Left hand finger pressure

March 26, 2016 at 01:54 AM · I'm getting some tendinitis in the left fingers, the most problematic being the index first (closest to tip) knuckle. This makes b-flat and f-nat quite difficult and painful.

I suspect I'm pressing the strings too forcefully, so question for the advanced players: how much pressure do your apply with the left fingers?

Replies (30)

March 26, 2016 at 02:12 AM ·

You are probably doing a lot of things wrong, and not just one: fingers too high, improper hold, tension, too much hand movement, no arm movement, etc...pressing too hard is sometimes the symptom not the cause.

March 26, 2016 at 02:12 AM · I press with nearly no effort, just enough so my fingers don't slip off the string when I vibrato

March 26, 2016 at 02:49 AM · Charles made good points. Additionally, ask your teacher or you local luthier to examine your violin's nut. Setting the nut too high will require more pressure when making stops closest to the nut, such as B-flat and F-natural.

March 26, 2016 at 03:57 AM · Thanks all, will ask my teacher about the nut and to be very meticulous re: technique issues.

March 26, 2016 at 04:26 AM · Fingers drop on the string with speed but there is no "pressure" per se. Just barely enough to get a clean stop, in most circumstances.

March 26, 2016 at 05:53 AM · I might be spoiled by my luthier's set-up, but I find that most of the violins are set up with the nut and bridge awfully high.

Especially the beginner violins and fiddlers' violins seem to do that.

March 26, 2016 at 07:11 AM · "Fingers drop on the string with speed but there is no "pressure" per se. Just barely enough to get a clean stop, in most circumstances."

Thanks. I'm finding tension and pressure to be my biggest problem at the moment since I'm used to doing everything forcefully (sports/gym etc), where more strength/force is better. With violin the opposite is true.

Re:nut, mine isnt exactly a beginner violin ($3000) and the nut doesn't seem to be high but will check next time I'm at the luthier.

March 26, 2016 at 11:53 AM · It's possible to set the bridge and nut too low also. Initially you'll have a violin that may seem easier to play, but it'll be much harder to produce a full, projecting tone. Also note that the fingerboard has been shaped with certain nut and bridge heights in mind. Often a lower bridge has to be flatter, which also causes other problems.

March 26, 2016 at 12:01 PM · I have had tendonitis in the same finger for over 20 years. It started off with a finger injury caused by over stretching. Once you get an injury like that it never goes away so get your problems sorted out NOW. You might like to even consider stopping for a week or two until you do get the problem fixed. There is something wrong with your technique.

There should be just enough pressure to produce a note and no more. Play a harmonic then roll your finger tip forward while you are still bowing. You will see that you get a clear note with only the slightest pressure.

All very well to say and demonstrate , I know : I press far harder than I should especially when I am concentrating on reading the music.

March 26, 2016 at 12:10 PM · Tension in the left hand, and learning how to relax it is a very common if not universal problem that we all struggle with.

One thing may be if you have your shoulder rest and chin rest adjusted correctly? If you feel like you need to hold the neck of the violin tightly to keep it from slipping can often lead to tension in the left hand.

March 26, 2016 at 05:38 PM · As Lydia said -- it's more about "breaking" the string with some initial finger velocity than holding a lot of pressure.

And really, it' you're playing fast, there is more velocity in the initial finger attack than pressure in holding anything down.

There is also some precision here -- think of how a toddler holds a ball compared to how a basketball player does. The first will be forcefully and clumsily -- the second skilled, light, and refined.

March 26, 2016 at 05:38 PM · As Lydia said -- it's more about "breaking" the string with some initial finger velocity than holding a lot of pressure.

And really, it' you're playing fast, there is more velocity in the initial finger attack than pressure in holding anything down.

There is also some precision here -- think of how a toddler holds a ball compared to how a basketball player does. The first will be forcefully and clumsily -- the second skilled, light, and refined.

March 26, 2016 at 09:23 PM · "One thing may be if you have your shoulder rest and chin rest adjusted correctly?

If you feel like you need to hold the neck of the violin tightly to keep it from slipping can often lead to tension in the left hand"

Yes this is a big problem for me, chin rest has a lip and it hurts unless I contort my head and neck with a lot of added pressure. Will go change it asap.

Though yesterday I focused on minimal finger pressure and this morning they feel even more stiff. Maybe it's just over practice or bad genetics.

Thanks for all responses.

March 26, 2016 at 11:02 PM · Things take time.

There are no shortcuts. It takes time, attention, and patience to begin to learn the violin.

March 27, 2016 at 03:45 AM · What does it take to stop?

March 27, 2016 at 08:51 AM · What does it take to stop learning the violin?

