Violin Position. Is there consensus ??

December 17, 2014 at 07:49 PM · I usually play with the violin a little above horizontal i.e. the scroll higher than the bridge. My music stand is adjusted accordingly.

The issue is that I can get a backache in a short time. If I simply lower the violin I increase those awkward (but rare!) situations where the violin might "pop" out of position. Also, the lower violin can sometimes block my view of the music.

I usually sit on a stool similar to a rotating piano stool.

I have noticed more than one orchestra performer sitting on folding chairs with the right knee within a few inches of the floor(?) Often the first violin!

Is there anything to learn here about posture/position or just keep experimenting?

Replies (20)

December 17, 2014 at 08:14 PM · "I usually play with the violin a little above horizontal i.e. the scroll higher than the bridge. My music stand is adjusted accordingly."

This is good but even higher is better. You should NOT be gripping with the chin or shoulder BUT holding the fiddle up with the arm and hand only.

"The issue is that I can get a backache in a short time. If I simply lower the violin I increase those awkward (but rare!) situations where the violin might "pop" out of position. Also, the lower violin can sometimes block my view of the music."

Backache is caused by (1) gripping with chin or shoulder (2) leaning too far back or even forward. You must stand upright without any tilt. Stand, do not sit!!

"I usually sit on a stool similar to a rotating piano stool."

Throw the stool on the dustbin.

"I have noticed more than one orchestra performer sitting on folding chairs with the right knee within a few inches of the floor(?) Often the first violin!"

Do NOT look at orchestral players who often have terrible habits. Often the result of boredom and rubbish conductors.

"Is there anything to learn here about posture/position or just keep experimenting?"

There is a lot to learn BUT there must be no tension. If you have a pain or tension after 4 minutes of continious playing you need to sort out the problem.

December 17, 2014 at 08:38 PM · PC

Now, that is a good portion of information!

I'm sure you realize that many tutorial sites call for the violin to be level but I always had a problem with that.

I will try standing up. I never really made that effort. (When I have tried, I thought the sound improved.)

Can you name a person on YouTube who might be showing correct posture, etc.? Not necessarily a teacher but a performer also.

December 17, 2014 at 11:34 PM · There are of course many - Zukerman, Perlman, Milstein, Heifetz etc., etc.

Beware of some of the tutorial sites ... unless they are established and highly respected teachers.

Standing up does often improve the sound. I never sit unless its a quartet or something, or a problem with standing such as an injured leg.

You do not of course have to hold the instrument ridiculously high, but a little higher than level is good. It also helps to keep the bow nearer the bridge for a bigger sound. A low fiddle often results in the bow wondering over the fingerboard.

December 18, 2014 at 03:24 AM · Darleen--think about the angle of your pelvis, vis-a-vis the rest of your posture, too, when you stand/sit. Holding violin/viola has a tendency to create an anterior tilt, which will create a backache, if nothing worse.

December 18, 2014 at 03:56 AM · If you are sitting, then sit like a cowboy: feet well apart, at the edge of the chair, back straight.

December 18, 2014 at 03:57 AM · Marjory

You raise an interesting point and I would include a steering effect from left arm mechanics.

In fact, in this context, I seem to recall my few standing trials did give me a sense of increased freedom.

Worth another look.

And I'm also glad to hear that individual styles are acceptable (assuming I find one)

December 18, 2014 at 07:52 AM · "I know nothing about back pain other than that I get it and everybody gets it eventually."

It is not necessary to get back pain and many of us avoid it. Good use means such things are avoided. The fact that you may get it proves you are not using your body very well.

December 18, 2014 at 11:39 AM · Laurie, my phys. ther. and Alexander Tech. teacher both say 'edge of the chair' encourages that anterior tilt to the pelvis that is to be avoided. Obviously, one doesn't sit against the chair back, but with, oh, maybe 1/3 to 1/2 the length of thigh on the chair is wiser. (when two such different traditions agree, I pay attention.)

And "back straight" is one of those dangerous suggestions--because too often it means an unnatural straightness that can promote back pain.

December 18, 2014 at 01:26 PM · "Is there consensus ??"

It will probably prove that there is no consensus. In the end each individual will get to a position (and it won't be the first position - pun intended) where they will be without tension and back problems.

Violin playing should be a comfortable and easy experience. When it's hard then something is wrong. There are two ways to play - the hard way, and the easy way. You have a choice.

But I'm reminded about very fine teachers in my past who gave me all the dope, but at the time, like a lot of students, the advice was ignored. So we have to make our decisions and live or die by them.

December 18, 2014 at 01:38 PM · For best ergonomics, playing a violin upside-down, or backwards (scroll-in) are not advised.

