Hope this actually allow you to understand my situation and help me conquer this torment.

November 26, 2013 at 03:52 AM · Greetings,

the violin should be held high , in the sense that the strings are parallel with the floor. The weight of the violin then falls into the body rather than dropping into the hand. There should no t be any extra gripping or sense of immobilization if the index finger lightly touches the neck. If this were true it would also be a problem using a rest. note that Galamian sand the double contact of index and thumb was necessary.

The thumb should rotat slightly in tandem with the vibrato.

Practicing the hand flapping action with the forearm immobilized against a wall is a useful exercises. As iare the various exercises for lightening finger pressures. For examples practice vibrating on a harmonic and gradually increasing finger pressure while continuing to vibrates Try to keep the feeling you had vibrating on the harmonics



November 26, 2013 at 08:51 AM · I need a tiny gap between base-of-index and fingerboard to get the vibrato that my inner ear demands (and not what others think it should be!).

My thumb cannot open horizontally enough to support the fiddle with the main phalange, and using the pad of the thumb under the violin neck makes the gap too big.

This the reason I returned to using a shoulder-rest. Many of my colleagues and students don't have this problem.

November 27, 2013 at 01:00 AM · I am only a student that has recently gone restless. All in all the transition is pretty smooth and i have had no problems with vibrato. Just had a look at how i do it, and it is very similar to what Matthew described. I have no problems vibrating with the side of the index finger touching or not touching the violin, although for a wider vibrato for luscious passages the side of finger does leave the neck.

One important thing to bring up is that almost all of the time, my thumb is doing the balancing of the violin. I call it balancing because the support mostly comes from the violin resting on the collarboard. What i need is just a little upward lift to bring the violin up. The side of the index finger does not carry any weight of the violin but the contact does help to stabilise the violin. If i were to describe the force in use, i would call it friction between the contact points between the skin and the violin rather than letting the violin rest on a part of the hand. I hope i make sense.

November 27, 2013 at 01:32 AM · I just want to say so many interesting things in this post. It is difficult I think with the vibrato. I think also the most personal in playing.


November 27, 2013 at 01:56 AM · Hi Lee,

Reading your posts and adding to the already good advice here… (I will use the description in your last to orient suggestions of things to examine…):

So before vibrato both my index base and thumb (pad) are sharing weight or support of the violin .when I'm about to do vibrato , I shift the role of the support on my base index to my thumb.

OK, I think that your first problem may be here. If the violin is resting on the base of your first finger, then normally, the thumb would be facing the tip of your first finger. If your thumb is touching the neck at the pad, then there is one of three things: either you have a short thumb, or a long distance between the base of the thumb and the base of the first finger, or, your thumb is placed too low. It doesn't mean that it is not possible to do this way as some people do, but for most, it is easier when you place the violin on the base of the first finger, without rotating the elbow in to the right, you should allow the thumb to come up to whatever is its own natural height for its length and your hand. Then, that is correct for you. At this point, the double-contact becomes possible. I have not seen you, but I suspect that your are forcing the thumb lower to contact with the pad.

however in order to do this my thumb must be diagonally, more towards horizontal state , touching the neck. My wrist will have to be straight , my elbow will be more towards the right and my finger is now more higher up the fingerboard.

In vibrato, your basic hand position should not change. Your thumb should continue to face the first finger. Your elbow should still point toward the floor and your should not be rotating to the right. This will correct the finger coming up off the base of the first finger.

Then when I'm doing vibrato the thumb will be rocking side to side and little by little it will go up to the joint . So I have to fromm time to time have my base index touch the neck to re-adjust my thumb position

If the thumb is at its correct height for your hand facing the first finger, then you should not feel the need to readjust. If your find that you are rotating a lot, then you may be pressing the thumb into the fingerboard. You should release the thumb pressure. If the thumb is at its correct height for your hand, then, you should not be finding the need to press to bring the fingers down into the fingerboard.

Cheers and hope this helps!

November 27, 2013 at 02:58 PM · Consider making small adjustments in the position of your Kreddle chinrest. A small adjustment can change the angles at your left hand just enough to help you use your left arm/hand/finger muscles in different ways.

My natural tendency was to play with my violin pointing very far to the left, but as I aged more and muscles got stiffer, I found it harder to vibrate and moved (even changed) my chinrest to point the violin a little less that direction so that my vibrato motion would be better aligned with my natural body-part axes.


