Lately I've been doing a lot of experimenting and trying to get the posture and method that best suits me.
I'm confused about a couple issues. These problems are pretty common debates that I just want to clarify because I feel like I'm missing some information. I realize that these debates are probably over-talked about, but if some one could help me understand, I would be grateful. :)
I've done my research and the consensus (actually there seems to be a lot of disagreement about these issues) seems to be that every player should experiment and decide that for themselves -- but I wonder what I should know about each possible method. So I thought of a way that we could discuss without bashing.
What I want to know are the benefits and disadvantages of each way of playing, instead of which way is better (unless there's a clear answer, such as the case of the NO COLLAPSING LEFT WRIST is pretty clearly decided already).
My first question concerns the gap (if there is one) between the shoulder and the bottom of the violin. The long neck/short neck argument comes into play here. I have a pretty long neck so that the width of the violin does not fill up to the bottom of my jaw. Some say that long necks don't determine whether or not you can not use a shoulder rest (which is what I'm doing because I like it for various reasons). However, others say differently. I also like to have my strings parallel to the ground, but doing this results in a space between the bottom of my violin and the top of my shoulder. So far, I've adjusted pretty well, but some people who have watched me play say that it isn't acceptable. However, I feel almost completely comfortable doing this after about 2.5 months of practice. My question is: what good or bad things result from this gap between shoulder and violin? Maybe there is some horrible effect of this that I'm not seeing yet? Should I just eat more and try to fill in that gap with a double chin? :D
Which leads to my 2nd issue -- left hand support. Those same people who have told me that the gap is not okay tell me that the violin should not be supported by the left hand as it will limit the left hand. Thus, using a shoulder rest to fill up the gap frees up the left hand to let it do what it wants. Is this true? To solve this problem without using a shoulder rest, it was suggested that I should lower the violin so it is naturally on top of my shoulder...which means strings are at -30 degree angle. Currently, I feel like when I play, I support 80% with my left hand but I also feel like I am playing just fine. But apparently, there is tension in my left hand (which I agree with, more on that later, but I think it is because I am not relaxed and used to this yet). I've examined my playing to see where it looks like I have tension. I've noticed that when shifting, my wrist pulls in the direction of the shift if I'm shifting down, and if I shift up over the body of the violin, starting from where the neck merges into the violin, the way my hand moves reminds me of an inchworm. Is that bad? Pros and cons?
My 3rd issue leads from the previous. High left thumbs that go over the height of the neck in a relaxed way. I've tried this since I've seen many violinists play this way with the violin deeper in their left hands. This style seems to fit way better with the left hand support. However, I'm finding it difficult to shift this way because the neck always feels like it is going to fall off because lack of support from underneath. Currently, i'm supporting the violin with my thumb underneath, which means my thumb joint is bent sideways like the hitchhikers thumb and I think it is leading to the tension and cramping I have in my left thumb/palm area. The cramping is getting better, but i still wonder if it is only a temporary transitioning issue or a serious problem. Pros and cons of having the thumb up above versus underneath?
My fourth issue is closely related to the left thumb issue as well. If I use a high thumb, my violin neck falls into the V of my left hand. I find this position quite comfortable, but vibrato is strange because i cannot use arm vibrato as well and I wasn't taught wrist vibrato. Also, this position can only be played in the 1-5 position because friction prevents me from getting a smooth transition over the body of the violin on high positions. Another problem is that my fingers have less height to hit downwards, especially on the G and D strings. Fingers are less curved and straighter downwards. Double stops are harder as well. What do you guys think?
5th issue -- High left hand knuckles? I watched a video of Jascha Heifetz performing the Intro and Rondo Capriccioso -- at the very fast ending area, the camera gets a shot of his fingers as he plays on the G string in 1st pos. I noticed that his hand was very rotated over the neck and the bottom joint of his index finger was actually above the neck of the violin. I was curious, so I tried it myself, keeping the knuckles of the left hand high. I found that it gave much more clarity to slurred runs and gave fingers more power and accuracy. However, this means that I cannot play with the high left thumb, low V position, because this way of playing needs a lot of height on the string-pressing-finger side. In addition, the knuckles at the end of the fingers are straighter and have a tendency to collapse. I'm sure the collapsing issue can be solved with strength training, but is do the straight knuckles lead to something bad? Especially since most "good" hand positions have fingers perfectly curved? And also, I know that all players have their own quirks, and I don't know I should base my hand position after this.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TthM8EWz2Tk (video of high knuckles) scroll to 2:41 and 2:54
6th issue -- Benefits and disadvantages of having index finger contact with side of neck? This one, I just don't know, because I think it is technically good to have the index finger not-touching the side of the neck. The thing is, this space requires the thumb to be almost completely under the neck. Is there a better way to do this? Or--what are the benefits or disadvantages of having the left index finger keep in contact with the side of the neck?
7th issue -- one last thing. Apparently one of the advantages to not using a shoulder rest is the ability to tilt and move around the violin to make it easier for the bow to reach the strings. When I play, however, it seems backwards. I play on the e string--the weight of the bow presses the e side down so that the e sound is softer. I'm confused as to how exactly the tilting works. the only way I can think of is either tilting with the hand or by the pressure on the chin rest. Tilting with the hand MUST mean I'm holding the violin wrong or something, because it simply doesn't work for me. I've tried tilting the violin with the hand, but the weight of violin + bow weight (since it has to tilt opposite direction of bow) means that I have to clamp the neck in my palm to tilt it. Maybe a different hand position is the solution to this? Chin pressure doesn't seem right either because if the pressure on chin acts as a seesaw (which is how I imagine is the only way it works), the chin must move around to press down on the right side of the seesaw or the left. How does the tilting motion work?
Sorry for so many questions in a single thread! I didn't know if it was better to create multiple threads for this many questions or cram these semi-related questions into one. :D
This discussion has been archived and is no longer accepting responses.
Violinist.com is made possible by...
Discover the best of Violinist.com in these collections of editor Laurie Niles' exclusive interviews.