December 18, 2014 at 02:42 PM · When I do a left arm reach for higher positions, that is partly a rotation.

From where?

The waist? The pelvis (shift)? Elbow does all the work?

Why this matters to me.

I have been indoctrinated with first position gospel but I think that "real" violin music begins further up (beyond the safe harbor of open strings) and details matter.

December 18, 2014 at 03:12 PM · I agree with Mr. Charles -- the violin should be inclined. The idea is that you are getting the strings to be closer to horizontal (because they already slope downward toward the pegbox). This creates a balance of the bow in the right hand.

I also agree with what he says regarding orchestral players -- they are generally not models of excellent position and many develop bad habits during demanding rehearsal schedules.

Sometimes people with very high shoulder rests end up tilting the scroll down because they have so much buildup under the collarbone side of the violin.

For finding an ergonomic position, pay careful attention to the bow. Figure out the path your arm prefers for a straight bow that can reach the frog / tip comfortably, and then adjust your chinrest / shoulder rest to compensate. In general, try not to lock the violin into a completely fixed position, but find a mostly supportive setup that provides some flexibility.

December 18, 2014 at 03:31 PM · I have noticed that keeping a straight bow in higher positions on the "G" string is difficult for me.

December 18, 2014 at 03:43 PM · "I have been indoctrinated with first position gospel but I think that "real" violin music begins further up (beyond the safe harbor of open strings) and details matter."

Unfortunately a lot of people have been indocrinated to think like that.

In reality the first position can be one of the hardest positions. It's often easier higher up. We have this false sense that being down in first gives us a safety net, and the fear higher up is that you are in a wasteland with no paths or contours to hang on to.

What we have to convince ourselves (as it's all in the mind) is, that we can, and must, rely on our ears. They will guide us through the wasteland and make us feel safe.

If I was teaching beginners I would start them in fourth or fifth position, as this lends itself to a natural and easy hold of the violin, and let them use their ears. Avoidance of discomfort and pain when holding up the instrument is vital. They can then listen to the sound the bow is making, and the lovely feeling when you produce a big fat sound.

Open strings are good as they can and should be referenced all of the time against those lovely big fat sounds you are making - so first finger on A string (4th pos) is an E - which can be checked against the open E, and then on the D string first finger A can be heard against the open A. Then put finger s down in a known finger pattern and you have (on A string) E, F sharp, G sharp, A. This can all be accomplished in half an hour. If I can do it anyone can.

December 18, 2014 at 04:04 PM · "I have noticed that keeping a straight bow in higher positions on the "G" string is difficult for me."

Difficult to give advice without seeing you, but if it's only slight and the sound is good, don't worry. However, if bow contact is poor and the sound not good, you need to look at your first finger on the bow, and see if it can use a little pressure to push the bow nearer the bridge.

A Russian bow hold can often cure this bit I would not advise anything like that without a good teachers' guidance.

It does of course also depend on how high on the G string you mean? Are you talking about A (440) B, C D or higher. Up there you need to be near the bridge with the bow or you will hit other strings, especially if on D string high up etc.

Try and post a video, and someone might be able to help.

December 18, 2014 at 04:52 PM · My first instinct in answering your question is: Your teacher wins.

December 18, 2014 at 05:08 PM · It so happens that I independently "invented" the same bow hold as Perlman but it does not work as well for me.

report card......

Changed from stool to 4 inch lower folding chair. Major improvement. Night and day. Leg participation now adding to torso control.

Standing up. This is really easy! That chair of mine is muting my best music. ,

Oh, I sat about half way on the chair with rodeo legs!

December 18, 2014 at 07:06 PM · Please check where your feet are. The trad Suzuki thing, with feet in a little V, right foot back a little, helps with swayback issues, and also sets your back and shoulders up & over your center in a better way. On purpose stand with feet side by side and play a little. You may notice that your violin quickly droops, your belly protrudes a little or you will feel pain or tension in the lower mid-back.

December 18, 2014 at 07:31 PM · "Up & over your center" ...... I'm only beginning to appreciate this important point and I will try the Suzuki feet test.

The word "center", for me, implies an awareness of balance which in turn is comfortable control.

December 31, 2014 at 08:32 AM · Greetings,

not ,sure if I missed it but one of the crucial points about seating is that the hips are higher than the knees. very often one ends up with a chair that does the opposite which is basically slow suicide. I find this issue so fundamental I used to carry wooden blocks to concert venues to raise the back of the chair. a concert hall that provides seating doing the opposite should be boycotted on moral grounds.

Cheers,

Buri

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