A viola, of course!

March 27, 2016 at 11:43 AM · I was having pain in my first knuckle on my punter finger. What solved it for me was turning my finger so that the nail faced straight down the violin and using much less pressure.

To help heal the area(s) compression is your friend. If you are as active in sports as you indicate this should be a no brainer. When you are not playing you should be compressing.

Jessy

April 4, 2017 at 06:11 AM · As Lydia's pointed out regarding how much pressure one should apply with the left fingers: the minimum amount to make a clean sound. My finger tips are usually touching the strings and the fingerboard, but the strings usually don't need to touch the fingerboard for me to produce clean sound. Nathan Cole has given some great advice on this matter recently. He said that anything beyond the Minimum Viable Pressure (MVP), you are not only creating tension that could negatively affect your technique but it can also cause health problem.

April 4, 2017 at 08:35 PM · I'm with Seraphim on this one: it all takes time. 'Changing' your chin rest may sound simple, but it took me a lot of time and experimenting to find one that suits me. Same thing for my sh**lder r*st. For the first 3 years after picking up the violin (as an adult), there was always something that hurt, especially in my hands and shoulders. Of course I knew and was taught about using minimal left hand finger pressure, but for me it took a lot of practice to apply that knowledge to a certain extent. Now, after over five years of learning, when I pick up my violin it does not feel awkward anymore and nothing hurts. My advice would be: be aware, and be patient.

April 4, 2017 at 11:35 PM · These are all great points. I wouldn't press more than you need to. In other words, press enough so that the string feels firm under your fingers and produces a clear tone. It shouldn't be much of an effort. Could the string be too hard?

April 5, 2017 at 02:45 AM · Use enough pressure to sound the note clearly (the quieter the volume, the more pressure needed to not fuzz the note).

I learned it by starting at harmonic pressure with the bow and gradually pressing. Once the tone is clear (which should not tough the fingerboard all the way down, even in 1st pos), become accustomed to it by:

Play an extremely slow scale with extreme finger pressure (but don't injure yourself)

Now, repeat the scale quickly, keeping the solid feeling of the above without the excess force (be elastic).

There you go. :)

April 5, 2017 at 07:38 PM · Enough pressure to put the string on the wood, no more, no less. Some of this has to do with how high your fingers are Before they strike. 1/2 inch--1 cm is about right. If the fingers are too high they land too hard, you hear a popping sound, and might damage nerve endings. Too shallow sounds mushy, unclear. JQ

April 8, 2017 at 09:55 PM · KD, et al.,

Bio-mechanics, that may be the primary issue. It takes time to find the right combination of accessories (shoulder and chin rests) to make your particular position the best for your bio-mechanics. It also takes a third party with a good eye for bio-mechanical detail.

Actually, I had a problem with "reaching/pulling back" to hit G-sharp, E-flat, B-Flat and F-Natural then I tried small shifts to either half or second position made all the difference in the world for me. I do better when I'm not a shiftless-fiddler. It actually reduces the general tension of trying to keep first position clarity when pulling back the first finger. Of course, we are all different so the solution is more about what works for you.

April 9, 2017 at 12:28 AM · This may sound way out of the box, but my tone on the violin and viola started sounding much more solid after I returned to playing bass. Point being, the stronger the fingers, the less work AND the more secure you are with similar pressure. There are many things you can do to improve finger strength.

April 9, 2017 at 01:28 AM · Sorry, but I would have to disagree. There is very little force required to stop a violin string. Attempting to strengthen your fingers will probably just make the tendonitis worse.

April 9, 2017 at 01:37 AM · It is not strength you need, but solid pressure (minimal) that springs back when needed.

April 9, 2017 at 02:10 AM · exactly, the strength allows you to solidly use less.

April 9, 2017 at 02:27 AM · Edward, your violin and viola sounded better after plying bass could be the change of how you use your bow? It's the bow arm makes the major contribution to the tone production, not the figure pressure of the LH.

April 9, 2017 at 02:39 AM · Well, LH pressure plays SOME role. The quieter the note, the more solid the hand must press, or you just get fuzzy mush in the ppp-pish range.

For p and above, minimal pressure usually sounds the note just fine. :)

April 9, 2017 at 12:43 PM · More the finger pressure IMHO. Now it could also be the fingerpad change- skin density/thickness/etc. As to bow pressure and, again if anything, I would say it's not a change in weight as much as solidity of hold, again hand and arm strength. I'm not talking Schwarzeneger, but something more solid than weak. A light hold with a stronger hand will be more stable than a light hold with a less strong hand that is less able to make constant fine adjustments.

Now, al this aside, I agree with many of the equipment suggestions of prior comments.

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