November 28, 2013 at 03:25 AM · Tys guys for the help :) !!! I decided to hold like how milstein and perlman hold their violin.

However ,I have some questions for Mathew Schneider and shieyng yeow . Where is your thumb position when u are at fifth position ? Or rather how do you change your thumb position frm first to fifth position ?

November 28, 2013 at 03:54 AM ·

November 28, 2013 at 04:00 AM · Well,

Milstein and Perlman are rather different models.

Milsteins big thing, and it was a major issue with him, is that the left hand supports the violin. to demonstrate this he wo

Uld play Paginini with the violin stuck on his chest directly in front of him. No head at all.

Now Perlman is a big chubby guy with lots of chins and not much neck. Such people are born to play restless. He often leaves the violin under his chin and does other things with his hands with the violin just sticking out as it should. if you have that kind of physique you are lucky but must of us don't. The average person cannot usually keep the violin up with chin /head pressure alon without using a huge degree of harmful pressure. We can keep the bas of the violin under our jaw but the scroll will be pointing towards the floor. there is nothing wrong with this.



November 29, 2013 at 06:27 PM · Re differing physical characteristics, have a look at Arnold Steinhardt's raised chin rest. Does form (technique, posture, etc.) come from function or is it the other way around?

November 29, 2013 at 06:30 PM ·

November 30, 2013 at 01:55 AM · I don't do anything special with my thumb at fifth position (or beyond). It seems to naturally come a bit closer to the pad, but stays on the same bone.

I experimented with trying to intentionally pull my thumb under the neck, but found it very difficult and didn't see any advantages really. In fact, I find not doing anything special with your thumb leaves it in a more natural and comfortable curved shaped.

November 30, 2013 at 01:21 PM · It's funny that you should ask about the 5th position Junming because during my transition to restless, it was the biggest problem i had. I am a bit different from Matthew in this aspect because my thumb does slide from the side of the violin to under the neck so the side of the index finger does leave the side of the violin. It can't stay there anyway because the bout of the violin then gets in the way. This also allows all my fingers to be placed in position and sets my hand up to shift smoothly beyond.

The slide was the most difficult for me and i found myself constantly wanting to drop e violin, but a couple of weeks of scales up and down solved it and my thumb found its own way.

November 30, 2013 at 03:48 PM · I also do not use a shoulder rest. My recommendation would be a sponge. I recommend cutting down a grouting sponge (you can get them at Home Depot for like $3). Use a rubber band to attach it to the back of your violin. This will help you hold the instrument by providing a little friction, but will still give you the freedom of shoulder restlessness. This should also free your hand. One problem I have encountered is that depending on the size of your thumb, your placement on the instrument may be different. I have a long thumb, so the instrument rests on my first knuckle, but for some with shorter thumbs, it is optimal to rest on the pad of the finger. Figure out what works for you.

December 1, 2013 at 06:46 AM · @Katri Gilbert


i tried using sponge before but it is still uncomfortable . i guess my body structure doesn't allow me to use any shoulder rest or sponge . but anyway tys alot for the advice , i found a way to hold my violin while still able to shift and do vibrato easily .

@ShieYng Yeow

hi ,

hmmm can i know where exactly did u place your neck on your thumb ? slight below the first joint from the tip or deeper into the skin between the first and thumb fingers ? Did you experience neck slipping into deeper into the palm ? if so how did u overcome it ?

sorry for asking so many question because i still have quite abit of doubt and problems but many have been solved .btw tys for the reply previously.

December 1, 2013 at 01:38 PM · Just had another look at my thumb position. In 5th position and above, the thumb is tucked right at the end of the neck of the violin, contact is just slightly above the first joint nearer the tip. I can then leave the thumb there and stretch for the next few positions, after which my thumb moves to the side of the fingerboard for the stratosphere. In positions lower than 5th, my thumb contacts the violin around the first joint as well, slightly nearer the tip for vibrato with side of index finger touching the neck, and slightly nearer the palm for when my side of the index finger needs to clear the neck for a wider vibrato. The thumb movement is very subtle and requires just a little turning of the hand. In fact, i didn't realise i was doing that until i looked at it closely. Don't remember having the problem of having the neck in the web between the thumb and index finger, i don't like the violin there as it makes it very awkward and cumbersome for the hand to move at all.

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